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Running the Race (Hebrews 12:1)

Contentment: Embracing the Present

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I have a butterfly bush outside my bedroom window. The other day I was gazing outside and spotted two small butterflies on the bush. Whenever one would land to gather nectar, the other would chase her away. Finally, after endless fighting, both butterflies flew off. The result – neither butterfly got what they came for. There were plenty of flowers on the bush, but both lost the opportunity for nourishment.

 

This led me to thinking, how often are we so busy competing that we miss the opportunities that are before us? If this doesn’t apply to you, I commend you for focusing on the present as it sits before you. Yet, I would say for many of us, myself included, we get caught up in the rat race. Turn on your television, open up a magazine, or hop on Pinterest or Facebook. Take a look at the latest kitchen designs, the newest BMW 535 xDrive (yes, I’m in love), or that dream house your high school classmate just bought. Maybe she chose that career path that you sometimes wish you had chosen instead of staying home with the kids or vice versa.

 

How often do we find ourselves thinking or saying, “I will be happy when… (fill in the blank)?” Yet as soon as we achieve that one thing, be it marriage, children, a larger home, etc., we move on to the next desire. So often we are unconsciously chasing after what someone else has that we miss the very blessing God has provided for us. We aren’t much different from the butterflies fighting to get the best nectar for themselves instead of enjoying what was right before them.

 

So how do we stay content in a world where we are bombarded with information? In the book, Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow writes about a woman missionary named Ella who had experienced a number of hardships. After her death, her daughter discovered her “prescription for contentment” in her diary. Here is what it consisted of:

 

  • Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather.
  • Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
  • Never compare your lot with another’s.
  • Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
  • Never dwell on tomorrow – remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours.

 

I would like to propose that you make your own copy of Ella’s prescription and leave it somewhere where you can read it frequently. Grab a hold of your thoughts and redirect any ideas that oppose the above principles.

 

Finally, I would like to share with you the the words of Paul in his letter to the Philippians – a book whose focus is on joy. Paul found himself continuously persecuted, stoned to the brink of death on one occasion and imprisoned three times before finally being executed.  The Greek word for content in the following verse, “autarkēs”, literally means “self-reliant.” Paul understood that to be content or “self- reliant,” he needed to trust in Christ.  He wrote these words along with the entire book of Philippians during his first imprisonment:

 

 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)

 

This week I encourage you to find joy in the moment instead of waiting for the next best thing. Trust in Christ and His plans for your life.

Until next time.

~ Barb

 

 

 

Notes

Dillow, Linda. Calm My Anxious Heart. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2007. p. 12-13

 

 

Eternal Investment

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The other morning, I was stumbling through the kitchen to get my morning coffee when something outside caught my eye. I looked out the back window and saw a bird struggling to get free from the swimming pool. I quickly ran outside in my PJs to save him. By the time I got to the pool, the baby robin was exhausted. He was floating in the pool with his eyes half closed. I scooped him up and placed him up high on some stacked picnic table benches away from the dog. He closed his eyes and rested there for quite a while. As I sat with my coffee and Bible, I watched his mother occasionally land on the bench to check on him. Finally, when she thought he had rested long enough she began to feed him and eventually coaxed him to fly away.

 

Unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending. Three days later I found the baby robin floating dead in the swimming pool. As I removed his stiff body from the pool I wondered, did saving the robin that morning really matter? He would only meet his demise three days later. What significance did those three days have? Then it occurred to me that it mattered to his mother. She chirped and watched from afar as I rescued him from the water and brought him to safety. She nursed him back to health until he was ready to fly off with her. Saving the bird mattered to her even if it was only for a little while longer.

 

Sometimes life feels like this. Our world is so big and some of the issues we face seem insurmountable. Could our small efforts make a difference? Is it worth the effort? Last Sunday morning in church we had the privilege of hearing the testimonies of adults and teens from our church who traveled to Uganda on a mission trip with our youth pastor. Most of them had no special training, just a love for Christ that they wanted to share. Some of them started out unsure, fearful and hesitant, yet they all came home changed and even closer to the Lord. As I listened to each of their stories, including some challenges that would have seemed to make sharing the Gospel an impossibility, there was one commonality. Each member relied on the Lord for wisdom and strength and He did not disappoint. A small team from rural Nebraska brought 500 Ugandans to Christ! The question becomes, if this group can do that in Africa, what is there to stop us – who share the same fears and insecurities as they did, from doing the same even in our own communities. Maybe you feel that what you have to say is insignificant or that you could not make much of a difference, but just as the mother robin was grateful to have her baby back, our Father is overjoyed at every life that joins him for eternity.

 

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always. Matthew 28:19-20

 

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24

 

 

Let’s make today and everyday matter. Is there someone in your life that needs to know about Jesus? Let’s make their eternity our priority.

 

 

 

 

Roman Roads: Steps to Salvation

Who’s Watching You

 

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Have you ever noticed the impact your actions have on your children? I recently started a new exercise program that really stepped up my game. The results were quite noticeable. I started to develop muscle I hadn’t seen much of in a very long time and also some that I didn’t even know existed. I had shared with my family how much better I felt – more energy, less pain, stronger, and a little less crazy – which is something every family member appreciates.

There were plenty of days that I did not feel like working out, I was fatigued or fighting some symptom that would have made it easier to sit on the couch, but I persisted. Often times I would finish my workout and announce to the house, “I did it!” as if I had just completed my first triathlon.  My two favorite little supporters always congratulated me.

Along the way I noticed something interesting happening, my kids started to take more interest in exercise. They wanted to get stronger as well. One evening, I found my daughter doing push-ups and then my son holding her feet while she did crunches. Next, my son started to run laps around the living room. At this point a thought struck me, what other examples am I showing my children – good, as well as bad? If I want them to strengthen their spiritual muscle, then the benefits must be just as evident. For this is the strength and wisdom that will truly sustain them when life strikes at them.

The book of Proverbs says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (22:6 NIV). Although Proverbs is not a book of promises, it is full of wisdom. I can’t control the future for my children, but I can lead them in the right direction. If my children are always watching and evaluating me, I need to do more than tell them the right way—I need to show them. Do they see me showing love and respect to my spouse, spending time in the Word, or serving others in need? These are just a few of the things I want to model to them. Let’s take some time during the week to reflect on what examples we are showing are children. Which ones do we need to emphasize and which ones do we need to toss out?

Mankind, He has told you what is good

and what it is the Lord requires of you:

to act justly, to love faithfulness 

and to walk humbly with your God.

                                                                                Micah 6:8 HCSB

 

 

These commandments that I give to you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

 Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV

 

I will be careful to live a blameless life…I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart.

                                                                                  Psalm 101:2 NIV

The Cure for Anxiety

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Broken relationships that cause an emotional shut down, excruciating losses, severe illness – I have been through it, and I am sure many of you have experienced the same maybe even to a greater extent. We have all heard Christians say “give it to God,” but do we really know how to do this, and if we do, then why is it so difficult?

Control. We all desire it to some degree and it is necessary in our daily lives. Whether you are a manager looking over your employees or a mother raising and homeschooling her children, without control and discipline we rule out of chaos and the results are mayhem. We control so many areas of our lives that it becomes difficult when we need to release authority. Yet, that is just what Christ has called us to do – surrender our lives, including our burdens, to Him. In the gospels, Christ gave us a cure for worry and anxiety:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all of your worries add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their own clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,  and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow , for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:25-34 NLT)

The God of the Universe created you. Surely if He can do as little as produce food for the birds or clothe the flowers He can give you, who are created in His image, what you need. Be assured the Father knows what you require and His desire is to provide for His children. However, don’t miss the second half of what Jesus has to say here… “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Jesus promises us that the more we focus on the kingdom, the less we will worry about our daily troubles and anxiety.

Relationship. Here lies the difficulty for some of us. Would you trust your problems with an acquaintance? Would you feel confident that they could carry the burden for you? I certainly wouldn’t. As I was contemplating the difficulties of giving our troubles to the Lord, I looked back at my life and could see a progression. The more I grew in my relationship with Christ, the easier it was to trust Him with my problems. I had grown to know Him by spending time with Him. Praying, spending time in the Word, attending a healthy church and Bible studies all helped to bring me to the point where I could release control and trust in Him. Romans 10:17 promises just that, “faith come from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (NIV)

Jesus promised that the more we focus on the kingdom of God, the less we will worry about our daily troubles and anxiety. It is this true relationship that will enable us to give up control and leave our worries at the cross. This my friends is a remedy worth pursuing!

Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6 HCSB)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think  about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phillipians 4:6-9)

Notes

  1. Holman New Testament Commentary – Matthew, “Matthew 6,” accessed 8/1/2016 , http://www.mywsb.com/library/title/005447483

Dear Unchurched Reader

 

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Dear Unchurched Reader,

I have a confession to make. On occasion I have been known to let out a curse in the heat of anger. And guess what? The anger wasn’t even justified. I have been known to have trouble forgiving those who have wounded me deeply, and sometimes I judge a little too harshly. Oh, and I enjoy a glass of wine from time to time, although I am not given to drunkenness. I DON’T HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. This next part may shock you… I still call myself a Christian!

If you came to my church and didn’t have it together, we would welcome you anyway because the truth is none of us does. Christianity is not about perfection. In the wise words of Renee Swope from her book A Confident Heart, “God’s love is perfect, you don’t have to be.” So maybe you aren’t going to church right now because you’re ashamed of something in your past, maybe you have been or are going through a divorce, or maybe you are struggling with a sin that you can’t quite conquer. Don’t put off attending church because you don’t feel that the body will accept you, I encourage you to find a church that will welcome you with your flaws because, guess what? We all have them and often times we need the support of our Christian brothers and sisters along with our relationship with Christ to make us whole and strong enough to conquer the strongholds that hold us back. So forget the views of the church being full of hypocrites, of course there are some there – they are everywhere, but mostly what you will find is sinners just like you and I. The thing is, if we were perfect we wouldn’t need a savior, but I desperately do and so do you.

Until next time …

~ Barb

See more about Renee Swope here: Renee Swope Blog

Notes

1. Swope, Renee. A Confident heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God’s Promises. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2011

Worries: God is Good

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A few months ago I received a notice from our bank that our home insurance had gone up an exorbitant amount. I had put aside the annual statement from the insurance company without much thought as we had never had a claim. As I looked at the notice from the bank, panic began to well up inside as I thought of the added monthly expense.  We had just purchased this home a year ago and struggled to find reasonable rates thanks to the hail history of our living area. Throughout the afternoon, I fought (unsuccessfully) the urge not to snap at my kids and found myself resenting my husband for not knowing this area of our finances.

After supper I pulled out my laptop, angry that I had to repeat the difficult search I had just accomplished a year ago. I Googled insurance companies and behold, the first company I contacted gave me a better policy at a substantial savings. Not only was the escrow handled smoothly, even though the old policy had already been paid by our bank, but we would have more money left at the end of the month. Everything I had worried about was resolved with one phone call.

After I hung up the phone with the insurance agent I said a prayer of thanksgiving to my Father. It was then that He reminded me that He is good all the time. The thing is, God was good when I first opened the letter bearing the bad news of the major increase, He was good when I was filled with tension and tried to calm myself with deep breathing and not so positive thoughts, and He was good when I was blaming my husband for something beyond his control. We may not always see what God has in store for us that quickly – or maybe fail to see it at all, but next time you are struck with a trial try reflecting on the knowledge that God is truly good all the time.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV)

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble, He cares for those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7)

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 

 

 

 

 

Trials: Where is God?

 

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Trials. Everyone experiences them. Christians surely are not immune from them, in fact sometimes it is because of who we are in Christ that we experience trials. I don’t think I’m alone in stating that sometimes one of the most difficult parts of the ordeal is the separation I sometimes feel from God. I can pray, be in the Word and still feel totally and utterly alone.

Our family lives in the bluffs area of western Nebraska. We have only lived here for a couple of years, but I have found that there is a familiar pattern to summer evenings here. All day the clouds billow in the heat of the sun. They begin as wispy, small white cotton balls. As the shadows grow longer, the clouds grow taller and mass together. Many times these storm clouds will produce heavy wind, rain, and hail. Then, just as quickly as the storm began, the clouds will clear and the sun will shine its last rays before setting. If that sight wasn’t spectacular enough, it’s not unusual to spot a double rainbow. They have actually become so commonplace that my family will often give them a quick glance before returning to whatever activity they were engaged in.

One evening after witnessing one of these storms and the subsequent rainbows, I was struck by the meaning of this masterpiece. Genesis 9:13-15 says that, “I have placed My bow in the clouds and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Whenever I form clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures.” (HCSB – emphasis mine). The rainbow isn’t just a Sunday school story of God’s promise to Noah. The Lord Almighty remembers His promise to Noah and the rest of us every time a bow appears in the clouds! If God is aware of the rainbows in the sky He is surely aware of what you and I are experiencing. God may be silent in our trials, but that does not mean He does not care about what we are going through.

In Mark 8:22-27, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee which was known for sudden and unpredictable storms. Jesus is sleeping in the boat as the disciples are frantically trying to stay afloat. The disciples wake a sleeping Jesus and cry out for Him to save them. Notice the order of which Jesus handles the situation. He rebukes the disciples, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.” Through this Jesus showed the disciples His authority over nature just as he showed His authority over all aspects of the Universe in the Gospels. The disciples experienced their share of storms just as we do today, and just as the Lord Almighty was with them throughout the storm in Galilee, He is with us always. A closer look at chapters 8 and 9 of Mark will show that Christ cares about our physical health, but He cares even more for our spiritual health. His desire is for us to walk daily in full faith. If the disciples truly trusted in Christ, they would not have feared the wind and the waves. The same can be said for us in our daily struggles. When we give Christ control of our situations, we can experience a deep peace that can only come from Him. Today and from here on, let us embrace the words of Proverbs 3:6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

 

Until next time, remember – God has this!

 

 

Notes

  1. Rodney L. Cooper, Holman New Testament Commentary: Mark

© 2000 Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee

WORDsearchCorp.

 

  1. 2. Holman Christian Standard Study Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010.

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