Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why Worth Matters

Friend, I know I spend much time writing about worth on this blog, especially lately, but it's because I've spent much time wrestling with it and learning about it. God has taught me much and helped me grow and work towards overcoming my struggle with insecurity and feelings of unworthiness. As He's changed me, He's also called me to share, so that's why I write. And it's also why I speak.

Just the other day after doing the very thing, God continued to teach. Learning truly is life-long!! I'd shared my testimony and about our worth in Christ, which included a glimpse of my struggle with unworthiness. After I shared with a group of Moms we had a little time for discussion. As a mentor Mom shared, God started to instruct.

She said, "As I've grasped a better understanding of who I am in Christ, I'm less likely to judge." She went on to explain our identity can be linked to our depravity and when we know we need Christ just as much as everyone else were less likely to judge them and look down upon them.

Friend, when we know where our worth comes from and have a relationship with the worthy one, we're more likely to live out Matthew 7:5. Here we read Jesus' words, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." It can be easy to notice other's mistakes, but when we know who (and more importantly whose) we are God will open our eyes to our imperfections as well. A right understanding of our worth will help us deal with them and tender our hearts to move past them. And equip us to be gracious towards others too.

The conversation with others ended as the event came to an end, but God continued it with the thoughts that ran through my mind. When we struggle to understand our worth, we often don't rightly understand others' worth either. We won't like admitting this, but it can cause us to look down on people and judge them wrongly.

This dialogue with God has continued and He's opened my eyes to another problem area in my life that's the result of my misunderstanding of worth. Like I said sometimes this leads to putting others down, but in my case it's led to putting them up. Putting them up on a pedestal where they don't belong and don't want to be.

Growing up, I looked up to my teachers, babysitters, 4-H leaders, and on and on... As an athlete, I dreamed of being the varsity players I watched. I wanted to do what they did. Now having role models, mentors and teachers is a good thing, a necessary thing really. It's even something God addresses in Titus when He instructs the older women to teach the younger women. (Titus 2:3-5) We are to learn from others and respect them too, but my feelings of unworthiness took things to a different level.

I didn't just want to be like these women I looked up to, I wanted to be them. My feelings may have started out as respect for them, but at times they resulted in idolization of them. Ugh, when I think back to how I so wrongly viewed myself and others it makes my stomach turn. I was never good enough and these heroes of mine could do no least that's what I thought. Friend, if you find yourself in that place, please know this is wrong thinking...YOU are God's masterpiece (Eph. 2:10) and your hero is one who of the ALL who sins and falls short (Romans 3:23).

Jesus is the worthy One (Rev. 4:11) and He gives us our worth. May we remember to keep Him on the throne! As we do, we'll stay off the stage and let go do of the desire to put others down. And we'll also know not to put others on the pedestal and wrongly lift them up.

My grandma once told me, "Don't ever think you're better than someone else, but remember you're just as good as everyone else." Friend, as we learn about our worth, we also realize others have value. May we remember the people we may be tempted to judge or look down on were bought at the same price as us. (1 Peter 1:18-19) And the ones we look up to and respect? They were bought with the same blood that we were. Let us live lives of humility and walk securely as the one God created us to be. May we encourage others as they try to do the same!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When you feel unworthy...

Have you ever felt unworthy? Me too. Just the other day actually. I really wasn't surprised because I'm actually preparing to speak about our worth in Christ and every time before I speak, I'm given opportunities to live the message I will share.

Friends, many things can leave us feeling unworthy - things we've done, things that have been done to us, words said, others left unsaid, opportunities missed, mistakes made and sin committed. As a basketball coach, I often said, "When you lose you should feel bad." As Christians I believe we could say something quite similar, "When you sin you should feed bad." As followers of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit in us and have the ability to know right from wrong, but yet sometimes we make the wrong choice...we sin. Sinning grieves our Father and if we truly love Him, we should feel bad when we hurt Him.

Sometimes feelings of unworthiness are part of the bad emotions we experience. Sometimes we feel unworthy because of our own actions. Sometimes feelings of unworthiness are warranted, but on the other hand sometimes they are not. There are often times we feel unworthy because of someone else or Satan himself.

Today I don't want to focus on the why of feeling unworthy, but instead the what. When we feel unworthy, what are we to do? I believe we can take a powerful and important lesson from Luke 15:11-24, the story of the prodigal son.

In this familiar story we have the account of two brothers...the younger one doesn't want to wait for his inheritance and asks his father to give it to him. His dad does and he sets out to live the life he dreamed of. Perhaps for awhile things go as planned, but eventually the money runs out, the fun ends and life gets hard. Things did not go as expected and he finds himself eating with the pigs. He then realizes his father's servants are living a life better than his.

In verse 18 our lesson begins; the young man thinks, "I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'" This young man had made mistakes and chances are committed some sin, but take note of what he did - he returned to the one he had hurt, the one who'd loved him. Notice the word he uses to describe himself - unworthy. He felt he had no value.

He didn't just think about going to his father, he did it. Verse 21 tells us, "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'" The son confesses his sin and shares his feelings with his father. He does not feel worthy, but verses 22-24 paint a powerful picture. "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put in on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate." Friends, this father loved his son - feelings of unworthiness, warranted or not, were not going to keep him from him.

Oh how I've been reminded that the same is true of my heavenly Father and me. And for you and Him too. He loves us and does not want us, the ones He created, has a plan for and considers His masterpiece to feel unworthy. In the moments when those feelings are warranted He longs for us to come to Him and confess our sin just like the prodigal son. And when those feelings surface because we don't measure up or we allow others to define our worth, He wants us to run to Him so He can remind us of the value we have in His eyes and kingdom.

Friend, if you feel unworthy may you remember -

You are created in the image of our great God! "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) 

You have the spirit in you! "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20a)

You have been bought at a price. "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)

God doesn't measure worth like the world does - it's all about our love for Him and obedience to Him. "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)

Dear Heavenly Father, 
I'm grateful that Jesus is the worthy One. Thank you for sending Him to take my place. Lord, when I feel unworthy, just like the prodigal son did remind me to come to You. Help me cast my cares on You knowing You care for me. Lord, I ask for a better understanding of who I am in your eyes. May I allow You and You alone to define me. Fill me with confidence to be who You created me to be and help me walk in a manner worthy of the calling You've given me. And Lord, I ask you to be with my friends reading this today, may they know the love You have for them and the value You see in them. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Someone's Watching

Picking rock is something I shared about in my last post (you can read it HERE) and today as I spent more time in the field, God reminded me of another important Truth. Someone is watching! As my kids and I made trips up and down the field, we attempted to pick up every rock that was there. Like I said before, picking rock is a time consuming job that takes effort and attention...two things that can disappear quickly after a few days of the monotonous work.

So today, as we worked our environment was a bit different. My husband, Job, was planting corn in the same field. We were just a bit ahead of him and as I glanced behind me and saw him coming I had a thought - "If we missed any rocks, he's going to see them." With him sitting high up in the tractor with a a view of everything, there was no way to avoid him seeing our mistakes.

As this thought came to mind, it was quickly followed by another...Job's not the only one watching me, God is too. Unlike my husband, He has perfect vision and isn't distracted by the planter he's pulling. Scripture reminds us again and again of this Truth - 

"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." Proverbs 15:3

"My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes." Jeremiah 16:17

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13

"For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths." Proverbs 5:21

This new thought then brought to mind the last lesson God taught me in the field. God sees all the rocks I miss. He's aware of the ones you overlook too. These rocks aren't the hard, heavy ones we find in the field, but instead are the sins in our heart. God is aware of the bad attitudes, hurtful words and wrong motives we overlook. He also knows the "rocks" we see, but may avoid because we're lazy, tired or simply don't want to do the work it takes to pick them up. 

Friend, initially the fact that my husband was watching made me a bit nervous and worried. I found myself thinking we must get every rock! Then I was reminded of my husband's loving and forgiving heart...he knows the kids and me are human who will miss rocks. He's grateful we're helping him and appreciates the work we do. So if you're anxious when you think about God watching every move you make and being aware of every rock you miss...remember who HE is - our kind, loving, forgiving Father! 

As I thought about this, I went from worried to motivated. I wanted to do a good job for the one I love. Knowing God is watching me live the life He gave, I should want to do the best I can for Him. That thought coupled with Deuteronomy 6:18 fills me with passion and about you??

"You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the Lord swore to give your fathers..." Deuteronomy 6:18

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Lesson from the Field

Spring is in full swing on the farm here in Iowa, which means we have work to do. One of the jobs my kids and I have been doing is picking rock. For those of you unfamiliar with this line of work let me explain - some areas of farm ground are a bit rocky and when that's the case we have to remove the rocks. The purpose is two-fold - rocks can hinder growth and they can damage equipment. This is a job we have to do every year and sometimes we joke that perhaps we should raise rocks instead of corn!! The other day as I was out in the cool temps and blowing winds, God used my time in the field to teach me a lesson. My prayer is He will use it to teach you as well! 

That day in the field and now each time since, God has me thinking about removing rocks from the soil of my heart. Friend, we are sinners and will forever live with the temptation to feed our flesh. Because that is a reality, I truly believe this lesson from the field is good food for thought. So a few observations from the great outdoors that can help us improve our heart's soil condition.

First of all, I immediately noticed my little 5 year old eagerly running across the field to get the biggest rock he could find. This is not part of the method we use...we pick rock by going up and down the field, picking the rocks in our area knowing we'll get to all of them eventually. As I watched Jed run, I was reminded I need to deal with all the sin in my heart rather than running to the ones that are big and obvious. Or better yet - the ones that are easier to deal with.

Another lesson I learned was that sometimes we need help...picking rock is not a job you want to do alone. Friend, we often think dealing with sin is something we want to do all by ourselves, but in reality there is great power in numbers. Accountability is important and there is strength in numbers. My kids help each other as we pick rock...I love having my little Jaylyn in my Ranger as she is constantly encouraging me and letting me know I'm doing a good job.  Sometimes the kids see a rock someone else might not and can't we do the same as sisters when we walk in faith and remove the rock of sin from our heart? I think so. Let's pray and ask God to do it in a loving encouraging way just like my lil lady!

Along that same line, there are other things that help us pick rock...our skidloaders, Rangers, buckets and shovels. Friend, our Bibles, time in prayer and worship will help us as well!!

Another thing I realized was that sometimes the rocks are easy to see...they are above ground and out in the open, while other times they are hidden and can easily be overlooked. Sometimes a rock looks real small from a distance but then as you approach it or dig it out, you realize it's not what you thought. Isn't that true with sin? I'm guessing you're clearly aware of a sin in your life, but are there others that are hidden and harder to see? Are there some that seem small and make you think it's really not a big deal? Friend, sin is sin and we're not to enter in...perhaps we categorize it, but God doesn't!! My husband doesn't want rocks in the field and God doesn't want them in our heart!! No matter the size!!

Once as I walked to pick up one rock, I spotted another farther away, so I walked on to it planning to get the first one later. Well, when I turned around I lost sight of it and as I did God reminded me that happens with sin too. When we recognize sin in our heart, we must deal with it immediately because when we put it off we forget about it or start to overlook it.

Friend, I will admit picking rock was not a job I sought when I was a kid, but yet it's one I found myself doing every summer. I was for sure I'd NEVER do it as an adult! It's a job that has you out in the heat or cold, dusty conditions, leaves you dirty and's not that fun, but it serves a purpose. As a teen it brought good money and now as a Mom it gives me an opportunity to teach my kids and work with them while I help my husband. Friend, when we remove the rocks from our heart, the work is usually not fun, but it serves a purpose - one that is way more important than those I've listed above! It's worth it, so will you join me in doing it?

I've shared more than enough of my words, so let me close with some powerful ones from the Word - 

"Anyone then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17

"He who conceals his sins doesn't not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Proverbs 28:13

"But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:7-9

"Also keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:13-14

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord thank you for being a loving, kind, forgiving God. Help me be a daughter who recognizes my sin, deals with it and turns from it. Do not let sin rule over me confess them and embrace your forgiveness as you remove them farther than the east is from the west. Thank you for the lessons you teach us in our ordinary lives...continue to open our ears and eyes while You tender our hearts to see, listen and receive all You have for us. Lord, remove the rocks from our heart so we can be fruitful for You! In Jesus' Name, Amen

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"What do you raise them for?"

Over the last week, I've had a handful of people talk to me about how my kids are growing up. I know it's oldest (12) just "graduated" from AWANA's and this summer my baby will turn 4. In 5 years, I know our house, and life, will look much different. We'll have 3 teenagers and 2 tweens, drivers, busy(ier) schedules and less time together as a family. I don't even want to think about the 10 year picture!!

These comments have had me thinking and then the other day as I tried to teach my daughter about poetry, I came across a poem I'd written when our oldest was our only child. You can read those words and then I'll share some new thoughts....

You hear a new Mom say,
“She sleeps thru the night,
sits by herself and patty cakes, too,
she’s growing up so fast.”
But the Mom who’s been there before says,
“That’s what you raise them for.”

A young Mom says,
“He can ride a bike,
tie his shoes & write the ABC’s,
he’s growing up so fast.”
Again, the Mom reminds her,
“That’s what you raise them for.”

Time goes by and she says,
“Now she can drive by herself,
plays on the team and babysits.
She’s growing up so fast.”
But she remembers,
“That’s what you raise them for.”

A few years pass and she says,
“He’s been to the prom,
had senior pictures and is visiting colleges.
He’s growing up so fast.”
But again she hears,
“That’s what you raise them for.”

Time marches on and she says,
“She graduated from college,
was married and will soon be a Mom.
She grew up so fast.”
But her mom reminds her,
“That’s what you raise them for.”

Years go by and you hear her say,
“She did so much for me –
listened to my troubles,
cheered at my success and
led me to the Lord.
She’s gone too fast.”
But then she heard God say,
“That’s what I raise them for.”

A day or two after reading this poem again, I heard a program on the radio talking about "Growing Kingdom Kids" as Christians that should be a parenting goal for all of us. It's a great goal and one I'd say I have, but as my mind continued to work, I wondered, "How do I achieve this?"

Honestly, God's plans and purposes for our kids are so much different than the worlds! He longs for them to do so much more than stay busy, learn things and win trophies. Granted that may be part of the process, but it can't be the priority. My children must learn to tie their shoes and drive the car; chances are some of them will go to prom and play on the team, but if they are rushing from one season to the next and living to go from one milestone to the next, I'm not doing my job.

Ultimately they are God's children and He's given me the responsibility to raise them up. And if you're a Mom that's your job too! So let me ask you, "What are you raising them for?' Do you prioritize getting good grades, being a great student and landing a wonderful career? Or do you focus on them making the team, winning the scholarship and being a success? Are you raising them to be a good friend, a responsible citizen and loving person? Or are you raising them to love the Lord, serve Him and share Him?

Friend, I think we all know the right answer to the questions, but do our actions match up with our answer? It's easy to say we want to raise Godly kids who impact the kingdom and make an eternal difference, but it's harder to do it. As my kids grow I know this is going to get more challenging...when it comes time to choose between church and sports what will we do? (Which will happen next month when VBS and softball overlap.) When it's time to let go and give them freedom will they see me fret and worry or pray and find peace? When life gets busy, will we make time for family devotions?

I can look ahead and wonder all I want, but that doesn't do much good, but doing something now is what will be productive. Friend, regardless of the age of your children there is something we can do to play a part in raising them up to be the one God created them to be! We can pray and live out our faith. Remember "More is caught than taught" and "Children learn what they live and will one day live what they learn!!"

Friend, if you are like me and long to raise your kids up for more than what this world offers, I'd love to hear your heart - what excites you about this challenge? What scares you? How do you do it? And I know I have friends further ahead in the journey who are doing a wonderful job, what's your advice? How do (did) you do it? How do you prioritize faith and the disciplines that come with it without being legalistic and creating bitterness which causes kids to push away - not just from you, but God?

As we raise the little people we are responsible for may we remember we are a child God is raising...O Lord, help us be children who are quick to obey, willing to draw close and always trust our perfect Parent. One specific promise we can cling to is found in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."