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The Choice Is Ours

 

The Choice is Ours
Rachel Olsen

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” 1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

I watch Samantha Brown, Travel Channel host, as she explores Old Town in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. Watching her experience the charming hotels, mouth-watering food, and tropical adventures there, I’m slightly envious. But as she points out the sights of this South American city, my mind wanders back in time.

I’ve been to Quito. Not to enjoy the food or see the architecture, but to visit people there who Jesus loves.

As the camera pans over Samantha’s head, I’m looking for the spot where I visited a single mother, Maria. She and her baby lived in one room smaller than my home office. She had a twin size bed, a chest of drawers, and a small electric stove.

On the stove she fried plantains for me. I had trouble at first with the idea of eating them, knowing they were from her very limited food supply. As Maria happily served me, I wondered if I would choose to share my food so freely if it were as scarce for me as it is for her.

Maria told me she had received Jesus, and was now receiving training in child care, nutrition and child development through Compassion International. She’d received these South American bananas from them too. I noticed Maria had a visible hope that her life and her child’s life were now on a better path.

Around the corner from Maria lived a young boy who has also been touched by Jesus. He is a sponsored child. When we met, Eduardo told me he hopes to be a pastor. He quoted scripture to me from memory—he was eight.

Our meeting wasn’t planned, he just happened to stop by Maria’s door while I was there. After talking with us briefly, Eduardo reached into his back pocket, pulled out a small New Testament and handed it to me. Said he wanted me to have it. And he wanted me to read it.

Said he hoped it would remind me of him, so I would pray that he could become a pastor.

I didn’t tell him I have plenty of full-size Bibles at home. Or I wouldn’t be able to read much of that one in Spanish. Instead I took the small red book, said “gracias,” and prayed over him and his future ministry. He smiled a smile full of possibility and disappeared out the doorway.

I’m certain that around the corner from Maria there are other single moms and young boys who don’t have this hope. They feel trapped, depressed, maybe hungry and short-changed.

It is my prayer they will find “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3).

Samantha Brown discovered Ecuador’s luscious fruits, famous hat-making trade, and its romantic colonial architecture. Here’s what I discovered:

• We always have a choice between hope and despair – no matter what circumstance we are in.

• We always have a choice between fear and faith – no matter how bleak things look.

• And we always have the choice to give and serve – no matter how little we own.

It’s Jesus – and His church at work on the Earth – that affords us these choices.

Honestly, I wouldn’t trade my trip to Ecuador for Samantha Brown’s any day. Even if she did get to visit the stunning cloud forest. I’m thinking we’ll have cloud forests in heaven to enjoy. And I’d like to see as much of the Ecuadorian population there as possible.

I think my eight year-old friend would like to see that too. I’m certain he will do his part toward that end – will we also do ours? We have that choice to make.

Dear Lord, thank You for living hope. Thank You for living water that quenches our eternal thirst. Anoint young Eduardo to share this hope with others in Ecuador. Show me how I can share it with others too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Compassion International has helped Maria, Eduardo and thousands of others. Visit here and click on the tab “Rescue Babies & Mothers” – choose a set to pray for or to support today.

Visit Rachel’s blog for a chance to win a copy of her book It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

Reflect and Respond:
What can you give or share today?

What can you do to tell or show others about Jesus today?

Power Verses:
John 4:13-14, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” (NIV)

© 2012 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

 

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Mistaken Identities

 

Karen Ehman

“He who belongs to God hears what God says.” John 8:47 (NIV 1984)

I poured a cup of coffee and logged on to my laptop to peek at a friend’s Facebook page.

When I tried hopping over to see her latest pictures, I couldn’t get her name to appear in the search bar. I was puzzled. This had always worked before. Glancing at the top of the screen, I realized I wasn’t logged in to my own account. My son had forgotten to sign off when he’d been on earlier so I was actually logged in as him instead.

I couldn’t get where I wanted to go because I had mistaken my identity.

With a quick click of a mouse I switched accounts and used Facebook as “me.” Under the right identity I was free to view pages, leave comments with ease, and get where I wanted to go.

Sometimes in life we encounter the same issue—we don’t realize we have mistaken our identity. We log into our day and encounter wrong thinking that makes us forget who we really are. This may happen when a voice from our past or our own negative self-talk urges us to forget our identity in Christ. When we do, we’re blocked by doubt and can’t get where God is calling us to go: to a life lived with our security and value rooted deep in His thoughts toward us.

Instead we hear:
“You can’t do that. You aren’t good enough.”
“You’ll never change.”
“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”
“If only you were more ____________ instead of so ___________.”

When statements of self-doubt seem to scream and discouragement sets in, we need to log out of the lies we believe and log into God’s truth. It’s the only way we will know and live in our true identity so that we can navigate our lives according to God’s Word.

Here are some truths we can tell ourselves to remember our who we are:
I am the daughter of the Most High God.
I am loved, redeemed and renewed.
I am chosen, blameless and holy.
I was bought at a great price.
God knows me thoroughly and yet loves me completely.
He has plans for my future that include hope, not harm; blessings, not banishment.
I belong to Him.

John 8:47a tells us, “He who belongs to God hears what God says.” We need to listen to His Word, let it take root in our minds, and allow it to eradicate any untrue, destructive thought patterns. Replacing the negative chatter with assuring scriptures will gently, but firmly, remind us who we are as children of God.

Yes, if we “belong to God” we will hear what He says. As we log into His truths daily, no longer will we mistake our identity. We will know the confident reality of who we are in Christ.

Dear Lord, when I am tempted to think of myself in a way that is neither healthy nor true, remind me both of who I am and to Whom I belong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

For more on this topic, including 5 Ways to Prevent Mistaken Identity and a chance to win a copy of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, visit Karen’s blog.

A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises by Renee Swope identifies lies we mistakenly believe and equips us to overcome them so we can take hold of our true identity and live confidently in the truth of who God says we are.

Reflect and Respond:
What are some counter-productive or self-doubting thoughts that race through your mind at times? The next time you sense this happening, find a promise to replace each doubt. Find more strategies on Karen’s blog today.

Power Verses:
Romans 1:6, “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (NIV 1984)

1 John 3:1a, “Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God’s dear children. And that’s what we are.” (GW)

© 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

 

Feeling Guilty?

 

Lysa TerKeurst

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV 1984)

I gathered the restaurant bags, sighed, and crammed them into the overstuffed trash can. A friend had sent me a recipe that day which involved peeling and chopping and simmering. I imagined her trash can full of fresh veggie peelings and other things that proved her kitchen produced way more homemade goodness than mine.

And a little thread of guilt wrapped around my heart.

Sometimes I feel more guilty for what I’m not than thankful for what I am.

But there was sweet grace waiting for me in a yogurt shop that night. My daughter had asked if I would come and speak to a little Bible Study she was helping organize. “Mom, I think there are going to be a lot of people that show up.”

So, instead of cooking that night I ordered out. Again. And then I drove to the yogurt shop with the girl whose heart was full of excitement and expectation.

People were everywhere. Young people. Invited people. And parents. Nearly 200 people packed inside the yogurt shop and overflowed outside. My daughter smiled.

I took the microphone and spoke from my heart. I told my story. I taught truth. I invited the people to let Jesus be the Lord of their hearts.

And many who had never done so said yes to God that night. A teen girl who’d tried to commit suicide last year. She stood to accept Jesus. A young man with tears in his eyes. He stood to accept Jesus. A mom and a dad. They stood to accept Jesus. Along with many others.

In the yogurt shop.

With a woman whose trash can was filled with take-out bags.

A woman who isn’t the greatest cook. But a woman who wants to learn to be more thankful for what I am than guilty for what I’m not.

Maybe you are the friend with the veggie peelings in the trash can and steaming homemade goodness on the table.

Celebrate that.

Or maybe you are like me. And your gifts are less tasty.

Celebrate that.

And cut the threads of guilt with the edge of grace.

Dear Lord, You made me in Your image and that is something I seem to forget daily. Please help me remember to celebrate and live in who You made me to be and not in what I wish I was. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to join Lysa TerKeurst for the 5-Day “No More Unglued Mama Mornings Challenge.” She’d love to walk beside you as together we conquer guilt with grace.

Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, Unglued, encourages you to cut the threads of guilt and embrace your unique wiring. Click here to pre-order your copy, releasing August 7.

The accompanying Unglued Bible Study is a wonderful resource. To pre-order your copy, click here.

Reflect and Respond:
As a mom, wife, or woman what have you felt guilty about in your daily life?

“Sometimes I feel more guilty for what I’m not than thankful for what I am.” This is such a powerfully honest statement. Think about three things you previously saw as negative, but can now celebrate about yourself.

Power Verses:
Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (NIV)

Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)

© 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

 

Unglued Mama Mornings

“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV 1984)

As the new school year approaches I’m making a bold commitment: No more unglued mama mornings. I want our mornings to go better this year with less frustration, yelling, and chaos.

I started thinking about this last spring when we had a string of really hard mornings.

One day, as I pulled up to the school, the atmosphere inside the car was thick with tension. Not wanting the last words spoken to my daughter to be harsh, I tried to change the course of our conversation before she headed into her day. “Listen, I love you. I’m sorry we had a rough morning.”

“We always have rough mornings,” she shot back before slamming the car door.

Nothing quite makes a mom feel more successful than a little dialogue like that.

As I rubbed the stabbing feeling in my chest, I thought, “Something has got to change. Each day I promise myself I won’t yell at the kids. But each morning something triggers me and I just lose it.”

Ever been there?

It’s not like we wake up in the mood to get frustrated with our people, right? I mean honestly, I usually wake up in a pretty good mood. But then the stress of getting everyone ready and to school on time makes the crazy creep in.

This one can’t find her shoes. That one needs a report printed and we have no ink. The bread for sandwiches is still at the grocery store because I forgot to buy it yesterday. And to top it all off, I have no cash to give the kids so they can buy lunch at school.

The whining. The complaining. The feeling that I can’t ever get it all together. It all escalates and sends me over the edge.

Well, I want this school year to be different. I want to be like our key verse today describes: “made new in the attitude of my mind.” The Greek word for “made new” is kaino. One of its definitions is uncommon. I want to be an uncommon calm in the midst of chaos and an example of peace for my kids in a world of pressure. For that to happen, I came up with a plan:

Tell the world to wait.
When I wake up, my mind is like a dry sponge. What I soak up first will saturate me most deeply. If I don’t want to be consumed with the stresses of my day, I must soak up what will renew my mind instead — God’s Word. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes, I’ve got to put the world on hold until I’ve checked in with God.

Remember I’m managing blessings.
If I want my attitude to be made new, I must keep things in perspective. While my frustrations seem big, things like lost shoes and less than perfect lunches aren’t big problems. They are small aggravations that come with managing blessings.

Let my kids own their ‘irresponsibilities.’
My kid’s irresponsibility will not become my emergency. I need to communicate my expectations so they know they’re going to have to own the consequences of their choices. For example, if they wait until the last minute to print their report and the printer has no ink, they’ll have to print it at school or turn it in late. Either way, I can’t own this situation and let it throw me into frantic, fix-it mode. I can let the consequences of my kid’s choices scream, so I don’t have to.

All of this is going to take some intentionality and I seriously doubt I’ll do it perfectly. But I’m excited about trying. I’m excited to “put on my new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Which is a fancy way of saying I’m excited to have less unglued mama mornings and a lot more peace this school year.

Dear Lord, thank You for the grace You give me every day. I don’t want to live in the same pattern of coming unglued anymore. Lord, help me put these principles into practice. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
What is the Lord showing you about your role in your relationship with your children today?

Which of the following action points can you put into practice tomorrow?
1. Tell the world to wait.
2. Remember I’m managing blessings.
3. Let my kids own their irresponsibilities.

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV)

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

© 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Living in a Season of “How Long?”

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Psalm 13:1 (NIV 1984)

Several years ago my husband Scott began to experience health problems that were extreme and unexpected, especially for someone his age. We had no idea when he’d get better. Weeks and months dragged by. Wondering, “How long?” took its toll on us.

Facing our uncertain future left my faith weak and I questioned if God had forgotten me. Despairing, I felt tired and lonely, and I wanted out.

King David was in a similar place of questioning God as we see in today’s key verse. “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) David’s circumstances had turned from promising to troublesome.

He’d been anointed king but didn’t step into his role immediately. While he waited for God’s plan to come to fruition he served the current king, Saul. During this time David gained respect and affection from the people of Israel, as well as those in King Saul’s court. Because of this, Saul became jealous of David and threatened his life numerous times.

As David wrote Psalm 13, he was on the run from King Saul and found himself in a hard place of losing hope. He needed encouragement and strength. In his desperate place of darkness, he asked God “How long?” The words that filled his heart fell from his lips as he cried out to the Lord.

Are you living in the unbearable days of “How long?” How long will I be unemployed? How long will my child be a prodigal? How long will I live with this life-threatening diagnosis? How long will I be lonely?

Sometimes our stay in “How long?” seems indefinite. The long stay causes us to become discouraged and lose hope for deliverance.

Knowing King David asked God “How long?” can strengthen our weakened faith. God used David’s words to strengthen Scott’s faith and mine. Praying his words in Psalm 13 renewed our communication with God by helping us realize the “right” words weren’t necessary. We could simply let the words filling our hearts fall from our lips as we cried out to God for help. Our strengthened faith equipped us to walk the long medical road to a diagnosis, treatment plan, and trust in God’s faithfulness through our “How long?”

Dear Lord, thank You for King David’s vulnerability. His words strengthen my faith and renew my hope for deliverance from my “How long?” Help me remember the lesson You’ve taught me today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
Are you currently living in a season of “How long?” Carve some quiet time out of your day to write your own “How long?” psalm. Let the words that are filling your heart pour from your lips.

Has God delivered you safely through a season of “How long?” Carve some quiet time out of your day to write a psalm of praise. Let the words in your heart pour from your lips.

Power Verses:
Psalm 17:1, “Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer — it does not rise from deceitful lips.” (NIV)

Psalm 51:15, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (NIV 1984)

© 2012 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.