Wednesday, October 26, 2016

There is Cedar in all of us!

I have been watching the house up the street from us being transformed. It is currently under a major remodeling and makeover. The entire house has been gutted and each day as I drive by, I can see the transformation happening right before my eyes. This week, the house got some beautiful cedar wood siding put in place. It is gorgeous mixed in with the stone front.

As the workers labored the other day, I noticed the pile of lumber stacked by the house. I also noticed that each piece of lumber was selected carefully before being hung. I couldn't stop thinking about that beautiful cedar wood; how each piece was delicately and carefully selected for this remodel job. Lumberjacks would tell you that the strongest wood usually comes from the trees that have weathered the roughest storms and conditions.

I suppose you could say the same about people. The strongest people that I know are that way because of the strong winds and battles they have endured. Look at Moses; if you could ask him how he became the great man that he was, assuredly, he would remind you of his trials with Pharaoh and the testing that the wilderness days brought him. How about Joseph? Surely his great power and position did not come easy, Joseph had to go thru the pit and slavery first before he saw great things.

Just like that cedar wood, that passed thru all of the inspections to be considered the best and just like Moses and Joseph, God is using the the bumps and the rough edges in us to perfect us to be used for something great!

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

I don't know what kind of remodeling or transforming that God is doing in you, but I guarantee you that the rough stuff, the hurts and the troubles that you feel, are the very things that will give you strength for where you are headed.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Should Christians watch scary movies ?

With Halloween just around the corner, my husband and I have noticed there is not much to watch on TV. All of the blood, guts and scary movies are playing. I use to, back in the day, enjoy watching scary movies. The kind that had you at the edge of your seat. I remember when I was a teenager, going to the theatre to watch the horror shows with my friends, the scarier the better, because we knew going into it, that it was all fake.

But is it?

Now that I am older and a Believer in Christ, I have since changed my mind. The evil depicted in these horror movies may be fake on the screen, but evil in real life lurks around us and believe me, it is very real!

So how do we deal with these movies (and TV shows) that depict the use of magic, witchcraft and glorified violence? If you are a Christian, I believe that God wants you to use wisdom and be smart about the choices you make. I had to make a choice myself, was I willing to allow the evil thoughts and images to dance in my head from watching a movie or could I make a better choice?

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly." (Proverbs 15:14)

If you are still intrigued with the scary shows and wonder if it is ok for a Christian to watch, ask yourself this question, "should I watch this at all?" God said for us to have a pure heart and a clean mind. If the show you are about to watch will keep you from maintaining this, it may not be worth your time.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10) 

I can't tell you if watching the scary Halloween movies are wrong for you, but what I can do is suggest that you apply God's rating to the rating of the movie or show. Paul writes in Philippians that we should think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy; things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. If you can spend 90 minutes watching ghosts, evil, mass killings, vampires, witchcraft and zombies and walk away feeling all those kind of things found in Philippians, more power to you. But I doubt that you can, I know I cannot.

I have come to know that there is a real enemy who lurks around to steal, kill and destroy. And he uses our mind and what we allow in our hearts and what we allow to be seen by our eyes to haunt and destroy us. I learned a long time ago in elementary school a very important logo, "garbage in, garbage out."

Keep the garbage out by keeping what's on the inside pure and clean. To do this, you may need to change the channel or switch theatres. Evil is not something to play around with.


Monday, October 24, 2016

What are we teaching?

Yesterday, during my husband's Sunday sermon, he reminded me of the startling fact that 80% of our children in church will leave their faith when they turn 18. 80%? That is 8 out of 10! That leads me to the question today, "What are we teaching?"

My husband also gave wise counsel to the congregation to be careful what we teach our little ones. If sports events, sleeping in or hanging with friends takes precedent over being in God's House on Sunday, could it be that we are teaching our kids that God is not important? Could we be contributing to that 80% statistic?

I've seen too many parents pour their heart and soul into the social and the athletic aspect of their child's life, while the spiritual investment takes back seat. I'm not saying that your child can't have fun, after all, my children all were involved in the school clubs, drama team, volleyball, baseball and football when they were young. But God and church commitments always came first.

I believe that we live in a day and age now that we MUST choose which side we live. Do we live for God or the world? Do we have a foot in or out? Are we hot or cold?

" Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

God said that "no man can serve two masters", (Matthew 6:24) . I fear that we allow things to stand between us and our faith. When we allow other things to be more valued than our relationship with Christ, that "thing" becomes our master. We no longer serve God, but we serve those things that come before God. If we allow people or activities to take the place of serving God; then that something or someone has taken the place of who we serve. Whatever excuse we use, the bottom dollar is that when we choose to not be faithful to God, we just taught someone watching us that God is not as important to us as they thought.

The Bible says that our God is a jealous God, (see Exodus 34:14).  For this reason He will not stand to be placed second to anything. Growing up in church and raising my own family in church, I have learned that there is a balance and that by placing God at the top of my list, it not only makes my life seem smoother but my families lives as well. We must stand back and look at what we are teaching our children, not just at what we say but what they see us do.

Here are 4 reasons why it is imperative that we place God first in our busy schedules and lives and not as a back up plan:

1. It will teach compassion. As early as when kids learn to talk, they learn to reach out to people. Take a hurting parent and watch what a child will do; they will either try to solve the problem or they will come alongside and offer kindness or comfort to their parent. Children will follow your lead when they see you caring for those hurting in your church.

2. It will teach a godly work ethic. Everyone knows that we should have a good work ethic, but what about a godly work ethic? Our children need to see us demonstrating what faithfulness and obedience looks like thru how we work for God.

3. It will teach servanthood. The word "giving" isn't just about money. When we are faithful to God, that doesn't just mean with our time, but our talents and treasures too. When we put God first, that means in everything. We teach others by giving back to God what is His, not what is leftover, or a small portion, but what God deserves. He deserves our very best!

4. It will teach discernment. No one knows if someone is being genuine more then a child. They can spot a phony a mile away. When we put God first and seek His wisdom, we are teaching discernment. Even when our motives are pure, kids must learn that not everyone else's are, but the importance is to have the wisdom to know the difference. This comes from spiritual guidance.

There are so many other lessons to be learned from choosing to be faithful to God. These 4 basic teachings may be difficult to spot if we are not putting God first. Yes, I know God is everywhere, He can be with us at a Razorback game, or at a birthday party or in our recliner at home. But today, I am asking the question, "What are you teaching?"

The most effective life lessons are taught when we don't even realize we are teaching. I want to change that crazy statistic, I don't know about you, but 80% is too great of a number to lose our kids to. I want to place God #1 in all that I do and I don't want it to just be something I say, but something I do ...and something that I teach someone who is watching me.

"I say what I mean and I mean what I say". (Dr. Seuss)


Friday, October 21, 2016

Built on Solid Ground

What would your dream house look like? I always imagined mine to be a beach house overlooking the ocean with an all around, floor to ceiling, glass windows. No matter where you stood in the house, you could take in the beauty of the sunrise or listen to the sounds of the crashing waves.

Beautiful, but, how realistic and smart would that be? Not much privacy from the beach walkers, not to mention the risk of violent storms crashing in all of those windows. What a mess all that shattered glass would be. Its a good thing that not all houses are limited to our imagination.

I guess that's why there are seldom two houses built the same. Even if the same contractor builds them, no two people have the same "imaginations" or plans. "Different strokes for different folks" is the saying and variety is usually well played out. Not just in house building but in the kingdom of God as well.

Look at what 1 Corinthians says that having a variety can accomplish...

"Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, 'I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,' that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, 'I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,' would that make it any less part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it." (1 Corinthians 12:14-18)

You see, God does not give everyone the same gifts. If He did, everyone would be doing the same thing and something would be left undone. Not everyone can live in glass beach houses while the white picket farmhouses are forgotten. After all, what would we eat if the farmhouses were neglected while we all soaked up the sun and sea?

The point is that God never intended all of us to do the same thing. He has a specific thing for each of us to do, not just where we live or where we work but God has a specific thing that He has equipped each of us to do in the church and His Kingdom.

Not everyone is called to be the preacher. If God calls you to preach, then preach. Not everyone is called to be a teacher. If God calls you to teach, then teach. Not everyone is called to sing in the choir. If God calls you to sing, then sing. Not everyone is called to work with children. If God has called you to work with kids, work with kids. If the teacher is trying to sing while the singers are trying to work with kids, isn't that like trying to use your ear to smell with or opening your eye to listen with?

The body works better when everyone is doing their part, not someone else's part. Maybe you are still back on the beach, thinking that the glass beach house still sounds appealing but you are not quite sure. Not sure what your part is in the Kingdom of God, perhaps.

Take a minute to examine yourself. Usually that means examine your heart, but today I want you to examine yourself, literally. Look at your hands. Now look at your feet. Look at your eyes, your nose, your ears. Think about all of the things that you are able to do with these parts... now how can you offer these gifts, talents and abilities that God has given you to further God's kingdom?

Can you sing? Can you cook? Can you build something? Can you clean? Can you tell others about what God has done for you? Do you like to encourage people? Can you bake, can you fish, can you sew?

 What CAN you do? Do it! And watch God build His House on solid ground, not sinking sand.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

What to do if you dont understand

When we are faced with real life hurts, disappointments and tragedy, trusting God isn't always easy, especially when you don't understand. It is much easier to say, "trust God" when things are going well, but what if your world gets turned upside down and you don't  understand why?

I've had to ask myself that question, in the midst of asking God "why", I've had to make that choice of Whom will I trust for those things that don't seem clear or seem reasonable to me... my own
understanding or God's all knowing wisdom?

God doesn't mind us asking why; He fully understands that we will have questions. He is more concerned with what will we do with His answer, than He is with us questioning Him. I have some friends today asking God the "why" question. Tragedy has hit hard some family and friends near me and even though I cannot offer an answer to the "why" questions, I can encourage you today with 4 things to remember about trusting God when you don't understand...

1. Consider Who God is

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Revelation 22:13)

Man is fallible, but with God, nothing escapes His eye. If He can hold the whole world in His Hands, what is your concern or mine to Him? Consider the source and how trustworthy and powerful the Alpha and Omega is. There is no other like Him.

2. You can trust Him

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)

No matter how scary things may seem, we must decide Who or what we will lean upon for strength. Trusting God does not mean you will not find yourself in uncomfortable circumstances, however, trusting God is saying you trust His ways more than your own. God's ways are much higher than ours and He will make a way. But we have to let God have His way; that means take our hands off and walk in obedience, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.

3. Simply obey

"Obedience is better than sacrifice." (1 Samuel 15:22)

God places so much emphasis on our obedience that He places it higher than offering up sacrificial praise. Even in times of confusion, God is calling us to trust and obey Him. God pours out blessings on those who choose to obey Him.

4. God will lead you

"The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your native country, your relatives, and your family and go to the land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1)

Sometimes, God places us in a situation that seems foreign but in a place that we must trust Him for everything. It is during these times that we learn to walk by faith not by sight.

Trusting God even when we don't understand His plan is simply a step of faith. What do you need faith for today? Whatever it is, I want you to know that you can trust God. You may not understand the "why" but you can trust the "Who!"


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Let's Dance

One of the worst feelings anyone could ever feel has to be that of not feeling like they are enough. Not feeling worthy. Not feeling like they belong.
This thought took me down memory lane to elementary school; gym class to be exact. It was my sixth grade year and for some crazy reason my gym teacher thought it would be sensational to have her less than coordinated, clumsy, 6th grade students learn to square dance. Of course, the only sensible and logical way to pair off the dance teams would be to line up boys on one wall and girls on the other wall, and count off. Once the count off was completed, all the ones with the same number would line up on the square dance square, picking their partner.
There was always that one that no one seemed to want to pick. Perhaps it was the uncoordinated one. Or the unpopular one. Sometimes it was someone I felt sorry for and sometimes I was the one.
Whoever was the last to be picked, it surely left a mark; a feeling of not being wanted or not feeling good enough.
The enemy uses that same feeling, that same emotion, that same lie, to torment us as we go thru the rest of our lives after gym class. Throughout scripture, It is clear that God loves us. God is passionate about us and wants good things for us; if not, He would never have sent His Son to die for us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16)
The enemy knows all about this and he doesn’t want us to know about this kind of love, he would rather we look around and see how others see us and take that “gym class” let down mentality and let it become who we are. But God wants us to know that He sees us and even if no one else chooses us, He does. And He did!
This kind of acceptance cannot be found anywhere else. No man will ever find us good enough or worthy. There will always be something to measure up to, or to earn or to prove. We can thank Adam and Eve for this, for it was their weakness that allowed satan to convince them that God’s love was not enough for them.
“‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:4-6)
Imagine how God must have felt when Adam and Eve decided that God’s love was not enough for them. I can only imagine that same feeling is felt when you and I ask, “Is it enough?” How disappointing it must be for God to not be chosen, especially when all options are lined up and He is clearly the best choice.
Sixth grade gym class was a long time ago and those feelings of not being chosen surface from time to time when I feel rejected by my family, my friends, my peers; but because of the great love of Christ, I am guaranteed to never dance alone. God has chosen me and He has chosen you.
Let’s dance.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No Turning Back

One of my favorite old songs we use to sing in church is, "I have decided to follow Jesus". This song takes me back to the little white church I grew up in on Cherry Street in Green Bay, WI.

I thought about those great hymn sings in that little church today as I was reading in the book of Luke. I came across this one passage that leaped out at me and instantly the words of that song played in my head..."The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back, no turning back."

Luke 9:62 says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

When I look at the words of this scripture and the words of that song, I can't help but see a profound biblical truth for us today: a Christians life must keep going forward to reach the prize.

Many great military leaders in history have gone to war and fought the fight. Some have relented and thrown up their hands in defeat. Some have even retreated.

For the Christian, we must not give up. We must not get discouraged to the point of quitting. We must not retreat.

As the sun was setting on Paul's ministry, he wrote...

 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Paul was "struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:9). After being stoned and left to die, Paul got up and moved forward.  "But one thing I do," Paul said, " forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize." (Philippians 3:13,14)

I don't know what kind of battle you face today, but I do know that God doesn't want you to give up. He has brought you this far for a reason and like Paul, you may feel struck down but friend, you are NOT destroyed.

Keep your eye on the prize, and when things get tough, don't turn back...thats not where Jesus is, He is in front of you.

Decide to follow Jesus. No turning back!