It’s My Birthday But…

Today is my birthday! I am having one of those milestone birthdays. As I woke up this morning God hit me with some aging thoughts. 
Rebekah was married for twenty years before she bore twins. She wasn’t young I am guessing. Sarah was either 90 or 91 when Isaac was born. Abraham was a 100 years old when he had Isaac. Moses was called at forty. These are just a handful of people God called later on in their years. 
God often has a sense of humor when calling people into duty. You would think he would choose those who were much younger, had energy and could sustain the difficulties that come from leading people. I’ve known a few ministers in my life that are second career pastors. So what’s up with calling the older generation into ministry?
I have a few ideas. First, I’d like to explore my own. I am being called (pulled) into ministry very slowly, but deliberately. At the age, I am I should be slowing down, but God has just begun to open doors and keeps me hopping. As I look back on my life I’ve had discovered a few things that just might apply to you too. I truly believe if when I was younger I had a heart for ministry and reaching people like I do today I would have gone into some kind of ministry. I might have had that heart, but what kept me from pursuing the ministry? Was it Satan? No, it was me. There were things I wanted for my life that I felt I couldn’t have if I pursued ministry. I wanted a husband and a family. I wanted to be able to control where I lived or what I did in my life. I had not completely surrendered my life. When we are young we sometimes hear God’s calling in our lives, but we think we can get some things out of the way before we answer the call. We think we have to sow wild oats before we settle down. Sowing wild oats for me was simply doing those things I wanted to do. It did not involve alcohol or drugs or anything illegal it was just doing my own thing. When God calls us we are often listening, but we don’t respond in the ways we should. God does NOT control us. We have free will. He just waits until we are tired of running away from his will. He knows it will come down to us giving up our control one day.  
Now while we may not accept God’s calling at the time he calls us I’ve realized in his own ways he works things out in a subtle way to where in the long run we are doing what He called us to do so many years before. He patiently waits and begins to put things in place. Things happen for a reason and if we look back we begin to see the pattern in our lives that have helped us move forward in his direction.  
Another reason just might be he is equipping us to do His bidding. We all know God does not call the equipped’ he equips the called. As I look back on my life I realize as a younger person I would not have the knowledge or the wisdom I do now. I could have gone on to Seminary or a University and pursued this thing called ministry. I could have graduated and received a document saying I was qualified. But, I would have lacked the circumstances; the difficulties in my life and I certainly would have missed the opportunities to learn from my mistakes I’ve made over the years. You see my teacher has been life itself. I have learned to cope, I’ve learned to pick myself up and dust my self off and I’ve learned it’s not about throwing punches but allowing God to work in my life. 
If we are living life we are being taught something through each experience we find in our lives. We are being taught some of the most valuable lessons not from a Professor or a book. Our lessons come from what we are learning about life and how to handle life. Our lessons come from listening to God and discerning what each experience or circumstance can teach us or has taught us. 
When I was young I know I just struggled with getting through those circumstances and experiences and difficulties. I didn’t take the time or have the time to analyze each event. I just wanted to get past them. Now that I am older I can begin to look back and see where God was working in my life. I can see how he moved mountains and gave me hope. 
I believe he calls many of us when we are older just because we have graduated from the school of Hard Knocks. We often understand how to help others because God has helped us get through those difficult times. We know that the only way to get through is not to do it alone, but to fully rely on God all the time every day. 
I am not like a lot of young people. I don’t analyze the Bible and try to figure things out. I simply read it, ask God for wisdom and then begin to put those practices in my life. I am not against analyzing the Bible, but I think we sometimes have a tendency to overthink it. For me, it is simply trusting what God has shared with me through the many different men and women of the Bible. 
I believe if God has called us into the ministry no matter what age we are He will provide us with the health and the energy to get things done. I should be looking at slowing down and taking life easy, I am thinking God has a different plan for me. 
If I hadn’t been so bull-headed or a control freak maybe I would be slowing down now, but then I wouldn’t have had those experiences and the knowledge that I have now to share with others. God knows what he is doing. Look at how things turned out with Rebekah, Sarah, Abraham, and Moses.
If God is calling you and your saying it’s too late turn in your Bibles and read about Abraham’s and Sarah’s calling in Genesis 12, or Moses calling in Exodus and we find Rebekah’s calling in Genesis 24. 
God knows you and he knows what you have to offer to those around you or those he has prepared to send your way. He has given you wisdom through the school of life that no one else has experienced. Young or old God does not discriminate. Female or male, he doesn’t care. 
How will you answer God’s calling in your life? 
Dear God: this is a message we all need to hear. It doesn’t matter the age we are. We all have something to offer. We are all called into ministry every day. You may call us when we are young and we may respond. While some of us may not respond at such an early age that doesn’t keep you from working things out in a quiet way until one day we realize we are doing what you’ve called us to do all along. Help us to use those experiences, circumstances and the difficulties of life to reach others and to bring them to you. Amen

God Hit The Nail on the Head…Mine!

In my last blog, I talked about some trust issues I had with God and the lessons He has taught me. This blog is a continuation of things God and I have been dealing with.
It all began a long time ago with the plans God had for me. He began equipping me for a ministry that I was not aware of. He also has gifted me or given me a talent for speaking for Him. I have been given numerous opportunities to share God’s message with different groups. I don’t push myself or advertise. I just wait for God to open doors. In May I went to an Assembly in Ohio and God begin dealing with me about being bolder. The problem is I did not recognize or appreciate my gift/talent. In April I was asked to speak to a women’s group. Following that event, I was given feedback. The comments were made that I as the best speaker they’ve heard in a long time and they thoroughly enjoyed it. I was simply amazed. I knew God had taken over my mouth and had presented the program.
Slowly after that event and those comments God began to work on me. The message I kept getting is because I don’t believe in myself and the work God can do in me I am holding him back.
One weekend God took a hammer and hammered me over the head all weekend. First, on Friday night I had to learn about trusting God when I had no words or nothing to share. I had to learn to let go and start trusting him. When I don’t trust him that is really saying I don’t believe God can do it. That was a tough lesson. On Sunday morning it didn’t stop. I went to my class at church and received a confirmation that God has given me a talent/gift. My friend who gave me the confirmation suggested strongly I needed to accept this and quit fighting with God. Ouch! That was a pretty strong hit, but unfortunately, it is true. I have never accepted the fact that God has given this to me. I have always thought I wasn’t good enough to receive this gift/talent. I have always hated my voice and when I hear myself speak I cringe. How could God or why would God choose me with a voice and speech like this? She hit the nail on the head. I had to learn to accept this and quit fighting God on this.
God was not finished that morning. Our lesson that day was taken from Judges 4. We were studying Deborah. We read this scripture in class, “Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.” (Judges 4:14) As I sat there I heard God say I will always go before you and prepare the way just like I did for Deborah. God was telling me, “I got this!”
Someone in class made this statement, “Satan wants us to doubt what God tells us.” God has been telling me for a long time he has a ministry for me. I have not accepted this calling. When I have doubts Satan steps in and even pushes more doubts in my head. Did God REALLY tell you he’d give you a ministry? Do you really think God would call someone into the ministry like you? So, I would believe them. I was confronted this Sunday morning to get rid of those doubts.
Another member of our class brought up the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. If you are not familiar with this scripture please read this. God was reminding me I was burying the talent he has given me. While others invest their talents and see a blessing coming from it I have not. Why? Because I decided it was best to bury it and not invest in it. It would be out of my comfort zone to invest it. The challenge to invest would be too great a risk for me. God pointed out my sin in doing this.
That morning before going to Church I was listening to praise music. One of the songs that I love was played that morning, “Go Light Your World.” Towards the end of the class, someone said we need to light our candle and take it to the world. Do you really think this was a coincidence?
Do you think the class was a coincidence? I don’t believe so. This was God working through this class to reach me.
That morning in church Pastor Danny went on. God through Pastor Danny’s message has taught me it doesn’t matter how it all began or what is happening. What matters is the ending. How will the story end for me? Will the story end in me giving in to God and admitting he has given me a talent/gift? Will the story end in me investing my talent/gift and receive blessings so I may hand them over to God when the time comes? Will the story end with me telling Satan he is full of lies? Will the story end with me going out to light my world with the light God has given me?
We all have heard or are hearing from God. We all have been given a talent or a gift. We first must accept God has given us this talent and gift. We must be willing to invest that talent for him. We must be willing to hand the blessings over to him so he may receive the honor and the glory. We must be ready to go light the world when God calls us to.
Dear Lord, it’s not easy to accept that in our weaknesses you give us talents and gifts. We always feel inadequate. You have chosen those who are weak to share the message of God’s love. You choose the foolish so the world will know you are for real. Help us to accept that it is us you are calling. Help us to not only accept but be willing to step out of our comfort zone and to use those gifts and talents you have given us so others may know Christ. Help us to go light the world. Remind us it’s not about the beginning….it’s about the ending and what we do with the story you have given us. Amen

I Trust God When…

This week was a bit challenging for me. I belong to an Emmaus Community, (if you don’t know about Emmaus, please Google it or email me, please. I’d love to share with you about what this is). We had our gathering on Friday night. We have dinner and then worship. Those of us who have been on a walk, voluntarily give the messages from month to month. This happened to be my month. All week I had been trying to prepare for this message that I was to give. Nothing was coming. I began to fret later in the week, as time got closer. On Friday morning (the morning I was to give my talk), an old message was given to me, but it wasn’t coming together. The words just didn’t come out right. I went on Friday night and because this community is family, I told them I had nothing, but God would provide. He did. The message I struggled with came out beautiful. I only say that because I am convinced God gave me that message; it wasn’t me. A dear Pastor friend whom I admire was there and came up afterward and told me how good it was. I was humbled and amazed.
On Saturday morning I was preparing to teach a class where I volunteer. God clearly spoke to me that morning. He showed me my trust level needed to be bumped up a notch. I needed to trust him to give me the words to share even if I had no words myself. I needed to trust in him and realize he’s already prepared the messages I give. I have always said and I still believe this: I am the instrument God is the author. If I tried to do this on my own I would fail. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) I was gently reminded God would be with me wherever I go, and whatever He has called me to do.
Proverbs 3:5 says this, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart’ do not depend on your own understanding.” What I learned from God was this: I trust God, as long as I can see the direction He’s taking me. I trust God as long as I can handle the situation. I trust God….it was more about me trusting God when I can do something, not about trusting God when I am not in control of whatever situation I am in. What God wanted me to know on Friday night was, that I could trust Him. What he wanted me to learn was when I had nothing more to give or words failed me, I was to trust him.
When God calls us to do something that is beyond our ability, in these two verses alone, God promises good to us. In the first one, we must learn to be strong and courageous. We can’t be afraid. I have been given the word BOLD in the last few weeks. God has challenged me to become BOLDER! We are to be bold enough to believe God will be with us wherever we go. There is no place or there is nothing we can do that God won’t do for us or go with us.
The second Scripture says we are to put our trust in Him. We are to put our trust in him wholeheartedly. We are not to depend on our own understanding. I have found out in my life, I don’t understand half of the things God does or calls me to do. But since I don’t understand them, am I to dismiss them from my life? No! We are to go ahead and do those things he calls us to do and trust him completely; full force no looking back.
As I looked back on my life, I realized there were just a few handfuls of times I trusted God when I did not understand. One of them being the move to Texas. As I look back on my life, I have seen how God has moved in my life, planted a ministry and poured His blessings out on me. A handful of times! I should be trusting God all the time, every day. If I have seen the blessings he has blessed me with on these few times, what blessings am I missing out on when I don’t trust him completely every day even when I don’t understand?
Finally, I realize one more thing. If I knew completely what God had planned for me, I would be scared to death. God has called me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count. He does not allow me to completely understand everything He does for one main reason. That reason is I would be terrified. I might be so terrified that I would run and jump in the belly of a whale just like Jonah. When it came time for the whale to cough me out…I would hang in there for dear life. Someday, I will see clearly….1 Corinthians 13:12 says it better, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

If God is calling you and you do not understand….know these things: do not be afraid or discouraged, be bold knowing God will be with you every step of the way. Begin trusting him and allowing him to lead you. Don’t depend on your understanding of the situation…just trust God even if it doesn’t make sense.
God will pour a heap of blessings on you. I know he has for me. They may not be financial blessings, or of monetary value, they may not be materialistic things, but you will be blessed spiritually.
One step closer in my relationship with God…hard work? Yes! Worth it? Yes! How about you?
Dear God, I got the message this weekend. I am to trust you completely and not to trust in myself. I will fail every time if I trust in myself. I must learn to trust you. I know I am to be bold, not afraid or discouraged and be confident that you will go ahead and prepare the way for me. I am ready God send me! Amen

Hubby God It Right! Me? Not So Much

When I get to do nothing, I make homemade cards. Several of my friends have enticed me with this new craft. I started out slow, but watch out now. I have spent some time on YouTube looking at different designs of cards. I recently found a new card I wanted to make. It was and is not an easy card to make. In fact, I spent several hours one day and just couldn’t get the fold right. I would give up and then go back to it frustrated because I couldn’t get it.
Finally, I gave up and asked my husband to help me when he got off of work. Sometimes, (more times than not), he can look and see what I am doing wrong. Sure enough, that was one of those times. He got it right away. He knew my measurements were off, and my fold was wrong because of my measurements being off. So, together we made one. The next one I did on my own and of course, it didn’t work out. He pointed out to me what I was doing wrong. Being frustrated and tired, I snapped at him. He simply walked out of the room. So, I tried again. I saw where he was right and I was wrong. I had to apologize to him.
Later, as I was thinking about this, the Holy Spirit subtly reminded me I have been that way with my faith. I have been stuck in a rut with my faith or I have stopped growing and I soon get frustrated. I often know the problem, but I pretend I don’t and seek out the advice of a friend or relative. The friend or relative will point out the obvious to me. They will confirm what I already know. What do I do? I get aggravated at myself and those who are sharing their suspicions with me. I just don’t want to admit I have made a mistake or I am in the wrong.
We allow pride to step in. We think we can’t possibly be the one to blame. Just like Eve in Genesis, we start the blame process.
I was reminded quickly, I had some choices to make. Some choices I did not make wisely. If I was going to ask my husband to help me, I should accept his advice even if he pointed out that I was at fault. I should have graciously accepted what he told me, learned from it and did better the next time.
Not only should I have taken his advice, I should’ve learned from my mistakes and not made them over and over. I needed to learn what mistake I made, so I could keep from doing it again.
Often, after a friend or relative has suggested or pointed out what we are doing wrong, we first disagree and then second we keep making those same mistakes. Then we wonder why things are not turning out better for us. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If we want to change in our spirituality, then we have to change how we do things. We can’t keep doing the same things over and over and expect God to work differently in us.
I have made some mistakes in my life. I have sinned in my life. We know God has erased those sins from his mind. He has forgotten all the mistakes we have made, but a lot of times, they are still fresh in our mind. It could have happened twenty years ago, but we remember it as if it was yesterday. I am beginning to think God allows us to remember those things so we won’t repeat it again. Some things we will repeat, but those things that have left an impression on us, we won’t repeat if they are fresh on our mind. If I start to do something and I remember what I did before and the damage it caused, I might not be as apt to do it again. I might change my behavior. If God wipes those things from our minds, we might not remember them either and we could easily repeat it. I am so glad some things are still as fresh as when I did them. I know not to do them again.
God sends people our way to hold us accountable. When he does, we need to appreciate those folks, be accepting of their message and learn the lesson we are to glean from it.
Sometimes we don’t even recognize our own sin and God still sends someone to hold us accountable. I am thinking of the story of David. Read 2 Samuel Chapter 12. In this scripture, we see Nathan has been sent by the Lord to confront David. In verses 7-9 Nathan says to David, you are the guilty one. Nathan had to point out David’s sin to him. Sometimes we are confronted by a friend or relative who points out our sin. We need to graciously accept what we are being told, ask forgiveness and then turn from the sin that has caused God grief. We need to be a David and realize we have sinned and confess. David placed the blame squarely on his own shoulder. We need to accept the blame and not pass the buck onto someone else.
I had to admit, I was in the wrong. I had to accept the blame for my card not turning out the way it should have. I had to ask for forgiveness.
It’s not always easy asking for forgiveness, but it is necessary. Every time I make this card, I will be reminded of this incident. It will be a constant reminder that I didn’t accept the advice I should have and hopefully it will be a reminder not to repeat the same mistake twice.
When have you rejected the advice of someone God has sent to you as an accountability partner? When have you passed the blame onto someone else?
Dear God: Sometimes I believe you leave us with memories of mistakes to keep us from making the same mistakes over and over. We think about the hurt and the pain it caused and we know we don’t want to go down that path again. Guide us and bless those whom you have chosen to be our accountability partners. Help us be open to the message and receptive to what you would have them say to us. Amen
Note: The above card is not one I made, but it is similar. 

The Power of Bold!

The Power of Bold…. was the theme this past weekend at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly 2018, celebrating their 150 years! It was a powerful weekend.
There was a lot to take in. Friendships were made and sisters in Christ bonded like never before. We were encouraged and we were challenged to empower ourselves with a boldness that only comes from serving Christ. Eyes were blinded to color, gender, and ethnicity. We stood strong and proud. We were dismissed to serve boldly in the coming days, months and years.
This is a great message, not just for United Methodist Women, but for Christians around the globe. We need to boldly stand up for Christ. We need to boldly stand and face the world and say, “Enough!” We need to boldly ask Christ to blind our eyes to color, gender or ethnicity and boldly see each other as Christ sees each of us.
We need to quit asking when someone is going to fix the world, fix politics, fix the hunger issue, or the race issue, or the many other difficult challenges before us. We need to stand and boldly say, “let’s do this together. “ For too long we think someone else should take on the problems of the world. We leave our problems to the politicians to fix and then complain because they either don’t do it or don’t do it like we wanted it done. It’s time we boldly stand up and say, “I will do my part”.
When Christ walked this earth he boldly took on the world. He boldly took on the sins of the world and died for us. He stood up for the lame, the outcast and those who were looked down upon. He and his disciples boldly took a stand and made the world better for some.
God spoke to me through the songs, talks, plays, and workshops. I realized that I have not been bold when it comes to my faith. I have always been afraid I’d offend someone. I realized this weekend, God has given me a gift/talent. I realize in my timidity I have not been using the gift or the talent God has given me. I was challenged by the Holy Spirit this weekend to go out and boldly begin using the gift and talents God has given me. The power of boldness does not come from ourselves or within. The power of boldness comes from God. When we allow God to move in us, we have the power to accomplish all the things God has planned for us in this life.
Being bold also means stepping out of your comfort zone. Being bold means stepping up and stepping out. Being bold means opening doors and walking through them, knowing confidently, God is on the other side. Being bold is knowing God will not lead you where he has not already prepared the way. Being bold is courageously putting your timidity aside knowing God has equipped you to do the job.
For several years, every time God has called me to a task, the song, “Here I Am Lord” has been played or sung. This weekend that song was played at the end of the Assembly as the send-off song. Not only was I challenged to go, but I was challenged to go boldly.
As committed Christians following Christ and being his hands and feet, we are called to go and go boldly. Christ did not come to this earth and wait hoping someone else would step up. He boldly stepped up. If we want to see real changes in the world and in our lifetime, we must not only hear the call but move when the call comes. God calls us to different tasks, God calls us to do those things he has equipped us to do and finally, God calls us to be his hands and feet.
I found this tidbit on the De La Salle Green Archers Facebook page:
Let me be the change I want to see
To do with strength and wisdom
All that needs to be done..
And become the hope that I can be.
Set me free from my fears and hesitations
Grant me courage and humility
Fill me with spirit to face the challenge
And start the change I long to see.
Today I start the change I want to see.
Even if I’m not the light
I can be the spark
In faith, service, and communion.
Let us start the change we want to see.
The change that begins in me.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

And I’d like to add to this, “Do it Boldly!” One thing Christ was not was timid. We should follow his example and those of the United Methodist Women. We should live in the power of boldness that God gives us to do those things that need to be done to make this a better place not for ourselves, but for others.
God has shown me the areas I need to be bolder in. God has challenged me to be bold in my faith and my ministry I challenge you to think, to pray and to seek where God needs for you to be bolder in your faith. Are you boldly using the talent or gift God has given you? Are you boldly sharing your faith with those who need to hear about God?
Let’s stand together and boldly begin to be the change we all want to happen. With us using the power and boldness God has given us we cannot fail. Won’t you join me?
I’ve commanded you, haven’t I? “Be strong and courageous. Don’t be fearful 
or discouraged, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
Dear God,
 Teach me to live boldly for you. Amen!

Knocking My Socks Off

I have decided a few things. Following Christ is not an easy walk. Following Christ on this journey comes with challenges, twists, and turns. Just about the time you think things are going smooth and you are getting the hang of it God comes in and stirs the pot and challenges you to move forward on your journey. I have come to realize God does not allow you to rest any too long at any one point in your life.
I have looked back over my years and I have noticed that just about the time I am okay with what God has chosen for me to do he steps forward and challenges me to step out of my comfort zone again and move forward.
Years ago I was challenged to start a Wednesday night prayer service. God gave me complete details except for who was to bring the short devotion that he wanted for the evening. It was to be a time of praise music, prayer, and a short devotion. I was given all the details. I knew who was to lead music and who would be praying. The short devotion he did not name. After realizing this I asked for wisdom on who was best qualified to do this. I didn’t like the answer. I was to give the devotion. Each week I would prepare a short devotion and share it with a handful of people.
As I look back I see how he was preparing me for my future. Several years later in Texas, I was given the opportunity to be on the District team for our United Methodist Women’s group. I was to hold the office of Spiritual Growth. With that came the responsibility of leading a short devotion each time we held a District event or a District meeting. The audience for these meetings were a little larger than the Wednesday night group. Another step forward.
With each speaking engagement, I have committed to the audience seems to get a little bigger and more intimidating. Now I have been asked to step out in faith and do an even bigger event. This one will be just as intimidating and challenging, if not more so, than all the others. I was comfortable with what I was doing, but God decided it was time to get me out of my comfort zone and move me forward once more.
I am realizing how comfortable we can get in our faith. It reminds me of buying a new pair of everyday shoes. We buy a pair of shoes and they are a bit tight and a little uncomfortable. Just about the time we break them in and they fit just like we like them we realize they are worn out, used up or broken in and we need a new pair.
Sometimes we get comfortable with the jobs God gives us. We are settled in. We like what we do…it’s a nice fit. We breathe in and settle down in that job. We get comfortable. Unfortunately, we don’t grow in a relationship with God when it is comfortable. We grow and learn to rely on or trust him more when there are challenges, difficulties or trials we are growing through. When our backs are up against the wall that is often when we reach out to God. It is during those times we grow, our faith strengthens and we learn yet again to depend on Him.
My favorite verse is this, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (JEREMIAH 29:11) While he may know the plans he has for each of us the secret is not sharing those plans with us until it is necessary. If we knew ahead of time the plans he has for each of us it would be scary enough to knock our socks off. While he does not share his plans for our lives what he does do is coordinate events in our lives that will work out according to his will.
He also spends time equipping us for the jobs he has for us. It has been said, “God does not call the equipped. God equips the called.” “Instead, God chose things that the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame how who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

God is a good God. He always gives us a choice. When he calls us out of our comfort zone he always gives us a choice. We can choose to be obedient or we can choose to run away as fast as we can in the other direction. I often think of Jonah. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah had a choice to make. He could choose to follow God and get up immediately and go to Nineveh or he could choose to be disobedient. Jonah got up and moved in the opposite direction God called him to.
When God calls us to move forward we have choices to make ourselves. We can choose to be obedient or we can choose to run away. When contemplating about this task God had called me to do someone said, “I don’t want to pressure you to do it. It’s your decision.” I replied back, “Thank you, but it’s not about whether I want to do it. It’s about whether God wants me to do it and me being obedient to his calling.” I don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes. I can wear the old ones, but one day the old ones will be worn out and I will have to buy a new pair. We can stay where we are and never move forward in our relationship with God. It will become stale and stagnant. We will have a choice to make stay put or move forward.
If you look back on your life can you see where God has been slowly moving you forward in your walk with him? Can you see him preparing you or equipping you to do those things he has called you to do?
As I look back I have seen the progress I have made. I have seen each time he has called me to step forward. I have seen those times he has allowed me to rest right where I was. And yes, I have seen those times I have slipped backward. Those times were not God’s doing, but mine when I was disobedient and ran away just like Jonah.
Just like Esther said in her book, “Maybe I’ve been called for just a time as this.” So, the question now becomes do I take the next step forward in my relationship with God and do what he has called me to do or do I keep my comfortable shoes on and stay right where I am at? Do I follow Jonah and run in the opposite direction?
I know the answer. I know what I must do. Now it’s about being obedient. What shall I choose?
Dear God: It would be nice if you brought us so far and then just left us to be comfortable. It would be nice to sit in our easy chair and soak up the comfort, but being comfortable is not what you’ve called us to do. You’ve called us to step up and move out. You want us to move forward and not be stale or stagnant. You want us to have a dynamic relationship with you. We know that only happens when we rely on you, are challenged, or are going through difficult times. You’ve given us both Esther and Jonah as examples; one was obedient the other wasn’t. We can choose to be Esther or we can be a Jonah. Help me to be an Esther for such a time as this. Amen

Don’t Make The Tools Your Rules

I was watching a Bible Studies video on an app called “rightnow Media”. The study I was watching was, “A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God” by Larry Osborne. Something he said recently got my attention. In this series, he made this statement, “Don’t let the tools become the rules.”He was talking about spiritual disciplines. We often believe we have to follow certain spiritual disciplines in order to grow closer to Christ. Sometimes others will impress upon us that we are to follow their example and follow the spiritual disciplines that work for them. 
He went on to say that it’s not a one fits all theology. We all have to develop our own spiritual disciplines and mine may look different from yours. What you do to draw closer to God will look different than what I do to draw closer to God.
God may call one person to spend time in solitude. The person he has called to solitude will walk away refreshed, energized and may have heard God speak to him in the silence. While God calls that person to solitude, another person who is an extrovert or has trouble being alone and quiet may not receive the same benefits that the introvert received. So, while it is good to spend time with God in solitude it may look different for each person.
This is where I struggle. I love reading my Bible. I will admit my Bible reading comes and goes sporadically. I just finished a deep study on Galatians. What I love is doing a video Bible Study. A video Bible Study is a video where the leader walks us through a certain portion of the Bible. Now, let me interject here. I am very careful who I listen to. I will also follow up on my own or ask questions of others if I am not completely comfortable with where the leader is going. I love doing Bible Studies in church with our Pastor or those who are being led to lead us. But, to sit down for an hour and just read the Bible I struggle with this. This is a spiritual discipline I struggle with. In a few weeks, I will be visiting my family in Indiana. With eight active grandchildren, I will not get Bible Study in. Always before I have struggled with this; my thoughts have been if I am going to be the Christian God calls me to then I must spend time in the Bible daily. If I don’t then I must not be living up to God’s standards for my life. If we insist it is necessary to sit and read the Bible daily then what are we implying for those who struggle to read, or has dyslexia, or some other learning disability?
I excel in listening to praise music throughout the day. In fact, this is about all I listen to. One time I had someone tell me I was making praise music my idol and in fact, it was doing me more harm. I have to disagree. As I listen to praise music (and yes I sing along and make a joyful noise) I am listening to the words and I am making them my own. It’s a time for me to worship God, seek God out or just a time to be with him. On more than one occasion I have felt God’s presence as I listen to my music.
There are two guys on YouTube that are Christian comedians, “The Skit Guys.” I often listen to them and receive just the message that is needed for that day. They start out with comedy that leads to a Biblical teaching. I find myself in the message that they are presenting. Sometimes God calls me out through the message.
Prayer is another example of spiritual discipline. We often criticize people because they won’t pray aloud, or pray in front of people or…..(you name it). Prayer may be one’s spiritual discipline that is a comfort and a joy for some while others find praying alone or at home or silently works better for them.
We find in Galatians this tidbit, “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.” (Galatians 5:22-23) What Larry Osborne suggested and I totally agree with is this, we look at what is being produced in one’s life before we demand Christians live by certain spiritual disciplines each day. If what is being produced by the way they are practicing their spiritual disciplines is love, joy, peace, patience, and all the others then they are living as God has called them too.
We can’t let the tools that we use for Spiritual Discipline become rules. We mustn’t let those rules cause someone to struggle or stumble. We must accept that spiritual disciplines will look different for each one of us.
The tools we use for spiritual discipline will not produce spiritual fruit. They are just tools that help us produce the fruit. You may use a rototiller in your flower bed. I might use an old-fashioned hoe to do the same thing. As long as we get the results God wants us to get it doesn’t matter what tool we use. As long as we use spiritual disciplines and get the results God wants from us then we are doing it the right way for us.
God has given us spiritual disciplines to benefit us and to help us produce the fruits of the spirit. God did not give us these spiritual disciplines to turn into rules. We have to be careful about turning our spiritual disciplines into rules. If we do turn them into rules and demand they are followed we become like the Pharisees. We all know the Pharisees were people who followed the rules but did not produce spiritual fruit.
Finally, Larry suggested each morning we pause and ask God this question, “What is it you want me to do today?” It may be a day he wants you to get into scripture and study, it may be a day you set aside scripture and help a friend in need. Doing what God wants us to do is so much more important than following a ritual of spiritual disciplines daily.
If you are like me struggling with doing spiritual disciplines on a regular basis then I challenge you to look at your life. Are you producing the fruit God wants for you? Are you producing those things in Galatians 5? If you are then don’t worry about not using the correct tool for Christian discipline. By all means, don’t compare your spiritual disciplines with others and of course, don’t demand others follow your action for spiritual disciplines. We are all different. We are all created by God. As long as we are producing…….we are getting it right for us.
Dear God, I think sometimes I have made the spiritual discipline’s rules to follow. I think I have made a list and each day I check them off to see if I got it right. Today you taught me it’s not about following the rules, it’s about producing fruit. It’s not about what others think of me or how I do my spiritual disciplines. It’s about who I am, who you’ve called me to be and what kind of fruit I am producing. I realize this faith thing is not about going down the same path and getting to the same destination. We all have different paths we follow and we all have different tools to use. Help me to be okay with the tools you have given me to use to produce the fruit you expect me to produce. Remind me not to make the tools the rules for my life, but to listen to you and do those things you’ve called me to do. Amen