Back to Basics: Prayer

When It Seems God is Not Listening

Ever been praying and it felt like your prayer wasn’t getting any higher than the ceiling? Most of us have had that feeling at some point in our lives. We are not alone. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, we see the author experienced this same sort of feeling when he says, “Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer,” and then again, “You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.” (3:8, 44)

If we had our “druthers” as my grandmama used to say, we’d rather this not happen. Our hearts long to go into every prayer encounter with God with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him and a confident expectation that He will act on our behalf in response to our prayers. But when we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith. We may begin to feel that our prayers are hitting that invisible ceiling and wonder what we’re doing wrong that they aren’t getting through. Or we may feel that God isn’t listening, He’s ignoring us. We sometimes feel he’s not acting fast enough, and wonder if that means He’s abandoned us. We could even buy into Satan’s tactics and feel that we’ve been so sinful, so bad, that He won’t ever listen to us. In fact, how many times have we asked someone else to pray for us, because (although we do not consciously admit this) we wonder if maybe God would answer them, when He seems to be stalling on us? Do you ever feel that need to bring in the big guns for the battle, so you call the holiest friend you have at the time and ask them to pray? There’s nothing wrong with doing that, in fact, there is power in multiplied prayer. But there is a problem at the core of our belief if we fall into these ways of thinking.

When we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith.

So how do we counteract these feelings? How do we strengthen our faith? The same way we counter any of Satan’s other attacks, with God’s Word! According to scripture, are there requirements to prayer? Things that make us able to communicate with God better? Are there things that block or hinder our prayers? Just what is prayer anyway? And what about a “No” answer, is that an answer or is it God not responding to us? What about when we wait for years for an answer? Many of you aren’t bothered by these questions; your faith carries you through. But there are others out there, like me, who have fought this spiritual battle many times, as Satan has used our feelings as mortars to bombard our faith and to try to make us back down and doubt ourselves and our effectiveness in prayer.

Let’s take a look at some of those scriptures, so that we can effectively wield our sword of the Spirit and destroy those incoming missiles directed at our faith. (For a more comprehensive look at prayer than we have time, space here, or the theological genius to depart to you, check out the prayer resource links at the end of this article.)

girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942When should we pray?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

How are we to pray?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

pexels-photo-267748
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come, your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’ Matthew 6:5-13

 

Our prayers will get results.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. Philippians 1:19

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Colossians 1:9

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

Our prayers are fruitful even when we don’t know what to pray.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

Our prayers can be hindered by our behavior.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt. 6:14-15

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29

Our prayers are eternal, ever before the Lord.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8

In Conclusion

Ladies, we can walk forth with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him. But we must believe His Word and NOT trust our feelings.

Most all of you are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11. You could probably quote it. But are you familiar with Jeremiah 29:12-14? It states, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” You can call on Him. He will listen to you when you pray. He hears. He is not playing Hide and Seek with you – He wants to be found by you. Are you seeking Him with your whole heart Dear One? Then you will find Him and the answers to your prayers. You can have a confident expectation that He will act on your behalf in response to your prayers. Isaiah tells us, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4) Don’t become weary with waiting. Lack of an answer today does not mean “No,” and it does not mean God is not listening. Every word you pray rises to God’s ear. Be faithful in Waiting on Him – be it a week, a month, a year, 10 years, or a lifetime!

milada-vigerova-45368.jpg

RESOURCES:
Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent
Evelyn Christenson books including Lord Change Me
Sylvia Gunter’s Prayer Portions (and check out her blog)
Stormie O’Martian books
Kay Arthur’s Lord Teach Me to Pray
War Room movie and Bible study

Soaring Above the Storms of Life 

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31

pexels-photo-31431As we sat on the plane waiting to taxi down the runway, the rain was pounding on the window so hard that I could barely see the men in their yellow raincoats as they prepared the plane for takeoff. We were already delayed due to weather, so I could feel the tension on the plane as everyone waited anxiously to get the flight started.

As I sat there waiting,  the Lord spoke so clearly to me. Sometimes He puts us in a holding pattern while the storms pass over us, other times He leads us straight through the storms. You must strap on your belt of truth “Jesus is in control ” and grab your sword “the word of God ” and He will go with you through your storm.

After a few minutes, we started taxiing down the runway. Needless to say it was a bumpy, bouncy takeoff. It was one of those flights that the fasten your seatbelt sign never went off. A roller coaster ride in the sky, only there wasn’t a track! I certainly knew that I was not in control of the situation, which is hard for me.

pexels-photoAfter about an hour, the clouds broke and the sun came bursting through the window. Again the Lord spoke,  “I was always in control, the sun was always shining, you just couldn’t see it because of the storms you were passing through.”

Sometimes He allows us to go around the storm, or fly above the storms of life, but there are times that we must go through the storms. Those are the times when I let go of the controls and turn myself over to Him. Only then do I realize that He is my pilot and I am only a passenger that he has chosen to take on an amazing journey through this life.

Needless to say,  this flight has been a reminder to my soul that my life is not my own. I belong to Jesus, and His plans are always better and bigger than I could ever imagine. I must turn the controls over to my Pilot and he will guide  me safely through the storms into the sunshine. With Jesus in control, I know that I will reach my destination in his perfect timing.

photo-1437936251057-dfbf79980ce5

“Praise You in This Storm” – Casting Crowns

A Transformational Love

I have shared this on Facebook before, but I feel like it is a message worth repeating.

There are lots and lots of people in the Bible and very many of their life stories are listed for us. I have quite a few that are favorites because they teach us of the goodness of God. There’s one simple story during Jesus’ ministry that always strikes me though. And it sticks with me and warms my heart, but also convicts me.

There was a man who lived in Jericho who was despised by everyone. He was lavishly wealthy primarily because as a Hebrew tax collector for the Roman government, he stole money from his Jewish brothers and padded his own pockets. One day, Jesus was passing through Jericho and the crowds came out to see Jesus as He came into town.

Zaccheaus,

bartimaeus_and_zacchaeus-luke_18_35_-_19_10a

Luke 19:1-9

being a short man, wanted a glimpse of Jesus but couldn’t see above the throng, so he climbed up a nearby Sycamore tree. As Jesus came through the streets, He parted the crowd and walked straight way to that tree. Ignoring the gasps and snarls of the people of the city, He told the most hated man there that He should come on down out of that tree and go home and prepare a meal, because Jesus would be dining there that evening. This flew all over the religious crowd. Jesus was scandalous in his love for broken people. He sought the ones who needed him the most. His love and lack of disdain for them chipped through their hardened hearts and changed them.

After Zaccheaus met with Jesus, he gave back all of the money he had stolen multiplied by 4. Who does that? Someone who has felt the love of God and been transformed by it! This evil, broken world will not be changed by our disdain and pious attitudes. But it will be changed by displaying the love of God in his Son Jesus through loving people who seem to least deserve it. 

Love Big Today!!!

pexels-photo-109919
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

A Story of Mercy: The Six Licks

When the kids were little, my husband and I decided early on that a spat on their bottom was acceptable for us. (Please don’t judge!) We came to consensus on some basic rules to make sure we treated the kids well. Rule 1: Never spank in anger; cool down before you administer any punishment. Rule 2: Always spat on the padded bottom – plenty of fatty tissue, clothes, and diapers! And Rule 3: Never more than 3 swats at a time. We loved our children and wanted to discipline them without hurting them.

But this is NOT a blog about corporal punishment. 

This is the story of a simple, ordinary spring morning. But that day the usual routine of motherhood took a turn that would bring tears, create a memory for years to come, and teach a precious spiritual truth.

The setting. The third bedroom/nursery of our home. This was the “school room” for our three oldest children and lessons were churning away slowly as I held baby number four and worked with the younger children on their lessons. As I turned to check on the eldest, bliss was shattered. What his particular infringement of the day was is lost to me in the shadows of my memory, but I do know it was important enough that it warranted a, “That’s one lick. You know better. Now get back to your school work on your own until I finish with the girls.” Most days this would’ve been enough and school would have continued on peacefully. This particular day, it was just the beginning.

As I got up to change a diaper and my presence was removed from the vicinity, more chaos ensued. My return and awareness of the childish disobedience going on necessitated the promise of more licks “as soon as I get through taking care of the baby.” But this was still not the end.

Over the next half hour, after a string of other misbehavior, including being aggressive and mean toward his sisters, my firstborn had accumulated a total of 6 promised licks! Six! What would I do?!

While I finished nursing the baby and listening to the reading of the girls, my mind raced trying to figure out how I would handle this. I don’t give more than three licks! Why had I kept promising more? I was so busy with the other three children the situation had snowballed on me. I couldn’t break my word. But I couldn’t give 6 licks either! I had to exercise consistency. I had to teach that I kept my word and that actions have consequences you can’t worm out of, while still maintaining my own convictions that protected my children.

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’ ” Zechariah 7:9

The girls’ lessons were finally finished and the baby put to sleep. As I called my son to lunch, I knew the punishment had to happen right then. So I flung an emergency prayer up to heaven, “Lord, help me know what to do! I’ve gotten myself in a fix.” Should I overlook his mistakes? Punish his mistakes? How could I love this little sinner without endorsing his sin? Because endorsed sin becomes repeated sin.

My son walked into the room, and I sat down before him eye to eye to talk about what he had done before I gave him a spanking. As I took his little hand and gazed into his eyes, the answer to my prayer came – a God inspiration at that very moment! I reminded my child of what he had done wrong and why it was wrong. I told him he deserved punishment, and that I was going to have to give him 6 licks today even though my rule was only 3 licks. He looked at me a bit puzzled. Then I took his hand and began to actually lick his hand with my tongue, counting “One – two…”

black-hair-girl-showing-tongue-13316972I didn’t get any farther before the wails started. You would’ve thought I was physically beating him. He squirmed and cried and begged, “Noooo, Mommy! Don’t lick me!” I managed to give him all six licks, just like I was enjoying a Tootsie Pop, even amid the squirms and tears. When it was over he ran to his room crying as if his heart was broken.

Just recently I asked him if he remembered that event, and his response was a hearty, “Oh yes!” even as a 30-year-old. It was a lesson that stuck, with him and with me.

The lesson I saw in it was a lesson of God’s mercy.

When we sin, we put God in the same position I was in as a mom. I was trapped between owing my son justice, but loving him so much I desired to offer mercy – having to uphold the truth I had spoken, but desiring to show kindness to my beloved little one. And ladies, is that not a glimpse of how God is with us?

God was faced with two equally unappealing options – to be just or be merciful. Be true to His word or be kind. Overlook or punish our sin. How could He redeem the sinner without endorsing the sin? And just like He inspired me to do, God also found a third option, a way around the problem, and it is called The Cross of Christ. By placing the punishment we deserved on the shoulders of His own son, He could obtain justice and still show us mercy at the same time.

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:3-7

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:21-22.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

pexels-photo-196999

“He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.”

Back to Basics: Discipling

Disciple.

Interesting word. We’ve heard it. We know of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But it’s a word many Christians don’t connect with in everyday life. We should.

So what is a disciple? Dictionary.com defines it as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; a follower.” And the Greek word mathetes translated as “disciple” in the new testament means “a learner, pupil, disciple.” And although our very modern dictionary.com considers the verb forms “disciple, discipled, discipling” obsolete and archaic, the meaning is still in frequent use among Christians: to convert into a disciple” or “to teach; train.”

A buzz word of the last few years has been mentorMy Google definition for mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser” (noun) or “advise or train someone, especially a younger colleague” (verb). The term mentor seems to be the more secular term, but crosses over easily into use in the Christian realm.  For this article I will use the terms mentoring and discipling interchangeably.

As Christian women studying God’s Word and seeking to live out the commands of Christ, we quickly come upon the term “disciple” and have to decide whether to ignore it or to move forward in obedience. At the end of the gospel of Matthew we are confronted with these words from Jesus, “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (28:19-20) But what do we do with His words?

Common responses to that verse are either:
1) to assume it only means to lead people to Christ
2) to believe that verse is only for certain, mature Christians or pastors, but not for me
3) to realize what it means, but avoid living it out in my life

But when I come upon a Christian who actually grasps the full meaning and lives out this verse, my senses are immediately aware and conviction wells up within me – Am I living out the fullness of this scripture?

For true disciples of Jesus, these verses, referred to as the Great Commission, are not just a random suggestion; they are a mandate that sears their heart and spurs them to an action – making disciples themselves. Those who have sat at Jesus’ feet as learners (disciples) soon realize that they are called upon to not just sit there and soak it in, but to share it and spread what they’ve learned to others – to disciple, to teach and use Jesus’ words “make disciples.”

alexis-brown-82988But what goes into making a disciple? What is needed to find a Christian mentor or to be one? What is the cost of discipleship? How do we do it? What are the things we need to focus on? How do we carry it out in real life? What areas of growth do we focus on? These are the questions that leave us in a gray fog of doubt. Today we’ll approach a few of these questions, and then hit the rest in follow-up articles. So let’s break it down question by question.

1) How can I, a Christian woman, find a mentor or disciple?

  • Ask God to send you a disciple/mentor or to put on your heart who to ask. Prayer is so underestimated! If you take this need to God with a sincere heart He will reveal the person and make a way for you.
  • Ask someone to mentor you. Consider a godly woman you know from church and approach them at church or invite them out for coffee and ask them straight out to mentor/disciple you.
  • Ask a women’s ministry leader or Sunday School teacher for a recommendation. Tell them of your desire to be discipled and ask for help in finding one.
  • Plan a mentor/mentee luncheon where several women who are interested in discipling or being discipled can come together and allow match-ups to happen. Or invite several women to your home for a small group prayer or discussion time in hopes of developing relationships. Consider sending out invitations or putting a notice in your church bulletin inviting all those who are interested.

2) And am I ready to become a discipler/mentor – I’m not “perfect”?

  • Yes, you are ready! A simple word picture (gleaned from Anne Ortlund’s writing I believe) may help us grasp this. Imagine you are on a vertical ladder. At any time you will be on one of the rungs. The person above you will be reaching down to help you grow and learn and move to the next higher rung, while at the same time you will be reaching behind you to disciple someone coming along in the Christian walk who is “younger” spiritually than you are. So if you accepted Christ as your Savior and have been digging in His word and growing, guess what? You have the potential to take someone “younger” under your wing and share with them what you’ve learned!
  • If we had to “be perfect” to disciple others, no one ever would! Because guess what? Only Jesus was a perfect human. If you can say to another, “I can tell you what I’ve learned,” “Read your Bible each day,” “Pray each day,” “I’ll pray for you,” “Let’s dig through scripture and find out!” or “I’ll walk through this hard time with you,” then you have what it takes.

3) How do I become a discipler?

  • Pray and ask. If you see a younger woman (spiritually) who seems to desire to grow in the Lord, or who has verbally expressed a need or desire to be discipled, pray diligently about it and then approach her and offer to disciple her. Yes, this takes courage! Yes, it can be a bit awkward if she declines your offer! I’ve walked through this. She’s not rejecting you. That is simply not the right person or time God has for you. This is not about you, this is about obeying God’s command to make disciples.
  • Print up a handout and invite a group to your home. I’ve done this too.
    • Be specific in the flier. Tell the “5 W’s and an H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. Type up a succinct yet appealing flier that lists day & time you plan to meet, duration (i.e. 1 1/2 hours, once a week for the next year), who you’re reaching out to (moms of littles, caregivers of aging parents, brand new Christians,…), what you plan to do (prayer, Bible study, worship, accountability, a mix of several of these,…), why you feel led to, and if you have a Bible study book or topic, list that too.
    • Print more than you think you’ll need. I probably handed out 20, when all I desired was a group of 3-5. I ended up with 4 wonderful young women and myself. It was an awesome year. (I still love you gals – Kelly, Christy, Jennie, and Michele!)
    • Give them out to everyone God allows you to. I gave some out sure that the person would come – they didn’t. And one I gave out very reluctantly, sure that she was too busy and too spiritually mature to even want to come to my house – and she came! Go figure. God will surprise you.
  • Evaluate relationships you already have that God is trying to turn into an “undeclared” discipling relationship. Sometimes God allows a relationship to develop of gentle teaching, guiding, and praying for a person who has been a friend for a long time. You are not there to “Lord it over” or “fix” your friend, but to humbly teach what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
  • Alert your small group leader, women’s ministry leader, or pastor at church that you would be willing to mentor new Christian women (women only mentor women) who come into the class or church and need/want to be discipled. Some churches even offer training programs on how to disciple/mentor.

Realize that you are most likely already discipling and being discipled. In our worship service, Bible study, small group, women’s meetings, etc., we are all unofficially teaching one another and learning from one another. We are growing from simply watching how our Sunday School teacher digs in the Word and how she prays and how she ministers to hurting people in our class. We are becoming more mature disciples when we take notes on the pastor’s sermon and go home and seek to apply it to our lives. We are casually discipling (teaching) other Christians when we share what we learned and how God grew us as we walked through a trying life experience. “You are My Disciples,” Jesus says, “if you love one another,” and “if you hold to my teaching.” (John 13:35, John 8:31) We ARE His disciples, let’s begin to obey scripture and make disciples!

eli-defaria-9977

Being

Who of you is a night owl? A choc-o-holic? A shoe girl? Who’s a worrier? Flamboyant?Easy-going? I can almost see some of you waving your hand and calling out “I am.”

I am.

The shortest phrase in the English language.

It only has 3 letters – I – A – M. Yet it carries great meaning. It shows existence. It allows us to define who we are and what we’re feeling. And Yahweh, the Almighty God, claims it as His name.

We relate people’s characteristics to their name. Maybe you have a name that you adore because you loved a person who had that name, and their characteristics will forever be attached to that name for you. Or just the opposite, maybe you swore you’d never name your son a certain name because a guy with that name was a jerk to you.

In the Bible we frequently see this concept of a name representing a person’s character. The names of the people exhibited their nature. Think about it Jacob – the deceiver, Jabez – pain, and Abraham – father of many. And while we may not name a daughter Rahab, we look upon that name kindly because she helped the Israelites, stood up for her family, and was in the lineage of Jesus.

74b0cdad7d0c007773770fa1a1faac0d

In Exodus 3:13-14 God reveals His name to Moses as “hayah,” a Hebrew word which literally means “I AM” or “to be” or “the self-existent One”  From this Hebrew word we get God’s Old Testament name, Yahweh. The letters “YHWH” with no vowels. This is referred to as the Tetragrammaton (tetra meaning “four” and gramma meaning “letter”.   Simply – “the four letters.” The Jews wrote God’s name this way because they considered it too holy to be uttered or to be written out entirely. This Tetragrammaton for God’s name is what is translated in scripture as Yahweh or Jehovah, and is written in our current translations as “LORD.”

This is NOT a name people chose to call God. This is THE NAME Father God called Himself. Father God could have revealed Himself to us in any way He chose and could have given Himself any name He wished. Therefore it is significant that He chose to tell us His name was I AM.

He was showing His eternality by stating His name as “I am” – the self-existent One. He is always I AM. He is not here today and gone tomorrow. He is not “I was, but am no more.” And He’s not “I will be, but not right now.” Every moment is now to Him. He is the creator of time, so He is outside of time. “He is” in every moment. That’s why He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God is dependable.

Why would He choose this for His name?! If I were Him I would have named myself “Creator of All” or “ Mighty King” or “ Ruler of the Universe.” I would be saying “look what I’ve done!” But He was interested in revealing His character NOT His actions. b0b1e9e459f6d3d80df018e153c9ec6cHere in Exodus 3, He is making Himself known to us by who/what He IS rather than what He DOES. He is defining Himself for us with a “being verb” not an “action verb.” Now I’m a teacher. And I love English. So I really get into this. Action verbs show action. Duh? Words like run, play, create, read, serve, pray, witness… Whereas “being” verbs are words that relate what something is. There are 8 of them: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. And by using this kind of verb He is identifying Himself as He hopes we will identify ourselves. By who we are more than by what we do. That’s what He wants from us. He wants us to “be” His, to “be”-come more like Him internally.

So… How about us? Do we define ourselves by what we do or by who we are? Are we evaluating our Christian walk using action verbs or being verbs?

We all know that there is action/work/doing necessary in the Christian walk. We are told in James 1:22 – “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” In other words, if we go to church to hear all great sermons, but we don’t start applying the lessons to how we live our life, we are deceiving ourselves. Our Christian faith involves action: ministry, serving, self-control. When we truly follow Christ we will be doing things. We will be busy. Our time is not our own, it is His and we must consult Him with how we use it.

BUT…

pen-calendar-to-do-checklist.jpgThe “Be”-ing should come before the “Do”-ing. Look at James 1:22 again. It says we are to “BE doers of the word.” Many of us sacrifice time alone being with the Lord in a quiet time and becoming who He wants us to become in order to do, do, do. We read this verse and believe God wants us to “be a doer.”  We teach, take meals, sing, act, study, perform,… all the while being stagnant in spiritual growth.

But now read James 1:22 and let the Lord stop us on the first word. “Be…” Be. Period. Realize, the “Be” comes before the ”do” in that sentence. To me this verse, that is a command for us, insinuates that I have first sat and heard or “been” with the Father. And then I become a doer. It presents to us a 1st thing (hearing and being) and a 2nd thing (doing). That was His plan for us. We are “to be” before we are “to do.”

From the first time God tells us His name in the OT, He introduces Himself by what His nature IS, and NOT by what He has done or can do. Now all through scripture we see God called by names that emphasize what He does, but here in Exodus 3:14 God simply called Himself “I AM.”

While the Christina life involves both being and doing, I encourage you to let the Great I AM release you from doing and draw you to just BE. Be immersed in His Word and prayer. Be with Him. Be holy. Be ready. Be yourself. Be all He made you to be. Be all that you can be. Be like Him, then the doing will come.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only – James 1:22  

Message to a Young Mom

Today my mind is on life, work, and purpose. As a semi-retired, stay-at-home wife right now, I wonder, Am I contributing to the world? What is my purpose? What do I have to offer? Am I where I need to be? Am I doing what the Lord wants me to do?

So today I write to you, the Me of 20-30 years ago, to encourage you. You are in a similar, yet totally different, situation right now, but you are having some of those same type5319000-pile-of-dirty-clothes-for-the-wash-stock-photo questions. The constant stream of laundry – Mt. Never-Rest, as my friend Susan calls it – is a major feat to be accomplished in any given week. Rocking babies, clearing the toys away, rushing to t-ball or gymnastics or whatever, cleaning house, and the constant cooking and dish-washing go hand in hand with the laundry to use up many of the hours in your day. Been there. Done that.

As a young mom with your hands full of babies and dirty diapers and a messy house, you may wonder How am I really contributing to the world right now? You know your husband and children need you, but that seems like such a small thing. Comparing that to working to save the lives of critically ill people or living in a mud hut in central Africa ministering to an unreached people group or keeping a huge corporation running as you click around in your high heals meeting pressing needs and brushing shoulders with other important people or teaching and training the next generation’s leaders, your life may seem simplistic and full of repetitive busy tasks that have to keep being done over and over with no apparent progress made. After all laundry and dishes and the house just get dirty again, and cooking and bathing and dressing have to be performed over and over each day.

baby-child-kid-girl-161593If you are at that stage of life where spit-up on your shirt, puffy eyes from little sleep, and day old ponytail hair seem to be the hallmark of motherhood, take heart! It won’t always be this way, In fact, these days pass much too quickly, taking their joys and wonder away with them. But what do you do in the meantime, in this phase of life where purpose and meaning can feel lost or we can feel insignificant?

Well, dearest Me, let me offer some thoughts for perspective – things I wish I had been told or was told, but didn’t allow myself to believe when my babies were young.

  1. Cleaning and scrubbing really CAN wait til tomorrow!

I had this little poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton posted in my children’s nursery, but I couldn’t allow myself to fully believe it:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,

I’m rocking my babies, and babies won’t keep!”

A former pastor’s wife used to say, “The days are long but the years are short.” And now that my “babies” are 30, 27, 24, and about to turn 20 years old, I realize how right she was. Where did the time go? When I call my grandson by his daddy’s name, it’s not because I’m old and senile, it’s because my mind can’t grasp that my baby is old enough to have his own baby. I remember the day that I realized I wasn’t a young mother any more. It shocked me! I thought, “How did I get to this point? I was so busy doing all my required duties as a young mom and suddenly I’m out of a job!”

So if I could go back in time, I’d tell Younger Me – Savor the moments! Welcome the distractions! Sit down and play. Hug and love on those little ones. One day you will wish you could again. Supper burns – oops! Laundry is piled high – who cares. You eat PB&J sandwiches again – so what! Your house isn’t a Southern Living showcase – there’s another season for that. In years to come, what your heart will rejoice over or regret is the hugs, kisses, moments of joy, and memories made with your family – or the lack of those.

2. Image doesn’t matter. Who you really ARE does.

But as a Mom of littles, society sends us a different message. We get this message from society at large as well as from well-meaning friends, parents, husbands, or from media, movies, and magazines full of pictures of perfect houses, gourmet meals, and beautiful people.  Satan shouts lies to us through posts on social media. Over and over we hear “You’re not enough, you don’t measure up.”

When we get caught up in how we appear to others, we lose sight of those little hearts being formed under our command. In other words, the more we look at things through the world’s glasses, the less we truly see our lives as they really are. We’re in a rush, so we don’t see with compassion those sad eyes full of tears; we see them with annoyance. We greedily look forward to those “free” moments where we can escape to TV or friends or Instagram or even alcohol, possessively guarding them because we tire of being self-sacrificing. And we waste our time trying to live up to some vague standards, rather than investing our time in the eternal work of loving, guiding, teaching and nurturing these tiny souls.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

3. Take time to renew.

We moms are a paradox. For all our whining, wanting OUR time and being irritated that we are in constant demand, we will turn around and label ourself “selfish” for taking some alone time to renew and do what’s truly good for us. That’s crazy! Jesus, with all he had to do on earth, took time to be alone. So plan for those essential personal moments to exercise, nap, be with your husband, go on a date, read God’s word, think, grow, and refresh your spirits.

4. Time with the Lord in His Word and prayer are essential.

What we really need… is time alone with the Lord to bathe in His love, see ourselves clearly, get correction from His Word, have our worldview aligned with scripture, grow as Jesus did – “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) and to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (Romans 12:2) Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And James 5:16 reminds us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We see that scripture is useful and prayer is powerful and effective. instagram-cell-phone-tablet-device-163148Those are the worthwhile things to invest our time in that have eternal consequences. In the down moments you have between the demands of motherhood, do you reach for God’s Word or for the smart phone?

5. Being a mom is not a small thing! You ARE contributing to the world!

Raising kids is a thing of great importance. Just glancing around at the selfishness and lawlessness of our world a person can readily see the significance of raising kids full of godly wisdom and character. Training children can be tedious. It is repetitious. A mom doesn’t always see any fruit of her efforts. But you are doing a job that will bear fruit for generations to come and one that will bear far greater dividends than any Fortune 500 CEO could ever hope to achieve.

Will your child be an average responsible citizen, a rebel, or the next Billy Graham, who knows? Only God. But Sweet Mother, you DO have a purpose! To follow God faithfully and seek Him every minute of every day. You DO have something to offer! Little Mommy, you give every ounce of yourself every day for those you love. You are right where God wants you! Don’t let Satan cause you to doubt. You are doing EXACTLY what the Lord wants you to! He gave you those little charges to love and to teach and to cherish.

Now you’ve been told. Believe it!

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Colossians 3:23 

Forgiveness

I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I will say that, like many of you, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to practice forgiveness.  I think for some people, perhaps, the act of forgiveness may come easier than for others, due to personalities or even personal experiences. But, I know for a fact, that forgiveness can become easier with practice.

One of the best ways to forgive (and keep on forgiving people) is to simply capture your thoughts and change them.  2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. And Philippians 4 says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

When those conversations creep into your mind where you replay what was said and think of new ways to lash out at that person, take that thought captive, stop, and redirect your thoughts to something more positive.  When you’re lying in bed and replaying through your thoughts a time when you were mistreated in some way, stop and redirect your focus onto something else, something good.  It’s hard to feel forgiving or to act forgiving toward someone when you continuously replay their wrongs. I suspect this is an issue with a lot of marriages as well.  I know that I prefer people not hold against me the things I’ve said or done that offended them (even if it was accidentally), so why can we not be gracious enough to extend that same opportunity to them, to let go of the times we’ve been offended by them?

I recognize that there are certain sins against an individual that might require more time or even counseling to work through to a place of forgiveness. But that ought to be the goal of every Christian, so that the power of Christ can be seen by forgiveness through us.

I wrote a short Facebook post a couple of years ago discussing this topic after a celebrity was outed for some past and current sins.  It seemed to spark such a nerve with people who couldn’t understand how victims could forgive, because it seemed as if forgiving was giving the offender permission to sin.  But I believe that forgiveness is not at all a permissive or excusatory act, but, rather a choice by those offended to not be held captive by the offensive act in thought or emotion.

In my Facebook post, I said:

Condoning sin and forgiving sin are two different things. Condoning sin says, “I think what you did was ok.” Forgiving sin says, “What you did was wrong. I will let consequences/discipline/repercussions take their course for you, but I will not hold your sin against you.”  The action of forgiveness may take a little time and it often takes practice, but for the Christian it is necessary, commanded, and a banner of Christ in us.

Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Matthew 6: 14-15  “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

You don’t have to condone someone’s sin to forgive them and not hold it against them. Those who’ve been forgiven much should be the first to offer forgiveness. Who do you need to forgive today?

Luke 7:47 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

LOVE BIG TODAY!!

Forgive as the Lord forgave you.