When obedience takes courage.

fear eliz. elliotThis past week I have read the book of Esther, and parts of Ezra and Nehemiah as I have journeyed through my Chronological Bible reading plan.

And one thing has struck me, each of these have had to be obedient to what God called them to do even though they were afaid.

Sometimes what God ask of us means we have to do it in the midst of our fear.

Someone one said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of the fear.”

This is the type of situation seen again and again in the Scriptures.

Many times we put the saints of old on a pedestal, thinking we could never do what they have done. Believing that they somehow had more faith, and that they were not afraid. Yet, this is not true.

Esther was fearful about approaching the King. So fearful that she called upon the Jews to fast and pray for her for 3 days before going before the king. And her final words to Mordecai was, “and if I perish, I perish.” I am convinced she did it afraid.

Ezra had told the king that the gracious hand of the Lord was upon them, so he did not ask the king for soldiers or horsemen to protect them on their journey. Rather, he called on the people to fast and pray for a safe journey, and then they set out. They did it afraid.

In Nehemiah chapter 1:2, he says, “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king…”

These people were real people with real fears. They were not super saints who did not fear anything. Yet, despite their fears, they did what God asked.

In the New Testament we see this same truth applied in the life of Paul, who pressed on, even though he knew the hardships that awaited him.

Far too often we let fear keep us from being obedient to what God ask. When in fact, fear is no excuse for disobedience.

Yes, in the midst of fear, we like the above mentioned should fast and pray. We should call upon the Lord and His grace, His strength, and His help. Yet, when all is said and done, even when the fear is still there, we are to be obedient.

I can remember the fear I felt boarding the plane that would carry me, myself, and I to spend Christmas in China teaching English. It was horrific, but I went and am thankful.

That same fear rared its ugly head as we took our young kids to Korea and then to Nepal, but how grateful I am that we did these things.

More often than not, what God ask of us, doesn’t really make sense. Especially in the eyes of the world, and the naysayers. Yet, that is when the Lord shines the most, displaying His glory for all who are watching to see us fail.

Fear in the midst of God’s instruction should not paralyze us, it should propel us.

So, whatever God is asking of you, don’t let fear lead you to disobedience.

Do it regardless, even if it means doing it afraid.

 

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The Things of God

a mind fixed on christWhen Jesus told Peter that He was going to be suffer many things, be rejected, crucified, and then rise again. The Bible says that Peter took Jesus to the side to rebuke Him.

Can you imagine?! Here we find Peter and his big mouth at his finest. We see Peter thinking He knows better than Jesus, and ready to rebuke the King of Kings.

Then Jesus turns to the rest of the disciples and publicly tells Peter to get behind him, Satan. Telling them all that Peter does not have in mind the things of God, rather he has in mind the things of men.

How easy it is for us to judge Peter and think what were you thinking? But, how often are we just like Peter.

We open up our big mouths and we seek to instruct the Lord as to how things should really go. We try to tell Him what He should or shouldn’t do.

Why? Because we like Peter have minds set upon the things of this world or upon ourselves, rather than God.

As the pastor preached a message of the cross on Sunday, this sentence struck me. “For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Because I think far too often this is me. My mind fixed not on Christ, but on the things of man.

How easy it is to get sucked into the lies this world has to offer.

Lies that say you won’t be happy until you have ……

The lies that say you deserve ….

Lies that scream God is holding out on you, or that He doesn’t care.

All these and more come from the Father of Lies, Satan himself. Whose greatest desire is to get us to question the Lord, to doubt Him, and to walk away.

We have been back from Nepal for 3 weeks now. Although it seems like 3 months, and I have found just how quick and easy it has been to fall back into normal American life. How easy it has been to start comparing our family to other families. How fast the pull of stuff has risen up, the desire to fit in, the complacency, and the comfortable Christianity.

And I hate it.

Before we left Nepal, I told my husband I don’t want to go back and just be normal, because I told him I was not normal. Yet, I’m realizing I’m more normal than I thought.

It is easy to be a comfortable Christian here. Easy to become lazy in my walk with the Lord, and to allow the pull of the things of this world to lull me away.

I’m realizing that I have to fight this, I have to resist this.

And that this is only possible if my mind is fixed not on my own thoughts, or the the thoughts of this world, but instead upon the Lord and the things of Christ.

Yet, it takes diligence on my part, not to allow myself to get pulled in by all that this world shouts out.

It takes effort on my part to feast and meditate on God’s Word.

And it takes persistent work on my part to resist the enemies lies.

My guess is the same is true for some of you.

May we learn from Peter’s mistake that he knew better than the Lord, because what Jesus said didn’t fit what he had in mind or make sense.

May our minds be so fixed upon the things of the Lord, that we are ready and willing to trust Him no matter what, and so the things of this world have no hold on us.

 

 

Faithful in the small things

faithful in little thingsIt has been an interesting week. A week of struggle and a week of success.

You see I really want to make a difference in this world. I want my life to count. But sometimes when I’m stuck in the mundane ( you know laundry, cooking, cleaning, homework) I wonder….

I mean I want to see faith move mountains. I want to see the amazing hand of God do the impossible. I long to see His glory displayed for all to see.

But when your busy going about the everyday, if you aren’t careful you miss it.

And this is where I was this past week. So focused on some huge event, that I failed to see the little things God is doing everyday.

For you see, God is in the big things, but He is also in the little, minute details. He displays His glory at every sunrise and sunset. His hand is there each and every day as our family goes about out daily duties. And He is working even when I can’t see what He is doing.

As I struggled longing for something more, the Lord spoke in His still small voice. “Be faithful to what I’ve told you. Feed my sheep, one sheep at a time.”

Sometimes God shows Himself in grand ways. Ways for all to see. But most of the times He is visible in the small things. In the daily grinds. Yet, we miss it, we miss Him. While we search for the bigger, greater.

I’ve realized this past week that I don’t want to miss Him in my search for more. I want to recognize His hand daily in the everyday.

I don’t want to be so busy searching for more, that I miss now.

He is here, He is now.

How about you? Are you living for tomorrow or content with today? Do you see the hand of God in your day-to-day or have you missed Him?

Oh may we faithfully recognize His daily presence in our lives. Acknowledging Him and giving Him glory for the daily insignificant.

For nothing is insignificant in God’s eyes, every detail matters. And if it matters to Him, shouldn’t it matter to us?

What has God shown you to do now? Are you doing it? Let us be faithful to these things, because then and only then will He give us more.

Raising our kids to love God.

easter 2019We have all heard it said, “God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.” And personally I have indeed found this to be true. So often God allows difficult times, trials and problems to arise in our lives. Not because He doesn’t love us, not because He wants to be mean and just cause us problems. But because He is more interested in us becoming more like Christ, than in us being happy right now.

As I thought about this concept and applied it to parenting, the Lord showed me some similar guidelines and truths.

  1. I love my kids and want what is best for them, just as God loves me and wants what is best for me. However, my best for them  may not be their idea of “best.” Just as God’s idea of “best” is often different from my idea. And though they may get angry when their idea is not mine, in the long run they will understand. Just as we eventually we can look back and see what God was doing in our lives.
  2. I want my kids to understand that anything worth having in life takes work and is often not easy. But that God desires that in everything we do whether in word or deed, we do it as unto Him. God has given us every spiritual gift in Christ, and we have access to His throne of grace daily. Yet, God isn’t a genie who just gives us what we want, we have to work and do our part in seeking Him, in walking with Him and in being filled with the Spirit.
  3. I want my kids to be happy, but even more I want them to right with God. Nowadays there is a common phenomenon of giving our kids our very best, making sure they are keeping up with their friends so they aren’t left out, and being concerned that they are happy. Yet, I’m convinced that a child who grows up this way will be confronted with the real world one day too soon and will not know how to handle the obstacles thrown their way. Sure, I can make it easy for my kids, and make sure they are happy. But will they be holy?
  4. I want my kids to look to God. I’m like any typical mom and don’t want to see my kids hurt. In fact if I’m not careful I want to fight their battles for them, I want to fix their problems. Yet, if I do these things, they learn nothing of dependence upon God. Sometimes God will lead me to step in and do this, but first and foremost I want my kids to look to Him.
  5. I want my kids to desire Christ and love Him most. There is a real battle going on in our kids lives. A battle between what they have been taught is right and what the world says is best. If we are not careful the world will be their desire and they will love this world more than God. So I must find the balance by limiting what they can and cant’ do, what they can and can’t watch. Why? Because the enemy is just waiting to steer them away from God.

The list could go on, and yet I’m learning that this is what is most important that my kids know and learn. This doesn’t mean it is easy or that my kids are always happy with me. In fact, many times they aren’t happy. Like today, my kids envisioned a day of rest and relaxation, but this was interrupted when they found out that before playing, before relaxation, homework and studying was to take place. My husband and I’s idea of best collided with their idea of best… but even now that the work is done and free time is being enjoyed, they can see what we saw.

I have a looong way to go from being parent of the year, and by the world’s standards, I’m positive I would never receive such award. Yet, it is my desire that my kids grow up loving God with all their hearts, soul, mind and strength and loving others as they love themselves.

Why Leviticus Matters in Kid’s Ministry

teaching-children-about-christFor the past few weeks I have been teaching, yes, you guessed it Leviticus in my children’s Bible Fellowship Class.

I warned the kids going in, that the book we were about to study was considered boring by most, and confusing by others.

I explained that it was a book filled with laws, (do this, don’t do that.) A book about sacrifices and offerings, with all the specifics of such things.

They looked at me like I was a bit crazy.

Then I asked them does this book apply to us today? Is it important for us to know and understand?

When they didn’t answer, I held up my Bible and asked, is the Bible important? Does it apply to us today? Yes, they answered. I asked is Leviticus in the Bible? To which they smiled and said yes.

See we can not pick and choose what parts of the Bible are important, and which parts are not. Because they are all the inspired Word of God.

Likewise in kid’s ministry, we should not pick and choose the exciting Bible stories, and leave out the others.

Far too many Children’s Bible Study curriculum materials are limited to creation, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, the story of Daniel, and so forth, leaving out way too much our kids need to hear and understand.

So why is Leviticus important to kid’s ministry?

I believe Leviticus is important because it allows us to teach our children what holiness is, and that God requires this of each of us.

It allows us to explain that just as God chose Israel to be set apart and different from all the other nations, He calls us to be set apart and different as followers of Christ. Which impacts what we do, what we say, how we dress, and how we act.

Leviticus teaches our kids about offerings made to God, and how they were required to give the Lord the best. Teaching our kids that God desires our best in all things as well.

Ultimately it allows us to teach our kids how impossible it is to keep all the laws, and that only Jesus could keep them perfectly on our behalf.

The laws are there to reveal to us all our sinfulness. Something our kids need to understand.

They are there to show us we could never earn our salvation, no matter how hard we tried. We could never be good enough. Another thing that must be instilled within our kids minds.

Way too many teens and adults have the mindset that they are pretty good because they compare themselves to others. I have met many who believe they will go to Heaven because they are good people.

Leviticus makes it clear, as do the teaching of Christ, that being a good person will not get us into Heaven.

Our best works are as filthy rags to the Lord.

Kid’s ministry teachers, our kids get enough self help and self motivation from the world and their teachers at school. They get awarded often for just showing up. The world we live in tells them they deserve.

We must be the voice of truth that shows them what the Scriptures says, and that truthfully they deserve nothing, rather all they have that is good, comes from the mercy and grace of our God.

Teachers, God has given us a high calling. May we not take it lightly, but may we teach God’s Word in it’s fullness to those children He has given to us.

 

 

The Importance of Children’s Ministry

In my 18 years of ministry, I have served as Children’s director and teacher in various churches, and ministry locations. Yet, I have found no matter the location (Arkansas, Tennessee, S. Korea, or Nepal) children’s ministry is a much needed and important ministry of the church.

Far too often parents place the Spiritual growth of their child upon the pastor, and or children’s minister. Many times falsely believing that once their child has recited a prayer and been baptized, that he or she is good to go.

Yet, in my years of ministry, I have found this is far from true.

Being a Bible believing Baptist, I do believe that once saved, always saved. Yet, many times children whom we assumed to be saved based upon a date written in their Bibles, are in fact lost.

Praying a prayer, being baptized, attending kids/youth functions, and being in church on a regular basis, do not save.

Jesus and Jesus alone saves. Not based upon what we have done or not done. But entirely based upon His own accomplishments.

I can’t tell you the number of kids I have taught over the years, who are now teens or college age who are no longer in church.

I also know this because it was true of me.

Growing up, I prayed a prayer, I was baptized, I rededicated my life at least twice. I was at church whenever the church doors were open. I went on all the kid’s camp trips, and youth retreats.

Yet, it wasn’t until I was in college, that I realized for the first time that God desired a personal relationship with me. It was then when I saw the sinner that I was, and that I was truly saved.

Up until this time it had all been pretense. I knew the lingo, I knew what was expected, but to me it was a sense of knowing and obeying the rules. Not a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Too many kids have a similar story and understanding. Believing that church is something you “do” or a place you “go”. And they miss the relationship the Lord desires to have with them.

I know now that having our children pray a prayer and be baptized is not the ending point. It is only the beginning.

Paul tells us to be sure of our salvation. Our lives should display fruits and evidence that we belong to Jesus. And if they do not, then we are wise to question our salvation or the salvation of our children.

I have three children, all of whom have prayed asking Jesus to forgive their sins, and be their Lord and Savior. One is almost 17, one is 15, and one is 11. From the time of their prayers for salvation, and baptism. My husband and I have told them clearly, that if we see that their lives do not reflect the fruits of a Christian we would call them upon it.

And there have been such times, we have done so. Admonishing them as Paul admonishes the believers in his epistles, to make sure of their salvation.

This is why children’s ministry and family devotion is of utmost importance in the lives of our children. This is why we seek to establish a pattern of church attendance, daily devotion, and prayer in the lives of our kids.

So that eventually, these rules or things they do because their parents and teachers instruct them to do so become things they desire to do, out of their overwhelming love for their Savior.

One of my daily prayers for own kids and the children God allows me to lead, is that the Lord would become real and personal to them. I pray daily that the Lord would declare to them how vast His love is for them, so that they will be overwhelmed by His grace. Therefore, desiring to live for and follow after Him, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Yet, as children’s teacher and ministers, it begins often with us. Far too many children receive little to no instruction in the home. And though I do believe it is the priority of the parents to train their children in the Scriptures, we can not assume this of the kids in our ministries.

Children’s ministry is far more than babysitting. It is so much more than entertainment. It is the God given opportunity to teach and train the future generations.

Why is it that so many teen and college aged leave the church?

I’m learning that it is because they lack that firm foundation of God’s Word, and a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Fun kids and youth events certainly have their place, but they must not be our emphasis.

Our ministry to children must be Gospel focused, with its aim being life transformation.

It is also more than head knowledge. Many kids are good at Bible trivia. They know the stories, they have heard them a hundred times. Yet, even the demons believe and tremble.

Head knowledge is not enough.

Transformation must be our goal, seeking to see those we minister to changed into the likeness of Christ.

Obviously only the Lord can do such a work, yet He allows us to be His hands and His feet in this process.

Which is why Children’s ministry is of such importance.

May we see it as such, and teach in such ways to transform the lives of the children in our midst to reflect the life of Christ.