On Fences, Walls, and Open Pastures

Boundaries are important.

In the old west, ranchers had fences. Or on the really huge tracts of open pasture they branded what they owned to show it belonged to them and was under their authority. If you’ve ever watched a 1960 cowboy show you’ve seen this. What always happened on Gunsmoke or Bonanza? A guy in a black cowboy hat (bad guy) was rustling cows, robbing the stagecoach or train, blocking water rights, or taking over land illegally. And the guy in the white hat (good guy) always came to the rescue of the damsel in distress whose possessions or boundary was threatened.

Boundaries are important. From Genesis 1 God established boundaries. He separated light and dark, heaven and earth, land and sea, work and rest, and he made distinction in kinds of animals and plants. In Genesis 2 He established a separation, a boundary, between male and female. He set very distinct boundaries for the beautiful home He had made for Adam and Eve (verses 10-14). He set a boundary of what they could and could not eat. By chapter 3 (out of 1,189 chapters in the Bible) the Enemy had already come to tempt Adam and Eve to push the boundaries. And they did. And there were consequences: doubt, greed, rebellion, sin, but also hiding from God, fear, deception, broken relationships, blame, strife between women and men, unfulfilled desires, domination, pain and toil all their life, thorns & thistles, sweat, separation, loss of the simplicity of a beautiful life, and death. They were now outcasts of the Garden.

pexels-photo-451818Today the Enemy still does the same thing. He tempts humans to push the boundaries.  When they do, just as with Adam and Eve, people experience the devastating consequences too. Life and relationships are marred with pain and betrayal and separation and other negative consequences because individuals don’t honor those boundaries as God’s Word instructs us to, but instead ignore moral boundaries, marital boundaries, property boundaries, societal boundaries, and legal boundaries – just to name a few of the most common violations.

Blessings follow as children of God obey and honor boundaries.

Property Boundaries

Except for kleptomaniacs, this one boundary seems pretty easy for the average Christian to honor. Think: I don’t want anyone to steal my lawnmower, so I’m not going to steal yours. Makes sense. Easy, right?

Or is it? What about the office supplies that end up at the house, taken home with good intentions, to do some work, but the surplus never returned? Hmmm. Or how about the $20 bill  found on the sidewalk, tucked in the pocket, as the new owner walks merrily away singing “Finders keepers, losers weepers”? Hmmm. Need I go on? Vigilance is required in order for Christians not to find themselves going over those giant bumps of a mega slide headed down a slippery slope.

Moral Boundaries

Most people consider themselves to be moral people. They understand right and wrong. If someone lies it is a betrayal of trust. If another woman steals someone’s husband, anger and a break in relationship is a correct response. Society understands that it should protect the innocence of children and the fragility of the elderly and infirm.

Often moral boundaries don’t become an issue for Church folks until they find themselves halfway down that slippery slope and starting to grab at any handhold along the way including denying, justifying actions, lying, and manipulating people and circumstances. Often a person will give in to temptation the first time in a small way without even realizing it, unless they are vigilant. For example: At work a married woman makes a business call to a man. At the end they share a silly joke and laugh together. She hangs up. Her day is brightened. Nothing wrong with that. However, Satan has cracked open a door. Does she have the safety chain on the door? If not, she may find herself developing a friendship, enjoying the attention of that man, spending time fondly thinking of him, accepting his flirty compliments, and then she finds herself in a spot. She is flirting with a moral boundary she never saw herself having to deal with.

To keep moral boundaries secure, a woman must be vigilant with her thought life! She can lie to herself if not careful.

Relational Boundaries

What are relational boundaries? These are the interpersonal skills of how a person takes care of their own inner needs and outer duties and commitments. They help distinguish a person’s unique identity from that of another person. These boundaries are essential for leading a healthy, balanced life, and they include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual boundary lines. Frequently, people struggle with these type boundaries because of their personality traits or habits developed in their upbringing. Consider the following.

Ever met a person who seemed to have never grown up? It’s not always obvious what issue they have, but a person hanging around them may end up feeling a pull to take on responsibilities that are not theirs, either materially, physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally. The person continually borrowing the $10 that is never repaid. (Material boundary.) The person wanting someone to come to their rescue in a crisis, but then never reciprocating. (Emotional/physical boundary.) The teen whose bedroom is cleaned by Mom, only to have it back in the same shape within 6 weeks, which then ignites Mom’s anger at them that they aren’t taking care of their responsibilities. (Physical/mental boundary.)

pexels-photo-93417On the flip side of that are the people who seem to never need anyone. It is apparent that they could use a hand, but they continually decline all offers and send the message, “I got this.” They are walled off in a self-protective way that allows very few people in. (Emotional boundary.) They have a rigid boundary of self-protection, that surely does keep the bad out, but also prohibits good from entering.

Then there are individuals that sin and suffer consequences but never accept the truth that it was their sin that caused the problems. They still want to point fingers and play the blame game which cycles them into more sin, because blame is lying (saying it is another’s fault when it is not), and these lies are keeping the person distant with their Heavenly Father. (Spiritual boundary.) This boudary issue keeps God at a distance and keeps the boundary-less person from reaching full repentance and resolution. The Gospel “brings hostile parties together (Colossians 1:21) and heals relationships between God and humanity, and between people.” (Boundaries, p. 135)

All of these people have boundary issues.

Henry Cloud, in his book Boundaries, reminds Christians of the need and purpose of relational boundaries. The purpose of boundaries is two-fold: to keep out things that will harm and to allow in things that will nurture. They should be like fences with a gate, not walls. Things and people come and go in life for a person’s good if they exercise appropriate boundaries. No one is required to allow angry or abusive people into their lives. However, scripture does command us to forgive them. Forgiveness means turning them over to God and letting them off our hook, not allowing them to keep harming us. As for the second purpose of boundaries, if Mrs. Lone Ranger is acting in a self-sufficient manner, she’s missing out on her deep relationships and needs being ministered to, but she is also depriving others in the body of Christ of an opportunity to exercise their God-given gift of mercy or exhortation or service or giving. Each member of the body of Christ must minister and be ministered to, just as the cells, tissues, and systems of our physical body work together yet are independent in their purposes. They each carry out their own job, but are supported by other parts doing their own jobs as well.

Roping our Steer

8142599351_b3e0ec35e9_mIt’s time to grow up Little Cowgirls! We need to grab our rope, mount our horse, and chase that steer that belongs to us. We are responsible for things within our boundaries. Are we taking care of them? Or are we trying to pass the blame just as our sister Eve did? Just as God gave Adam & Eve responsibilities and boundaries, He has given us responsibilities and boundaries.

How are you most tempted, to push the boundaries morally? To not handle relational boundaries appropriately? It’s time to learn how to set boundaries. (Check out the link above for more info.) It’s time to exercise self-control. Call your spirit to attention in Jesus’ name and have a talk with it, or allow Him to speak. Speak scriptural truth to yourself, immerse yourself in God’s Word, memorize it, purify your mind, and pray.

Colossians chapter 3 is full of wisdom on how to shape up boundaries. If a woman spent all her mental effort living out the commands of this one chapter, boundaries would be a tiny issue if any issue at all.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (3:2-4)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (3:5)

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (3:8)

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (3:9-10)

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

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace and be thankful.” (3:15)

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (3:16)

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. (3:17)

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (3:18)

Children, obey your parents in everything.” (3:19)

Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (3:20)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (3:23)

Christ is your life! Go live your life with those boundaries!

early-morning-autumn-fall-forest-56617

Life with boundaries can be beautiful!

 

Back to Basics: How to Study Your Bible 101

pexels-photo-269399

Grab a strong cup of coffee – it may be a long week! Get cozy. We’re putting together the pieces of life as we study the Word of God.

***************

We were blessed to hear Mike Satterfield preach this past week at GFBC. And did he ever step on my toes! How about you? When he began by asking us to think back over our last week…

Has anything changed? If I have not progressed, why?

Wow! Stopped me dead in my tracks. I long to see slight changes from year to year, but from week to week?! Methinks I’m to easy on myself? How about you? Let’s examine ourselves together?

How have you done so far this year at developing the spiritual disciplines you desire? Are you in the Word more now than you were this past January? How about more than last month? Last week? Yikes! Are you praying without ceasing more now than last January? Than last month? Last week? Yikes! Are you memorizing scripture and witnessing and obeying scripture more now than last January? Than last month? Last week? Yikes!

It puts me a bit on the defensive. I want to say, “But hey, you don’t know how busy I am! I’m a good person, a real Christian. Really!”

The bottom line is that our good intentions to live a godly life are not the same thing as living a godly life. So join me today as I choose to be tough on myself. To recommit to that one most central spiritual discipline – Bible reading and study. Let’s seek to live to a higher calling.

In light of that here are a few simple things to keep in mind as you dig deep into God’s word. There’s something in this list for you, no matter where you find your level of commitment to Bible reading or Bible study or applying the Bible to life.

  • Read the Bible every day. Even if it is only 1 verse. Develop the habit.

 

  • Ask the 5 W’s and an H (who, what, when, where, why, how) when you read God’s Word. These give you a frame-work for what you are reading, similar to filling in the corners and edges to a puzzle. Especially ask these type questions: What does this teach me about God/Jesus? About people? About women? About sin? About the world?

 

  • Read with a pencil (and possibly paper) on hand. Ideas you may want to try: Underline or mark key words or thoughts.Take notes in your Bible. Mark things that apply to you.Put question marks in the margin beside what you do not yet understand. In the margin, date and make notes on promises or commands that you sense are specifically for you that day. You may want to use a journal to record longer thoughts or prayers concerning the scripture you have read.

 

  • Train yourself to systematically read the Word of God. Start today. Ideas: †Read one proverb a day for a month. †Read all 4 Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John over the course of a year. †Read one Psalm a day.  †Read the Bible chronologically. †Read through the whole Bible from Genesis through Revelation in a year or 2 years.

 

  • Use the study Bible notes at he bottom of the page which explain meanings of names, or the historical or cultural implications we may not be aware of today.

 

  • Refer to the scriptures listed in the margins of study Bibles to find other scriptures throughout God’s word that mention the same word. For example: beside Genesis 1:1 about God creating the heaven and the earth, my study Bible lists in the margin 13 scripture references for verse 1, the first one is Psalm 102:25 which says that the heavens are the work of His hands. This type of searching for scriptures that help us understand similar scriptures is called cross-referencing. The best commentary on scripture is other scriptures.

 

 

  • Pray before you read your Bible. Always. Ask the Lord to teach you, to open your eyes to the truth, and to help you live out what you are learning. John 14:26 tells us “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Grasp onto one of these tools. Get in the Word. Let it change you!

Expect yourself to be better next week than you are today!

pexels-photo-273011

Can God Use a Neon Yellow Shirt?

colored-shirts-2646-neon-yellow-shirt-1000-x-1250As I was about to run a quick errand and then go to the track to walk, I grabbed a neon yellow shirt – one that is really NOT in my color palette and therefore I only use for exercising – and threw it on thinking I wouldn’t be in the store long and I didn’t want to get a shirt I liked sweaty when I exercised.

At the store a woman struck up a conversation with me. Finding out she hadn’t lived here long, I began to think how I might reach out to her. After listening to her drop several curse words in the first part of our conversation, and then having her share a few disapproving anecdotes of Southern “Christian” behavior that had offended her northern sensibilities, I realized God might have more for me to share. She moved on to speaking of a death in the family, wounds to her heart, and the issuses that had prompted her move south. Compassion welled in me and I began praying and thinking: How should I meet her very real needs, both physical and spiritual? Should I just invite her to church? Should I offer to pray about some of the things she was sharing? Would it progress to me sharing the gospel with her?

As lonely people will, she talked continuously, until at last she proclaimed that I sure was sweet but that she had to run meet someone. For all she knew I was just a nice Southern lady. Although I had been a compassionate listener, nowhere in the conversation had I brought the focus on God! Should I tell her to look me up on Facebook? Give her my phone number right quick? Maybe that would give me a chance to stay in touch and say more and let her know that Jesus was why I was sweet to her.

But I didn’t do that.

As I walked away I felt disappointed in myself. Why hadn’t I jumped in with something God would’ve been proud of?! I’m not a pushy person by nature, but maybe I should have been more pushy. No. I don’t believe in whacking people with the Gospel just to say I shared it. But what did my Heavenly Father think?

096652I asked God if He was disappointed with me? No answer. But my first thought was of the Believing God Bible study I was in at the time. So I decided while walking to the register that I was going to simply pray and believe God to use our chance meeting in her life. Whether she were to find me on Facebook by some weird mutual friend thing or for us to bump into each other again or for this to be all I would ever know of her until Heaven, I believed God that He had a purpose in our meeting and would work it out for His glory.

I drove home and got out of the car still berating myself for disappointing God. And then I had a GodStop! As I was getting the groceries out, I reached up to close the hatch and caught a glimpse of the word ”Christian” on my neon yellow t-shirt! I looked down and realized that neon yellow shirt was a Christian school shirt from the last year I had taught high school! I NEVER wear this shirt out in public other than to the school softball games! But today I did! She DID know I was a Christian! In fact, she probably read my shirt mid-conversation – right before she quit cursing I’m guessing. And maybe her surprise at my kindness (just hoping here) is that I acted lovingly toward her and she didn’t expect Christians to act that way. I don’t know. But God comforted me and reminded me that He works all things together for His purposes. And you bet I’ll let you know if I have another GodStop with her where we bump into each other or I get a Facebook friend request!

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'” Acts 17:24-28

Lessons From The Houdini Wienie

GraceWienerDog

We have a little wiener dog in our house. I’ve been told her breed name is dachshund but I have a hard time even saying dachshund much less spelling it, so a wiener dog she is. She can sing and say “I love you” but she is inconsistent and has to be in the mood to do so.

Two years ago, on Valentines Day, a give away, Craigslist, less than 5 pound, red satin bow around her neck, skinny red dachshund, became a part of our family. She was a good companion for our ol’ girl Lucy. All of a sudden the elderly, loner Lucy was forced into a daily exercise regimen, which included but wasn’t limited to squirrel chasing, bird harassing, dirt digging, and lizard and frog swatting. She was forced to run and play, her yard and porch no longer her sole possessions. The one time grazer Lucy was forced to complete and defend her daily dog food rations from the rambunctious, young, new comer. She even smiled more often. That little wiener pup added years to her life and life to her years. Two years to be exact.

8732679ce006bf1db00f83ca095d8b52-dachshunds-doggiesWhen the wiener came to the Martins she was named Harley. Such a manly macho biker name didn’t seem to quite fit her tiny, agile, red frame, so by way of blind vote proposed names like “Valentine,” “Miracle,” and “Little Angel” were passed over for “Pepperoni.” She is Pepperoni Sausage Dog. Pepper for short. Pep is short for Pepper and most days she’s just that, Pep.

Soon after she earned the nickname “Houdini Wienie” because she can escape from near anything with lightning speed. If not for her sparkly red cat collar (she would be furious if she knew she sported a mortal enemy cat collar so I dare not say it out loud) with a bell, we’d rarely be able to find her. She has a way of slipping into holes, maneuvering through tight spaces, and wedging herself into impossible situations. Scott Martin says this is typical weenie dog behavior.

It’s this masterful art that yielded me a new appreciation for her this morning and in doing so taught me a beautiful lesson. On Valentine’s Day of this year our beloved old gal Lucy died. Old age and years of good dog living caught up with her. Tears still fill my eyes when I think of that day. When I knew without a doubt that she was dying, I explained it to my children, the Martin 3, and watched them beg and plead for her to stay. How Shelton wept and wailed for his beloved friend who filled nearly every conscious memory he had. With Charlotte, quiet and sensitive, silent tears fell. Her only words were whispered in my ear that Lucy knew all her secrets and was a true and trusted friend. Maggie held Pepper tight. It was Pep’s behavior and whining which served as my confirmation that Lucy did not have long for this world.

My Mama says all the time there are things dogs just know. It was as if Lucy knew her job of training Pep to be a Martin was complete and she could peacefully depart. Despite the desperate pleas of her 13-year-old boy, depart she did, leaving the lone little Wiener to fill the gap. Since her departure I’ve come to some conclusions, loss and heartache seem to be the baseline lately, tears are a frequent occurrence. I’ve found myself thinking how stupid it is to cry over a dog, then the left brain kicks in and concludes the tears aren’t just over a dog. They are tears of grief. Grief over loved ones gone, childhoods morphing into adulthood, grief over circumstances and people not within my reach. Tears of cleansing and release. Tears of sadness and joy all rolled up into one.

This morning Pepper “Houdinied” her way into our bedroom while Scott and I were still in bed. He was sound asleep; me, not so much. The jingle of her cat bell, the only 23133796765_f1c7aa9828_bindicator of her presence. She quickly and carefully made her way up onto our bed and nudged Scott Martin with her cool, wet nose prompting him to roll over and give her the space and warmth she was looking for. I marveled at how something so small and weak could move something so big and strong. She was a mere 3 pounds, he weighs slightly a bit more than that. Scott barely missed a snooze when he yielded to her nudge. He rolled over effortlessly and she took her place beside him. I must admit I was in awe, I’ve tried all manner of techniques to facilitate such a roll over, I’m rarely as successful. Perhaps next time I’ll implement the cold, wet, nose trick.

***********

Lesson learned: God is big. I am small. I am but a small a part of His big plan, yet despite that, He moves on my behalf. In the days of late I’ve been talking to Him about how He moves. Maybe not how so much as why, or how it would seem at times, not at all. He is bigger and He sees the whole picture. I am but a finite part of that. Once I asked a friend out of desperation “But what if he doesn’t?! What if He doesn’t do what I’m asking Him to and spare her life?!”

I was well beyond the bargaining stage and was convinced that my prayers would go unanswered. My dear friend, calmly and simply said, “Well then you have to trust that He is saving HER from something worse than death.”

I have never doubted that in that moment she was speaking for Jesus directly to my ears. Giving me an answer He knew I’d need to recall time and time again. He knew when I asked Him why or how or why not, that I’d be transported back to that table seated across from my friend in Cracker Barrel.

292200695548_1Even now I am transported to that window facing table, the one under the yellow bathing suit, cola girl advertisement. When my thoughts take me there I am always reminded that He does move. He loves His children, and often when He moves, it is an act of mercy. In His mercy, He sees the end from the beginning and can be trusted to do what is merciful and right and always what is best. Isaiah 55:9 says “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” His ways aren’t just better, they are best.

 

God’s ways aren’t just better, they are best.

Back to Basics: What’s Your Story?

Writing Your Testimony

Grab your coffee, and a pen and 2 sheets of paper today. You’ll have an assignment! The teacher in me is coming out. Sometimes you have to follow through and do something to actually learn it.

As we’ve walked through 8 months of Back to Basics, I’ve often wondered if anyone is really listening to the heart behind this series. The deep heart desire of each of us at the Priceless blog is that you would come to know Christ, and would grow a deeper relationship with Him – a more obedient lifestyle that honors Him in all you do.

With that end in mind comes this lesson. If your heart has been pricked by some of these articles to the point of making changes in behavior and commitment, then you are well on your way to spiritual growth (even if you can’t see big changes yet!). Many of these lessons have had a personal focus. They have been things that would change our lives – studying God’s word, prayer, scripture memory, etc.

But what is our end goal? To just be changed for ourselves? No. In Matthew 28:19-20, God’s Word tells us, 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.” We have an assignment. A duty. A commission. So now that you have been feeding yourself spiritually and growing, it’s time to learn to carry out that joyful responsibility.

Today we will learn to write out our story, our testimony – a short one that can be shared in 3-5 minutes. Please read the how-tos, but more than that, grab your paper and do it!

Steps to Writing a 3 Minute Testimony.

  1. IMG_5953

    Something like this…

    Take one sheet of paper and turn it sideways. Divide it into thirds with vertical lines. You now have 3 columns. Title the columns individually, left to right, with “Before I met Christ,” “How I met Christ,” and “After I Came to Know Christ.” Leave yourself plenty of room below to write notes.

  2. Start with the left column. Jot down notes about what your life was like before you became a Christian. Write down circumstances, feelings, beliefs, or what you did and did not understand about the Bible, church, or being a Christian.
  3. Under the second heading write down the facts, maybe in a bulleted list, about how you came to know Jesus, your salvation experience. Tell the basics: how old you were, where were you, who shared Jesus with you, what Bible verses led to your conversion, how you felt, what you prayed, did you put it off at first, and other similar facts.
  4. And finally, in the third column explain in short phrases how your life changed after that. Was it immediate or over time? How have you grown in Christ? What have you learned? How has your faith been strengthened? What Bible verses are important to you today? What is the most recent or most powerful way you have seen God work on your behalf? How do you know you are a child of God?
  5. Now take this note page and your other blank piece of paper. From the notes you jotted down, pick the most important ones or those that convey the meaning you want, and use them to write 3 concise paragraphs on your blank page to tell your story.
  • Make sure you include scripture verses.
  • Don’t glorify your sin, glorify Jesus.
  • Use simple direct words that anyone can understand. Avoid “church words” such as “redeemed” or “sanctified” that non-church attenders may not clearly understand. (Alternate word options: Lord = boss, saved or redeemed = rescued, sanctified = set apart, justified = balanced my account, sin = something that goes against God’s standards.)
  • If you keep with the 3 distinct paragraph form, you will easily remember the past-present-future of your story and be able to share it in any moment.
  • Look over it daily until you are comfortable saying it with ease.
  • Grab a good friend and ask them to let you practice sharing it with them. if you’ve already said it many times, you won’t be as nervous telling your story to a stranger or whoever God puts in your path.

Now it’s time to try! You can do this! God will use it when you are obedient to do it!

people-2559723_640

What Does a Donkey Have to do with My Destiny? (Part 2)

How do you respond to changes in your life?  Do you go in kicking and dragging your heel? Are you one of those that can’t leave anything behind, so you try to juggle the old and new? Very few of us are excited when changes come in our lives. Changes in our lives are unavoidable. It is how we deal with them and accept them that affect our destiny.

I can honestly say I am one that thinks long and hard before making changes. I like to hold on to the old and familiar. Recently, my dearly beloved 18-year-old recliner needed to be replaced. This recliner had moved with me three different times and has served me Chair 3well, but the time had come for it to be replaced.  I have been putting off getting a new one for several years thinking this one could last a little longer. However, over the past year it had started to lose its stuffing in several places from wear. Finally, I had no choice, I knew something had to be done!

So why did I delay getting a new one? You see, this old recliner really fits me just right. It is so comfortable. The arms are just the right size to hold the remote. It is just the right height. It reclines to just the right angle for sleeping and watching TV. It is what I know. I am happy and content and even a little lazy. This old recliner has been doing its job. I didn’t want to think about going and searching for something new. I didn’t want to face the unknown world of recliner shopping; the colors, the styles, the choices. I knew there would not be one like the one I already had, and I would rather hold on to what I knew than to face the unknown.  However, once the decision to order a new recliner had been made, the question became what to do with my old recliner. Should I get rid of it or keep it around just in case I needed it for some reason. Can you relate? Do you hang on to stuff just in case you need it? (Let me be honest, the real reason I want to keep the recliner around is as a safety measure just in case I don’t like my new recliner.)

Some of you may be saying, “Well Brea, I’m glad you got a new recliner, but that seems very small and insignificant compared to the changes that come into my life.” You are right, but the decision is still the same. Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of things in your past or current life to embrace the new, exciting, and unknown things God has for you in the future. Be it a new recliner, a new Lifegroup, a new bible study, a new church, a new circle of friends, a new ministry, a new career or job, a new relationship, a move to a different city or country, etc. … You get the idea.

In the last session of the Priscilla Shirer Live conference in Knoxville, Priscilla gave us some warnings of things to be prepared for as we chase our donkeys heading towards our destiny. (To understand, read Part 1 if you haven’t.) The word of warning that really stuck me was that sometimes God calls us to let things in our life go: friends, possessions, ambitions, plans, and desires. (She is not talking about your marriage!)  Wait a minute! That is change! I thought I could just carry on with my every day task of chasing my donkey while waiting for my destiny. I didn’t sign up to give anything up. But God’s ways are different from our ways and his thoughts are different from our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) Sometimes we have to be willing to change to meet our destiny.

In 1 Samuel 9:27, Saul experienced having to give up something. He had to give up his servant that had been traveling with him. Samuel told him to let his servant go:

“When they reached the edge of town, Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. After the servant was gone, Samuel said, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God.”

Priscilla told us that sometimes in order for us to grasp the new things God has planned, we have to be willing to let go. Saul’s servant had served his purpose by pointing Saul to Samuel and faithfully working alongside of Saul chasing after those donkeys. Let’s be honest, sometimes it is others in our lives that encourage us and point out new opportunities in our lives. We just have to make the decision to follow their suggestions.

A little warning though: Don’t be like Balaam with his donkey (Numbers 22:8-35) and follow someone else’s suggestion or encouragement out of un-pure motives or rebellion and without actively seeking for God’s permission through prayer to move forward.  Draper Rogers detour-44163_640said in his sermon a few weeks ago: “Road blocks are not the enemy and when you encounter road blocks they can be God’s warning signs to you and should not be ignored.”  Make sure you are watching for the road signs while you chase your donkey.  Detours and unintended hazards are no fun and can slow you down.

But back to change. When change comes in your life how do you react: Are you excited?  Do you embrace this new change? Are the words from the song in the movie Frozen your motto: “Let it go! Let it go!” Do you embrace the words found in Isaiah 43:19 (NET) where the Lord says: “Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it?  Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness”?

Are you willing to drop everything and follow Jesus, just like his disciples?

In Matthew 4:19-22 (NET) Jesus said to them, “ ‘Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.’ They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. Then he called them. They immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.”

These disciples were willing to drop everything to follow Jesus.

Sometimes this is so hard to do. I have been known to flat-out rebel by refusing to make the change, or I try to juggle the old and the new. This never works. Can you relate to the rich man in Matthew 19:16-30 (NET), when he came to Jesus and asked him how he could gain eternal life? Jesus told him to keep the commandments, to which the rich man replied that he did, so what did he lack? Jesus replied: “ ‘If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.” This man went away sorrowful, sad. He could not let his possessions go. He missed out on following Jesus for things. Do you let worldly possessions, your friends, family members, job, church, current ministries, etc. hold you back from following God to your destiny? Do you favor them and the security they bring over God?  These are some really tough questions! Let me say from experience it is better to willingly give something up than to have the Holy Spirit come in and strip things away as he cuts and prunes your life. The hurt is a lot worse when God has to purposely remove something or someone, than for us to acknowledge and obey God’s instruction when He asks us to let things or people go.

Giving up the familiar and stepping out into the unknown is scary. But God has said in Deuteronomy 31:5 (NET) “Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!” Also in Isaiah 41:10 (NET) God tells us, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t be frightened, for I am your God! I strengthen you—yes, I help you—yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand!”

So are you willing to let go and step out on Faith? At the conference, Priscilla said, “Our calling/destiny is not here. It is there. And we have to be willing to release what God has called us to let go of so that we can fully grasp the future he has planned.  If we choose to hold on to the past it limits our enjoyment of the life God has given us. God lays the table and invites us to come eat, but we have to decide to leave things behind and go.”

It is time for me to let my old recliner go and embrace many years with my new recliner. What is God calling you to leave behind or change in your life so that you can experience new and exciting things He has for your destiny?

What Does a Donkey Have to do with My Destiny? (Part 1)

donkey-fence-nature-outside-70369

Recently, I attend a Priscilla Shiver Live event in Knoxville, Tennessee, with some ladies from our church. (Side note: if you ever have a chance to go hear her live – take it.  You will be blessed!)  During the weekend she taught from 1 Samuel 9:1 – 10:2 with a message I would title “You have to chase a few Donkeys to reach your Destiny.”

Priscilla said God has already made a pathway for our future. We don’t have to rely on luck or the stars to tell us our future when we know the Maker of the stars.  The only thing we have to do is be faithful in regular mundane duties and tasks and our lives will intersect with our destinies.  Here are some Biblical examples she gave:

Rebekah was just faithfully going about her daily task of drawing water from the well when she had an encounter that would change the trajectory her life.  She met the man who would take her to marry Isaac.

The Woman at the Well was faithfully drawing water when she met Jesus and he offered her living water. That day her life was changed.

David was faithfully attending the sheep when his father called him to take provisions to this brothers, and he met Goliath.  He was also faithfully attending the sheep when Samuel came to anoint him as the future king of Israel.  These two events changed the trajectory of David’s life.

The passage Priscilla spent session one on was Saul and his search for the donkeys.  Here is an abbreviated overview of the passage.  Saul has been tasked by his father to go and find the donkeys that had strayed away.  He was going about a very mundane everyday task, but along the way he met Samuel, a Man of God.  Samuel had been sent to the city by the LORD to anoint Saul as the future king of Israel.  The task of chasing the donkeys set Saul on the path to meet his destiny.

Here are a few things to remember about chasing our donkeys:

  • It will not bring us fame on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
  • It does not matter if your family has failed to chase the donkeys before.  This is your chase not your family’s.
  • Your attributes, beauty or lack of beauty, skills or lack of skills, do not matter.
  • You have to make a conscious choice to chase the donkey.
  • We can’t be lazy or have apathy for chasing the donkeys.
  • You can’t think that chasing the donkey is not worth your time.
  • You have to faithfully keep chasing the donkeys until God moves you on.
  • You have to constantly be praying and seeking direction for the path and destiny the donkeys will take.
  • Sometimes you have to keep chasing the donkeys even if you know your destiny because it can take years to come to fruition. Just ask Abraham and Moses. God revealed to them their destiny, but it was years before it was fulfilled in their lives.
  • Don’t get ahead of your donkeys thinking you know where they are going. They may just take a different path.
  • Don’t grow tried and frustrated or be willing to quit chasing your donkey. Your destiny might just be around the next corner.
SAMSUNG CSC

Donkeys can be smelly and dirty and stubborn and not much fun.

You see Saul was ready to give up. He was tired, hungry, frustrated and had already traveled through 5 countries. He was ready to return home to his Father and admit defeat. But Saul’s servant encouraged Saul to continue on and seek out Samuel to inquire where the donkeys may be found. God was already preparing the way. God had told Samuel to prepare and watch for Saul. Saul only had to walk the path God had already laid out for him.

Are you chasing the donkeys set before you waiting for your destiny to come? Or are you sitting back doing nothing waiting for your destiny to cross your path? Mary Margaret Collingsworth, an employee at Lifeway and a speaker at the You Lead conference I also attended while in Knoxville, said “God wants us to be doing the everyday, not just looking towards the big picture and waiting for something to happen.”

Are you a single woman waiting on God to bring your future husband?  Then you need to be walking in purity and doing the task that God has laid before you faithfully.  One day, if it is God’s will that perfect husband will cross your path; however, if we are just sitting back and waiting on God to bring him to our front porch we might be waiting a long time. Are you a married woman who is tasked with folding the clothes and raising children? Are you faithfully fulfilling these task while you wait for God to bring your destiny? Be it writing a bible study or teaching a lifegroup or ladies bible study or homeschooling your children. We all want to know what our future holds, but are we being obedient and doing the things we already have scheduled on our calendars. Are we looking for new opportunities to serve God?  Are we willing to do those tasks we despise? What if you knew they were tied to your destiny?

Priscilla asked us if we were waiting for the current season in our life to be over thinking the next one would be greater.  A single feels she can’t wait to get married, and doesn’t enjoy her time of being single.  A young couple can’t wait to have children but miss the time of togetherness they have to build their marriage.  An older lady can’t wait to retire.  What about a job you can’t wait to leave? Something you agreed to do that you can’t wait to be over? You get the idea. Are you racing through every season of our life waiting to get to the next and missing out on the blessing of the current season you are in? We all do it. We are spending all our time waiting for our current situation to be over instead of looking for the blessing God has for us.

So as you chase your donkeys, be on the lookout for your destiny.  Keep being faithful to the small, mundane task.  Don’t wish your life away and miss out on what God has planned for you. Don’t be so worried about the big picture God has for you that you miss the snapshots of God working on in your everyday life. Don’t get bogged down and feel that what you are doing does not have purpose. Everything you do has a purpose.  You may just not be able to see its worth yet. When Saul completed his task and arrived at the appointed place and time there was a reward waiting for him – a feast in his honor, a special message from God, anointing for his destiny, and word that the donkeys had been found.

couronne-st-edward

Faithfully do the task before you as you wait for God to bring you to your destiny!

Faithful

People on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser as it erupts; R Robinson; 1948

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

For the past couple of weeks, I have started this blog post and just stared at a blank page. This word “faithful” has been everywhere I have been and it seems like it has been in every verse I have read, but I could not seem to write about it… until today.

The word “faithful” is a strong word, especially when you are talking about the space in between the God of the universe and us. For us as believers to find God faithful, we have to have been through some “stuff.” To know down deep that HE IS FAITHFUL there has to have been some fire or a valley that He brought you through for you to know what faithful looks like or feels like. God’s word is full of promises for faithfulness but until you and I test Him, until we put our heart and life and future in His hands, we have no way of knowing what His faithfulness looks like.

I remember a day, eight plus years ago that His faithfulness became evident in my life. faithful-and-true-christian-poetry-by-deborah-annWe watched a family reunite and watched God redeem, restore and bless, but that meant that we had to let go of four precious kids as they returned home. God brought strength and comfort into our home and hearts. God breathed peace into our home and allowed us to welcome more children over the next several years. As each one prepared to leave, He was FAITHFUL to send that same peace and strength and hope into our home and hearts. We felt His presence and a sense of peace like never before because we looked for Him in those hard moments. We searched for His heart and sought His face when times were hard and HE WAS THERE…faithful.

I have been listening to a new song by Mercy Me called “Even If” over the last couple of  weeks and there is such a powerful line in that song “You’ve been faithful You’ve been good, all of my days. JESUS I will cling to You, come what may”. I can tell you that in my little corner of the world God is faithful, and He is good. I can read you the Scriptures that tell of His faithfulness, and I can also put that same Bible down and tell you time after time that He has been faithful in my life and how time and time again He blessed me in ways that I would have never seen if I had not been actively looking for His faithfulness. Not always easy, not always the way I would have wanted it to be, but His ways are higher. We each have a story to tell and our story reflects His goodness and His faithfulness. Prayers that He answers and blessings that He brings tell a story. There are hurting people right outside our doors that need to hear what He has done in your life and mine. They need to hear that HE IS FAITHFUL and that when we are empty He can fill us with strength and power to stay the course.

We are blessed as believers to have the opportunity to see God move and see miracles happen, the challenge for us is will we share them? Will you be bold and courageous enough to share your story with someone so that His story can be told? Lives are changed when real people share real hurt and heartache and when God is faithful to redeem and restore. Broken people loving broken people because only God can heal. We have the faith to walk out our journey because He is FAITHFUL!!!

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11

9b545d7eb74a7c9b5aad4f5974da72a9

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Basics: Hearing God’s Voice

“Look Mommy! It’s God talking!”

These words burst out of my preschooler’s mouth and caught me by surprise. “What?” I asked. He pointed to the sun’s rays streaming through the clouds seeming to shine down on one particular place in the distance. I understood. All those children’s Sunday School pictures would show light coming down from Heaven when God spoke to someone, and now my son was seeing that in real life and knew in his little mind that God was talking. My perspective was changed forever in that moment. Now whenever I see the sun streaming through, I think to myself God’s talking to someone. I pray for whoever it is that God is shining down on at that moment, that they will hear, accept, and obey His voice.

Oh! If only discerning God’s voice were that obvious! If the clouds parted and sunlight struck me square in the face, that would be so much easier than having to mature and learn to discern for myself what God is speaking to me. How can I know it’s God talking? How do I discern God’s voice? How do I learn to hear God’s voice and distinguish it from the other voices I hear – my own, the enemy’s, the world’s, etc.

ear-2372090_640❀  The foremost way we learn to know God’s voice is the same way a baby comes to recognize his mommy’s or daddy’s voice: he is with the parent continuously until the parent’s voice becomes familiar to him. For us, that means spending time with God as constantly as we can. Granted, in everyday life, work must be done, physical life moves quickly. In the midst of this rushing river called Life we must intentionally plan for and look for ways to spend more time with Our Father God. This means immersing ourselves in his Word – daily, hourly, continually. Find focused time to read and study His word every day. Listen to scripture songs, sermons, podcasts, and testimonies. Memorize scripture so that it dwells within us. Let’s make our heart familiar with the tone of God’s voice so we recognize it immediately.

❀ Learning to hear God’s voice also means spending time in prayer listening for God to draw that verse of instruction up from the depths of our heart and into our conscious attention. We need to speak scriptures to ourselves and call our spirits to attention in the name of Jesus Christ and listen to Him. Life is not just composed of mind and body. We have a spirit within that can commune with God and that God will move and inspire. But we must pray and listen.

❀  Learning to hear God’s voice also happens when we immerse our lives in Him. Surround yourself visually with scriptures and wholesome, Godly images. Surround yourself socially with like-minded Christians who will “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) Get deeply connected with the local body of Christ. All these things help filter out the voice of the enemy, remind us of Christ’s voice, and correct us when we start listening to the wrong voice.

❀  Listening to God’s voice requires waiting. In our Instagram/Breaking News world we’ve become accustomed to having the information we want immediately. God is not bound by time and does not fall prey to our mental urgency to “know it now.” We must seek Him patiently with our whole heart and we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) We must be still to recognize and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

❀  Learning to hear God’s voice also includes exercising self-control in your thought life. If your mind is overrun with your thoughts, the world’s opinions, unholy dramas, self-pitying sagas, and Satan’s fiery darts of temptation, God’s still small voice will be drowned out in all the hubbub, and even when He is speaking we will have trouble hearing Him. In Philippians 4:8, Paul gives us the key to controlling our thoughts.

“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.”

Tools For Determining God’s Voice

1. Remember That God’s Voice Will Never Tell Us Anything Contrary to His Written Word.

God ‘s written Word, the Bible, is truth. God will never speak anything to your heart that goes against His written Word. That’s why it is critical for us to know His Word. If we don’t understand the full counsel of what Scripture teaches, Satan is able to slip subtle twists of truth into our minds and deceive us just as he did Adam & Eve in the Garden. Satan is in the game of mimicry and deception. He shoots those kinds of thoughts into our minds, and when we aren’t in tune with God’s voice we may obey this counterfeit voice thinking it is from God. Always compare the thoughts and promptings of your mind and heart with God’s written Word. If you’re a young Christian and don’t feel you have the Biblical wisdom to discern this yet, go to an older, wiser Godly woman or a pastor for prayer and help. The next tool will help with this too.

 

2. Sifting Our Thoughts

We must learn to sift our thoughts through the lens of Philippians 4:8, and then our mind can be cleared of the clutter and can readily discern God’s voice. Here is the process to take every thought captive. For any thought you have, ask your self the questions below. If at any point your answer is “No,” then that thought is not of God.

Philippians 4:8 Thought Tester:

Is this thought True?                        Yes/No

Is this thought Noble?                      Yes/No

Is this thought Right?                       Yes/No

Is this thought Pure?                        Yes/No

Is this thought Lovely?                    Yes/No

Is this thought Admirable?            Yes/No

Is this thought Excellent?               Yes/No

Is this thought Praiseworthy?       Yes/No

If your answer to any of these is “No,” then choose to quit thinking that thought and replace it with a scripture verse to think about. If we just ask the first question, a great deal of what we consider will be raked aside.

 

3. Know What Scripture Says about God and Satan

Another way I make sure I am hearing from God is to be aware of what scripture teaches us about God and Satan. This simple chart compares the voice of God with the Enemy’s voice.

                The Voice of God and the Voice of the Enemy  

  1. Satan condemns, God convicts our hearts.
  2. Satan’s goal is to destroy, God’s goal is to correct and encourage.
  3. Satan’s is a harsh, loud, merciless voice, God’s is a gentle, merciful voice.
  4. Satan is negative and discouraging, God speaks honestly of your failures, yet is hopeful.
  5. Satan seeks to separate you from Christ, God seeks to restore your relationship with Christ and others.
  6. Satan is punitive, he offers no grace, God offers grace with appropriate consequences.
  7. Satan is a roaring lion, God is a still small voice.
  8. Satan has come to kill, steal, & destroy, while God gives life to the full; abundant life.

 

4. Recognize that God Asks Us Questions in Order to Teach Us

In the Garden of Eden, God called to the man and woman “Where are you?” Was it because God didn’t know? Had they hidden so well that the omniscient Creator of the Universe couldn’t find them in a garden? Um, no. He was educating them. Today we call it the Socratic method (an educational method based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions), but personally, I like to refer to it as God’s method. He knew where Adam and Eve were, but He asked them a question to get them to think – where were they really? Outside God’s plan, disobeying His instructions, hiding from Him. They needed to take stock of themselves to learn.

God asked many people questions throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19:9-13 God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” as he hid in a cave in fear. Then a wind and an earthquake and a fire came by before God spoke in a gentle whisper and asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Side note: God also repeats Himself to us.) In Job 38 God asked Job questions which stopped him in His tracks. God asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Jesus asked people He met questions, the most common one being, “What do you want me to do for you?” God asks us questions today also. He asks us questions to get us to think and learn His ways. So listen. When you find yourself asking yourself, “What are you doing girl?” just maybe God put that question in your mind to get you to think and learn. So stop, go to His Word, and contemplate your actions.

Learning to hear and discern God’s voice is a process. We must learn to recognize the voice of our shepherd. As we faithfully stay in His Word and apply His principals in living out our lives, we will find His voice becomes more distinct through the years. In the meantime, listen carefully! He is speaking! My prayer for you is that you would begin to hear Him and follow Him obediently just as it’s recorded in Isaiah 30:21-22 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ”

(Join our fall Women’s Bible study at Gardendale First Baptist Church: Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.)

pexels-photo1

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate very wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:103 – 105 May His Words illumine your path today as you seek Him faithfully! 

 

Wheel of Faith

wheel

Supper was finished… The kids had completed their dinner chores and scattered. Our conversation was light, the kind of good natured banter that Husband and Wife often share. We had been discussing the recent bad string of movies I’d chosen and brought home from the library for our date night viewing pleasure.

“That last one was awful Babe.”

He was right, the light-hearted romantic comedy, was in fact none of those things. No light heartedness, not very funny and the acting was subpar. I was quite glad I had not wasted a dollar-seventy-five rental fee; relief that I hadn’t washed over me.

“Yeah I know. It was really bad. I’m glad it was free though.”

I had nearly finished loading the dishwasher when I was forced to make another, more profound acknowledgement. The confession had come secondary to a familiar scenario that had just played out between us. He coughed and cleared his throat. I began to quiz him. Meanwhile, as he spoke I paused the dishes duties to assess him. In a move that resembled “Baymax” from Big Hero 6, I scanned systematically, beginning at the top of his head and making my way down to his tennis shoe covered feet. No overt physical findings detected.

Depending on who you ask I may or may not have begun asking irrational questions. Questions like, “How long have you been coughing?”

His response, “Uh, once.”

The interrogation continued… I wanted to know not only the frequency, but also the quality of the cough in question. As is customary his cooperation eventually gave way to annoyance and he put an end to my line of questioning. His tone of voice changed and he said, “Amy stop. I’m fine, I had to clear my throat. Good Grief.”

I apologized for my irrational behavior, quickness to jump to unmerited conclusions, and relentless interrogation tactics. He quickly offered his forgiveness.

As I placed the last of the forks into the basket, I said “You know I always think the worst.”

He gently, yet matter-of-factly said “Yes, you do. I think that’s partly why you struggle with faith.”

He didn’t have to elaborate, I knew what he meant. We’ve often discussed the fact that I struggle when it comes to matters of faith. Areas where I am to trust God for the seemingly impossible. Believing in faith is by far one of my biggest struggles. I wrestle daily with this one, and I am often left unsettled because I know that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

My man does not struggle in this area nearly as much as I do. In His infinite wisdom and grace, the King gave me a husband that has a tremendous amount of faith, and lives a life evidenced by it. He is a man that can be described as a “man of faith.”

I’ve often thought that if there were a chapter in his book written about his faith, it could boast all of the following headings… “Faith Big enough to Be on the Wheel of Fortune, Play it, and Win the Exact Amount of Cash Needed to Pay for an Adoption…” or maybe “Faith Lived Out by Throwing Caution to the Wind and Fulfilling The Meteorologist Dream…” or “Slow and Meticulous Ain’t the Same as Big and Dumb…” perhaps “He Can Do Almost Anything…” or maybe this summation “Follows Directions Well”.

It has been said that what you are thinking today will be who you are tomorrow. What my man of few, but profound, words was saying to me as I finished loading the dishwasher was that I tend to think the worst. I brace myself in preparation for the worst, even when the worst is in direct contradiction to God’s word.

God’s Word tells me over and over that He loves me, He is for me, He can be trusted. He gave His very Life for me. There is truly no greater love than that. Faith is simply believing that God will do what He has already promised He will do. Perhaps for me, the secret to faith lies in my thinking. If I believe God… If I trust Him… Then the product of that is the faith I’ve longed for. Perhaps if I change my thinking from the worst to the best, then that is the first step necessary to prepare me for the great things God has in store.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:1,3,6