Who’s Light Are You Shining?

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

The name “Christian” means “like Christ.”  We are to set the example, the Biblical standard, for others to see in this life. We are not perfect; so you can expect to have some failures along the way. But we are to be more like Him than like ourselves.

Have you ever noticed that when you make a decision on your own without true prayer and discernment from the Lord, you tend to make the wrong decision? Do you remember the last time you did something in your own strength and didn’t finish well? This is because you weren’t relying on the One true source of our strength and faith – Jesus.

Humanly speaking, we want to impress the rest, but as Christians, our entire purpose here is to point the way back to Jesus. We can’t do that if our focus is on us rather than Him. So how do we change that? Spend time in His Word daily, talk to Him about your dreams and plans, and make it an important part of your day. The more time you spend with Jesus, the more like Him you will become.

You cannot live your entire life within the Christian bubble. We all have a mission field we are called to plow, water, sow and reap from. You cannot expect to live the Christian life and not be exposed to the world. It’s simply not possible. Jesus didn’t give us salvation to horde it for ourselves – we are supposed to give it away to others. How do you do this? By sharing your faith in Christ and let others see your struggles and your victories in Jesus.

I have several friends and family that are “good people” by human standards, but they are not true believers in the faith. That’s ok – that is my mission field. I haven’t been called to Haiti, Uganda or South Africa to preach to the lost. I have been called to serve Jesus here – where I am. It’s a great calling, but even at times I think being called to a mission field field where others don’t know me would be easier to share my faith.  Rejection from strangers seems to be so much easier than rejection from those that I love and care about.

Are you hording your faith for yourself, living your life in your own strength or not giving Him the glory for the things He’s done in your life? Can those around you – in your mission field – see Jesus at work in your life? Who do people see most working in your life – you or Jesus? Whoever they see, that is who they will give credit to.

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Prayer – Be Still

Prayer is a powerful and awesome way for us to communicate to God. It throws me for a loop trying to figure out how He hears me and everyone else praying to Him at the same time. I get confused when more than one person is trying to talk to me at the same time. And here is the fabulous gift He’s given us through prayer…prayer has nothing to do with informing God of what is going on in your life. While it’s a communication tool, God doesn’t need you to tell Him what is going on. He already knows it!

Follow me on this, I am going somewhere with it. God is eternal – always has been and always will be. He knows it all, from beginning to end, and nothing surprises Him or catches Him off-guard. He’s always on duty, and always watching. So why do we need prayer? It’s a reflective tool designed for us! We are the ones that need prayer, not Him! So what is the real design behind prayer? It’s intended to bring us to several points which we will look at over the next few days.

(1) It brings our spirits to stillness. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” You can’t know and trust in God until you are still and allow Him to lead you. That seems like such a small and simple task for us, but when was the last time you were spiritually still before the Lord?

As a mom, one of the things I consistently have to remind myself of, is the fact that my children do not belong to me. They belong to the Lord. I cannot be with them 24/7, I cannot control the world they live in, and I cannot dictate the decisions they will make growing up. So, I have to be still, let Him protect them and be their ever-watchful Father. Sometimes the being still and waiting is the hardest part, not just because I am their mother, but also because I have been conditioned by society to hurry up and accomplish more.

Have you noticed that today’s world is pushing us faster by the day? The cell phone companies are vying for your business based on the “the fastest network.” People are pushing for faster speed limits (Texas is currently considering an 85 mph limit on their interstates). Even our businesses are running more on “real time” electronically than we ever have before.

It’s hard for us to be still spiritually before the Lord when we are constantly being pushed and pulled faster by society. How can we break the cycle spiritually and be still before Him? We have to condition our spiritual lives to run on a different clock than our physical lives. We have to put ourselves on God’s time table and let Him dictate what time it actually is.

Here are some helpful tips to begin to recondition your spiritual life around that of God’s time:

(1) Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) – As you continuously pray throughout the day, it’s a constant reminder that you are putting things in His hands and you need to wait on Him.

(2) Make a dedication (Romans 8:28) – He has called you, He has a purpose, a plan, for you. Trust that He knows best. Hand Give Him lead and He will do what is best for you.

(3) Trust in the Lord (Psalm 18:2) – He will sustain you in your time of need. Once you’ve dedicated yourself or your situation to the Lord, trust that He will do what He’s said He’ll do!

Jesus loves you – He will not forsake you – even when you feel you need the answer right then. His timing is perfect. He’s never late, never wrong and never forgets His children. Trust Him – be still – let him have control!

Are You a Worrier?

I have to be honest, I do not like hearing our nation’s leaders playing the blame game as to who’s fault it is that our nation’s budget didn’t get past. It’s not about fault – it’s about doing what is best for our country. In my personal opinion, doing what is right for our country means getting us back on the right track to decreasing our spending and our national debt. We the people really have no say in the matter at this point. It’s a waiting game for us – it’s out of our hands – out of our control.

I know this government shut-down affects a lot of people – including our military. I cannot imagine being in their shoes – serving and protecting a country that will not be allowed to support them financially for the work they do. In my mind it’s worse than being on unemployment. At least if you are unemployed you have the means to file for help. Military families will not have this option.

However, the Bible is clear as to what we are to do when times of change come and we begin to worry. Matthew 6:25-34 is a direct-line passage that tells us not to worry about things to come, or about how our Father will provide for us.  It says,

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall henot much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or,Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly FAther knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

In my everyday life, I have many things that are out of my control. I have had to practice putting things in God’s hands and letting Him take care of what I cannot. One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my children will pull away from the faith that we are trying so hard to preserve. I had to realize early on that it was a choice they have to make for themselves. I have to put faith in God and let Him do the work while I stop the worry.

When you think about the economy, your next paycheck, your children, or the next bills you have to write and you feel a sudden panic, keep in mind that He is in control. Jesus knows what is coming up – He sees it from beginning to end. Think about those ant farms you used to see in the elementary school classrooms. Those little ants couldn’t see past the ant in front of him, but you could. You saw where he came from and where he was going. God is the same way – He sees it all, and as His child, He will never leave you nor forsake you!

Dirty Floors and Dinner Parties

©Agent J

It never fails. You’ve planned for guests to come to your home to enjoy a meal and some desperately needed adult conversation. It’s Saturday morning, you have less than ten hours to shuttle the kids to and from the morning ball game, grocery shop, clean and cook the meal. Of all days the weatherman is calling for rain all afternoon. Once it hits, you have an added chore to your cleaning. Now not only do you have to organize the kitchen, dining room, sitting room and bathroom for your anticipated guests; you now have to clean the floors from all the mud that has been tracked into the house by your family. The floor is distracting, and while you are cleaning the floor, you should be preparing for your guests in other ways.

During dinner, you are constantly bouncing up getting seconds for the kids, refilling drinks, cutting and serving desert, clearing the plates and other service dishes. By the end of the night, you feel like the servant rather than the host, and you haven’t had the adult time you’ve been looking forward to all week.

Luke 10 outlines an evening similar to this dinner party situation. Martha and Mary were hosting a dinner with Jesus. However, while Mary was still and listening to Jesus, Martha was buzzing around their home. Martha couldn’t get past what she thought was needed to be done to enjoy her company.

Have you ever experienced this situation? You are working with a friend or relative who just doesn’t seem to be pulling their weight, but chatting with someone else and leaving you to do more than what you think is fair? I have been there a few times and I was irritated. Team efforts make the job go faster, but when your team mates leave, it’s just you. Work slows down, you feel like you aren’t going to get finished or be able to enjoy your company either.

But think of this for a moment. What is more important – clean floors or listening to Jesus? Most churches teach that when the Bible says not to forsake the gathering of ourselves, it’s talking about the body of Christ meeting for services. However, in biblical days, they didn’t have a church house. The people met in small groups in their own homes. That is more than likely how Jesus came to be in Martha and Mary’s home.

While Mary sat and listened to Jesus, Martha, being irritated at serving alone, asked Jesus to tell Mary to serve with Martha. Jesus openly rebukes her for being too busy to listen to what He had to say.

I am often reminded of my time serving in my old church. It’s a “mega church”  being close to 2000 members. While I enjoyed the music of the services, many of the sermons, and the uniqueness of the church’s activities, there were a ton of distractions within. During the service there were never less than 20 people working behind the scenes to ensure that the lights, camera, sound, and stage were set up perfectly for the televised message. At one point I joined this group of people in order to serve my church. However, I found out quickly that I never actually had time to worship or listen to the message. I was too busy serving and making sure everything was transitioning smoothly.

There is nothing wrong with serving – Christians are called to be servants. Jesus was a servant. But there is a difference in serving and letting that service get in the way of worship. By His rebuke, Jesus wasn’t necessarily showing Martha her faults, again we are to have a servant’s heart, but He was telling her that there is a time and place for service and a time and place for worship.

So, next time you are planning to have friends over, rather than worry about what is sitting around you concentrate on the conversation. Attention to people is often needed more than attention to the details of your home. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward, just make sure you aren’t trying to do it when Jesus is trying to speak to you!

Walking the Fine Line

© Samantha A. Miller

Being on vacation has its advantages…sleeping in, no routine, no real schedule…but tell my brain that! I have been up since 6am this morning after staying up late. Why? Because that is what my body has been conditioned for. Normally, I am awake at 6am just before my kids bound out of their room hungry for breakfast. I have been getting up early all my life, but I have been doing the “mom routine” for five years now. It’s my norm.

I realized this week that I have been a Christian for fifteen years. In that time, I have stumbled, fallen, rolled over, been walked on and gotten back up more times than I can count. These fifteen years have conditioned me for my spiritual walk with Christ. My daily routines have set the pace for my spiritual growth.

God longs to have a relationship with us, each of us. We are His children, and while He doesn’t have favorites, there are those He is closer to because of the amount of time He gets to spend with them. Those who spent time with Him daily, have a keener sense of right and wrong than those who never spend time with Him or only occasionally open their Bibles. And this is where I am headed today.

I have been told since I was a young Christian that my mind can deceive my heart, that I can be led astray, and that Jesus has given me everything I need to discern what is right and what is wrong. How is all of that possible? It all begins with our routines!

If you spend time with God in the morning, reading the Word, memorizing Scripture and praying, then you are conditioning your body for spiritual growth and discernment. His Word contains everything we need for daily living – rules and guidelines, things to do and not do, warnings and consequences. It’s all right there – we just have to read it and learn it.

Parents take the time to teach their children right from wrong. In order to keep them on the right track, the parents set boundaries. And when the child tests the boundaries, there are consequences for their actions. That is exactly what God did in the Bible. Today’s society says that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that there isn’t one right way, and that we should be more tolerant of other people. The world sees things very differently than God sees them.

Have you noticed that when you stopped listening to God, that your perspective of right and wrong changed? You started thinking more like the world – not like a child of God.

Read Acts 17:10-12. I will refer back to this passage in a couple of the next blog posts because we need to look at it from other angles as well. But I want to show you something. Pay close attention to verse 11, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

These Jews searched the Scriptures daily to figure out what was right and what was wrong. They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it, they didn’t just accept it as truth. They studied and proved it true or false by what God said. But how will you know what is right and wrong unless you spend time in the Word of God?

Don’t just take someone’s word for it. Find out for yourself! We can all be led astray, and unfortunately, we may think we are right, when we are wrong.  Don’t let your mind defeat your heart. I encourage you to spend some time today in the Bible, read it for yourself and discover new teachings from God that you maybe forgot or didn’t realize were there.

Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus

We’ve all been hearing about the earthquake and the aftershocks that hit Japan last week. The massive damage to the country physically is just astounding. The death toll continues to rise, and it’s still a very dangerous time for these people as they are facing buildings still collapsing around them, food shortages threatening their lives as they try to survive, and a waiting line to get medical care for the wounded. And on top of that, their nuclear reactors are still not stabilized, and the government is struggling to  bring them back within the safe zones.

Can you imagine what it is like for these people to live – to merely survive – in these conditions? Who do they have to turn to? Who will help them survive? Who will meet their needs? I imagined at one point what I would do with my family if we were put in that situation. The reality scared me to tears.

Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus put it all into perspective with these short verses. We are to have our focus on God, love Him with every part of our created beings. We are then to love our neighbor just as we would love ourselves. By keeping these two commandments at the forefront of our lives, we keep our lives in perspective.

We are not to judge why this happened. We are human and will never understand the ways of the Lord. He’s already established that in Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We will never be able to understand the mind of God, so let’s move past the why and begin to focus on the how.

In every tragedy, there is a ministry. We need to see people for who Jesus sees them as. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus, serve the least of these, and bring hope, healing, and Jesus to this world. Are you focused on loving God and loving your neighbor? Are you focused on the call of Christ?

Life More Abundant

Have you ever had one of “those” days? Nothing seems to fall into place, there’s always one more thing to add to your never-ending to do list, and at the end of the day the only thing you have to show for your day is a bad hair do and tiredness? You are not alone – we’ve all been there!

When I read John 10 today, and read in verse 10 that Jesus came to give us life more abundantly, I initially was reminded of Mark Lowery. Look at what your life was like before Christ truly got a hold of you. Before you had stress, obligations, deadlines, and headaches. Once Christ got a hold of your life, you had stress, obligations, deadlines, and headaches.

Do you sometimes feel that as a Christian these hurdles are increased? Why is that? Because now that Jesus is in your life, there are TWO of you carrying the burden. Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He can handle so much more than you can. And many times you will find that the increases are supposed to lead you in building your faith and leaning on Him, rather than discouraging you!

In my own personal life, I have let things get me down, slow me down, and tie me down. But I found that life doesn’t have to have those effects on me. All I have to do is lean on Him. He didn’t come into my life to make things harder, He simply wants to make me more like Him – and one of those ways is to handle more burdens with the grace and love that He has.

Life was not meant to be as hard and difficult as we have made it, but we’ve allowed life to weigh us down. Rather than focusing on the things that bring along hardships and cause us to title our days, we need to start looking to Him.

And the best part about this more abundant life…the great things are increased as well!