Monday, March 28, 2011

If God is for us . . .

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a country where you weren’t free - free to drive to see family members, free to speak your mind, free to worship in the way that you want? It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to not have a copy of God’s Word, to not be able to call a friend and talk about how I’m struggling in my relationship with God or to freely write what is on my heart.

As I see what is happening all around the world – the unrest in so many countries, the earthquakes and tsunamis and possible nuclear meltdowns, I have to admit my heart trembles and I wonder if my world will drastically change. Will I someday experience what many Christians in other countries around the world experience? Will someday being persecuted for my faith mean more than just losing my job or being criticized for believing in God but going to jail or having my family stripped away from me?

And then I wonder. . . will I be as resilient in my faith as I am now? Will I be able to stand strong in the face of danger? If I let my thoughts run in that direction I can allow fear to completely consume me.

Look at what 2 Timothy 1:7-8 says: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. . .With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.

God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and a self-discipline. . . When we give into fear and allow it to consume us we are giving power to the enemy but God has given us everything we need to stand strong and to face whatever comes our way! But how do we do this in the face of overwhelming circumstances and fear? By turning our hearts back to Him.

When I experience fear, heartache or worry in my life He wants me to give it to Him and to claim His power and love. Just as a pedestrian on a swinging rope bridge keeps their eyes fixed on the other side and won’t allow themselves to look down to the gorge below, we have to fix our eyes on our Savior, the author and finisher of our faith.

If God’s Word is true and I believe it is than He will give me what I need when the time arises. I don’t have to live in fear or worry of what tomorrow will bring because He promises to be with me, to give me His Strength and His Power to meet whatever will come my way.

We have nothing to fear . . . if God is for us, who can be against us?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blocked Pathways

God blessed my husband and me with four boys. I confess, there were days, when I questioned whether it was a blessing or not . . .

Boys are loud, physical, and boisterous. They love to climb on furniture, use sticks for weapons and beat up their brothers.

But, I have to say, I love them! Because what you see is what you get. They tell it like it is. They get mad and then they’re over it. They will pick on their baby brother and then if anyone else tries to pick on them they will defend them “to the death”.

Boys know how to play. They design huge elaborate games and they’re never bored if they have another one around. And they have given me a storehouse full of great stories and memories!

My boys taught me so many things – to not take myself so seriously, to live every moment to the fullest and to love life. God also used them in my life to teach me things about Him.

I remember one day hearing screaming coming from our back hallway (never a good sound). I knew it was my youngest, Logan, he was about 18 months old. I ran to where the sound was coming from and saw him with a beat red face crying and yelling for all his might. My oldest, Wes, who was around 10 at the time, was blocking Logan from going down our back stairway. He looked up at me, with this pleading look on his face and said, “Mom, he wants to go down the steps and I can’t let him because he’ll fall and get hurt!”

And in that moment, God gave me a snapshot of how I am with
Him . . .

I make my plans, sometimes offering the token prayer but really never considering Him or seeking where He wants me to go and then I pursue those plans with all my heart. And when I’m thwarted I throw a temper tantrum because I don’t get my way, never realizing that it is the Hand of God protecting me from harm.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Do I believe that? Why do I question that God doesn’t have my best interest at heart when he laid down His life for me? What about you? Do you ever get mad or frustrated because God isn’t giving you what you want?

In some distorted way, many of us feel that God owes us. That if we’re living our lives to please Him He should give us what we want and when we don’t get it, we get mad and throw a fit. But what we want isn’t always what we need. And God is not in the business of making us comfortable. He is about molding and shaping us to be more like Him.

Teach us to . . . Trust you, LORD with all our heart;
to not depend on our own understanding.
But seek your will in all we do,
and you will show us which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I looked up the word outbreak in the dictionary. It said that it was “a sudden or violent increase in activity”. And it reminded me of a verse in Hebrews 10:24, “Let us think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” (NLV)

I wonder what it would look like if we as Christians put this verse into practice. I wonder how I would be if I continuously looked for ways to encourage my sisters and brothers in Christ to love and good works. I wonder how different our churches would be. What would happen if we had an “outbreak” of love and good deeds?

What do you think of when you hear the word “outbreak”? I think of something incredibly contagious and difficult to contain.

In the verse right above, it gives us the reason for why we should encourage one another to love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted.” (NLV) What does it mean to live with an unwavering hope?

In the movie Jacob the Liar (played by Robin Williams), hope plays an important role. The setting is a Jewish Ghetto in Poland during World War II. The Jews have lost all hope of ever being saved and many of them have resorted to killing themselves. Through some crazy circumstances one Jew, Jacob, ends up outside the ghetto and hears a radio broadcast. When he returns he shares what he has learned about the allies with some of his friends and the news travels like wild fire through the quarter. After hearing the news, Jacob begins to see a visible change in people because of a renewed sense of hope and so embarks on a plan to keep hope alive in the ghetto . . .

When I saw this movie, I was struck by the power of hope. Most of us in America have no idea what it is like to live without hope and so it’s easy for us to take for granted the hope we have in Christ.

We forget that we are living in similar circumstances in our spiritual lives as Jacob was. People all around us are living and dying with no hope! We have the hope that will not only give them purpose in this life but will save them for all of eternity!

I wonder what would happen if we had an outbreak of love and good deeds. Would people see the hope we have in Christ? Would they be “infected” with our love for God and good deeds for others? What if we couldn’t contain this pandemic?

Remember, it just takes one!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When Love Hurts

I was cleaning my house getting ready for company when the phone
rang . . . . . .

“Hello, this is Meijer and your son has been arrested for shoplifting!”

My whole world came to a standstill.  He had to be joking.  He assured me that he wasn’t.  You see, there a lot of things that I imagined my son might do someday but this was not definitely one of them.

As a mom I had worked diligently to point out to my children the importance of being honest.  There were so many times when I would get out to my car and realize that there was a sack of potatoes in the bottom of the cart that I had not paid for and I would drag all my children back into the store so that I could pay for it.  I thought for sure that doing this would guarantee that my children would do the same.  Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works (and when I think about it I’m glad it doesn’t work that way because there have been plenty of times when I would not like them to emulate something I’ve done).

The next day (after he was arrested), I was at a football game for another son and someone asked me where my husband was.  How could I tell her that my husband was with my son down at the jail watching him get his mug shot!  The pain was excruciating, the shame unbearable. 

So what do you do with a son who is 17 and is arrested for shop lifting?  What do you do when he comes home and wants to go to a friend’s house?  I wanted to tell him he was grounded for the rest of his life!  Couldn’t he see how much pain and heartache he was causing us?  My mind told me that this was not my fault, that I had shown him the truth growing up but my heart was screaming just the opposite - I must be a terrible mom, completely inadequate for the job, why did God give me these children?  It was such a lonely, isolating time . . .

We were so empty, we had no idea what to do, how to handle this, we never thought we would be in this position but the emptiness drove us to our knees.  We sought God’s wisdom and He gave us clear direction.  We had our son call people in his life who were important so that they could pray for him and hold him accountable.  He hated doing it but we watched how God used those people in his life to encourage him and to show him unconditional love.  We also encouraged him to find a spiritual mentor who would speak truth into his life. 

Every step of that difficult journey God was with us.  We didn’t see it at the time but one day I took some time to look back and reflect on the path we had traveled and I was amazed at what I saw. . .

Our son had been making a series of bad choices that culminated in him getting arrested and as I looked back over each one of those decisions I saw God’s hand of discipline in his life.  Where we thought we were alone, God had been right there beside us adding his discipline to ours, partnering with us.
*When my son threw a party when we were out of town, the transmission went out on his car.
*When we grounded him for 2 weeks because of a bad choice, he contracted Mono and was in bed for 2 solid weeks!
*When he chose to drive recklessly, he was pulled over and given a ticket.
*And when he shoplifted, the same week he had his stereo stolen out of his car.

As I looked over the ways God had brought discipline in my son’s life I was reminded of the verse in Proverbs 3.12 that says, “For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”  And when I pointed out this verse to my son, he said, “Would He just stop loving me so much!”

It’s funny how that is – we want God’s love when it’s comfortable and cozy and safe but when it causes us to grow and pushes us beyond our comfort zone then we’re not so thrilled with the idea. 

But praise God He doesn’t always give us what we want!

I hope that this story will give you hope and encouragement.  May you know that God is with you when you’re dealing with angry and unlovely teenagers.  God is with you when the way seems unclear and your heart is heavy.  God is with you when the weight of the world seems more than you can bear.  He is with you!    

Psalm 59:16-17 
  But as for me, I will sing about your power.
      Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
   For you have been my refuge,
      a place of safety when I am in distress.
 O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
      for you, O God, are my refuge,
      the God who shows me unfailing love.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

substitute god

They say that there are two different kinds of people in the world - those who eat to live and those who live to eat.  I confess I am of the latter persuasion!

I love food.  I love to think about food, to cook food and to plan special occasions around food.  I don't eat emotionally or to salve a deep dark problem in my life.  I eat, plain and simple; because it gives me great pleasure - at least for a little while and then it's time to eat again.  What I've noticed is that the more I eat the less I'm satisfied and that in order to be satisfied I have to eat more and more.

I've known this to be a problem for most of my life.  And to be perfectly honest it's an area that I have not wanted to relinquish.  I mean seriously, I have given over to God so many things in my life - submission to my husband, my children, my possessions, etc. that I have wanted to hang on to this one area in my life.  My rationalization went like this - this is a physical issue, not a spiritual one so I'll just handle it on my own, I don't need to bring God into this, He's got so many more significant issues to deal with, I'm sure He doesn't have time for this petty little problem.

So on my own, I have tried all kinds of methods to control this issue in my life.  I've tried dieting (from cabbage soup diet to Weight Watchers), reading books, prayer (I've even resorted to begging God to "heal" me).  But each one has fallen short.  Some of them worked for a while - I even lost 30 pounds with one of the diets but eventually all the weight came back and more and I was worse off than before.

Every time I would diet, there was a sense that I was not getting at the root of my issue.  It was such a battle to deny myself.  I felt hungry all the time and then eventually I would get worn down and give up in defeat.

Just recently I started doing a Bible study on Overeating and for the first tiime I'm allowing God to get at the heart of this issue and let me tell you it has been humbling and freeing!

I have come to acknowledge that I have a substitute god in my life.  (It pains me to say it but it's true.)  God has created each one of us with this inner desire to be filled by Him but we often choose to allow other things to fill that hole in our life and that was exactly what I was doing.  I was allowing food to fill me rather than God and that's why I have been so dissatisfied and have needed more and more to keep me happy.

You see substitute gods TAKE, TAKE, TAKE.   They take your time, your energy, your thoughts, your money, your focus, your purpose . . . If they give it's only temporary and then it leaves you needing and wanting more and more and more.  That's what this god was doing in my life.  I was bowing down to the god of pleasure, worshiping and accepting it as lord in my life.

Through the study of God's Word, He has shown me that I need His sorrow for my sin and His repentance.  I now know that this area of my life is sin.  Before I called this problem in my life everthing but sin and by not confessing and relinquishing this area in my life I have experienced frustration, anger and defeat.

Joel 2.12-13 says,  That is why the Lord says, "Turn to me now, while there is time.  Give me your hearts.  Come with fasting, weeping and mourning.  Don't tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead."  Return to the Lord your God, for He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.

Repentance is good but hard!  And praise God that He loves us inspite of our failures, inspite of choosing a substitute god over Him!  And each day I'm experiencing His amazing grace as I continue to give this issue in my life back to Him and accept His forgiveness.

I cannot end this article without asking you . . . Do you have a substitute god in your life?  Are you bowing down to the god of Pride?  Pleasure?  Self-righteousness?  Is there an area in your life that you have been unwilling to relinquish and submit to God?

I'm here to tell you, it's not worth it!  Sin only brings shame, sorrow, frustration and guilt but God is ready and waiting to release you from the bonds of your sin and to set you free!  There is so much joy and freedom and He is patiently waiting.

Romans 2.4 says, Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?  Does this mean nothing to you?  Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from sin?

So trade in that substitute god for the REAL ONE - it'll be the best decision you've ever made!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chosen Love

I heard the heartache in my best friend’s voice, “We had to hospitalize our son last night.  He was threatening violence.”  I could feel the pain and anguish through the phone lines and my heart went out to her.

My dearest friend is living day in and day out with an incredibly difficult situation.  Times without number she has felt that God has asked her to handle situations that are beyond what she can bear.  And yet, every time I see God’s grace exhibited in her life and in the life of her son.

Seven years ago, she and her husband chose to love a young boy that was not their own.  They welcomed him into their family and he became theirs.  He immediately had all the privileges of a son – love, care, family vacations, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins, wealth and most of all he was able to learn about God and His love for him.

(Isn’t that what God did for us!  He chose us to be His own children and welcomed us into the family with all the rights as an heir.  We hold the same privileges as His Son, Jesus. “But when the right time came, God sent His Son . . . God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as his very own children . . . Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.  And since you are His child, everything He has belongs to you.”  Galatians 4:4-5, 7)

This journey has not been easy, in fact I know she would say that it is, hands down, the hardest thing she has ever done or will do.  And there is no guarantee of the future.

You see, their little boy, even though he has been given this amazing gift of love, cannot accept it.  His past and the things that happened to him before he came to live with them have scarred his life and are holding him captive.  He is unable to embrace this love, to bask in its warmth and to allow its light to shine in his life.  He has built a fortress around his heart and to let that love in is too frightening and threatening for him.  He wants the love and is drawn to it but then pulls away because it threatens to break down his defenses.

As I watch this gifted and talented young boy run from true, unfailing, unconditional love, I cannot help but see myself reflected in him.  I do this very thing with God.  I am His chosen child and I want His love, in fact I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame but then I find myself pulling away because His love exposes my innermost being and I don’t like what I see. . .  Why is it so hard to receive pure and undefiled love?  Why does my heart do this yo-yo dance with God?  Why do I allow fear to keep me from completely enjoying and reveling in God’s incredible love? . . . . .

And then I think of my friend and her incredible love for her son.  She has given everything for him.  She loves him unconditionally and no matter how she is treated by him, she continues to give of herself, to endure through the pain and to love unconditionally.

She is my hero!  She is the strongest person I know and she demonstrates God’s great love and incredible patience with him every day 24-7, 365 days a year!  In her weakness I see her strength in God grow and in her brokenness and pain I have seen God bring her unspeakable joy. 

And as I see myself reflected in her son, I see God reflected in her. . . His grace that I did nothing to deserve, His patience when I am obnoxious and hurtful, His love when I am unlovely, His gentle touch when I am hurting and in pain.  That’s how my friend loves her son and that’s how God loves me!

                How great the Father’s love for us
                How vast beyond all measure
                That He should give His only son
                To make a wretch His treasure!