Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Patience of Noah

First of all a BIG welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe! It was a pleasure to share my devo there today and I'm blessed you clicked over for a visit! Please know I treasure your time and appreciate your comments! So with that my post for today -

Chances are you read the title of this and thought I may have made a mistake. The phrase we tend to hear is - "The Patience of Job." I know, I've heard that a time or two, but I've never once heard or said or even thought about the patience of Noah.

That changed on our family trip to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter a couple of weeks back. The trip was wonderful and still has me thinking. Like any museum there is much to see and read, there's also videos to watch and people to talk to. As all this information came together in my mind (and really it wasn't anything new...I've read the account of Noah and even studied his faith a bit), a new thought entered - Noah had patience.

Scripture doesn't say exactly, but through study and cross-reference many say that it took 50-75 years to build the ark. (See Genesis 5:33, 6:3,14, 7:1,6 for more details or visit Answers in Genesis) Think about that for a minute. That's nearly a lifetime in our world today and even back then it was close to 10% of their living years.

Noah clearly acted in faith and walked in obedience, but he also endured and persevered. Most likely he was questioned by those around him...he was building an ark for a flood when they had never even experienced a drop of rain. This step out of his comfort zone was not rewarded immediately. He continued to work and believe day after day after day. Even after his work was done more trust was needed.

I was talking with a friend after our trip and in the midst of our conversation God convicted me as I reflected on the life of Noah. I have put my faith to work, attempted to walk in obedience and have been blessed by God in the process, but lately I've found myself a bit distracted and discouraged. I know I've been busy and trying to discern where and how I can cut back, but I also realized maybe there was more happening than I thought.

Getting swept away by the busyness of life happens and it affects us more than we realize. Facing decisions and change does the same, but lacking patience impacts me as well. How about you? Can you say the same?

I'm not just talking with your husband, children or in traffic. But patience with God when it comes to your obedience and steps of faith. We need patience for more than just our temper. We need patience as we wait on God for direction, as we long for Him to transform us, look for Him to use and as we speak the Truth.

This realization has led me to look at my parenting, teaching and ministry a bit differently. We live in such an instant gratification world that I believe this mentality affects us in ways we are unaware of.

Like Noah, have you heard from God, stepped out in faith and exercised obedience? Like me, have you become frustrated when you don't see the results you've expected or hope for?

Friend, if you said, "Yes" to those questions, I pray you'll read on and say the same to another.

Time means one thing to us and something entirely different to God. Scripture says, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8) Instead of expecting something to happen today, tomorrow or next year, we'd be better off waiting patiently for God's perfect timing.

I have no idea how Noah felt or what thoughts he wrestled with as he built the ark, but I know sometimes my focus is on the end result more than the process it takes to get there. As a coach, I've always appreciated the quote - "It's about the journey, not the destination." Thinking about Noah has brought that phrase to mind; I'm beginning to think it's more applicable to a life of faith than a basketball season. Perhaps you and I wouldn't become so discouraged if we focused more on what God was doing in us than what He's doing through us.

My final thought for today may initially sound pretty simple, but I pray it's also powerful. So here it is - Patience is productive. After walking through a replica of the Ark, I have a much better understanding of and appreciation for all Noah did. I mean have you ever stopped to think - Where did they get their drinking water? How did they handle animal waste? Ventilation? And on and on? (If you visit, there are displays with information about all of this.) Had Noah rushed the process, chances are he would have forgotten something. His patience was necessary and led to what God wanted. I have to believe the same could be said for the patience we exercise today my friend!

So back to my last question - Are you willing to pray for patience? I know people say that's a dangerous prayer, but this look at Noah leaves me thinking it's also a powerful one. God will give us opportunities to exercise patience, but then He will eventually use and bless that patience!

May we remember -
God is patient. 
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

Jesus was patient.
"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Patience brings blessing.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
 if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

Patience leads to promises.
"We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience
 inherit what has been promised." (Hebrews 6:1)

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, 
you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10: 36)

Friend, I know it's hard to be patient, but it is possible. I'm trying to remember that more and more. I hope you will too! I leave you with Colossians 1:9-14, may it be a prayer for all of us! And may we like Noah walk by faith and with patience!

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

You Don't Expect To Lose

March Madness is underway and like my friend said, "It's living up to its name!" For my non-basketball fans, there is a big college tournament taking place. Sixty-eight teams are invited to this "dance" and before the excitement begins, teams are seeded and put into regions. The number one team plays number sixteen, two plays fifteen and so on with the winners advancing and the losers going home. It's a great time for basketball fans and an intense few weeks for players and coaches. 

Each year there are blow-out wins, come from behind wins, game winning shots and upset wins. With all that said, the greatest underdog, the number 16 seed has never won. The top seeds have had some close calls, but they’ve never lost to the wannabe “Cinderellas”…until this year. 

Friday night I watched #1 overall seed Virginia, the team I picked to win it all in our family bracket contest, play a tight first half with UMBC, a team with only one power 5 win. Like most I thought - the 2nd half will be different, Virginia will play their game, UMBC will get tired and on and on, but all this thinking was wrong. The first half proved to be just the beginning of what UMBC could do; the game went on and it was clear to see the night, the game and history, belonged to the small school from Maryland.

Through the years I’ve come to respect Tony Bennett, Virginia’s coach. From what I’ve read and seen, he’s a man who coaches the right way and knows it’s about more than wins and losses. His faith played a part in the perspective he shared in the post-game interview. I appreciated his words and believe God will work through this loss in him and his team.

As I tried to drift to sleep, my mind didn’t shut off and I found myself focused on one thought: neither team planned on losing. I’ve been an athlete and am a coach, I know competitors take the court with the goal of winning, but I also know what my grandma always told me is true – “Someone has to win and somebody has to lose.” Just because you don’t plan on losing doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

The minutes went by, but my thinking grew deeper. Athletes aren’t the only ones who experience outcomes they didn’t plan on…we do too. There are the little things like traffic delays and the 24 hour flu, but there are bigger things too like relationship struggles and cancer diagnosis. These things aren’t on our bucket lists or goal sheets, but they are part of the life we live.

My thoughts didn’t stop there and this post won’t stop here because I think there’s an important truth God reminded me of: we don’t plan on dying either. Friend, those words are hard to type and it’s a reality that’s hard to read, but it’s a statement we must deal with.

Personally, I wish Virginia didn’t have to suffer this historic loss, but I believe if anyone can help a team through it Tony Bennett will. I have no doubt they prepared to win, but in the bigger picture they were prepared to lose. I’ve read Tony recruits players with character and he coaches with poise so they’ll be prepared to persevere.

Friend, I know you didn’t come here wanting to read about death and neither of us woke up planning on it, but let me ask you a question – Are you prepared for it? I’m not talking about your will or life insurance, but are you ready to meet your Creator?

In John 3:5, Jesus tells us, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit."  

He continues in verses 14-18 - "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they had not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."  

Coaches and fans couldn't will Virginia to a win, the players had to play defense and make shots; in the same way nobody else can get you to heaven and nothing you do will earn you a spot. This is a personal decision you must make that will affect your home for eternity. It's not a decision to take lightly or put off. 

One final thought - if you are ready for the inevitable, chances are someone you know and love is not. I encourage you to pray for this person and think about how you can help them be prepared for what they are not planning on.

Losing is no fun, but I’ve been in sports long enough to know good can come from defeat. And if this historic loss plays a role in someone avoiding the only defeat that is eternal it will be a great victory in the end! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Trip To Remember

Vacations aren't something we do very often, but I'm thankful when we are able to get away. This past week, we had the chance to do just that and set off on a journey to Kentucky. We traveled a few hours through Iowa, across Illinois and Indiana, into Ohio and after 10 hours and 1,300 miles arrived in Kentucky. We (my husband, 5 children and me) were blessed with a day and a half at the Creation Museum and a day at the ARK Encounter.

I'm still reflecting on all we saw and God seemed to say, so there may be more posts to follow, but for now I wanted to share a few pictures and highlights for you. It's really something words can't describe and pictures don't fully depict, but it's a journey worth taking and talking about.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and earth." Genesis 1:1

The Creation Museum lives up to its name and tells the story of creation very well. It also paints a picture that transports you back in time. The exhibits are well done and Scripture is everywhere...there is truly something for everyone!

"Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Genesis 2:9

They do a great job with the exhibits and bring the creation story to life. This tree caught my eye and really made me think about how God was weaving the story of life together right from the beginning...the tree of life isn't just mentioned in Genesis - the first book of the Bible, but also Revelation - the last one. 

"The LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely, 
but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, 
for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." Genesis 2:16-17

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that is was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was able to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate." Genesis 3:6

One of my little guys appreciated this pictures of Adam and Eve and this one of them eating the fruit is where he stopped to ask questions. This one act captured in time changed the course of time, in the same way our sin changed our relationship with God as well. Sin can look fun and Satan entices, but may we always remember there are consequences!

As you make your way through the halls of history, you walk through what Answers in Genesis calls the "7 C's" which stand for Creation, Corruption (Fall), Catastrophe (Flood), Confusion (Tower of Babel), Christ, Cross and Consummation (Jesus coming back and heaven and hell). There are exhibits for each of these, but I'll share just a few more pictures. If you haven't heard of or studied the 7 C's, I highly recommend visiting the Answers in Genesis site and learning more about it by clicking HERE.

"Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determinded to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood..." 
Genesis 6:11-14

The stop at the Ark exhibits really spoke to me as I saw the size and really thought about Noah's obedience. Friend, he didn't take just a small step of faith and his work wasn't rewarded over night. It took years to build the Ark and people had to question what he was doing. Ever feel that way?

This is a picture of one of our family's favorite characters...he actually moved and spoke...he was one who questioned Noah's actions, calling him a fool and doubting his work. As Christians in today's world, we may experience others doing the same, but this trip has encouraged me to tune those voices out and listen to the voice of God. He has work for each of us to do and just like Noah's calling, it makes a difference in God's kingdom. 

"For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die..." Genesis 6:17

This is another display that really had our attention...it's a picture that's difficult to see here and hard to grasp in real life. The thing in the center is a rock structure with people standing on it as the waves crash and waters rise. These people had probably questioned Noah's sanity and scoffed at God's words, but were now facing their own death. 

Friend, God promised to never flood the world again, but He will judge you and me. Just like He sent the ark to save people, He's sent Jesus to rescue you and me. Do you laugh at or doubt that promise? Or have you trusted in Him as Lord and Savior? Those are questions we need to take seriously and consider. 

When He had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." 
With that, He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit." John 19:30

Another favorite part of mine was the scripture posted throughout the museum. These boards brought the exhibits to life and told the story we all need to know. They also reminded me of the promise God has made and work He has done. He has sent His Son and Jesus did the work that we can't do. Man distances himself from God with sin, but Jesus made a way, the only way, back to the Father. He died on the cross for you and me, He paid the penalty and we gain the victory. 

Friend, I could say more, but instead of thinking about the trip I took, I want you to reflect on the walk you are taking. Are you walking with Christ? Are you living for God? Just like our vacation came to an end, one day each of our lives will too...when that time comes, what will your destination be? 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Championship Reflections (& A Give-Away)

State basketball...something I dreamed about as a child and worked towards as an athlete and a coach. This past week, I had the joy of following a local team chase down their dream. With 3 starters from our church, we didn't just jump on the bandwagon, but have watched the team and players work all season and summer long. There's been something special about this group and their undefeated, dominating championship season is a dream come true.

It was a joy to watch them play a game I've always loved...they worked together, set aside personal goals for team success and enjoyed the game they played so well. They were a fun group to follow and an easy team to cheer for!

Spiritually there are so many lessons we can pull from their season...they didn't give up when adversity came, they didn't let pride take over, and they worked together to achieve their success. I could go on and on, but one thing that struck me as I reflected on their championship is this: their journey was unique.

As one who's only stepped onto the floor of Wells Fargo Arena as a fan, I know this dream doesn't come true very often. As a mom to girls who wonder if and dream about playing on that court, I realize disappointment is more likely than joy. Only 5 teams in our state ended their season with a win. The other 349 finished the year with a loss, and tears.

For competitive athletes this can be a motivating challenge and sometimes a tough reality. We always want to strive for success, but we must remember there are lessons in the loss. The joy we felt and celebrating we did for our local champs was fun and exciting, but at the same time my heart hurts for those who came close, were injured or set the records we don't want to talk about...most losses in a season.

I have to believe these feelings of excitement and disappointment are good; in Romans 12:15 the Bible tells us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." In sports there are always wins and losses...not always on the scoreboard, but sometimes in attitude, effort and personal performance. Life is full of highs and lows, good times and bad. As fans, coaches, parents and teammates we need to come alongside one another at all times. Our unity makes the success sweeter and the burdens more bearable.

I'm guessing a newly crowned champion feels on top of the world, in that moment all is well, they are elated, the hard work has paid off, goals have been reached. They are rejoicing, but the thing is the feeling will fade, reality will return, the trials left at home for the week still exist. This rejoicing is temporary.

In the same way, for the teams that lost one day they'll look back and realize the value in their season. The discouragement will fade and relationships remain. Lessons will be learned and motivation will result. A new reason to rejoice, but yet not the ultimate one.

So, the perspective seeker in me wants to share a verse our pastor mentioned on Sunday - Luke 10:20 says, "However do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." 

These words sum up my most important championship reflection. Growing up I was obsessed with basketball; the game truly was the god of my life. Following our final loss, I was quite depressed and discouraged. All I'd strived for was gone and for awhile my hope was too. Thankfully, God worked, drew me to Himself and showed me there was so much more.

Saturday I had tears of joy for the players, coaches and fans as they hoisted the championship trophy, but there were a few for me too. I was so happy they reached their goal and experienced a dream come true and I appreciated the effort they put in and the way they played the game. At the same time I was so thankful that I was at a place where I know that's not what life is truly all about.

The only victory that ultimately matters is the one Jesus won. No trophy will last forever, but I will live eternally. My name isn't in the record book, but it is written in heaven. How about yours?

Friend, I don't know if you've ever won a championship or are feeling like your life is one long losing streak, but I do know you can have a reason to rejoice. If you've accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are victorious! As life unfolds there will be "wins and losses," but God is good, He has a plan and loves you always!

Today I'm giving away a copy of my friend, Wendy Blight's "I Am Loved" Bible study that will help you learn more about God's love and the reason you have to rejoice. Wendy's stories will encourage and God's Word will equip. It's a playbook for a life that comes with a guaranteed championship!

If you are where I once was and find yourself empty after worldly success and defeated following daily defeats, this study will point you to Jesus and lead you to the One who never fails. If you already rejoice because your name is written in the book of life, this book will help you defend your faith and point you to scriptures that teach you more about the love of God. Either way it's a win!!

I invite you to leave a comment to be entered; how about sharing your thoughts on one of these questions - "Have you ever won a championship? How did it make you feel? Have you won the eternal championship? What role does that eternal victory play in the daily defeats of life?" And if time is short, simply leave your name and you'll be entered too! Thank you friends, I look forward to hearing from each of you! And know the winner will be blessed with Wendy's new study! If you don't win or want to order today, you can do so HERE. Until then, let me pray for you...

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord thank you for winning the ultimate victory. Thank you for making the greatest sacrifice. Thank you for teaching me and now reminding me of what is truly important. As I walk through the wins and losses of life, help me do so with you and for you. In the good and bad, may I remember that you are working for my good. Help me press on towards the prize for which you have called me. May I fight to the finish. Like the champion Cadets, may I work together with those you put around me, may I not give up when life is hard and may I humble myself and let you do the exalting. Father God, you are sovereign...over life and death, over wins and losses, over it all. I'm grateful you know best and trust you with all that is to come. In Jesus' Name, Amen.