Sunday, September 25, 2016

When we want to escape...

“Mommy, cows are out!” yelled my little man as he flew through the door. Our youngest had been playing in the sandbox while our oldest fed the cattle hay. Big brother was sure he could get them back in, but little bro wasn’t convinced so he ran to do what all 5 year olds do – tell Mom! I calmed Jesse down, slipped on my shoes and headed outside. J.D. had everything under control, but God continued the lesson He’d start teaching me weeks ago.

Life on the farm is rarely boring and two days are never the same…there are countless opportunities for life lessons to be learned and Biblical truths to be lived out. Awhile back I was watching the gate as my husband did chores and one friendly, red heifer tried to get out. I was able to keep her in, but as I did I thought about how sometimes I’m just like her.

This four legged critter is where she needs to be…she’s safe, taken care of and has all she needs, but still she was trying to go somewhere else. At the very moment she was trying to escape, my husband was providing her with the nourishment she needed. It’s convicting to think about how I respond to God in a similar way.

He protects me. (2 Thes. 3:3, Deut. 31:6) He cares for me. (Zeph. 3:17, Psalm 121:8) He provides for me. (Phil. 4:19) God not only does all these things just like a farmer, but He created me (Gen. 1:27, Psalm 139) and knows the plan He has for me. (Jer. 29:11)

These facts are all true for each and every one of us, but God is also in the details. Acts 17:26 says, "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." This verse reminds me He’s put me where I need to be. Friend, the same is true for you. He watches over us and has boundaries for a reason.

Over the years, God has used these words to bring peace and understanding to my physical world. You see, I grew up on a farm and I was the sister who was NEVER going to marry a farmer and the Iowa girl who's always cold and hates snow. Well, I'm now a farmer's wife who lives in NE Iowa. There have been times I thought this is not where I want to be, but with His Word God has transformed my thinking and I'm grateful for our little corner of the world.

Paul's words in Acts are clearly talking about a physical location and moment in time, but I want to continue this thinking a bit. Do you believe God has you in certain situations or even difficult relationships for a reason? Do you think He's placed you in work environments or ministry opportunities for a purpose?

I’m not in a pen like our cattle…there are no physical fences for me to jump or gates to exit, but the temptation to flee is there. Friend, have you ever experienced this yourself? Have you ever wished you were somewhere else? Tried to flee a situation or run in a different direction?

This can happen in countless ways – perhaps you’re not content with where you are at and struggle with “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” thinking. Whether it’s your marriage, job or a role you play…those thoughts are a lie from Satan. Maybe it’s something entirely different and God is calling you to step out and move from where you are at and you’re tempted to stay. Or you’re scared to walk in obedience. Finally, maybe it has nothing to do with physical location at all and it’s a heart issue. Has God been showing you something He wants to change? Are you willing to stay there and let Him do the work or are you trying to bust down the gate and just get it over with?

Friend, I don’t know if any of these thoughts or scenarios are ones you relate to, but I’d love to encourage you to think about where God has you….

Are you content with that? If not, are you willing to change your attitude about it?
Are you trying to run away from what He is trying to do? If so, why?
How do you view the boundaries God has put in your life?

The night when my little man ran into the house with fear to inform me the cattle were out, God added to this lesson. I realized whether I like where He has me or not, it’s for my own good. And in the bigger picture for God's glory. I know my heavenly Father, my Shepherd, places me where He knows I need to be, but His work is always bigger than we realize and His ways carry more purpose than we tend to understand.

Friend, He doesn’t just have us where we are for ourselves…our place – be it physically, in relationships, in conflicts or in sanctification is for others as well. When we try to escape, run away or stay when God says go others are impacted. Our actions and words impact others…sometimes directly in the form of help or encouragement. Others simply as a witness to the work of God. Let’s touch them in ways for good, and for God’s glory, by staying, or going, where God tells us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Lately I’ve found myself thinking about transformers…you know the toy that changes from a man to a car or something like that. My oldest son had one of them and it caused some frustration and created a few headaches. I haven’t helped him with that for a few years, but recently I found myself thinking about them again. Only this time it wasn’t a piece of plastic I was thinking about…it was myself.

At times I’m a secure, confident Christian who depends on and trusts in our faithful, heavenly Father. I believe what He whispers to my heart thru His Word and Spirit, I have the courage to step out in faith and do what He calls me to. Then something happens and I find myself feeling defeated and experiencing doubt. I wonder if I’ve heard God correctly and question what it is He seems to be asking me to do. Friend, this leads to way more frustration than my son’s old toy.

Awhile back this frustration brought me to my knees and led me into God’s Word. I know He is the One who transforms and have been part of a women’s event who’s mission is "to see women’s lives transformed by the Truth." I know this, but my experience as a “Transformer” led me to dig deeper. 

In my last post, I wrote about my "baby" learning to ride his 2 wheel bike...he's removed the training wheels. As I've walked in faith, in a spiritual sense God has done that for me, but as I transform back to my old self it's like I put them back on. I visited about this with my kids and we laughed thinking about J.D., our teenager, putting training wheels on his big bike. That is silly, but in a way it's what I sometimes do in my mind. I'm ready to be done with that, so I went to the only place that will help...

Romans 12:1-2 is a passage I’m familiar with and one I go to, but I’ve never really studied it, so that’s what I did. There is much packed into these 2 little verses that Paul shares. First of all, they are the beginning of the half of the book that is all about our behavior. The first 11 chapters of Romans tell us much about our beliefs while the last 5 chapters instruct us on how to live out those beliefs. One commentator even talked about how these 2 verses could easily be adapted as the Christian's pledge of allegiance. 

First of all, let's read this verse in a few different versions -

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. (The VOICE)

What do these verses say to you? What do they say about God? Have you ever spent much time thinking and praying about being conformed? Do you realize your need for transformation? Do you wonder how your mind can be renewed?

Friend, these are all good questions to think about and better ones to answer, so let's look at a few key words. Strong's dictionary, which looks at the original language of the Bible, defines conform like this - assuming a similar outward form by following the same pattern, mold or model. This happens when we go with the flow, blend in and don't rock the boat. Have you done this? Stop for a minute and think - "Who or what do you conform to?"

Personally, as I've worked thru this study I've been convicted of conforming to who I once my mind I go back to old ways of thinking, battle lies God's helped me recognize and live out habits time has created. This is not a picture of transformation, which leads me to our next word.

The Greek word for transform is metamorpho, which is where we get the word metamorphosis and it means to change after being with. This is a present tense verb, meaning it's not an on again off again process, it's continuous. It's also a passive word meaning God is the catalyst, but it's imperative as well, which tells us we have a response.

Clearly there is a difference between conformed and transformed, would you agree? I found a few - conformed is an outer response while transformed is inner. Conformed tends to more of a pressing into while transformed is an internal change. If we are passive and let life happen conformity will take place. When we are intentional and abide with Christ and in His Word, transformation is a possibility. Friend, God desires to transform us while Satan loves to see us conform to the world he rules.

If you are a disciple of Jesus, I'm guessing you long for transformation. You are aware of areas of life you want to see changed, but may find yourself wondering how this can happen. Paul gives us the answer - we must renew our mind, which gives us another key word. According to Strong's renew means to make fresh or new, it's achieved by God's power and results in a change of heart. Friend, I've said it before and I'll say it again...our minds are powerful. It's where our thoughts happen and these thoughts lead to our actions and words, we must renew our thinking repeatedly.

Just in case you need further proof for that point, take a look at Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 11:3. Here he says, "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." Our minds are vulnerable and Satan is on the attack, renewal is necessary.

Understanding is the first step, but the important question is – “How does this happen?” There are many things to consider, but let’s start with a look at Romans 8:29 – “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." This verse tells us who does the work and gives a positive picture of confirmation. Are you willing to surrender today so God can transform you as He conforms you into the image of His Son?

Another step we must not overlook is found in 1 John 5:14-15 - "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of Him." With humble hearts and expectant spirits, may we ask God for transformation. He hears our prayers and is faithful to answer them.

Part of this prayer needs to be confession. This is the step that leads to repentance, which means to turn around or change direction. It’s a change that is part of transformation. We must first confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) and then confess them to others (James 5:16). This is never an easy thing to do, but accountability and prayers from others are a part of the transforming work God can do.

This work we need God to do begins in our minds, which means we must practice taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) and setting our minds are thoughts that are good, pure and from the Lord (Phil. 4:8). So friend, when those thoughts come that are wrong or lies from the enemy…STOP. Don’t allow that thinking to continue. Pray and ask for Truth to replace them.

Last, but not least it’s God’s Word that has the power to transform us. The Bible is not merely a book of information it is a book of transformation. It is the inspired Word of God that is useful (2 Timothy 3:16) and it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). God will speak to us, convict us and comfort us with His Scripture. The Holy Spirit will give us discernment and wisdom as we read the words. Simply said, we will be transformed as we read, study, meditate and pray the Word of God.

Friend, before we close I want to share a few things in case you want to dig a bit deeper. We recently worked thru a study on transformation at our local Titus24U group and I was encouraged. We must remember transformation is a process, it involves surrender, time and work. This won't end until we meet the One who transforms us. We each have areas that God is molding and chipping away. He is able to change us from the inside out. So if you want to join Him in the process, take a look at these verses that give us a glimpse of what the transformed life looks like -

Colossians 1:10
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Galatians 2:20
Habakkuk (A different type of prophet book...most share what the Lord says, this is a look at a conversation between Habakkuk and the Lord. Note the transformation that takes place...God's Word changes us!) 
2 Peter 1:3-11

Some Things to Think About
Where? How? Why am I conforming?

What area(s) need to be transformed?

Related Truth that will Transform (Study, Memorize, Meditate On and Pray This)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your grace and because of your mercy I want to offer my body and life as a living sacrifice. May this act of worship be holy and pleasing to You. Lord, I don’t want to conform to the world any longer. Show me when and where I do this then Lord transform me by renewing my mind. Lead me to your Word, use it to penetrate my heart and right my thinking. Fill me with Your Spirit and tender my heart. In humility, may I let you do what you need to do to mold me into the person you created me to be. Thru this process help me do what you gifted me to do and shine my light so others see and glorify you. Father thank you for choosing me and calling me your masterpiece, may your good, pleasing and perfect will unfold today. Have your way. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus I pray, Amen

Friend, as I worked thru this study and continue to long for transformation, God gave me another illustration. This summer my daughter took an old wood pallet and turned it into a table. It was quite the took time and work. She heard encouraging words, but some thought I'd never let her put it in the house. She sanded, she cut, she sanded some more and varnished. Eventually, she proudly brought in her finished table. Every time I walk by it, I'm reminded of the change that took place and am excited to think about God doing a similar work in me.

 In the Biblical context, transformation tends to be a permanent change. Just like Joy's table it may take awhile to get there, but it is possible. God will be faithful to do His part, let's commit to be disciplined and do our's!! And friend, when that area of transformation is complete, let's take another lesson from Joy, my girl who's started another project, and let the next one begin!!


Finally, may this song from Phillips, Craig and Dean encourage you as the transformation process continues!! Blessings to you friend...thankful to join you on this journey!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Just Like Riding a Bike

Riding a bike...chances are you learned how to do that years ago and today can do it with relative ease. Bike riding isn't often on the forefront of my mind, but the other day it was in my thoughts. Our "baby", Mr. Jesse-Man just turned 5 and has mastered his 2 wheel bike. No more training wheels on the Beran farm!

As the whole family gathered around to watch him ride with confidence, he grinned from ear to ear. Before long he was comparing his skid marks to his big brother's. Eventually, we got to recalling each child's first experience with 2 wheels. My daughter, Joy, sticks out...she was only 3 1/2 when her big brother did what she had never done. A week passed and she was determined to do it as well, so our 5 year old mechanic obliged and removed the extra wheels.

After moments of frustration, I suggested putting them back on, but my little princess/tomboy thought otherwise. She'd been able to ride with me getting her started and believed with enough determination she could do it herself. She wasn't turning back...even if it meant a skinned up knee!

Eight years ago, God taught me much through my little that point in my life He was leading me into ministry, I was working on my book and I was just starting my blog. I shared this story in one of my first posts and wrote, "Sometimes it is hard, I think I can't, I worry about failing and getting hurt, I wonder what others will think, but just like my little girl I have to make a choice. No matter what might happen, I have to do what God calls me to do. Sure I might crash, but she reminded me I can get back up, brush it off and try again. She even went so far after one fall to stand up, smile and say, "There's not even any blood!"

Jesse's latest accomplishment brought this lesson to mind, but God provided another reminder through my son as well...he's done with training wheels. Now that he's rode without them, he won't be putting them back on. His next bike will be bigger, eventually he'll have gears and hand brakes. Someday my dare-devil may even add a motor. He's going to keep moving forward.

I've been convicted I need to do the same...not necessarily with my bike, but as I walk in faith. The timing of this is all God as just a week ago, my eyes were being opened to a tendency in my life. Here's how it tends to go...I step out in obedience and do what God calls me to do and/or believe a Truth He leads me to, but then time goes by and Satan attacks or God tests.

I doubt and get anxious. I feel like a failure and wrestle with insecurity. My mind can be a mess and sometimes I even battle depression. Those are all things I've struggled with my entire life. Clearly, Satan knows my weak spots. Thankfully, I'm finally recognizing my habits...the habits of my mind.

Out here on the farm, we have cow paths through our's the route the cattle take. You can spot them from a distance...the grass around them can be tall, but the path is often worn to dirt. I've read a few times that our thoughts do a similar thing...scientists call it memory trace. So if you grew up with insecure thoughts, your brain has a tendency to take that same path and think the same thing. Our thoughts can become a habit. And have you noticed how quickly they can run wild? Mine can go downhill hill from 0-60 faster than any car on the road!!

So what can we do about this? Scripture gives us the answer in 2 Corinthians 10:5 where Paul writes, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

I've read this verse countless times and shared it here before, but lately God has been showing me I need to do this constantly. If I want my thoughts to take a different path, I need new ones. Thoughts that are wrong, bad or lies from the enemy need to be removed from my thinking; that will only happen if I take them captive.

I'm beyond grateful for all God's done to renew my thinking and help me understand my identity in Christ, but I'm tired of falling back into old ways. I can see the change that's taken place, but I'm ready for more...not just change, but transformation. I can't do this, but I believe God can do it in me.

The other night I asked Jesse, "Why did you have Dad take your training wheels off?" Side-note - we've been working towards this all summer and I can't count how many times we've taken the wheels off only to put them back on minutes later. My Mr. Strong-Willed says, "Me just was going to do it."

Friend, initially I was going to use that story to lead into the idea that we need to make a choice, but I typed those words and was reminded we have a similar situation with our Heavenly Father. Just like my husband and I were patient with our lil man, God does the same for us...He helps us, prepares us and encourages us. He knows we can do what He created us for, but He won't force us into it. He leads us, but He won't push us.

Rather than being strong-willed, we must be Spirit-filled! We can die to ourselves and let Him live in us. He won't just change us, He will transform us. He longs for us to mature and become more like Christ. He's ready for us to leave the training wheel stage of life behind! Are you ready to do it?

I want to close with 2 things...a song and a prayer. This song has been playing in my head for a speaks to my heart and reminds me of Truth. Friend, we can stay where we are, we can hold on to who we are and we can be safe where He has, but He has called us higher and deeper!

All summer Jesse was hesitant to take the training wheels off, but if you could see him now, you'd see joy, success and even more determination. Friend, if we'd go deeper into our relationship with God we'd experience much of the same. Granted, just like Jesse, we may take some falls and feel some pain, but that's part of the growing process. When this happens we can take another example from my little man...we don't need to go back and start all over again, we don't need to put the training wheels on again. Just get up and start where we are at...keep moving forward - growing closer to Christ, going deeper with Him and higher for Him! So with that, may this song by All Sons and Daughters encourage you today!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Lord, thank you for meeting us where we are at, loving us unconditionally and calling us deeper. I'm grateful for this reminder through training wheels that I too need to move forward. Help me press on, progress and continue being perfected. I want to leave old ways, thoughts and habits behind. I can't do that on my own, so fill me with your Spirit so you can change me from the inside out. Humble my heart Lord, tender it too so I'm sensitive to your Spirit. Help me believe and make me quick to obey. And Father, when I fall remind me who You are...a God who doesn't change, One who never forsakes and is always present. Take away my fear, doubts and worry. Help me cast all my cares on you because you care for me. May I always remember You are good, You are sovereign and You are working for your glory and my good. Today help me take a step forward with You and for Your kingdom. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

Friday, September 2, 2016

Expect An Attack!!

A BIG welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe! It's a joy to be sharing there today...I pray my devotional spoke to you. If you'd like to read - "Weed Control is Important", you can do so by clicking HERE.

Along the lines of weed control, I have another illustration from life on the farm...the other day my daughters and I were out walking beans yet again. This year it seems the job is taking forever as we work between the rains. The work is getting harder and our motivation is weakening. I attempted to pep us all up and we headed to the field.

We weren't 20 yards in and we knew we were in for our worst experience yet. The air was humid and the bugs were TERRIBLE! We were walking and swatting and sweating. When we'd stop to cut the weeds (there so big now we need to use clippers), we were nearly carried off by the stinging mosquitoes. It was bad and our attitude steadily grew worse. Ten minutes into the job and we were ready to quit! 

In the hours leading up to this job, I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. Not even two weeks prior I'd been greatly encouraged and days earlier I'd led a lesson on surrendering to Christ. I struggled with this and was tempted to beat myself up, but that day in the field I was reminded of an important reality. 

Friend, when we are trying to remove the weeds (sin) from our heart and surrender our wills to Christ we must expect an attack. Satan wants nothing to do with us becoming more like Jesus and will trip us up every time we try to glorify God. At the same time, we also have a heavenly Father who will test us and give us opportunities to practice what we preach. These things are a given, but sometimes I forget. 

Our time in the field would have went much better if we had been prepared with bug spray and long sleeves. Our walk of faith will go better if we are prepared with God's Word and His Spirit. 

I've hesitated writing this blog because a few days have passed since this initial attack by the bugs and at times I'm still struggling. The girl who stood up at our women's event encouraging women to walk in obedience and trust God's faithfulness has needed that encouragement myself. I don't want to be a hypocrite, but I know I also need to be honest. 

Sometimes life is hard, parenting can be a real challenge and marriage isn't always glamorous either. Following God doesn't bring continual success, living for Christ requires death to self and surrendering is a daily, moment by moment task. Bad days happen, schedules are full, plans change and feelings get hurt. We remove one weed and another grows back. The attack continues. It may subside for awhile, but we must be prepared for it to start again. 

So how do we prepare? Trust me, that is a question I've been asking, but now in the midst of the battle I find myself focusing on other Truths - one that show us how to fight. 

The first thing I need to remember is - I'm not strong enough to win on my own. And friend, neither are you. We can try and try and try, but it won't work. The battle we are in is spiritual and we need the Spirit if we want to be victorious. So friend, when the attack comes let's remember to ask God to fill us with His Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18b)

#2 - I need to learn a lesson from the attack in our field...after completing our first round we went back to the truck and applied bug spray - this helped keep the enemy at bay. The armor of God, which is outlined in Ephesians 6:10-20, will do the same for us in a spiritual sense. Personally, the piece that sticks out to me tonight is the helmet. "Why?" because my mind is often where the attack comes - just like the bugs stung me where my skin was exposed, Satan hits me where he knows I'm weak - my mind. He brings lies and creates doubts about my roles as wife, mom, woman in ministry and follower of Christ. He brings up regrets from the past and worries about the future. Our pastor often says, "The mind is God's classroom, the Christian's battle-field and Satan's playground." How true! 

Finally, #3 - earlier this week a friend shared a quote on Facebook that helped put things in perspective - "The eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky. The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful, wise and deadly. Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles. Don't fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle ground like the eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer. You'll be assured of victory. Pray without ceasing." 

Like everything prayer is vital. It changes things - sometimes our circumstances, but always our perspective! When we humble ourselves and approach our heavenly Father...the One who loves us, created us and has a plan for us, we are more apt to look at the bigger picture and remember His promises. I know this, but I must do it. Friend, the same is true for you. May we live Ephesians 6:18 - "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." One final bit of advice - remember YOU are one of the Lord's people, so start by praying for yourself!

May this picture not only bring you a laugh, but serve as a powerful visual as well. That's me sporting my 13 year old son's football helmet...I don't normally wear it around, but we must continually protect our minds. We'll do that when we follow my little guy's example...he's leaning in close to his earthly momma and we must do the same with God, our Heavenly Father and Jesus, our Lord and Savior. The third reminder I glean from the picture...we must remember we are part of a family - the family of God. When attacks come and the battle rages, I tend to want to go into iso mode, but that's the worst strategy out there. There is strength in numbers and God created us for relationship - first with Him and then with our brothers and sisters. We stand stronger when we stand together! 

Friend, I prayed for each person God brought to these words. May He encourage you, prepare you and fight for you! The attacks will come, the battles will be hard, but the victory has been won!!

Dear Heavenly Father, may we not forget that greater are You who is in us than he who is in the world. You have won the battle, you have defeated death and your desire is for us to walk victoriously. Fill us with your Spirit so we can do just that. Prepare us for the attack, equip us for the battle and assure us of your promises! In Jesus' Name, Amen