Monthly Archives: July 2011

When “Balance” Becomes A Four-letter Word

It’s days like today when I want to scream at the idea of balance.  I generally live life in extremes – either fully devoted to work, or fully devoted to blogging, fully devoted to cooking, fully devoted to exercise, fully devoted to devotions, fully devoted to family time, fully devoted to “me” time.  Of course, I choose a day here or there and my life becomes about a certain part of my life.  Rarely can I balance a little bit of work, cook a good meal, spend time with my Lord, sit down and chat with the family.  It’s usually all or nothing.  You can even look at the dates of the blogs on both websites and see that my blogging comes in “chunks” of time.

I have read blogs on balance, books on balance, heard sermons on balance, listened to lectures on how to live the balanced Christian life as a child of God, mom, wife, and worker.  What I have concluded is that I struggle no matter what examples someone gives me, tips I hear from lecturers or those little Yahoo tips, or even when I make a deliberate effort to start the day and infuse a few or more of those things into my day.  How am I going to do  this thing called “balance”?

We must realize that this is life.  We can’t wait for the perfect day when there are no dishes, teacher work, cooking, or blogging in order for us to spend time with family.  We can’t wait until the schedule clears up to invite that family to our home.  We can’t wait for the weekend to spend time in God’s Word.  We can’t wait for all the housework to be done before we sit and ask our spouses how their days were or how the Lord is working in their lives.

The answer for me needs to come with something that I have been struggling to learn, especially in the last 4-5 months.  I must live MOMENT-by-MOMENT, not day-by-day.  I must give each of my moments to the Lord for HIM to direct.  I must pray for HIM to schedule my day as HE has planned.  I must rejoice in the 5 minutes I get to blog or the 15 minutes I get to walk around the neighborhood with my husband or the extra 15 minutes I can spend with the Lord when HE awakens me early in the morning or the time after Sunday evening church to catch up with a girlfriend I haven’t been able to see all week or the traffic jam/unexpected road construction that allows me to make that 10 minute phone call to a friend who needs encouragement (hands-free calling, of course).  Will I always be able to do the things I planned?  No, but I would much rather live out the moments as HE has planned.  There are probably many moments I have passed by because they weren’t on my agenda, yet they would have brought me JOY if I would have stopped to see them.

I am struggling with the idea of going back to work in a few weeks.  Am I prepared?  I realize now (and yes, many of you try to tell me over and over) in my imperfect mind that I will never be “prepared” as I think I should be.  I must find a way not to be the best teacher ever, but to be the teacher God desires for me to be.  Not to be the best wife, mother, friend, Christ-follower, but to be content with the place God has brought me to.  Live out HIS love to those HE has given me to serve.  Don’t be lazy with the moments of life (this is a BIGGIE I need to work on), but search for HIS direction in finding what he wants my hands, mind, feet to do – whether that be rest, blog, read, study, visit a friend, cook, clean, family time.

I am reminded of the command given in Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men  Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might

God lays out the day before me,

I do all that HE has planned,

with the strength

and the joy

HE gives me to do it

Holy nation/lives gone wrong

Ezekiel 20-22

It’s amazing just how long the book of Ezekiel can go on describing the lack of reverence that Israel has developed towards their God.  These chapters continue on as the pronouncement of judgment continues.  Ezekiel is quick to point out to the current nation that THEIR sin of idolatry, adultery, usury is what is bringing God’s judgment; it’s not the sins of their fathers.  The people had sat trying to justify that they were not as faithless as their fathers and grandfathers who had wandered in the wilderness; however, God shows them through more “action sermons” of Ezekiel that this is the punishment for THEIR lack of reverence towards God.

God will use the Babylonians to destroy the temple in Jerusalem.  What a shame this is!  The people’s own place of worship, designed for them to enjoy the presence of the Lord, will be destroyed because of their failure to come to repentance, to take hold of their relationship and covenant with the God who had been so faithful to the nation of the past.  Why couldn’t they learn from the example of their forefathers?  Learn the ways in which the people had failed and had lived a whirlwind life of sin, judgment, repentance, and renewed relationship with God.  HE had a perfect plan, but they allowed wickedness to reign in their nation – God would bring war that would destroy the land and lives, and then would scatter them to live among the heathen nations that they had become accustomed to following.  That’s what it would take for them to see that they had broken the covenant established with their God.

Israel had an obligation to obey and serve the Lord; He had chosen them.  Instead of living up to the holy nation He had intended them to be, they fell into the wickedness of the nations around them.  God pleaded with them, but to no avail.  God’s character could not (cannot) allow this to continue – HIS justice would be (will be) dealt.

God has called me to be set apart for Him.  He has chosen me and desires that I be preserved to be a light to the unsaved.  He has a perfect plan for me, and no matter how difficult I may think it is to stay on the path He has chosen for me, I need to be constantly reminded that HIS “perfect” is better than MY “perfect.” He pleads for me to follow, no matter what the inconvenience it may cause, the faith to follow without seeing the end,  to remain faithful through my weariness, display HIS joy moment-by-moment.  All so that I can remain a light to a lost world and I can remain a testimony of God’s AMAZING life I have been chosen to.  That my family, coworkers, students, brothers and sisters in Christ can be lifted up and have a more increased desire to live out that AMAZING life as well.  

Lord, I want to draw closer to you today,

gaining strength and stamina for my walk in life.  

Only in you can I find

contentment,

protection,

light,

and mercy,

and I praise you for that fact.  

Make me an instrument in my hurting, hateful world just as Ezekiel was in his.

Living Beyond Self, Part II

Since my reading of Crazy Love, the Lord has impressed so many things upon my heart, giving me opportunity to think more about the point made about Obsession for Christ and living outside of what makes me comfortable or safe.  Francis Chan’s book reflects on many known and unknown Christians who have made extreme sacrifices so that people that were suffering or who had very little would have the gospel…would be receivers of God’s love.  (George Muller, for example.) There were so many mentioned that have gone to foreign countries as missionaries or just to live a simple life and give whatever money and time they could to those who needed love.

I don’t know if I will ever go go Africa or South America, but I began to reflect on the people in my church.  Do I always have the desire to go to church?  Well, since I am speaking transparently, I would have to say, “no.”  I don’t know how many of you respond to that, but I am realizing more and more that there is a need in my church that I am missing out on most of the time.  I don’t always live beyond self.  I don’t take the chances that my church affords me to BE LOVE.  I look to all these great examples of sacrifice, thinking that I want God to use me in the same way, while all along there are poverty stricken people (spiritually, financially, emotionally) that sit 10 feet away from me on Sunday morning.   Just across the aisle Cindy or Tom are struggling with the loss of a job, or their home, or their trust in God to provide.  Some of them are discouraged in their walk with the Lord because no one has really reached out to them…no one has taken time to learn about their struggle, they haven’t knelt with them in prayer.

We usually will take plenty of time to reach out to those with whom we are most familiar.  My pastor has attempted to teach our congregation what he calls the 5-minute rule.  At the end of the service, take 5 minutes to find someone who you wouldn’t usually talk to and spend a moment to find out about them, their week, their needs, their personality.   It is unfortunate that I often do not take this opportunity to reach out.  I don’t need to go to Africa to do something that I should be doing on a daily basis, right where God has me.

 I NEED TO BE LOVE

See, we often go to church, looking for people just like us, that we can relate to.  While sometimes I believe God stretches us to be able to learn from and even teach to people that aren’t like us.  The least likely candidate for my friendship may be just the person who has experienced my struggle in their lives and could share guidance as to how they received godly wisdom to work through it.  I will miss out on that opportunity if I refuse to step outside of where I feel comfortable and safe.  I shouldn’t need anyone to teach me how to do this.   As a believer, I have the Spirit of God that lives within me.  Why should I need to ask, “Is it God’s will for me to show love to this person?”  I pray that I would submit to the Spirit’s will for my life today and every day.  It will take stretching at times.  I don’t always want to reach out….there are days when I would rather be a recluse.  But how can I waste a day of God’s love?

Going along with this whole theme, I was also impressed upon by a devotional that comes to my email daily.  Take a moment to read, and be blessed as I was.  Then, apply it to your life and look for the opportunity GOD is giving you daily to BE LOVE

 

 

 

Good Goers 

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10:34-35

 

What does it mean to be a good goer? It involves giving time and resources. As we roll up our sleeves and doing whatever it takes to meet the need in front of us. Our head assesses the situation, diagnoses the need and our heart engages our calendar and our checkbook. Good goers understand the correlation between serving and greatness.

Jesus said, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43b-45).

Good goers have the gumption to get involved and even get messy if needed. They initiate service to others in the name of Jesus. They don’t wait for the needy to come to them—instead they are quick to show up and serve. It may mean going to someone from church and leaving an anonymous gift to relieve pressure from their huge medical bills. Perhaps the Lord is calling you to short or long-term missions to love the poor and needy.

It could be keeping the lawn of a neighbor who travels a lot, or paying a mechanic to repair the car of a single mom. Being a good goer for you could involve opening your home to a prodigal who is trying to find their way, but they desperately need an environment of love, hope and acceptance. Good goers have the uncanny ability to look around them, and, like a radar, lock onto those who need a helping hand.

The Lord Jesus could have demanded to be served, but on the contrary served. He did not use His position for Himself, but for others. He “…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

It is bold and unnatural to make yourself nothing for the sake of others, but this is the way of Christ. He takes your nothing and makes it something of great significance. However, as you follow Jesus, you are on the track for greatness, because you will engage your time and money for others in His name. So break free from feeling like you can’t get involved and become great for God, by going to where it’s messy and serve.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).

Who is God calling me to serve—those that others are passing by unnoticed?

Wisdom Hunters (Boyd Bailey)

Living Life Beyond Self – Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Recently, I have heard from people who were reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan, a preacher in Simi Valley, California.  Sounded like there were some very thought-provoking ideas and encouragement, so when my husband brought it home, I decided I would start it right away.  You can read about the funny part of the reading experience at JJ&A Simonds’s Blog.

When I started, I knew I wanted to jot down some things that were meaningful to me so that I could share with all of you who read.  As I began, I quickly realized that there would be more than I would have time to share; I was wondering how I would narrow things down to just a few important lessons that would hopefully spark your interest, so that you could read and see how to apply the lessons in your life.  Crazy Love will affect people in different ways, but there is something for everyone.  Here are random lessons I hope to apply this very day.

“When I am consumed by my problems – stressed out about life, my family, my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice”

Approach time with God not with fear or out of pure obedience, but rather with reverent intimacy

Irony:  “while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want him most of the time”

I Corinthians 13  – the LOVE chapter – insert my name and ask, is it true of me….”jennifer is patient, jennifer is kind, jennifer does not envy, jennifer always trusts, etc”  AM I LOVE?

Trusting in God can be like running…unnatural at first, but once you run towards God as your refuge and you focus on Christ consistently, trust becomes more natural and not exhausting (there’s much more to this…see p. 104)

“People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain and distress.”

We never grow closer to God when we just live life; it takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness”

If you are just hearing the Word and not actually doing something with it, you’re deceiving yourself”

I hope you stayed with me to the end here…pick up a copy of this book, be ready to apply something…we all can be spurred into action to take our salvation in Christ to a new level of love, obsession, and full pursuit of the Spirit’s leading in our lives today

Privilege…responsibility…accountability

“Privilege brings responsibility, and responsibility brings accountability.” Wiersbe

Ezekiel 13-15 Continues with the discussion of false prophets, condemnation and a glimpse of redemption.  If you don’t remember from last post, Ezekiel has begun to condemn the false prophets and the people for their idolatry.  Once again, God uses examples and imagery to make things real to the people.  They were familiar with men like Noah, Daniel, and Job – God had used them to save others, these were men of faith.  Yet God says here that there will not be a Sodom and Gomorrah opportunity that if there are ten righteous men in the city, that He would save it.

Wiersbe uses the words “borrowed faith.” No one will escape the judgment without repentance of their own hearts and a turning away from the idols of their lives.

Ezekiel 15 shares the first of 3 examples Ezekiel will speak of: the worthless vine, the unfaithful wife, and 3 shoots of a tree.

The worthless vine:  from the quote at the beginning here, we are reminded of the great privilege we have to be called sons of God, yet with that is a responsibility that we bear to be fruitful.  The people of Ezekiel’s time had failed miserably at demonstrating responsibility in this area.  The land was desolate of those that were living like God’s chosen people.  They had stopped bearing the fruit of righteousness.  I am reminded of John 15 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  I have a personal responsibility before Christ to be fruitful in my righteousness.  This includes the ways I use my time, talents, money, and testimony.  Do I allow idols to come into my life on a daily basis?  Do these things inhibit me from being the Christ-like example he calls me to?  Do my family, friends, students, and even strangers recognize a spirit of meekness, patience, gratitude, kindness, or faithfulness in me?

I want to be reminded today that I need to abide in Christ.  “If we fail to abide in Christ, we lose our spiritual power, wither, and fail to bear fruit for His glory.”  -Wiersbe

I also need to remember that with that responsibility, I need accountability.  Read over Ezekiel 14 in regards to the false prophets.  I treasure other followers who are willing to share reminders of truth. They keep me accountable to the actions and attitudes most evident of my relationship with my God.  I don’t want to be caught up in any false doctrine, pleasant but deadly life paths, or choices that have the subtle appearance of unrighteousness.

As John Wesley put it….”Lord, let me not live to be useless!”