Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Word of the Week - Obedience

Last week I was constantly being reminded of the word obedience. I had been studying it as I worked on a Bible Study, our pastor preached on it, I read it in my morning devotional and helped my son memorize a verse about it. We all know obedience is important - our parents, teachers and coaches expected it of us as children. Now as a Mom myself, I have the same expectations for my children, but we must realize there's more to obedience than a child doing what the authority figure tells them to do.

In Matthew 11:28 we read about Jesus commanding us to come to Him and His promise to provide rest. This is something we all need in one way or another as we live in a world that constantly demands our attention and calls for our service. But did you know we can also experience rest thru obedience? The very next verse (29) records Jesus saying, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Friend, Jesus tells us He will give us rest in verse 28, but then immediately follows that up saying we will find rest in verse 29. So what's the difference? It's true He will give us rest when we come to Him, but this rest tends to be the eternal rest and hope of heaven, the peace that accompanies the knowledge of knowing we are saved. This rest is a result of His death on the cross. 

The other rest, the rest we can find is based on us following His command of taking up His yoke. It's a rest that involves surrendering control to Jesus and dying to self so He is our Master. This rest includes a peace of mind and the freedom from a burden stealing our joy and creating anxiety. This rest is a result of our obedience and comes from following the example our Lord and Savior set while He walked this earth and living out the commands He provides in His Word. 

So, obedience leads to rest, but it also results in so much more. Scripture tells us God blesses obedience, but as I study and walk out my days I'm reminded that partial obedience is actually disobedience. Like my little people I may want to think my half way job is good enough, but God's Word clearly shows us differently. 

Look with me for a minute at a short story about Moses, one of the greatest men in the Bible. In Numbers 20 we read about water coming from a rock. Verse 8a says, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water." 

God had worked through Moses earlier, so though this seems like a crazy command, he knew God was able and had been faithful. So they gather the people together and verse 11 tells us what happened next - "Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff." We read on in that same verse and see God was faithful to His promise - the people had water to drink.

Let's not pass over what went wrong in these verses though. Let me ask you a question - "Did Moses obey?" Read verse 8 again. What did God tell him to do to the rock? Now reread verse 11. What did Moses do to the rock?

Our pastor recently preached on this passage and during the children's sermon he talked with the kids about cleaning their room. They all knew it wasn't enough to just clean one side of the room or hide clothes under their bed. Even if they followed some of their parent's directions, it wouldn't be enough. The kids said their parents expected them to "do what they said."

Friend, God is our heavenly Father and He expects the same. When He gives us a command, half-way isn't good enough. His directions are to be followed completely. And we can return to Moses' story to find out that there are consequences when we don't follow through.

Verse 12 says, "But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." I'm sure Moses could have come up with reasons why he did what he did and he could rationalize the changes he made to the command God gave, but in God's eyes it didn't matter. Moses hadn't obeyed all the way. He struck when he was commanded to speak. Clearly this lack of obedience was something God did not take lightly.

Scripture tells us God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow - friend that Truth often brings comfort, but there are times it should also bring conviction. Is there something God is asking you to do? Has He given you direction, but like Moses you've added your own twist? The answers to these questions are between you and the Lord, but my prayer is like me you will take some time to think and more importantly pray about them.

Finally to close, I pray the word that's been showing up for me this week speaks to your heart as well - wholeheartedly.

"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." Numbers 14:24

"He gave them these orders: 'You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord.'" 2 Chronicles 19:9

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people..." Ephesians 6:7

Friend, today may we walk in obedience wholeheartedly!

Dear Heavenly Father, You are a good, good Father. You not only want what's best for me, you know what's best for me and you've planned what's best for me. Help me remember who you are and trust in the promises You will faithfully follow through on. Lord, I know obedience is important, but I also know I fall short. I pray I can live out the slogan I've taught my kids and ask you to help me obey right away, all the way! In order to do that I need to do it wholeheartedly Lord, so I ask you for a humble, tender heart that's willing to trust and able to resist the temptation to rebel. Do a transforming work in me Father God so that I will do the good works you have waiting for me. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Spiritual Stop-Light

Rest...is this something you are in need of? Do you get enough? What keeps you from rest? I've found myself knee deep in a study on rest for the last 5 weeks and friend, there is much to this simple little word. We need it in a physical sense, but it can be hard to get and sometimes we fight it. We're also dependent upon it in a spiritual sense. Rest affects our body and our mind. It refreshes our heart and our soul.

When it comes to faith, we can talk about eternal rest, Sabbath rest and sanctifying rest. In the Bible, God rested, the land rested and people rested. We are commanded to rest and it is a side effect of trust. The Isrealites found out rebellion led to no rest, while Jesus taught submission would bring rest.

Friend, these are all important facts to know and Truths to remember, but can I share an illustration with you that made this a bit more personal?

The last couple of weeks I've been battling a sickness, so I haven't been feeling the best and on top of that I'm feeling a bit behind. I've found myself pressing on and doing what needs to be done, but last Saturday it was as if God said, "Sometimes you need to STOP." Life just happened to make this work and I, the gal who never takes naps, slept for 3 hours in the middle of the day. Clearly my body needed rest.

The following day I found myself thinking more about God's whisper and the importance of the Truth that was impressed on my heart. Spiritually sometimes I too just need to stop. I don't know about you, but sometimes my mind can race and my feelings can rattle. My thoughts can get so far into the future that worry and fear take over or sometimes I can dwell on the past and guilt and shame settle in. My focus can drift to my circumstances rather than on my Father. My eyes wonder to the what if's, instead of being set on Jesus, my Lord and Savior.

This was all still on my heart yesterday when I went to town. You see here on the farm, we don't have stoplights on the gravel roads or in our small town, but as I drove the streets of what my little boys would call a big city a stop-light gave us much needed instruction.

As I approached a light it turned red and I recalled the Holy Spirit's whisper along with the words of Psalm 46:10 - "Be still and know that I am God." Stopping at an inersection in town keeps me safe, but being still on my spiritual walk keeps me connected. Friend, you and I need to know God and that doesn't happen when we are racing through life. We must take time to stop, read His Word, pray from the heart and lift His holy name.

Knowing Him will bring rest...when life wears us out or worry weighs us down, we can remember He is the God who restores, always provides and is forever present. Knowing Him helps us rest in His presence and on His promises.

We quickly came to another light and this time a different word came to mind along with another passage. COME and Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest." 

Friend, this life has a way of leaving us feeling wek and heavy laden. Would you agree? I don't know what's on your shoulders or your heart, but you don't have to carry it alone. Sometimes we're going at such a pace we forget this truth and others we're so consumed with a desire for control or condemned with shame we feel we can't go to the One who can help. Let me point out another key word in this verse - ALL. Jesus is calling for all to come to Him, so the next time you approach the stop-light make sure you make a turn and go to Jesus.

Finally, just like the lights a 3rd key word came to me and another verse - PEACE. John 14:27 says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Friend, when we are still and come to Jesus, we not only know Him and experience rest, but we also receive peace. In the world we live in this is a blessing. Peace helps us keep perspective and provides power to persevere.

No matter what your day holds or where your walk leads, I pray God gives you a spiritual stop-light and reminds you to be still and come to Him so that you will be blessed with His peace!! Then may we GO, so that He is glorified!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Don't Settle

After a watching our Cyclones win the Big 12 tournament, I've found myself thinking about another phrase the players and coach tend to use - "Don't Settle!" When asked about the game plan following the teams semi-final win, our soft-spoken big playing Deonte Burton said, "Coach tells me not to settle, so I didn't." Burton and his teammates were aggressive, they made the extra pass and won big. 

I didn't watch the other semi-final, but I have to admit I was kind of hoping West Virginia would lose as they were the only team to beat us twice and they play a style of ball that's been difficult for us the last few years. As I thought about this, I figured the team was thinking differently. All along they've said the old cliche, "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best." They wanted a rematch. They didn't want to settle for the easy route to the championship. 

The Mountaineers won by one, which set up a title game which the Cyclones were picked to lose. The outside doubters didn't affect our team that seems to be disciplined, playing with focus and staying the course. The guys started slow, but they didn't settle. They didn't compromise the coach's game plan, nor did the grow complacent and give up. 

Friend, you might not find yourself playing for a championship anytime soon, but this little phrase could be insightful for whatever the future holds. What does settling look like in your life? As a mom, do you settle? How about as a wife? Or an employee? Most importantly what about as a believer? 

A coach never wants his or her players to settle on the court, but how often do we do that in life as a follower of Christ? I encourage you to pause and think about this question for awhile. Better yet pray about it; ask God to show you how, where and when you settle. Do you settle when it comes to reading God's Word? Are you complacent when it comes to prayer? Do you compromise when you are tired, anxious or upset? 

I don't know the answers to your questions, but I think there's power in asking these questions. Friend, living life and glorifying Christ is so much more important than playing ball and winning a trophy. If an athlete shouldn't settle on the court, we shouldn't either. Are you comfortable where you are? Is God calling you out of your comfort zone, but you're willing to settle and do what you've always done? Is God leading you to take the extra step and asking you to forgive one who may never change? Will you settle and struggle with pain that will never change or will you do the work and follow God's lead? 

I don't have any great answers or illustrations for you, as I'm pondering these questions myself, but I have some verses that may encourage your heart as you strive for excellence rather than settle for complacency. 

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

"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." Colossians 3:17

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied." Proverbs 13:4

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Friend, again I encourage you to think and pray about this idea of settling. May God convict our hearts where they've grown complacent and change it so we concentrate on who God is and concerned with His plan, not our own. 

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord I confess for settling, please forgive me. I ask you to examine my heart and open my eyes to see where, when and how I settle. Don't let me grow complacent in seeking and serving You. Help me want what you want, go where you lead and do what you ask. God, I pray for a humble heart and a submissive spirit. I also ask for discipline to obey and faith to believe. I know you will provide all I need out of your glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Help me strive for the best Lord, not for my success but for your glory. I'm grateful for the opportunity to play on your team! Thank you for being a coach who encourages me not to settle. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Stay the Course

March is upon us, which means the madness is beginning. For my non-basketball fan readers, I'm referring to March Madness. This is always a fun time of the year for me! My husband, girls and I are looking forward to cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones and our boys even get in on the fun of a family bracket contest. There's bound to be upsets and last second shots. We'll even see some heart- breaking losses and maybe even questionable game deciding calls. All in all it's an exciting time for sports fans, but today I found myself thinking and realize it can be a lesson learning experience for every believer as well.

Chances are you my reading friend are not directly involved with March Madness, but does your life ever get a bit mad? I mean does your schedule get crazy? Are there moments of difficulty? Are there challenges you didn't expect? Times when the task is overwhelming? Are you waiting for something to happen? Or just ready for something to end? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you can relate to March Madness.

If you can relate, I believe you can benefit from some wise words from our Cyclone coach - "Stay the Course!" These are words I've heard him say more than once after a close win or loss. He keeps the game in perspective and has the ability to look at the big picture. It's good when we do the same as believers. It's easy to get caught up in or frustrated with a bad day or a change in plans. Instead, like Coach Prohm suggests we must remember to look at the season, or better yet our life as a whole. One loss isn't going to ruin the Cyclones season and a day isn't going to ruin our life. CP encourages the guys not to get too high after a win or too low after a loss. He often talks about humility and even mentions submission. As we stay course as believers, we too will benefit by walking in humility, submitting to authority and embracing the joys and trials as part of life.

With this phrase CP is also reminding his guys to persevere...difficult games happen and when they do the guys must press on though they may be tempted to quit. Oh friend, you and I must do the same as we walk in faith. The ball won't always bounce our way and sometimes the shots won't fall. As we attempt to live out our calling and do the good works God's prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10), there will be challenges and setbacks, but that should never be a reason to quit or an excuse to stop. Like Paul, we must make the words of Philippians 3:13-14 our own - "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

"Staying the Course" includes learning from mistakes. When the Cyclones lose a game or play bad in a win, they evaluate the game tape and attempt to recognize and correct their mistakes. Friend, we must do the same as believers. As we pursue our calling and live as who God created us to be, we must acknowledge our sin, confess it and turn from it. Just like bad habits or poor fundamentals will keep a team from achieving its potential, our sin will hinder us from glorifying our great God. So let's follow the advice found in Hebrews 12:1-2 - "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Finally, a big part of "Staying the Course" is focus. Coach Prohm often uses this key word in interviews as well. As a former coach and athlete and current sports mom, I know this is a huge part of athletics, but as one who's been trying to follow Christ for nearly 20 years I know it's an even more important part of a life of faith. In Luke 9:62 Jesus said, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."  Whether in a game during March Madness or a moment out of our daily life, there will be temptations. Temptations to quit, retaliate, be anxious or depressed, but we need to decide in advance to handle these situations rightly. Then we must be prepared to press on and keep looking and moving forward.

Friend, I don't know the specific course God has you on, but I do know He is a good Father with a perfect plan that has an eternal purpose. I hope our Cyclones will stay the course and win a championship though many say it's impossible, but I truly pray you and I will stay the course and bring God glory may we always remember - with Him nothing is impossible!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Process and Product

In the recent weeks I've found myself thinking about healing...our 12 year old daughter, Joy, is walking through her first injury. She suffered a high ankle sprain and was just recently given the green light to set aside her crutches. (Well at least indoors on level ground.) At the same time our month old nephew, Gideon, is walking through more in his first weeks than most of us do in a lifetime. Meconium aspiration led to his first helicopter ride and 5 heart defects have led to 2 surgeries. We have found ourselves praying much, and often, for healing here on the Beran farm.

We are commanded to pray, but prayer is about more than the final result. I'm learning God often gives us insight while we pray and He builds our relationship as well. The other day as I thanked God for the healing work He's done in Joy's leg and asked Him to reveal more of His healing power in Gideon's little heart, a few words came to mind - wait, work, wisdom coupled with patience, pain and physician.

As these words floated through my mind, I was reminded healing is a process. It involves waiting (patience), work (pain) and wisdom (Physician). This was enough to get my mind going and I realized healing isn't just about the process, it's also about the product. Healing brings results - wellness, a witness and the ability to walk alongside.

Friend, I don't know if you are in need of physical healing like we are here in Iowa, but chances are you might need emotional, relational or spiritual healing. If so, I pray this insight, and especially these verses, speak to your heart. Proverbs 4:20-22 says, "My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body." 

My daughter quickly learned healing doesn't happen overnight. At her first appointment, the Dr. predicted she'd need crutches for a week and I think she thought - 7 days will pass and life will return to normal. Not quite...it's been 3+ weeks and she's starting to walk, but a ways from running up and down the court. She has had to wait and it's tested her patience. The same and more could be said for lil Gideon and his parents. This waiting time involves steps forward and steps back, wonderful success and unexpected setbacks, but our patience will be rewarded.

Isaiah 40:31 tells us, "But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Friend, we can have a plan and expectations, doctors can give their diagnosis, but only God knows the future. While we wait for healing, we must trust the One who knows and is able to heal.

This process also includes work - my daughter is doing rehab and Gideon's nurses are working and watching around the clock. Sometimes the work also includes pain...Joy's had to learn the difference between good pain and bad and develop the attitude the most important work happens when nobody is watching. Friend, the same is probably true for whatever healing you need. Have a broken relationship? You will have to do the work of forgiveness and reconciliation. Struggle with a strong holding sin? It will require the work of confession and repentance. If we want healing we must remember and apply Proverbs 13:4 - "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied."

Finally, in order for this process to fully unfold we need wisdom and when it comes to healing that comes from the Great Physician. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." We are grateful for the wisdom of doctors, nurses and therapists, but friend we ALL need the wisdom of the Lord. No matter what healing you need, I encourage you to apply James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you."

There is something special about the product that comes with this process - we don't have to arrive and wait for the journey to be over - the results happen as the process unfolds. Most obviously the process of healing brings wellness. We need and pray for healing because we want to get better, we desire wellness. Little by little this happens...as Joy found healing is gradual and the same is true for relational, emotional and spiritual injuries. In Luke 17:9 we see this - "Jesus said to him, 'Rise and go, your faith has made you well."

Another product of the healing process is our witness for Christ. I tend to be a person who likes to figure things out, I appreciate understanding why and want to find the answer. That's a great philosophy when it comes to algebra, but it's much harder to apply to life and faith. The other day as I wrestled through some of this thinking in regards to lil Gideon Jesus' words in John 9 came to mind. Here we find Him and the disciples meeting up with a man who'd been blind since birth and the disciples, like me and maybe you, found themselves thinking why, why did this happen. Jesus' response brings perspective - "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3)

Friend, as you and me walk through hard times and seek healing the world is watching. They see our attitude, our worries and our faith. God never said following Him would be easy; actually Jesus assured us in this world we will have troubles. Sometimes those hard times are consequences of our sin and others they are a result of God's sovereignty - regardless of the why, let us not forget the what - God can use them for His glory.

Finally, a product of our healing process is the ability to walk alongside another. When we walk through something we are better able to understand and relate to someone else who is doing the same. I'm already seeing this in my daughter - the other day we were watching college ball and a guy on the opposing team was shown on the bench in pain. My other daughter quickly and with little compassion says, "What's wrong with him?" Joy instantly responded, "I know just how he feels."

Joy will forever see injured athletes differently...she's walked in those shoes and felt the pain. This injury will make her a better teammate, not just on the court, but in the game of life. Stop for a minute and think about the healing work God's done in your life, has He used it to help someone else? 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

Again, I don't know what you are walking through, but I pray God met you here today and encourages your heart as you walk through the process of healing and look forward to the products. I appreciate your prayers for Gideon - he had another unexpected discovery yesterday and more healing is needed. If you'd like more details, you can visit his CaringBridge page HERE.

Friend, you often hear from me, but I'd love to hear from you - is there something I left out when you think about the process and product? Have you had a healing journey you can share that would encourage those in the midst of the battle? What verse do you cling to while you wait for healing to come? Are you in need of healing and need prayers? Share in the comments - we can lift one another up, be encouraged and glorify our great God.