Feb 26, 2008

A Short on Suffering

Hey, gals. This week is going to be more of a thought to ponder than a complete blog. I've been dealing with a toothache that culminated in a root canal today, so I'm somewhat under the weather. I pray that God would use the little I have to offer mightily no matter the word count! Bless you all!

"The apostles left the Sanhedrin [after being flogged], rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name." Acts 5:41

After I read this passage this morning, I was faced with my own tendency to balk and complain at any inconvenience, much less any suffering, that I must face in my life. I can't remember the last time I rejoiced at having a trial put before me. And I realize that many of our trials today aren't nearly as severe as the apostles', but they are still designed to glorify God in some way no matter how small. Think about it. Whatever you face that's difficult, it has the potential to mold you more into the image of God. It is an honor. As hard as it is, we should be thanking God for taking the time to deal individually with us. We have the reassurance that everything that God does in our lives derives from His heart of love towards us, so we can KNOW that our trials are for our good. Today as we go about our day and some sort of distraction or inconvenience pops up, let's have the mind to ask God what He's doing in it. Let's try to roll with what God is doing daily, in the small things instead of fighting against Him when things don't go our way.

Father, thank you for loving us enough as to be intimately involved in the little events and happenings of our days. Help us to work with you instead of against you. We love you, amen.

Feb 19, 2008

Holy Moses! Part 2

Hello again! Last week, we talked a little bit about Moses and his reaction to his past in the face of a big calling from God. I want to explore the moment God revealed Himself through Moses’ staff a tad more. If you’ll remember, we likened Moses’ shepherd’s staff to his former life of sin. Just as God used the staff to glorify Himself not only to Moses but later to the Hebrews and Egyptians, He wants to use our past sin to do the same in us and in our world. We asked the question, “How does God want to use your past to affect the world around you?” You might have noticed that in answering this question you were faced with the requirement of remembering some old wounds. In having to do so, you might have reacted like Moses did when God asked him to focus on his staff.

“The LORD said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.” Ex. 4:3

Often, our first reaction when we are forced to think about old hurts and mistakes is to shut down the thought process and run from it. Who wants to brood over that stuff? Why bring intentional depression upon ourselves? The truth is we are not meant to feel eternally downcast when we rehearse our past; God desires for us to find healing from it. Check out what He says in Isaiah…I love it!!

“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isa. 61:4

Yes, our ruins may be ancient, our hurts and mistakes haunting, but God desires restoration, not avoidance. There is a saying that goes, “You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge.” We must look it in the face, bring it to God and let Him heal it. This will look different for everyone. Depending on what’s looming in your past, counseling might benefit you. But, make sure that the good doctor is pointing you towards Christ. He is our only true Healer. Look what happened with Moses when God commanded him to deal with the snake.

“Then the LORD said to him, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.’ So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.” Ex. 4:4

No doubt the snake was frightening, but the truth was, in the presence of God, Moses had mastery over it! He grabbed that thing by the tail and put it in its rightful place: submission. The truth about your past is if you have Christ living in you, you have mastery over your former mistakes and pains! The enemy would love for you to believe the lie that you will never gain victory over them, but plainly and simply, that is a lie. God promises over and over in His word that when we seek Him, we will be healed and have victory and freedom. THAT is the truth. Choose to believe it.

We must come to the place where we decide that living behind prison doors of insecurity, discontent, or fear are no longer good enough. We are the people of God, the King of kings, and we WILL act like it. We will not run in fear from our pasts; we will stand, look them in the face, and just like Moses' snake, put them in their proper place of submission. We will trust that God knew what He was doing then and continues to be in control presently. The enemy has no right to stake any sort of claim over your life. You have already gained the victory. Now ask God to help you walk in it.

"I will walk about in victory for I have sought your precepts." Psalm 119:45

Father, thank you for your unmerited favor and freedom. Although you have made us free, it is sometimes so difficult to believe and live out. Help us. Thank you that you desire to heal us from past hurt and that no past is beyond your loving grasp. We love you.

Feb 12, 2008

Holy Moses! Part 1

This week, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Moses. Not necessarily about him leading his people out of Egypt or orchestrating a mid-ocean, dry land trek, but more about his life before he learned of his calling. He killed someone. He tried to cover it up. He ran for his life. Then, he found himself amongst a herd of sheep, spending hour after dreadfully boring hour leading his furry flock. Do you think he wondered if this was the only leadership he was meant for? Did he think that his past sins had rendered useless any gifts he may have had? It had been decades since he had done anything but tend sheep. I wonder if he had given up on any further aspirations.

When Moses encounters a shrub lit aflame by the very presence of God, his insecurities come center stage. God has chosen him for a mighty big job and He begins to reveal the plan for that job to Moses. And what is Moses’ reaction? “Who am I. . .?” Okay, I’ll give him this one. It sounds like good, God-centered humility. But he follows it up with, “What if they do not believe me?” and “I have never been eloquent. . .I am slow of speech” and the one that finally earns God’s anger, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt the Lord ask me to do something and I’ve answered with excuse after excuse. And like Moses, many of them were rooted in insecurity linked to past experience or sin.

When Moses reacted to his calling with, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” I’m thinking he might have been remembering the last experience he had with the Hebrews. They had confronted him with his sin and he had run. Maybe he thought that he had lost any sort of respect among them. God’s response to his question is curious. God answers Moses’ question with one of His own. “What is that in your hand?” I can picture Moses glancing at his hand and saying flatly, “Uh. A staff.” The rest of the dialogue I will present verbatim so that you can picture it yourself.

“A staff, “ he replied. The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.” Exodus 4: 2-5

Why did Moses have a staff? Because he was a shepherd. And why was he a shepherd? It was the career he had taken up as he was running from a sinful past. Funny, the staff that he acquired as a direct result of his past sin became the object that God used to glorify Himself. How many times have we ruminated on and regretted our pasts as God was saying to us, “Child, you are forgiven of all of that. And I’m going to use it for My glory!” The former events and actions that cause us pain to remember are the very ones that God wants to use to show the world how loving and powerful He is.

He wants to use what we are running from.

Interestingly, Moses’ staff was later referred to as “the staff of God”. It was wholly surrendered to God and used to split the sea, bring water from a rock, and produce a prayer-induced battle victory for Israel. What if Moses would have let his insecurity keep him from doing what God had asked him to do? Amongst a myriad of other possibilities, he would have missed out of being one of the most powerful and effective leaders of the Christian faith. He led a nation out of slavery. An entire nation.

How is God wanting to use your past to affect the world around you? To get you thinking, I’ll give you one example from my life. He is using my past college-aged rebellion to fuel a passion to pour into high school kids. I want to equip these girls for the faith-challenging life they will enter upon stepping foot on a college campus so that they don’t do what I did. What is it for you? What pain will you let God turn into ministry? You may not lead a whole nation out of slavery, but you’ll surely help bring about freedom in your friends, families, and coworkers. And, who knows? Maybe leading a nation is in your future. . .after all, nothing is impossible for God.

I have more thoughts on Moses, but I’ll save them for next week. Can’t wait! Love ya’, girls!

Father, thank you that you work everything for the good of those who love you. Thank you that we don’t have to be bogged down with guilt over our pasts. Help us to accept your forgiveness and be vulnerable enough to let you use our former failures for your glory. We love you. Amen

Feb 5, 2008

Eyes to Yourself

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Romans 12:6

This year I have had the pleasure of watching one of our new girl leaders form friendships with some senior girls in our club. It is the coolest thing. As soon as these girls arrive at any event, you can almost see their “Christie Radars” go up. They are all on the lookout for her. And as soon as they find her, they are stuck fast. It’s almost as if no one else exists; she is all that matters. And they think that every word that comes out of her mouth is the funniest thing they have ever heard. At winter camp this year, they laughed for 10 minutes straight when she quoted a Bible verse. Who knew holy writ could be so side-splitting? I still don’t know what was so funny. And every idea she has is the best idea ever spoken aloud. She could tell them to run as fast as they can into a brick wall and they would do it. They are enamored. And she is just as taken with them. Watching God do a work in all of their hearts through these blossoming relationships is amazing.

Still, periodically, I have to check my pride at the door. I find myself thinking, “Why don’t they like me as much as her?” or “They don’t even know I’m here.” Well, the truth is, they DO like her more and they are probably only slightly aware that I’m around (I refuse to believe that I go completely unnoticed). But, so what? Who cares who they like more! At these times, I have to ask myself new questions: “Am I living this life for myself or for God? Is it all about me or all about Him?”

The truth is, as funny and attractive as Christie is, the bond that is forming between her and those seniors is a God thing. He has provided her with particular personality traits and life experiences that draw those girls to her. And He is using those to bring the girls into a closer relationship with Him. Again, it is about Him.

What God has done in Christie, He is doing in all of us. He has given us particular gifts and life events to equip us to do the job He has for us to do. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us that God has works, good works, for us to do that He already has prepared. He has a specific mission for you. One that He has specially built, molded, and pruned you for. It’s the perfect job. But so often, we miss out on our job because we are too busy lamenting the fact that we don’t have so-and-so’s gifts. “She’s prays aloud so much better than I.” Or “Wow, what a great teacher. I wish I could teach like that.” Or “Maybe they like her better because she’s so funny. I should try to be funny.” Oh, was that last one just for me?

It comes down to this. God has a plan for the world around us and each of us plays a special, specific part in it. Are we going to live out our role and find fulfillment in accomplishing our purpose for being on this earth, or are we going to whine about not having someone else’s job and live our lives in jealous bitterness? I’m speaking to myself here. Let’s get our eyes off of each other and trust God enough to give our own purpose a try. You never know; you might just like your job better anyway. It’s what God made you for, after all!

Father, we confess that we are guilty of comparing ourselves to your other children. We are sorry and thank you for your patience and forgiveness for us in this area. Thank you that you love us each enough to invite us to be a part of what you’re doing on this earth. Help us not to miss our callings because our eyes are focused on the wrong targets. We love you, Amen.