FAITHFUL SERVICE REWARDED

I have been reading through the book of Genesis. Obviously, after more then 60 years of attending Sunday School, Church and Bible studies the stories and characters are not new to me. Yet, God always has a new lesson to reveal in His Word if we are open to learn.

The first thought that struck me was this could be a soap opera! You could take these Biblical characters and dress them in modern clothes and have an ongoing soap opera. Sin is just the same today as it was in the Old Testament. There is adultery, incest, murder, lying, cheating, deceiving. All things that go on today. The only difference in the Old Testament is that we can see that God judged and people reaped what they sowed. Today it often seems like people get away with their sins. That’s because we can’t look ahead and see what will happen to these people if they do not repent. We know from God’s promises that He will not send a worldwide flood to judge the earth again. But we also know that God keeps His promises and He has promised that there will be judgment for sin.

As I read on I came to the life of Joseph. To me, his story is encouraging. He suffered many things at the hands of others. Ten of his brothers hated him because he was the favorite son. This could be a lesson in the problems of showing preference for one child over the others; but, that is not my objective. The brothers sold him into slavery where he was bought by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Eventually Potiphar’s wife started chasing Joseph. When he refused, she falsely accused him and had him thrown in prison. In prison he was given great responsibility because the jailer saw his work ethic. There he met the king’s chief cupbearer and chief baker who had dreams that Joseph accurately interpreted. Yet, when they were released, they promptly forgot about Joseph and did not mention his situation to the king. So Joseph was stuck in prison for 2 more years! He continued to serve and the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph when Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted. This is when the story gets good! Joseph cleans up, puts on his best clothes and goes before the Pharaoh where he interprets the dream and the leader of all Egypt makes Joseph 2nd in command of the entire country. At this point the Bible tells us that he is 30 years old. That is like becoming Vice President of the United States at 30!

Here is the lesson. Joseph was abused and humiliated by his brothers, falsely accused by his master’s wife, forgotten by those he helped yet God had a plan! I don’t know exactly how many years this story covers. Most likely Joseph was in his mid teens when he was sold into slavery. It is safe to assume that all of these hard times lasted more then a decade. Every time Joseph was abused or disappointed he was faithful. In fact, the Bible tells us that those in charge noticed his good attitude and work ethic. That is why he was always put in charge. In the end, he had great authority and wealth far above anything that his jealous brothers had.

GOD REWARDS FAITHFULNESS. We are told in Proverbs to trust in the Lord and lean not unto our own understanding. Imagine what it would be like to suddenly become a slave in a foreign country after being reared as the favorite son of a very wealthy man. I’m sure that he had no idea what God’s plan was. Joseph simply had to make the best of his situation and trust that almighty God knew what he needed. As a young man he was surrounded by all the sins that I mentioned above. I’m sure there were times it was tempting to give in and follow the ways of the Egyptians. Instead he proved that God’s ways are best and obedience to God’s laws has rewards. His Heavenly Father was preparing him for great responsibility and he had to learn to serve before he could lead.

Are we willing to endure trials, temptations, disappointments to show to the world that we are followers of God? Can we faithfully serve trusting God’s promises that in the end we will be rewarded?

ARE YOU LEAVING A LEGACY?

The week of Thanksgiving we learned that the second wife of my late cousin’s husband died suddenly. Barbara was 80 years old and water skied 1-2 hours 5-6 days a week. She had a very healthy diet and an optimistic outlook on life. There was no indication that she expected to leave this life anytime soon. But God had a plan for her life and it was time for her to go home to Heaven.

Her husband, daughters and grandchildren all shared memories of the things that Barbara had accomplished. I won’t list everything here; but, she was gifted with an amazing intellect coupled with a drive to continue learning and improving as she matured. Her Christianity was manifested in many ways as she helped others through donations, mission trips and encouragement. Suffice it to say in 80 years she had accomplished many things and left a legacy for her family that would be hard to follow. In spite of all these accomplishments, she was humble and down to earth which made people comfortable to be around her.

As far as anyone knew, Barbara did not expect to die right before Thanksgiving 2020. Her husband said that every night when they prayed she started her prayers with gratitude. I know that many of you who read this will think that 80 is old and she had a full life. This is true; but, the point is that there was no warning on that Sunday that it would be her last time to ski around the lake. So what are the lessons we can learn from Barbara’s life?

LESSON 1: LIVE LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO DIE TODAY.

God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has a plan for our lives. Our loving Heavenly Father knows what the end will be. In Matthew 24 an 25 Jesus tells several parables that illustrate the fact that we must be prepared because we do not know when the Lord will return. God does not send us a letter telling us the date of our death. He simply expects us to serve and glorify Him every day so that we will be ready whenever he calls us.

LESSON 2: DON’T PUT OFF TILL TOMORROW WHAT YOU KNOW GOD WANTS YOU TO DO TODAY.

No matter how old or young we are, we always think that we will have more time. If your Heavenly Father is calling you to do or go somewhere start today to make that happen. Take the time to visit or call those that you love and let them know how much you appreciate them. Make it a point to send a card to friends and loved ones thanking them for the things that they do for you. Finish that project. Make the time to do special things with your loved ones that will leave them with good memories. Ask yourself, “Is my life drawing others closer to God and leaving them a pattern to follow?”.

LESSON 3: FIND SOMETHING IN EACH DAY TO THANK GOD FOR.

If we will deliberately thank God for something each day, we will discover that our attitude and outlook on life will become more positive. Even the hard times will be easier because we have learned to thank the Lord in everything. This type of joyful living is what will draw others to Christ.

Do you want to leave a lasting legacy? Determine to follow the Lord’s leading for each day. Learn to think of others in your life and how you can make their life better. Find reasons to be joyful each day. Live each day as though it were your last so that when God calls you home there will be no regrets.

OBEY RIGHT AWAY

My husband was sharing with me this morning the scene that he witnessed last night at our house. Our grandchildren had spent the day here and their Daddy had come to pick them up and take them home for supper. They were putting away their outside toys in the toy box. When they got to the last car Othniel, the youngest, did not want to let it go. His father kept telling him to “put it away” but he just stood their struggling with his father’s command then FINALLY he dropped it in the drawer and they were done! Now he could go home and play in their big playroom with many more cars.

I thought, what a perfect object lesson! This almost 2 year old struggled with obeying his father’s command to put the car away because he couldn’t understand the concept that there was much more to play with at home. Aren’t we, who are supposed to be mature Christians, just as bad as a 2 year old sometimes? Our loving Heavenly Father asks us to give something up (time, plans, possessions) to receive something even better but we balk. It is so hard for us to trust the one who created us that He knows what is best. So, instead of obeying right away, we argue with an all powerful and all knowing creator that we simply cannot do that!

Let me challenge you to join me in committing yourself to listen to God and let Him lead in your daily schedule and priorities. Promise the Lord that you will obey when he convicts you of sin or asks you to give something up that you might better serve Him.

Ask yourself, “Am I better then a 2 year old?”. Do I obey my Heavenly Father right away?

JOY IN THE MOMENT

The other day I saw a post by a friend that mentioned that they were looking forward to longer days and warmer weather. I perfectly empathize with that desire! Spring and Summer have always been my favorite time of the year. Yet, the thought crossed my mind, “How much of our life is spent looking forward to something instead of enjoying where we are right now?”.

I am a planner. I love to know what is going to happen in the future and plan out the details. If I have nothing to look forward to then I have a tendency to worry about what could go wrong since obviously I can’t control everything! 🙂 Yet, how much of my life have I spent waiting for something exciting to happen, worrying about something that never happens or simply wishing for something better?  Instead, shouldn’t I be enjoying the moments and days that God gives me on this earth?

Yes, I know that some seasons of our lives are just plain hard and looking forward to something better can get us through those tough times.  Yet, I have found, that there are blessings even in great trials.  Those blessings may not be immediately evident.  It may take concentrated effort to look for the good in something that seems so trying that it is beyond our understanding why we would even be expected to endure it.  The Bible tells us that we are to find joy in trials because they teach us lessons that we need to learn,  Those tests that we pass will be used in the future to encourage and help others who are going through a similar trial (James 1 and II Corinthians 1),

The hardest days and seemingly impossible situations can be made better if we will determine to rejoice in the Lord and trust in His perfect plan for our lives, days & moments.

CHOOSE JOY FOR THIS MOMENT!

 

CHILDREN’S IMPRESSIONS

Years ago I read a book by Anne Ortlund entitled Children Are Wet Cement. The premise of the book was that children, ours and others, are very moldable while they are young. They will easily conform to what they see and hear especially if they love and respect the person that they are watching. I am over 65, my mother has been in heaven for 18 years and her words and teachings still control me at times. When I do something too quickly without thinking I can hear Mama saying “use your head for something besides a hat rack.” This morning I had to iron a shirt for Larry to wear and one for myself and I remembered how my mother taught me that it was a waste of electricity to iron only 1 shirt at a time. You should do the entire week’s ironing all at once. I still try to do that but sometimes the schedule doesn’t work that way!

There were others in my life that made impressions on me. My pastor and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. Froelich gave me a love and appreciation for classical music by taking me with them to hear the Orlando Symphony play. There was a wonderful couple in our church who had me over to spend the night several times. The Grahams were gracious hosts with a lovely home and beautiful gardens that they willingly shared with a little girl who loved beautiful things. Mrs. Graham also dressed beautifully and was one of my first examples that you were never too old to look beautiful and ladylike. The Fullertons were a retired pastor and wife that were in our church. They were wonderful examples of serving the Lord after retirement. She was a gracious hostess and he inspired and encouraged many young pastors and church leaders.

I could write page after page about people from my youth that either inspired me or disappointed me. Either way, they made an impression and most of them did not know they were teaching me.

Let’s look at ways that we can mold and impress the children and young people that are watching us.

     1.  We cannot impress others with something that we do not do ourselves.

Before we try to mold and shape others we must be doing our best to live that kind of life ourselves. If we want children that are saved, disciplined and serving the Lord we must set the example.

We cannot lead others any farther than we have gone ourselves. A leader must be out front, a step ahead showing others the way to walk. The apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Paul could not have encouraged the believers in Corinth to follow him if he was not attempting to set the pace by being a Christ like example for them.

If you are going to insist that your children memorize scripture and read their Bibles daily, they need to see you doing it on a regular basis. If you want your children to appear at breakfast well groomed with their beds made and their rooms in order then you better make sure that you are doing it first. Don’t make excuses for sitting at the breakfast table in a scruffy robe, with uncombed hair and dirty teeth. When your children say, “Mommy, why isn’t your bed made? You tell us we can’t eat until ours is done!” What will you say that makes sense to them? Most likely nothing unless you have been sick!

Yes, it takes a lot of work to stay a step ahead of those that you lead. Ask any teacher, pastor or CEO. But the rewards are worth it both in the results you see in those that are following as well as the growth in your own life.

      2.  Impressions are made daily and in all kinds of situations.

Deuteronomy 6: 6-8 says And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way,and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

God commands us to teach our children at all times. When we sit, walk, lie down, and get up. In other words we are teaching and making impressions on others when we talk, work, and relax. Do our actions match our words? Some of your most impressive teaching can come from how you react to adverse circumstances.

Years ago the Lord taught me a lesson while I was reading the first chapter of James where it says in verse 2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. We were going through some rough times and I was concerned that our children would grow up despising the ministry because of all the problems and the lack of finances. The Lord showed me that my children’s attitude toward serving the Lord would be a direct reflection of my attitude.

If I responded with joy and faith in God’s working in my life than they would see it as exciting and something to be desired. If I was creative and learned to pray for things that I needed or wanted and showed Ryan and Tiffany how God provided, than they would not be afraid to trust the Lord for His provision.

On the other hand, if I was bitter, whiney, constantly complaining about everything that we lacked because we were in full time ministry I could be sure that my children would have no desire to serve the Lord. So often we are quick to complain to God and others when things are rough but we never praise God when he answers prayers. We don’t even acknowledge him when he gives us something extra that we didn’t even ask for!

Check your actions and your words. Are you constantly fighting your children to get them away from the TV to go play or do some chores? How much time do you spend glued to the TV, Computer or phone? Do the young ladies that you are trying to help grow spiritually whine all the time? Listen to your own speech and attitudes.  Are they just reflecting you? Before you complain that their bedroom is a wreck, check the state of your own room and ask yourself have I ever shown them how to clean a room and keep it that way?

Ladies, I understand that there will be times that in spite of your best efforts our children will be lazy, whiney, and total slobs. They are human beings with a sinful nature. They are immature and must learn. The point is what are they learning from our actions?

       3. Teach your children how to dress and act appropriately for all situations. 

Children should be taught good manners and appropriate dress. I know this is a foreign concept to the world. But the Bible tells us in II Corinthians 5:20 that we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. When I think of an ambassador I think of someone who knows how to act and dress appropriately to be a good representative of their country in a foreign land. As Christians we are foreigners here on earth representing our country, heaven, and our heavenly father.

Although the concept of good manners seems to be almost obsolete today it is a Biblical concept called the “Golden Rule” which we can read in Matthew 7:12. Good manners is simply putting the comfort of others first or showing simple respect. In one word it is learning to be unselfish.

When you fail to teach your children proper manners and etiquette, you are limiting their sphere of influence. There are still people in this world who will not give you the time of day much less listen to your witness if you do not know how to act and dress properly. You may be thinking, “what do I care I wouldn’t want to be around those snobs anyway.” Don’t those “snobs” deserve to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As parents we should realize that we don’t know where God may call our children to serve. By teaching them how to act and dress appropriately for every situation we are preparing them for whatever they are called to do. If we don’t teach them, it may not keep them from following the Lord’s will. But the road to preparedness will just be longer and harder because they have so much more to learn.

When my children were young, they would complain to me about being the only kids in church that had to dress up. I told them that when we go to church we are there to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We would dress up to meet an earthly king or president therefore it is only fitting that we wear our best to go to church. Furthermore, I added that it is easy to learn to be comfortable in jeans and a T shirt but feeling comfortable in a suit or a dress and heels is an art that will make it easier to fit in if God calls you to serve in a place where you are expected to dress up daily.

As Christians we like to quote the scripture from I Samuel 16:7 b for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. This is good for helping all of us to remember that our inward attitude is more important than our exterior appearance. But we must pay attention to the first part of that sentence also. The only thing that people can see is our exterior. Until they get to know us they do not know what we are thinking. If we distract from our message by dressing in a worldly or inappropriate manner we have just put up barriers to winning them to Christ.

When I was a little girl my mother bought some china egg cups for the express purpose of teaching me how to eat hard boiled eggs in a formal situation. Not an easy task since, at the time, I hated eggs in any form! 🙂 Her reason for doing this was to help me avoid being embarrassed like she once was. When Mama was a young lady, she was invited to a wealthy friend’s home. They were served hard boiled eggs for breakfast in china egg cups. She had no idea how to eat them in a proper manner.

No I have never had eggs served to me that way. But that lesson was just one of many that I received as a child that was a result of my parent’s extensive travels and many experiences. Another thing that my parents did was take me out to eat on a regular basis even when they weren’t making good money—it was just part of the budget. We went to a wide range of restaurants everything from the local diner to places with exotic names and menus. I learned how to act in a cheap hamburger place or an expensive tablecloth and cloth napkin fine dining establishment. When I went to college, I noticed the difference in girls that had never had these experiences and those that had.

I realize that taking several children out to eat at a nice restaurant can cost a fortune. You can somewhat remedy that by having a “Manners Night”. Cook a nice meal, set the table with your best dishes and use silverware for each course (salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork). Make the table look as pretty and formal as you can. Since it is a special meal have everyone dress up like they were going out to a special restaurant. When it is time to eat, the boys should hold the chairs for the girls, napkins should be placed in the laps, food should be passed appropriately, ect.

If you are unsure what some of the dining etiquette rules are ask someone to teach you or buy a good book and read it. If you will take the time to do this on a regular basis, you may find that not only will your little urchins become more civilized, you all may come to enjoy this special night. It will definitely increase your children’s confidence when confronted with a formal situation. Another added benefit will be that you will not be afraid to take your children out in public. In fact, you may have the joy of a waitress saying to you, “Your children are so good! It’s been a long time since I have seen such well mannered kids!” That’s when you know that all the teaching and practice was worth it. 🙂

     4.  In order to make an impression on someone we must spend time with them.

Children will mimic those that they spend the most time with—parents, teachers, babysitters, or peers. We live in a society that considers it normal for both parents to work and put the children in daycare until they are old enough to go to school. For those of you with young children consider carefully what you are giving up when you drop your baby off at a baby sitter’s house and go to work for 8-10 hours. Are you making enough money to make it worth all the time that you are not there to train your child? God gave us children to train and mold into God fearing adults that would carry on the Christian legacy. How can we do that if we are only with them 4-6 waking hours a day and part of that is spent rushing them through breakfast and into the car so we can get to work?

The children in America are growing up knowing more about video games and sports than they do about everyday life. They need to learn how to clean, cook, shop for groceries, mow a lawn, paint a room, balance a check book and so on. They cannot learn that if you are not there to teach them. It is imperative that we look at our schedules and make sure that our priorities are in the right order. If you have to work less or take your kids out of some extracurricular activities so that they have time to do chores at home, do it! It is far more important for your kids to spend time with Mom and Dad than with their coach and peers. I guarantee that when your children are grown they will remember the times spent with family working together before they remember all the fancy electronic gadgets that you bought them.

When your children (biological and spiritual) grow up they should be able to say with pride “My parents or parent substitute made a great impression on me. I want to be a faithful, Godly parent just like they are.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHO GETS THE CREDIT?

Over the last few weeks I have been doing a word study in the Bible on the subject of pride.  So far I have found 60 verses that mention pride.  We often use the word “pride” as a complimentary term such as, “She takes pride in her work”.  In that sense it is a good thing because it means that a person wants to do their best. But, none of these verses indicates that we should feel good about being called proud.  God makes it very clear in His Word that pride is NOT one of the fruits of the spirit.  In fact, many of the fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 are the exact opposite of pride such as meekness.  Love and peace are the manifestations of a humble spirit not someone who is filled with pride.

When we look at problems and strife in our life we can often trace it to a root sin of pride.  Proverbs 28:25 tells us, “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife.”  Think about this statement.  When someone is determined to be right and is too proud to apologize, it causes all kinds of misery.  Marriages dissolve, churches split, jobs are lost, people are even killed and the proud perpetrator ends up in jail all because of pride.

When our Heavenly Father repeatedly mentions something in the Bible it means He is trying to get our attention.  The saying goes that repetition aids learning.  God is the best teacher and He knows that we need to hear something over and over and over in order for it to sink into our proud hearts and dull brains.  We have been taught in the last few decades that “we are worth it”.  That was an advertising phrase used to get us to buy expensive items.  Unfortunately that has sunk in to our thinking making the average American think that they have rights and privileges to demand that others recognize how special they are. As Christians we should understand that in God’s eyes we are nothing but dirty rotten sinners. (Gal. 6:3; I Jn. 1:8; Isa. 64:6)  It doesn’t matter what level of education we have completed, how much money we have amassed or how noble our family name is.  We have no right to boast except in the fact that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and God has adopted us as His child.  If we do manage to have some measure of earthly success, it is only because God gave us the talents and strength to accomplish what we needed to do.

Pride can cause us to be angry with God because we somehow think that He cheated us out of our “rights”.  We mistakenly believe that our Heavenly Father promised us that life would be perfect.  We are not supposed to struggle financially, have disappointments, or lose anyone that we love.  Where did we get that idea?!  I vividly remember a time about 25 years ago when I questioned God.  We had a Christian Camp that we had built.  My husband had erected a storage barn back in the woods that he used to store all the things that were given to us as well as building materials that he had scavenged from barns he tore down.  Our old tractor was also parked in that building.  While we went out to dinner with friends the barn caught on fire and everything in it was lost.  It was thousands of dollars worth of materials.  The next morning I was driving out to camp to view the damage crying and praying.  In all my earthly wisdom, I complained to God that we had given up much to serve Him.  We were living by faith and had very little.  In my humble opinion we had been faithful and certainly deserved to be rewarded not punished!  Why would he take these treasures from us?  It was the classic question that I am sure our Heavenly Father has heard thousands of times.  A thought came to my mind which I am sure was God’s voice, “Why not you?  What makes you more special than any other Christian?”.  Oops, the Lord certainly knows how to put me in my place! 🙂

I was operating on the assumption that, if we followed Him, everything would always go my way.  Yet God never promised us that life on this sinful earth would be easy.  Nor did He tell us that once we become a Christian we are better than anyone else.  If by God’s grace He has called us to full time Christian ministry, that still gives us no reason to feel superior to those that are working a secular job and faithfully serving in the church.  Any success we see in whatever ministry we are involved in is only by the grace of God.  He could have brought that success without our help; but, he graciously allows us to be a part of His work and reap the eternal rewards.  When we are praised for doing something in the church, at work or at home, we should thank the Lord that He gave us the ability to do that task and people were blessed.

I have found that the people I most admire are those with a humble, servant attitude.  They seek to help others not caring who gets the credit.  Their reward is not the praise of man.  It is to see those that they try to help making good decisions and going forward to serve the Lord.  They may receive the honor of man and other rewards here on earth.  But the ultimate goal of these humble people is to hear from their Heavenly Father the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Let me challenge you to check your motivation.  Why are you doing what you do with the 24 hours that God gives you each day?  Do you quit if no one notices your “hard” work?  Do you get mad when you do not get a thank you?  Do you ALWAYS have to be right?  Is selfish pride keeping you from admitting there could be another opinion or method to accomplish the same goal?  Do you have trouble admitting you could be wrong?  All of these problems point to pride which God in His Holy Word calls sin.

We are all infested with this sin at one time or another.  It is time to ask the Lord to help us see the truth behind our actions and humble ourselves by asking for forgiveness.  We all need to ask the Holy Spirit to fill us daily that we might serve God and others with the right attitude.

It has been said that it would be amazing what could be accomplished if everyone worked like it all depended on them and no one cared who got the credit.  

MY CHILD WOULD NEVER DO THAT!

I was talking to a friend the other day who was struggling with some poor choices that an adult child had made. One of the hardest things she had to deal with was the way other Christians (including her pastor) seemed to think about the situation. It reminded me how often we let pride and assumptions override our love of the brethren.  How many times do we miss the opportunity to share our troubles with a dear friend who might encourage us and lend some perspective because we are afraid they will judge us.

One thing I have learned over the years is that there is no perfect person or perfect family.  There are people in the ministry that try to appear to be perfect.  News flash:  No one but God is perfect!  Even the families that seem to have reared kids that are serving the Lord and doing everything that any parent would want have heartaches and disappointments.

As sisters and brothers in God’s family, we need to remember that our creator made us all different.  We have unique personalities.  Some people just seem to naturally want to serve the Lord and do what is right while others have to take the hard route of experience.  The fact that a young person makes, what seems to us, poor choices does not necessarily reflect bad parenting.  I am NOT saying that their parent was perfect.  Each of us hopes and prays that we will rear children that will desire to serve the Lord and contribute to society.  Unfortunately, we are sinful human beings and only by the grace of God will our children make us proud.  Oops, there is the problem.  We want to be proud of our progeny.

Maybe part of the problem is that we are trying to follow the world’s standards for who and what we should honor.  Sometimes we tend to be like the proverbial jewish mother that wants her children to go into a profession that makes lots of money and is held in high esteem by the general public.  You know, things like being a doctor, lawyer, successful business owner or community leader.  We may have children that are called to a profession like that.  But not all children are gifted by God to be in a profession.  As Christians we should be thrilled if our children are called to full time Christian ministry even if it is in some poor area where they will never be honored by others and most likely will not ever make enough to live on by the world’s standards. Our goal should be to rear children that honor the Lord and will faithfully serve Him in whatever capacity He calls them.  That at the end of their lives they might say with Paul “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  II Timothy 4:7

When our friends are struggling with choices that their children have made, it is not up to us to judge their parenting skills.  Our job as Christian brothers and sisters is to pray for and encourage them.  We don’t always see the whole picture and we certainly don’t know what God is doing in their lives to mold them to be what He wants them to be.  In fact, sometimes the choices that our children make can be opportunities for us to understand other parent’s struggles when their offspring do not meet their expectations.

It is so easy for us to watch a family from the outside and say to ourselves, “they should have done it this way.  If that were my child I would discipline them better or train them to do …….”.  Sometimes maturity does bring certain insights because of our life experience; but, we can’t possibly know all about another family’s personalities, gifts and situations.  I suggest that we give others the same mercy and grace that we want to receive when our family is struggling.  Let’s devote our time to praying for our friends and their children and asking God how we can encourage others in the struggles of life.

GOD IS GOOD

Two 1/2 weeks ago my husband had a heart attack. His heart had to be shocked 6 times before they got him into the operating room to put a stent in his artery. We found out that only 8% of men who have this kind of heart attack survive. God was good to us in that He put my husband was in that 8%.  Many people reacted to our numerous posts about his recovery with the phrase “God is good”.  In fact, I have seen this phrase used repeatedly when someone reacts to an answer to prayer that is in their favor.

What if I had been planning a funeral last week instead of bringing my husband home from the hospital?  Would God still be good?  Absolutely!  We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that God is only good when he gives us what we want.  Yes, it’s wonderful when we see God work a miracle and can clearly point it out to others.  But our Creator is not Santa Claus!  Because he made us and knows all about the plan for our life He also knows what is best for us even when it hurts and seems totally wrong to our limited way of thinking.

God is our Heavenly Father and just like an earthly father sometimes disappoints us or allows us to be hurt by reaping the consequences of our poor choices.  A child does not understand why Daddy won’t give them everything that they want; but, a good father knows that fulfilling every desire that a child has will only result in a weak, spoiled, lazy adult that no one wants to be around.  The same is true for the children of the King of Kings.  God sees the overall plan and he knows that we must suffer in order to grow stronger.  He understands that it is good to wait for what we desire so that we will learn patience and appreciate it more when the answer comes.  God also allows hurts and disappointments in our lives so that we can better sympathize with and pray for others that go through similar problems.

Our Heavenly father truly is good because He desires the best for us not a weak imitation that will not produce beautiful fruit in the end. I praise the Lord that I still have my husband here on the earth; but, I pray that I would still be able to praise Him if it had been in God’s plan to take Larry home to Heaven on July 6.  God is always good even when we cannot see the ultimate plan that He has for us.

LET PEACE RULE

I have been working on memorizing Colossians 3:12-17. Every morning during my devotions I have read and repeated these verses. The other day I was going over these verses for probably the 100th time and one word in verse 15 jumped out at me. That word was “let”. I am sure that the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that in order to have His peace we had to LET him work.

We can beg and plead with God to give us peace; but, when we insist on rerunning in our minds all the possibilities of things that could go wrong and all the things that have gone wrong in the past we will not have peace.  No where in scripture does God promise to zap us with peace just because we asked for it.  In fact Psalm 34:14 and I Peter 3:11 tell us that we are to “seek peace and pursue it.”  Doesn’t that sound like we are responsible for working toward peace of mind?

It is so easy to ask God to give us peace of mind then finish praying and go right back to worrying about all the little details that we can’t seem to control.  Lately I have been convicted through my reading that worry is a sin and just like any sin we must learn to confess it and ask the Lord to help us overcome this sin.  It is up to us to control where our thoughts go.  The Bible tells us that we are the sum total of what we concentrate on (Proverbs 23:7).  Our Heavenly Father even gives us a list of what we should allow our minds to dwell on in Philippians 4:8.  When we start to panic or worry we should ask ourselves, “Is this true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute?”.  These are the things that we should allow our minds to dwell on.  Whatever will bring praise and glory to God will result in the peace that He promises us in His word.

Let me encourage you to ask the Lord to help you to overcome the temptation of the devil to repeat all your worries throughout the day.  Instead make a list of all those things that are good and lovely in your life and start repeating them to yourself when you are tempted to worry over something that you can’t control anyway.  I want to “LET” God give me peace.  Do you?

LIVING BY FAITH

I have been married 43 years. A majority of that time my husband and I have lived by faith. What do I mean by that statement? Simply, that we have never had the income that would provide for us to live the way we do. I hear many Christians talk about how they trust God to take care of them. Yet, it seems to me that they are truly trusting in themselves and their ability to make a living. If, God forbid, they would suddenly lose their job; panic would set in. Please understand that I am not saying that other Christians have less faith then I do. I have often sat at my desk with bills in front of me whining to God that we just couldn’t pay these bills and wanting to know what He was going to do about it.

Living by faith is so much more than trusting God to pay the bills it also includes our circumstances.  I have been guilty of thinking that as long as I trusted God to take care of the bills and provide for our physical needs that I was living by faith.  But how do I react when the plans I have are completely blown apart?  When God brings something or someone into my life unexpectedly do I trust that He has a plan that is far better than mine?  As Christians we often brag that we have faith in God.  We sing about our faith in hymns like “Only Trust Him” and “My Faith has found a Resting place”.  We quote scripture about trusting the Lord and His plans for our lives. Yet when life throws us a curve how do we react?

What kind of curves am I talking about?  Losing a job, death of a loved one–especially someone that is “too young to die”, breakdown of our vehicle which we need to go to work, an unplanned pregnancy, betrayal of a good friend, daily roadblocks that mess up our schedule.  There are many more but these came to mind.  God often brings things like this into our lives to remind us that we are NOT in control.  Little things like a simple cold or virus that makes us feel awful and frustrates our ability to accomplish our daily tasks can drive us crazy and send us running to our Heavenly Father demanding that He make us better or “fix” the situation because we have things to do!  True, most of us have some kind of schedule in our head and being sick wasn’t on the list.  Yet, shouldn’t we be asking God what was your plan for me today?  The Bible tells us that we are to give thanks in everything.  Doesn’t that include things that we do not like or understand? Of course it does!  God doesn’t give us an exception clause.  He just simply tells us to do it all the time in good times and bad whether we understand it or not.

So my question is: Are we willing to say “Heavenly Father, I know you and trust you.  I know you love me and have a perfect plan for my life therefore I will thank you for every circumstance, change of schedule, lack of funds or abundance of funds, obvious blessings and trials that could be a blessing.”?  My challenge for myself and you, my reader, is to learn to be thankful in every circumstance trusting that our loving Heavenly Father has a perfect plan for every minute of every day.

 

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