Monday, October 28, 2013

3 Things I Didn't See Coming: Blessings of Obedience

We’ve all felt “the nudge.” The gentle nudge God uses to let us know He has Kingdom work for us. Maybe we’ve acknowledged it but handed God a rain check saying, “When circumstances settle down, I’ll get to it.” Sometimes we feel the nudge but dismiss it as a great idea… for someday. It’s possible that we’ve felt the nudge and thought, “There’s no way the Lord wants me to do that! I couldn’t possibly pull it off!” Yeah, Moses felt that way, too.

No matter how we’ve handled God’s nudges in the past, consider this a challenge to take them seriously from now on. How? We can write them down. Pray over them, and ask the Lord for confirmation. If truly from Him, He’ll confirm it through a stirring in our hearts, a friend that makes a similar suggestion, insight from His Word, or repeated messages heard from sermons, podcasts, blogs, and other unexpected sources. Most of all, let's get to work and act on what the Lord is prompting us to do. We won't be sorry!

The short version of the story about when the Lord nudged me to write Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit, goes like this:   
·         My pastor suggested what I thought was a crazy idea and I said, “no way!”
·         I sensed the Lord had more to say on the matter (the “nudge”) and took it to prayer.
·         I took a few baby steps.
·         God’s people confirmed the project.
·         I dove in and went all the way.

When we move in obedience, blessings follow. That’s not what drives us to move, but I submit that it’s impossible to lean on God and His strength through a project and not receive blessings. I’ll share three blessings of obedience in my "nudge" to write that I simply did not see coming:

1)      Some in my circles disregard the project. And yes, that’s a blessing.

A few of my closest friends (whom I’d hoped would be wildly supportive) declined invitations to read the book, or hear me speak, or get involved on my Facebook page, or read this blog. One or two have quietly pulled away from the fellowship we once shared. After a period of hurt feelings and imagining every reason my friends might provide, God drew me to surrender. 

While I didn’t see it coming, this, too, was part of God’s confirmation. Looking to Scripture, Jesus’ friends and close acquaintances didn’t want to learn from Him, either (see Matthew 13:54-58). If the Lord, Himself, experienced rejection in His hometown, why should I be surprised when I face something similar? 

I believe the Lord is strengthening my muscles – providing tougher skin, greater endurance, and stronger perseverance in me. He is making me stronger so that I can face future, more difficult situations. That’s not exactly something I’m excited about, but I’ll walk in confidence knowing He’s prepared me well. 

2)      Many others warmly embrace my work.

Unexpected encouragement from my church family inspired me to press on in the early stages, without knowing the fuel they provided. As I’ve delivered the message to women’s conferences around the country, I’ve heard comments about the book like, “This is one of the best studies I’ve ever read. ” I don’t share that to toot my own horn, but to demonstrate the ways that the Lord confirms His calling. I never dreamed I’d hear such words. I didn’t see it coming.  To realize the Lord is using the work He’s done through me is a blessing that is extraordinary and extremely humbling.

3)      The book has inspired at least one eight-year-old girl to get into God’s Word.

Madison is a lovely young lady whose mom works alongside me in our church office two mornings a week. I consider them both dear friends. This fall, she asked her mom if they could read Finding Joy together.

There is a chapter where I share my morning quiet time routine. If my feet hit the floor before I open God’s Word, it’s likely I’ll miss my quiet time that day. The Lord blesses us in our obedience and when my sweet husband noticed my routine, He started delivering coffee to my bedside.

Here’s how the story went in Madison’s house after reading that chapter:

Maddy:         That hits me, Mom.
Mom:            How so?
Maddy:         Well, you tell me every morning to read some of my Bible, but I should want to do that on my own. So when I get up in the morning I want to read my Bible and you don’t have to tell me.
Mom:            Would you like me to bring you hot tea?
Maddy:         Yes, please! 

It’s precious. In my wildest imagination, I never dreamed that words I penned could help deepen a young lady’s desire for time with the Lord. I didn’t see that coming. 

When we do what God asks, He will use our work in ways that only He can orchestrate. Our role is to do what He calls us to do, and the rest is up to Him. Let's step out in faith and DO what God has called us to do. He has a plan for all of us. Through you and me, He will touch lives, inspire others, and minister to lost souls.  Let's walk in obedience, step out with purpose, confidence, and determination, and then enjoy the blessings that come.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only
James 1:22 (HCSB)

Your turn:

What do you feel the Lord prompting you to do?

Share a time when the Lord used your obedience in unexpected ways.

I’d love to hear your story. Please share your comments!
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Find strength today, by the Word, 

Psalm 119:28

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Do You Know God Loves You?

I fell into a spiritual slump not long after the Lord led me through a profound area of repentance.  I’d made some life-changing confessions to others and myself and I was free at last!  But the enemy didn't want me to feel comfortable in this fresh feeling of freedom. Underlying doubt played on continuous loop in my mind. I knew God could, and had, forgiven me but I sensed uneasiness in my spirit and had a hard time making the pieces of the forgiveness puzzle fit together.   

A business trip took me to Dallas, close to where a dear married couple of spiritual giants lived, a great Aunt and Uncle of my husband’s. When I refer to them as “great”, I mean that literally and genealogically. These two souls lived, breathed and loved Jesus Christ.  They made their home close to us in Colorado for a number of years and I’d known them since before we married, but I’d stayed in the background at most of our family gatherings.  I admired them from afar but didn't feel that I had much of a personal relationship with them.  At this crucial moment in my life, I had an important question that I not only wanted - but needed - to ask them.  

They thought it somewhat surprising when I called and asked if I could stop and see them during my trip to Texas, but they were most obliging and extended the famous southern hospitality. As my anxious heart pounded in my chest, we spent an afternoon and evening together talking about their new life in Texas, what church they attended, how they spent their days as retirees, giving updates on family members, and what brought me to the area. Finally, our discussions turned to spiritual matters and I heard the remarkable stories of when their hearts caught on fire for the Lord. They captured my full attention and at the right moment, I blurted out the question I’d come such a long way to ask,

“How do you know God loves you?”

I referred to myself, of course. I needed to know how God could love me after all I’d done. For me, this was the missing piece of the forgiveness puzzle and I needed an answer to silence my plaguing doubts.

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Because God tells us in His Word.” And at that moment, I received one of the most profound, life changing gifts I've ever received.  This dear couple took my heart by its spiritual hand and showed me two passages in Scripture that I’ll forever call my own.   They encouraged me to read them, and not just read but devour, and not just devour, but to meditate and allow them to penetrate. For when we meditate on God’s Word, it can penetrate the deepest places of our heart.    

That’s the day I discovered my two favorite chapters in all of God’s word:  Psalm 139 and Ephesians 1. They've become personal love letters to me from a God Who asks that I cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me. I continually cast, and He responds with grace, mercy, and most of all, love. Not just in my moments of need, but also in times of rejoicing. The more I cast, the more He responds, and the more I'm filled with His love.

God speaks to us through His inerrant Word.  When He tells me He loves me I make a choice to believe Him, even when I don’t feel lovable. He knows more about me than I know myself and through the blood of Christ He sees me as holy, blameless and without blemish. I don’t have to understand it, for it is a mystery. My role is to accept it as truth. Embracing that truth has changed my doubting heart into one of strengthened faith. I pray the love of Christ brings life change for you as well.   

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!  Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)

Your turn:

What are your go-to passages of scripture and why are they important to you?

Did you discover the passages by yourself or did someone share them with you?

How have they helped you through a spiritual slump?

I’d love to hear your story. Please share your comments!

Find strength today, by the Word, 

Psalm 119:28