Thursday, October 30, 2014

Are you worthy?

"Have you ever felt unworthy? Why? What led to these feelings? Are you worthy? Where does worth come from?" These questions guided our discussion the other night at Titus24U and I was reminded, though Satan wants us to think we're the only one who struggles with this, it's something we all battle. The reason for our feelings may be different, but the pain and damage these feeling create is the same.

I've struggled with feeling unworthy for as long as I can remember...there were times I felt not good enough, not smart enough and not pretty enough. I've let failures, comparison and my past label me. I've allowed roles, my performance and others' thoughts define me. I've strived (and failed) to keep up with others and meet their expectations. All of this has played a part in feeling unworthy, but what's always been at the top is the struggle with my looks.

I grew up as a farm girl and a tomboy and my looks proved it. Numerous times I was mistaken for a boy and each time that happened the hurt went deeper and insecurity grew stronger. I no longer look like a boy, and though my looks changed my thoughts about them never did. Looking in the mirror has been a struggle and receiving compliments from my husband has been a challenge.

Over time God has been working on my heart and teaching me His Truth. Over 5 years ago, He intensified this lesson at the county fair. My brother-in-law found a pic of me from my high school days and he thought it would be fun to show my husband and kids. They all laughed, but inside I fell apart. In my mind, I heard, "Look at you." A list of doubts and old insecurities came to mind and then there was a whisper to my heart, "No Jill, look at Me."

A day later I found myself reading the story of Peter walking on water. (Matthew 14:22-33) As he kept his eyes on Jesus, he did the impossible, but when his eyes wandered to the things around him, he sunk. God taught me that day the same happens with me. When I focus on Him, I can do what He asks and trust what He says, but when I look at the stuff around me...including old pics, I start to sink. (Read the entire story HERE.)

This lesson helped and I made strides in this area as time went by, but nearly 2 months ago I was reminded I'm still not an overcomer. I had made plans to connect with a far-away friend...we'd connected via FB and email, but talking on the phone was a new thing. The idea seemed crazy and I didn't understand why God was leading me to do this, but yet I obeyed and asked my friend if she wanted to chat. She agreed and we made plans to connect.

The day I was to call, I saw a picture of her - a beautiful, Godly woman I respect and these thoughts ran through my mind - “She’s better than you. You don’t deserve to be her friend. She was a Baylor Beauty and you, well you’re a Riceville Reject.”

Thankfully, I immediately recognized them as lies from the enemy and proceeded with my plans. After enjoying a conversation with my friend, my mind returned to the thoughts that mirror ones I’ve struggled with all my life. Thoughts that say, “I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, you fill in the blank…“ Ones that basically say, “I’m not worthy.”

I realized this and asked God, "Why? Why does my mind always go there? I know Truth...but yet, do I believe it? Help me Lord. I know Satan has me with this, but I trust You can free me." That cry for help was the start of a journey.

Perhaps you’ve struggled with this as well? Maybe comparison, sin, shame, other’s words and actions, looks or failure have kept you from thinking you don’t measure up or that you’re not good enough. If so, will you join me as we look at what makes us unworthy?

First of all, just a little language lesson - in Greek, worth, axious (axeeos),  means -  deserving, suitable and due reward. So join me in what God taught me about what worth is, where it comes from and who can label us unworthy.

W - Who is worthy. "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:11) Our worth begins with knowing the One who is worthy - Jesus!! (Additional verses - Revelation 5:12)

O - Our connection to Him. "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) Elohim, God, our creator made us in His image. Take some time and ask Him to show you what that means. Friend, the more we get to know God the better we will know ourselves.

R - Redemption’s Price Tag"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you for your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19) The other day my daughter's friend was talking about the gift she gave her dad. She'd bought him a shirt on clearance, but left the original price tag on it. Her dad saw it and immediately said, "I'm not worth that." Immediately I thought about us doing the same with that must hurt His heart. Think about the price He paid to make us His own...friend, He didn't find us on the clearance rack. He bought us with the blood and by the death of His Son. Meditate on that and take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:23 and Acts 20:28 as well. 

T - The One in me. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20a) Friend, if you struggle with your worth, for whatever reason...let the Truth of this verse sink deep into your heart. Jesus and His spirit live in YOU...YOU are worthy!! (Additional verses - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Ephesians 1:13-14)

H - How our worth is measured. "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:37-38) Friend, I've read this verse countless times and God has used it to lead me to obedience in the past, but as He led me on this journey of truly understanding my worth these words were a game changer. I've allowed numerous people and thoughts say I'm unworthy and perhaps you have as well, but get this - only Jesus has the power to say it!! Jesus doesn’t count us out based on worldly standards. Friends, He measures our worth by our love for Him and obedience to Him. Did you get that? He won’t disqualify us because we carry extra pounds, have crooked teeth or failed to earn academic honors. The world looks at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Society pushes us to perform, but Christ died for us while we were still sinners . (Romans 5:8)

Friend, I pray the brief summary of what God has been teaching me is one that He uses for you as well. We must remember who He is and be who He created us to be! Thinking we are unworthy...for all the wrong reasons, can be prideful, leads to insecurity and is sin. But God is the God of grace and mercy, run to Him to today...He sees you, He knows you and He loves you. He calls you worthy!!

If you'd like to go deeper into this, here are a few verses to start with -
Words about Worth - 2 Thessalonians 1:5,11; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43:1-4; Matthew 16:24-28; and 1 Samuel 16:7

Words about Walking Worthy - Ephesians 4:1-3, Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:1; Romans 12:1 and 1 John 2:15

Finally friends a prayer for you and me - Heavenly Father, Lord I come to You now and approach Your throne with confidence. I ask for knowledge of Your will, spiritual understanding and wisdom. I ask this so that I may live a life worthy of You and please You in every way. I long for You to help me understand who I am and pray that You’d help me see myself the way You do. Keep me from looking to others, actions or accolades to find my worth, but help me love and obey You so that I am found worthy in Your eyes. Lord, You are worthy and I give You all the praise, glory and honor. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In Honor of My Husband

"Glorify the LORD with me, let us exalt His name together."
Psalms 34:3

Today my husband celebrates his birthday and God's put it on my heart to pay him a little tribute prayer is it honors him, glorifies God and speaks to you.

Job would be the first one to tell me not do this...he is a private guy, who knows the spotlight belongs on Christ and I pray that will be the case as I share a bit about the light that shines from my husband.

We just celebrated thirteen years of marriage this summer and we have known one another since I was in junior high. I always thought he was a good guy, but now I know he is a Godly man.

He is a man who seeks after God, studies His Word and applies it to his life.

He's a husband who loves me, believes in me, is patient with me and listens to me.

He's a Dad who makes time for his kids, sees their gifts and builds their faith.

He's a son who respects his mom, misses his dad and builds on the legacy he's been handed.

He's a brother who always has time for family and never turns up on opportunity to help.

He's a farmer who loves his job, enjoys God's creation and works hard to provide.

He's not perfect, but he perseveres. He makes mistakes, but then seeks forgiveness. He works hard, but always takes time to rest.

He laughs and helps me find joy in the everyday. He prays and trusts God will answer. He appreciates the gift of faith and lives faithfully.

Job is the guy I love and appreciate, but I hate to admit he's the one I too often take for granted. Daily he does things to bless me and works hard to lighten my load, but the thanks don't always come. Life is busy and my kids are needy, I'm sorry to say Job doesn't always come first. (He should be before the kids...not God!) So on his birthday, I'm committing to not just blessing him today, but in the year to come. I long to pray for him, serve him and choose him before the other people and things in my life.

I'm grateful for the man God brought into my life, but I don't want to simply think that thought, I want to live it. Friend, if you are married, I challenge you to do the same. What does that look like in your life? Is there something you to need to do? Something you need to quit doing? Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, what can we do to make it the beautiful illustration God created it to be?

Today on my husband's birthday, I've printed out the "30 Day Husband Appreciation Challenge" and am asking God to use it in the month to come. I trust He will bless my husband, strengthen our marriage and change my heart. If you'd like to do the same, you can find it HERE. We don't have to wait for our marriage to be in trouble in order to make it better!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Honor of My Friend

Today a friend is celebrating her I thought about her and thanked God for her I reflected on how God has impacted me through her. I could express my thanks to her (again), but I've decided to come here and share some lessons with you. It's always good for me to remember; I pray it will also be encouraging and insightful for you, a way to honor her and glorify God.

God Connects Though The World Divides
My friend and I really have an unexpected friendship...miles are between us, seasons of life divide us and our past experiences really haven't connected us, but God. God has united us...He's brought us together and shown me yet again what it is to be in the family of God and be blessed with another sister in Christ. Though we don't share the same name, town or backgrounds we have the same Father in Heaven and that my friend is a wonderful connection. The power of the Holy Spirit is amazing and I'm grateful for the work He's done in my life.

Our Words Matter
My friend's words have blessed me in various ways...they've encouraged, comforted and instructed me. She has spoken Truth to me and pointed me to the Bible, words that truly transform. My friend has also reminded me that my words matter as gift of encouragement really does make a difference and is one God can use. Proverbs 18:21 is true, "The tongue has the power of life and death..."

God Uses Our Story
My friend has quite a testimony and she uses it for God's glory. Her's is not the story anyone would choose, but it is one God has used. And as I've thought about this, I've been able to see how He has used it for three different things. One, and most importantly, He's used it for His glory. My friend uses her words and connections to shine a light for Christ. She is not ashamed of the Gospel and thus is able to do what she's been created for - glorify her Creator. Our good God blesses her obedience and uses my friend's story for her own good. It's been a joy to watch my friend succeed in her endeavors and grow in her faith. I often hear her say, "Blessings follow obedience." She shares these words because she experiences them! I've been blessed to be on the receiving end of the 3rd and final way God uses our stories...for others' growth. I've been impacted tremendously through my friend's story...hearing of her experiences and watching her live out her faith have touched me immensely. Her story has given me hope, reminded me of Truth and taught me countless lessons. It has also challenged me to allow God to use my story for His glory, my good and others' growth as well.

There's Power in Prayer
My friend has a heart for prayer. She is quick to lift others up and willing to share the role prayer has played in her life. She has taught me much about prayer and God has used the prayers she's prayed for me. A few years back I remember her praying, "tender her heart" and something along the lines of "help her see herself the way You (God) do." I wasn't sure I needed the first part, but knew the latter was necessary! God understood exactly what I needed though and has continued to answer these prayers and many more. My friend has also taught me there's much power in praying Scripture and because of that lesson my prayer life has grown.

We're Leaving a Legacy 
It can be easy to say, "I want to leave a legacy", but the older I get the more I realize that wanting to leave a legacy is not enough. We all leave a legacy...that's a given, but we can choose if it's a good, Godly one or not. My friend is doing that...she's impacting those around her with her words, actions and prayers. She's a woman of faith who is building the kingdom and discipiling believers. She's never echoed Paul's words, but when I read these verses I think of her.

"Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Join together in following my example, brothers and sister, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." Philippians 3:17

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9

When I'm my friend's age, I want to be like her! Not because she's perfect or has a wonderful life, but because she's shining her light for Christ, keeping her eyes on Jesus and growing in her faith. She has taught me much as a Christian, wife, Mom and friend; I pray I've shared a bit of those lessons with you. I encourage you to think about the Godly friends who impact you and thank God for the work He does through His body!

I also challenge you to think about the kind of friend you you take time the time to invest in the people God connects you with? Are you aware of the impact your words have? Have you let go of the story you want and embraced the one God has given you? Do you allow Him to use it? Are you a friend others can count on for prayer? What legacy are you leaving?

It's great to thank our friends with words, but it's more powerful to show them with our actions! I've let my friend know she's appreciated and I've shared some lessons with you, now I pray I can do some of the things she does. I'm asking God to help you, her and me live out Ephesians 4:14-16 - "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it work."

This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Watch Your Step

Walking through the cattle lot has never been something I've enjoyed. The other day as I tip-toed around the mud and other "messes" a few thoughts entered my mind. I went back in time and could hear my sisters teasing me about getting dirty. I could see my son laughing at me as he stomped right in the yuck I worked to avoid. The third thought was a new one and it's come back a few times.

I believe it was God who brought this thought to mind as He used the scene as a picture of my spiritual walk. It was as if He was questioning me, "Why are you so careful to avoid physical messes, but let up a bit when it comes to spiritual ones?" If you were to ask my husband, he'd tell you I will do all I can to avoid getting my boots dirty when I'm in the cattle lot. (In case you didn't know, cattle lots are rarely clean.)

I watch my step. I consider my path. I take my time. I take the long route if necessary. Though my family doesn't always appreciate it, I do. I'm grateful my boots stay clean and now I'm thankful for the lesson God is teaching me through this.

Friend, as you and I walk through life, it'd be beneficial to apply this strategy as well. Not because we don't want to get dirty, but because we want to be wise and ultimately because we want to follow Christ. It's easy to say that's what we want to do, but if we're going to do it we must be aware of our surroundings, we have to keep our eyes on Him and watch where He's going.

I'm a homeschool Mom and this last week in school God took these thoughts a step further. For history, we are reading a book called Tirzah and it's the story of the exodus told from a young Hebrew slave girl's perspective. The book has made me think about this familiar story in a whole new way...especially about the crossing of the sea. I'm not sure why, but I've always had this glamorous picture in my head of Moses leading the people through. That is not at all how it's described in the book; Tirzah talks about stumbling over debris and getting stuck in seaweed.

We really don't know what all took place, but can we agree that following Jesus tends to be much more challenging than it is glamorous? Friend, as we follow Him, we must watch our step. We must be careful. We must be aware of our surroundings.

As I thought about the Israelites getting tripped up and stuck in the Red Sea, my mind went to work. I too get tripped up and stuck...sometimes it's with physical things and others it's my thoughts. Stepping into a pile of wrong thoughts makes a much bigger mess than stepping into the stuff that's in our cattle lot. But I work much harder to avoid the latter and I've found myself asking, "Why?" Honestly, a couple of minutes at the hydrant and that mess is gone!

This week I've been challenged to take my thoughts captive and to watch my step in regards to my thinking. And I want to continue this in the days to come. Thankfully I don't have to tip-toe through the cattle lot every day, but that's not the case when it comes to the thoughts in my head...they are always there and I must live out 2 Corinthians 10:5b if I want to watch my step, "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 

And friend, we won't be able to do this without the help of the Holy Spirit or wisdom from the Lord, so today will you join me in making Psalms 119:105 your prayer? "Oh, Lord, make Your Word a lamp for my feet and a light on my path." He will show us the way we are to go, but we must watch our step and follow where He leads!

I've been watching my step in the cattle lot for years and my boots stay clean; I pray this is the beginning of watching my steps spiritually so my heart stays pure. Asking God to help you do the same!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Believe - A Short Study

Hello Friends, Titus24U is the name of my blog, but nearly 2 years ago it also became the name of a women's ministry held monthly at our church. This unusual name is one God put on my heart nearly 8 years ago and focuses on two passages from chapter 2 of Titus. Verses 3-5 tell us about women training women and verses 11-14 are basically the Gospel in a nutshell. Since my relationship with Jesus and those with other sisters in Christ have been valuable in my life, I have a passion to encourage others to connect with God and one another as well. I pray I do that on my blog and as I lead our group.

So anyway, last week I shared about the month's plans for T24U on Facebook and I was struck that the majority of feedback came from far away friends. I thought about that for awhile and prayed about it too. Now God has led me to share the outline of what we discussed and took home for further study. I'd love for you to join in the conversation, but more importantly I pray this gets you into God's Word!

Our topic for the night was BELIEVE...something God had been challenging me to understand better and live out more. It can be easy to say we believe, but much more challenging to live out our beliefs. Belief can be a complicated topic...we can believe in God and we are commanded to believe Him. We may believe Jesus died, rose and saves us from our sin, but do we believe the same resurrecting power works in us today?

Awhile back my husband said something to me about my looks, which I've struggled with all of my life. I listened to his compliment, but really didn't respond; so he said, "You don't believe me, do you?" I was silent and then he quickly added, "You don't believe God either, do you?" Friend, it can be easy to say I believe God's Word, but am I willing to believe Him and claim His Truths for myself? How about you?

More recently, I've been convicted of doubting (not believing) what He's called me to do. I'll admit, I think way too much...the former algebra teacher in me loves to figure things out, but that's not what God wants me to do. He wants to trust and obey...even when A + B does not = C! He longs for me, and you, to believe! And friend, that is not a one time thing, it's something we must do time and time again. Every situation, every opportunity and every thought is a chance to believe God. If you want to learn more about who we believe, how we believe or be encouraged to strengthen your belief, I invite you to dive into the questions and Scriptures below. God's Word is living and active...He will speak to us!

Dear Heavenly Father, God, thank you for choosing me to be a believer. I'm grateful for the gift of faith You've given and ask You to strengthen it as I study your Word. Lord, I admit, sometimes I doubt and I ask you to use that doubt to draw me to you. Help me recognize the times I'm not believing You Lord and fill my mind with Truth about who YOU are and the power You posses and the plan You've created. Father, I pray You would use this study transform hearts today. In Jesus' Name, Amen

“The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” John 6:29
(Tense denotes continuation rather than a single act. NIV Commentary)

Define BELIEVE -

Who/What do you believe?
John 11:27
John 12:44
John 14:11
Heb. 11:6

Why do you believe?
1 John 3:23
Is. 43:10

How do you believe?
Romans 10:10

Why don’t you believe?
Luke 8:13
John 12:37-43

What are the benefits of believing?
John 1:12 John 11:25-26
John 3:16 John 11:40
John 4:39-42 John 17:21
  John 6:35-36, 47 John 20:29
John 7:38 Romans 4:3

How do I strengthen my belief?
John 20:27, 31
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Mark 9:24
Romans 10:17
John 13:19
        John 15:5

Be Encouraged!! If you are a believer, Jesus prayed for YOU!! See John 17:20

What is God asking YOU to BELIEVE? (A verse, a command, a truth…something about Him, you or your circumstances.)