Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shepherds and Fisherman

I grew up on a farm with sheep and married a man who loves to fish. Lately, I've found myself thinking a bit more about shepherds and fisherman. I'm not thinking about my dad or my husband, but friend I'm thinking about you and me. Have you ever played either of these roles? Would you want to? 

As a kid, sheep were my favorite animal and even though fishing isn't my favorite thing to do, it can still be fun. But my recent thoughts haven't been centered on a woolly animal or fun hobby, I've been thinking about these two roles in a spiritual sense. 

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus told Simon and Andrew, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." These two men had made a living catching fish, but now as followers of Christ they'd be fishing for men. Much about their "occupation" changed, but there were some similarities. They still needed equipment, bait and a place to fish. 

Friend, the same is true for you and me...when we accept Christ, He commands us to fish for people. We can't be content to stay in our safe, familiar, Christian circles, but must be in the world and not of it. We must be equipped...put on the armor my friends. (Eph. 6) We must be secure in our own faith if we want to share it with a fisherman who continues to grow while you work. We also need bait...the Gospel is the most effective bait there is. You can also attract attention by the way you live, things you do and words you say. Pay attention, others are watching and God can use you to "catch" them. 

Though I occasionally join my family for a fishing adventure, I would not consider myself a fisherman. But God created me, and you, to be one for Him and to impact His kingdom. You don't have to buy a boat or take a trip for this fishing experience though!

As time went by Simon, also known as Peter, continued to fish for people. Eventually he was given another role as well. In John 21, we read of his conversation with Jesus. After he's deserted Christ and denied Him, Jesus asks, "Simon, do you love me more than these?" Peter responds with a yes and he's told to "feed my lambs, take care of them and feed my sheep." He's instructed to do the things a shepherd does. 

Friends, if we told Jesus we love Him, I believe He'd want us to do the same. He wants us to care for His children from the youngest to the oldest and He wants us to feed them. Now you don't have to go to a farm to do this and you don't have to be a pastor or Bible teacher either. We can all pour into someone and share the lessons God has taught us. If you're a mom, this must begin with our children. 

Friend, as I thought about this, it's interesting to see both of these commands - to fish and shepherd, are given to the same person. God doesn't call some to fish and others to care for the sheep...we are to do both. The beauty of this is He created us all to do it in unique ways. You may be more comfortable with one role over the other, but don't neglect the responsibility of the work God has called us to. He wants to use us as fisherman to lead others to Himself and also as shepherds to care for His sheep. 

Your life may look more like my husband who spends much more time fishing than tending for sheep, but yet he does do both. And the same is true for my dad as he cares for his sheep year round, but occasionally takes time to put his pole in the water. Embrace where God has you, how He's gifted you and what He's called you to and then look for opportunities to be a fisherman and a shepherd too! Take it from my daughter, both roles are enjoyable!!

Jed and Joy caring for an orphan lamb. 

Joy and her 40 pound catfish.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Fundamentals of Faith

I continue to think about being a Christian who plays to win (Read more HERE) and I found myself thinking about fundamentals. As an athlete, fundamentals were important...if you wanted to improve as a basketball player you had to start with the basics. Even in college we worked on some of the same drills I had done as an elementary student. Sure somethings became more complex, the skill level improved and intensity increased, but ball-handling, shooting form and dribbling stayed the same. 

If we want to strengthen, grow or mature in our faith, I think it's good to learn a lesson from athletics - keep working on the basics. Sometimes we're too much like the 10 year old basketball player who wants to walk in the gym and practice shooting 3''s not going to happen consistently until they can make a shot from 3 feet. The same is true for you and me...we're not going to do big things with our faith until we repeatedly do the little. 

I thought about this concept for awhile and began to think about the fundamentals of the faith and eventually came up with a list of seven. As a basketball coach, I tried to incorporate the fundamentals of basketball into each and every practice and friend, we'd do well if we daily do the same with the fundamentals of faith.

Are you in? If so, find some more details below - 

Read the Word - If we want our faith to grow Romans 10:17 tells us where to begin - "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Friend, it is critical that you and spend quality time in God's Word each and everyday. There are countless reading plans available, you could choose a book of the Bible or a topic to study...whatever works for you! I've heard it said that "Faith feeds on the Word of God." (Wendy Blight)

Pray - Faith is a gift from God and He not only wants to give us gifts, but He is a heavenly Father who longs for a relationship with all of us. Prayer is the way we communicate with Him. One specific way we can use this fundamental to increase or improve our faith is to take a lesson from two verses in the Bible. In Mark 9:24 we read words from the father of a sick boy, "I believe, help my unbelief!" Friend, if you're struggling to have faith, ask Jesus to help. And in Luke 17:5 we hear the apostles say, "Increase our faith!" Let us learn from their example, pray a dangerous prayer and ask Christ the same thing.

Worship - Worship is an important, and perhaps sometimes overlooked, fundamental of the faith. May we remember worship is not just for Sunday mornings and doesn't just take place in a church. Scripture commands us to praise the Lord. When we do we remember who He is, praise Him for all He does and thank Him for the gifts He gives. See Psalms 150:1-6 and Psalms 95:1-6 to get you started.

Obedience - Having faith is important, but living it out is vital. This is where obedience comes into play! James 1:22 tells us, "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." I've heard it said faith is a muscle and friend we must exercise it if we want it to get stronger. We must not just read what God's Word says we must put it into practice. Along with that in James 2:26 we learn, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." I don't know about you, but I don't want a faith that is dead!

Fellowship - Individually an athlete might be pretty good, but without a team they will never win a game. Friend, we can and should do much as an individual Christian, but we must not forget God created us for community and blesses us through His body. Fellowship is important! Here are a couple of reasons why - "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25) In Romans 1:12 we read, "that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Daily try to find a way to connect with a brother or sister.

Witness - Friends, we are constantly setting an example, the question is whether it's a good one or not. The same could be said about our witness for Christ...our words, our actions and our attitude all send a message. We don't have to recite John 3:16 to witness and share our faith. Friend when we do share our faith, Philemon 1:6 tells us that we will deepen our knowledge of every good thing, which I believe will strengthen our faith. "And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ." 

Remember - I've always been one to enjoy journaling, but since accepting Christ I see the value in putting my thoughts and prayers on paper. One specific way they help is remembering. I can look at years past and the prayers I prayed and see God's answers and His faithfulness. Friend, remembering is reminds us who God is, the power He has and the way He works. I encourage you to try journaling for a week and see how God uses it to build your faith. "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old." (Psalms 77:11) "Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered." (Psalms 105:5) Another way to remember and build your faith is to memorize God's Word...this is not easy, but it is powerful and productive. 

Friends, I pray that you and I will do a better job of practicing the fundamentals of the faith...just like any good coach, God will help us if we are willing to try! Which one from the list are you going to work on today? 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Playing to Win

"Play like you want to win, not like you don't want to lose." Words my basketball coach said to me over 20 years ago and a statement I shared with my teams less than 10 years ago. If you've ever been involved with sports, you know there is a difference between trying to win and trying not to lose. As a team when we were playing to win, we were aggressive, confident and not afraid to make a mistake, but just the opposite took place when we played like we didn't want to lose. It was then we became tentative, fearful and unwilling to take a risk. 

Friends, recently I've found myself thinking about how this statement is related to our faith. Now, first of all faith is much more important than any sport and we really only get one game. We're really not striving for a victory, but we should be focused on getting God the glory. We're not competing with a physical opponent, but we have a spiritual one! So in that sense will you join me as we think about this a bit more?

Let me begin with a question - "Are you living your faith like you want to win or are you "playing" like you don't want to lose? Take some time and think about that. Is there something God is calling you to do? Is there an area in your life He's asking you to surrender? Is He calling you out of your comfort zone? I don't know, but God does.

Friend, it can be easy to say we have faith, but the challenge comes in living it! And living it means putting our beliefs to action. James 2:26 tells us, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." Our walk must match our talk...if we say we believe, we need to live lives that prove it.

Our pastor has been preaching through Philippians and we've spent some time talking about running the race and pressing on towards the goal for the upward call of Christ. (Philippians 3:14) Friend, if you've accepted Jesus as your Savior you are running a race for Him and with Him. The question is are you running to win or just to run? Are you striving and straining or just going through the motions? There is a difference! 

These lessons from Philippians and quotes from my basketball days are intersecting and I see some connections. What if I approached walking in faith with the same dedication, discipline and diligence I put forth as an athlete? 

Maybe basketball was never your thing, but think about something you devoted yourself to and ask yourself if you're that intense and intentional about your faith? 

As I think about these questions, I find myself reflecting on my basketball days and thinking about the athlete I tried to be - one who was willing to work hard, made sacrifices, persevered through trials, focused on fundamentals, was a team player and played to win. I loved the game and my dedication and passion proved it. 

I say I love the Lord and I long to leave a legacy of faith, so what are some lessons I can learn? I must be devoted to my God, keep my faith a priority, work hard, focus on and continually work on the fundamentals (Bible reading, prayer, memorization), fellowship with and encourage my teammates and strive to do my best. A few verses come to mind - 

Deuteronomy 6:5 - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." 

Colossians 3:17 - "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

James 1:2-3 - "Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James 4:8a - "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 - "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."

Matthew 5:16 - "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Friend, if you and I were to live out these verses daily we'd be "playing" to win instead of living life like we are afraid to lose. Walking in faith isn't easy, God will ask us to do hard things and may lead us to scary places, but He's already won the victory! If you want to join Him on the medal stand, get out there and play (or walk in faith) like you want to win!!

Just so you know...this little pep talk was just as much for me as it is for you! Thank you for joining me in this journey and encouraging me as I "play to win"!! I'm grateful to be on God's Team with YOU!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Looking at the Lion

Today, just a few days after I'd experienced God working in powerful ways, I was feeling a bit discouraged. This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a women's event and was grateful for God's goodness and faithfulness. He called me, equipped me and used me; on top of it all He blessed my obedience and then confirmed what He's been whispering to my heart. It was good, but then today came and it seemed life was hard.

This morning I told my husband, "I think Satan saved the majority of his attack for after the event rather than before." I was wrestling with some doubt and feeling discouraged. As I thought about this, a post from back in 2009 came to mind. The picture the words painted was a reminder I needed and friend, I pray they speak to your heart as well.

There's a lion loose in Iowa and he’s made our farm his home. His very presence has changed our actions and altered my attitude. He’s made me fearful and caused me to worry. When I sense him prowling around, I think about the damage he can do and wonder when he will attack. He even affects my life when he wonders off and hides; it’s then I worry about what will come next.

He himself has not directly caused any harm, but the impact he’s made on me has created some damage. Only days before his arrival, I had taken leaps of faith, but now because of the fear he inflicts I am afraid to even take a step. Once I was confident, but now I'm full of doubts. Previously, I could hear the whispers of encouragement, but now his roar has drowned them out.

Now before you google lion in Iowa, search for the latest news and most recent pictures, let me tell you, “I have yet to inform the authorities.” You see, I thought this was a situation we could handle on our own. My husband’s a hunter, so I figured he could protect us. Our dogs are here and would warn us if the lion came to close. And besides this creature really had not hurt anyone yet, so why bother others when there are problems bigger than this?

First Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victims to devour.” The words are true and though I can’t look out my window and see a wild animal, the picture I created is real. Our farm hasn’t been the lion's home, instead it’s been my mind.

When the devil tries to move in, he can change our actions and alter our attitudes. He can take faith and replace it with fear. His roar of lies can cause you to miss God’s whispers of truth.

And as he gradually does damage, he distorts our view. We can think the problem isn't that bad and often think we can combat him on our own. Simply another lie he tells when he moves in. No matter how strong we are and even if we have others surrounding us to help, it’s not a battle we fight on our own.

When there’s a lion loose, the authority must be informed. Rather than grabbing the phone and dialing 911, we must hit our knees and call out to the Lord. He will strengthen us and remind us of the victory He’s already won.

Friend, regardless of the situation you are in may I encourage you to be aware...Satan is real, he's on the attack and he wants to destroy. He loves it when our minds become his playground. We must keep the armor on (see Eph. 6) and always be on guard. I pray these verses not only encourage you, but also provide wisdom.

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth." 2 Timothy 4:17

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7

"Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming." 1 Peter 1:13

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Power of Thank You

Hello friend, this past weekend was one where I saw God at work, experienced His faithfulness and was humbled by His goodness; there is much on my heart, but the power of a thank you is what is rising to the surface. I pray these words, this lesson, will make a difference for you today.

Have you ever received a thank you that impacted you? My answer is a quick yes...15+ years ago I can honestly say words from a woman who's name I didn't even know played a part in me pushing pause on my plan to end my life. In September of '99 I was in the midst of depression and came to the place where I was ready to do the unthinkable, but as I made one last journal entry a thank you card fell out and reminded me I was setting an example. When it seemed nobody cared and my actions didn't matter, these words told me otherwise. 

Friend, if that doesn't show you the power of a simple thank you, I don't know what will. Our words matter and others need to know they are appreciated. 

I know this is true, but this past weekend as I set out to send a friend another thank you, I wondered if it really mattered. I mean, she's heard me say it before. As I thought about this, a few things entered my mind -

I pictured my little 3 year old saying, "Mommy this food yummy, thank you." Now Jesse doesn't say this every meal, but he has said it more than once and each time the words have brought a smile to my face. Sometimes a thank you reminds us the things we do matter and can motivate us to do the mundane.

As this memory rolled through my mind, it was as if God spoke to my heart, "Maybe the thank you is more for you than it is her." Friends, that may sound crazy, but let me explain. What happens when you express your gratitude? Yes, you can build up and encourage the one you thank, but you are also humbling yourself and recognizing your blessings. As I thanked my friend, I was reminded I've done nothing on my own. She, and many others, have played a part in me getting to where I am at. And I'm grateful. 

Finally, and most importantly, I was reminded before I thank a person, I must thank my God. He is the giver of all good things and worthy of all my praise. Early on my walk of faith, God convicted me of at times worshiping the gift more than the giver, praising the person instead of Him. And since then has led me to always thank Him before I say, "thank you". 

Friend, my prayer today is God would give you a thankful heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, tells us, "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Our pastor likes to say thanksgiving is like a rope connected to the heart of God, the more we thank God the closer we get to Him. I encourage you to thank Him today.

I also pray He'd put someone on your heart to thank...chances are they will be blessed to hear your words and you will be impacted for saying them. I'd love to hear how God works through this little assignment, so feel free to share in the comments below. 

I'll go first - Thank you, my blog reading friend! I'm grateful you've joined me here and I'm thankful for the time you take to read my words and share your's. God created us for community and I thank Him for the connection we have here. May your day be blessed!

"Giving thanks always and for everything 
to God the Father 
in the name of 
our Lord Jesus Christ..." 
Ephesians 5:20

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Not Worry?

Do you ever worry? Even though you know you shouldn't. Do you find yourself getting anxious? Nearly 10 days ago, I was struggling with this...nervous about our big, upcoming family trip and a speaking engagement.

I know worry is something I shouldn't do. I know Philippians 4:6 tells us, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." The Bible tells me not to worry, but yet there are times I do. How about you?

This little reality in my life had me thinking...why do I do what I'm not supposed to do? The simple answer is "I'm human" and my flesh, at times, is stronger than the spirit. 

I know I shouldn't let my thoughts run. I know 2 Corinthians 10:5b tells us, "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." This is a command from Scripture, but yet sometimes I fail to follow it.

Realizing how and where I fall short is important, but as I thought about all of this, God brought a familiar passage to mind to motivate me. 

In our daily family reading, we read from Matthew 13 and the parable of the sower spoke to my heart. These are verses I've read countless times, but God's Word is alive and 5 little words in verse 22 caught my attention. Here we read, "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful."

Friend, seeds are planted in our life that eventually bring us to Christ, but that's just the beginning, not the end. My husband farms and each year we plant crops in our fields...Job buys different seeds, better ones and even whole new crops. Then he plants them, God grows them and a crop is harvested. The "fruit" won't grow if thorns and weeds take over.

The same is true in our lives...God is always planting seeds in our heart, but are we keeping the soil of our heart fertile and ready? Part of that process is getting rid of worry! 

Friend, this simple little truth has been powerful in my life and I pray the same is true for you! So let me ask - "Why shouldn't we worry?" Perhaps like me you know the Bible tells us not to and you know it makes you sick, leads to wasted time and ruins your day. The next time this familiar foe tries to creep into your life remember it chokes out the Word!! So, regardless if you worry about not being good enough, what others think or the future, do what the farm would do with the thorns - get rid of them!

Worry makes the Word unfruitful and that my friend is the answer to our question!!