Monday, January 30, 2012

Denying Self

One of the books on my reading list this year is Radical by David Platt.  Amazingly, this was one of the textbooks used for a class that my husband took at Southeastern Seminary last semester for an ethics class.  Although I have not read the book yet, my husband would read enough excerpts from it to me to peak my interest and to start us talking at length about what biblical Christianity really looks like.  We have had these conversations before.  It is as if the Lord is bringing us to the realization that this western culture is very foreign to the real cross carrying, gospel centered, selfless service type of Christianity that Christ speaks of in the Bible.

So much of what we do here is so very ME centered.  Our hobbies, our sporting events, our spare time…all revolves around us…what we enjoy…what makes us happy…what we feel we have earned the right to do.  When I read about the life of Christ and His disciples however, I never see this ME centered living.  You don't see Paul running off to the nearest Olympic event to watch his favorite athlete compete.  You don't see Peter saying, "I worked my whole life as a fisherman…I did my time…Now it's time for me to enjoy my days!  I've earned it!"  You don't see the early Christians carting their children all over God's earth to the next event, or competition, or party…or whatever so they will be well-rounded and have all these accomplishments behind their names.  One could easily argue that this is because these types of things didn't exist in the early days of the church, therefore they couldn't.  Well, that is partially correct.  Sports have been around since then for sure!  We got the concept of the Olympics from the Greeks!  But, that would not be my question.  My question would be, "If they were around then, would the early church have been participating?"  I think not…at least not to the extent we do today.  The early church's philosophy was cross carrying…think about it.  A cross was not a pretty thing.  Oh, we wear them around our necks and hang them in our houses…because today they are a symbol of true salvation for us.  But, back then…the cross was a symbol of execution, of death, of pain!  And Jesus tells us to take this cross and carry it daily.  What does that mean?  Are you dying daily to your desires for those of Christ?  What cross are we carrying?

“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” 

Now, before you think I am too radical, let me tell you what I am not saying.  I am not saying that having some activities is a wrong thing.  But, we need to ask ourselves…why do we do these things?  Are they all about us, or are they about Him?  As a disciple of Christ, shouldn't everything be about Him?  We make sure our children are involved in all these activities that we deem to be beneficial, but how many times do you make sure they have a chance to share the Gospel, work in a kitchen serving the homeless, visit a nursing home, pray outside an abortion clinic, give to orphans and widows?  Todays kids get their latest video games and DVD's, Kindles, Ipod, Ipads, etc., but when was the last time they were the hands, feet and voice of Christ to a lost and dying world?  When was the last time you or I were?
“If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations… But Jesus is so different from us. With the task of taking the gospel to the world, he wandered through the streets and byways…All He wanted was a few men who would think as He did, love as He did, see as He did, teach as He did and serve as He did. All He needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.” 

This isn't just a problem with our children.  It begins with us.  You know, I would guess that our retired generation today is probably one of the least fulfilled and unhappy in decades.  The more our culture has immersed themselves in their own desires, the unhappier we have gotten.  Remember it was Jesus who said it is better to give than to receive.  Those words are true.  And if we continue to live for our next trip, our next sporting event, our next this or that…we will always come away empty and unfulfilled.  I cringe to think what we American Christians will have to answer for…how much money have we spent on our own amusements when there are people literally dying around the world just for something to eat?  Or our fellow Christians who would suffer great hardship just for a Bible and some of us barely read ours or we have several in our homes and not even give it a second thought?  What about persecuted Christians around the world who need help and medical attention just because they have claimed Christ and risked all?  Where your treasure is…there will your heart be also.  So next time you are heading for the golf course or the video game store or to get a Starbucks coffee…stop and ask yourself…if I just gave this up just one time a week, month, you fill in the blank…how could I take this money and further the kingdom's work?

“But then I realize there is never going to be a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, 'I wish you would have kept more for yourself.' I'm confident that God will take care of me.” 
“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy... It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”
― David PlattRadical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

“We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical.”
― David PlattRadical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Rhythm of Life

Some days feel like a caption off a hallmark card…you know the feeling…those days when just the thought of being alive overwhelms you, the sun shines, the flowers bloom…you sense the beauty of God's creation and you exude joy!

Those days the rhythm of home and life seems to flow smoothly and you can easily get lost in the beauty of it all.  I love to soak up those days when they arrive…learning to thank God for these small glimpses of glory.

Then, there are those days when the rhythm of life seems to bump and weave and create havoc.  Instead of a home serene and clean, you get mounds of clutter in corners of your home due to sickness.  Instead of sitting down to dinner at the big table, you spend your time on couches with sick children.  Sometimes strange things happen…like both Mommy and Daddy getting a stomach bug at the same time…and then you realize you are thankful for different things.  Thankful that it is not always like this…thankful that you have an older daughter who knows how to keep the rhythm of the home going for the others and to take care of her parents when needed…thankful that God is still God no matter what is happening…thankful for Christian friends who help out when needed...and thankful that you once again get a glimpse of glory by realizing you are bound for a place where there is no more sickness.  These are the days we have had this last week.  But God is still God…and He is training us for His purposes.  And for that, we can always be thankful!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Anywhere but There, Lord…Please!

Being a military spouse, you get used to the constant moving.  Not that one always like it, but it just goes with the territory of military life.  But there usually is a place or two on everyone's list that ranks at the very bottom for desirable places to live.  We all have our different reasons.  Some prefer the cold, others warmer climates.  Some love the plentiful trees and flowers of the south, others the wide open spaces of the west, still others the heartland of America.  If you ask most military people, they can give you the one or two places they would least like to go…and the reasons for it.  There have only ever been two on my list…otherwise, I am pretty easy going when it comes to picking up and planting myself somewhere else.  The first place I would never choose…Alaska.  Why?  The six months of light deprivation would probably drive me crazy.  I NEED my sunshine!  It makes me happy!  The second place I would never choose…Oklahoma!  Now, for you Oklahomans out there…nothing personal.  This is just my list.  I wasn't too crazy about my own southern hometown either.  Two days ago, we found out where we are going next…want to take a guess? FORT SILL, OKLAHOMA!  Yes, number two on my least desirable place to live.  In case you are curious about this place I will soon call we go:

1)  LOTS and LOTS of days of 100 degree weather.

2)  Home of the brown tarantula (Did I ever tell you I have arachnophobia?)

3)  Has my second least favorite arachnid - the scorpion.

4)  301% above the national average for tornado activity

5)  Higher than the national average crime rate…need I go on?

Yes, in September (Praise the Lord He gave me 8 months to get a handle on this one) we are Oklahoma bound.

But, the most discouraging news…the two things I prayed about most…finding a doctor who specializes in the care I need and a good church.  God knew that even Ft. Sill would be welcome if those two factors were met.  

I don't know about the church yet…but there is not a single chiropractic doctor that specializes in the care I need in the whole state of Oklahoma.  The nearest one…three hours away in Texas.

So, what am I to do?  Cry?  Check…did that!  Have myself a pity party?  Check…did that too!  Get mad at God!  Heaven forbid!  Does this mean He doesn't love me?  That He doesn't understand my needs?  That He didn't ordain these events for my good?  No, it doesn't.  How can I talk about the Sovereignty of a loving God and not believe it when things like this come into my life?  This is one of those moments when I do not see the hand of my God…but I choose to trust His heart.  I know He loves me…I know He knows my physical needs…and I believe that He will work ALL things for my good.  So, no more pity parties, crying spells, and rantings about the negatives.  God has ordained that I go to Oklahoma…what do I believe He will do?

1)  Give me lots of sunshine with that 100 degree weather…after all, sunshine makes me happy.

2)  Help me face my fear of spiders.

3)  Oh, and scorpions too!

4)  Show me that He is the God of the storms of life…whether they be the ones over the horizon, or the ones I face personally

5)  Show me that He is the One I put my safety in…not what man can do to me.

What about the doctor?  Well, I am trusting Him for a miracle…and Oklahoma is just as good a place for a miracle as any other!

Monday, January 16, 2012

What If this is All There is?

Slipping out of bed this morning at 5:45 am for my devotional in a very quiet house was a special treat.  It has been a while since I have felt rested enough to get up at that time.  God is good.  My health has been up and down for several years now…I will feel better for a while…then take a nosedive again.  I have tried this cure and that cure, but nothing lasting.  I have been tested for most things under the sun, nothing conclusive.  I have prayed and prayed, and the Lord has given me healthier moments, but nothing lasting.  What does a Christian do with this?          

I have been angry, hurt, depressed and numb over it all.  I have compared myself with others and asked God for a reason.  I have searched scripture, confessed sin and at times, given up.  And then the thought came to me…what if this is all there is?  What if this is what God has ordained in my life?  Does He cease being a loving Father, an all-wise God, my salvation, my Jehovah-Rapha?

No, God is still God.  He is still good.  He still loves me and is working all things, even this, for my good.  Do I desire healing?  Yes, absolutely.  But, He has brought me to the point that I desire holiness more.  So now, instead of praying constantly for a miracle of health, I now pray for a miracle of righteousness.  Lord, make me holy.  Lord, if this is what it takes to accomplish that, then it will be worth it.  

Do I truly believe that I am the bondservant of God?  Because if I do, that means every area in my life…even my health.  So, for today, I thank God for this moment of energy and I realize the preciousness of it.  It is truly a gift…undeserved, special, relished.  It is the hand of a God who gives to me what I do not deserve, and I am thankful.  May these moments never be taken for granted, but I pray point me instead to the heart of my Father.  May you also thank God for the gifts He has given you today.  Oh, how much we take for granted.  Stop for just a moment today and thank God for all His gifts.  Today is all we are promised.  And may you have sweet fellowship with Him!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Starting Off a New Year

I always enjoy the freshness of a new year.  I am a goal-driven person, so making lists and goals at the start of a new year is something I enjoy.  Even if I do not accomplish all the goals that I laid out for that year, I always accomplish more than I would if I have never formulated a plan.  I would like to share some of the goals I have been praying and planning about.

I like to pray about a special verse to apply to me personally during the coming year.  This year it is John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  So many times I have found myself fighting in my own strength…running on my own energy…making my own plans, and never fully giving those things over to the Lord.  He knows what He wants of me.  He knows where my focus should be.  Christ is the One who should be governing my every step.  I want to wake up every morning and say, "Lord, this is your day…your schedule…do with it as you will."  And then, I want to take every bump in the road, and every blessing that comes my way as the movement of a Sovereign God who only desires the best for me.  For me to do that…He must increase, but I must decrease. 

Time is so short and so precious.  We will never get this day back.  Did we live it for His glory?  If we are given tomorrow, what will we do with it?  

I would encourage you to pray about what the Lord might have you do differently this year and begin working toward that plan.  I have many things still ruminating in my mind and heart, but I thought I would share a few with you.  One of the first things I do is make a reading list for the year.  There are so many wonderful books out there.  If you are interested in my reading list this year, you can find it here.

Some of the other goals on my list this year:

1.  Complete three courses toward my Master Herbalist degree.
2.  At LEAST a once a month date night with my husband.  (Hopefully we will get that up a little higher before the year is through)!
3.  Consistent one on one time with my children.
4.  Memorize more scripture.
5.  Develop a more thankful heart.
6.  More consistent read aloud times with the family.
7.  Develop reading lists for my individual children.
8.  Incorporate new healthy recipes.
9.  Begin dejunking before our upcoming move after summer.
10. Organize closets and drawers.
11. Work on scrapbooking more often.
12.  Blog 2 to 3 times a week.

These are just a few of the areas I plan to work toward this year.  But, I have also laid this plan before the Lord to change or redirect in any way He sees fit.  After all, a plan without Christ at the center is not worth doing anyway.  

How is the Lord leading you this new year?  I pray that whatever it is, you will be blessed beyond measure.  May you seek Him more this year!