Thursday, November 30, 2017

When you don't know what to do...

Has life ever had you in a situation where you felt like you didn't know what to do? Perhaps as a mom or a wife or at your work place. Maybe even as a child of God. I've sure experienced that; more than I care to admit. But, awhile back as I was walking through yet another one of these situations, God gave me a plan. It has blessed me and my prayer is it will equip you as well.
The first phrase to come to mind might sound funny to you, but honestly it wasn’t a real surprise for me. “Give Up!” That seems a bit crazy because we teach our kids to try hard and chances are you were to taught to never quit, but friends there is a time and a place for giving up. As women we need to give up trying to do it all and to figure everything out. Another way to say it is we need to surrender and the important thing to remember is who we are surrendering to. We are yielding to our heavenly Father who created us, loves us and has a purpose for us. We are giving up so that we can obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 16:24. Here we read, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Friend, when we follow Jesus we give up control. As we let Jesus lead, we are no longer in charge. Sometimes this feels scary, I know, I’ve been there, but if we call ourselves disciples we should echo Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live in the body, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This dying to self isn’t a one-time thing or a when I want to action; it’s day after day, moment after moment choice we must make. When times are good, when days are bad, when walking in faith is a joy and when life leaves us defeated. We must give up…our dreams, our plans, our ways, our fears, our time, our kids, our everything so that we can put God first.

Giving up is the what, but you may be asking yourself, “How?” We find our answer in the Word of God. The verses I encourage my kids to hide in their hearts come from the living and active Word of God that is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. It can and will equip us to do what we need to do. Scripture will also teach us about God and help us get to know Him better so we can trust Him more. We can’t just encourage our kids to read, study and memorize, we must abide in the Word as well!

Immediately after I give up, there is something else I need to do – “Look up!” Surrendering without seeking will leave me defeated and drowning in the mess around me. Awhile back I was organizing our schedule, which includes Awana’s, junior high basketball, elementary basketball, wrestling, life on the farm and so on, and I found myself getting overwhelmed. I’m a planner and a list maker, but sometimes that can become my focus. I know it’s good and necessary to organize and be prepared, but that day as I sat with a calendar and three schedules the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart that it’s more important to look up than it is to look out.

Friends, I know we are busy and schedules are crazy and we can be tempted to look in many directions, but we must heed the words of Psalm 121:1-2a. We read, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord…” I don’t know about you, but help is something I know I need. I need help raising my kids, teaching them, disciplining them, being the wife God created me to be, being patient and the list goes on. Friends can offer help and self-help books promise it, but God is faithful to always provide it. So again the what is “Look up!”, but the how is through prayer and seeking the Lord. Friends I know our to do list is long and our work is never done, but prayer is our most important work. We can and should pray for our kids, but we must also seek God’s will for us as parents too. He will provide answers and direction, we just need to ask. 

Finally, after we “Give Up!” and “Look Up!” it’s time to “Step Up!” Sometimes this is the hardest piece of the puzzle. We know what needs to be done, now we need to do it. Colossians 3:17 says, “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.” Life brings so much joy, but it also brings work, frustration and some tears. Walking in faith is not easy, but it is good and friends, we must remember it is so very important! Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This verse says much, but I want to focus in on two key words tonight…good works. It doesn’t say easy, enjoyable or fun, but instead good. The things we do as a wife, mom and disciple of Jesus are good and they require work. It takes effort and perseverance to build God's kingdom and train up our children, but it’s good and God will equip us to do just that.

So again, the what is “Step Up!”, but what about the “How?” In my 17+ plus years as Christian and 14+ years as a mom, the thing that’s helped me is fellowship with others. Sharing struggles, seeking advice and walking together with sisters in Christ has been priceless as I walk this road. Their words, prayers, wisdom and example help me do the work I need to do. When I struggle it can be tempting to be silent and Satan wants me to think I’m all alone. But Hebrews 10:24-25 states, "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."
Just yesterday as I prepared to share this message with a group of moms, God gave me a few opportunities to practice what I was preaching. I was coming home from basketball practice and my 14 year old son was driving...if you ever want to feel the need to "Give Up and Look Up" just wait til your teenager is behind the wheel. I wasn't worried about his speed and reckless driving, instead I was in a hurry. Before I could say something I'd regret or encourage him to do something I don't want him to do, God pricked my heart and reminded me of the message I was about to share. I silently gave up, whispered a prayer and got home when time was short and did what I needed to do. Like my daughter said in a recent play, I realized, "Hey, it works!" 

Friend, I pray the next time you don't know what to do the Holy Spirit will remind you to "Give up, Look up and Step up!" Let's keep pressing on and walking in faith, our Heavenly Father will also show us what we need to do and equip us to do it!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Now that I know...

Moments after I made a turn at an intersection, my daughter said, "Mom, there's a cop behind you." I looked in my rear view mirror to see his lights were on. Instantly, anxiety filled my body and my daughters and their friend went silent. I pulled over wondering why and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. The officer approached and I was nervous. He asked for documentation before stating the problem.

I'd been stopped twice in my life...once in high school and 16 years ago days before our wedding. I fumbled through the papers trying to find the right documentation and with each passing second, the anxiety climbed. The officer could tell and assured me all was fine. Eventually, I discovered we didn't have the current registration sticker on our license plate. He assured me it was OK and would be a simple fix. I drove on, eventually calmed down and we made our way to the softball game. Now that I knew what to do, I could fix the problem and avoid another stop by the police.

This story came to mind last night as I shared a new situation with my husband. I am currently coaching junior high girls basketball and yesterday instead of just leading practice I participated. Twenty-one years have passed since I was officially a member of a team and though the drills are still fun, my body is NOT the same. Clearly, I am out of shape. This job is about more than me teaching the girls, I'm also learning a bit myself.

I've had a general understanding of my lack of physical conditioning, but my 2 hours in the gym brought it to my attention. Now that I know, there's something I need to do.

Friend, perhaps you are in the best shape of your life and maybe you don't have any missing license plate stickers, but please don't stop thinking about this. This idea of knowing and doing is a powerful one. When we know something, we must respond. I knew my sticker was missing, so I had to get another one. I know I'm out of shape, so I must prioritize exercise. What do you know? How will you respond?

James 4:17 says, "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." There is a spiritual dimension to this as well. Let's look beyond our vehicles and even our bodies and take a glimpse at our heart and mind. Are you doing, saying or thinking things you know you shouldn't? Are you avoiding things you know you need to do or say?

Friend, this is about more than a traffic ticket or aching's about our relationship with the almighty God, our heavenly Father. Open your Bible and the living, active Word of God will speak to your heart. There will be things you know. The question is because of this, what will you do?

A few scriptures come to mind...

"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:8-11)

There are some big, heavy words, but they contain important truth. It might be tempting to think about them in the worst context and dismiss yourself, but allow God to examine your heart. Sin is sin even if it doesn't become headline news. Think about the things you do and say. How you treat others and use your time. What about the TV shows you watch and conversations you participate in. We must be honest and admit we all have our struggles and if we have the desire to live right before God, He will point them out. It might be a little frightening like my experience with the cop, but He is just doing His job and wants what is best for you and me, His children.

So now that you know, what will you do? If God's put something on your heart, I'd love to hear and will commit to lifting you up. Knowing is the easy step, but it's an important one! Start there and then do what you need to do!

Dear Heavenly Father, open the eyes of my heart and show me what I need to know. Tender my heart so I respond righty. Remind me your conviction is a gift, help me humble myself and do what I need to do. I love you and long to obey, help me do what I need to do. Thank you for your Word, may it sanctify me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, November 6, 2017

When we don't know what to do...

Cancer, sudden death, the Texas church shooting. All things that have been part of my life over the last three days. My heart hurts. So much pain and loss, but yet let's of questions, some worries and fears. Last night, I knew I needed rest and my body took the right position, but my mind was racing and my heart was hurting.

Though the shooting took place in Texas and I live in Iowa, it hit close to home. That church wasn't much different than ours...a small, rural congregation where young and old assume we're safe. Words from my kids and questions they asked as we watched the news came to mind. I know they were hurting too. Stories of a 14 year old girl and 6 year old boy broke their hearts as well. It also made them ask, "What if that happened at our church?"

I also thought of my friend, who'd just received the unexpected news of her mother's death and my heart hurt some more. Then another loved one who received the cancer diagnosis came to mind and the pain continued.

My body was still, but my thoughts wouldn't stop. I'd say a quick prayer and share more thoughts with my husband. At one point, he said in response, "Evil has no bounds." Those words stuck and reminded me we are in a battle. There is evil in the world. Bad things happen to good people. Even Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

This little nugget of truth opened the door for more scripture to come to mind. I instantly recalled a verse from a passage I'd been studying. In 2 Chronicles 20:12b we read, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

In all of these situations, and even a few more, there are times I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say and sometimes even think. The pain in our world makes no sense and gets more complicated when we put ourselves in the shoes of those who hurt. Perhaps the first thing you and I need to do, is admit we don't know what to do.

Surrendering ourselves, our abilities, our desire to figure things out and be in control is vital. Letting go and giving up opens the door to letting God be God. It also helps us move our eyes.

Yesterday, once I heard the news of the shooting, I found myself glued to the coverage. For big chunks of time, I didn't learn anything new, I just listened to a different person tell the same, sad story. Our problems and pain have a way of monopolizing our attention. We must be mindful of our focus.

These words from Jehoshaphat shifted my attention. And I pray they do the same for you.

He found himself in a hard place. He had three armies coming against him and his people. Earlier in the same chapter it says, he was alarmed. Other versions say he was afraid, but regardless of which specific emotion we can learn from his example. In this state of mind, he decided to seek the Lord.

He didn't ask for another briefing, he didn't choose to dwell in fear or analyze the situation. He went to our great God. Then the people around him did the same. We read the beginning of his prayer in verse 6 - "LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you."

He goes on to speak more truth about God and promises the continued seeking of his people as he prays. The closing words to his prayer are the words we must not just remember, but learn to practice - "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

Friend, I don't know what you are wrestling with or focused on, but I know life can be hard. Tragedies make no sense and our hearts hurt. It can be easy to let pain and bad news become the center of our attention, but we must "fix 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." (Hebrews 12:2)

It can feel like evil is winning in our world today, but when we set our eyes on Jesus we are reminded that He is victorious! 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Friend, I pray you take comfort in these truths and promises today. If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, my prayer is you reach out and come to know Him personally. He offers hope, provides peace and gives us eternal victory in a world that daily leaves us defeated. Talk with a Christian friend, leave me a comment or visit this SITE to learn more.

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord we set our eyes on you. We don't know what to do when tragedy strikes, death happens and diagnosis change our plans, so we look to you. Our great God and good Father, the one who provides and protects. The One who loves and forgives, who offers mercy and grace, who has a plan and always acts with purpose. Lord, we know Satan is on the prowl and evil knows no bounds, but you never change and your victory is eternal. Thank you for renewing my mind with your Word, for helping me trust in your truth and for providing peace that surpasses all understanding. And Lord, if there is one reading this prayer who doesn't know you, I ask you to open the door of their heart. Give them eyes to see, ears to heart and a heart to understand. Help them know you in a powerful, personal way. When we are tempted to think we need answers and reassurance, Lord remind us all we need is you. Remind me of that when today's trials come. In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen.