Thursday, April 28, 2011

Remaining Hopeful When Life is Hard

Don’t you just love getting new things? I know I do. I especially love getting new clothes, shoes, accessories…pretty much anything new now that I really think about it. To me, this past Easter was a reminder of newness, a renewal or a rebirth, if you will. Resurrection Sunday is a day when old things have passed away. Your sins are forgiven and you are washed white as snow because Jesus Christ CHOSE to go to the cross for your sins and mine. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I can’t help but feel renewed in my journey as a Christian woman, wife, mother and teacher. With that being said, this past weekends’ mountain-top experience is over and I am back to the reality of my life; the pain, the creeping fear and doubt that cloud my thoughts, unexpected trials, and of course, the mundane….which I think is sometimes the most difficult for me to experience. Yet, I long to hold on to ‘the mountain-top’, the place where I feel so close to Christ and His presence along with His power, unconditional love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. I realize I can always be in God’s presence, but sometimes I make poor, flesh-filled choices or I allow the enemy to rob me of what God is wanting to do in my life.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:17

It is easy for me to experience the Savior when I am focused on what He did for me. My mind was stayed on Him as I thought about what He endured for me over two-thousand years ago on Good Friday. My eyes were fixed on Him as I pondered all that He was willing to subject Himself to just for my sake. I waited with anticipation for Easter Sunday as He overcame the grave and had victory over Satan. "He is risen", I whispered to my heart. I am forgiven. He loves me. He cares for me. He will protect me. He will provide for me. He won’t leave me. HE DIED FOR ME and He willingly went to the cross so we could spend eternity with Him.

Below, is a similar picture to the one I have hanging above my fireplace in my living room.  It is smack-dab in the center of my room so I can stare at it. I have it framed and adorned with a scarf and tassels, and above it, I have placed a crown of thorns.  I purposefully placed it there to remind me of what to dwell on when I will face days of discouragement.  This is the scripture that is written on it:  

"He is not here; for He is risen, as He said."
Matthew 28:6 
What joy this Blessed Assurance gives,
"I know that my Redeemer lives."
Job 19:25

Peter and John Running to the Tomb (1898)
Eugene Burnand
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Now, my picture did not give the reference for the scripture, "I know that my Redeemer lives", so I looked it up and quite honestly I was so shocked to find that the reference came from none other than my favorite writer: JOB! (sarcasm noted).  I could not believe it.  I have starred at this picture for YEARS and the verses written on it have always ministered to me.  When I look at that print I see hope in the eyes of John  as he is running to the tomb and in Peter's eyes, I see sadness.  (In the replica print we purchased, a note was written by the artist stating that he purposefully tried to paint a look of sorrow on Peter's face because he denied the Lord.)

Now you might be asking yourself why did I get so excited when I learned that it was a verse from the book of Job...I'll tell you why.  We are new in Christ, right?  We prominently celebrate Christ's resurrection each year at Easter, right?  His resurrection brings us hope, correct?  Tell me what first comes to your mind when you think of the book of Job?  I'll tell you what comes to my mind when I think of that book:  tears, pain, heartache, long-suffering, depression, despair, etc.!  As a disciple of Christ, I have read the book of Job several times and 'Hope' is NOT the first thing that crosses my mind when I read.  That poor man, he went through some tumultuous storms and deep waters, yet, right there in print, we can learn from one of the masters of sorrow, Job himself, and find hope in our Redeemer.  What a testimony!

If you are in Christ, you are a new creation today. Reflect back to this past weekend and bask in your Glorious Savior’s resurrection regardless of your current circumstances.  We all have pain in our lives, what is yours?
  • Struggling to make ends meet because of the poor economy?
  • A difficult or broken relationship?
  • Physical diseases or ailments?
  • An unsaved loved one?
  • World-wide disasters?
The trials and hardships in one’s life can be endless and can make us feel like we will always walk in the ‘valleys’.  Remember the words of Job, "I know that my Redeemer lives." Job 19:25

Yes, we are new in Christ, but as we get back to our 'day in and day out' lives that are filled with difficulties remember that we have hope because of His scarred-filled hands.

So, when your life is hard, how do you remain hopeful?  What are some practical tips and ideas you use to keep your eyes on the Lord?  I would love to hear from you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Love Covered by Blood

Every time I watch this video I weep and I can't help but feel loved by the sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made on my behalf.

Jesus does not condemn us, He loves us. In fact, His love for us is so great that we are covered by His blood. Imagine someone loving you so much that they bled for you and ultimately died for you; that is unconditional love! Are you feeling hurt, abandoned, or alone today? Run to Jesus and He will comfort you.

Jesus you are my King!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Doubting Easter

I would have to admit that there have been many times in my life that I, too, have been like Doubting Thomas!

The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he (Thomas) said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  John 20:26-29

Please take the time to watch this short video.  I know it will minister to you and encourage you.  
Pass it on to others that need to hear the message as well.

It is so easy to doubt.  The enemy loves to put questions in our minds.  When things are tough and hard, we second-guess ourselves and the decisions that we have made.  Pray for faith and put your trust in the Lord even when things don't make sense.

May we all have faith like the Centurion:
And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."  When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!  Matthew 8:-10

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Romans 10:17

You are blessed because you have not seen, yet, you believe!  
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Spread the message of Hope that Easter brings,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sacrificial Love

Tossed aside.  Rejected.  Empty.  Unloved.  Hurt.  Broken.  Lost.  All these adjectives once described the way I felt about my life....until I asked Jesus Christ to forgive me of my sins, come into my heart and be the Lord of my life.    Easter is a few days away and as you read this article, you might be one who does not believe in Jesus Christ and to you, the day of Easter is just a day filled with egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, nothing more. 

Well, if you look closely at the picture below you won't see any bunnies here.  This picture depicts one of the true images of what Easter is all about.  I chose this picture for a specific purpose...because it  is heart-wrenching and gruesome, yet, it portrays a sacrificial love.  For me, I can not look at the picture without thinking about the excruciating pain, agony, humiliation and despair that Christ must have felt as He went to the Cross for you and I.  Every time I look at it my heart aches as I ponder at how people can reject PERFECT LOVE when He laid His life down for them.  But, as I look back over my own life, I, too, rejected Him as well, and it took me 26 years to admit my need for a Savior.  As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one.  Romans 3:10 

"But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.  Luke 17:25

"This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins."  1 John 4:10

And by the way, we have done nothing to deserve this kind of love and HE DID NOTHING TO DESERVE THIS KIND OF DEATH.  

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12:2

A note to those that know Jesus as their Lord and Savior:  when you are faced with attacks, trials and hardships...remember to have the right perspective.  "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. " Matthew 6:33,34  Take a good look at the picture again to see what He endured for your sins.  Will He not take care of your needs as well?  Of course He will!  That is why He is called the Good Shepherd.

Is your faith weak?  Have you walked away from the Lord?  Do you need to be restored?  Turn back to Christ.  Jesus will ALWAYS receive you no matter how far you have strayed from the faith.  "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 'for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry." Luke 15:21-24

A note to those that don't know Jesus as their Lord and Savior:  Christ came to this earth just for you.  He died on the Cross just for your sins so you can spend eternity with Him in Heaven rather than an eternity in Hell.   "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16  Jesus will love you unconditionally.  He will always forgive you of your sins and He will never leave you, nor forsake you.  The Lord made you and He has a purpose for your life.    If you want to accept Jesus into your heart all you have to do is ask Him to forgive you of your sins, tell Him you want to live a life that is pleasing to Him and that you want Him to be the Lord of your life.  Next, find a Bible-teaching church and grow in the Lord.  You won't regret your decision!

Every single human being needs to hear the biblically-accurate account of the Easter story, otherwise known as the Gospel message.  We have all been tossed aside, rejected,  empty,  unloved,  hurt,  broken and  lost and we all have a need for a Savior on a daily basis.  Easter is a time to rejoice knowing that our Shepherd came for His sheep. "All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all."  Isaiah 53:6

Whether you have never heard of Christ or the Gospel message, or you have walked away from the Lord, or you have denied Christ or perhaps you just need to be reminded again of the true meaning of Sacrificial Love, the Easter season is a wonderful time to reflect and draw closer to the Lord.  It is the prayer of my heart that you do so.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Student of the Word and A Daughter of the King

Today I had the opportunity to sit in my favorite coffee shop with a sweet friend of mine.  We shared the events of our week, along with our hearts and the struggles we faced.  We even spoke of how hard it is to be like 'Mary', sitting at Jesus' feet, and how much easier it is to be like 'Martha', filled with many distractions.  I said to my dear friend, I believe it is much harder to be like 'Mary' because you have to be disciplined and discipline requires you to be diligent and consistent.  It takes a lot of effort and it is hard work!
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. "But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."  Luke 10:38-42 
Our conversation continued to our devotional lives and the time when we study our Bibles.  I shared with my dear sister in Christ that I use two different Bibles because to me, my devotional time is different than when I study my Bible and therefore I use two different tools.

A Student of the Word
"A student is not greater than the teacher. But the student who works hard will become like the teacher."  Luke 6:40

When I am studying God's Word, I put on my 'Student' hat and use my Study Bible with a big concordance, commentary, word study, highlighter, etc.  Right now I want you to picture someone sitting in a library studying....that's what a student looks like.  They are intent on finding answers and they are serious about what they are least if they are a good student!  Now, a Student of the Word should look similar to the image you have in your mind, only you, as a Student of the Word, are digging for Truth and you are learning how to apply those Truths to your life from the One True Book of Wisdom!   We are the students and Jesus is the Teacher.  He embodies TRUTH AND WISDOM. 
"But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption."  1 Corinthians 1:30
So, why study the Word of God?  "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  2 Timothy 2:15

Practical Tips:
Some women do well to study God's Word by being a part of a Bible Study with other women; it certainly helps for the accountability!  Other women can study God's Word on their own.  Do what works best for you so you will dig deeper into God's Word and become a student of it.

A Daughter of the King
“O GOD, You are my God; Early I will seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You…” Psalm 63:1When I was a young Believer in Christ, I heard that the Word of God was a love letter written to His children. Hmmm, love letter? That got my attention. I wanted to read what the King of Kings had to say to His daughter. I wanted to experience His love, yet, when I read my Bible, it was more like I was checking off a box on my to-do-list.  I knew that was not the type of devotional life that I wanted to have with my King so I was determined to make some much needed changes....shortly after I added a prayer journal to my routine.  In my journal I would write out the A-C-T-S acronym. "A" for Adoration, "C" for Confession, "T" for Thanksgiving and "S" for Supplication unto the Lord. The prayer journal also helped me to focus on my prayer time and utilizing it has also kept me from falling asleep! I lazy and disrespectful can I be!  As my walk with the Lord continued and I went through varying seasons and storms of my life, my devotional life became somewhat 'dry' again.  During one particular time in my life I was reading in the book of Job and my husband was too.  One morning he shared with me what he had read and I thought,  "What chapter are you reading because I certainly did not get that out of my Bible?"  (We were, in fact, in the same chapter, however, my husband and I were reading out of two different versions of the Bible.)  His version seemed so much more understandable to me.  I picked up his book and I read chapter after chapter after chapter that day and I did not want to put it down...and remember, I was reading in the book of Job so it wasn't like I was in the most action-packed book of the Bible either!  I just loved the translation that my husband had!  I finally felt like I was truly experiencing a love letter from my King the reason why, it was written in a language I could understand.  It was simple and easy reading.  Soon after, I headed to the bookstore to purchase a Bible for myself with the same version that my husband had.  What I found was the most beautiful and appealing Bible I had ever seen.  Not only was it pretty, but it felt soft and had differing textures and the pages made a delightful sound as well.  I was quite surprised to see how I reacted to this Book.  While I knew written within the pages of this Love Letter I would find beauty, love, grace and comfort, what I did not expect was to become so excited by its outer appearance.  I realized in that moment that the Book appealed to many of my senses that God had blessed me and deep in my heart I thanked my King for bestowing upon me such a beautiful gift.  Many years later I am still drawn to the Love Letter by My King.    

Practical Tips:  
Find a version of the Bible that is easy for you to understand.  The whole point of you reading your Love Letter is for you to be able to comprehend it and apply it to your life.
If it is beauty that you are drawn to, find a beautiful Bible, journal, pen, etc.  Work on your environment as well.  If it is quiet that you need, find a quiet place.  If you like soft music in the background, put on music.   Light a candle if you prefer.  Here's the bottom line:  Read your LOVE LETTER where you could most hear your King speak to you.

Of course there will be times during your devotions that you will come across a section of the Word that you may end up studying and likewise, there may be times in your studying that you may come across sections where it will touch your heart as a Daughter of the King.  These are just tips that I have given you, not rules to follow.  I just wanted to write some practical ways to help strengthen your time with the Lord so you could become more like 'Mary' as well.
Now please don't think for one minute that my devotional life and study life is perfect, BECAUSE IT IS NOT!  I fail daily and I am a work in progress, but that is the beauty of unconditional LOVE!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Work of Ministry Part 2

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."  Ephesians 4:11,12
Well, I finally found some time to write Part 2 of this post.  In this article I wanted to address an issue that is not usually spoken of within Christian circles, especially in our churches or other various, Christ-centered, ministries and/or organizations.  The main issue that I would like to cover is when you are over-committing yourself in outside ministries.  What does that look like?  How do you know that is taking place in your home?  How can you prevent being over-committed again?  We often hear amongst our fellow believers to get more involved and use our gifts for the Lord, (which by the way, I am a BIG advocate of), but there is a Biblical order to ministry.  Read The Work of Ministry Part 1 for the details.
So, how do you know you are over-committed in a ministry?  I know from my own personal experience that my home life will start to fall apart if you will, meaning, my laundry will pile up along with the dishes.  Clutter will start to become like permanent fixtures and look like new furniture in my home as well.  All in all, the “Keeper of the Home” is no longer keeping it because I am too busy serving Jesus outside of my home.  My house, along with those that are living in it, are being neglected for the sake of outside service to the Lord. 
In the past, I have also found myself asking my husband for a lot of help.  Now, I don’t mean with just a few things within my day, but on going things like asking him to help with dinner, to help with the dishes, to help with the children, to help with the laundry, to get some groceries and to help in the ministry that I was involved in!  I noticed that I had asked him for so much help that he was becoming MY ‘helpmate’ rather than what the Bible had to say about me being HIS ‘helpmate’.   I was clearly outside of God’s will for my life.
So, today I have learned a few things about serving the Lord outside of my marriage, my children and my home.
#1  Keep a close eye on my walk with the Lord and make sure I spend plenty of time with Him.
#2  Watch my countenance.  Am I becoming bitter because I am over committed?  Do I snap at my husband and/or children when I come home because I am exhausted from serving others? This is what I would refer to as the ‘Martha Syndrome’.  “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”  Luke 10:40,41
#3  Be mindful of the Biblical priorities that is clearly defined in God's Word for me as a wife and mother.
#4  Keep a schedule so I will know if I actually do have the time to serve others that day/week/or month.
#5  Remind myself that it is okay to say 'No' when asked to serve.  I do not need to feel guilty because I can't do it all.
This brings me to my next point.  I have recently made a decision, (a very hard one I might add); to no longer continue a long-term, on-going ministry.  (That would be #6 on the list!  Think long and hard about being involved in a long-term, on-going ministry especially when you have children.  So, if you are a mother like me, remember the season that you are in will only be for a short while.  There are many opportunities and capacities that we can serve in that will not take so much time away from our husbands, children and our homes.  God uses us each and every day as we pour into our families.  He will ALSO use our talents, skills and gifts to further His kingdom outside of our homes as well.  But be mindful that you are not spending too much time away from your first ministries.  There are plenty of ways to serve Jesus that can be short-term, i.e., serving a friend in need, watching someone's kids, bringing meals to a shut-in, writing a letter to encourage a sister in the Lord, etc.) 
In closing, I have some questions for you and I do hope you respond so others who read this post can glean from your past experiences as well.

How do you know you have over-committed yourself in outside ministries?
What are some of your indicators?
Do you set up some boundaries?
Are you able to say ‘no’ when others ask you to serve?  Why or why not?
How to do you prevent yourself from being over-committed again?