A Time of Preparation

Corrie Ten Boom Quote

There are times in our lives when we know we are preparing for something, i.e. we go to college to prepare for a career, we begin jogging to prepare to run a race, we date in preparation for marriage. However, there are other times when we don’t recognize our circumstances or the people God puts in our lives as preparations for His plan for us.

When my husband and I bought our first house, we had no idea that our lives would be drastically changed by our neighbors. We were one of the first people on the street and a pastor and his family moved in next door to us. Down the street a woman who became a dear friend and across the street another dear friend, both of whom were women of faith. 

All of these people planted seeds that led me to come to know the Lord. The pastor’s wife invited me to work with her in children’s ministry. Who would have known that was the beginning of a life in ministry? I certainly wouldn’t have expected that, but God did. He knew exactly who would be living on my street and knew He would be using several of them to draw me into a personal relationship with Him.

Each ministry experience, working in children’s and youth ministry and later in women’s ministry were preparations for me to become a deacon. I am currently in the process of becoming a deacon and I can’t imagine being in this process without the variety of ministry experience I have had.

Those are some beautiful examples of how God sees our future and guides us to it by bringing people into our lives to support and encourage us and providing us with experiences that serve as training ground for our future. However, not all of the people who come into our lives nor all of our experiences are so positive.

There have been people who have come into my life over the years and really challenged me because we didn’t get along or see eye to eye. They aren’t the ones encouraging and supporting me; they are the ones frustrating, angering and hurting me. But God is still God and He still has a plan. When I look back at some of the more painful interactions I have had, I can see in hindsight that they were preparing me for the ministry I am doing today. It is these difficult relationships that have helped soften my heart, forced me to see others through the eyes of Christ, and made me tap into the power of the Holy Spirit so I could bear good fruit.

There have also been some circumstances that on the outset didn’t seem very positive. Moving to the MIddle East with my husband and two preteen daughters was never part of my plan, but God knew it would prepare me for His plan. Nothing is the same in a different culture and we lovingly referred to Doha, Qatar as the “land of almost or not quite right”. It was this time in the Middle East that I learned to put my complete trust in the Lord and learned to practice patience in abundance.

Regardless of what relationships you find yourself in today or what circumstances you are in, know that the Lord is sovereign and knows exactly where you are and what you are going through. Sometimes the most challenging relationships are what soften the rough edges in us and the most difficult circumstances strengthen our dependence upon the Lord. What we need to remember in the midst of difficult times and tough relationships is the Lord has a plan and He will use everyone in our lives and every circumstance to prepare us for the life He created us to live.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

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Don’t Forget

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A friend posted this Scripture on her Facbeook page yesterday and it has stuck with me ever since.

Jeremiah 2:32

Can a virgin forget her ornaments,
    or a bride her attire?
Yet my people have forgotten me
    days without number.

The Lord was telling the people how easily they forgot Him. He used the example of a women forgetting her jewelry or a bride forgetting her wedding dress to show how absurd it is that His people would forget him.

I wear my wedding ring and a watch everyday. If I leave the house without one of them on, I am constantly aware that I am missing them. Today I think people would miss their cell phones. If you left the house without your cell phone, would you constantly be aware that it was missing?

What about spending time with the Lord? If you don’t have quiet time with the Lord in the morning, do you miss it? Are you constantly reminded that you missed that time with Him? How easily we can put the Lord on the back burner or in the back of our minds rather than in the forefront.

Our relationship with the Lord should be so intimate that we miss spending time with Him. Rather than something to check off of our to do list, it should be essential. Spending time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word should be something we feel lost without. Which would be easier for you to go without for a day or a week – your cell phone or time with the Lord?

If we want to live the lives He created us to live, we need to spend time with Him. He has plans for us, but if we don’t spend time with HIm, we won’t know what those plans are.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

We need to be connected to the Lord, because without Him, we can’t do anything.

John 15:5

 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Spend some time today reflecting on how connected to the vine you are. Is your connection to Christ as important as your connection to your cell phone? Perhaps we all need to put down our cell phones, ipads, computers, etc. and spend some time in prayer and in His Word today. Who knows, you might just miss Him and feel lost without Him more than you would your electronic devices.

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Ice Bucket Challenge and a Man of Faith

Purpose for Our Struggles

Here in the U.S. we have been bombarded on Facebook and other social media by people accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It is where people are challenging friends to pour a bucket of ice cold water over their heads and to make a donation to and ALS foundation.

ALS is a devastating disease where you slowly lose function of nerves and muscles throughout your body. Slowly your body shuts down, but your mind remains strong. A dear friend of mine passed away from ALS in July 2012. Terry was a man of unwavering faith.

From the time he was diagnosed he always found the positives and never focused on the negatives. His attitude was astounding. I asked him how he could be so positive when he lost the ability to do the things he loved and even to be able to care for himself. His answer was simple, “I have faith in God and trust Him completely.”

Those of us who knew Terry knew he was a believer and knew he went to church and was raising his children to know the Lord. However, it wasn’t until his illness that we learned the depth of His faith. He lost his ability to walk and was confined to a wheelchair. As his health declined, his faith became bolder. He said his wheelchair was a better pulpit to share the Lord with others than when he was standing on his own two feet.

He shared his faith with anyone he came into contact with and was such a powerful witness for the Lord. He saw the goodness of God in the midst of circumstances that appeared anything but good from the outside. How about you – do you see the goodness of God in your circumstances?

Terry knew one of the purposes for his illness was to increase his faith and the power of his witness. I have no doubt the Lord has rewarded him for his faithfulness.

May we all be able to say we cling to our faith regardless of what we face, put our trust in the Lord and see His goodness.

2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

 

 

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The Same, but Different

same but different

We are not the same person we were a year ago. Today we are similar to who we were a year ago, but not the same. If you were to think back to what you were like a year ago, what differences would you notice? It is easy to look at a picture and recognize the physical changes, but what about the changes that aren’t physical?

We are designed to change. We were created to become more and more like Christ. Once we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we become a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Our transformation doesn’t end the minute we become followers of Christ. We do become new creations, but we have to yield to the leading of His Holy Spirit dwelling within us to continue to become more like Him.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Our transformation begins with our minds and how we think and view the world. Are we viewing the world and making decisions based on the viewpoint of a follower of Christ or based on what the world says?

When you look at how you made decisions a few years ago and what you base your decisions on today, are they the same? Do you respond to frustrations and difficult situations today the same way you did years ago?

I have been visiting family for the past week and some of the people I have seen I haven’t seen in more than a year. We spent a lot of time talking about memories of  things that had happened when we were kids and even memories of our children. I was struck by how differently I view the world today than I did years ago.

I have been a follower of Christ for almost 15 years and there is a huge difference in how I view the world today than 15 years ago. What I was challenged with is was there a difference between how I live my life today versus even a year ago. Am I continuing to become more like Christ or is that an area of my life that hasn’t really seemed to change much?

There are definitely areas where I can see a significant change. For example, the same challenges exist when spending time with family, but my way of dealing with them has changed. There were times when I felt myself falling back into old patterns, but I am thankful for the transformation Christ has made in my life. Are you the same today or are you different? Are you continuing to transform your heart and mind to that of Christ? What areas of your life look more like your old life than that of your new life in Christ?

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Pray for Christians in Iraq

we-are-n

“‘N’ or ن in Arabic, is the symbol used by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) to identify who is a Nazarene – a Christian. It has been drawn on doorways and in front of houses in captured Iraqi cities, allowing militants to quickly assert where the loyalties of the inhabitants lie.” (Christianity Today, July 23, 2014) Please consider changing this to your photo on Facebook or Twitter to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Iraq.

What is happening to Christians in Iraq is truly heartbreaking. The atrocities are too much to even comprehend. Being far away, it makes us feel helpless. But we are not helpless. We have a God who is able to do the impossible.

Canon Andrew White who is serving in Iraq has called us to pray for the 3 P’s – Protection, Provision and Perseverance. Please join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in Iraq who are suffering. We are not helpless, we have the mighty power of prayer!

Matthew 5:10

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

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