Why Am I Doing This?

There he was, lying defiantly limp on the floor. All the other children were bouncing along their way to the next Vacation Bible School activity. Not this four year old.

And there I was. I’d had it. I didn’t even want to be helping with VBS. But there was no turning back. I decided to make this boy my mission – not in a ‘God’s love pouring out from me into his life’ sort of way, but in an ‘I will conquer his naughtiness’ sort of way. I sat with him, talked with him, showed him I could be just as stubborn, and tried to prod him on. Eventually, he just drifted off to sleep on the worn pew in the back of the Sunday school room. And I brooded about all the difficulties I was facing.

At home I angrily and tearfully slapped some sandwiches together for my four whining kids (oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with number five at the time too?). I did not want to go back for the rest of the week! I thought, ‘Lord, this isn’t fair.’ I needed a break like the rest of those moms that eagerly waved goodbye to their kids after dropping them off for the morning!

After lunch was cleaned up and my youngest was down for a nap, I dropped myself into a chair and came face to face with what was going on inside of me. I most definitely had not been walking in the Spirit that morning.

In fact, I came to realize an even more puzzling yet convicting truth – agreeing to help with VBS in the first place was not obedient.  What? Serving not obedient? But the fact was that I didn’t even consider consulting God in this decision. I was led by obligation and duty, not the Holy Spirit. And how can I be pleasing to God in any capacity if it is not His will for me to be participating in the first place?

I should have prayed about it and then had the courage to say no. I should have given it more thought before fulfilling what I thought were my ‘duties’ to the church.

God impressed truth on my heart.

If we are not Spirit led, we rely on ourselves instead of the Holy Spirit for strength.

And we all know how well that works …..

I learned that sometimes God may want me to say ‘no’ to ministry!

Even the apostle Paul had to say no out of obedience to the Lord. Acts chapter 16 tells us of the marvelous work that Paul was doing in all the regions he visited. However, the Holy Spirit would not allow him to go teach and preach in Bithynia or Asia. It’s strange that God would say no to something that, to me, seems good. But God had different plans for Paul. If you keep reading in Acts, you’ll see how God used Paul elsewhere instead.

I do not know the mind of God, though I do trust Him implicitly. If God told Paul no to a specific ministry, might He not do the same for us? Might God have different plans than ours?

We are not responsible to accomplish every good work, or to say yes to every ministry opportunity. No one can possibly do everything! We are, however, responsible to obey the Holy Spirit’s directing in our individual lives.

Because we are far more effective for the Lord when we are Spirit-empowered instead of self-empowered!

Well, I finished the rest of VBS that week. It went well. Not because of the circumstances but because of my attitude. I knew God wanted me to follow through with what I had already committed to – in His strength instead of my own. I even had the privilege developing a precious friendship with the boy who had put me over the edge on the first day.

God taught me an important lesson: I need to commit myself to Him before I commit myself to tasks.

The crux of the matter is acting out of Spirit-driven obedience rather than flesh-driven obligation – or duty or striving.

Jesus was all about doing only the will of the Father. We must be too.

Seeing Vaguely

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Cor. 13:12

I remember the first time it hit me. It was one of those things that I should have already realized, something that was easily observable, but had never dawned on me before. After all, I knew a lot, right? I knew most of the answers in Sunday School and Youth group. In fact, I was so far advanced compared to my peers that I pretty much had it all figured out. Ha!

Thankfully, God brought someone along to mention in a passing comment, “You know, the Bible doesn’t tell us everything about God. It only reveals what God wants us to know.” What!?! There is more that I don’t know!? (Let’s be honest, even if the Bible contained everything there is to know about God, I still would NOT know or understand it all).

This meant that all my assumptions had to be reevaluated. My ‘little’  Sunday School story God suddenly became much bigger than I could handle. He became a mystery. He became elusive.

I imagine this may have been how the Israelites felt as they wandered in the wilderness, following the Lord as a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. There was no doubting His presence or His power, yet He had no discernable form. I wonder how many looked intently into that cloud and that fiery pillar hoping to see something more clearly. It is much easier to follow what you can easily discern and understand. Maybe that is one reason the nation continually struggled with idolatry – it is in human nature to want to see clearly, to understand, to know.

But this is not God. God is almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, and altogether too weighty for us to handle. It is because of His grace that He only reveals to us the bits and pieces that we can swallow, otherwise we would surely die.

As I grow and mature in my relationship with the Lord, I am thankful for those moments when, through His Word, the Holy Spirit allows me to see the faintest passing shadow of Himself through the veil. But how I do yearn for that day when in glory I will see Him face to face! Oh, to know Him more!

Still, what comfort it is to be known by Him, more completely than I even know myself. And what merciful kindness He has given us by revealing even more of Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ! And whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father (John 14:9).

Do you understand the mind of God? If so, your God is too small and of your own making. Can you trust Him even though you see dimly?

We are veiled from God, for our own good, not He who is veiled from us. Just as Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock as the glory of God passed by, we see dimly and are protected from what we cannot bear in this earthly form.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep on following in the path of uncertainty. To keep seeking after a God who is unsearchable. The truth of His abiding in us and our abiding in Him is difficult to pin down and act upon. But what He has chosen to reveal is enough. And there is more to come!

“This age of ours will one day be the distant past. And the Divine Nature can change the past. Nothing yet is in it’s true form” (from C.S. Lewis’ ‘Til We Have Faces’).

Why You Should Get Your Hopes Up

“Don’t get your hopes up.” I’ve heard it and said it hundreds of times. In fact, in an effort to prevent disappointment, this has been part of my inner dialogue since childhood.

Right now, I am excited by some of the possibilities on my horizon. But as swiftly as any of those thoughts enter my mind they are immediately rebuffed with ‘don’t get too excited, it probably won’t happen…..’ You know the rest of that story. Is it any surprise that in my early teen years I was so generously bestowed the nickname ‘Eeyore’?

Even as I look around at the world today I find it easy to despair. And I don’t think I’m the only one. We see evil, corruption, murder, lies, immorality, wars, sickness, poverty, hatred. We see it in our own homes. We see it in our communities. We see it in the numberless hopeless headlines on our news feed.

It all makes me lose hope sometimes. I begin to assume that no matter the scale, big or small, nothing will turn out well. It makes sense to guard myself against disappointment by just assuming the worst. By not getting my hopes up.

But I have been so wrong.

I see now how my efforts to temper earthly hope have unfortunately had the same effects on my heavenly hope.

That has resulted in a life that is lacking: lacking joy, lacking happiness, lacking love, lacking peace. Oh, I have these things on occasion, but not as steadfastly as I know my Heavenly Father desires.

Hope should be an earnest and driving force in a believer’s life. It should be clearly evident to those around us. It should be one of our distinguishing characteristics. The world should marvel at the hope we have, and want it too!

1 Peter 3:15 calls us to a great endeavor. An endeavor that requires hope and preparation.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.

This verse is convicting because it requires more that just telling the world about Jesus. It requires that we first manifest an undeniable hope.

In order to begin to live daily with such a noticeable hope we have to go back to the beginning. Why do we have hope?

We have hope because God has made us promises. We can hold fast to our hope because “He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

The God who promised He would never leave us or forsake us is faithful.

The God who is preparing a place for us is faithful.

The God who promises that we will one day be like Him is faithful.

The God whose glory will one day be revealed to all is faithful.

The God who will wipe every tear from our eyes and heal all wounds is faithful.

His promises are sure. They are so unshakably certain that the word hope seems inadequate to describe the trust we can have in them. What He has promised will be. God is not a liar.

So, how will the unbelieving world recognize hope in us? Scripture is full of answers to that question, but here are a few to get you thinking.

A hope filled life is:

Rejoicing (Romans 12:12)

Persevering (Romans 5:4-5)

Eagerly waiting (Romans 8:25)

Unwavering (Hebrews 10:23)

Prepared and sober (1 Peter 1:13)

Pure (1 John 3:3)

(Take time to look up these passages – you won’t regret it!)

This is what the unbelieving world should recognize as remarkable about us – so much that they want what we’ve got.

That’s why we need to get our hopes up! That’s why we need to get excited about the certainty of what we hope for! Earthly hopes will disappoint, but we don’t need to despair because our heavenly hope is guaranteed.

And you know what? I’m gonna shake off Eeyore and let myself get a little more excited about the little things too. Because even if they do disappoint, I still have a secure hope that will beautifully unveil itself in the end.

I would love to hear what you think about this topic! Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture that reminds you of the hope you have in Christ? Do you ever feel convicted, like me, of not manifesting the hope you have in Him for the world to see? Can you think of anyone you have observed who has shown undeniable hope in God, even in the midst of difficulties?

Overcomer

I bought a new pair of running shoes today. Out with Nike and in with Brooks. Though I must say, it saddens me a bit. I’m not a brand-loyalist, but as some of you may know, the word ‘nike’ is a Greek word that means victory. And, as a Christian, I just love the idea of running in ‘victory.’ 🙂

Another way the word ‘nike’ gets translated in the Bible is ‘overcome.’ Just the thought of that word makes me kind of giddy inside. Because, guess what? That word defines me, and you too, if you’ve trusted in Jesus.

We are overcomers!

Let me show you:

You are of God… and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5

We are overcomers because of our unity with Christ who has already done the overcoming!

I have overcome the world. John 16:33b

What is in the world that we need to overcome? Sin, darkness, death. Worry, anxiety, fear.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea that even though I am still living in the midst of a fallen world, I am an overcomer. Present tense. Not in the process of overcoming. Not striving to overcome. Not hoping to overcome. An already-won-the-victory overcomer. And I didn’t have to do anything to win the victory!

It was already won the moment Jesus rose victoriously from the grave. And because He is in me, so is His victory.

Even spending just a few moments contemplating the implications of this truth leaves me overwhelmed with privilege, awe, humility, courage, thankfulness, and praise!

By this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with worry. Let me explain.

The first part of John 16:33, which I shared above, says this:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

And there we have the key to overcoming worry: peace.

And not just any peace, the Peace of God.

As believers, we have the unique position of being an overcomer as well as dwelling in a peace that only God can offer. His true peace is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Jesus came to bring this peace to the world (John 14:27).

But how can we grab a hold of that lifeline of peace when we are sinking in worry and anxiety?

The apostle Paul, who at the time of writing his letter to the Philippians was imprisoned and awaiting his death, had this to say to his readers:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (4:6-7)
So much has already been written, taught, and preached about these verses, but I want to hone in on one main point. Worry attacks the mind, but God’s peace acts as our mind’s bodyguard against anxiety.

Maybe you’re like me, and sometimes your bodyguard has dozed off or become more of a couch potato than a protector. That’s why Paul goes on to share in verse eight how we can get that bodyguard in a state of active anticipation so that we might enjoy God’s peace.

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

That’s our mental training program. And that’s what strengthens our bodyguard and allows us to experience peace.

Isaiah 26:3 says it in a different way:

You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

Is there really any more I can add?

I will still be running whether I wear Nike’s or not.

But I get to run my spiritual race in ‘nike’ every day. Because I’m an overcomer, and you are too.

Let’s get comfortable in those spiritual nike’s, and start training our minds to think Philippians 4:8 thoughts. Then the peace of God will swiftly chase away our worries!

If You’re Feeling Tired Today……..

……..me too. I probably stayed up too late last night and I think I’m coming down with a head cold – a perfect recipe for one tired mama! On top of that, our family life hasn’t recovered its pre-trip stride yet. Many activities and changes to life have left us all a bit on the worn side.

I planned on sharing one of the devotions I wrote for Shorebreak today, but completely forgot which one was next. Then I opened my file and just had to chuckle, of course it would be this one! I needed to be reminded of this truth today.

Remember, it’s written with the context of High School camp in mind, but God’s Word is beneficial no matter our circumstances. So if your’e feeling a little worn and burdened today, I hope you might experience a moment of encouragement here.

True Rest

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)

Camp sure is fun, but staying up late, getting up early, and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed; all these things can collide to make one tired camper! As nice as a good night’s sleep in our own beds will be, real life is waiting for us – all the burdens it brings too. All the sleep in the world can’t solve some problems. Maybe you are going back to a very tense home situation. Maybe you are drowning in school work. Maybe you will have to go face the consequences of a bad choice. Maybe it’s loneliness, or fear, or anger, or addiction. The list could go on and on.

It’s tempting for us to try to solve all these problems on our own, in our own reason or logic or strength. But we need help. We all long for deep peace and renewing rest in our souls, and that is exactly what Jesus wants to give to us. He is powerful enough to handle any problem, He is compassionate and loving to heal the deepest wounds of our soul, His wisdom surpasses all, and He willingly offers to teach us. Be encouraged as you face what lies ahead; you have a loving, tender, strong, empathetic Savior who is desperate to carry your burden for you.

  1. What burdens are you trying to carry with your own strength?
  2. Do you trust Jesus to handle these things?

Pray – Thank God for the experience you have had this week and give Him praise for how you have seem Him at work in your life and in the lives of those around you! Pour out your concerns and fear to Him. Approach Him honestly about what burdens you. Then give that burden to Him and thank Him for the rest He will give to your soul.