I've been spending some time the past couple of weeks studying lessons for Kid's Kamp. This summer's theme is Warriors for Christ. Today I was studying the lesson on Nehemiah and his constant cummunication with God, his commander. As Christians we also are warriors for Christ and God is our commander. The way we communicate with our commander is through prayer.
Nehemiah prayed when he heard that the walls in Jerusalem still had not been rebuilt. He was deeply grieved and shared his heart with God. He spent several days fasting and crying out to God over the sin of Israel. He began asking God for wisdom and guidance on what He wanted Nehemiah to do.
Is there something that you feel God is asking you to do? Are you unsure of how to accomplish it? Are you afraid you're not equipped for the task? Nehemiah was afraid but he did not let that fear stop him from accomplishing the task God had called him to do. "When we allow fears to rule our lives, we make them more powerful than God. God is greater than all of our fears. To recognize your fear is the first step in committing it to God." We must understand that when God calls us he will be there with us equipping us. Sometimes he equips us by sending other people to come along side us to help us. While God is working in our lives, he is also working in the lives of other people preparing them to step up and help complete the task.
There will also be those who not only refuse to help but will try to block our endeavors and hope we fail. This again is where prayer is a vital tool. Constant communication with our commander will confirm His instructions to us and encourage us to keep moving ahead even in the face of opposition. When we combine prayer with preparation and effort, we can accomplish great things for God. We will overcome opposition from others and overcome our own fears of inadequacies. We put action to our faith and make the impossible a reality.
Nehemiah knew with confidence that he could pray to God anytime, anywhere and that God would hear and answer every prayer. Eight times throughout the book of Nehemiah, he offered up spontaneous prayers. How could he be confident in these quick prayers throughout the day? Because he had built an intimate relatonship with God during times of extended prayer. We can have that same confidence by taking time to build a strong relationship with God through times of in depth prayer.
We need to be in constant communication with our Heavenly Father if we want to live our lives with excellence. Sometimes that's a simple "Thank You Lord for your blessings" or "Lord give me strength to be loving to this defiant child". Other times it's an outpouring of our sorrows and pain or a request for wisdom to make the right decisions for our family. A strong relationship with someone requires continuous communication about the big and little things in life. It's the same with our God. If we want to know His purpose and instructions for our lives, we have to communicate with him through prayer and studying His Word. Sometimes the conversations are short and sometimes they are very long and deep.
I encourage you to open up those lines of communication and just start talking to God about everything in your life. Philippians 4:6 says "Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus".
Sounds like a great battle plan to me!!
Have you ever felt that ache wthin in your spirit that nothing on this earth can satisfy? Have you ever felt like there just has to be more? Ever wondered why our hearts are so broken by the ending of relationships or the ending of someone's life? That's because God made our hearts with eternity in mind. Endings are unnatural to our God breathed spirit. We have an internal sense of belonging somewhere else. In the final video lesson of the Patriarchs Bible Study, Beth Moore said that our heart string is tied to our heavenly home - it knows that this is not all there is.
That final video really resonated with me because I've noticed that ache in my own spirit getting stronger over the past couple of years. Deep within there's a desire to do more, to love more, to give more, to be more. There's this inner unrest that won't let me just live for earthly comforts and achievements. It won't let me be satisfied with material things. Scripture calls this feeling a longing. "My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times." (Ps. 119:20) "For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." (Ps. 107:9) "For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling." ( 2 Cor. 5:2)
The Patriarchs had a longing of their own as well. "Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Heb 11:16) God has also promised that same city to us, but what do we do while we are here on this earth, in this city? What is God's purpose for keeping me in my earthly home, for now? That question has been in the forefront of my mind for a long time. And little by little God is revealing his purpose for me....what he designed me to accomplish during my time on earth.
I thought the unrest was from a lack of contentment in my life. So I focused on my blessings and being thankful for all that God had done for me. I began looking outside of myself to find ways to help others. To share God's blessings with others here and overseas became my goal. And as I began serving and sharing God's message, my eyes were opened to ovewhelming needs all around me. The needs were so great that I was left dumbfounded at my ignorance of what poverty really looked like. And as I learned more and more about the truly impoverished people around the world, my unrest began changing into frustration and anger.
In his book Holy Discontent, Bill Hybels says, "Romans 8:20-21 tells us that the entire creation is frustrated, but that by God's power, everything that is broken and frazzled and wrong will one day be redeemed." When we expose ourselves to all that's broken in our world and view the brokeness from heaven's perspective, then we will allow our anger and frustration to move us towards positive action. That anger and frustration is our holy discontent. It is our connection to the God who's working to fix everything. When we understand that, then it's like a huge wave of positive energy gets released inside of us and compels us to act on that frustration and say yes to God and His purpose for us.
"Truth be told, the most inspired, motivated, and driven people I know are the ones who live their lives from the energy of their holy discontent. They have a constant awareness that what is wrecking them is wrecking the heart of God. Refusing to stay fed up, though, they instead get fueled by their restless longing for the better-day realities God says are coming soon. They listen to the soulish instinct inside them that says life just doesn't have to be the way that most people experience it. Most importantly, they suit up and jump in the game when God says, 'If you'll hook up with me, I'll involve you in effecting some much needed change around here!' "(Holy Discontent pg 27)
I love how Bill says that we must not live our lives fed up. We must let the frustration and restless longing be the fuel to motivate us to action. We also must reject complacency and the mindset that "I'm just one person, I can't make a difference in the needs of the world, so I'll just focus on making my own life comfortable". God did not place us on planet earth to spend our time acquiring things while we bubblewrap ourselves away from the struggles, injustices and cries of His children.
I am just beginning to delve deeper into discovering exactly what it is that "I've just had enough of". What it is that motivates me to action. The one thing that starts a firestorm of frustration in my soul. My Holy Discontent.
I challenge you to ask yourself what drives me? what motivates me? what one thing in this world causes me to say, "That's it!, I've absolutely had it! I just can't stand this anymore!" That just might be your Holy Discontent.
I am currently in a season of life where I'm quenching my thirst for understanding God's Word on a deeper level. I don't say this to brag or boast. I say this because I feel like over the past few years I've been gradually leaving behind a desert. Like it says in Psalm 107:8-9 "Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! For He satisfies the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He fills with what is good."
I've been a mom for almost 17 years. In that time I have been pregnant for a total of 3 years, had at least one baby in the house for 4 years, had at least one child in diapers for 10 years, been sleep deprived for at least 14 years and have spent countless hours feeding little people or cleaning up their messes. During many of those years, my devotion times were sporadic, quick and simple. However, those small moments here and there were like a cool drink of water to my thirty soul.
My brain was so tired that deep understanding of God's Word was difficult. If I sat down for more than 10 minutes to read, I would most likely be asleep. I think God understands deeply the exhaustion of a mom during those early years. He knows our heart and hears those quiet prayers we pray when we're rocking our babies and caring for the unending needs of small children.
Once my children were beyond the toddler and preschool years, a fog began lifting from my mind. I started finding little snippets of time to read real books again. I mostly read books about being a good mom or how to handle sibling conflicts. I began to realize that my personal walk with God was not growing. It wasn't dead, it was just like a dormant desert plant. It had strong roots that had sustained it, conserving water waiting for the next rainfall. I was sustained by sermons on Sundays, radio broadcasts and the knowlede of the Bible that I had obtained before having children.
If you find yourself in a desert like I did, I want to encourage you to remember that this is only a season. You will one day find yourself leaving it behind and quenching the deep thirst in your soul with deep study of the Word of God. You will become invigorated and vibrant like a blooming plant.
Don't feel guilty if you suddenly realize you fell asleep while praying or you've only read your Bible once this week and can't remember the passage that you read. Just continually talk to God and share your heart with him. Write out encouraging scriptures on index cards and post them on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, by the kitchen sink or other places in your house that you pass by frequently.
Joining other women for a group study is something that I wish I would have done when my kids were younger. I think the adult conversation and the encouragement from older moms would have been a huge blessing and uplifting to my spirit. I've been doing that for the past 3 years and it's so wonderful to learn from godly women from all seasons of life. Women who understand what you're going through and can empathize with you and tell you that you will one day have privacy again.
Motherhood is such a joyous and exhausting journey that is made sweeter when you have travel companions who understand the emotions, the desires and the daily triumphs.
God has been transforming my way of thinking over the past few years. He has used many trials and struggles to show me that my dependence should be on Him alone. I should not look to my spouse or my kids or my possessions for joy and strength. He alone is my strength and my provider. Oh, I still have my days of anxiety and doubt, but my God has proved faithful and continues to deliver me from those doubts.
With the change in thinking comes a change in action. The other day I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley and he was talking about moving from just being a Christian to becoming a true disciple of Jesus. He said to do that we have to live each day looking outside of ourselves. He said we should start each day asking ourselves, "What does love require of me today?" Would starting your day with that question change your world?
If we started each day asking "What does love require of me?" then the world would be a much better place. We would speak honestly and kindly to our family, even the ones we don't agree with. We would stop ourselves from speaking in condescending and disrespectful tones to make ourselves appear more intelligent. We would meet physical and spiritual needs immediately and sacrificially. We would joyfully serve everyone we came in contact with. When we live out the love of Christ in our daily lives we make a huge impact in the lives of others.
Think about how Christ loved and whom he loved. Christ's love was pure, selfless and honest love. He did not sugar coat sins so that people would feel his love for them. If we want to love like Jesus we must be truthful and authentic in our love. Don't let others tell you that love overlooks and whitewashes sin. It does not. Loving like Jesus is not society's current perversion that says "Jesus is love and everything is ok because Jesus loves everybody." Jesus loved people by speaking truth into their lives and circumstances. If someone feels guilty for their actions or behaviors when we speak God's truth in love then that is our opportunity to show them their need for a Savior not to just tell them "it's ok, God loves you anyways".
Loving like Jesus is giving oursleves to others who may not return our love so that others will see Christ's love in us. It's easy to love those who love us back, to give to those who return a favor, to loan to those who we know will pay us back, to sacrifice for those who we think deserve it and to help others we're close to during a crisis. However, that's not really loving like Jesus. Jesus loved those who hated him, those who were unclean, those who were outcasts, those who betrayed him, and those who society saw as unworthy of love.
So what does that love look like in my world? I ask God to show me the world through His eyes. I see the homeless man on the corner as an opportunity to love like Jesus. I see the unruly child at camp as an opportunity to love like Jesus. I see the rude cashier as an opportunity to love like Jesus. I see unkind words from a family member as an opportunity to love like Jesus. I see the defiance of my children as an opportunity to love like Jesus. I see the faces of hunger here and overseas as an opportunity to love like Jesus. I no longer seek to satisfy my own selfish desires with more and more stuff.
I start each day asking "What does love require of me today?"
So what does loving like Jesus look like in your world? Are you willing to start each day asking "What does love require of me today?"
I know Mother's Day is a day to thank moms and celebrate everything that they do for their families. However, this year I want to recognize and thank my children for helping me grow into the mom that I am and continue to become. After all, without you, Christian, Noah, Madison & Tyler I wouldn't be a mom in the first place.
Each one of you have drawn me closer to God and taught me what it means to love unconditionally. You've shown me the amazing power that love for your children has over a mom. You've made me laugh, oh how you've made me laugh. You've broken my heart and shown me the importance of forgiveness and second chances. You've been my own example of the Heavenly Father's love for His children. You've changed who I thought I wanted to be into who God wants me to be. .
You've made me cry tears of joy and tears of sadness. You've shown me that prayer is the most powerful tool for a mom. I'm learning that I must start my day on my knees before my Father before I can even attempt to try to teach you to have a heart for God. I thank God for each of you daily. I pray for each one of you everyday. Some days it's a continual conversation with God all day long as I seek him for wisdom to guide you through the difficult times. You have shown me that in my own strength, I am a failure at loving you through the messes and disobedience. Only in God's strength and power can I come close to being a good mom.
Your words of thankfulness for the daily little things are better than a thousand expensive gifts. Your love for God and desire to serve Him makes me want to shout for joy. Your accomplishments in this life bring a smile to my face. When I hear other adults complementing you on your behavior or character, my heart is so full of love.
You challenge me daily to re-evaluate my goals and priorities as a mom. You make me search my own heart and motives and sometimes I don't like what I see. But I know that's God using the four of you to help me see the junk in my life that needs to be removed. God gave me the privilege of being your mom and that has been a life-changing adventure that gets better each and everyday.
As you are getting older, I'm enjoying talking with each of you about friends, relationships, your dreams, and your goals. All the while knowing that before I know it you will be all grown-up with families of your own. So this Mother's Day I want to thank you for the messes, the jokes, the fighting, the hugs, the disobedience, the love, and the many blessings that you have brought to my life. Without them, I wouldn't be me.
What does it mean to have a servant's heart? What does that look like in our world today? Is it even possible to live our lives with a true servant's heart? We know it's possible, because we know at least one person who is selfless and giving to others with no strings attached. We sometimes wonder if these people are crazy for being so joyful and willing to give to others. They give their time, their money, their possessions and sometimes they give their lives. And they do this with no thought of a reward or pat on the back. It's just part of their character.
Tonight in family devotions, we talked about this subject. Josh McDowell said that having a servant's heart actually begins in our brains. "When Paul says in Romans 12:2 that God wants to change the way we think, he isn’t saying we should have brain surgery....... He wants to change us into people who think more and more like Jesus." When we begin to think like Jesus we give up our own selfish interests. We give up the desire to acquire more and more stuff. Instead we will give more, help more, do more for others. We will purposely choose to give up something for the benefit of someone else with no desire for repayment or recognition. Our thinking will change and our attitude will change.
Our attitude will no longer be whining "that's not fair" or "that's mine". We won't wait for a need to fall in our laps and then give begrudgingly . We will be proactively looking for ways to meet the needs of those around us. Then we will joyfully give whatever is necessary. Acting this way is definitely not the norm in our society. Our society is very self-centered and materialistic. Many of our churches aren't much better.
What would happen if we would open our hands to God and say, "Here's my stuff, Lord. I give you my time, my money, my possessions and my desires. Please show me how to use these things to bring glory to You and Your kingdom. Please show me who has a need that I can meet " In John 12:26 it says, "If anyone serves Christ, the Father will honor him." Matthew 23:11-12 says "The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." In Philippians 2, Paul says "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."
"Have the same attitude that Jesus Christ had!" Christ was humble. Christ was selfless. Christ was obedient to God. Christ gave up His rights. Christ gave His life. As disciples and ambassadors of Christ why would we live differently?
We should not ignore the hungry families in our community or the hungry communities around the world. We should not blame the homeless for their situation, instead we should find a way to help. We need to stop looking down our noses at those who have no jobs and stop accusing them of being lazy or incompetent. Don't condemn those who have taken an interest in the needs of others while you just sit behind your computer in your large house in your nice comfy neighborhood.
Having a servant's heart can be messy, dangerous, thankless, exhausting but will receive the ultimate heavenly reward. Let's put on the attiude of Christ and start serving others.
Parenting four children in four different stages of life is not an easy task. Raising those four children in "the instruction of the Lord" in the world we live in makes it an even harder task. Instilling the importance of Godly character in our children takes prayer and seeking after God's direction.
What happens when instead of seeking God's direction we seek the approval of others? What happens when we make our parenting decisions based on pleasing our child or the church or friends or a grandparent or a coach? I think what happens is that we fail our children.
We fail our children by showing them that our decisions can be manipulated or changed by enlisting the help of just the right person. We show them that we lack authority and confidence in our decisions. That lack of authority can lead to a lack of respect. We show them that we're not really using God's Word as a basis for our parenting because God's Word is consistent and unchanging.
While there is nothing wrong with seeking the advice and counsel from other parents or a pastor, we must not give in to someone else's opinion if we feel God is leading us in a different direction. I am extremely grateful that we have received great Godly counsel from many people over the years. But ultimately my husband and I are held accountable for the training of our children.
Personal experience has shown me that when a decision is changed because of the desire to please someone else, conflict arises within my spirit. It may not happen immediately...but it happens. Many times the fault is my own because I haven't chosen to be solid in my decision. There's an internal battle of not wanting to be the bad guy. When we leave a little uncertainty , children sense that from a mile away. One small hesitation in an answer to my kids and they see hope for a big fat Yes!! No matter how many times I have said no to the exact same request.
So I encourage you, seek God's face for the decisions you have to make in raising your children. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. Your children and others around you may not be pleased at the moment, but if honoring God is your ultimate goal then pleasing others won't matter.
As a parent, I have this picture in my mind of what I want my home to look like. I want my children to love each other and be helpful and encouraging. I want there to be a constant attitude of selflessness among our family members. I want my children to complete chores and obey family rules joyfully and without complaining. I want my children to be honest in their words & actions. I want them to love God and cheerfully serve in the church. And I would love for this to be achieved with minimal effort on my part.
Realistically I know that raising children with character requires me to be intentional in my parenting. It also requires lots of time and energy to train them in God's ways. It's a 24/7 job without any vacation days. It's easy to focus on changing outward behavior with rules and consequences. But at what cost?
When I focus on the external actions, I'm missing the foundational issue of parenting. I may be able to quickly deal with an issue for that moment but if I don't reach the heart then the peacefulness is short-lived. I've been challenged the past few days to examine my focus.
On May 1st I began a prayer challenge called 21 Days of Prayer for Sons. Right from the first day's devotional I realized that I have spent too much time on the outward actions and not enough time trying to reach the hearts of my sons. Praise God it's never too late to go to war for the hearts of my sons. I don't want my sons to be like the sons of Eli. 1 Samuel 2:12 says they were "worthless men, they did not know the Lord". That is not what I want for my sons.
I want my sons to "honor God with their hearts, not just their lips" (Isa. 29:13). I want their heart cry to be "not my will but Your's be done." (Luke 22:42) When my sons hear the Word of the Lord, I want it to cut straight to their hearts. (Acts 2:37) When my sons have a heart for God, then they will obey His commands with joy. (John 14:15, Romans 16:19) They will submit to the Lord.
My prayer as I continue through this challenge is that I will be open to what God is teaching me about my job as a parent. Always being mindful that only He can change their hearts.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.