Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Follow the Leader

Welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe...thank you for stopping by! Today I have a devotion titled "She's Getting What I Want" in which I share about my struggle after miscarriage. It was a time when I saw what everyone else had as I focused on what I'd lost. Have you ever been there? Found yourself wanting what someone else has...perhaps it's not a baby, but maybe a job, a husband, an opportunity, a day away. It doesn't have to be something BIG...discontentment comes in various shapes and sizes, but in the end it's still a sin!

I shared how Jesus' words to Peter in John 21:21-22 cut to my heart and friend I pray they sink into yours as well. Listen to what He says, "What is that to you? You must follow me.” Friend, regardless of our circumstances we are commanded to follow Him. 

And that idea leads me to something I've been thinking about for a few weeks...follow the leader. It's a game my kids don't often play, but it's something we daily do. We are to follow Christ, He is the ultimate leader, the perfect One we are to keep our eyes on, but if we're honest I think we can admit others influence us too. 

I encourage you to take some time and think about the people you follow...because in this technological world we literally do "follow" people! Who influences you? Specifically think about those who are leading you spiritually...are they speaking Truth and teaching from God's Word? Are they sharing the comforting words we long to hear and the convicting ones we need to hear? Do they encourage you to follow Christ or are they creating a following for themselves? As you consider the leader's heart, allow God to examine yours...are you "following" this individual in attempt to grow in faith or simply because everyone is doing it? Friends, these questions don't always have easy answers, but lately I've been challenged to think about them and pray for discernment as I attempt to answer them. 

As I've thought about this, I've pictured my kids playing the game and see how each one leads the one who follows in their steps. Friend, you may not consider yourself a "leader", but you are! Someone is watching you, learning from you and doing things you are leading them? Are you pointing them to Christ? Are you walking in a manner worthy of the calling? Are you setting an example you want someone to follow? 

Like Paul can you say, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) or in the NLT, "And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.Remember the one(s) you are following are also impacting the ones you lead. Friend, if you are doing what Jesus commands and following Him, you can be sure you are living out these words from Paul. 

I'm so thankful for the Godly "leaders" in my life...the ones who admit their struggles, confess their sins, speak the Truth and point me to Christ. Their example equips me to be a leader too and also encourages me to live out the command Christ has given!

Four years ago when my second son was born, my oldest boy was 6 and for Christmas he wanted me to make him a gift. Since I don't sew, knit or do any other crafty thing I put together a picture for him. I had a picture of the two boys, tracings of their feet and a poem I've always held dear -
A careful man I want to be,
A little fellow follows me,
I dare not go astray 
for fear he'll go the same wrong way!
I pray all my children will take these words to heart and influence others for Christ as they follow Him!! And may we do the same!!

Friend, I pray you will take some time to think about the ones you are following and the people you are you do this ask yourself, "Am I following Jesus?" If you're answer is yes, keep doing what you are doing and if it's not, pray about the changes you need to make!! Let us not forget one day we will be held accountable for our actions...including the decisions in who to follow and for the tracks we leave for others!

Thank you for joining me today...I'm off to play "Follow the Leader" with my kids and talk about how God wants us to do the same!! Blessings to you as you follow our Leader!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fear of Failure

When you hear the word FAILURE what comes to mind? Do you instantly remember moments you have failed? Does it cause you to worry about how you might fail in the days ahead? Is failure something you fear?

Failure is something we all experience and something many fear. Today in my devotion at the Encouragement Cafe I address this very thing...if you'd like to read it click HERE. Like I said, we have nothing to fear because God uses failure too!

In His Word, God tells us we are not to fear. The Bible also tells us, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7) Friend, failure is one of those things we are not to fear and something we are equipped to overcome.

Have you ever thought about what failure really is? Webster defines it as a lack of success, falling short or omitting an expected task. 

I read that definition and a few things come to mind...Who determines what success is? Remember God defines it much differently than the world! The same is true in regards to falling short...who is measuring your success? The third piece of the definition is probably where we need to focus most because if we're honest this is probably how we fail the most.

Friend, we fail in doing what others expect from us and even what we expect from ourselves, but more than that how often do we fail God in doing what He commands? I'll be the first to answer...way too often. I'll also be the first to admit that this is a failure I use to fear.

But thankfully, I don't have to and neither do you. God is a God who desires for us to be holy and live rightly, but we don't have to fear Him when we fail (and we will) because He is a God of grace and a Father who forgives.

Think about these verses...

"God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Friend God's grace is what it's all about...our success will not earn His love and our failures cannot lose it! So today will you join me in pressing on whether you win or lose because He doesn't expect perfection, but can use our perseverance!!

A special welcome to my new friends stopping by from the Encouragement Cafe and a warm hello to my faithful readers!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Want To Leave A Legacy

The title of this post describes a desire I've had for quite some time...I want to leave a legacy, how about you? The thing is I am and so are, but the question is, "What kind of legacy is it?"

The other day I had the opportunity to attend a funeral for Frieda, a 95 year old sister in Christ who attended our church. Funerals are something I could live without, but I know they are a part of life. Often they leave me sad and cause me to reflect, but this past Friday I also found myself encouraged.

Honestly, it seems weird to say that; I mean how can death encourage? But friend, I saw Philippians 1:20 lived out...Christ was exalted. In most people's eyes, Frieda was a typical person, living the life God had called her to...she'd raised a family, been a farmer's wife and helped her neighbors out. According to the world's measures she really didn't stand out in a crowd.

But in God's eyes, she had done so much. I know she heard the words I long to hear..."Well done good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:23) Frieda had walked the road God made for her. A road that included losing her first husband and being a widow with 3 small children. A road that was hard, but one that taught her to persevere. A journey that included ups and downs, good times and bad, but one that led her closer to Christ. A life that left her outliving her second husband and even one of her sons, but found her enjoying the many grandchildren, some greats and even 3 great-greats.

At the funeral, some of the family shared from their heart...there were stories and memories, but the common thread was Christ. Frieda had not only loved her family, she'd led them to Christ. She passed down the faith. She set an example we all can learn from and be encouraged by.

She never led a ministry and as far as I know never spoke on a stage, but she ministered to many and shared her faith. She trusted God and sought Him til the end. She studied His Word and prayed powerful prayers. She made a difference and left a legacy!

Friend, what encourages me is: you and I can do the same. But we must start now...think about the people you influence, what legacy are you leaving them? Is it one of faith? May we remember 2 Corinthians 5:10,  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." And let's not forget C.T. Studd's words that echo this verse, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I pray we've all been challenged to look at the legacy we are leaving and encouraged to leave one that is Godly! 

Where it all begins...

Somedays are crazy, but let's remember with God all things are possible!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Encouragement...More than we think!

Welcome! Today I'm doing something I've never done...write a blog post in 5 minutes!! It usually takes me 5 hours or maybe even days, so we'll see how this goes. The topic of the day for "Five Minute Friday"  is one that's been on my heart for the last few weeks, so I felt the need to share a bit of what I've learned!!

Encouragement is a word we often hear, but is it something we really understand? I used to think so, but not so much anymore. A few weeks ago, I found myself discouraged and feeling empty; at the same time I was in the process of prepping for our monthly Titus24U meetings. I prayed and asked God for direction and as usual He provided just what I needed.

He set me on a journey to better understand encouragement. I scribbled down some questions - "What is it? How am I encouraged? How do I encourage others? Who or what encourages me? How does God define encouragement? What is the purpose of encouragement?"

My study led to answers and a deeper understanding of what is a gift for some (Romans 12:8) and a command to all (1 Thes. 5:11). Encouragement is more than a pat on the back or words that cheer somebody up. In Greek the word for encouragement is parakaleo - meaning to call to one's side, to admonish, to comfort and instruct. The same word can be used for the Holy Spirit - the ultimate encourager!! The One who doesn't just tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to know!!

Another great discovery came as I looked at the life of Barnabas, the one who was called "Son of Encouragement". In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas were told, "If you have a message of encouragement, please share it..." Paul went on to share the Gospel...friends, if you or I are in need of encouragement may we always remember to go back to the cross. God's love, plan and power are sure to speak to our hearts, lift our spirits and shift our focus!

Finally, as time slips away...may I challenge you to encourage the one who encourages you!! I've often been told I have the gift of encouragement and every spiritual gift test I've ever taken confirms that, but I'll be honest I don't often use that gift when I'm talking to myself. And I'd like to think I'm not alone, so perhaps the one with the gift in your life would appreciate you sharing a little encouragement with her as well.

Friends, I pray you are encouraged today! If you're in need of encouragement ask God for it and He will provide!! 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing. 
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Lesson From A Farmer

Early last week weather conditions were not what most considerable enjoyable. Church was cancelled Sunday, schools were closed Monday and Tuesday and the weatherman instructed everyone to limit outdoor exposure. The temperature fell to -23 with wind chills as low as 50 degrees below zero.

As one who's never liked winter, I willingly obeyed and stayed indoors, but my husband, a farmer, had no choice. The cattle needed to be fed and chores had to be done, so he bundled up, braved the elements and taught me a lesson! I'll attempt to share what I've learned because regardless if you live on a farm or face freezing temperatures, chances are some day you'll have to work in imperfect conditions. My prayer is we'll apply what my husband modeled for me!

WORK TOGETHER - My husband farms with his brother and typically they each do their own chores, but during those few days they each checked in on each other and gave one another a hand. My son was also called on to help a bit more. They needed an extra hand from time to time and appreciated each others help!

Friend, when we are going through a hard time or working on a difficult assignment it helps to work together. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up." May we remember this!!

WORK SMARTER - With the freezing temps, my husband had to plug equipment in to make sure it would start, things had to warm up longer and be done with extra care. One thing I noticed on those cold, cold days was the cell phone he left behind. On normal mornings it's not out of the ordinary for him to make or take a call while he loads a wagon, but on these days he knew it wasn't smart to stand out in the cold to talk on the phone. The phone was simply a distraction that he chose to avoid. There were jobs that are on the list, but because of the conditions, he simply set them to the side until it made more sense to do the work that could wait.

Oh is that a lesson for me...working smarter. Life could be better if I worked smarter, whether it's daily tasks as a mom, work I need to do as a teacher or woman in ministry. Avoiding distractions, letting go of things I don't need to do and being prepared would help me do what I need to do!! How about you?

WORK HARDER - This isn't necessarily a heading we like to see, but friend, it is a truth I needed to be reminded of. When the conditions weren't perfect, my husband had to work harder and the same is true for me, and you. Really it doesn't matter what the conditions are, if I want to improve I need to work harder. I need to put in extra time and say no to what is good, so that I can do what is best! Hard work is not something we willingly choose or volunteer for, but if we're following God and striving to glorify Him it will be something required of us.

Friends as this new year unfolds I've been thinking about 1 Timothy 4:7-10, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God,who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe." Paul is instructing Timothy to train spiritually and as we read the verse, he's instructing us to do the same. As we do this training the conditions will vary and rarely will they be perfect, but friends if we work together, work smarter and work harder we will grow stronger!! 

Finally, my husband modeled one last important lesson for me last week as our family gathered in our sons' room to pray. The day hadn't been one he expected or thoroughly enjoyed, but he closed it out by sharing these words with God - "Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you that we were able to go out and do chores. We're grateful everything worked..." In my head, I almost questioned his prayer until I remembered Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." and 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." My husband set an example for me and one I pray my children saw as well...he was thankful. Friend, when we embrace our circumstances, do the work and thank God for the opportunity He will equip, strengthen and bless us.

Friend, someone is waiting for you to do your work...use this lesson from a farmer and complete the task at hand!!

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. 
Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, 
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Struggling in Silence

Have you ever found yourself depressed? Ever feel empty and in need of encouragement? Depression is a part of my past...I've been in the pit and contemplated taking my life. This all happened over 14 years ago, but this past week I've been reminded of some of those feelings.

My life is blessed, my family is healthy and Christmas was good, but I'll admit something that is hard to share...last week I was down, discouraged and a bit depressed. Thankfully I didn't fall as deep into the pit as I did years ago, but I was reminded of my struggle.

Back then I suffered in silence for quite some time...I'd put on my happy face, tell everyone I was fine and play the game...until I was alone. Then the pain would come to the surface and the tears would fall. My negative thoughts would snowball and the hurt would increase. My initial diagnosis of depression came before I accepted Christ and medicine was prescribed to help my condition.

After surrendering my life to Jesus, He gave me hope and healed my heart, but through the years I've learned Christians can be depressed too. So like I said these are words I don't really want to share, but I feel like they're ones I need to...friend, I don't need to suffer in silence and neither do you! That simple statement doesn't take the pain away, so what do we do?

I believe we can take a lesson from my son - just yesterday my 2 year old yet again did something none of the other kids have done...he got stuck in a stool. One of his favorite lines is, "Me help Me!!" But as he struggled to get out, he did something we must do - he asked for help!

I think our answer can be found in one word - ASK. The word alone gives a powerful step, but there's more. Each letter in the word gives us a step we must take!

A - Admit Your Struggle - This was hard for me during my initial walk through depression, but is hard in a different way as a believer. As Christians I think we can tend to believe we shouldn't be depressed, like it's a weakness in our faith. If we just believed more, we wouldn't be depressed, anxious or whatever the struggle. I've thought that, but now know that isn't the case. I still have struggled in sharing my pain though because of the worry of what others will think. (I pray this blog post is a step in the right direction.)

But friend, we can't ask for help if we don't admit we have a struggle. My sister used to always say, "Realization is half the battle" and there is some truth in that statement. If we don't recognize the problem, we'll never find a solution. So we must admit this to ourselves, to God (remember He knows anyway) and to the ones we love.

Galations 6:2 tells us, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Friend, others can't carry out this command if they don't know what our burdens are!

S - Seek Help - As a believer the first place we must go for help is God and His Word. This past week I was reminded that seek is an action word...simply believing in God is not enough, neither is reading His Word to my children or listening to praise music. I must go to Him, sit with Him, abide in Him. Prayer is a great place to start...not just a quick "Help Me Lord", but intentional quiet time with Him. Remember prayer is not just you sharing your heart with's also being still and listening to His. Personally, journalling my prayers really helps!

I'll admit during Christmas my time with God wasn't what it had been and the further I drifted away the more discouraged I became. Friend, when we are constantly in His Word we're continually reminded of His promises. That is the help we need! Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Seeking God isn't something we can do half-heartedly and remember when we find Him, we will see His goodness, faithfulness, power and the list goes on!

Once we turn to God for help, He will provide ALL we need. Perhaps it's Him alone, but He may lead us to encouragement from a friend or guide us to help from medicine. Seek His help and then follow His guidance!

K- Keep Trusting Friend as we ask, admit and seek, we must make the choice to trust. God is faithful, but His ways are not always our ways and His timing can be different too. Remember He has a plan and it is one for good. Trust Him, not just with words in a prayer, but with all of your heart. It can be hard and may not feel like the thing we want to do, but God commands us to and He will bless our obedience. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."

Friend, I don't know what your day holds, but I know who holds it. Our heavenly Father allows bad things to happen, but He doesn't want us to struggle in silence. He sent His Son because He loves us and Jesus came to give us life abundantly. Friend, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy...he is the one who loves to see us struggling in silence! ASK for help, Admit your struggle, Seek help and Trust God!

Regardless of what has you down, something big or something small, you can rise above, but you don't have to do it by yourself. Actually you can't do it by yourself, so go to God and He'll provide ALL you need!

If you are not struggling in silence as you read these words, I pray you can tuck away this advice for when you need it most. And I also hope you will be encouraged to reach out to those around you who may be struggling themselves...perhaps you can send a note, give a call or stop to visit - God can use you to help someone else!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Starting with a Strategy

Another new year is underway; I believe I'm getting older because I really can't believe we've hit 2014. Twenty years ago I was a senior in high school and this date seemed so far away. Back then I really didn't have much of a strategy as a new year unfolded, but perhaps with age I've gained a bit of wisdom. This year I plan to continue using a strategy my pastor shared a few years back and elaborated on this past Sunday.

He preached from 1 Timothy 4:7-8, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." As my pastor shared, God spoke to my heart.

I tend to be one who tries to take care of everyone else and as a Mom of 5, I often have to do this, but God has been reminding me I need to first take care of myself - physically and more importantly spiritually. I've been trying to do this, but I know I can do better. How about you my friend?

In order to do this, I plan to apply the strategy my pastor shared...a 5 Step RMS Plan.

Reorganize My Schedule - If I want to become more like Jesus and grow closer to Christ, I must spend time with Him. I must plan for it to be part of my day because it just won't happen. 

Read More Scripture - Friend, if we long to live Godly lives we must know and understand what that is...we need to get into God's Word, so it can get into us!

Read More Slowly - Scripture reading is not meant to be a task on my to-do list, but I'll be honest, sometimes it has been. If our desire is for God's Word to transform us, we must slow down and allow it time to work. This year I long to not just read the words with my eyes, but see them cut to my heart.

Really Meditate Scripturally - Our pastor linked this to a tea bag, we have to soak in God's Word. We have to think and pray about it. We can't just read our Bible in the morning and move on with our day...if we want God's Word to be living and active in our lives, we must think about it continuously and look for opportunities to apply what it says.

Reside More Submissively - I'll admit, I added this RMS because our pastor challenged us to think of one for his closing thought - OBEY! If you and I want to move towards godliness we must not only read God's Word and meditate on it, we must do it!! There are many commands in Scripture...ones God has given with expectation of us living them out. We must live in submission to Him and His Word.

It's only the 2nd day of the year and I've already failed, but I pray God tenders my heart and gives me the desire to persevere and the ability to get up when I fall, because I will. Friend, I pray He will do the same for you!!