Over the past few weeks, I've felt this uneasiness in my spirit. It's been a mix of frustration and at times anger at my complacency, disgust at my wastefulness, shame for my selfishness and repentance for my disobedience of God's commands.
I look at my life and I want something more. I'm not talking about material possessions or money. I'm talking about Christ-centered, Christ-filled, Christ-focused abundant living. The kind of daily life where I am totally surrendered and totally satisfied with Christ and Christ alone.
In Bible study on Tuesday mornings we've been working through a study by Priscilla Shirer entitled "One in a Million: a journey to your promised land" This morning as I began day 1 of this week's homework, God used Priscilla's words to speak to the issue of my uneasiness.
She said, "When our souls begin to stir and the Holy Spirit begins gently nudging us to turn, set a new journey, and go, we can know that God is moving us to a new place in our relationship with Him".
I need to acknowledge that the uneasiness is the Holy Spirit nudging me to make a change and turn in that direction. I need to seek God's leading, to set a new journey and then start walking.
Priscilla continues by saying "Closely following God to abundant living requires change in the life of every believer. We must turn away from the way we have lived, set our journeys according to the new paths God maps for us, and then go as he leads."
In order for me to have the abundant life in Christ, I need to modify my lifestyle so I can fully enjoy God's plan for me during this season of my life. I need to put aside my own desires and agendas and prayerfully align my heart with God's plans. In everything that I do, I want to point others to Christ.
What is God asking me to do right now? What is the something new that He wants to do in my life? Am I willing to take a leap of faith and embrace it? Or like the children of Israel will I choose to walk in circles for 38 years around an oasis of complacency?
Oh Lord, I want to be like Joshua and Caleb. I want to do things differently. I don't want to settle for camping just outside of the promised land. I want to be a magnet that draws down your presence. I want to experience the abundant life that you promised in John 10:10.
Everyone has an opinion on possessions and their place in the life of a Christian. I am of the mindset that less is more. I'm choosing to reduce spending and aquiring possessions so that I can help others who have nothing.
That mindest does not make me more godly than anyone else. It's just where I feel that God is taking our family. Some may label it the "poverty gospel" but I call it living out Matthew 25.
Many Christian's take the stand that money and possessions are tools used to further God's kingdom. I agree with that to an extent. We can use money to purchase food or clothing for a needy family. We can sponsor a missions trip to another state or country. We can support Christian ministries and foundations. But there's comes a point when we must ask ourselves if using 5% or 10% of our resources qualifies as "using our possessions to further God's kingdom".
How does having homes overflowing with possessions further the kingdom of God? How does having to have the latest brand or model further the kingdom of God? How does acquiring larger & nicer homes fulfill God's mission for our lives as Christians?
If we're keeping 80% or 90% or 95% of our resources for our own personal enjoyment then we're not really using our resources to "further God's kingdom". It's just something we say to justify our purchases.
What if we chose to live simpler lives with less stuff in order to give more to save the lives of others? I think the following quote by Mother Teresa sums it up nicely..."Live simply so others can simply live".
When I choose to live with less of the extras and nonessentials then I'm able to provide life saving necessities for others. When I choose to satisfy my soul with Christ and His Word, then I won't have a desire to fill my life with stuff. I will be content with what I have (Phil. 4:12) and I will have consistent joy and peace (John 15:11). I will desire to know and do His will (Jer. 29:11; Eph. 2:10). I will look, act, think and live differently than the world. (Rom. 8:29)
My love for the world will be pushed out by my love for God. He will be the center of my daily life. Doing His work will become my mission while I'm here on earth. His Word and presence will be the only thing that beings me true joy and satisfaction.
Like the song Rescue by Newsong says, "This world has nothing for me, I will follow You!!"
Look at your possessions and resources, then prayerfully ask God to reveal to you areas where you are seeking satisfaction in the things of this world. Ask him to show you what possessions or activities are taking His place in your life. Ask him to show you what abundant living looks like for you!!
There are a group of students that you need to know about. They are the Meadowdale High School Lions. These students live in poverty and many go hungry alot. These students have to walk or ride public transportation to get to school because their families don't have cars and the district no longer provides busing. These students have to fight so many obstacles to just make it to school each day. At this school, there is a special lion. A teacher who pours into these students everyday. He cares about their education but he also cares about their souls.
This teacher is also the FCA huddle coach at this school. Every Thursday morning he buys donuts, juice & milk with his own money for the huddle. Every Thursday morning he arrives at school early to share God's Word with 40 - 60 students. Every Thursday morning God is using this lion to further the kingdom.
Many of the students have to get up 2 hours early to make it on time. One student has to get up at 3 am so he has time to walk there because he cannot always afford the public transportation fare. Some come to the huddle for the physical food but they're getting spiritual food as well!! Just this morning there was a great harvest reaped with 12 students making decisions for Christ!! Praise God!!! God is blessing the faithfulness of the lion who continuously reaches out to these students day after day, week after week. God is raising up more lions to help spread His gospel through the hallways of that school.
So what's our problem? Why do we allow such little petty things keep us from seeking God? We let busyness, sleeping in, "me" time, and just plain laziness keep us from being a surrendered follower of Christ. We put God in a little box and serve Him when it fits in our convenient schedule. We all have our list of excuses....I mean reasons..... why we can't "go and preach the gospel". "It's too early." "It's too far." ""It's too time consuming." "It's too costly." When what we're really saying is, "I'm too selfish to take the time to share the gospel."
With all of the Christian students in the Greater Dayton area, there should be Bible studies at EVERY middle and high school. They should be overflowing and making an impact for Christ in their schools. There is no excuse for silence in our schools. It's time for all of the lions to stand up and proclaim the name of Jesus! It's time for us parents to encourage and challenge them to walk out their faith every day.
What's your obstacle? Is it really an obstacle or an excuse?
I love football season. I love watching my boys play. I love videotaping their games so I can share them with others. I love getting to know all of the other parents while cheering on our boys. I love how our town comes together and supports the team. I also love that it's only a season and we don't have this hectic of a schedule year round because I don't like having to fight so hard for family time!!
About this time every year, I start looking forward to the end of the season. I start looking forward to just hanging out at home watching movies on Friday nights and sleeping in on Saturdays. I start looking forward to family dinners when all 6 of us can sit down together more than once a week! Of course the picture I have in my mind never really happens at my dinner table!! But a girl can still dream!!
I know that soon the season will end and we'll be spending so much time together that we'll be driving each other crazy. We'll spend time adding leaves to our thankful tree and focus on being grateful for all that God has done for us this year. We'll spend hours in the car together as we travel to visit family for Thanksgiving. Then we'll move into the Advent season as we prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Until then, I'll be adamant that we make Sunday dinner as a family a priority. Just the 6 of us sitting around the table talking about what we learned at church that morning. Just the 6 of us laughing and arguing over stupid little things. Just the 6 of us being a family. Not everyone will understand why Mom's making such a big deal about a meal. But that's ok, because I know that I'm fighting for more than just a meal together. I'm fighting for the connection between 6 people that will last a lifetime.
What about you? Do you have lots of activity in your house that interferes with family time? How do you stake your claim on family time?
"Accountability is one of the means God uses to bring about solid growth and maturity with the freedom to be what God has created us for." ~ J. Hampton Keathley, III
As Christians we need to hold one another up to the Biblical standards of what is right and wrong. We must build relationships with other Christians who will help us honestly evaluate our daily walk with Christ and encourage us to walk in obedience to God no matter the cost. Without accountability we do not grow spiritually.
We need others to help us see the areas in our lives that are not in line with God's Word. When we're making stupid or destructive choices we need Christian friends who will speak up and lovingly but firmly tell us that what we're doing is wrong. We need friends who will open God's Word and show us where we've failed. Friends whose motive is not to put us down or judge us, but who truly want us to mature in our spiritual walk. Friends who don't make excuses or justifications for our sinful behavior, but are willing to be bold and call it what it is.....sin.
Accountability to others is God's design to help keep us accountable to Him. Accountability is not always easy or pleasant. There will be times when we do not like what is revealed in our behavior. But spiritual growth can be painful. It requires a daily dying to ourselves and our own agenda.
As a parent, I am to hold my children accountable to God's Word and the rules of our home. While my parenting choices are between God, my spouse and me, we also have other Christian parents who we can turn to for advice and accountability. These Christians love us and our children and encourage us to make the hard choices when that's what obedience to God requires.
I want the Christian adults in my children's lives to hold them accountable as well. If one of my teens makes bad decisions, I want their small group leaders, youth pastors, pastor and other adults who mentor them to hold them accountable. If their actions are excused or ignored, then they will not grow in spiritual maturity. They will continue down a destructive path of focusing on self instead of God.
"To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead and army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train." ~ Bill Hull
Accountability is so vital but unfortunatley in our society it seems to be considered a bad thing. So many times people see it as "being judgemental" or "self-righteous". When accountability is done the right way, it promotes spiritual growth and maturity.
Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary said, “Every man should have three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. A Paul is an older man who is willing to mentor you, to build into your life. Not someone who’s smarter or more gifted than you, but somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody willing to share his strengths and weaknesses—everything he’s learned in the laboratory of life. Somebody whose faith you’ll want to imitate. A Barnabas is a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody to whom you can be accountable. Somebody who’s willing to keep you honest, who’s willing to say, 'Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff!' A Timothy is a younger man into whose life you are building. For a model, read 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protege—affirming, encouraging, teaching, correcting, directing, praying. "
I want my husband and sons to have these three individuals in their lives. These three men can help them grow more in their spiritual walk then I can as a wife and a mom. I also think this applies to moms and daughters as well. We need our own female mentors, soul sisters and disciples.
The Christian walk is difficult and we need others to travel with us, warn us, encourage us, and sometimes even carry us. 1 Thessalonians 5:12- 14 says "Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all."
Are you open to the warnings from other believers? Are you lifting up brothers and sisters during their time of need? Is there someone you should be mentoring
Let me start this blog off with a small disclaimer: I am not anti-youth group. I think that youth groups are great places for teenagers to learn God's Word and share their lives with other Christian teens. They can build common bonds through their love of Jesus. They receive mentorship and encouragement from adult leaders. But I want more for my children.
There's a book by Lysa Terkuerst titled "More than Just a Good Bible Study Girl". In that book Lysa encourges women to put into practice what they've learned throughout all the years at Bible study. We have a tendency to just take in more and more and more information but very rarely put into practice principles that we have learned in our studies. I think that can happen to teenagers as well.
Youth Pastors and small group leaders pour knowledge and godly wisdom into the youth week after week after week. They take busloads of teens to camps and conferences. They lead discipleship groups and host weekend retreats. But what are the teens doing with all that information? How are they applying all of this knowledge to their daily lives? Are they missing opportunities to lead others to Christ because they can't miss 1 night of youth group?
I currently have two sons in high school and we expect a lot from them as Christian young men attending a public school. I expect every person at that school to know that there is something different about them. I want them to carry themselves in a way that students and teachers can visibly see a difference. Their talk and their behavior is to be respectful to authority as well as to other students. I'm elated to know that one of my sons has been called a "Jesus Freak". That tells me that others know there's a difference.
I constantly remind my boys that they enter a mission field every time they step foot into their high school and everytime they step foot on an athletic field. That means that they should see their classmates just like they saw the people of Haiti or Nicaragua. They need to take the same boldness into the 4 walls of that school that they took to the villages in other countries. There are over 900 students in the halls of Tippecanoe High School who need Jesus. How differently would they be preaching the gospel to those students if they were in another country?
We also tell them that we never know who may be watching us and we need to represent God in everything that we do. They have to be authentic in their Christian walk so that when they get the opportunity to share the gospel, their actions will not make them a liar or give them the appearance of being fake. I don't want my boys raising their hands praising God during youth group Sunday night and then walking the halls on Monday morning cracking crude jokes, using bad language or worse....being silent about their faith.
So we pray and talk with our boys and try to impress upon them the importance of not getting stuck in the routine of just being a good youth group student and the need to be with all of their friends every Sunday night soaking up more and more and more information. The purpose for that knowledge is to share it with others. When we are not open to other opportunities to serve and minister, we can miss huge blessings that God wants to give us.
My prayer for my children is that I want God to give them the desire to share their faith with their classmates, the boldness to do it despite what others may think and the willingness to occasionally miss time with their own groups of Christian friends to go be a witness to unsaved friends.
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.