Sunday, January 29, 2017

If God Is My Shepherd…

“The Lord is My Shepherd” -  the opening words to Psalm 23. These are familiar words and a common name for God. A name that means much and paints a picture for me…a girl who’s dad raises sheep. A shepherd brings to mind one who cares, is patient and provides. Thinking about God as my Shepherd leaves me thinking about myself as a sheep.

I’m not sure what you know about sheep, but as one who took care of them through my childhood this is a humbling comparison. Sheep are not the smartest or strongest animal. Sometimes they smell and they can make a lot of noise. When I’m honest the comparison is accurate…my mind can wonder, I am weak, my sin stinks and my mouth can get me in trouble.  

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 
each of us has turned to our own way; 
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 
(Isaiah 53:6)

But please don’t let your comparison stop there. There is a positive  way to look at this. I believe God likens us to sheep for other reasons as well. The most important being to remind us of who He is... 

I am the good shepherd. 
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 
(John 10:11)

It also gives us a glimpse of who we should be -

A Picture of Dependence
Sheep truly do depend on their shepherd...they need their care, their provision, their nourishment. Friend, we need the same from our heavenly Shepherd! What are you in need of right now? Peace, Comfort, Companionship, Strength? I don't know, but I know who can provide. Take your needs to the can depend on Him to meet them.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; 
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’  
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ 
(Revelation 7:17)

A Model of One who Listens
You can't call a sheep like you do a dog or whistle for them either, but they do listen. When my dad's sheep hear his voice or the crackle of feed in his pails, they come and remain calm. In the same way, when they hear strangers they react and seem a bit on edge. Who are you listening to? Do you know the voice of the Shepherd?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; 
no one will snatch them out of my hand. 
(John 10:26-28)

An Example of What it Means to Follow
Growing up there were plenty of times we had to move sheep from one pasture to the next and instead of loading them in a trailer, we positioned people in field drive ways and at intersections on the gravel roads. My dad would get a pail of feed, open the gate and lead the wooly animals down the road from one farm to another. This job always made me nervous, but it always went well. Sheep follow their Shepherd. Is God your Shepherd? Follow Him like a sheep...even when it makes you nervous!

But he brought his people out like a flock; 
he led them like sheep through the wilderness. 
He guided them safely, so they were unafraid... 
(Psalm 78:52-53a)

A Prototype for Peace
When my dad enters the barn or the pen, for the most part the sheep stay put or move towards him. If I on the other hand do the same, the sheep know something is different. They appear anxious and look around sensing something has changed. They have peace when their shepherd is present and friend, God, our heavenly Shepherd wants the same for us. He promises to be with us. In His Word He says He will never leave or forsake us. May we too experience peace in the presence of our Shepherd. 

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, 
that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good 
for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, 
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
(Hebrews 13:20-21)

We will never cheer for the "Sheep" at a sporting event, but may we always be sheep as we walk in faith! Blessings to you friend...grateful to be in the flock with you!

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Party for A Princess

Today marks our middle child's 10th birthday! It's hard to believe our little Jaylyn is 10 and I'm the Mom of 3 in double digits. Time is marching on and God's Truths are standing strong. As we celebrate and reflect today Facebook reminded me of this post from the past. In 2010, we were looking forward to and praying about Jaylyn's spiritual birthday - I'm so grateful God answered that prayer. May He also answer my prayer and use these words to speak to your heart and remind you who you are!!

From January 2010- 
A week ago our little Jaylyn celebrated her 3rd birthday! It was an enjoyable day for all of us! She was excited about everything and thankful for even the littlest thing! "Peanut" was a princess and the party was hers!! She even sported a nice princess crown most of the day!

I'd have to say the crown is fitting for my little girl of royalty! She is beautiful, inside and out! Most of the time she's tenderhearted and she really wants to help. Jaylyn is soft-spoken and usually expresses herself more with her eyes than her words. She's a little girl we love and thank God for!

As I thought about my little girl turning 3, I realized she is growing up! She knows her colors, is learning her shapes and wants to do everything her big sister does! And when I look at her 3 month old brother it's obvious that she is not a baby anymore! She is becoming more independent every day!

In my reflecting during this last week I've thought of another birthday that took place a couple of months ago - mine. Not the one with candles, cake and cards, but one that's more significant than that - my spiritual birthday. It's been 10 years since I gave my life to Christ and my what a decade it has been!

I have plenty of thoughts to share, but for now my focus is this - a party for the princess. Honestly it makes me laugh to type those words, it made sense for my little Peanut, but this basketball loving, jeans wearing tomboy has never, and I mean NEVER considered herself a princess! I don't think I even dreamt of it as a child!

But as we celebrated our own little Princess's birthday I wondered if God had done the same for me. We know He is our King, so as His daughter, I am a princess and so are you! Perhaps like me, the title makes you laugh and that's OK, the important thing is understanding what that means.

You, my friend are royalty! Your Father, the King, loves you more than I love Peanut, my princess. Even if others (and even you) don't see it, He knows you are beautiful. The King created you and made you in His image! When others won't listen or can't understand, turn to Him and trust in His plan.

As I thought about these princess parties my mind made some comparisons - God sees me the way I see my child! He knows the good and bad, but loves me anyway. He cries when I hurt and is honored when I obey. I help Jaylyn learn, grow and mature and He does the same for me.

There were many similarities, but one difference came to mind - my little girl is becoming independent and will do so more and more as the years go by. But me on the other hand, I depend more on my Father than I ever have! In 10 years I have grown as a person, matured spiritually and learned much about faith, but little by little my desire for independence has decreased. Unlike my 3 year old, I realize I am not in control!!

In the years ahead I know my little one will only continue to need me less and less, but I pray every step of independence only leads her to take another step towards complete dependence! I look forward to more parties for our princess (and her sister too!) not just ones that celebrate the day we held her in our arms, but also the one that marks the anniversary of when she welcomed HIM into her heart!!

Here's a quote that sums it up quite well,
"In C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, a child named Lucy encounters Aslan, the Christ figure of the Narnia stories, after not seeing him for a long while. "Aslan, you're bigger," she says.

"That is because you're older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

The more mature in the faith we are, the bigger God will be for us. As our vision of God becomes clearer and we understand his enormity, we learn to rest in Him. We grow in our ability to depend completely on Him and know that with a God as competent as the God we find in the pages of Scripture, the universe in which we find ourselves is truly a safe place for us." Kenneth Boa

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, 
a holy nation, a people for his own possession, 
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him
 who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 
1 Peter 2:9

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Critical Question

Questions - as a Mom I sometimes don't appreciate questions, but I know they have value. We'll never know if we don't ask and we can't understand unless we inquire. Questions serve a purpose for my children, but friend, regardless of our age, they are important for us as well.

Awhile back, in the midst of a conversation with a young man 10 years older than my first born, I found myself asking questions. This gentleman is newly married and walked through his teen years successfully...I'd be grateful if my son does the same. So as we discussed the possible temptations and trials the future held for my children I asked, "So what did your parents say or do that helped get you to where you are today?"

The young man thought for awhile, reminded me of the fact that good, Godly parenting doesn't guarantee good, Godly kids and then paused to share a short story. He said, "One thing I remember my mom saying to me - 'Is Jesus just going to be your Savior?' or 'Will He be your Lord too?' Those questions made me think. If He was going to be my Lord I needed to live for Him and do things His way." I decided I too wanted to have this conversation with all of my children.

Life went on, a few days passed and I found myself drifting a bit. Nothing major had happened, but life was busy, our days were full and I was lacking discipline. I was falling into survival mode as a mom, wife and believer. History repeated itself as my mind began to wonder, doubts crept in and I started to slip. I wasn't in the pit of depression, but I was heading that way.

One day as I talked with my husband, we got to discussing something about the kids and as we did I remembered the conversation I described above. I shared it with Job and God convicted my heart.

If I don't want Jesus to just be my kids Savior, I'd better be sure they know He is my Lord.

Friend, this thought stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. You see I've been in the pit of depression before along with the place of paralyzation. God's led me to do things, step out and serve Him, but my selfish, prideful insecurities along with Satan's deceitful, destroying lies leave me paralyzed. I turn back and return to my mat. I do what's comfortable and has become a habit. But these questions made me look at things a bit differently. Psalm 40 has been true in my life - God has saved me out of the pit before. As I faced falling in again, I trusted Him to do the same.

I will forever be grateful for His saving grace and am aware that at any moment I will need it again, but this situation seemed a bit different. Just like I NEVER want my kids to fall into temptation because they know Jesus will save and forgive, I'd better not willingly do the same.

Friend, can I ask you the same critical, convicting question? "Is Jesus just your Savior or are you willing to confess that He is your Lord?"

As you admit that He is Lord, do so remembering Jesus' words in Luke 6:46 - "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?" We can't simply say, "Jesus is Lord," we must live like He is. If you've been walking with Him and abiding in His Word, you know what He says. Will you do it?

I encourage you to take some time and really think about this. It's easy to quickly give the right answer and move on, but reflect on the last week, your recent thoughts and actions. Is your life proof that Jesus is Lord?

Last week if anyone examined the transcript of my mind I'm not sure I'd been proven guilty. I'm so thankful for the insight the young man shared with me, not only as a mom, but as a disciple. Jesus is my Lord and my Savior. He's pulled me out of the pit and restored the joy of my salvation. Through His Word He's instructed me, given me commands and expects me to obey. And friend, if you've confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, He expects the same.

Dear Heavenly Father, you are my Savior and you are my Lord. You are mighty and powerful - I'm grateful and I'm humbled. May I always remember who you are and live, act, speak and think rightly because of that. Thank you for still saving me when I fall. And thank you for reminding me to do what you say. Lord, you are the authority figure, help me be the obedient child. The life I live and example I share will teach much more than any words I can say, help me be mindful of that. Lord, thank you for speaking through your people and convicting my heart. Keep me moving forward with you and towards you. And Lord, when I'm tempt to drift may I always reach for you, my anchor. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

Monday, January 16, 2017

Who are you speaking for?

As a Mom to five, we spend time talking about the words we speak. This is important, it's necessary and is beneficial. Today as a follower of Jesus, I've been thinking about this a bit more.

Let me ask you a question - "Who are you speaking for?"

That may sound like a silly question, but I hope you'll dig into this a bit deeper. We know our words are powerful; Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Ephesians 4:29 encourages us to "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth..."

Chances are these are truths you know and understand, but let's examine this a bit more. As a believer, we know the right answer to our question - God is the one we are, and want, to be speaking for. We want to be His hands, His feet and His voice.

Those intentions are good and Godly, but do we act on them?

In those moments of anger or in the temptation to gossip it's pretty easy to see when we fall short, but Scripture has given me an example of a time when it's perhaps not so obvious.

Join me in Matthew 16 where Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on whom He will build the church and He's given him the keys of heaven. Clearly, Jesus has a high view of Peter. His opinion leads me to believe we can safely say Peter was a godly man. Following this conversation, Jesus shares what lies ahead - His suffering, death and resurrection.

So let's read Matthew 16:22-23 - "Peter took him (Jesus) aside and began to rebuke Him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'" 

Friend, stop and think for a minute about the contrast that takes place over a few verses - Jesus is confirming and affirming Peter and the call God has on his life and a while later He is calling him Satan. We can't find a bigger contrasting comparison!

It's important to recognize and think about this for many different reasons - 1 it shows us the perfectness of Jesus, 2 - it reveals the humanness of the disciples and 3 it has the potential to teach us much.

That has happened as I look at this quick exchange of words more closely. Like Peter I too have declared in my heart and with my mouth that "Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." I've never had a conversation with our Lord and Savior, but He does speak to me through His living Word and Holy Spirit. And like Peter, I've been convicted of speaking for Satan.

This has never once been my desire, but yet it's happened. Look again at Jesus' words - "You (Peter) are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." 

I don't have physical conversations with Jesus, but I'm guilty of being a stumbling block to others at times. I'm not talking about the obvious situations of anger and gossip, but think about the moments when a friend is walking through a hard time. What do you, I and every other person who wants to be a good friend do? Better yet, what do we want to do?

My desire is to make them feel better. I hurt with them and for them. I want my words to be an encouragement and long to point them to Truth. These intentions are good and I believe they are godly, but this short conversation in Scripture leaves me wondering if sometimes I go about it wrongly.

Peter is a lot like us - he didn't want his friend, his leader and teacher to suffer. He focused on the current situation and spoke what was on his heart. I have to admit I do the same. In the midst of pain, my own or a loved ones, it's easy to lose perspective and allow feelings to take over. Sometimes I focus more on my friend, than my Father. My eyes are on their pain, instead of His plan. Can you say the same?

Friend, I've been thinking about this for a few days and need to keep praying about it for more, and I'd love for you to do the same. There is no easy answer and this is yet another reminder of the importance for daily time in God's Word and an abiding relationship with Him. We must constantly and continuously seek Him for direction and wisdom.

Our hearts are for our friends and loved ones...may our words be for them and from our Father. There will be times those words are ones of compassion, support and sympathy. But there may be times when the words are harder to speak and may be a challenge to receive.

So let me close with another question - Are you willing to speak for Christ even when it's difficult? The challenge may be for you - it's hard to say words that might be misunderstood or unwanted. The struggle may be for the one who's listening - it's hard to receive words that challenge you to act/think differently or push you to end the pity party.

Friend, as I finish this post I pray I've been speaking for God our Father. May these words encourage you to think about yours.

"For I did not speak on My own, 
but the Father who sent Me commanded Me
 to say all that I have spoken."
(John 12:49)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Will you resolve?

We're 10 days into the new are you doing with your resolutions? Are you still exercising daily? Have you stopped reacting wrongly? Are you right back to where you were when 2016 ended? 

Regardless if you made resolutions or not, can I encourage you to think about them a bit more? 

In a recent post, I looked at this word from a Biblical perspective. This is more than a desire for change in behavior or for a better new year. Biblically, to resolve means to set your mind, purpose in your heart, to be determined and steadfast. 

So let's think about a new question, in what ways are you resolved? Have you resolved to follow your dreams? Are you resolved to get your own way? 

I don't know your answers, but I've been convicted of what's in my heart. Friend, whether we make yearly resolutions or not, we have them. And unless we spend time in the Word and prayer, our resolutions are often selfish. We are sinful human beings who tend to naturally focus on our self, but it doesn't have to be this way. 

God, our Father and Creator, has designed us with a purpose and in His image. He has a great call and plan for each of us. If we want to be who He created us to be and do the great works He planned long ago, we must resolve. 

The math teacher in me sees this word a bit differently than most probably do - I not only see resolve, but also re-solve. When a student re-solves a problem they find a different answer and as believers we need to do the same. Changing our resolutions will help us re-solve some of our problems. So friend will join me?

Let's resolve to -  
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

Friend, surrender isn't easy, but it's so important. Daily let's resolve to surrender to the One who is victorious and has great plans for us. May we give up our desires and wants, lets sacrifice our selfishness and live for the One who died for us. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

What are you looking for? Who are you looking to? Will you resolve to seek God for direction? Are you willing to seek Him before turning to your spouse, friend, Facebook or food? It's easy to say yes now, but pray about this and set your mind towards seeking Him first and most because temptation will come. If you resolve to seek now, God will be faithful to equip you to do it later. 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11

As a believer, it's easy to say we stand for Truth and are willing to take a stand for Christ, but what happens when life unfolds? I'm not even talking about doing this in public; first think about what happens when Satan attacks? Friends, our mind is a battlefield and Satan loves to feed us lies. What do you do when he does? Do you listen and let them lead you to doubt or anxious thinking? If so, stop for a minute and resolve to stand!!

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.” Joshua 24:24

Serving Christ...the desire of a believer's heart, right? We long to follow Jesus' example - He's the One who came to serve and we know we are called to do the same. Have you decided to serve the Lord? Me too. But lately I've been convicted to resolve to serve the Lord when nobody is watching, when thank-you's are not spoken and when it's a job I don't want to do. Will you resolve to do the same? 

Friend, these resolutions are not easy, but they are so important. Thinking about them, praying about them and trying to do them make a difference. They can change our perspective, our attitude and approach. When we resolve to surrender, seek, stand and serve God will continue to be faithful. He will equip us to do what we can't do on our own. And in the moments when we don't want to do what we've earlier resolved to do, His Holy Spirit will remind us of Truth and encourage us to see things from God's perspective. 

These resolutions don't have to be big and grand, actually they shouldn't be. We should resolve to do this in the day to day stuff of life - that's where it matters most! So let me finish with one last question - What resolution will you make today?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your Word, a Word that speaks Truth and transforms my thinking. A Word that gives insight and direction, encouragement and equipping. Sanctify me with your Truth Lord. Help me resolve to surrender, seek, stand and serve. As I make these decisions, prepare me for the moments when I will want to do just the opposite. May I expect Satan's attack and be equipped to handle it. Lord, I resolve to follow you, trust you and obey you. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

For or with? An important question!

Let me ask you  a question...would you rather have someone do something for you or with you? Now I know that might depend on what or who we are talking about, but recently I've been challenged and changed by a version of this question.

Stop with me and think about how God would answer this question. Do you think He'd prefer we do something for Him or with Him?

Well friend, since God can do all things and there is nothing He needs you or me to do for Him, I'll guess He'd prefer us to work with Him.

I don't think it's wrong to have a desire to do something for God and bring Him glory, but that can't be our only focus, or primary one for that matter. Let me explain...

Over the past few years, I've felt the call to write. I've had outlines, chapter titles and even wrote a book proposal. I've started and stopped. I've given up and given in. I've tried and failed. I've been frustrated and overwhelmed. I believe I had good intentions, but realize I didn't have good results.

God has taught me through this process. Though my efforts didn't end like I expected Romans 8:28 is, and will always be true - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

My time hasn't been wasted though few have read those that process God spoke to my heart, strengthened my faith and matured me. He worked for good and brought me to this place. A place where He can change my thinking and transform my mind.

This past fall, He put another writing idea on my heart and honestly I was hesitant. I didn't want to start and stop again. I didn't want to strive after something that wouldn't happen. I wanted to be sure this was God's idea and not mine, so instead of writing I started seeking, studying and sharing.

Instead of chapters for a book, I studied topics for our local Titus24U group. Instead of writing words for a book, I shared short studies on this blog. As I did this God worked in my heart...I was learning from the lessons I was teaching - I surrendered the idea of writing and God transformed my thinking about it.

About a month ago, when the idea of writing again rose to the surface, I started to wrestle. So I went to prayer and sought advice from the Lord. I had no immediate answer, but continued to pray, seek and listen.

Days before Christmas as I worked with my children a phrase came to mind - do this with me, not for me. I didn't hear a voice, but this thought kept running through my head and it had my attention. And friend, I pray it has your attention as well.

Has God put a calling on your heart? Is there something you desire to do? Have you tried in the past, but long to finish in the future? Perhaps this approach will help you as well.

Instead of striving to do something for God, why not join Him and do something with Him? This shift in thinking has impacted me tremendously. I'm pressing on and working on putting a study together, but I no longer feel the pressure to perform or desire to do. I'm not striving towards a goal, but working with my God. Writing is not a burden or task on my never ending to-do list, but instead a blessing and opportunity to build a relationship with my heavenly Father.

As I press on and into the Lord, a familiar verse encourages my heart. In Matthew 19:26 we read, "But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Friend, when we shift our focus and change our thinking, our goal is no longer on accomplishing something for God, but instead acquiring a stronger relationship with Him. This is a little thing that makes a big difference.

And the difference isn't limited to our relationship with God, this thinking also affects our relationships with others. I've been challenged to apply this "not for, but with" approach to my husband and children. Unlike God there are times and things people need us to do for them, but as people we are designed in God's image and created for relationship.

The other day while doing something for my husband, I was convicted of not doing it with him. We were together and doing the same thing, but I was not engaged at all. My desire was to bless him...the activity might have, but my involvement did not. If my goal was to bless him, the mission was accomplished, but if as a wife my on-going prayer is for our relationship to grow, I failed.

Then with my kids, there are times I ask them to do something for me...which certainly is an OK thing for a Mom to do, but it's not the only thing we should do. Our kids need responsibilities and should understand our expectations, but also need a relationship with us. Last week while prepping for a birthday party, I found myself coming up with jobs for every child to do when the Holy Spirit again convicted my heart - "not for, but with". We then joined forces and though the jobs maybe took longer, we invested in our relationships instead of just completing our list.

So friend, I'm not sure if this is a change in your thinking, but today I encourage you to focus on these thoughts and reflect on your day. Do you tend to do things FOR others and God or WITH them? There is a difference.

We spent some time talking about this with our was interesting to hear their thoughts and perspectives. Definitely proof that they value time WITH ones they love. Also a reminder that working for someone doesn't always lead to wanted or lasting results. If we find ourselves always doing something for someone we can burn out and even grow bitter. We don't want that when it comes to relationships of any kind.

Finally, I'll close with this...I've committed to keep moving forward with the writing of the study God has on my heart. I've surrendered all thoughts of the finished project and am focused on joining God for the journey. I'm trying to be disciplined and have the desire to persevere. I know I can't do it all, so I continue to seek God's direction and will follow where He goes. I'm not sure what that means for this blog, so if it seems I'm MIA that's why. I invite you to pray WITH me as I walk this road of faith. And friend, I'd love to pray WITH you too. If there's something on your heart, leave me a comment or send me a message and I will join you in praying to the One who hears and promises to be WITH us always!

May these words encourage your heart as you press on...

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged, 
for the Lord your God will be WITH you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9