“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When Was The Last Time Scripture Changed You?
Guest Blogger: Sherrie Finch



"When was the last time scripture changed you?"  A thought-provoking question from the James Bible study.  My friend, Sherrie shared her answer with me and I thought it was so deliberate and so compelling that I asked if I could share it with you.  I pray that her words touch you and if you leave a comment, I will make sure she receives it.
 
When was the last time scripture changed you?
by Sherrie Finch 

When I first began writing out the entire book of James, as part of an assignment from my current Bible Study entitled; "James, Mercy Triumphs," I felt at first that I was doing it out of obligation, and it was yet just another assignment from which I'd learn from, but come away from only remembering portions. Then reality set in & His truth opened my eyes!

You see... I was living as if I had no timeline...and the only obligation I had was to finish this week’s lesson. You see I was a table leader for my group and what would that look like if I did not do the homework Beth has assigned...?

The 5 levels of participation Beth spoke of had me doing all 5....
  1. Watch the videos (easy)
  2.  Complete Homework (of course I am the leader!)
  3.  Handwrite the entire book of James (really? don't I have enough homework already...okay I will do it.)
  4.  Read Articles (from inside the book from Melissa) 
  5.  MEMORIZE JAMES...(still in process)

From James Chapter 1 to Chapter 5, I was changed. Whatever I was doing to "quench the word of God was not worth it" to "what we are delivered from, -we will be delivered to..." all spoke directly to my heart.

I too, struggled to always see Jesus in seasons where he wasn't that obvious.  Going through extreme grief over the suicide of my step-children’s mother, then going into a season of raging anger for the past 34 months... had me clinging to every word in James. 

When challenged with "When was the last time scripture changed you" I was certain it had not...
Then came Chapter 1 verse 26; (this is the ESV version)
"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue 
but deceives his heart, that person's religion is worthless!"
That was my "Ah-Ha" moment and at that very moment the Holy Spirit convicted me. This was MY life changing verse!

Is it not His amazing timing to walk with me through this time of my life? To use James and walk me through verse by verse the Resurrection Power of a God who showed me personally "He triumphs the power of my past"...if I was willing to let him. I found Christ did sear a hole through my protectiveness, and he took me and gently led me to a place I desperately needed to be in. Total Surrender!!

He challenged me in my raging anger to consider 3 new options. 
  1. Pray about it
  2. Obey His Word
  3. Trust God with the results!
Then he showed me the fruits of these and they encouraged me. (James 1:19-21) 
These 3 imperative steps were from God: 
  1. Be quick to hear; showed me to listen more instead of judging and attacking those around me. 
  2. Slow to speak; showed me to open my mouth only if it were edifying, and to think before I spoke.
  3. Slow to anger (HUGE FOR ME) taught me; "Few internal motivators rival anger" and then He led me to Ephesians 4:18 "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of ignorance that is in them due to their hardness of heart." 
Wow.... that got my attention for sure!! I was reminded of the fact that when the pain of holding becomes greater than the fear of letting go, that that is when we become willing to give up the very thing Satan meant for my demise and I learned to step out in the "living water of faith."

This time, I am ready! When all the anger that had blocked me from following His lead in the past--James showed me in scripture, we are now being brought to total submission by turning my "NO" to no and my "YES" to yes. And in order for me to stay alive on the branch I must abide in the vine and "LIVE LIFE WITH GOD!"...

Beth reminded us that "those who are wise do not pound it in." And that is what I needed... not someone to pound it in but to gently show me the way.  James did just that.  Praise God.

1 Peter 1:13 Reminded me "Therefore get your minds ready"...it showed me I need to abandon my current way of thinking and I needed to do it HIS (GOD's) way. After all. "He gives greater grace and opposes the proud." (James4:6)

I am confident that I now need to deliberate in what I resisted (in my case the anger) & draw near to (GOD).

I am proud to say that it is so reassuring to know that there will be no greater compliment in this realm than knowing God will someday say about me; "Have you seen my servant, Sherrie?"  When God revealed it, I needed to die to it...the self-gratification that anger had brought me and in doing just that He has taught me greater Joy and Peace.

-Sherrie

PS 26:3 "For your steadfast love is before my eyes, 
and I walk in your faithfulness"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"You Mean I Have to Fast... to Fast?"

Hungry middle schoolers just minutes from breaking their 30 Hour fast...

He handed me a permission slip early Thursday morning.  The 30-Hour Famine was the next day.  He had been talking about it for weeks.  But he had forgot to remind me of the proximity of the date... and he had forgot to ask for donations.  He was just so excited about spending the night at his school during the famine... and didn't mind that all his nourishment would come from the juice of his choice.  And so I wondered to myself... if his heart was in the right place to participate in the famine.

The fast-breaking bounty

The 30-Hour Famine is sponsored by World Vision.  A worthy charity.  Reaching the poorest of the poor.  Feeding starving children.  Why would I even hesitate in having Christopher be a part of the evening?  And to top it off... the audio book I am currently listening to is "The Hole in Our Gospel:What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World" which is written by the current CEO of World Vision.  And am I or am I not currently doing a Bible Study on the book of James?  A book of the Bible that leaves no room for not helping those in need?

"Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this 
if you learn all the right words but never do anything? 
Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? 
For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved 
and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" 
and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup
—where does that get you? 
Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?" 
James 2:14-17 MSG

The official break-fast

But none of those reasons compelled me to change my mind.  It wasn't until the Holy Spirit reminded me of a question that Christopher asked me earlier this year, "You mean I have to fast... to fast?"  And my mind was flooded with why he had asked that question.  Anthony and I had decided to join our church as it fasted media (for 5 days) earlier this year.  Christopher was not convinced to join us, so for incentive I had said, "If you want to participate in the 30-Hour Famine later this year, I want you to prove your commitment by participating in the media fast."  And that is when he said it.  He said, "You mean I have to fast... to fast?"  And I said, "Yes."  And he sighed, but agreed to fast media with us.  And so he did.

And so I did whole-heartedly support him in his participation in the 30-Hour Famine.  Gladly driving him early in the morning (even when I didn't have carpool duty) and picking him up and then driving him back to school and then coming back on Saturday for the fast-break.  Because I was keeping my promise... whether he remembered the promise or not. 

I just took a little break from writing this post and worked on Day 3, Week 6 of Beth Moore's James Bible Study.  It was based on James 5:12.  "Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned."

And as I worked on the study, I realized that my "Yes" was yes.  I had kept my promise to Christopher.  That my word was my bond.  That I fulfilled my vow after Christopher fulfilled his.  And had I not remembered him asking that one question... I might have missed this very moment.  The moment of realizing that I passed the test.  Perhaps small, but I passed it.  And best of all my son saw my example.  And even better than that... through all of this, we are raising money and recognition of those who are so desperately in need of our help.

So all of this wondering if his heart was in the right place... was a good challenge to see if mine was in the right place, too.

"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do 
and doesn’t do it, sins."  James 4:17



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Joining in Mark Batterson's Experilent




I am celebrating Lent by joining Mark Batterson's Experilent.  

"There is nothing magical about kneeling, but there is something biblical about it."

The 7:14 Experiment

From Mark Batterson's blog:

The 7:14 Experiment

We have a core value at National Community Church: everything is an experiment.  My favorite kind? Experiments that are based on the Bible.  I think of as them holy experiments. So here’s the scoop.  We’re going to circle II Chronicles 7:14 during Lent. I guess you could call it an experilent. What would happen if we circled this promise in prayer for forty days?  I intend to find out.
If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven.  I will forgive their sin and heal their land.
What if all of us hit on knees everyday at 7:14 AM?  Honestly, the time isn’t the issue.  I just think 7:14 is a nice trigger.  It can be 7:13 or 7:15.  It can be 6:37 or 8:22. AM or PM.  So it’s not about the time per se.  It’s about establishing a humble habit of kneeling before the Lord on a daily basis.  You can hit your knees when you get out of bed or when you get into bed. And it’s not about bowing the knee. It’s about bowing the heart.  There is nothing magical about kneeling, but there is something biblical about it.  I’ve found that my heart posture often mirrors my physical posture.
Are you in? Would you be willing to kneel everyday for forty days? For two or ten or thirty or sixty minutes?  If you want to be part of the 7:14 experiment, text the word LENT to 775.237.4364. We’ll send out a short text message at 7:14 AM everyday during Lent.  Just a daily reminder, a daily inspiration.  We’ll kick off on Ash Wednesday, February 22.  We’ll end on Easter Sunday.  Spread the word…
Let’s not seek blessings or miracles or opportunities. Let’s seek God.  And if we seek God, blessings and miracles and opportunities will seek us! If we get on our knees then God will extend His right hand on our behalf.
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of these things will be added to as well.”   Matthew 6:33

Are you celebrating Lent this year?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Making of This Mentor

On Wednesday nights at my church, I am participating in a DVD teaching series "The Making of a Mentor" by Alicia Britt Chole.  This class has been so beneficial to me as I learn more about looking to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior AND as the ultimate mentor.  Even more so I am learning about my sometime-not-so-realistic expectations of myself, as a mentor, and of my mentorees.

I learned something this past week that I thought was so insightful that I shared it already with two women that I am mentoring.  And they totally got it and had an "AHA!" moment.  And I thought I would want to share it with so many more women, but it really takes a visual aid... and where would I find one?   Well, I didn't find a visual aid, I had to make these two graphics myself, but I hope they get the point across.

Most of us expect our spiritual growth to be linear. (See graphic above.)  Essentially we learn something "a" (and perhaps overcome it) and we move on to the next thing.  If we run into "??a??" again, we think WHAT??? that we did not overcome it or learn about it or we are not as spiritually mature as we think we are or that we are even going backwards in our walk with Christ.

But what if we considered that our spiritual growth is more like an upward spiral coil.  Where we are constantly growing and maturing in our faith.  And as we grow upward, we learn something "a" and we continue to spiral upward in our faith.  But when we revisit "a" again we realize that we are actually dealing with it, but at a different level.  And perhaps God brings us through it for another visit to refine us or make us complete in our journey.  Who knows... perhaps even to help someone else.

For me, I can experience this with my depression.  If I looked at my spiritual growth as linear, each time that I experienced a period of time in my depression, I would think that I didn't deal with it properly the first time.  Or that I will never really overcome it.  But if I look at it in the light of the upward spiral growth, I would see that each time I have a bout with depression thanks-be-to-God it is less severe and does not last as long.

This could apply to addictions.  Or perhaps loneliness.  Or gossip.  Or any area of weakness.  As a mentor I need to see this in my mentorees.  And I need to see this in myself.  Knowing that God is constantly refining us.  Constantly growing us.  

I pray that these visuals help you if you struggle with wondering if you are truly maturing in your relationship with Christ.  Stay in the Scriptures.  Continue to Pray.  Fellowship with other believers.  Memorize or meditate on scripture.  Take a Bible Study.  Or who knows... find a godly mentor who will help you along the way as you seek to be more like Christ in your daily life.


"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so,
because your faith is growing more and more, 
and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing."  
2 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV84

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Persevere = through severe.

Persevere.  I've been thinking a lot about this word lately. Watching those around me persevere... and doing a little persevering myself. Last year I had the opportunity to teach on the book of James and then wrote the following post on February 24th, 2010... and since I am currently doing the James Bible Study by Beth Moore I thought I would share it... since I need a little refresher for myself.
Monterey Coast, California
photography by Anthony Kaetzel 


Perseverance is often relegated to the phrases "suck it up" or "get over it" or "move on." 

Origin of the word "Persevere" from Merriam-Webster:  Middle English, from Anglo-French parseverer, from Latin perseverare, from per- through + severus severe.

Persevere = through severe.

Through it.  Not over it.  Around it.  Or pretend it isn't happening.  Through it.
In the book of James, we come across the beatitude-like verse:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Our pastor is currently teaching on the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12.  He taught us that
Blessed" comes from the Greek word “makarios.”
Makarios is more than happiness; it is joy. It finds its source from within itself.
Makarios is self-contained, self-generating, and independent of all the chances and circumstances of life.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
because you know that the testing of your faith 
develops perseverance. 
James 1:2-3

Seriously?  Joy and perseverance?  Blessed and perseverance?  How is it possible to have joy and be blessed when we have to persevere?  Perseverance = through severe.  But how do we do that?


P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.
Pray
Educate
Read the Bible
Share
Envision
Vision
Endure
Remember
Encourage

Pray

…You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray… James 5:13

I think the first step to perseverance is to pray.  You may not like "the severe" you are going through… and you can feel free to tell Him that!  If you are in the middle of your "severe" you can ask for a miracle or relief or strength.  We don't have because we don't ask!


Educate

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, 
who gives generously to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to him. James 1:5

When we are in the midst of the situation, it is easy to get overwhelmed by it.  By gaining knowledge about our "severe" we can take away some of its power over us.  The more I know about the scientific biological side of depression the more I am able to make adjustments in my own behaviors.  Including medications, light therapy, journaling and rest.

When I get overwhelmed with my lack of parenting skills, I take time to educate myself.  Same with being married. What if your spouse suffers with alcoholism?  Or you are in debt?  Or your child has a diagnosis that overwhelms you?  Ask God to give you wisdom.


Read The Bible

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what it says. James 1:22

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law 
that gives freedom, and continues to do this, 
not forgetting what he has heard, 
but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25

I think being a marginal Christian is hell on earth.  If you are familiar with just parts of Bible verses, you may be under the impression that Christianity is like living a fairy tale.  When you read the Bible, you need to read the verses that are in context to your favorite one.  God is consistently taking His children through the "severe."  Through the Red Sea.  Through the fiery furnace.  Through the stormy sea. He takes us through it.  He is with us in the "through" it.  Our blessing comes from knowing He is with us.


Share

Therefore confess your sins to each other and 
pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 
James 5:16

We need each other.  We need to share our "severe."  Sometimes we need a different perspective.  This is what I love about mentoring.  Asking someone in your life to hold you accountable to the reality of your "severe."  To remind you that God is with you.  That God has a hope and future for you.  Someone who will show you compassion and not just commiserate.


Envision

But he gives us more grace…. James 4:6

Come near to God and he will come near to you… James 4:8

We need to know that God is for us and near us.  That we are not persevering on our own. We often envision a bleak future about our "severe" but we forget to envision that God will give us more grace to get through it.


Vision

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

What will it look like on the other side of your "severe"?  Ask God to give you His vision instead of relying upon your own.  If I look back on my life... and think if I hadn't persevered...
I would be divorced.  (Due to my own immaturity.)
I would be childless.  Or worse yet I would be an abusive parent. (I thought being abusive was hereditary.)
I would not have my church family or many of my friendships.  (Due to my own insecurity.)
Thank you, God!  For bringing me through my "severes" with grace!  For giving me a hope and future that is more abundant than I ever could have imagined.


Endure

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. 
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop 
and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
You too, be patient and stand firm, 
because the Lord’s coming is near. James 5:7-8

Sometimes, it is about the waiting.  And waiting can be tough.  And we can have real emotions that overwhelm us, but are unproductive.  When I begin to obsess about a "severe" I am going through, I use rubber band psychology.  Recently, I was in a situation where I felt totally misunderstood.  I wanted to fix it, but I needed to give the other person time.  However, the emotions kept gnawing at me.  I truly did want to get past those self-defeating emotions.  So, I put a slim rubber band on my wrist.  Whenever I had the urge to have negative self-talk, I pulled the rubber band and let it slap my wrist.  After a couple times... I got the hint and was able to not get caught up in the emotion... and get on with the getting through it! 


Remember

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 
James 1:17

Sometimes, we need a perspective shift.  We need to remember that God is for us.  We need to look at where we've been and thank God for what He has already brought us through. One of the best ways to do this can be with a grateful journal.  At the end of each day, write down five things you are thankful for... and before you realize it, you will thanking God all day long for His many blessings.


Encourage

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, 
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 
As you know we consider blessed those who have persevered. 
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and 
have seen what the Lord finally brought about. 
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:10-11

And this is what I am all about... encouraging others.  Comforting others with the comfort that I have received from the Lord.  Sharing the truth of His goodness and faithfulness.

Did you know that this same word phrase "we consider blessed" or "pronounce blessed" is only used one other time?  In Luke 1:48.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation. 
Luke 1:46-50

When Mary rejoices what God has done for her.  We know that ultimately she is blessed, but she was mindful of it even then.  And what a blessing.  Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Repeat!!!

Perseverance must finish its work so that 
you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. James 1:4

Okay, so it isn't just P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.  We need to add the "R" on the end because we truly are P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.R.s!  Each time we go through a "severe" we learn something.  That we can trust God and He will see us through.  The next "severe" will continue to mature us... until we are complete, not lacking anything.

I think of my husband pursuing his goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  With each attempt to qualify he learned more about his ability to complete a marathon in the required time.  Throughout the pursuit he continued to educate himself and added a coach and he met his goal!  

 Therefore, since we are surrounded 
by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and 
the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, 
the author and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, 
scorning its shame, and sat down 
at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12:1-3 


Persevere.  Through severe.  Blessed and joyful.  May I encourage you to not grow weary and lose heart... knowing that you will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

God bless you!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

You Need To Persevere...


So do not throw away your confidence; 
it will be richly rewarded.  
You need to persevere 
so that when you have done the will of God, 
you will receive what he has promised. 

Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV84