Friday, January 30, 2015

Example of the Holy Spirit

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ruth's Work Ethic

I'm totally impressed with Ruth.  I don't know that I would have given up my family, my traditions and all that was familiar to go to a place I'd never been....knowing I'd never go back.  But she did.  Not only did she follow her mother-in-law to her former home in Israel, but she chose Naomi's God.  She gave her heart, soul, mind and strength to God... and to this new home.

Naomi and her husband and two sons left Israel during a famine to move to Moab.  It was all wrong.  They left a land God had given them to go to a land where idols were worshiped.  While they were there, her entire family died.  She was left alone with two daughters-in-law...from Moab.  One daughter-in-law, Orpah, chose to go back to all that was familiar.  But Ruth refused to go home...she was going with Naomi.  Naomi pressed forward knowing she'd have nothing when she returned home.  And Naomi was in a bad place.  She was depressed and had become bitter.  I imagine she was even having trouble functioning through a day.

And in steps Ruth.  She knows they need to eat, so she offers to go and gather barley in the fields after the harvesters.  Naomi agrees to let her go and God guides her to the field belonging to Boaz.  I can imagine all kinds of things at this point.  Ruth had no clue about the culture except what she'd learned through Naomi and her family.  She knew she was going to stick out.  She looked different.  I'm also sure women were easy prey as they gleaned the fields behind the workers.

But she worked.  I imagine she put her head down and got to work.  She wasn't looking for favors; she was applying herself.  In fact, the Bible tells us she took one short break that first day.  And she gained notice.

I can't quit thinking about Ruth.  She left all she knew and came to a land, a people, a God she didn't know.  She didn't hide out.  She didn't wait for others to come take care of her.  She was motivated to not only take care of herself, but also her mother-in-law who was struggling emotionally.  She didn't just go to work that one day...she worked all through barley harvest which may have lasted 1-2 months.  The Bible says the women around Naomi told her that Ruth was better to her than seven sons!

I think Ruth has a lot to teach us.  She was diligent, hard-working, motivated, and invested herself in her family and her new home.  And Boaz noticed and married her.  And God noticed and blessed her with a son...and included her in the lineage of Christ.  Ruth...a Moabitess, a foreigner.  I'm impressed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How Important is Faith?

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9  
Faith is the basis of Christianity.  You must have faith to be saved and to go to heaven.  So becoming a follower of Jesus means you believe that Jesus was the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, and was resurrected on the third day.  You don't get to heaven by being good, doing good works, going to church...or anything you can do.  It's believing Jesus is who He said He is...the Son of God.  It's giving Him your life and trusting Him with it.  It's inviting Him into your heart and following Him.

"So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself)."  Romans 10:17
Faith comes by hearing a word from God.  The "word from God" is a rhema word.  A word spoken by God.  Just like Abraham went to a land he didn't know.  He heard God tell him to go!  And he obeyed.  That's faith.  God still speaks a word to our hearts.  We listen, hear, and obey.  That's faith.

We can't please God without faith.  Hebrews 11:6  We live by faith.  Hebrews 10:38  When we walk in faith, it's no longer us living, but Christ living in us.  Galatians 2:20  Because of our faith, we will do good works.  (Not the other way around.  We don't get faith because we do good works.)  James 2:17  Some day, our works will pass through fire.  Those done without faith will burn up.  (Remember:  we can't please God without faith!)  I Corinthians 3:11-15  We must hold fast to our faith or we will fail.  I Timothy 1:19  We are to be an example in our faith.  I Timothy 4:12  Our goal to finishing this life well is to keep the faith.  II Timothy 4:7   We withstand the enemy with faith.  I Peter 5:8-9  Faith is the victory which conquers the world.  I John 5:4  

Faith is paramount to the Christian life.  You can't start without it...and you don't end well without it.  It's the way to God and the way to please God.  You must come to God with faith.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Respecting Man's Relationship to God

"Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength!"  I Corinthians 16:13 (Amp)

I remember where I was the first time I read this verse out of the Amplified Bible.  I was in Jodina's den and we were praying together.  We often had our Bibles open and agreed with God's Word as we prayed.  I remember stopping and examining what it said, "faith:  your conviction respecting man's relationship to God..."   We spent quite a bit of time talking it out.

If we're on a journey with God through this life, are our convictions going to change?  Yes.  Will our faith grow?  Yes.

For instance...
I've been very open sharing how I've struggled with finances.  I've had a poverty mentality and a fear of not having enough money.  I didn't grow up with that attitude.  I think it moved in when people spoke that into my life when Andy went into the ministry.  (You know the whole "preachers are poor" thing)  But in my 20's and early 30's, was I chasing after God?  Absolutely!  Was I confused and believing lies about finances?  Yes.  The amazing thing is that God put some wise (and financially affluent) people in my life who graced me and gently brought me out of that poverty mentality.  Looking back on that, I stand amazed.  God had a good plan even though it wasn't a quick plan (or maybe I was just a slow learner).  And He used some wonderful people....who graced me.

I responded to God's plan because I had people who genuinely loved me, accepting me right where I was, and showing me what it was like to live a generous life.  They constantly demonstrated giving big.  They showed me it was "just money" and that people were oh so much more important.  They never preached at me even though I'm sure I was very frustrating at times.  They loved...and they demonstrated.  They brought me out.

That verse goes on to say, "Act like men!"  Grow up.  Grow in your faith.  And believe that God is doing the same thing in those around you.  It may not be in the same way or at the same pace.  But believe He is or He will!  That's respecting man's relationship to God.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Do you KNOW them?

Do you really know the people around you?  I had a college history professor who gave us an assignment to interview our grandparents and write down their history.  That homework probably started my journey to begin to know the people around me.  I wrote the history of all four grandparents (who were all living at the time)--and their own children were amazed to learn some of the facts I found.

Then I heard someone share about how selfish most of us are in relationships.  We're more concerned about how we feel when we meet someone than we are about remembering their names.  And then we want to make sure they know how important we are so then we spend most of our time talking about ourselves.

I decided I wanted to be different.  I know I can still be selfish at times and I'm not an extrovert, but I've made a conscious effort to try to get to know the people around me.  It's changed me.  I've learned things I never would have known.  I've also learned I've pre-judged in situations when I shouldn't have...after learning about someone's past.  I've decided to make a list to help you get started:

  • Interview your parents and grandparents.  Ask them about their childhood, how they met their spouse.  Find out what it was like for them in school, what sports they played.  Ask what they aspired to be.  Did they do that...or end up doing something completely different?  What was it like raising babies in their generation?   Did they serve in the military?  What was that like?  How did they come to know Jesus?   
  • Interview military veterans.  If they're willing, ask them what it was like serving in the military.  Did they face conflict or near-death?  What were their feelings?  What countries were they in?  What was that like?  Do they stay in contact with military buddies?
  • Ask church leaders what it's been like to lead in their churches.  What has been their greatest accomplishment?  Their greatest heartache?  What is their greatest longing for the Church?  How do they build the next generation of leaders?
  • Ask missionaries about serving on the mission field.  What was the hardest thing they faced?  What do they miss about their second country?  What foods did they eat?  How did they build friendships there?  Would they do it again?
  • Ask coaches to share their coaching philosophy.  How do you build young men/women?  What is their dream?  How does coaching relate to life?
  • Ask new friends how they met their spouse.  Where were they married?  Did they grow up in a large city or a small town?   Where did they go to high school?  College?  What are their dreams?
  • Ask a business person how they became successful.  Where did they go to school?  What did they study?  What is their passion?
  • Ask a successful mom how she has such well-behaved children.  What is her parenting philosophy?  What does she do to show her children love?  What does she do for family time?  What does she feed her family?
  • Ask a farmer what crops they grow.  What new methods of farming do they use?  Do they still use any old methods that work?  What changes have they seen in their lifetime?
  • Ask a younger person what they're studying.  What do they hope to do with their lives?  What do they like about their church?  Do they have special family relationships?  Who do they admire?
There are so many valuable things we can learn about others.  I promise it will give you a new way to look at that person.  Sometimes we think we need to know all about farming to relate to a farmer.  That's not true!  We just need to be a willing, attentive listener.  I've found that when you begin asking questions, people are eager to share their stories---they may have never been asked!  I know some veterans who have loved sharing their stories with me.  And what a treasure to know their experiences!!  We're losing some great generations who hold valuable information we need to know.  And as we ask older or younger people to share their stories and their hearts, it will give us insight into a whole generation and may close some generation gaps which exist.  We need one another.  And we need to learn to love and appreciate others, their experiences, the truth they hold, and their stories.  Do you really know the people around you??

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In the Spotlight

It was 1990.  I don't usually watch the CMA awards, but I did that year.   I remember a young Garth Brooks sitting on the edge of his seat (literally) as he waited for the announcement of the Horizon Award (kind of like a "newcomer's" award).  I've never seen someone so transparent, so visually eager, so they waited for the announcement.  Musicians and actors usually try to appear cool, calm & collected at award ceremonies even though their stomachs may be in knots.  Not Garth.  He sprang out of his chair when his name was announced and I almost thought he was going to twirl someone in the air!  He was one excited guy!

By 2001, Garth was through.  After 2 Grammy's, 17 American Music Awards, an RIAA Award and multiple platinum and diamond records, Garth decided to retire.  When he announced his retirement, he looked tired--like he'd been ridden hard and hung up to dry.  He was tired of the spotlight and what celebrity status had done to his family life.

Why is it we humans are so eager for the spotlight...and then hate it after we get it?   (Not that I have much experience in attaining it...)  But I've heard many stars bemoan the fact that they have to hide when they go out in public.  They can no longer go to the grocery store without being mauled.  Or they're hounded by the paparazzi and feel they can no longer be themselves.  Celebrity status has set them apart and they begin to lose a part of themselves and they become lonely.  I think if given the choice, many would choose to go back to the way it was before there was a spotlight.

We were not created to be worshiped.  I'm not saying it's wrong to be popular or to have a "following."  But I am saying that you need purpose in life--and that purpose must be to worship God with your life.  And any praise given you must be directed to the One who deserves it all.

I can't imagine how hard it is to live under the spotlight and to have everything you do examined with a fine tooth comb.  I don't know how you keep your head squarely on your shoulders and your feet solidly on the ground.  I don't know how you keep your heart humble.  Except for this:  you must worship your King.  And you must continually praise Him.

Garth is back!  And I pray he finds true success.  May we all be content in being the light of the world.   We'll have no need of a spotlight when we're reflecting the one true Light.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Color of Unity

Julian Reese led a youth choir for the Martin Luther King, Jr. service at St. John's church in Amarillo yesterday.  He had invited our youth to participate and they did--for the two rehearsals and then the event.  There were also some kids from an Hispanic church who participated.  The name of the program was "The Color of Unity."  It was my first time to participate with an African American church for a Martin Luther King, Jr. event.  It was a great idea and I'm grateful we were invited.

I came away from the service knowing something.  We are never going to have true unity until we come together.  We can appreciate one another from afar...but how can there be unity if we're never together?  The same is true with denominations.  I may say I love my brothers who are Methodist, Holiness, or Church of Christ...but if we never come together, how does that even resemble unity?

"Behold, I am doing a new thing.  Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it and will you not give heed to it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isa. 43:19  It's time to come together, worship together, learn from one another, bless one another, forgive one another.  I know there have been some great movements to try to do Promise Keepers.  But I think it's going to happen when two or three churches at a time determine we're going to come together to understand one another and walk together in agreement.  To do that, we're going to have to lay down distrust and come with hearts wide open ready to forgive and demolish at a time.

“We Shall Overcome”
We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday.
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

The truth will make us free, the truth will make us free,
The truth will make us free someday,
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand someday.
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,
We are not afraid today.
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

The truth will make us free, the truth will make us free,
The truth will make us free someday,
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday.
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We shall know the truth and the truth will set us free.  For true unity to take place, we have to come to the One Source--Jesus Christ.  And his one desire before he died was that we should be one as He and His Father were one.  Jesus Christ,  his death on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection to new life is our common denominator.  And it should propel us to find unity with our brothers and sisters of different color, different denominations, and different countries.  That's the Color of Unity.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Going into the Family Business

This has been a red letter day!  I've decided to go into the family business.  I've dabbled in it for years.  I know all of the legalities of the business.  I've gone to school for it and have a higher education in it.  I've even taught about it.  But my father has been showing me more and more of what it entails.  And I'm jumping in with both feet and committing myself to this business and where it takes me!  I'm pretty excited about it, in fact!!

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  Luke 2:49

Jesus joined the family business early.  When he was 12-years-old, he knew what he was supposed to do.  He heard and obeyed his Father and went into the temple (even as his mom and earthly father unknowingly left town without him) and began listening and asking wise questions of those teachers.    He even said this many years later:  
"I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord—but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision], and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me."  John 5:30

I've been listening to the Father's voice for lots of years now.  But I've taken a greater leap of faith!  I want to do the same thing Jesus did--I want to do the works the Father has sent me to do.  He's prepared me--it's been written on my heart.  I can even tell you I've done some of them.  Some might argue that I've been about my Father's business since I joined the family at 9-years-old.  But there's a difference between being born into the family...and joining the family business.  There's even a difference in studying about the business and actually doing it.  The family business is listening to and then obeying everything the Father wants me to at the risk of looking different.  But if I want to be like Jesus and do even greater works than he did, that's a risk I'm willing to take!  It's the Father's Business, after all--I believe He knows how to run it.  I'm just a small peg in the family business--willing to carry out the Father's orders.  I have a feeling I'm about to embark on the greatest adventure of my life! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Temple Veil

The tabernacle was made up of three parts--the outer court, the inner court, and the Holy of Holies.  The high priest was the only person who could go behind the veil which separated the inner court from the Holy of Holies.  They would tie a rope around the high priest's ankle so they could drag him out in case he died while there because of unconfessed sin.  But behind the veil is where the presence of God resided on the ark of the covenant.  The high priest met God's presence behind the veil.  

When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two--from the top to the bottom.  (Matthew 27:51)   GOD tore the veil.   By His tearing the veil, access was given to every believer to the presence of God.  In fact, we've become priests and are also now the new temple of God!  We have access to the presence of God and also carry the presence of God with us wherever we go.

I've been discussing this with my sons and my sister this week.  Matt made this observation:  "The tabernacle housed the presence of the Holy Spirit (Shekinah Glory) in the most Holy Place.   I've always thought that when the temple veil was torn, it was to signify that we could enter into His presence.  That's wrong.  It was to signify that His presence could leave the constructs of the tabernacle and move into the living tabernacle (us).  Most Christians live with the restrictive model of the old covenant, not allowing the Spirit to be displayed at all.  The veil was torn that we might display the Shekinah Glory of God to all humanity.  When we ask the Glory of God to come down, we're making the wrong request.  We should be asking the Shekinah Glory to come out!!"

And then Sandra made this point, "It makes you wonder how many people have tried to sew up the torn veil?"  Indeed!  People have been afraid of the Holy Spirit and have tried to tuck Him neatly back behind the veil.  

We are the temple of God.  We house the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  We then become the place for God to meet with men.  Everywhere we go, we should be allowing the Spirit of God the freedom to reveal Himself to all mankind!  Let's quit trying to sew up the veil which God has already torn in two.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Collage of Us

Mona Lisa collage

Have you ever considered who you are?  I probably know who you are.  I'm Becky Darlene Sanders Dietz.  But I'm so much more.  I come from a collaboration of two families--the Sanders & Childress families.  But then it goes back...and back...and back.  I have red hair like the Childresses and a loud laugh like the Sanderses. I grew up around the sarcasm and a fun sense of humor in the Sanders family and some strong female genes in the Childress family.  And not only am I a mosaic of two families, I'm made up of many experiences with family and friends.  For instance, Peggy Morris added to the collage of Becky Sanders Dietz by being my best friend from 2nd grade until college.  She added lots of experiences to the mosaic of who I am.  Cousins helped make me who I am as did aunts & uncles.  Teachers also contributed to the framework of who I became.  Have you ever seen the TV show, "Who Do You Think You Are?"  When you watch it, you realize certain traits have been passed down for generations...things we had no idea we'd inherited from someone else.

None of us are an entity unto ourselves.   We are uniquely created and God has placed us in the boundaries which He determined for us.  We don't see it clearly now...but I believe some day we'll see how those beautifully light and gregarious days--and even those dark times which baffle us--will become a glorious rendition of our own collage.  We don't make up our own story even though we are given choices every day.  It's the input from other people's lives which also influence us--and our response to them.  I am a wonderful combination of my mom and dad who love/loved God and two brothers and a sister who loved, laughed, poked, and steadfastly influenced me while we lived together-until today.  Then I joined my story with Andy's and his families'.  They've contributed to my portrait for almost 40 years.  Even the families my children have married into have added sparkle to the watercolor of my life!

I'm amazed when I think of the input of others into my own life...the patchwork quilt of who I am.  And it causes me to want to invest light in the portrait of others.  But if our collages were full of only light, it wouldn't be as beautiful. So I can even be grateful for those who painted the dark colors in my life.

It's good to sit and recognize who we are.  We are a masterpiece which God is meticulously painting.   

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Look Back on 2014

I think I'd call 2014 the best and worst year of my life.  It started out so well!  We were new in Groom, TX.  We knew it was exactly where God wanted us!  We'd already met some wonderful people and we were excited about our future.  All of our kids were here for New Year's...checking out our new digs.  What a great start!

Bill, a sweet man in our church, was in a terrible car wreck in February and was immediately in surgery and put in a halo.  He has been in hospitals, rehabs and long-term care since it happened.  He was in kidney failure this week but seems to be doing better now.  He's fought hard!

We found out in March that a friend in our church probably had cancer.  The church was shaken, but the deacons decided to shave their heads in his honor and to stand beside him.  We even had kids wanting to shave their heads for Curtis.  Curtis began his fight with cancer...but God also used his illness to begin restoration in our church.  It's amazing how God can take something bad and use it for good!  Curtis is doing so well!!  We praise God for hearing and answering our prayers.

The hardest thing about 2014 was finding out in April that my brother, Bob, had extensive cancer.  What we didn't know at the time was that he'd had it for 12 years.  He hid it from us for years and when it got bad enough, he just quit coming around.  My sister-in-law finally told me what was going on.  We were devastated.  Of course, we began a campaign to try to get him to the doctor, but he refused.  The amazing thing was, God began restoring our relationships through emails.  The thing I want you to know about Bob is that he was such an easy-going laid back!  He saw humor in everything.  And over the course of the next few months, he did just that--focused on the funny things and downplayed his illness.  Amazingly, Bob allowed us to bring a doctor to see him about two weeks before he died.  A doctor who has gone with us to China many times...and a sweet friend...made the trip to look at Bob.  His ministry to us that night was a gift from God.  And we had no idea just how much his report would help us in the days to come.  Bob lost his battle with cancer December day after my 59th birthday.  He was my hero.  I'm so thankful God restored our relationship through those emails.  What a gift!

In May, my friend, Faye Ybarra, found out she had 2 blood diseases which were working against one another.  And she entered her battle for her life.  In June, she began going to the cancer center and the hospital every single day for platelets and blood.  She was amazing to watch.  Her smile never left her face.  She worshiped God through it all.  She was in and out of the hospitals in Amarillo and Dallas for months. Her 2 blood diseases also turned into leukemia.  I was with her the week she died and she was singing a praise song to God and raising her hand in worship when she was barely able to do so.  I loved her.

My sister, Sandra, was in a car wreck in July.  Her neck was hurt, so they took her to the hospital to have it X-rayed.  When they did, they found her neck wasn't injured, but discovered she had an abnormal thyroid.  Within a few weeks and after a biopsy, it was determined she had thyroid cancer.  They had to wait to do surgery because of the radiation exposure from her X-ray after the wreck.  She had a wonderful surgeon in Dallas who performed a successful surgery.  She had to be isolated for two days for radiation treatment and she found out the devastating news that our brother died right before she was isolated.  I can't even imagine what she endured for those two days.  My heart was broken for her.  She just found out tonight, after they'd done a body scan, that there is no metastasis!  Praise God!  I believe she is healed.

Also through the year, we had a grandson who had a staph infection, a granddaughter who had a tonsillectomy, our daughter's family was only a couple of miles from the Ebola scare, that same family was in a car wreck, and a grandson who went to the ER because he was limping.  We endured a drought--with a spring and summer full of terrible dirt storms.  It felt symbolic somehow.

But we also had the opportunity to speak at a marriage retreat, I spoke at a women's retreat, we went to youth & kids camp, we both spoke at a M.O.P.S. meeting, I started a blog for pastor's wives, and I helped at disaster relief after a fire in Fritch.   

We had a son and his family move from Borger to Tyler.  And then we had a son and his family move from Dalhart to Tulsa.

To sum up was a year of very hard trials.  I stressed, grieved, begged for God's mercy and was exhausted and on overload most of the year.  But it was also a year of great ministry.  Our new church ministered to me, friends from Borger ministered to me.  My family ministered to one another.  And we began seeing healing.  We've seen physical healing, restoration of relationships, and the healing of a church.  In 2014, I learned...God is enough.  And that I will praise Him no matter what.