Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Senior Adults & the Promised Land

Sea of Galilee

I'm teaching about the life of Moses to the kids on Wednesday nights.  I was studying this week about Moses sending the 12 spies into the Promised Land.  If you remember, the 12 spies (a leader from each tribe) went to check out the fruitfulness of the land and to see how strong the people were.  They spied and came back.  They all talked about how fruitful the land was.  It was pretty evident---it took two men to carry one cluster of grapes between them!  But ten of the men told Moses and the people that there were GIANTS in the land--they couldn't overtake them.  Joshua & Caleb insisted that God had given these people into their hands--that they should go in and possess the land.

This threw the 3,000,000 Hebrew people who had come out of Egypt--and seen one miracle after another--into a panic!!   God had told Moses from the beginning (who had told the people) that the whole reason He was delivering them out of Pharaoh's hands was to take them to a land flowing with milk and honey.  Even though they'd seen God deliver them from Pharaoh's hands with 10 plagues, even though they'd seen God part the waters of the Red Sea and allowed them to cross on dry ground, and even though He'd fed them daily with manna and fed them quail and provided them with water gushing out of a rock....they didn't believe He could kill giants for them.  They began wailing and complaining to Moses--in unbelief.  They even said, "Would that our children had died in Egypt!"

And God was ticked off.  He told Moses to stand back so he could kill them.  Moses interceded for their lives--reminding God that Egypt would declare He wasn't able to deliver His people.  God relented and spared their lives.  But He also gave the people consequences for their unbelief.  He told the people that they would wander in the wilderness for FORTY YEARS--until every adult had died.  Every adult except Moses, Joshua & Caleb.   And then God would take the children (who the parents said should have died in Egypt) into the Promised Land.

How many senior adults went into the Promised Land forty years later?  Two.  Joshua & Caleb.  

I have to tell you that when I read this story again, my heart began to pound.  The Holy Spirit was speaking to me quite clearly!  The Promised Land is a picture of the abundant life which God offers us through the Holy Spirit.  It's imperative that we, as senior adults, don't get caught up in griping and complaining and murmuring.  We mustn't walk in fear and unbelief!!  Not only are we supposed to be examples for our children and grandchildren, but God wants us to experience all He has for us--a life of abundance, blessing, and promise--if we believe what He has told us.  Don't identify with the reports of fear and unbelief.  God hasn't changed.  He still gets fed up with murmuring, complaining, and unbelief.

Two senior adults.  That's all who went into the Promised Land.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Expectations Kill

Have you ever had expectations of how something would go...and it didn't?  At the very least, it can be frustrating because things didn't go the way you expected.  Or it can be disillusioning to the point of completely altering your life.

I recently heard some young mothers talking about their pregnancies.  They had expectations of how it was going to be.  They were going to be excited, chart each change with photos, love their expanding belly and feeling that baby move, and just filled with wonder.  Instead, they experienced morning sickness (all day) for nine months.  They felt sick, bloated, depressed, and wondered where the wonder was.

I've also counseled many young women who came into marriage with the expectation that their husband was supposed to do something and then were highly disappointed when they didn't.  It doesn't even matter what the "supposed to do" was, really.  When you have an expectation (which can even be taught at a marriage conference or retreat you're both attending), it can be a killer for your marriage.  The enemy knows how to set you up.

Expectations set us up for disappointment...and even failure.  But how do we avoid it?  It's like (most of) our hearts are set up and wired for success, hope, and fulfillment.  We want to believe everything is going to be perfect.  But David even instructed his soul in Psalm 62:5, "My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him."  David must have had the same problem, but he'd learned the solution--to put his expectations in God!  There's a fine line between faith and expectations.  Faith is taking God at His Word...believing He'll do what He's said He'll do.  Expectations are determining for yourself the way you think things should be...and expecting it to turn out that way.  And that can set you up for failure.

The people around Jesus had expectations.  They'd decided in their own minds that Jesus was coming as a King to deliver them politically--maybe even by a revolution.  But that didn't happen.  Instead, Jesus died.  And they were totally disillusioned, confused, disappointed--their hope was dead.  Was it because Jesus didn't tell them why he'd come?  No.  He'd told them over and over.  But their expectations didn't give them room to truly receive what he was saying.

It's imperative that we die to our expectations---of ourselves, of others, and especially of God.  Instead, we need to be listening.  Listen to what others are telling you about themselves--and believe them.  But we especially need to hear what God says--and put our faith in that.  Die to your expectations...instead of letting expectations kill your hope, your joy, your future.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Love = Boundaries

God loves us so much He created boundaries for us.  We do this for our own children, don't we?  We build fences on our property to keep them safe.  Or we teach them not to run out in the street.  I remember teaching our first two young children where the boundaries were when they played in the front yard.  They could go from the edge of one driveway to the other.  But where the sidewalk ended, they weren't allowed to step over.  Of course, they had to test the limits to know if I meant what I said.  And I had to reinforce those rules...because if they thought they could cross the line, they might just get hit by a car backing out of those driveways when they couldn't be seen.  Did I create boundaries because I wanted to restrain their fun?  Absolutely not!  I wanted them to play and be happy--I just wanted them to do it safely because I loved them so much.

God's first boundary was to the first man, Adam.  He was told he couldn't eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The consequence?  He would die.  And like many of us, Adam added his own law to that rule.  He'd obviously told Eve she couldn't even touch it!  God had given them so much.  They had everything He'd created at their disposal.  They just couldn't eat from one tree.  But they did.  And when they did, they died that day--but didn't even know it.  They died a spiritual death--a separation from the God who loved them.  Not only did God have to redeem mankind because of that sin, He had to set new boundaries.  Because now if they were to eat from the tree of life, they'd be forever in their sin.  God drove them out of the garden and stationed angels to guard it...for their own good.

Just like I didn't want my children to die by getting hit by a car, God didn't want His children to die...but they did.  God loved us too much to leave us where Adam took us--in death because of sin.  He sent His Son to die for us to provide a way out of this spiritual death.  It's a choice He gives us.  And we need to realize we're making a choice of life...or of death.  His love begs us to choose life!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Just a Job for a Paycheck? Or a Mission Field?

Lindon & Wynola Sanders--Dad & Mom

My dad was a mailman.  I guess the correct name is mail carrier.  For the most part, dad was a mailman back in the day when they had fun at the office.  The guys at the Pampa Post Office had nicknames for one another and Dad's nickname was Hawkeye.  I never knew when I called him at work whether to ask for Lindon or Hawkeye!  He would often come home telling about one high jinks after another he'd gotten into at work.  My dad was the class clown growing up--and it carried over into his adult life.  He loved a good prank!  There was always something going on at the post office between the guys.  That is until about 5 years before he retired.  At that time, a new sheriff came into town (so to speak) and there was no more horsing around.  It became all business...and no fun.  Dad chafed under the new regime.  And it's what propelled him into retirement.  The new rules honestly took the spirit out of him.  The job he'd loved became just a job.  And that was probably 30 years ago.

He'd have so much empathy for people working now.  You hear it over and over--people feeling suppressed at work.  There's no life, no encouragement, no fun, no hope.  It's just become a job to bring home a paycheck.  And the jobs which should be fulfilling are having the very life sucked out of them.

I contend believers should bring life to the job--especially if you're the boss!  We should be the encouragers, those building others up, those with creative and innovative ideas. This week, I encourage you to do that very thing.  Ask God for a way to bring life to your workplace, your home, your church.  Find someone who needs encouragement--or even a good, clean prank--if it's allowed.  Take cookies, lunch, or something fun to share with others.  Send a funny joke to your co-workers via email.  Hang a "saying" to encourage others in the teacher's lounge.  Write a note of encouragement--praise someone for something you've seen them do.  Hug someone's neck and just tell them you think they're doing a great job.  (Every mom of young children needs that!)  LOVE on people and see if things begin to change at your workplace.  YOU can bring life!!  Discover a way to work which isn't just about a paycheck--you are in the middle of a mission field.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Repetition in Contemporary Songs

You'd think I listened to music all the time--considering how musical my husband and children are.  But I don't--never have.  It's something called sensory overload.  I just can't handle too many "noises" going on in my life at any given time.  Interestingly, it never affected me while all three of my boys were learning to play guitar and singing.  But this morning, the thought came to me as I spent time with the Lord, to do something with all five senses.  I lit a candle (smell), drank some coffee (taste), cuddled in a throw (touch), wrote in my journal (sight), and listened to Zach's CD (hearing).  It was a wonderful experience--intentionally bringing all five senses God has given me to my time with Him this morning.

But as I listened to A Road Less Traveled's "Love Transcend" album, I was brought to emotions I experienced some time ago.  It was one of the lowest points in my life.  I was home alone and had hit rock bottom.  I didn't know where to go or what to do.  I got in our pickup and just began driving.  I had this CD on my iPhone and began playing it so I wouldn't have to think.  I drove and drove.  I was listening, but not really hearing.  The song, "Your Love Never Fails" came on.  There's a part in it which says, "You make all things work together for my good," over and over.  It took a bit, but finally my mind began really hearing the words and began to awaken.  And I had to pull the pickup over and sob.  God was speaking directly to me through that song.  I knew God was making all things work together for my good in my situation.

The next time you're tempted to complain because you think a contemporary song goes on and on, I hope you grace someone sitting in your church who needs to hear those words.  It may take repetition for their hearts to awaken and really hear what God is speaking to them.  I also challenge you to read the Psalms (Songs of David) and see how much repetition is in them.  A lot.

While I was pulled over to the side of the road, I texted Zach just to let him know how much God had used his band's music to minister to me that day.  I told him to never be afraid to use repetition in his songs--because that's how God reached me.  I'm so grateful for this beautiful song with the words repeated, "You make all things work together for my good."  I don't think that truth would have penetrated my heart without that repetition.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Dramatic Flair

I’d never done anything like this before.  It wasn’t like me to try out for a part in the high school musical.  But lots of my friends were doing it, so on a whim, I tried out for the small role of Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly!  Actually, I think our director already had people in mind for certain parts and he certainly didn’t expect me to try out.  My only consolation that day was that when I read the part (rather dramatically, if I do say so myself), his head shot up as if he were doing a double-take.  But someone with a more dramatic flair got the role of Irene Molloy that day.  And I never pursued the performing arts after that. 

I was reading an article by Rick Renner who gave an explanation of John 10:10.  These three words are used to describe Satan’s intentions with us: steal (klepto), kill (thuo), and destroy (apollymi).  We understand that Satan wants to steal from us.  He’s a kleptomaniac—which is his very nature.  He wants to steal our joy, our dreams—everything good which God has given us.  Thuo is a picture of an animal sacrifice.  Rick explained that if Satan can get us to sacrifice a dream, a vision, a prophetic word, or a word God has spoken to our hearts he has “thuo-d” us.  We have sacrificed something God has spoken to our hearts.   The word for destroy takes it just a step further.  If you lay down a dream and sacrifice it on the altar of rejection, Satan has successfully destroyed a calling God has placed on your life. 

At least Satan wants us to believe it’s completely destroyed.  But we have a redeeming God! The rest of John 10:10 says God came to give us abundant life—life beyond measure—an advantage.  I wouldn't say I dreamed of becoming an actor, but God did give me a flair for the dramatic.  Satan wanted to steal , kill, and destroy it.  But it’s been resurrected...if you ask the kids I teach on Wednesday nights.  

I do believe my grandkids inherited the flair for the dramatic.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Your Pastor's Wife...by a Pastor's Wife

March is Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month.  Did you know that?  Don't feel bad...I didn't either.  But since it is and since I recently began a pastor's wives blog and Facebook page, I thought it would be good to discuss your pastor's wife here and maybe give you a rare look into her life.  You may not know what she is walking through.  I have been loved so well, taken care of, and befriended in the churches we've been in...but I've learned some things through a few of my own circumstances and a lot through other pastor's wives and the difficult things they've faced.*

Did you know most pastor's wives feel invisible in their church?  And if they don't feel that way, they almost feel like they should be that way.  They have no say.  They usually hear all of the problems of the church because their husband needs a safe place to unload...but they are powerless to change anything except through prayer.  They can't go tell off the church board or deacons or negotiate with the finance committee.  Their response has to be to continue loving everyone--regardless of how they or their husband have been treated.  I've never been a part of a church where a pastor's wife was allowed to be on a committee.  They literally have no say--beyond maybe raising their hand to vote--which they may even be fearful to do that.

Did you know most pastor's wives fight the expectations of their church?  You don't think you have expectations?  What if the pastor's wife walks right by you without speaking?  What if the pastor's wife invites another woman over for coffee, but not you?  What if she is quiet and reserved and doesn't get involved in church activities?  What if the pastor's wife is outgoing, outspoken, or loves to take charge?  See?  We do have expectations.  We want the perfect mixture.  The perfect pastor's wife is someone who is outgoing and speaks to everyone but never oversteps her bounds.  She leads the women's groups and teaches the children but never makes a suggestion to a man in leadership.  She opens her home to everyone, not a select few.  You never hear her argue with her husband or criticize how the church is run.  Ahhh...yes.  The perfect pastor's wife.  The model none of us can live up to.

Did you know most pastor's wives would do so much more if they could afford it?  It takes money to invite people into your home.  It is expensive to invite a couple or a family out to eat.  If she plans a women's retreat, she has to be able to afford it herself.  She might love to be involved with the youth or missions programs, but it would be impossible to pay for all of the trips they take.  She may not be able to be a part of a women's video series because she can't afford the study book.  It takes money to lead and very few pastor's wives are compensated for the expenses of the ministries they do.  It's just expected.

Did you know most pastor's wives fear comparison?  If your last pastor's wife was well-loved, the new pastor's wife knows she's starting from behind at the get-go.  She may fear being involved in or leading out in the same things the former pastor's wife was involved in because of being compared.  She may fear failure--not because of anything she's done, but just because she doesn't measure up to what the last pastor's wife did.

Did you know most pastor's wives have been subjected to private criticism of their husband or children by someone in the church?  This is probably the biggest cause of pastor's wives "retreating" from church people.  Some people feel called to let the pastor's wife know of every mistake their husband makes.  And especially when their children become teenagers, some busybodies are watching and waiting for their children to sin.  Very few pastor's kids are allowed to be just that...kids.  Everything they do is scrutinized, gossiped about, and condemned just because they're the pastor's kid.  There are very, very few kindhearted people in the church who take those kids under their wings and love them unconditionally and encourage them continually.  It's the reason so many PK's leave the church.  (I hope if you know of an offense you've caused, you'll go this week and ask forgiveness.)  Every pastor's wife hopes for a kindhearted soul to mentor her kids to reinforce the things they're learning at home.  By the way...there's no perfect kid...PK or otherwise.

Did you know most pastor's wives are lonely?  Some of them are afraid to make any friends because of the possibility of some women in the church feeling left out.  Or they don't want to risk being criticized.  It's risky business having friends when you're the pastor's wife.  If you share your burdens, the very person to whom you share may turn on you and use you as fodder for church gossip.  The pastor's wife knows that sharing her burdens could even be the means to having her husband fired.  Most pastor's wives have surface-level relationships because of the risk of sharing their hearts.

Did you know most pastor's wives have tried to talk their husbands into getting out of the ministry at some point?  The pressures are real.  The enemy has a bullseye target on their family.  And the complaining, control, and offenses in the church can be overwhelming.

What does your pastor's wife need?  She needs a friend.  A supporter.  Someone who will love her, her husband, and her children unconditionally.  She knows she's going to make mistakes and may even mess up BIG time!  But she wants the grace--and a safe place--to make mistakes and survive.  No...thrive!  Every pastor's wife also hopes for enough compensation so she doesn't have to work outside of the home.  She hopes for enough in her husband's salary so she isn't constantly worried about how to feed her family--and still do things to be involved in the church--especially if she has two babies in diapers or two or more teenagers needing to be involved in youth programs/trips/camp.  Most of all, your pastor's wife needs encouragement.  The pastor gets lots of pats on the back (hopefully!)--he's upfront and visible.  Very few pastor's wives get the same.  Even if her concentration during her time in your church is on rearing her children, she needs to hear someone say, "You're doing a great job!" and mean it.

Like I said...I've been loved well.  In fact, I have to pray I don't get a big head because of all of the affirmation I get--and have gotten from each church I've been in.  But so many of my sisters doing the same job are hurting.  Everyone wants to be appreciated.  I hope you'll take the opportunity this month to encourage your pastor's wife--even if you've never done anything like that in your life!  Ask God what she needs...and do what comes to your mind.  And next time you're tempted to criticize her, I hope you'll remember....she needs a friend, not a critic.
Most of all, pray for her.

And...I hope you'll share this page with all of your friends and your church.  Every pastor's wife needs an advocate.

* Believe me when I say that I know there are pastor's wives in a totally different hemisphere who just don't care what the church thinks--and could care less if someone reaches out to them.  They may be rebellious or bitter. In fact, they may be the ones trying to destroy their husband's ministry or the church.  And there are women whose husbands aren't in the ministry who suffer some of these same things [i.e. a coach's wife].   But I also know Satan is attacking church leaders in hopes of getting rid of church leaders...and churches, for that matter.  Even if your pastor's wife is in that different hemisphere, she (more than any of the others) needs to be ministered to.  What if she could be transformed by your love?  Your pastor's wife may have also offended you.  I've been guilty of the very same thing.  But you know what?  Sometimes we don't even know!  If you've been offended, please go to your pastor's wife (even if she's left your church) and work out that offense.  God desires unity.  And if you're just hanging on to how bad a pastor's wife was, please let it go and extend her some grace.  You just might not know her story...and we all need grace.

"...more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!"
II Corinthians 4:15

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One Step at a Time

I'm teaching "Moses" to the children on Wednesday nights.  We haven't even gotten to the part of the story about crossing the Red Sea yet, but events this week have brought this story to my mind (and I can't wait to teach it!).

I'm convinced the Christian life is designed for us to come to know God and His amazing acts more and more throughout our lifetime.  I also believe the Christian life is designed for us to come to know ourselves--with the opportunity to change ourselves--throughout our lifetime.

The Israelites had the opportunity to do both.  God began revealing Himself to them before they ever left Egypt (a picture of our slavery to sin).  That's the way God woos many of us to Himself--by revealing His greatness.  Through a series of miracles, Israel left Egypt (picture of salvation) and started on their journey to the Promised Land (picture of abundant life).  Their first BIG obstacle was the Red Sea.  They were butted up against the sea--and the enemy was coming towards them.  They feared they were about to die!  But God...God put a cloud between them and the enemy and told Moses to raise his rod over the sea.  Moses acted out of faith and raised the rod and the sea parted!  The Israelites walked across the Red Sea on dry ground!  God lifted the cloud and the Egyptians followed them on the dry ground--but God swallowed them up by letting the waters flood them after the Israelites were safely across.  (It's fun to go to YouTube and look for accounts where they've found Egyptian articles in the Red Sea.)  And then the Israelites began the journey of going through the wilderness for 40 years--where they learned about God's provision, God's faithfulness, God's forgiveness, and God's redemption.

But they also learned about themselves.  They learned that they mostly walked in fear.  The interesting thing is that God put them in some difficult situations.  For instance, he told Moses to lead the Israelites to Pi-hahiroth--a place where they would be shut in next to the Red Sea with no way out.  And then he turned Pharaoh's heart against them.  GOD did that!  It seems cruel...but it was actually a way for God to prove just how big He was!!  He set them all up for a display of His greatness!  But in the setting up, the people learned what was in their hearts--fear.  In fact, the Bible says they were "exceedingly frightened!"  Later in the story, we see their hearts of full of rebellion, idolatry, greed, jealousy.

The Israelites journey wasn't taken just to get them from Egypt to Canaan, it was a journey for God to reveal His greatness and His love.  And it was a journey to work out the fear, rebellion, idolatry, greed, and jealousy from their own hearts.  And time was no object to God.  God's doing the same thing for us.  We're on a journey.  We're not just saved and securing a place in heaven, we're here to work some things out of our own hearts.  That's what it means when it says we're "working out our own salvation."  We can't save ourselves, but we can work at getting these things out of our hearts.  God is calling us to walk in faith.  Believe what He says He will do.  Agree with Him.  Allow Him to reveal those things in your heart and be willing to remove them from your life.

Walk out of Egypt and into the Promised Land...one step at a time.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Confession by Robert Whitlow

The Confession by Robert Whitlow doesn't at all deviate from Whitlow's expected masterful twists and turns in his new legal thriller.  In his usual Grisham-style, Whitlow takes you on the journey of a young assistant D.A. who has a past to cover up.  Holt Douglas has taken on his best friend's dream of fighting legal battles for others all because Holt killed his best friend in a drunk driving accident in high school.

Trish Carmichael is a deputy sheriff, with her time spent mostly finding deadbeat dads who are avoiding paying child support. And then she makes sure they spend their day in court.  She and Holt usually spend Thursdays together presenting these cases to Judge Lomax.

A file comes across Holt's desk which is not intended for his eyes.  The wealthiest man in town was killed and it was ruled a suicide.  But for such a public case, the file is very thin.  Holt begins privately investigating the case knowing his boss won't be happy.  And he asks for Trish's help.

Just when you think you have this story figured out, it takes another sudden turn.  You begin cheering for a certain relationship and it isn't what it appears.  Once again, Robert Whitlow took me on an unexpected journey.  Robert Whitlow, himself, is a lawyer which gives even more depth to his books.

I highly recommend this book (or any of Whitlow's books) and give it 5 out of 5 stars!

Blessings for the Morning by Susie Larson

I was a little surprised by this book.  It's not at all what I expected in what I thought was a devotional.  It is instead about 100 days worth of scripture...and blessings.

Each blessing is listed in the contents so if you're looking for a particular blessing, you can find it.  Each day comes with its own beautiful photography artfully displayed on two pages.  On the first page is the scripture and on the second page is the blessing.

The blessings begin with, "May God bless you..." or "May you be blessed..."  The blessings tie into the scripture which is used for the day.

If your heart is open to receiving such a blessing, it will be a beautiful book to invest in.  If you're looking for a deeper devotional book, this probably isn't it.

I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, March 5, 2015

More than I can ask for...

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."  Ephesians 3:20

I have this scripture hanging in my living room.  I've been looking at it intently for the past few months.  I want to see God do more than I can ask or imagine in my life, don't you?  

If we are a believer, we have God's power residing within us.  But I also believe that when we walk in faith, we release that power.  When you examine the word "power," it's the Greek word dynamis--a dynamite-like power.  It's the power Jesus had to do miracles.

I was faced with this:  What am I doing right now that can only be explained by God?  Is there any ministry I'm involved in which I can't do in my own power?  How much am I doing in my own strength?

I believe it's possible to float through life doing ministry in our own power and never tap into the extraordinary power of God.  I encourage you to stop, examine, and ask.  Stop what you're doing and take a good, hard look at it.  Examine it.  Are you doing things in your own strength...or are you allowing the power of God to work through you?  ASK God to release His power through you.  Ask Him for the unimaginable!!  Believe Him for miracles.  Ask Him to amaze you.  Ask Him for things you can't do!  Ask Him for the miracle-releasing dynamite power to be at work within you and through you.

Ask...and keep on asking.