Thursday, September 30, 2010

Growing Perseverance

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

We all want perseverance, but none of us want trials and testing of our faith. What James is giving us here is the second part of the reason behind why we can remain joyful during trials. One of the results of walking through trials while holding the hand of God is perseverance.
Some synonyms to perseverance are: firmness, insistency, resolve and determination. When we are standing on the right foundation, these qualities are of great benefit. When we become firm in our faith, refusing to move in what we know is the Truth, we become a vessel for the Word of God. When we are insistent in our obedience to that Word, we live a life that shows others the love of God. When we resolve not to give up when our flesh feels like it, we learn the peace of living in obedience to God.

What does it mean to test our faith? It could mean facing difficulties that we don’t understand. It could mean not getting the answer we want. It could mean watching someone we love suffer.

The Bible says that God does not tempt us, but that He does bring and allow trials in our lives. Job is the most famous example of God allowing trials to let him stand as an example of perseverance to faith. Job questioned God and put of with discouraging friends and family, but he never lost faith.

Most likely, none of us will go through the losses and illness that Job did, and if we had our druthers we’d choose an easy, worry-free life. However, we live in a sinful world and self-pleasing flesh. We are going to face difficult times. It’s a given. We are going to be tested in our faith. Those difficulties and tests will either crush us (when we attempt to stand on our own) or they will allow us to learn to be joyful in all circumstances and develop perseverance (when we rely on, trust in, and lean on God.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Consider Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1:2

How would you feel if you called a friend to lament the trials you were dealing with in your life and she responded this way: ‘consider it pure joy’? I’m not sure I’d respond to well. My reaction would me something like this: (yelling in a frustrated tone) “Have you heard a word I said? Things suck right now. I’m in pain. Nothing is going right. I’m lonely/hurt/angry/poor/wronged/troubled/depressed/emotional/etc. Can’t you just sympathize with me?”

After all, in our culture we have come to believe that the world and it’s other inhabitants were put here to make our lives comfortable/peaceful/fun/financially prosperous/wanted/etc. We have come to enjoy more comforts and ease in life than any previous society or generation. We are spoiled. So, when the trials come (and it says when they come, not if) we feel slighted. We want relief. We want the thorn removed. However, sometimes it’s in our best interest to learn to be joyful despite our circumstances.

Actually, this scripture tells us to consider it a joy when we face trials. Be joyful because you are in a trial. To us it sounds like craziness. But from God’s perspective, it is exactly what we need, or He wouldn’t allow it.

Think back to previous trials you’ve been through. When you held fast to God and walked through it with Him in trust and obedience did you come out on the other side somehow better? Did He use that trial to work out something in you or bring you to greater things in life? Those memories and His promises are what He wants us to hold on to when we go through trials. It is one thing that will help us consider our trials as a joyful event. Not an easy thing, but possible with God.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Secret to Prosperity

The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness. Deuteronomy 6:24-25

The secret to prosperity is obedience. No, I'm not talking about financial prosperity, I'm talking about being prosperous in the truly important things in life: mindset, relationships, contentment, joy, Holy Spirit power, God's presence - all the riches according to Christ Jesus. God has promised to supply all of our needs according to the glory of His Son, but we often are looking for our wants. We tend to compare ourselves to others and what they have that we don't. I know that I'm guilty of this.

However, when I turn my eyes away from the flesh and look upwards, I am reminded of the multitude of blessings that God has already poured out on me. This reminds me to be obedient in this: "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6)

God doesn't tell us to do things, does not give us laws and boundaries for His good, but for our own. To approach everything with thanksgiving is a gift to us. It helps open us to the joy, contentment and positive relationships that God desires to give us. The things we often seek, thinking they will give us these things always disappoint.

This is a lesson - the importance of obedience - is one I am constantly trying to teach my children. I'll admit, even though I know how important it is, I often fall short in reinforcing immediate, respectful, cheerful obedience in my children. I also resist being completely obedient to God, making myself a good role model, despite my prayer to be radically obedient.

Lately, I have recommitted to reinforcing obedience in my children. They, like me, will not simply choose to be obedient because it's the best path. While some are naturally more obedient than others, none of them will choose it all the time. Therefore, it is my job to teach them through modeling, verbalizing, and consequencing. When I don't, I sell them short. I rob them of a life that will lead to the prosperity God has offered them.

We all want the best for our children, but the secret is not to give them everything they want, but to teach them to joyfully obey God's law, the first of which for our children is to "Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise." Ephesians 6:1-2

Friday, September 10, 2010

Raising Your Voice

My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. Psalm 77:1

God is amazing! Let me start by saying that. As I looked for a verse to start this morning's devotion with, He had me open my large multi-version Bible to Psalm 77. The NAS version of this verse (above) uses the words "My voice rises" where others use the word cry. Cry didn't do it for me, but talking about rising my voice struck me in the heart.

Yesterday I did plenty of raising my voice, but it wasn't to God. It wasn't for him to hear me and help me. It was at my children. I'm not sure why I was struggling so much to keep my flesh under control yesterday. Could be I didn't have my morning meditation and Bible reading. Could be I was trying to do laundry, homeschool, catch up on housework and was distracted by a new book. Could be because I didn't have my praise music on, helping me keep focus. Could be because instead of raising my voice to God, I was trying to do it all on my own strength.

I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but I often step out into it on my own. You'd think I would learn, but sometimes we spend "40 years making an 11 day trip" (Joyce Meyer) and I have to be reminded to rely on God EVERY day for EVERY thing.

I also need reminding to actually lift my voice up to Him. (Psalm 142:1, Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 52:8) This is something I am not very well practiced at. For me, prayer is a very private, silent activity between me and God. However, as God is teaching me, in the Bible prayer is never seen as silent. It is open, verbal communication with God.

* Psalm 54:2Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.
* John 17
*Acts 4:24When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.

There is a reason Jesus told His disciples to go close themselves in a room to pray (Matthew 6:5-6.) It was because the expectation was that they'd be praying aloud. Yes, God hears us when we pray silently, but the devil hears us when we pray aloud. It is spiritual battle, and the Word is our sword. {Ephesians 6:17 - Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.}

I've convicted to pray more aloud, and when I do feel more filled with the Spirit. However, I don't do it often. My kids are almost always around. Will they think I'm crazy (more so than they probably already do)? Should I care? No. I should care more about them hearing me talk to God. I should also care more about letting them hear me raise my voice to God, instead of at them. That will make more difference in their lives than any lesson I could teach them on prayer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Imperfect Mom

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19

I find this is one of my biggest struggles as a mom. I know all the right things to do, for goodness' sake I've taught parenting classes before! I've studied parenting, read countless books, and am a trained group leader. But I still mess up in my parenting, almost daily.

Most certainly, some days are better than others, but at least once a day I lose my temper, don't pay as much attention to my children as they need, or flake out in the area of making sure the simplist of chores are done (like having them brush their hair and teeth before playdates.) I mean to do better. I pray to do better. I commit to do better. But, before I know it, there I am messing up again.

I truly think Paul says it best. "I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out." And why is that? The reason is found in the previous sentence: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." I am sinful. Totally and completely. I can do some good some of the time on my own, but I always fall on my face when I rely on myself. I know to rely on God, but sometimes it seems like too much effort. If I relied on Him for parenting, I'd have to rely on Him for what came out of my mouth, what goes in my mouth, what I do with my time. I don't want to be that accountable, because, quite frankly, my flesh enjoys me giving in to it.

I know that I'll pay for giving in to it, but for the moment, I still make the wrong choice. I know I need to submit to God. I know that He will provide everything I need. I've even prayed about being radically obedient. Now I simply have to make the choice each time a choice comes up to submit instead of going according the the flesh. Then I will have peace and prosperity (the kind that comes as a result from making the right choices.)

"Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Job 22:21