Purpose in your Past?

What purpose does your past have?

I was going through my desk drawers the other day and I found books and notes tucked away from years of Women’s Bible Study, Girls Only, Horse Lovers……ministries I was once involved in.

As I looked through the things my mind was flooded with many memories. I really enjoyed those years; the women, the girls, the experiences we had, and the things we learned together along the journey.

Though I loved those ministries it wasn’t until I saw those books and notes that I realized how much I missed them!

“Why wasn’t I still involved in them?”

As I thought back on each ministry I realized they had faded away for different reasons.

But there I was, looking at all those Bible Study books, notes I had written, folders I designed, bookmarks I made…

“Why am I feeling like this?”

“Why am I thinking these thoughts?”

As I write this blog I’m still not really sure how to put them into words…

Was I upset that those ministries faded away when I still wanted to do them?

Was it regret that life brought other things along instead?

Was I grieving the loss of things that I really enjoyed?

As I paged through the books and read some of the notes I didn’t even want to relive the memories. I was caught somewhere between upset and grieving. The memories that should have been good ones were shrouded in something I didn’t understand.

Something I couldn’t describe,

but, something I wanted to understand.

I knew deep down inside that those books and notes represented good years and I wanted to be able to see them as that; to relive the good memories.

So, I asked God to help me.

Because God alone is the answer to every problem!

In His tender way God began to bring to mind some women, some young, and some older, who attended those ministries and it brought joy to my heart to consider that perhaps some of the seeds that were planted or watered through those books and notes were part of who they are today.

And then I also realized that I too had grown through those years of ministry. Those opportunities stretched me out of my comfort zone, they kept me on my knees, they caused me to search scripture for hours, they taught me to rely on the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit.

There in my room, surrounded by those books and notes I began to see the past differently.

God so lovingly began pull back the shroud that covered my memories of the ministries. 

I began to see those books and notes as the tools God provided for me and many other women and girls to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him.

I began to thank God for the opportunities those ministries provided for me to use the gifts, abilities, and resources He gave me.

And as my focus changed from the books and notes to the lives of those who were part of the ministries,

when my thoughts changed from being upset and grieving, to being thankful for the opportunities I had,

God showed me something!

I had allowed those ministries to define me!

And because they defined me, without them in my life I felt I no longer had purpose!

Discovering those books and notes were evidence that I was a women’s Bible Study leader, that I was a leader of ministries to girls. They represented what I loved to do, they defined who I was. They held memories of the purpose of my life!

Uncovering them, bringing them back into view, I was faced with the reminder that I am no longer involved in the very things that I loved, that I lived for.

Just like those books and notes, I too was hidden away, no longer of any use, or purpose.

God opened my eyes to see that those thoughts and feelings I didn’t understand came from the loss of identity, the loss of purpose!

Behind all those confusing emotions was the underlying fear…

“If I am no longer involved in these ministries, who am I now?”

“What is my purpose?”

The past is a place we can get stuck in.

Or it can cause us to make radical decisions to escape it.

When we allow the experiences of life to define us the past will either paralyze us, or lead to radical decisions in order to deal with the loss of purpose and identity.  

The amazing thing about when God opens your eyes, it may not be what you wanted to see, but it is always something you are glad you saw!

When God exposes a lie, He always replaces it with a truth!

I knew I needed to confess my sin of pride and belief in the lie that those ministries defined who I was.

Then I thanked God for all the opportunities I had and for the fruit that came from those ministries, both in the lives of others and within my own life.

For those ministries were intended to refine me, not define me!

Then I was able to look at those books and notes differently. And, once I was able to see the good God intended from them and relived some good memories, I actually threw them away!

God freed me from the lie of my past meant to paralyze me; upset with regret, and grieving the loss of my purpose.

Then He spoke truth to me concerning my future!

This verse Paul wrote about his past is a good reminder…

“I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14

Now it is time to move on!

To trust God with the things yet to come!

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new.” Isaiah 43:18-19

There are new things on the horizon of my life and I thank God for all He brought me through, for all the experiences I have had that have prepared me for the “something new” He has for me!

Ironically, one of those “new” things is to write a book! Even though I just threw some away!

 

 

The Way of LOVE

So, if the Way of Love is best, how do I love?

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and we were discussing that sometimes we don’t know what words to say or what to do for others. We want to express love towards someone, but we just don’t know what the other person will receive as love.

Jesus always knew what others needed. He always had the right words and actions to display love towards others, whether they wanted to hear it or not.

“For I (Jesus) have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” John 6:38

Jesus only said and did what His Heavenly Father told Him to.

God is Love, so His will is always Love!

So, God is the key to loving others!

Knowing God; spending time with Him in prayer and reading His word, and being obedient to all God says…this is the Way of Love!

The conversation with my friend the other day came to the conclusion that when we don’t know what to say or what to do, we must pray!

Love is a matter of the heart!

It was matters of the heart that God addressed when He gave Jesus understanding and insight to know what to say and do for others.

God knew the thirst of the Samaritan woman’s heart as she walked to the well that hot day in search of cool water to quench her thirst. God understood the disappointment, hurt, and shame she carried from five broken marriages and living with yet another man who wasn’t bringing her the fulfillment that she longed for.

God’s love for her was the answer to her problem, and Jesus was sent as the Living Water to draw her to Him!

For God alone could truly satisfy the thirst of her heart! 

It was Jesus’ words of knowledge, given to Him from God, that caused this woman to bend her knee in belief that He truly was the Messiah!

God’s words of love quenched her thirst forever!

It is through prayer for others, talking with our Heavenly Father, that we discover LOVE for others.

Through prayer God opens your spiritual eyes to see beyond the physical circumstances and to understand their true thirst and the matters of their heart.

When you see beyond the physical and gain spiritual understanding it brings a love and compassion into your own heart that doesn’t come from yourself, but only from God, who is love!

Through prayer God convicts you of any wrong or judgmental thoughts or attitudes you may have that hindered your love for them, and perhaps has hindered their love for God.

When you see your own offenses and wrong attitudes you have the opportunity to confess your sin and be set free. And the amazing thing about that is – it sets them free as well!

Through prayer God fills you with the desire, the will, and specific ideas of how to be a vessel of God’s love.

As a vessel of God’s love you will extend grace and show loving – kindness they need so they will feel loved. Words and actions motivated by the love of God can be life-changing!

Through prayer your heart is changed, their heart is changed, and God reveals His love in amazing and miraculous ways you would have never thought to ask or could even imagine!

This is the way of LOVE!

 “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Romans 8:34

If you know God today and have experienced His LOVE, it is because someone prayed for you. Even if there was no one here on earth who brought your name to the throne of God, Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying for you!

Jesus gave us the example of the Way of Love as He spent time in prayer, talking with His Heavenly Father, and by being obedient to what His Heavenly Father wanted Him to say and to do.

As Jesus called His disciples to “Follow Me,” Jesus calls us to follow His example and to walk in the way that is best, the Way of Love!

Who has God put on your mind to pray for today? If you choose to love someone through praying for them you will find God not only changes them by His love, but you too are changed by the love of God!

 

Love is the Best!

Its that time of year again when school begins! I haven’t yet experienced a year when I didn’t have a child returning to school in September. But along with school, many other activities that ended several months ago begin again. We like new beginnings. Whether today is your first day back to school, or you haven’t walked into a school for over thirty years, the hopes and expectations of something new is real for each one of us. Whether its new school clothes, new notebooks, new back packs, new activities, a new job, a new Bible study; they all hold within them the hopes of new experiences we will enjoy. New can be very rewarding and be very beneficial. However, sometimes new brings disappointment. The hopes we had, the things we thought we would enjoy don’t meet our expectations.

What are we hoping for?

What are we expecting?

This time of year Mark and I are planning our training meeting for the leaders of Teen Community Bible Study. Mark and I have been involved with this ministry for many years and it has been a blessing to work alongside many other leaders as we study God’s word together and share the truth of God’s word with teens and young adults.

Each year we study a different book of the Bible. This year we will go through 1st and 2nd Corinthians.

While preparing for this new year of TCBS training I was reminded of the verses in 1 Corinthians 12 that tell about the body of Christ working together using the different gifts given to us by God. God encourages us to value the gifts He has given to us and to others. They are given by God; His Spirit is their source, and we are to rely on His power to minister our gifts towards others so that God is glorified.

I am thankful for the leaders we have and for the gifts God has given each one so that the ministry of TCBS works well.

But then at the end of chapter 12, I found this verse…

“But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.”

As important as working together as a body is; each one embracing their gifts from God and appreciating the gifts given to others, God says there is more…

something even better, something that is best!!

However, this “best” begins with some challenging verses…

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 

So, all those good gifts that God has given to us, those abilities that we are to receive, appreciate, and put into practice… is God saying they hold no value if they aren’t motivated by love?

Perhaps we have put our hope in the wrong things.

 

Perhaps we have had wrong expectations.

All because our motivation was wrong.

All because we don’t understand what is “best!”

These verses are humbling, to really consider what they say and to honestly evaluate my life, I have to admit I have done many things with the love of self as my motive instead of the love for others.

Then God continues to explain what this “best” looks like…

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Tonight is our training for a new year of TCBS and as every other year I have hopes and expectations for our new season.

But, tonight as I share these verses with the leaders I will put aside the hopes and expectations that are motivated purely for the satisfaction of having a well run program, and choose instead to pray for our hearts to truly love God, and to be fully loved by God, so that we are motivated and empowered by His spirit to love, truly love our teens and young adults.

Because rather than a clanging cymbal, great knowledge and faith, or even self-sacrifice, our teens at TCBS need to be loved!

For that way of life is the best of all!

“So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” MSG

Childlike Faith

What is it about little children that is so important to Jesus?

What is it about becoming like them that gains us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven?

“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4

I saw a glimpse of the value of little children last evening at the “In-Back Dinner” held at Solid Rock Day Camp.

Solid Rock is a local day camp that has been providing a great summer camp experience for kids since 1977.

At Solid Rock they believe, “At Solid Rock we seek to promote a fun, safe, friendly, and spiritual atmosphere that will provide opportunities to develop relationships and teachable moments that the Holy Spirit can use to draw campers and families to Christ and lead staff and volunteers to spiritual maturity.”

Last night I heard many stories that proved their statement of faith successful this summer. Many counselors shared their experiences of children wanting to know about Jesus. They told of their camper’s eagerness to have Jesus in their hearts, but not knowing how. Counselors told of their own uncertainty of how to guide them through such an awesome decision so they looked for another counselor to come along side and together they answered their questions and explained how to become a child in God’s family through faith in Jesus. Then when they asked the children if they wanted to confess their sins and ask Jesus into their hearts, the children were so excited and wanted to pray a salvation prayer.

Oh the simplicity of Childlike Faith!

Then many of the children wanted a Bible, and were so excited when they received their very own! They were eager to know what God had written and chose to read whenever they could, sometimes instead of playing games with the other campers!

Oh the simplicity of Childlike Trust!

While the staff were going about their days teaching devotions, sharing at camp meeting, and living out the Fruit of the Spirit, the power of God’s word, and the power of His love were making a difference in the hearts and lives of the campers, drawing them into the family of God!

God’s word and His Holy Spirit created an atmosphere that Jesus values!

Childlike faith!

A simple faith that what Jesus says is the truth. When heart and mind are free from lies that life brings along the way, and a choice to completely believe Jesus.

Childlike trust!

A simple trust that Jesus is the way to God. When heart and mind are humble and choose the ways of Jesus rather than our own ways.

We guard what we value!

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

Reading through the Gospels I don’t remember too many times Jesus became angry with His disciples, but when they scolded parents for bringing their children to Him, Jesus had some sharp words for them.

Why did Jesus become so angry?

These little children had something that Jesus valued.

The disciples saw no value of children in the presence of Jesus. They saw them as a waste of Jesus’ time. They saw them as a hinderance to Jesus’ work. They told the parents they were doing something wrong by bringing their children to Jesus.

These were what made Jesus angry…

Anything that hinders children from coming to Jesus!

Anything that hinders Childlike Faith!

In this story it is easy to see the wrong in what the disciples did and said, but what about you?

First of all, how have you de-valued children, or adults? Have you seen them as wasting your time, as hinderances to your work? Have you believed the lie that you shouldn’t bring others to Jesus?

And second, what have you allowed to keep you from Jesus? How has pride kept you from believing that what Jesus says is the truth? How have lies from the experiences of life kept you from childlike trust in Jesus?

I am thankful to serve at a camp that values what Jesus values and I’m so thankful for God’s power and love that has made a difference in so many lives this summer.

The counselor’s stories were a great inspiration to me and I pray that no matter who I spend time with, whether children or adults, I will realize the value they have to Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within me create an atmosphere that enables others to come to Him!

And I pray for the humility of Childlike Faith to come into the presence of Jesus, to completely trust Him, and receive His hand of blessing upon me, and some glorious day enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!

May that be the prayer of your heart as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Lobsters

What determines value? How is the importance, worth, or usefulness of something or someone determined?

Last week Mark, Kayla, and I went on yet another mini vacation to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, where we swam, hiked Mount Major, and ate a lot of ice cream!

We also spent a day on the coast of Maine. One option the small coastal town had to offer besides stores selling merchandise, was a lobster boat ride.

As we cruised off shore the lobstermen told all about lobstering, and as they checked their lobster pots we learned about the value of lobsters. We learned that lobsters have different types of value. Not every lobster pulled from the lobster pot was valuable to the lobstermen to sell for food. We learned there are some lobsters that are valuable for other reasons; the lobsters that were too small needed more time to grow, the lobsters that were too big were considered good breeders, and the lobsters carrying eggs all needed to be thrown back into the sea. But then a lobster with no claws was pulled from the pot. This one had no value for sale or for future generations and probably became the lobsterman’s lunch.

When the lobstermen pulled their lobster pots up out of the water they were filled with lobsters, some with value, some with future value, and some with no value.

Watching this procedure reminded me of these verses in Matthew 13…

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

Jesus chose every day life situations to be examples of spiritual life. The people of His day knew the procedure of casting nets and pulling in whatever was caught. They knew there would be good fish and bad fish mixed together within the nets. They understood the importance of separating the good from the bad. The good fish would provide money and food, they were of value to the fishermen. The bad fish were of no value, they couldn’t be sold for money or used for food. They were useless, and so thrown out.

Jesus used this example of value from every day life to explain the value of people in God’s eyes.

Reading through another story Jesus told I find He defines the difference between wickedness and righteousness…

With his pockets full of money, the inheritance he received from his father, the prodigal son set off in search of things that he considered valuable. His father’s fortune was the answer to all his desires and dreams and they were about to come true!

And so he enjoyed himself as he spent his money on the things he placed value on; pleasure, friends, food…

Then there came a day when the money ran out. With no more money those things that had been so valuable began to fade until they were gone completely.

When all of the things of this world were stripped away he came to the end of himself.

All that was left were his memories.

Memories hold within them the power to determine what is truly valuable.

Along with the memories of his pleasure seeking, the prodigal son had memories from his father’s house.

As he began to think about his father’s house he realized even the life of a servant held more value than what he had there in the pig’s pen.

And so, with those memories, those thoughts in his mind, he decided the things in his father’s house, even the role of a hired servant, were of greater value than the things of this world, and began his journey back.

What we value will determine our actions!

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Luke 15:20-24

The father’s response is a picture of what God values.

Even though his son had rejected him, placed no value on the things he provided, and squandered all he gave him, the father welcomed him with open arms.

The father valued his son and he valued his return.

His son’s return and his confession showed the father that he had changed what he valued; he turned from the deception of the world to the truth of His father.

And that was what made his son so valuable!

This is what made him righteous so he could wear the finest robe, it made him worthy to wear a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, and it was this new life that brought out the fattened calf and began the party of great celebration!

Like the prodigal son we all have within us the desire to value the things of this world. Since Satan was cast down from heaven he has deceived mankind of what is truly valuable and has stolen man’s value with his lies.

But God so loves us that sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the high price of salvation so that when we come to the end of self and see that this world has nothing of true value, we will come to Him and receive His embrace, be clothed in His robe of righteousness, and enter into His house forever.

That is where true value is found!

Take a moment and ponder these stories of Jesus. Ask God to show you if perhaps you are putting too much value on things of this world, and if so, remember, He is waiting for your return and will greatly rejoice when you choose to value Him above all else!