Sunday, March 15, 2020

An Opportune Time

There is much going on in our world today that we don't understand and can't control. I can say this is unlike anything I've experienced; chances are you can say the same. This can leave us scared, anxious and fearful. Some are upset and disappointed. At times our emotions change as fast as the CDC's recommendations, but I want to encourage you to use this time for your good and God's glory. Take a few moments to consider the following -

Check Your Heart
Last week as this all started to hit a bit closer to home we, as a sports loving family, had a discussion. First the Big 12 Tournament was cancelled and then March Madness. When the NCAA cancelled spring sports, I told my daughter it was possible her freshman track season may not happen. She was upset. 

It was then we had to step back. It was a great opportunity to check our hearts and truly see what was number one. Sports are good and teach countless life lessons, but they can be an idol in our lives. This break in our normal routine and our response to what is missed is a good opportunity to check our hearts. Do we truly live out Deuteronomy 6:5? It says, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." How about Exodus 20:3? "You shall have no other gods before me."

In this time of unknown, we must remember TRUTH. It can be easy to be consumed with what we don't know and worry about what is to come, but it is helpful to remember what we know. A few verses that bring me peace and perspective are - 

And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done." (Genesis 8:21)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

As we look to the future it's powerful to remember God's faithfulness in the past. Remembering who God is (faithful, powerful, present, good, etc...) helps us trust Him more and equips us to live out the suggestions that follow. 

When events are being cancelled and our lives aren't as busy, we must remember there is always something we can (and must) do. Friend, we can pray. We can cry out to God, the creator of the world, the one who has planned the future and understands what we don't. He instructs us to cry out to Him. We can ask for help, wisdom, patience, whatever it is we need. Pray for your family, your church, your friends, doctors, leaders, all who come to mind. God hears and answers. 

"Then you will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you." (Jeremiah 29:12)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

As I mentioned we are a sports loving family, so we understand the importance of practice. Every competitor knows they must improve their skills and work on them daily; the same can be said for believers. It's one thing to know what the Bible says, but it's another to do it. As I thought about this today a few of the first things that came to my mind were about using my words wisely, controlling my thoughts and being content. God provides endless directions and priceless wisdom, it will benefit us and those around us if we live out His Word. Here are a few verses to get you started -

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Know God and Make Him Known
Our lives for the next few weeks will most likely look different than we expected. The change in schedule will most likely give us time to do things we normally don't; as we wait we can waste our time or make the most of it. One of the best things we can do in this time is get to know God more. Without the need to go to another game or event, we can spend time in God's Word and prayer. We can cultivate the relationship we have with one we never have to be seperated from. 

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ... (Philippians 3:8)

As we get to know God it is important to remember we can also make Him known. In a time when others are anxious and losing hope as believers it's important to live out 1 Peter 3:15 - "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." 

Friend, the situation we all face should leave us grateful for the faith we have. Times like this remind us we are not in control, but hopefully they will turn more to the One we know has everything under control. I write these words for you and me because this isn't a winter storm that will be over in a few days. We're all in the unknown together, but through it all may we remember the One we know. Our world has changed, but our God has not. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Someone's Watching

AP Photo
This weekend the Cyclones enjoyed one of their biggest wins in program history. Iowa State defeated Baylor and ended their 58 game win streak in the Big 12 Conference. Added to the excitement was the fact that the back and forth game was tied with 0.1 seconds left.  It was then ISU headed to the free throw line and Ashley Joens hit the game winner. Then the celebration began.

Cyclone fans everywhere were thrilled! Including those gathered around the screen in my house. Earlier in the game, my daughter Jaylyn was disappointed because she wanted to be in Ames, but as the intensity increased on the court hers did the same in our home. It truly was a fun game to experience even from afar.

There was more than joy from a win. Our pastor often encourages us to let life preach because if our eyes are open God is always at work. This was true even as I watched a basketball game. My daughter Jaylyn wanted to be in Ames because she wanted to watch her favorite Cyclone, Maddie Wise, play in her last home game.

As the 3rd quarter began Maddie wasn't playing and Jaylyn strayed from the screen and joined a Nerf gun war with her brothers. We called her back when we saw Maddie checking in. From that point on, Jaylyn was locked in...even when Maddie returned to the bench.

The intensity increased. Our nerves kicked in. Even my wrestling boys were watching. There were big shots and big defensive stops. There were lots of things to see and comment on, but Jaylyn's words were about Maddie. She wasn't noticing a great drive or an important pass, but her response on the bench. Every time her team had success, she was the first to cheer or offer a high five. Jaylyn saw every reaction and pointed it out to us. 
AP Photo
As her mom, and coach, I was grateful. She can watch highlight videos anyday and see great plays, but being a great teammate isn't something as easy to observe. All season we've been talking to our kids about this - reminding them WE > me and encouraging them to play together with their teammates. It's one thing to hear it from me, but so much more powerful for my girl to see it lived out by one she looks up to. 

Later that night I found myself thinking about this again. Initially, I was grateful for the important picture that had been etched on my daughter's heart, but then God took the thoughts deeper. Clearly, I'm not the basketball star, but my girl is watching me too. My every reaction doesn't excite her, but she sees what I do and hears what I say. 

My actions are sending a message too. Not only to Jaylyn, but her sister and 3 brothers as well. Friend, the same is true for you. You may not be a "Hero" in a young girls eyes, but even more important you can be a witness for Christ. It's not just the young people who are watching - family members, co-workers and strangers too are impacted by what we say and do. 

When Jaylyn watches Maddie and other favorite players in action, she sees them shoot, pass, play D, rebound and cheer on the bench. When they see you and me as believers, they watch us walk thru trials and interact with others. When we have the opportunity to choose humility over pride, they are watching. When it's time to trust or doubt, their eyes are on us. 

Read the following verses and pause for a moment to think: Does the one who's watching see you live this out?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight." Proverbs 3:5

"Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

"Am I now trying to win the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

"Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord." Ephesians 5:22

I could continue, but I'm guessing you get the idea. Pause for a moment and pray asking God to search your heart and bring to mind what others see when they watch you. If something needs to change, ask Him to give you guidance from His Word and help from His Spirit to make the change. 

I'm sure a competitive division 1 athlete like Maddie would much rather have Jaylyn watching her hit the game winning shot or make a key defensive play, but the lesson she taught from the bench is priceless. Some of the things God asks us to live out will be challenging as well, but may we remember they will serve a purpose!!