A good, good Father.

prodigal sonThis morning our music minister sang the song, “When God Ran.” As I listened to Him sing this, I was flooded with memories of when I heard it for the first time. It was at BSU my sophomore year.

I’d had a wayward freshmen year and had lived my own way. I had many regrets and wished so badly I could go back in time and undo so many things. Though I had turned back to the Lord and gotten right with Him, the guilt weighed me down.

But, as I sat and listened to this song, the tears flowed down my face. And I was reminded of the great love of God. I was overwhelmed and overcome by the forgiveness that was mine for the taking, as I repented and laid my sins before Him.

This morning all those memories came rushing back and joy filled my heart knowing that as far as the east is from the west He has removed my sins from me (Ps. 103:12).

So many think they have to get themselves right before they come to the Lord. Yet, this is a lie of Satan himself. For the Lord is ready and willing to forgive, if we turn to Him and repent.

And unlike humans, He doesn’t chastise us over our mistakes, He doesn’t bring up our past against us, He forgives.

The story of the prodigal son is a beautiful picture of the Father’s love for you and me.

He isn’t waiting for us to repent, so He can yell at us or tear us down. He simply waits for us to repent so that He can shower us with His forgiveness and grace!

So, no matter what you have done, no matter how bad you think you are. The Father is ready and willing to forgive you. Run to Him, and find the forgiveness and the grace that He offers.

When God Ran

 

Running to win

running to winI ran track in high school for about a week, and it about killed me (lol). It seems everyone was running to win, and I could not keep up. The last day I ran, I  ran as fast as I could, with my sides aching, and then I got sick. The coach let me go to the toilet, but then told me to keep running. That was it, I was done. This was not all it was cracked up to be.

Running was not my thing. But I had a friend who ran like the wind. She could beat just about anybody. She had one purpose, to win.

In Nepal, each year Landon and I would run (walk) in the 5k for International Women’s Day. Landon would run to win, leaving me in the dust, and I’d walk, and come into the finish line with all the other slow people. As I walked at my fast pace, and jogged from time to time, I saw all kinds.

I saw some walking slow talking with friends, some sprinting leaving everyone else behind. I saw groups jogging at an even pace, and sometimes I’d see others stopping for a water break. And when the race was over, everyone received a complementary medal for running, but only one got a prize. The one who had won the race.

Paul compares the Christian life to a race. He says everybody runs, but only one receives the prize. Then he encourages us to run to win!

Oh how easy it is to get distracted. To stop along the way to smell the roses. To stop for a cup of coffee, to loose sight of the finish line by looking on other things.

There are so many things that can cause us to loose sight of the finish line, that if we aren’t careful, we forget that we are even running a race.

The distractions are real, the pull of this world is strong.

And if our focus shifts to ourselves, to our family, or even to doing good things, we can loose sight of the goal fast.

Paul said he ran in such a way that he had an aim, he had focus. And he did this through discipline. He said he disciplined his body in such a way as to make it his slave (I Cor. 9:24-27).

My friend and I were talking the other day about how we wish that God would just zap us with desire for Him. That He’d just zap us with love for Him and others. That He would just change us with the snap of His fingers to be more like Jesus.

Why? Because the truth of the matter is, God could do that. He could just zap us, He could just snap His fingers, but He didn’t create robots. He created people and gave us free will to make our own choices. He does not force us to love Him or to serve Him, He gives us the choice to do so.

And as nice as it would be if He just zapped us, He doesn’t. Instead He desires that we discipline ourselves like Paul speaks of here.

He desires that we discipline ourselves to put Him first. That we train our bodies to resist sin, and to delight in Him. He wants us to choose to love Him and serve Him. He longs for us to run to win because our eyes are focused on Him, rather than the things of this world.

Running to win. It isn’t easy. It takes focus. It takes discipline. It takes effort and hard work.

No runner that wins, wins without the hard work. They train hard, they watch what they eat, the discipline themselves to get up early, to stay up late, whatever it takes to win.

Oh Christian, may we not loose sight of the goal or the prize. May we not forget what this life is all about by getting too caught up in what the world has to offer. May we remember Him, serve Him, share Him, and live for Him.

This world and all that is in it will one day pass away. And only what we have done for Him will last for all eternity.

Let’s run to win!

 

When it’s not suppose to be this way..

It’s not suppose to be this way.

This has been a thought that I have found crossing my mind over the past few months. A thought I have a feeling many have also experienced the past few weeks.

When we returned from serving in Nepal after 5 years, I looked forward to many things. I looked forward to spending time with my mom and dad. I looked forward to our teenage sons going on youth trips with our sending church and enjoying some of the normal experiences they had missed out on while living overseas. I anticipated celebrating the holidays back in the USA. I wanted to take the kids on trips to see the sights of America, I looked forward to my middle son having the chance to run track and rooting him on at his track meets, etc.

But then, life did not turn out the way I had expected, and I found myself saying, “it is not suppose to be this way!!.”

See, two months after arriving back in the States, my dad whose cancer was in remission, suddenly began having seizures and we found out the cancer had metastasized to the brain. It was not suppose to be this way.

The holidays I had looked so forward to experiencing back in the USA were interrupted with back and forth trips to the hospital. It was not suppose to be this way.

Then in February, we brought my dad home with hospice and he passed away 2 weeks later. My heart cried out to God in anguish, why now, why God, this is not how I envisioned it. It definitely was not suppose to be this way.

My middle son began track practice in February and was awaiting his first track meet on April 6th, when suddenly the Coronavirus shut everything down, and then the whole season was canceled. It was not suppose to be this way.

The youth events I had looked forward to the kids being apart of, canceled. As pretty much all of life was put on hold and continues to be on hold even now. It was not suppose to be this way.

Road trips to take the kids to the American sites, put on hold, as the stay at home policy continues in most states. It was not suppose to be this way.

And I know my stories, my experiences are similar to many others world wide.

Seniors who missed their last semester of high school and college. It wasn’t suppose to be this way.

Friends whose wedding plans have been canceled. It was definitely not suppose to be this way.

And others who have lost loved ones, and could not have a funeral service or be with them in their final hours. This was not the way it was suppose to be.

Life as we all have known it has been abruptly changed. Things have not gone as planned. Things have been canceled and rescheduled. It was not suppose to be this way.

But God..

Was not taken by surprise.

He knew all of these things would take place, and He remains in control even when life seems out of control.

Life disappoints, but God never fails.

Things don’t according to “our” plans, but God’s ways and His thoughts are always higher than our own.

When we see only the here and the now, He sees into eternity, and knows the full picture.

I have surely questioned the Lord during this time, in fact, I have grown quite frustrated at times.

Yet, He remains the same, faithful and true. And His love for me and for you doesn’t change.

I’m finding comfort in the midst of these trying times knowing that God can and will bring good out of all of these seemingly difficult circumstances and days.

Because He is God, He is all powerful, and He can turn all of our disappointments and hurts into something beautiful if we let Him.

Or we can remain bitter, angry, and frustrated because things have not turned out the way we envisioned. We can let this weigh us down, steal our joy, and make us negative.

It is a choice we have to make, sometimes daily.

So though a lot of things have not turned out the way I wanted. Although a lot of the plans I had, have changed or been put on hold.

I take comfort knowing that my God never changes, and that because He is faithful I can trust Him even when it isn’t easy and when life doesn’t make sense.

Now, I’m not saying the choice is easy, nevertheless, it is a choice we make.

Will we choose joy and peace in Him in the midst of our difficulties or will we choose anger and frustration.

I encourage you as the Lord has encouraged me, to choose joy. Choose hope, which does not disappoint. Choose peace, that comes from time spent with Him. Choose to give thanks for the good you do have, rather than complain about what you don’t.

Let’s choose joy!

He is still on His throne, He is still in control, and His love continues to be demonstrated to us day after day!

Consider HIM

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).

I love reading about the heroes of the faith. In fact recently I began a series of Kids Bible study lessons on such topic.

But after you read through Hebrews 11 and hear the stories of those who have come before us. You come to Hebrews 12, and to the real victor, Jesus.

Here the author of Hebrews encourages us to run this Christian race with perseverance, with our eyes fixed on Christ.

But I love what it says in verse three.

It is as if the Father knew we’d grow weary (because He did know).

He tells us to consider HIM.

How does considering Jesus help us when we grow tired and weary of this Christian journey?

I’m learning that when we stop and consider all that Jesus endured on our behalf, for our salvation, we realize we can keep pressing on.

Our hearts are encouraged as we understand afresh and anew the love of God on our behalf.

Here it says, “Consider Him who endured such opposition for sinners.”

It wasn’t just a little opposition, it was a lot.

And He endured it not for those who loved Him, but for sinners like you and me.

So when you get tired weary, because truthfully we all do.

Let us consider Christ.

Let us consider Him who endured great opposition on our behalf in order to bring us into a right relationship with the Father.

He did not have to endure such things.

He could have left us to our own destiny.

Yet, His love and obedience to the Father enabled Him to endure the shame on our behalf.

The Christian journey is full of ups and downs. If you look back at Hebrews 11 and those mentioned here, some of the names are surprising, others are not. Yet, each person mentioned was sinful. Each one had mountain tops and valleys.

Just like you and me.

Yet, for each of these their eyes were not on the here and now, rather they were fixed on Christ.

It is all too easy to get bogged down and discouraged when we look at the circumstances of our day.

Easy to become depressed when life just isn’t turning out the way we wanted or expected.

It is in such moments that we like those who came before us, must fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, and consider HIM.

You can keep pressing on because His grace is sufficient, and He will enable you and help you daily to do so.

 

 

Grace and Peace

God isIt is a crazy time that we find ourselves living in. I have never experienced anything like it, and find myself anticipating how God can and will use this time. For I know that NOTHING He allows is ever wasted.

As I was reading Philippians tonight, I came across these simple words… “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Phi. 1:2).”

And I thought to myself, is this not what the world, what we need now.

Grace and Peace.

And not the grace or the peace that this world has to offer, but the grace and peace which come from God alone.

We need His grace to endure the days ahead of us in the midst of this time of uncertainty. His grace which is sufficient for everything and anything we may face.

We need His peace that comes from casting all our cares upon Him, as we remember that He cares for us.  His peace that passes all understanding and that will guide our hearts as we present our request to Him.

These are both available to us through God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

They are ours for the taking every time we let go and let God.

So in this time of unknown, this time of isolation, may we look to God the Father and to His Son for the grace and peace we need daily to live for Him and to be a light for Him no matter what.

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.

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.

Remembering the Greatness of our God

When we forget whom we serve, we grow tired and weary. When we forget whom we serve, we have anxious and fearful hearts.

Yet, when we remember how great is our God, we are encouraged. When we remember how great is our God, peace floods our souls.

As I was reading through the Psalms at church today, I was reminded of the greatness of our God. I was reminded that He truly holds the whole world in His hands. He sees and knows our every need.

He is not limited by time or space. He needs not our assistance, nor our instructions in what to do. For His ways, His thoughts are far beyond our limited views.

“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;Who establishes the mountains by His strength, Being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy (Ps. 65:5-8).”

He answers our prayers not in accordance with what we think is best. He answers in awesome deeds true to His very nature. So much better than what we could ever ask or even imagine.

Why? Because He is awesome in all that He does. His greatness is beyond our understanding.

He is the trust, the hope, the answer to all peoples, even to the ends of the earth.

The Mountains were created and are sustained by His strength.

Even the vast, magnificent Himalayas were established by His greatness and for His glory.

And though the seas roar, they calm completly at His word. He tells them just how far they can go, and they obey His voice.

Through His amazing creation, His voice goes out into all the world, so that people as far as the farthest seas stand in complete awe of His wonders.

And as magnificent as the beauty of the sunrise and sunset are, they pale in comparison to the greatness of our God.

As I meditated upon these verses, I stood in complete awe of who God is.

I was undone by my limited view, my doubting heart, and my fearful spirit. I was ashamed at how often I think I know better, and how often I act as if He needs my help.

Yet,I  was also encouraged and strengthened. As I was reminded afresh and anew of how truly amazing He is. As I learned again that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.

As we stood to sing, my heart rejoiced in praise to the Lord. My spirit which was weary grew strong. My heart that was anxious became calm.

Simply by remembering the greatness of my God.

Where are you today? Are you tired, weary, and worn? Is your heart anxious and afraid?

Then I encourage you to take time to remember the God you serve. Meditate upon His greatness, sing His praises, and watch how the burdens you now face become so small as you look upon His greatness.

We truly do serve a mighty, and awesome God!

Praying for your Teens

I don’t know how it happened. My little boys who use to make mud pies, drive cars through the dirt, and wear cowboy hats and boots, have become teenagers. These boys who use to love being wherever I was, now long to go hang out with their friends.

It is the natural way of life. Yet, I have found that the older they get, the harder I pray. For when they are young, they depended so much on me and their dad. Yet, as they grow older they must learn all the more how to depend upon the Lord.

So I pray regularly for them, not that they’d be a success in the eyes of this “world”, but that they would be pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

10 things to pray for your teens:

1. Pray that they will have their own “real and personal” relationship with the Lord.  One that is not based upon what they have been told, but rather what they have experienced in their own lives with the Lord.

2. Pray that they will desire the things of the Lord more than their own way, and be willing to follow hard after Him. 

3. Pray that they would seek the Lord and His wisdom first before making decisions. Being willing to wait upon the Lord and His perfect timing.

4. Pray that they would seek and desire after a godly mate, and that God would bless them with a wonderful marriage.

5. Pray that they will remain pure until they are married.

6. Pray that no matter what God ask, no matter how big or how small, they will walk in obedience to His leading in their lives.

7. Pray that their lives will reflect their walk with the Lord, that others will see Jesus when they look at them.

8. Pray that they will never become so successful that they depend upon themselves rather than the Lord.

9. Pray that they will raise up their children and your future grandchildren in the ways of the Lord.

10. Pray that they will always know how much they are loved, how special they are, and that “in Christ”, they are perfect.

As a mom we want our kids safe, we want them successful, we want them to have friends, to experience love, to enjoy life….but I’m realizing that more than all of that, our greatest desire should be that they truly love the Lord their God with all of their hearts, mind, and strength.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

3 John 1:4

Lessons from Genesis

You are the God whose ways are best (Genesis 15:5). Your ways, and your thoughts are greater than my understanding. Though I can see only now, you see tomorrow, next week, and next year, so you know best. And thought I don’t always understand, I must trust you, rather than try to “help” you, which always leads to trouble.

You are the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13). You see everything going on in my life. Your concerned with every detail, and what matters to me, matters to you. Nothing is hidden from your sight. You see the burdens on my heart, you see the problems both big and small. You see, and you know.

You are the God with whom all things are possible (Genesis 18:14). No matter what is happening in my life, you are bigger. No matter how difficult a situation I find myself in, nothing is too difficult for you. When things seem or feel impossible, I know it is a small matter to You.

You are the God who keeps His promises (Genesis 22:1-2). What you say, that you will do. It may not be according to my time-table, it may take many years, but I can know and believe that it will happen. For you are always faithful and true, and you can not deny yourself.

You are the God who provides (Genesis 22:14). No matter how big of a need I have, you can fulfill it. You provide just what I need at just the right time. You are able to provide what I need for today, tomorrow, and all the days of my life.

You are the God who whispers to my heart, “Do not fear, for I am with you (Genesis 26:24).” You see, You know, and you care. Yet, despite whatever is taking place in my life, I need not fear. For you are with me. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing.You are with me, so I need not be afraid.

“You are the God who never forgets me and who hears my prayers (Gen. 29:22).” Though sometimes it feels like you have forgotten me, I am never forgotten. You remember me and my request. For you are the God who hears the cries of my heart, and knows my desires. And though things don’t always happen according to what I think is best, you are at work, and will bring about the request of my heart in your perfect time.

Thank you Lord that though I don’t always understand, and sometimes you feel so far away. You are always there with me, you see and know my heart, and you care about everything that matters to me.