Sunday, January 21, 2018

Looking for Loyalty

It's been nearly a week since "The Minneapolis Miracle"...for my non-football friends that's what they are calling the Vikings last second win in the NFL playoff game. It was very intense and quite the emotional roller coaster game for this life-long Vikings fan.

As I watched the highlights, replays and reactions and then later reflected on it my mind went to work. With 10 seconds to go, many fans were disappointed and already tasting the loss, but then the unthinkable happens and there was pure shock and joy. I was thankful to hear players give God glory in post-game interviews and even our quarterback noted this wasn't the best day of his life...that was the day he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. So there were good things, but there were also some teachable moments for me; read on and there might be one for you too.

Through the years, the Vikings haven't had a lot of postseason success and even when they made a deep run into the play-offs it hasn't ended with victory. I wasn't here for the four Super Bowl losses, but have been let down in a few heart-breaking play-off defeats. Even through this, I still sport the purple and gold and call myself a Vikings fan. Through the years, I'd consider myself a loyal fan. I'm not a diehard, but I keep up with the scores, watch when life allows and want them to win.

As I listened to the reactions, observed the emotion and experienced my own, I was challenged. What if all these crazy fans were this loyal to God and excited about their faith? What if I was all the time?

Friend, think about what you devote your time to - What leaves you excited? What has your attention? Is it God? Are you drawn to His Word like you are the big game? Do you devote time to prayer like your favorite team, hobby or tv show? Many loyal fans will never miss a game, but how often do so called Christians miss church, prayer time or morning devotions? (Believe me, I'm reading these words as I type them, so this message is for me too!)

In the last twenty years, sports have changed a bit...maybe not sports, but how people cheer for a team. If you look at the youth today, they don't necessarily have a favorite team. Back in the days before cable and the internet, you pretty much chose a regional team if you wanted to get coverage, but today we have access to not just the games and weekly newspaper articles, but non-stop info and even tweets from players themselves. It's easy to like this team today, but be a fan of another tomorrow.

If the Vikings lose today, I wonder how many loyal fans will still stand strong. Or will they abandon ship, put the purple jersey in their drawer and pull out an Eagles one for the Super Bowl? I don't know, but do understand it's not always easy to be loyal.

That's not just true in sports, but faith as well. We can thank God when things go well, but do we praise Him in the storm? We can worship Him when the church music plays, but do we do the same when the demands of life scream? We draw near when we're emotionally strong, but do we do the same when life has us depressed?

Win or lose there will be some Viking fans who stand strong and remain loyal, I know because I'll be one of them, but more than that I want to be a disciple of Jesus who is loyal through the wins and losses of life. I don't want to be a bandwagon fan who shows up when times are good for my favorite team and I never want to react that way when it comes to God. How about you?

No matter what game you watch or team you cheer for, I encourage you to be a follower of Christ who is loyal! God has set us apart, He wants us to be committed and willing to take a stand. When it comes to our faith, we can't be on the fence and we must pledge allegiance to our Father in heaven.

Here are a few words from the Word about loyalty -

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

Friend, a loyal sports fan is committed to their team, a loyal friend makes sacrifices for those they love and loyal Christian must surrender all for the Lord of their life!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)

A truly loyal fan wears their team jersey with pride win or lose, they are not believers in Jesus, may we do the same!!

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:33-35)
I don't know how the Vikings season will end, but if it's anything other than a Super Bowl win there will be "fans" who abandon and talk bad. It's easy to bleed purple after a big win, but not so much after a tough loss. The temptation to turn away from Jesus was there for one of His greatest disciples, it's there for us as well. May we not give in, always stand strong and forever remain loyal to the One who is forever faithful to us!! 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A New List

"When your mom's gone, does she leave you a list of jobs to do?" the question I heard my daughter ask her friend not long ago. She then went on to say, "My mom always does...she has lists for everything." 

It's true I'm a list maker...I have a never ending to-do list, a shopping list, a grocery list, a list of who needs to be where when and so on. I've kept a list of all I'm thankful for, but a couple of weeks ago I made a list I'd never really made before. 

In my previous post, I'd made mention of being in a bit of a spiritual slump and it was during that time, the Holy Spirit put this idea on my heart. The idea of doing something that's really not fun to write about and share with others, but an activity that was pivotal in getting me back on track, so it just might be beneficial for you as well.

God led me to make a list; not one of things I need to do or ones I'm thankful for, but instead a list of my sins. You know, the things, thoughts and actions we'd rather just ignore or forget? That's what I was to put on paper. I'll admit, I didn't grab a pen and start immediately. I fought this for awhile. This list didn't come naturally like all the other ones I make, but eventually the idea didn't go away and I sat down to do it. 

Like most lists, it started kind of slow, but I'm sad to say once I got going things came to mind pretty quickly. Nothing on my list is going to show up on the news or be printed in next week's paper, but they play a role in my spiritual slump. 

Friend, in simple terms, sin means "to miss the mark." In Greek, it's the word they used while doing archery. If a shooter didn't hit the bull's eye the scorer would yell, "Sin!" meaning they had missed the target. It didn't matter if the arrow was an inch away or didn't even stick to the target and it's the same with sin. No matter how it compares to someone else's sin it still separates us from our holy God. It doesn't matter how the world labels it or how we try to justify it, sin is wrong and it brings consequences. Sin affects us more than we realize and it impacts others and our relationships as well. Sin can snowball and it messes with our mind. We should never minimize it.

Putting my sins on paper, naming them one by one, really was a powerful activity. One I wanted to avoid, but now actually recommend. Doing this opens our eyes and really should break our hearts. 

I know this isn't an easy topic to think about and even a harder one to deal with, but if we want to grow in our relationship with God, strengthen our faith and shine a light for Christ it is something we must do. 

Growing up my sister and I liked to exchange quotes with one another and she'd often say to me, "Realization is half the battle." That statement is more true than I used to like to admit and it's vital when it comes to dealing with sin. When we are in the midst of sin, we can be blind to it and Satan clearly wants us to justify it or compare it to those whose sins maybe look worse than ours. We will never deal with it until we acknowledge it, so today I encourage you to make the list I didn't want to make. No matter where you are in your walk of faith, I trust you will be blessed through it...perhaps not immediately, but long term God will use it for your good and His glory. 

Once you take the first step, He will lead you to what comes next. Confession to Him, possibly confession to others, prayer and repentance all lie ahead. They are stops on the road that lead us to Him. I'll close with words from Him that speak about the list I pray you will write...

When anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. Leviticus 5:5

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Don't Give Up

Basketball season is upon us and this year for the first time in ten years, I'm officially coaching. Though I've done it before this team adds a new twist with my daughter on the team. We started the year pretty strong with a 3-1 record, but have lost our last 3 games. Last night I tried to encourage the girls with the fact that our mistakes are correctable and the games have been winnable. I also reminded myself this is junior high, the girls are improving and I need to keep it all in perspective.

We have some competitive girls on the team and they don't like to lose, but I know a streak of loses can be frustrating and mess with your mind. As I thought about this, I knew I wanted to encourage the girls not to give up. I hope the frustration fuels them to work harder and get better instead of leaving them defeated and wanting to quit.

As a coach, I've seen them each succeed and know they have potential for improvement, but they need to believe that for themselves and one another. I want them to know a shooting slump won't last forever and we can learn from our losses. Reflecting on all of this, reminded me sometimes I need a similar pep-talk for something more important than a game, life.

You see, I've been in a bit of a spiritual slump. Instead of missing shots, I've missed some quiet time with the Lord. Rather than turnovers that lead to easy points, I've given into temptation and let Satan win. Mistakes play a part in a loss, but sin leaves us defeated as a believer.

Last week God was bringing this to my attention, convicting my heart and drawing me back to Himself and last night as I thought about what I should say to the team, He spoke to my heart as well.

Friend, I don't know what life has for you right now, but maybe you need a pep-talk too. If so, read on; if not, read on anyway...perhaps God will bring to mind one you can share these words with or maybe after a loss or two of your own, He'll help you recall the Truth you read below.

Let me say this and I pray it seeps deep into your heart - "Don't give up!" If you've sinned and fallen short, remember Romans 3:23 assures we all have, own your sin and press on. God will convict you, and me, as our loving heavenly Father it's what He does. When He does, confess it, call it what it is and turn from it, but don't let Satan condemn you. Believe me, He will try. Especially, when life has you down, but don't you give up. Cling to the truths and promises you know.

God forgives. He loves. He transforms.

Perhaps it's a relationships that has you feeling defeated, again I say, "Don't give up!" God is one who restores and renews. He is working, even when we can't see it or understand it. Keep praying, hoping and pressing on.

Even more importantly than not giving up on your relationship, dream, role or self, "Don't give up on God!" In those moments when life leaves us feeling defeated, and it can, can't it? Remember who God is...

Holy - "The Lord our God is holy."
Psalm 99:9

Sovereign - "Our God is in the heavens, He does all He pleases."
Psalm 115:3

Merciful - "For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon or destroy you..." Deuteronomy 4:31

Omniscient - "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength, His understanding is infinite." Psalm 147:5

Omnipresent - "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." Proverbs 15:3

Omnipotent - "I know you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
Job 42:2

Friend, that's just the beginning, God is this and so much more. He is worthy of our trust; He can't not be faithful. He deserves our love and obedience. He is a promise may question your ability and doubt your call, but never give up on God. And remember, just like I'm not going to give up on my team, He's not going to give up on you. He's called you by name, you are His! If you're in the midst of a losing streak or shooting slump, turn to Him. He knows exactly what you need to get back to your winning ways!!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Strategy for the New Year

As 2018 begins, I'm resharing a post from the past. It's a strategy that remains effective and truly will never grow old. Friend, I pray your year is off to a good start and if you have a strategy, be it old or new, I'd love to hear. So leave a comment with a tip to make this year the best! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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