Just Speak

I read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 aloud, to my baby a few days ago. She refused to nap when I wanted to read the Word, but I’m kind of glad she did. Because once I read it aloud, I began to dissect it aloud, as well–lol, as though my 6-week-old would understand. Basically, Paul was saying that he didn’t come to the church at Corinth prepared with a fancy speech or message. He simply came with the Gospel Truth: Christ died for our sins.

And what was impressed upon me, was he was scared when he spoke; but he allowed God to speak through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wasn’t worried about having all the right words, because he was trusting that the Holy Spirit, in His infinite wisdom, knew precisely what He was doing.

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, to describe the wisdom of God, which we who believe in the Lord, have been given through the Holy Spirit. It’s only through the Spirit of God, that lives in us, that we can read the Word and understand the heart of the Father; because the Holy Spirit and the Father are One. An unbeliever cannot comprehend the things of God, because the Spirit of God doesn’t live within him and make things clear to him. In other words, things are hidden to the unbeliever, in the same the way the parables of Jesus–found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke–were hidden to the crowd. But remember, Jesus revealed the meanings of the parables to His closest disciples; as the Holy Spirit does with us. The Spirit gives us insight and discernment, not of this world; therefore, those of this natural world cannot judge us for acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

So, what have I gathered from these verses? That we should just open up our mouths and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be worried about sounding foolish, or not having practiced our speech; because the Spirit is going to use us and reveal the Truth to those whose hearts are ready. And we shouldn’t be discouraged by those who would judge or ridicule us for our beliefs, because they lack understanding of spiritual things.

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Division in the (Early) Church

I began this post at the end of my second pregnancy, and I’ve been pretty distracted since then; about a month ago I gave birth to another little girl, my little “Bug.” She was overdue by 6 days and I was an emotional wreck, as I waited for her arrival, lol.

Before then, however, I did a study on the book of John, and have since then moved on to the epistles–Paul’s letters to the early churches. The epistles are so interesting, and although, I’ve been running on very little sleep, and struggle to remain focused I figured writing would help me organize my scattered thoughts. One of the things I always enjoy about the epistles, is how Paul addressed the early Church as they struggled with many of the same things we struggle with today.

For instance, the epistles cover division (and unity), immortality, and idolatry within the Church; forgiving those who don’t deserve it, reconciliation, and generosity; salvation through grace; faith as evidenced through works; gifts of the Spirit; and so much more. They really are powerful, Spirit-filled little books of the Bible, that shouldn’t be ignored.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, in which, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about division in the church. Apparently, people were divided over teachers of the gospel. Think of it this way, they favored some teachers over others, and argued over who was the better teacher. Does this sound familiar?

Paul had to remind them that they weren’t following him, but Christ! He basically says, “Y’all weren’t baptized in my name! And you certainly aren’t saved by my words; for it’s the power of the cross that saves!”

Today’s believers often fall into this same trap. We may follow a preacher or teacher (or even, church denomination) at the expense of unity. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be discerning when it comes to teachers and preachers of the Word; because, obviously, if a teaching is unbiblical we shouldn’t be accepting of it. However, more often than not, the differences between pastors/teachers we follow are more about preferences, like teaching styles and traditions, than biblical foundations. (I actually shared a post on this way back in 2012, which you can find here.)

Do you know, there are some who are willing to cross denomination lines and attend churches that they didn’t grow up in, or consider themselves to be members of? For some of you, that may be sacrilegious! But if we are all Spirit-filled believers and followers of the Word, this should be the norm. After all, we’re all One body, whose head is Christ; and only once we understand this and move together in the spirit of unity, will we make a real difference in our communities.

“Momming” in the Early Years

Being a mom during the early years is SO hard. Whether you’re a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom, whose only time away from your child(ren) is when they’re sleeping; or a mom working outside the home, who doesn’t get to spend nearly as much time with your child(ren) as you’d like, doesn’t matter. Raising little ones is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.

It’d be so easy as a busy mom to let my exhaustion get the best of me, and use it as an excuse to be lazy in my walk with Christ, but I can’t. And neither should you! As moms of littles we miss a lot of church. When we give birth we stay home for the first few weeks; we may miss service to nurse/feed our babies; and later, when our children are sick, we end up staying home with them so they don’t infect other children. We often end up either serving in the nursery, or getting stuck in there with our own clingy child. We may miss out on bible studies, women’s events, prayer meetings, outreach opportunities–the list goes on–and we often end up feeling distant from God.

Honestly, it can be incredibly discouraging. However, this is exactly the reason why we must fight, scrape for, and cling to the moments we can get alone with our heavenly Father. We need His strength and encouragement, we need His Words of Truth to teach and discipline us, and His peace to rule our hearts on a daily basis. This means we must make Him a priority in our lives, even if it means getting up early to study the Word before our children get up; giving up a hour of evening television so we can pray; or holding off on a household task, so we can finish a Bible study or book we’ve been working on.

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Don’t give up momma! You’re not alone. You’re not insignificant. You have purpose. We are children of God, doing exactly what He designed us for. And in each season He develops us further into what He desires us to be. While we love our children immensely, our lives should not revolve around them, nor should they keep us from seeking the Lord, during any season.

There are ways for us to use our time more wisely…As a nursing mom, I found myself scrolling through social media a lot while feeding, so I added a bible app to my phone, that way I could read Scripture, instead. As a mom of a toddler, I find getting up before my little one, is the best time for me to spend time with the Lord. I’m most alert, focused, and less rushed in the morning. (During her afternoon nap is my second option–of course, it’s not as predictable, since she’s been fighting her naps, lately.) Since I’m currently pregnant with my second, I’ve been mulling over more options besides my bible app, such as podcasts, and online bible studies. Is it a sacrifice? Absolutely; but it’s worth it!

What I don’t want any of us to fall into the trap of believing, is the lie that we’re “just” moms. This is a time for us to continue learning and growing, and allowing God to use us, both inside and outside our homes. One of the most well-known passages of Scripture regarding women and motherhood can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31.

It’s easy to read this passage and get caught up in all the woman does for her family; however, the most important verse is 31, which states, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” We can be as productive and successful as anybody in this world, but it’s our relationship with Christ that sets us apart. He is what matters most. He determines our steps, guides us and gives us understanding. He teaches us patience and gives us wisdom in dealing with our household, our finances, our husband, children, and every other decision and relationship in our lives. But we must stay connected to our source of Life; the True vine.

If we find that our lives are too busy to make time to meet with God, we may need to take a step back, re-prioritize, and cut some things from our lives; because if something else comes before our relationship with Christ, then we’ve made it an idol in our lives.

Lastly, I’ve been finishing up a study by Lysa TerKeurst, “Finding I AM,” and one of my (many) takeaways was that God can use what little we have to do something significant for the cause of the Kingdom. We may not be able to do everything we want to during this season, but we can do something. And we shouldn’t let anything, including unmet expectations, or unanswered prayers, prevent us from seeing what God has placed right in front of our noses. It may be a challenging time to use every talent God has given us, but it may be the perfect time to allow God to use us in small ways, right where we are. I know it’s cliché, but bloom where you’re planted ladies! But, I reiterate, we cannot pour, we cannot serve, we cannot do anything, apart from God.

Make Him your priority.

I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5, ESV

A Servant’s Heart

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ~ (Mark, 10:43-44, ESV)

God desires that each of His children have a servant’s heart. However, we currently live in a self-obsessed culture, that doesn’t often see the needs of those around us; including the needs within the church. But I believe if every individual served in some capacity, in the church, every need would be taken care of within; and we could focus on doing even more minstry and outreach outside the church.

Sadly, the excuse used most often, is that we don’t feel called to a particular type of ministry. Unfortunately, we can get so caught up in the idea of being “called” that we never act, and miss the God-given opportunities, standing right in front of us. The Word tells us to serve (Matthew 20:26-28, 1 Peter 4:10, Philippians 2:3-8). The Word tells us to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). The Word tells us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). The Word tells us to take care of widows, orphans, and the poor (Luke 12:33, James 1:27). The Word tells us to pray for the sick (James 5:14). The Bible gives us many (more) commandments, yet we wait for further instruction, without being obedient to what He’s already called us to do. We must first be faithful with the areas of responsibility He’s already placed in our lives, before He will give us more (Matthew 25:14-21).

Years ago, I heard Christine Caine speak at a Passion Conference. She spoke about (King) David, and how there was so much time between when he was anointed as the next King of Israel, and when he actually took the throne. Yet, David didn’t just stop working because he’d been anointed. David continued to tend the sheep and protect them from bears & lions. He played music before King Saul. He battled against Goliath, and won! He was a warrior and commander in Saul’s army. And later, when he was on the run from Saul, he became the leader of a rebel group of 600 men. Christine described his experiences as a “dark room,” where David was developed (like film). More recently, I heard a message by Andrew Scott, head of Scatter Global, and he said “We’re not ‘called’ into the Purposes of God; we’re created for the purposes of God.” In other words, God develops us little by little, through experiences, time, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we might display His glory. This doesn’t just happen over night!

If we want to know what God’s purpose for our lives is, we need to begin stepping out in obedience and faith (James 2:26). We should be serving both within and outside the church in some capacity. Even if it means being behind the scenes (which, is often where the most help is needed), taking care of little ones, or tearing up and breaking down equipment. We can’t ask God to do big things in us and through us, and remain in a constant state of “waiting.” We must do something. We must ACT.

There’s an old review on a book titled I Will, by Thom Rainer, that I shared two years ago, which describes the modern-day believer as a consumer instead of someone who serves. (If you’ve never read the book, I recommend it.) I don’t know about you, but when I read the New Testament, I see an early Church who served, and preached, and gave all that they had to the church and the cause, because they believed so strongly in the truth of the gospel. They weren’t focused on self, they were focused on establishing God’s kingdom! As should we!

 

Book Review – I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian

I picked up a book back in December, by Thom Rainer, called “I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian,” but it wasn’t until recently that I actually took the time to read it. It’s a short read–just a little over 100 pages–so this is going to be a really quick review.

wp-image-1867108290jpg.jpgI’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but I think I thought it was going to be more about missions. So, I was a little surprised to find out that it’s actually directed towards believers.

It’s no secret that the state of the American church is in disarray. As Rainer put it, “Somewhere in the twentieth century, believers, particularly in America, began to shift from an attitude of self-sacrificing service to God and worship of God, to consumer-focused, self-servicing attitudes” (p. 30). This statement pretty much sums up the purpose of the book: to make believers aware of this fact (if we weren’t already) and to show us the way back.

Rainer talks about our attitudes as believers; the importance of being a growing member of a church, and worshiping in community; serving (both in and outside of the church); being a giver; sharing the gospel; and avoiding the traps of what he calls Churchianity— which he defines as “practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines” (p.93).

Overall, I think this is a good book for believers who find themselves often complaining or are unsatisfied with the churches they attend. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the music, the message, the parking, the ministries, etc., then perhaps you may want to pick up a copy of this book, take a step back, and rethink the purpose of the church. (Honestly, I think that most believers have felt frustrated with the church at some point in their walk, but our attitude and how we react–whether or not we allow God to change our heart–makes all the difference.)

After reading this book you should come away asking what you can do for the church, rather than what the church can do for you. So…what will you do?

Take care, and God bless!

Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.

2016 – A Midyear Review

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year, but here we are in the middle of June! I know it’s been a while since I last wrote a post, however, if you’ve been following my blog, you already know that last month…I got married!

I do apologize for my absence, but I’ve been keeping pretty busy with wedding plans, and then trying to become accustomed to living with someone, which is a challenge in itself. I will say there will be plenty of new posts about marriage coming soon, but I won’t neglect my single readers, either. 😉

So much has happened within the first half of this year, in addition to our wedding. Four of my friends have had babies, my sister gave birth to my niece, and I recently found out that another friend has a baby on the way, as well. Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of time to get to all those 2016 goals I raved about in my January post, although, I have started walking/running with the new hubby this week (i.e. exercise!) and I’ve started becoming slightly more involved in the worship ministry.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with this last month–one among many–is making sure I have time to read and think without interruption. I mean, how can I share things that I’ve been learning or that God has been revealing to me if I don’t have the quiet time that I need to reflect on such things? Lately, I’ve just barely had time to think and jot down a note here or there. Balancing home, work, church, and trying to take care of all those newly married details–such as changing your last name–have my head spinning. Nevertheless, you will not become my last priority, and I will learn to balance my time a little better.

So, married ladies, my question today is for those of you with full time jobs. How do you balance work, home and church (particularly if you’re an introvert, like me)?

Talk to you soon!