Tag Archive | fellowship

A Tree Planted

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

 

I’ve walked in step with the wicked and stood in the way that sinners take. I’ve also sat in the company of mockers. I tried to find a place to fit in wanting to puff myself up so I didn’t feel so small and inadequate.

Instead, I felt empty and dirty. I didn’t like what was coming out of my mouth nor the feelings I harbored in my heart. I was not kind or gentle, but rather harsh and belittling.

Understand, I had friends. I laughed and loved, cared for and enjoyed time with people who I honestly thought of quite highly. The problem was that for those I didn’t like, those who I didn’t consider friends, I could be quite mean-spirited. I didn’t necessarily say anything to their face, but behind their back it was no-holds-barred.

A friend of mine once said, when talking about something her husband had said or done, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. In other words, it was okay that she was breaking his confidence by telling us what had happened.

That was a turning point for me. I realized that he trusted her and even though she didn’t agree with his thinking, she had belittled him. She mocked him behind his back. And if we’re willing to do it to those we love and care for, or are supposed to love and care for, how much worse are we willing to treat those we don’t like or even know?

Choosing where to be planted

Psalm 1:3 says that the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord, the person who meditates on Him and His word day and night, that person is blessed. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water. They yield fruit in their season and do not wither.

Consider for a moment that we are trees, but unlike real trees, we can plant ourselves wherever we choose. Also imagine that the soil is the condition of our hearts and the water is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Where we choose to plant ourselves will determine our overall health because the condition of the soil and the source the soil feeds on will allow us to either have healthy or unhealthy roots.

Planting yourself in the world

According to 2 Peter 1, the worldly nature is corrupt and deceitful. Ephesians 4 adds attitudes and behaviors such as speaking falsely, unwholesome talk, stealing, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice. The list goes on and on throughout Scripture.

Not many people think they would choose to plant themselves in these actions or feelings, but we do it all the time. When we don’t forgive, we may be holding onto a grudge, feeling resentment or bitterness toward someone. We experience a form of malice when we are happy or relieved that someone who has hurt us is hurt themselves. We’re glad they’re getting what they deserve. Twisting the truth is a lie. Gossip can cause someone to see another in a bad light.

By planting ourselves in the world, we separate ourselves from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We live in a place where we are mostly unaffected by the work of the Spirit and the soil, or our hearts, will remain hard and unyielding. Our roots will grow out rather than down to find what we need. They will remain shallow as our hearts look to the world to meet our needs, rather than the Spirit within us.

Planting yourself in Christ

On the other hand, when we plant ourselves in soil that is rich with the Holy Spirit, our hearts will become softer and more pliable to the work of the Spirit. We yield more willingly to the Spirit. This doesn’t mean there’s no pain in the movement of the soil. There may be places that are not as saturated, places we’ve kept closed off to the Spirit. Once we’ve experienced the goodness of God’s work in our lives, we become more willing to let Him into the deeper, darker and dryer places.

2 Peter 1 and Ephesians 4 also give us some information about the behaviors, attitudes and motivations that cause our roots to grow down rather than out. When we speak truthfully building others up with words that benefit them, work hard sharing with others, and are compassionate and forgiving, we make space for the Spirit to work in our hearts.  We can persevere with self-control loving others as we trust God’s will over our own.

We we dig deep letting the living water of the Spirit saturate our hearts, our roots grow deep. We look to Him to lead, guide, correct and encourage us. We find our peace and satisfaction in Him as our source rather than the world.

 

Something to Consider…

Where do you tend to plant yourself – in the world or in Christ? To whose voice do you tend to listen? Be honest with yourself and with God. He already knows the condition of your soil and roots.

How have your thinking and actions changed as you’ve let God have more space in your heart and life? In what places do you need to seek Him above the worlds influence?

As you spend more time talking with God, reading His word and responding to what He’s saying to you, you will find His company better than any other.

Advertisements

A Wise Leader (Part 3)

friends(View: A Wise Leader Part 1 and Part 2)

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

As I’ve gone through the process of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback, I’ve learned so much about myself, others and God. I know I need to be more comfortable with and accepting of who I am. I need to allow myself room to learn and grow understanding that the process is not always easy. As soon as I feel like I’ve done something that seems inadequate, I fold which is why feedback has been so difficult.

Because I see myself as inadequate, I expect others to as well. I read a blog by Seth Godin a while back where he talks about the idea of always bracing yourself for the worst. It’s a difficult, defeating and draining place to live. It also makes relationships hard to navigate because you never really feel like you can be at ease with others. Rather, you have to be in a posture of defense, ready to deflect or fight back.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NLT)

But this isn’t really fair to others. In Christ or not in Christ, all people need to be viewed from Christ’s point of view. People fit into two categories: Those who already know Jesus and those who Jesus wants to know Him. All people are made in the image of God. Jesus died for everyone so I need to view them as someone He loves, and be secure in His love myself as I love them, too.

So what does this say to me about others in regards to feedback?

What I learned about others is that they do truly want to be encouraging and helpful.

While I think this is true in general, I believe it goes to a higher level in the family of believers. When people are aware of their own sin, failings and shortcomings, they are more willing to forgive, overlook and come alongside someone who struggles. Because we know our hearts are set on Jesus, we trust each other’s hearts in a deeper way. Their hearts are for us just as God is for us. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but when heard with an understanding that this person has a desire to move you forward, lift you over a hurdle or straight-out break down a wall, it can be received with the grace, kindness and love it was intended.

So here are a few ways I hope to be intentional with others.

1. Be open.

People like to give feedback. People like to be heard. Sometimes, we just need to listen. Listening doesn’t mean we need to receive what they have to say, but when we really listen, we might just hear something we really need to know. We might also learn something about the person speaking because God actually wants us to enter into a conversation that will help them as well.

2. Be discerning.

As I said before, we don’t need receive everything that’s said to us. We also don’t need to ask everyone for their opinion. Discernment helps us know who to engage in the process of growing. It helps us hear and recognize truth from lies, understand who has well-intentioned motives, and determine if they really have a solid understanding of what they are talking about. There is so much information available today that people think they are an expert just because they read it on the internet.

  1. Be grace-filled.

I say really stupid stuff sometimes. This isn’t about me being inadequate. It’s just a fact that I’m flawed and make mistakes. I don’t have all the information, I don’t have a complete understanding of the situation and sometimes, I don’t speak from a humble servant’s heart even though I know I should. But God has never turned His back on me so when others say things that hurt, I need to be willing to offer grace, forgive and give them room to learn and grow as well. It’s easy to want to fight back and defend, even accuse, but that’s not the way of Jesus. Grace that doesn’t overflow hasn’t been fully accepted.

Something to Consider…

Do you tend to brace yourself for the worst? Do you dismiss people who don’t say what you want to hear? Do you have a hard time seeing others through God’s eyes, especially when what they have to say seems harsh and unfair?

We are a broken people. In Christ, we have the freedom to be broken. In Christ, we have the freedom to love broken people. As we are healed in Christ, we will love and listen to each other His way.

Why I Don’t Like Fast Food Restaurants

© Depositphotos.com/menz11

© Depositphotos.com/menz11

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'” Luke 10:38-40

My husband, daughter and I were out to eat the other week at a fast food restaurant. We were almost done with our meal and my husband could tell I was a bit dissatisfied. As I wrinkled my nose, he knew my issue. He said it before I could. “You don’t like how fast everything is going and wish we had talked more.”

YES! Of course I do. That’s why I go out to eat!

I don’t go out to eat to get out of cooking. I love to cook. I love the event of cooking and serving my family a meal they will enjoy.

I go out to eat to spend time with my family: intentional, uninterrupted, undistracted time connecting with those I care about. We are going different directions all day, maybe all night and once in a while we have time to be together. The last thing I want to do is rush through any of it.

Truth be told, I love fast food restaurants. I enjoy the food, the convenience and the price. If you want to win my heart, give me the perfectly prepared French fry and a thick, creamy ice cream treat.

So with all of this said, what’s the real point of this post? What does this have to do with my faith?

As I think about my dissatisfaction with our recent dining experience, I realize that it applies to how I spend time with God as well. Am I rushing at convenient times to get my quick fix of prayer or worship music just so I can check it off my list and get on to the next thing, the next distraction? Or do I take time to sit down with God and wait, savoring every minute with Him?

As I enter my time with Him, here are two things I want to consider in my time with Him.

  1. Am I making an effort to unplug and rest?

Just like my family relationships, I need to take time to unplug from the world and settle into my time with God. If I approach God with a timer so I can easily check Him of a to-do list, I’ve missed the point of my time with Him. In Christ, I find rest.

Do you get run-down and weary from your busy schedule? Do you create space in your schedule to refocus your mind on Christ? The more time we spend distracted by the world, the less time we have to simply rest in the presence of God.

  1. Am I making an effort to connect and invest?

So once I settle in God’s presence with the distractions of the world somewhere in the distance, I can let Him fill the places left by those distractions and offer me something of true value. He may bring to mind something He’s placed on my heart and He wants to encourage me to move forward in it. He may show me an area of struggle or sin in my life and He wants to help me get rid of it. He also wants to hear about my cares and concerns and comfort me through the challenges I’m facing. This all takes a bit of time.

Can it be done here and there throughout your day? Yes, God is always available and we are to be praying, in communication with God, without ceasing. But something happens when we take time to not just acknowledge a relationship but savor it. Do you feel like you’re an acquaintance of God or are you in a deeply committed relationship with Him? How do you know? Do you do all the talking or do you take time to listen? Do you simply agree with God or do you want to understand why it matters to Him? Do you like to see and hear about what He’s doing or do you want to participate in what He’s doing?

“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:41-42

He can’t be a quick stop on the way to the next thing. He has to be the focus. He is the only One who matters.

Why Go to Church?

IMG_1781“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Luke 4:16a

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.” Mark 10:1

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with Christians about why we go to church. Or better yet, why people don’t want to go to church. Conversations that honestly surprise me. I don’t expect people who don’t know Jesus to want to go to church. But when they decide to seek Jesus, when they decide they want to at least get some information about knowing Jesus, people often decide to go to church. So if those who don’t know Jesus go to church to find Him, why don’t those who know Him go there to experience His presence as well? Why don’t those who know Him go there to help others find Him?

Going to church is not a salvation issue. Let me repeat, not going to church will not send you to hell if you know Jesus and have faith in His saving grace.

You are not a bad person for not going to church. However, you are a sinner. And I’m a sinner. And in Christ we are washed cleaned clothed in His righteousness and are adopted into the family of God as His child.

So if you are a Christian and you battle with why you should go to church, let me offer this one perspective and hopefully you will find it to be an encouragement to begin or continue going to church.

We have an opportunity to know God and experience His presence. Jesus promises that when two or more gather together, there He is as well. (Matthew 18) So when we come together at church, as the church, we join in unity with others to love and worship God and experience His presence. Yes, we can meet other places but understand that the gathering of God’s people is His church so you may already be doing the very thing you think you don’t want to do. And when we gather and God is present, there is joy and blessing found in His presence. Do you need a little joy in your life? Go to church with the expectation of experiencing God’s presence and joy.

We also have the opportunity to love others who love Jesus. Just like you go to visit your family at their homes for various reasons at various times because you love them, we can gather together and spend time with our spiritual family. Each person who knows Jesus is your brother or sister in Christ. Do brothers and sisters sometimes hurt each other? Of course they do. People who go to church are no different. Sometimes there are pains and hurts, but in Christ, the goal is restoration and reconciliation. The hope is that those difficulties can be overcome because God is our perfect Father who works out our relationships. He helps us understand what it means to love our families the way He loves us. Do you need some hope for your family and relationships? Go to church with an expectation of help to love and hope that it will be better.

And we have the opportunity to love those who are wanting to know Jesus and looking for a family of their own. You can be the one to introduce them to Jesus. Do you need to be at church to do this? No. Hopefully, you are introducing people to Jesus all the time because you display Him through your words and actions. They know the truth about Him because of who He is in you. Do you let Him show? Do you want others to know Him? Do you want to be encouraged by the hearts of those seeking Jesus so that you can remember why it matters? Go to church with a heart set on Christ so you can see others through His eyes.

There is one issue of salvation: Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

Then there are issues of the heart. Is church an issue of your heart? Ask Jesus to be the ultimate authority on whether or not you go.

“Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Matthew 4:25

We have the opportunity to gather together to hear the teachings of Jesus from someone anointed with the Holy Spirit to preach and teach His Word. People came from all over traveling great distances on foot so they could be in the presence of Jesus. You can give whatever reasons you want not to go, but Jesus went, so I go, too. He is the one whose example I want to follow.

The God of Second Chances

Cave and sunset in the desert mountains“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.” Exodus 33:7

God had made a covenant with Israel and before the last period was put in place, they had broken it. God’s desire was, and still is to dwell among His people, but because of their sin, their breaking of the covenant they had agreed to, they were separated from God.

Exodus 33:7-11 almost seems to imply that only Moses went to the tent of the meeting to inquire of God. The people would watch and worship as the pillar of cloud, God’s presence would stay at the entrance of the tent after Moses entered. But verse 7 says: “Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of the meeting…”

Did anyone else go? Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the opportunity to meet with God personally?

Moses had repented for Israel and it appears they liked it that way. It kept them at a distance from God, maybe what they saw as a safe distance, but a distance none-the-less.

In order to approach God now, we need to acknowledge our sin and ask for forgiveness personally. We have to face the truth of their own hearts. Was this an option at that time? Was anyone bold enough to ask?

Confessing with a true desire to change is hard enough. This along with asking for forgiveness can be one of the hardest things we do – ever! We have to take an honest look at ourselves, assess the situation and our actions, and admit what we did was wrong with no justification, excusing or blaming.

When we ask someone to forgive us there is always the possibility they won’t. We may want our relationship with them restored, but they may not and that’s a hard truth to accept. So rather than risk it, we keep a distance and our relationships are never quite what they could be.

But what you need to know is God is not like people. When we come to Him admitting our mistakes, weaknesses and outright rebellion, asking Him to have mercy and forgive, He does. When our hearts are right with Him and we are sincere in our desire to have a relationship with Him, He does not withhold His love.

He actually gave it before you even asked.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you have the ability to come to God, fully forgiven, unconditionally loved and free to live His way. You don’t need to go to another person to speak to God on your behalf. You have Jesus: mediator, atoning sacrifice, the Righteous One, God Himself giving you full access to the throne room of God.

What concerns weigh on your heart this Christmas? What problems seem too big, too impossible to overcome? What desire do you long to see fulfilled in your lifetime? What guilt or shame to you simply not want to carry anymore?

You are not alone.

God is waiting.

He is available.

He loves you and wants to enter His presence through a relationship with Jesus. Will you take a chance and consider the possibility that not only is God holy, requiring a separation from sin, but that He is loving, faithful and compassionate in His provision of the one and only sacrifice for sin ever needed.

Jesus is the one and only way to God. It is by grace through faith that you can come to God and it’s because of His kindness that you can open your hear, lay your sin at His feet and trust Him to love you fully.

“Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting…”

Will you choose to take a chance and meet with God today, the God of second chances?

Something to Consider…

Has some distance grown between you and God? He is right where He has always been willing and waiting for you to return. What do you need to face, deal with or acknowledge so you can draw close to Him once again?

If you’ve never inquired of God, will you consider the possibility that God really does want to meet with you? He wants you to know the fullness of His love for you and that comes through a relationship with Him. Come to God, asking Him to help you with all of your questions, doubts and uncertainties. He will help you get your heart set right so your relationship with Him can be all it should be.

 

 

Be Intentional!

FSE019“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

I have not always been a fan of the female gender. And yes, I do belong to this category.

Backbiting, jealousy, gossip, envy, manipulative and down-right malicious behavior is how I would have described many of my relationships with girls growing up. I would usually have one or two really good friends, but at some point they would end; occasionally because someone moved, but usually because of a rift or a drift. Something about the relationship seemed difficult to maintain so it was easier to let it go. While it takes two to make a relationship work, I admit I owned much of the issue.

But God is good and as I had the privilege and honor of raising two beautiful daughters who He entrusted to my care, I learned more about the female mind, character and heart than I thought I would ever care to know. Wanting for them more than I ever knew I could have, my desire has been to teach them how to be confident in who they are as daughters of the King of kings, precious treasures not because the world has deemed them such, but because Jesus paid the ultimate price for them. They are valuable…as is each woman, man and child in this world.

I now spend more time with more women than I thought possible. Between social activities, retreats, studies, and volunteering, I have met and fallen in love with the nature of women as created by God and seen through His eyes and heart. We are made in His image and it is His nature we long to imitate as we learn who we truly are in Him.

There is a group of women who meet at my home weekly to support, strengthen and encourage each other. This past Tuesday, our group met and talked about the different seasons of life we are each experiencing. We are in different stages of marriage, ages of children, career experiences and because of these different stages, God is working in each of us in different ways, teaching us what we need for our current or next season. At the same time, He is teaching each of us to be intentional with our time and other resources as well as in our relationships.

As we serve God, we serve others in His name and to His glory. God’s gifts in us and to us are not just for us personally. They are to be used to reach the world for Him.

We are intentional about serving each other in our group through helping with child care so more women can attend and be encouraged. We are intentional about truly getting to know each other, trusting each other and caring for each other in practical ways. We also pray for each other regularly.

We are intentional about serving our community through our church partnership with a local public school. They have a number of ways individuals and groups can volunteer and maybe someday become mentors for kids who need as many positive adult role models in their lives as they can get…just as each of our children need. Our group is taking on the task of at-home projects for the teachers and staff. Since we often have children with us, we can continue to meet, grow in our relationships with each other and God, while at the same time meeting a need in our community.

We also have the desire to be in intentional in our relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, etc. – whomever God places in our path. As we step out in faith to acknowledge and love others in our lives, we pray God would use these opportunities for His love to be made known through us.

Life gets crazy and at times, maybe too often, time runs short. But, all that will matter at the end of the day is how we loved God and loved others. We choose to be intentional in all we do.

Something to Consider…

What season of life are you in? What is God teaching you about Himself, yourself and others in this season?

How can you be intentional in this season to invest in and grow relationships based on how Jesus loves? What gifts has He given you to use so others can know His love and grace through you?

More than Girl Friends

SAC Camping 2010(Jesus said) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“Any part of my life that I am not willing to let God have, take control of, correct, or change is a part of my life that will keep me at a distance from Him.”

This was my first thought as I sat down to reflect on the past five years.

Five years ago today, my husband had a meeting with someone who was, and thankfully still is, a very important and influential person in our lives. Unfortunately, at the time there was a division. I didn’t know how it would turn out, what all would take place in the process, but I remember at the time telling someone it would be okay. That was all I could say.

God has been so faithful since that day, just as He was every day before and will be every day going forward.

18 months after this event and after much turmoil, I received an email from a friend. She was someone I was just getting to know really. We knew of each other, but didn’t really know each other. She reached out to invite me into a group of women who were seeking God together.

It was in God’s perfect timing that this invite came. I was alone, abandoned in some ways, struggling for freedom in others.

What I found was a group of women so focused on God that over time, they would allow God into every part of their lives and encourage others to do the same. It sounds simple in some ways, but in so many ways it was no small task.

They are gentle, peaceful, loving women who simply want what God wants and not just for themselves but for every woman, every person. Their real and raw thoughts, feelings, emotions and struggles made it possible to see God’s hand in their lives which in turn, helped me see Him in my own joys and sorrows, struggles and needs.

About three years ago we did an action challenge.  We were to be intentional about being the hands and feet of Jesus whether it was through kind deeds, words or prayer. We traced our hands, some traced feet, and on them wrote out all of the things we did over the two weeks. I looked at my “hand” last night for the first time since the challenge.

I am humbly amazed at the prayers answered, the solid friendships that have grown and the huge family of sisters I belong to. I don’t know where I’d be without Jesus and I am grateful that He chose to love me through these women.

Prior to this group, I often wondered if I was too serious about my faith. Does everything have to be about God? I discovered with the help of these women the simple answer is “yes”.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

The truth of Jesus is real and it matters. Everything we do, think, or say has the opportunity to draw us closer to Him, show His love to another and bring Him glory.

These women have drawn close to God, showed His love to many and have brought Him glory in all things. They are not perfect, they have made mistakes, but their hearts are set on Him and He has worked all of this together for good according to His plan.

I am not perfect, but I am also not who I once was in part because of the time spent with this group. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their obedience and willingness to be vulnerable. I thank them for being more than friends, but family…Sisters in Christ

Something to Consider…

Are you wondering about God just wanting to know what is true about Him? Who is He? Does He really love you? And if so, what does that mean for you going forward? Seek Him by seeking out others who also really want to know Him. His love for you will be evident as you seek Him together.

God’s love for us is made complete through the obedience of people. You cannot be alone and fully understand or grasp the love of Jesus. Commit yourself to a local church and you will find more than a building of Christians, you will find a family and a home.