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?

A LIFE WORTH SHARING

The other day I was talking to someone, no I can’t remember who…senior moment 🙂 , about the advantages of experience. When I was young, just graduated from college and in my first decorating job I would get irritated that people were not impressed with my credentials because I looked too young to know anything. Then I became a youth pastor’s wife and again my advice to parents was not generally accepted because I did not have kids and could not possibly understand their situation. Now that I am officially a senior citizen and a grandparent I understand what a difference experience makes. 

I have often said that I am not impressed with a speaker that wants us to believe that they were born perfect and never had to learn anything.  If that is true, and we all know that it is not, then how can they possibly teach me?  After all, I know I was NOT  born perfect; therefore, I could not possibly attain to their level of perfection!  🙂 So why try?

II Corinthians 1:3-4 has repeatedly been used in my life to remind me that both my good and “bad” experiences are part of God’s plan.  Our creator knows that we need to have experience in many things so that we can be a comfort to others as we share with them how God helped us through similar situations.  But, we cannot help others if we have not emerged victorious from life’s trials.  It is no help to a hurting soul to simply tell them that you know how bad they are feeling.  It is good to empathize with their pain; but, the blessing comes when you can encourage them by sharing how God helped you and what you learned through your hard times. 

So what is the point in life’s trials and disappointments?  Sometimes it is simply God trying to turn us away from a sin that would ruin us or result in a life of pain and regrets.  But many times our loving Heavenly Father is simply giving us an opportunity to grow and learn so that someday we can help others who are experiencing similar difficulties.  When the difficulties and frustrations arise, let me encourage you to get into God’s Word and ask Him what He wants you to learn or how you can gain victory in this situation.  Learn to praise God because He loves you enough to allow you to grow through hard times and He has a plan that is for your good.  When you come out on the other side victorious, take the time to share it with others who are experiencing similar problems.  You will find that many times they will say to you “Thank you for sharing. I can tell that you understand because you have been there and you are not just repeating scripture with no understanding.”  That is what makes a life worth sharing.

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 3

 

 

Larry started the process of calling pastors to make a appointments to visit them and share our vision for a good Christian camp in the Midwest.  He soon learned that most pastors weren’t receptive to a stranger with no “connections”  who just wanted to stop by to talk to them.  Many times we would drive to the city where we knew there were several good churches and call the pastor and ask him if we could drop by in 30 minutes since we just happened to be in town.  It reminded me of a door to door salesman who had to get his foot in the door before people would listen to him.  Now, being a pastor’s wife, I understand that these men only have so much time and most of these small, Midwestern churches have limited resources.  Therefore, a pastor has to pick and choose who he invites to present their ministry to the people of his church.  But it still made it hard for us nobodies with no finances to get our foot in the door.  However, we were led to some good men who had a vision for what God could do.

During this time we still had not found any land so there was not an existing camp that we could show pictures of.  All Larry could do was tell people what God had laid on his heart.  He would explain about our philosophy of camping and what we wanted to accomplish in people’s lives.  He would tell them that a good Biblical philosophy, and quality Christian staff were more important then the physical place.  Then someone would inevitably raise their hand and say, “This sounds great!  Where is it?”  To which my husband would answer. “We don’t know.  The Lord hasn’t shown us yet.”  You could almost see those careful Midwesterners lean back on their wallet while they thought, ” these two people are crazy!”  After 6 months of travelling all over Iowa, Missouri, & Western Illinois, presenting our ministry we were about ready to agree with some of these church members. 🙂

During this time, we had calls from people who had “camps” they wanted to sell us.  We hiked over many acres and checked out dozens of buildings to no avail.  One of the camp properties was so bad that we both agreed that a bomb would be the best solution. 🙂  Then God led Dave Phelps to call us.  He was a deacon at a small Baptist Church where Larry had presented the camp ministry.  Dave was wondering if we had found any land.  He had some acreage that he needed to sell.  It was the farm crisis of 1983 when many farmers were having to sell land and equipment to help them with their astronomical debt. 

We had been praying for 5 things: 1.  150 acres of land.  You can’t build a camp with lots of activities without space.  2.  Rolling hills and trees.  In Iowa most land is flat which is great for farming but not very picturesque.  3. Private but accessible.  We had looked at some camps that the drive to the facility would be a hindrance for some people.  We also had been offered some land that a railroad track ran right through the middle!  4. A pond for water activities or a place that one could be built.  5. Affordable.  Remember, we had no money and no steady income. 

The Phelps’ land had it all plus extra!  It was 160 acres of rolling hills and trees with a small farm pond on it plus two other low areas that eventually became bigger ponds/lakes.  It was only a mile from a paved highway and at the end of the road.  Dave only asked for the amount that he had invested in the property and he would give us from May to October to raise what money we could for the first payment.  We didn’t even have to go to a bank to secure a loan!  The best thing about this land was that Dave and his wife, Lonna, told us that they had bought the land years ago thinking that it would make a great place for a camp for young people.  They had seen the need from working with the youth in their church.  God had a plan years before He called us to move to Iowa. 

We signed the papers to buy the land and went to work.  God had given us everything we asked for.  Unfortunately, we had not put on that list minor things like electricity, running water & buildings.  There was one other minor detail that we needed–a place for us and our children to live.  We were still living in the upstairs of Mom & Dad’s house which was 45 miles north of the camp property.  Our Heavenly Savior had more surprises for us which I will tell you about later. 🙂

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 2

In the last chapter I mentioned that we were leaving NC in January to go to Iowa.  We did not have a hefty savings account to finance our trip.  There were no churches that had agreed to support us.  We were simply moving on faith that God had called us to do this and He would supply the need.  Since both of us are your typical type A personalities we knew how this was all going to work out.  God would sell our house and we could use the profit to finance our trip and live on for a little while until we had raised support.  The Sunday before we loaded the moving van arrived and the house was still unsold.  The church had a going away party for us that evening.  There were many nice things said mixed with an abundance of tears.  At the end of the testimonies, the chairman of the deacon board stood up and told us that the church had taken up a love offering to help finance our trip.  They had also voted to pay Larry’s salary in full for 3 months and 1/2 salary for another 3 months plus 6 months of insurance.  We were stunned!  The offering was enough to pay for the moving van, gas, and all but one meal.  God certainly provided!  What God orders he pays for.

Remember, I mentioned that it was nuts to move to Iowa in January?  The week before we moved there had been a huge snowstorm in the mountains of North Carolina.  It was so bad that semis were stuck on the interstate overnight while road crews cleared the mess.  This was the same interstate that we would be taking the next week.  By the time we left, the roads were clear but the snow was piled up on the shoulders.  As we were driving down one of those mountains, the brakes on the moving van that Larry was driving started to overheat.  My husband realized it and all of us pulled over while he grabbed handfuls of snow to throw on those brake lines that were cherry red.  If there had been no snow, we probably would have been dealing with a fire that burned up all of our worldly goods and possibly my parents things which was packed in the trailer hooked on to the moving van.  God was already providing for our care with a snowstorm that we didn’t think was a good thing at the time. 🙂  Even though there was snow the week before we left, we had no bad weather during the trip and it didn’t snow again until we had the moving van completely unloaded.  We serve an amazing God who controls the weather in His perfect timing.

The day before we got to Iowa my husband called his mother to see if she had found a place to store our furniture.  She told him that she was working on it.  Working on it!  Are you kidding?!  In 24 hours we would be arriving and needed a place to store 2000 square feet of furniture.  We were going to be living in their upstairs while we looked for a place to build a camp and live.  Well, there was nothing we could do but pray and hope.  Surely God had a plan.  After all, he had taken care of everything so far.  By the time we arrived, Mom had secured an empty apartment over a storefront in downtown Wayland, Iowa.  We unloaded my parents furniture into the mobile home that they had bought a few months earlier then proceeded to Wayland.  The next day a crew from Mom’s church came and helped us unload all of our worldly possessions into that apartment.  Those were the steepest stairs I had ever seen and it seemed like we were climbing halfway to heaven with our arms loaded. 

I also got a preview of small town living that day.  There was a grocery store across the street.  As I would go back to the moving van for another load, I would glance across the street and notice a line of onlookers in the windows.  I guess we were the entertainment and topic of discussion for the day.  It was sad to me that not one of those people walked across the street to welcome Larry home after being gone for more than a decade or to introduce themselves to me and welcome me to their town.  Note to those of you that live in a small community.  When new people come to town, don’t ask others who they are and why they are there.  Walk across the street or the aisle, introduce yourself and offer to help them find their way around.  Do what you can to make them feel a part of the village that you live in.

We rearranged the furniture in Mom’s upstairs to make a sitting room/office at the top of the stairs and started the process of contacting churches.  Several months before we moved my husband had sent out a letter to fundamental churches that he knew in Iowa asking if they thought there was a need for A good Christian camp.  There were 14 pastors that responded that this was a wonderful idea.  They thought there was a great need.  Unfortunately, out of those eleven men there were only 2 that supported us when we actually moved to Iowa.  It seems that they wanted a good camp for their people as long as God didn’t ask them to use their money or time to make it happen.  Is that what we do?  Do we pray for something and when God shows us how we can make it happen we tell God that we didn’t expect to have to pay for it or use our precious time to accomplish the task?

One thing I have learned is that God DOES listen to our prayers.  When we ask God to bring something to pass we better be prepared to get involved either with time or money.  If we are not willing to get involved in the Lord’s work, God will still make it happen in spite of us; but, we will miss the blessings.  At this point we were involved with both feet and no idea how God was going to work out the impossible task of building a camp somewhere with nothing.

REJOICE

 

Last month I started a word study in Scripture to discover how many times the Lord told us to rejoice.  As I was working on this, it dawned on me that God commanded us to rejoice repeatedly because He knew that we won’t do this naturally.  At times life is hard, we don’t understand the trials that our loving Heavenly Father allows us to go through, and rejoicing is the LAST THING that we want to do.  Yet, over and over in scripture we are reminded to rejoice.

After several weeks of research, I found 44 specific times in scripture where we are commanded to rejoice.  Sometimes these commands are for specific times or occasions.  Other verses simply tell us that we are to rejoice always or evermore.  This is only the tip of the iceberg.  I only looked for verses using the word rejoice.  No research was done with any synonyms for rejoice.

What did I learn from this study?  God wants us to learn to rejoice in Him, NOT OUR CIRCUMSTANCES.  I have found that rejoicing is an act of the will.  We determine what our attitude will be in any given situation.  We can decide to trust God and rejoice in the fact that He is in control and there is a plan that will benefit us in the end.  Or we can worry and fret while trying to devise solutions for the problem.  The second choice is so silly because God can see the whole situation.  He already has a plan that will work out far better than anything we can concoct.  Yet, we humans seem to think we know more than God and with just a little help from above can solve our own problems. 🙂  In fact, we usually make more problems trying to do it our way instead of waiting for God’s perfect plan.

When we choose to rejoice in situations that are incomprehensible, we show to the world that we trust our all powerful, all knowing Heavenly Father.  Anyone can and will worry and fret when things go wrong.  It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome anxiety by rejoicing in who God is and the plans that he has for our life. The fact is when we allow the devil to win by rehearsing negative thoughts repeatedly and refusing to trust and rejoice we are sinning.  It is up to us to make the choice to obey God or obey Satan.  I choose God’s way.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”  Philippians 4:4

RESOLUTIONS

It’s the beginning of the new year and traditionally this is a time when many of us make new year’s resolutions and set goals that we hope to achieve within the next 12 months. As Christians we should constantly be growing and maturing. Part of becoming a mature Christian entails recognizing our sins and shortcomings and making a vow to change. Over the years I have made many resolutions and set goals to improve my life. Unfortunately, many of these have failed. Often within the first week or two of the new year.

Life is a battle of good versus evil or being the best versus just being mediocre. There is a constant war going on in our lives to do right or ignore what we know we should do and be comfortable. Satan helps us by making it much easier to do wrong than to do right. After all it seems so simple to hit the snooze alarm instead of getting up early enough to have time for devotions. It is much easier to grab something at a fast food drive thru than it is to take the time to prepare a healthy lunch at home. Staying home from Church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday will often seem like a better idea than fighting the schedule, the children, and the weather. But when we make the choice to do right in spite of the circumstances God always blesses and the rewards are amazing.

This lesson is about setting goals that will help us to grow and be more effective for the work of the Lord. We will look at the following three topics: 1. Why we should have goals. 2. How to set a goal that is achievable. 3. Winning the battle over Satan to cross the finish line. My goal in writing this is that we all would be inspired to work harder, get back on track, and become the women that God created us to be.

1. Why we should have goals. Paul tells us in Philipians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. As Christians we have a high calling from our Lord and Savior to strive to be perfect and walk in His steps. Our creator knows that we will never be perfect He only asks that we keep trying to do better.

In Philipians Paul is comparing the Christian life to running a race. An athlete who aspires to compete in the Olympics doesn’t get to the Olympic village by wandering aimlessly around a track. He will start by setting small goals of running maybe a mile in a certain time. When he can do that well, then he pushes himself farther and faster. Even if he sometimes fails or has a bad day, he doesn’t quit or make excuses. No, he just keeps trying until he reaches that goal.

The point is that God gave his only son to save us for all eternity. Once we are saved God calls us to serve Him. In order to serve Him we must be developing the gifts that He has given us so that we will glorify Him while we are on this earth.

If we truly are serious about desiring to please the Lord and glorify Him, then we must take the time to sit down by ourselves and take an honest inventory of our life. This means that we would say as David said in Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Before we can truly improve our lives we have to allow God to point out sinful attitudes and actions that are keeping us from growing and moving forward.

As we are convicted of wrong attitudes or actions then we need to immediately confess them and ask the Lord to help us to change (I John 1:9). Having a desire to change is where resolutions or goals start.

2. How to set a goal that is achievable. Having a desire to improve is admirable. Unfortunately, we often know we need to do something but we go about it in the wrong way so that we are almost defeated before we start. If we truly want to have success, we must do it God’s way.

While you are still sitting and listening to the prompting of the Lordstart writing. Make a list of areas that you know needs to improve or change. That list will vary with each person. Let God show you what area or areas He wants you to concentrate on this year. Keep in mind this is your personal list not your neighbor’s, your best friend’s or your sister’s list. You are not responsible for the shortcomings of someone else. God will only hold you accountable for your actions and reactions.

Now it’s time to pray and ask God to give you the wisdom to implement these goals and actually see victories this year. James 1:5 says If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Remember, God made us just the way we are and He wants to help us. All we have to do is ask.

I believe that we often fail in our resolutions because they are made in the flesh for the wrong reasons and we don’t bother to ask the Lord for His direction and assistance. For instance, there is nothing wrong with having a desire to lose weight and get in shape because you want to have more energy to serve the Lord and be a better testimony to the world of living a balanced Christian life. But if your motivation is to look like some model or to emulate someone that you have envied for years then you are doomed to failure. It is hard to overcome years of poor habits when you are trying to do it all in the flesh. Once you are sure what goals the Lord wants you to strive for, make a new list. This time write down the end goal.

Remember your creator knows you and He will help you to recognize what areas you need to concentrate on during this year.  Such as lose 50 pounds, have daily devotions, exercise regularly, develop a positive attitude.  You get the idea.  Don’t try to change yourself entirely in one year.  That is a recipe for failure!  That doesn’t mean that you ignore obvious areas of sin because it is not on your list.  When you are convicted of something your must confess and work at getting rid of that sin.

The next step is to break down the yearly goals into monthly or weekly goals.  If you want to lose weight such as 50 pounds then divide that by 12 and you will write down “lose 4.16 pounds per month.”  When you break a goal down like that it is seems much more achievable.  To tell yourself that you will lose 50 pounds sounds impossible but 4-5 pounds doesn’t seem nearly as hard.

Do you have a desire to become more organized in the coming year?  That is definitely a worthwhile goal; but, don’t write down “organize the whole house”.  Set deadlines for cleaning and purging.  Such as “Clean out basement by February 28, finish the garage by end of April, and closet makeovers completed by July 1.”  Once you have done this, don’t hide the list!  In fact it might be good to make notes on your calendar to remind yourself to get moving a couple of weeks before the deadline.  These deadlines should be as firm in your mind as if your boss at work had issued them and was coming to your house to check your progress.  Remember God is watching and checking your progress on a daily basis.

If your resolution pertains to something spiritual or an attitude, you can’t break it down but you can write down the steps you will take to win over sin.  For instance, let’s say that you want to learn to be more positive in your outlook.  The first step might be to do a Bible study on attitudes.  Next you could memorize scripture on thoughts and attitudes.  Then work on songs that remind you to rejoice.

The point of all these steps is not to waste ink and paper but to help you visualize a plan to change your life.  Many plans can look impossible when we  only look at the end goal.  I can remember when I was in college and teachers would assign all the papers and projects for the entire semester on the first day of classes.  I would spend the next few days griping and worrying convincing myself that this was impossible and there was no way I would live through the next few months!  If only I had learned to break each project down to achievable goals my college days would not have been nearly as stressful!  Unfortunately, back then  I was a world-class procrastinator and worrier! I hate to admit this, it has been more than 30 years since I graduated and I will still catch myself dithering about my lack of time to complete a project when I feel overwhelmed.  I can waste more time complaining about all that I have to do than I would have used simply attacking the problem and putting it behind me.

3. Winning the battle over Satan so that we can cross the finish line victoriously. The devil will not be happy when we try to get rid of sin and improve ourselves so that we can serve the Lord better and win souls for eternity. We must arm ourselves because when we make vows to God we are also drawing a line in the sand daring Satan to battle against us. We must remember that Satan’s goal is to defeat us so that others will look at us and say “She’s no different from me. Why would I need God and church?”.

First we must remember that when we prayed and asked God for help we were making a vow to our Lord and Master that we would change. The Bible has much to say to us about the promises that we make to God. Deuteronomy 23:21 says When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. That’s pretty plain—if we do not keep our vows to God we will be sinning. The psalmist says in Psalm 50:14-15 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. God repeats his command to honor our vows in Ecclesiastes 5:4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

Did you notice what the Lord said about those that did not keep their promises? They are fools! Ouch, that is rather harsh. But God’s word never lies. If the truth hurts then we need to take the steps necessary to make sure that we defeat the devil’s attacks and keep our vows.

Secondly, we must realize that we are not in this battle alone. When we ask God to help, He will be there every step of the way unless we choose to ignore Him. God told the children of Israel in

II Chronicles 20:15b Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not your’s but God’s. We must remember that once we have made a vow to God to improve our lives He steps in to fight our battles. It is not up to us to lead the fight, it is our job to follow our Heavenly Commander’s orders. When we do that we will find ourself doing as it says in Job 37:14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. If we are truly following God’s leadership, we will be amazed at what He can do to change our lives.

The last thing we need to win the battle is persistence. As I said earlier Satan will throw at you every excuse and diversion that he can think of. If one method fails, he will devise another one. You must decide that you are in this fight for the duration. Believe me it is far better to stay in the battle and keep your vows then to become an AWOL soldier that God would call a fool.

In order to defeat the devil you must learn to prepare for the disasters he will throw at you. For instance, if you promised you would make it the church every time the door is open, you must plan ahead for the lost shoes, last minute phone calls, and whatever else happens to make you late. In other words prepare ahead of time and start early.

Let’s say your new year’s resolution was to get more physically fit. The first thing to do is get all the food out of the house that is tempting but not good for you then replace it with healthy snacks. If you simply cannot make yourself exercise alone then ask someone to go with you so that you must do it regularly or let the other person down.

Maybe you promised to quit watching bad movies or TV or to give up music that did not glorify God. The first thing to do is throw out books, videos, DVD’s and CD’s that you know are not good. But you cannot leave a void in your life. Read Ephesians chapter 4 where Paul is explaining to the new Christians in Ephesus how their lives need to change once they are saved. The apostle Paul knew that we humans cannot put away things that are bad without replacing them with something good.

The point of all this is plan ahead and then never, never, never quit. If you fail, get up, dust yourself off and start again. Remembering that God will help you to be victorious.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:57-58

MY GOAL

I thought it might be a good idea to share my goals for anyone that will read this blog.

In 2006 I started producing a newsletter for the ladies in my church to share with them lessons that God has taught me over my 50 plus years as a Christian. The Lord laid this on my heart several years before this but since I was convinced that writing was not my gift it took awhile for God to convince me that this was my next ministry.

This idea took off and soon I was emailing it to family, friends, fellow pastor’s wives & missionaries. I am still amazed when someone writes to me and expresses their gratitude while sharing how something in one of my newsletters spoke to them or blessed them.

Soooo, from time to time, I will be posting one of these Bible Lessons on my blog in the hopes that the Lord will spread his word farther and encourage women to serve and trust Him.

Since I am a decorator and love creating beautiful, organized spaces while saving money; I also do a housekeeping tip in each newsletter. I hope to post some of these also since I firmly believe that God expects us to keep beautiful homes that will glorify and honor him.

Please feel free to share thoughts and questions with me. I love to help and encourage women. Many things in the world we live in are so discouraging we all need to be encouraged and reminded of God’s many blessings.

Marcia