Happy New Year

 

Another year has come and gone. For my husband and me 2015 was a wonderful year filled with amazing blessings. In fact I ended my Christmas letter like this, “God is good all the time; but, some years He seems to pour blessings from Heaven our way. This has been one of those years.”  I have no idea what my Heavenly Father has planned for me this year; but, I know that whether it is more blessings or heartache it will be for my good.

Last June we moved back to the south after being in Iowa for 32 years.  God taught me so many lessons during those years.  I believe one of the biggest was to be content no matter what the circumstances.  Often things did not work out the way I wanted them to.  I couldn’t see what God was doing.  Where was the blessing in this trial?!  At times God and I had some very distressing talks!  I explained to Him that we were serving Him and things were NOT supposed to work out this way! 🙂  After all, He promised to protect and bless us if we served Him faithfully.  Of course, my very patient Heavenly Father would remind me that I could not see the whole picture and I must trust Him. 

Now I can look back and see how each disappointment and each trial taught me something.  I know I would not appreciate all that God has blessed us with here in SC if it were not for the lessons He taught me in the past. 

God told the children of Israel to make markers as they went through the wilderness that they might remind their children of all that God did for them.  Even in wilderness experiences, God has promised to be there with us if we will be faithful and trust Him to give us strength and teach us one step at a time.  No matter what 2016 holds, we can emerge victorious if we will walk with God by daily reading His Word and communicating with Him through prayer.   

As we start a new year, let me encourage each of you to review the lessons and blessings of the past so that we will be prepared to deal with whatever God sends our way this year.  May our New Year’s resolution be that we will be faithful no matter what our Heavenly Father has planned for us.

 

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THANKFUL FOR THE THORNS

I found this story on the internet and read it for our Thanksgiving service at church.

THANKFUL FOR THE THORNS

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. Had she lost a child? No – she has no idea what I’m feeling. Sandra shuddered. Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The flower shop clerk’s approach startled her. “Sorry,” said Jenny, “I just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.”

“I….I need an arrangement.”

“For Thanksgiving?” Sandra nodded

“Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the ‘Thanksgiving Special’?” Jenny saw Sandra’s curiosity and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted. “Sorry, but in the last five months, everything that could go wrong has.”

Sandra regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

The door’s small bell rang. “Barbara, hi!” Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of green bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers!”

“Want this in a box?” Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did.

“Yes, please. It’s exquisite.” Said Barbara. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I’d not be moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks.”

Sandra stared. “Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement?” she wondered. “Uh,” said Sandra pointing. “That lady just left with, uh . . . .”

“Yes”

“Well, she had no flowers!”

“Yep. That’s the Special. I call it the ‘Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“But, why do people pay for that?”

In spite of herself Jenny chuckled. “Do you really want to know?”

“I couldn’t leave this shop without knowing. I’d think about nothing else!”

“That might be good.” Said Jenny. “Well,” she continued, “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she faced major surgery.”

“Ouch!” said Sandra.

“That same year, I lost my husband, I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

“What did you do?”

“I learned to be thankful for thorns.”

Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?”

“I’m a Christian, Sandra. I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But, when bad stuff hit did I ever ask! It took time to learn that bad times are important. I always enjoyed the flowers of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra gasped. “A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is, I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.” She started to ask Jenny to “go on” when the door’s bell diverted their attention.

“Hey, Phil!” shouted Jenny as a balding rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra’s arm and moved to welcome him.

He tucked her under his side for a warm hug. “I’m here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Phil laughed heartily.

“I figured as much,” said Jenny. “I’ve got them ready.” She lifted a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet.

“Beautiful,” said Phil. “My wife will love them.”

Sandra could not resist asking, “These are for your wife?”

Phil saw that Sandra’s curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet.

“Do you mind my asking, Why thorns?”

“In fact, I’m glad you asked.” He said. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage – our love, really. Last year, at Thanksgiving, I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems—stems!—as a reminder of what she learned from ‘thorny times’. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I’m pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition.”

Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Sandra said to Jenny.

“Well my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resents thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take twelve long stemmed thorns, please.”

“I hoped you would,” Jenny said, “I’ll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year’s arrangement is on me.”

Jenny handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach a card like this to your arrangement but maybe you’d like to read it first. Go ahead, read it.”

“My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorns! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.”

Author unknown

 

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.

LIFE’S LESSONS

 

40th Anniversary cruise 002On June 1, 2014 my husband was asked to preach the 75th Anniversary sermon at Marshall Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.  He was their first youth pastor from 1979 to 1983.  I had an opportunity to share my testimony of all that God had done for us and taught me in the last 31 years.  The next few posts will be what I shared that day in an expanded version.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has “an expected end”  for us.  Nothing surprises God!  When we left Marshall Baptist Church there were many tears.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine why God was calling us to the Midwest to build a Christian Camp on faith.  That is what Larry told me we were called to do. In the late summer of 1982 my husband sat at our kitchen table and shared with me the burden that he was struggling with.  He felt God was calling him to go to the Midwest and build a Christian Camp.  He had already been struggling with it and arguing with God that this would not work.  After all, we were not trained in camp ministries.  He paused in his narrative, looked at me and said, “You are white as a sheet.  You look scared to death.”

Oh I definitely was!  I told him that there were many reasons this scared me.  First he was talking about moving to Iowa.  He may not have noticed but that is above the Mason Dixon line and it snows more up there in winter then I wanted to see in a lifetime.  THIS FLORIDA GIRL DOES  NOT LIKE TO BE COLD. 🙂  My next objection was moving to a small Midwestern town where everyone watched you and knew your business or at least made something up.  I grew up in Longwood, FL a suburb of Orlando.  We had lived in Greenville, SC and Winston-Salem, NC.  I liked cities with all the shopping, museums, concerts, people.  I had been to his hometown which is like a Norman Rockwell painting.  It’s a lovely place to visit but I didn’t want to live there. 🙂  Then I pointed out that I did NOT  like camping.  My idea of roughing it was Holiday Inn with the windows open.  Yes, I went to camp with our teens because I loved them and was willing to put up with some inconvenience for a couple of weeks to see their lives changed.  But, for the rest of our lives to be a camp directors wife?  Not my idea of fun!  Because I am a woman, and have the right to change my mind, I even pointed out that I did NOT want to be a camp director’s wife.  I wanted to be a pastor’s wife.  The ironic point here is that before I met my husband I had emphatically told my mother that I had never dated a preacher boy and I was not going to marry a pastor!  Last, but not least, was the fact that Larry was talking about moving on faith that God would provide.  That was NO guaranteed income.  Now, I could trust the Lord to provide all kinds of appliances, furniture and luxuries and unheard of prices because I prayed.  The problem here was that he was suggesting we trust him to provide housing, utilities and food.  We’ll starve and freeze to death!

Do you see the problem with all my objections?  It was all about me, my comfort zone, and being willing to step out on faith.  We had been teaching our teens that you must be willing to do the Lord’s will and trust Him to provide even if it wasn’t what we wanted to do.  We were serving God in Winston-Salem.  Why couldn’t we stay there?  Because you can’t serve God in the wrong place and be blessed.

When Larry and I were married, I promised to go wherever the Lord called him to assist him in the ministry.  I was not going to break my vow to God and him; but, I told my husband that he would have to pray for me to get used to this idea.  This was not even close to my plan A for our lives.  In fact, it was dangerously close to plan Z. 🙂  So we told the church we would be leaving in January and started making arrangements to move to Iowa.  Yes, I said January.  What person in their right mind moves to Iowa in January?!  We did.  In the next installment I will tell you how God’s timing was perfect and His provision was just enough

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

MY SCHEDULE OR GOD’S — WHO WINS?

THIS IS TAKEN FROM A NEWSLETTER THAT I PUBLISHED IN 2006.

Remember what I said a few months ago about wanting things to go my way?  I like to plan ahead—way ahead.  I love being able to look at the calendar and know what I am doing 6 months from now.  If I had my way, each day, week and month would be scheduled with very little deviation.  I would like to know that we will always eat our meals at the same time, go to bed at the same time and get up regularly.  Unfortunately, life does not work like that.  Even in households that have very set schedules there are sometimes wrenches thrown in the plans.  It is a constant struggle for me to remember that when my day does not go as planned it is no surprise to God.

I like to make lists and plan my day.  This is not a bad thing if I remember to ask God for His direction in my schedule for the day.  All too often I forget who is in charge and I make my plans and then “suggest” to God that He might like to bless those plans.  Even when the schedule is completely derailed I have found myself praying and asking the Lord to “fix” the problem so that I can get back on the track that MY train was scheduled to be on.  What is wrong with this scenario?  I want to be in charge with God’s blessing.  I have a tendency to believe that I know more about how my day, week, or month should go then God does.  Not only is this wrong, but I have given myself a lot of needless frustration and indigestion trying to do things my way and argue with the Lord.  The silly thing about all of this is that I have known since I was a child that God is all knowing, all powerful, and wants only the best for me!  So what is my problem?  Could it possibly be a sinful nature?  I hate to admit it; but, YES!

You see most of us are basically selfish creatures, full of pride and we tend to have tunnel vision when it comes to our lives.  We forget that God had a plan for our life before we were even born. So if the Lord has a grand plan for our life, wouldn’t it stand to reason that he also controls every minute of every day?

I think that most of us believe that God has a life plan for us but we tend to forget that there is a plan for each day.  So we go merrily on our way deciding what we will do each day and never consulting our Master about His wishes for the day.  Then, when things don’t go as planned, we become frustrated and sometimes angry at God for allowing situations and people to mess up our day.
So, how do we gain a righteous perspective of our daily interruptions and the major disasters in our lives?  By turning to God’s word and His instructions.  There are many reasons that the Lord chooses to bring problems, changes of schedule, or disasters in our lives.

First, God’s plan for our life is eternal.  My view is often short sighted because I cannot see the big picture.  When things are not going my way I become frustrated because I cannot see how God can possibly work this out for good.  Many years ago I came across an analogy of our life to a piece of needlework.  It said that God is working on the tapestry of our life.  Often we become frustrated because all we see is the ugly underside with the knots and broken threads.  But God sees the right side with the beautiful design that is forming and He knows what the finished product should look like.  We must learn to trust the Lord and not get is his way while He is weaving our life’s design.

 Psalm 37:23 & 24 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.  Note that is these verses the psalmist says the “steps” are ordered not the life of a good man.  I believe God is trying to get us to realize that each step we take is planned.  Nothing is an accident with God.  It may seem to be unplanned from our point of view but our Lord and Savior knew about each situation and planned it for our good.

God also knew that we would like to make plans.  In Proverbs 16:9 He tells us that A man’s heart deviseth his way:  but the Lord directeth his steps.  It’s all right to make plans as long as we ask for God’s direction in those plans.  We must remember that God’s way is perfect (Ps. 18:30) our way is imperfect.  It only stands to reason that if God has a divine plan for our entire life there is a plan for each step along the way.

 Romans 11:33 says O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  It is not up to us to understand why God changes our schedule or the path we are taking we only need to trust and follow.  The one who created us and designed our life can do just fine in orchestrating each day if we don’t get in the way.

 Second, God wants us to mature and learn to display the fruits of the spirit.  These are listed in Galatians 5:22,23.  Look it up and memorize this list if you haven’t already done so.  The Lord knows that we won’t develop joy, peace, longsuffering, & self-control if we never have any trials in our life.  Most of us don’t willingly ask God to give us patience because we know what builds patience!  So God, in his infinite wisdom, provides those learning experiences for us free of charge! J

Remember that beautiful tapestry of our life?  Part of the beauty comes from hard work, trials, & suffering.  Some of the metals and jewels that we humans admire like gold, silver, & diamonds are not beautiful when they are first mined.  It takes chipping away at the outside and polishing and firing them to truly bring out the shine and glory in these items.  That’s what God is doing when he applies the polisher of interruptions, irritations, and detours to our everyday schedule.  He is sanding off the rough edges and polishing us up so that we can better reflect His glory.

Some of the happiest, kindest, most beautiful people I know are not those that have had an easy life with everything seemingly dropping in their laps.  They are the ones that have worked hard, had major problems, and gained victory in the Lord.  Some of these people have attained what the world calls success.  Others in no way, shape, or form could be considered a success in the eyes of the average person.  But the common thread running through their lives is their obvious joy in the Lord and the ability to overcome obstacles and always see things from an eternal perspective.

In II Corinthians 4:17,18 Paul says For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 

We must remember that God allows trials, irritations & interruptions to help and teach us not just to drive us crazy!  I will never forget one day when I was in high school.  It was a VERY bad day I went huffing in to chapel and plopped down in my assigned seat.  Randy, the young man who sat next to me, looked at me and asked “Bad day?”.  Was that ever a mistake!  You have to remember he was young and had not learned what most of our husbands now know—sometimes it is best not to ask.  Anyway, I proceeded to inform him of how bad my day had been.  He looked at me and asked me “Marcia, do you know Romans 8:28?”  Well, of course I did!  I quoted it to him word for word.

Randy quietly asked “does it really mean ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD ?”  Well, he didn’t have to preach me a 3-point sermon!  I got the point!  The problem is that even now, 37 years later, I have a hard time remembering the point.


Third, God sometimes allows problems in our lives so that we can glorify Him and in turn help others that are going through the same trials.   Part of our testimony to the world is letting them see how we react to the normal everyday irritations of life.  You see any unsaved person can be happy when all the bills are paid, the car is running, the children are obedient, and the sun is shining.  What they can’t understand is how we can have joy in spite of everything going wrong!  It is when we learn to rejoice in the Lord and overcome the daily difficulties that we glorify Him and show the world what it truly means to be a Christian.

 

I Peter 2: 19, 20 says For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?  But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

 

The Lord also helps us understand that when we get victory over problems we can use the knowledge we have gained to help others in the same situation.  II Corinthians 1:4 says Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

 

When we learn to gain victory over large trials and small irritations in our lives then we can help others that are going through the same type of problems.  It is much more effective to tell someone that you have been through the same problem and this is how God helped you than it is to just spout scripture and give empty platitudes.  We all feel that someone truly understands when they have gone through a similar trial and can give testimony of God’s help and faithfulness.

 

Let’s pray for each other that God will help us to grow in Him and become the joyful, FLEXIBLE Christians that He would have us to be.

 

AN EXPECTED END

I find that in my life it is sometimes easier to believe that He has a great plan for me personally than it is to trust Him to take care of my grown children and their families.  When it comes to my children, I want to fix everything and solve the problems for them.  You might think that once your children are grown, married and on their own a mother could stop worrying because she knows that there is nothing she can do about their problems.  Anyone reading this that has grown children knows that that is not the way it works.  Particularly for those of us that are type A personalities that want to plan, organize, and fix everything. 🙂

I have struggled with the concept of allowing God to work in my children’s lives ever since they left home in 1998.  This is particularly strange since I spent their growing up years teaching them that they were to leave home, depend on God and become independent adults.  Once my teaching became reality I struggled with the knowledge that I couldn’t know what they were doing every hour of the day.  If any other mother had told me that she wanted to talk to her children daily to find out what they were doing and make sure that their decisions were mature & godly, I would have informed her that she needed to learn to let go!  And that would have been correct.  I have found it is much easier to give good advice than to apply it personally. 🙂

God gives us many promises in scripture that He will guide us and take care of us if we will look to Him for direction.  When our children have flown the nest, it is time for us to trust in those promises.  It is also up to us to remember that people always learn better when they have to struggle and learn to overcome with God’s help.  When my children were small I never pampered them when they fell and got hurt.  If it wasn’t serious, I would tell them to hop up and get moving they would be fine.  It was important that they learned to become tough to life’s bumps and bruises.  I wanted them to understand that life was hard at times and we had to learn to trust the Lord to help us overcome and give us the strength to  focus on the blessings of God not the trials and testings.

As parents, it is not our job to solve every problem for them and make the way easy.  It is our job to pray, encourage and be there when they ask for advice.  They will never become all that God wants them to be if we jump in with money or physical help to solve every problem in life.  Just as we did when they were little, we must learn to sit back and trust the Lord to show them the answers.  If we as parents cannot learn to wait on God’s perfect timing, how can we teach our children to trust in Him who has promised that He has an expected end for each of us? 

Lord help me to learn to put into practice the words of Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary: and they shall walk and not faint.”  Oh that each of us as parents would learn to wait on God’s perfect timing to teach us and our children the lessons that we need to learn that we might reach the goals that God has for us.

WAITING ON THE LORD

One of the hardest things for me to do is wait.  I hate waiting in line, waiting for replys to my text messages, waiting for my husband when he is late getting home.  In short, I don’t like to wait! 🙂  

Yes, I have always had a hard time waiting for God to answer my prayers also.  You would think that after living 6 decades and experiencing many miracles that I would be able to remember that often God’s answers take time.  My omnipotent Heavenly Father has a plan for my life and His timing is always perfect.  Often I have looked back to discover that God was working some amazing things in my life while I waited for answers.  I have come to understand that often answers are delayed for 2 reasons: I need to learn some lessons or God is working in someone else’s life to use them as a vehicle to answer my prayer. 

In the Bible the book that tells the story of God’s servant, Job, records his struggles as God allows Satan to tempt & test him.  Job goes through a period of questioning God while listening to the opinions of his wife & friends.  Because he is a Godly man who has walked with the Lord for years he comes to the right conclusion in chapter 23 verse 10. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

What can we learn from this verse?  God has a plan for our lives.  His plan does not always take us on the shortest, easiest route.  When we must go through periods of trials and waiting it is because our loving Heavenly Father is polishing us to make us more like Him. 

If our lives were always easy and everything went our way, we would be like a spoiled rotten toddler who is never disciplined and always gets his way.  I have known adults like that!  No one wants to be around them because they think the world revolves around them.  They are never truly happy because circumstances in a fallen world are not perfect.  Who wants to live like that?!

Learning to wait on God’s perfect plan boils down to a simple matter of trust.  God often puts us in a place where we cannot fix the problem because He delights in showing us his power through miracles that we could never imagine or execute on our own.  Isaiah 45:2-3 says ” I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight:  I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the teasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name am the God of Israel.”

Throughout God’s Word he promises great things if we will only wait on Him and allow him to do His perfect work in our lives and the lives of others around us.  Will you determine to trust Him with your life and your circumstances even if you have to wait for the perfect answer?

IT HURTS

originally published 3/25/13

 

 I fell on the ice in the parking lot of the store where I work 2 weeks ago.  It could have been much worse.  I scraped my face on the cement & sprained an ankle.  At the time, I was not sure if I had broken my nose or my leg.  Praise the Lord, that did not happen!  My face is basically healed (make up covers it nicely).  My leg and ankle are gradually healing.  Many of my friends were amazed that nothing was broken considering how bad I looked.  I told them that God had gifted me with strong bones and a body that heals quickly since he also gave me the ability to be a clutz. 🙂

The Lord has used this as a good illustration of what He means in I Corinthians 12 where He talks about the church (saved people) being one body.  In verse 26 our Heavenly Father says “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”  Most of us that have been Christians for a few years have heard or read this verse.  But, have we ever truly applied it?

During the past  two weeks I have been living it! 🙂  As I limped around on my swollen foot, I discovered that this was not the only part of my body that was hurting.  My back started aching, then the opposite leg started to hurt almost worse then the injured leg.  All because I was attempting to move in a different way to protect my ailing foot.  It was not just one part of my body that hurt.  By evening it felt like everything was hurting.  I was exhausted from dealing with the constant pain!

This is what often happens in churches.  One person gets their feelings hurt, or they are experiencing troubles at home, work, or personally.   Instead of allowing God to handle the problem and give them victory, they often walk around with a depressed look on their face so that others will notice and wonder what is wrong.  Even worse, is when they start spreading their discontent among their brothers and sisters in the church.  Depression & discontentment are like a cancer that starts small and can spread quickly to infect the whole body.  At first you don’t even realize it is there but, before you know it, it has spread and the doctor is suggesting radical surgery.  The pain of these problems often causes others in the church to feel like I did at the end of day; exhausted and tired of trying to fix the wound.  Many just throw up their hands and leave to find a church where every one seems to be happy.

As I talk to friends in churches across the nation I hear the same story repeated.  Christians are quenching the Holy Spirit and allowing pride and selfishness to enter into their lives until it spills over into the church.  Before they realize what has happened the sin has grown and another good church is shattered because one or two people had a problem that they refused to work out in a Biblical manner. We need to memorize Galatians 5:13-16 that we might be reminded to walk in the Spirit, asking God to help us have the right attitude toward our problems and disappointments.

Let me note here that it is not wrong to ask others to pray for you in your struggles but it is wrong to refuse to obey the Lord in his commandment to “rejoice evermore”.  We can allow ourselves to be depressed and drag others down with us or we can choose to obey the Lord and overcome our problems with a joyful attitude.  Just as a bad attitude spreads like a cancer a joyful attitude can heal & encourage those lives that it touches.

I Thessalonians 5:16-19 tells us how to handle our problems, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  Quench not the Spirit.”  Do you want to know God’s will for your life?  Read these verses and ask the Lord to help you obey his commands.

May we learn to live joyfully, spreading God’s love as a healing salve on the wounds of those that are hurting around us.

Prayer | Part 2

People today are going crazy and spending big money to go to classes and spas that will teach them how to meditate so that they can relieve the stress caused by their frantic paces and ungodly lifestyles.  God in his great wisdom gave us the answer for this problem years ago in His Holy Word.  Our Heavenly Father knew that we would need time to slow down and get answers for our  problems.  He even prescribed meditation; but it was not the kind that clears the mind!  It was meditating on God’s Word and learning to communicate with God through prayer.

              This lesson is part 2 on the subject of prayer.  I have heard many people say “I can’t pray because I don’t know how.”  Read the following lesson and then get to work praying so you can reap the blessings of peace and answered prayers.

 HOW TO PRAY        

In the last blog we discussed where we should pray and when we should pray.  This lesson will be devoted to what God says about how we should pray.  As I said in the previous lesson, prayer is simply talking to God like you would talk to your best friend.  So you may be wondering why there would be rules for praying. 

Do you remember when you were growing up?  As you made friends you learned that there was unspoken social rules for conversing and there was a right and a wrong way to try to persuade people to see your point of view.  When you wanted your parents to approve a plan there was a successful formula for approaching them and persuading them to agree with you.

Please don’t think for a minute that I am placing God on the same level as sinful human beings.  But the Bible does tell us that God is our Heavenly Father.  Jesus even commands us to pray to our Father in Heaven.  Therefore we can assume that approaching God in prayer would be similar to petitioning a good, loving, earthly father. So let us see what our Heavenly Father tells us about how to pray.

1.     We must be his child.  If one of your children ask you to buy them something expensive like a computer for Christmas and you were financially able to do that, you might consider it.  But, if your child’s best friend asked for a computer you would most likely tell them to go talk to their parents.   Why?  Do you not care about that child’s educational opportunities?  No, it is simply that you are not responsible for the training and rearing of other people’s kids.  You may help but it is not you that will get blamed if your neighbor’s child does not turn out well. 

God cares about the whole world.  But until we accept His gift of His only son Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and ask Him to come into our hearts we do not have the right to call Him Father.  John 1:12 tells us that when we receive Jesus in our hearts God adopts us into his family.  We then have a heavenly Father that wants to hear from us and delights in granting our requests when they are for our benefit.

2.  We must not have sin in our life.  When your child has been cheerfully obedient you desire to reward him or her for following the rules.  But when they are grumpy, sneaky and rebellious you have no desire to give them what they want in fact, you are more likely to take away something that they love to teach them a lesson.

The Psalmist, David, tells us in Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.  The prophet Isaiah reprimands the children of Israel in chapter 59 verse 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 

We are all sinful and God knows this.  He simply wants us to keep a clean slate with Him by confessing our sins as soon as we are aware of them.  That way we can come to God with a clear conscience knowing that He will listen and respond.  Our heavenly Father has promised us in I John 1:9 that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Once we learn to confess sins immediately it will become second nature to stay in a right relationship with the Lord.  Then when we feel a need to ask God to help us or someone else or we want to talk with him about a problem we won’t have to spend time first confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness.  How sweet it is to stay in a right relationship with your Heavenly Father.

3.  We must ask according to His will.  In the sample prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples it says, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10.  It is part of God’s command  that we pray seeking God’s will.  Even our Saviour prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Not my will but thine be done.  If God’s Son set the example by submitting Himself to the will of His father, can we do less?

God gives us the opportunity to make our own choices.   He will not force us to do His will even though following the will of God is what will bring us the most happiness.  As finite human beings we cannot see the end results of our desires and requests.  Frequently I believe that we demand God answer our prayers our way with no room for our creator to give us the best answer.  Just as a parent might allow a child to get in trouble so they could see the results of their actions God will allow us to have what we have begged Him for even though He knows it is not best.

If we truly wish to be blessed we must learn to pray for what we want with the condition that it is in the will of God.  We tend to think that we can help God by making suggestions on how He could work out our problems.  Instead we should be simply bringing the problem to Him like a son would bring a broken toy to his father and in childlike faith say “Fix it, Daddy”.

We have two examples in the scriptures of great men of God who submitted to God’s will even though it was not what they requested.  In II Samuel chapter 12 we read the story of David’s sin being revealed by Nathan the prophet.  Nathan tells him because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.  The child became sick and for seven days David fasted and prayed for God to spare the child.  But God kept his promise and the child died.  When the king was told that the child was dead, he got up, washed himself, ate and went back to business.  David, a man after God’s own heart, knew that the Lord loved him and his child; therefore, he accepted God’s answer and went on to serve the Lord.

In the New Testament we  read in II Corinthians 12:7-10 how the apostle Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”.  Paul says that he asked the Lord three times to remove this affliction from him

In verse 9 and 10 Paul shares with us God’s answer and his reaction.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Instead of demanding that God answer his prayers his way or else, Paul accepted God’s answer knowing that he would be a far more effective minister and testimony when he allowed God to work through him in spite of his infirmities. 

We must remember that God sees the whole picture, we only see a tiny part.  If we will learn to graciously accept the Lord’s answers to our prayers,  He will give us strength to deal with whatever He places in our lives.  God’s blessings for sweetly submitting to His will far outweigh any imagined happiness we would attain by having God give us what we think we want.

4.      We must ask in faith, believing He will answer.  James 1:5-6 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.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  Our Heavenly Father has given us all kinds of wonderful promises in His Word.  We know that God never lies and always keeps His promises.  So why do we have such a hard time believing that He will answer us with the solution that is in our best interests?

I don’t know about you, but part of my problem lies in the fact that I am a sinful human being.  I know that I do not always keep my promises and I fail God, myself, and others; therefore, I have a hard time believing that God will do what He says.  I also have a very short memory.  My God has performed miracles for me time and time again.  I always praise Him when He answers my prayer in a way that is so superior to what I could imagine.  Yet, the next trial appears and I panic!  I read about the Children of Israel and  think that they were so immature when they so quickly forgot God’s miracles for them…yet I am no better!

So, how do we learn to have the faith to believe that God will answer our prayers?  First we need to remember that when we waver and panic we are sinning.  That is what the devil wants so he plants seeds of doubt in our minds.  We must ask God for help and learn to say Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:24).  Our creator already knows when we are frantic and having trouble believing that He will answer.  James tells us that our Heavenly Father will not rebuke us when we ask for help in our faith.  In fact, I believe God is pleased when we finally admit our weakness and ask for His help. 

Once we admit that our lack of faith is sin, then we must tell God what we need and act upon it.  For instance, it doesn’t take great faith to tell the Lord “if you give me $1,000, I will write a check to the church for $100”.  Faith in action is writing the check first then trusting God for the money.  I am not trying to encourage you to give away money foolishly.  What I am saying is that if God impresses on you the need to give a certain amount you must obey and then trust God to provide.

First, we confess our sin of doubting, Secondly we act upon our faith and third we must be prepared for the devil to fight us.  Satan does not want us to be a victorious Christian telling others how God answers our prayers and praising the Lord for the miracles that He does.  Therefore, he will constantly try to remind you of how hopeless your situation is and do his best to steal your joy so that your testimony will be null and void.

We need to memorize God’s promises so that when the sin of doubt pops into our mind we can quote scripture for our own encouragement as well as a shield against the devil.  You could start with the following verses:  Psalm 91:15, Luke 11:9, and Phillipians 4: 13,19.  Once you have these verses committed to memory, start a study of God’s promises to you in the scriptures.  You will be amazed at all the verses you will find to encourage yourself when Satan wants you to panic or become depressed.

5.     We should pray specifically.  Years ago while I was still in college a chapel speaker asked, “How can you know if God has answered your prayers if you do not pray specifically for exactly what you want?”   I thought about that and the answer was simple –you can’t!  If I prayed God bless the missionaries it only stands to reason that some of them would be blessed.  But if I asked the Lord to provide the $500 that a certain missionary needed to pay for shipping books to his field of service and God provided, that would be an exciting answer!

Over the years I have made this practice even more personal.  When I need a new appliance, piece of furniture or whatever, I tell the Lord what I want, what color I would like, and how much I can afford to spend then I go shopping.  The idea is that if God wants me to have that item, He will provide exactly what I want for the amount of money I can afford.  If I should not have it, I won’t find anything to fit my specifications and I know that God has a better plan.  I have been amazed over the years how God has provided.  This method has saved me a lot of time and hassle because I don’t feel any great need to stand in long lines at outrageous hours (like 4 AM) so I can be the first to get some great deal.  My philosophy has become “If God wants me to have it, it will still be there when I arrive.”

When a friend or a missionary requests prayer for something, I always try to find out names and details if possible.  That way I can help them pray specifically for the problem and we will both know when God has answered.

6.  We must never forget to praise God for all he has done and all he will do.   When we do something special for someone, we like to have them say “thank you” or “good job”.  Good parents always teach their children to say thank you when someone gives them a gift.  God is our Heavenly Father who is constantly giving us blessings and answers to prayers.  How often do we thank Him for everything that He does for us each day?

The Bible has an abundance of verses that tell us that when we ask God for something we should also thank Him.  Phillipians 4:6 says Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Colossians 3:17 gives a similar command And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  We read in Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  I believe that our creator knew that we would need to be reminded to be thankful otherwise we would become like whining, spoiled children.  When we focus on our blessings we learn to put our problems and wants into a Godly perspective.  That is why we are told in I Thessalonians 5:18  to give thanks in everything.  One of the best ways to obey this command from God is to sandwich your requests between praise and thanksgiving.

Let me challenge you to check your prayer life.  Is there more prayer requests then thanks?  Do you remember to thank the Lord when He answers your prayers?  Are you getting specific answers to your requests?  Is talking to your Heavenly Father as natural as talking to your best friend?  If the answer to any of these is “no” then you need to commit to working on your prayer life.  Caution:  Be prepared for blessings and spiritual growth.

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