Friday, April 11, 2014

When God says 'NO'

We've all heard it - God always answers prayer. Sometimes that answer is a clear 'Yes,' Sometimes a difficult 'NO,' and sometimes a frustrating 'wait.'

Recently God has opened the door and pressed upon my heart a new possibility. I had been praying about it and it continued to form and develop within my mind all the while seeming as if a curtain was still shading certain areas from coming into view. I knew clearly what he was saying about a few aspects of this thing but there was much that remained unclear and vague. I continued to pray. People came into the picture with the same vision that God had continued to give my heart. I invited them into this and one developed more strongly...and then it turned into live dynamite, pin pulled ready to explode, I just had to toss it out.


But how do you do that when it involves people.
How do you tell someone you no longer see this working or going in the direction that they took it?
How do you follow God's sudden halt even if it is going to mean stepping back from someone? Without hurting their feelings and making them feel bad?
How do you express all the red flags that have been shooting up since they came into the vision without pointing fingers at them in particular?
How do you go from being 100% in to 100% out all because God is clearly, obviously, vividly painting the picture in my heart: NO - STOP - THIS ISN'T IT 

Gently.
Respectfully.
Honestly.

That's how. 

I put it off for a while because I didn't want to say anything. I didn't want anyone to be upset. I didn't want what God was showing me to be true. But it is. Oh it is. And by not doing something sooner, this has progressed making doing something now...harder. 

But it has to be done. 

So I confront the situation head on with compassion and tenderhearted words. Saying that if for no other reason but God is setting an unease in my heart, I can no longer move forward. At least not at this time, in this fashion.

Because in the end, I boldly follow after my Lord and Savior one terrified step at a time no matter how uncomfortable how awkward how tense it may be. He is the one who directs my every step. 

We'll see how this goes - prayer for open hearts and similar feelings. Praying for God's Spirit to move and my words to be clear and gentle, to be taken well and responded to similarly. Praying that all in all, God will guide this and continue to develop what he wants to see happen and that he will unveil that to me and us in his time. 

Have you ever been in a situation where saying 'yes' to what God is guiding when he says 'no' to what you once though means sticky situations all around? What did you do? How did it end up?


Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley

Monday, March 31, 2014

Where do you sit?

Today we are going to look at Galatians 5:2-6 and will split it into two sections.

Let's take a look at the passage as a whole and then take it apart from there. The first part will be a reminder of previous points made followed by a refreshing bit of encouragement for us today.

"Look: I Paul say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. 

We are going to take a look at the first two sentences first, you can read them again here to follow exactly what I'm talking about.
"Look: I Paul say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace."
There is a lot here in these few sentences but I want to grab hold of the overall point that Paul is once again trying to impress upon the Galatians. If you have stuck with this studying so far you have come to see that this issue is huge for Paul, so huge that the core and foundation of the faith of the Galatians seems to rest on it.

Maybe because if they flex a little with this point then the entirety of their faith is bound to waver.
A reed shaken by the wind.  

Maybe because if we stray from parts of the truth of the scripture, incorporating other beliefs and religious ideologies Paul knew that we wouldn't have a better more inclusive faith, we would in fact be completely separated from Christ, fallen from grace, believing a made up conglomeration of 'good' thoughts. 
A reed shaken by the wind.

I get that it is hard to follow what is in scripture and account that as true and right and complete in a world that doesn't want to hurt feelings and leave people out, in a world where everyone has a right to everything even heaven, in a world where whatever is true for you works and I'll just believe what is true for me because then I don't have to confront your non-truth that you see as being truth and I can be seen as being 'loving' and 'accepting' and 'tolerant' and 'inclusive' and you can hold on to your false hope. It's hard. Because there's that chance that we would be called out as being 'unloving' when sharing Jesus as the only way to heaven, the only savior and redeemer in which we are all of need, is the most loving act I can think of. Especially when done through my actions.
"...and I will show you my faith by my works."

I get that it's hard and may set us up for some difficult situations, but we must stand firm to the core truths found in scripture: the living, breathing, active Word of God.

I want to remind you of what we first learned about the Galatians and why Paul was writing this letter to them:

The Galatians had received the truth of the gospel and had come to accept it. Then, they started adding to it. They started turning back to the law as a means of attempting to earn grace. They wanted to take a little bit of what they had done previously and add it to what they now were following and thought in doing so they would essentially have the best of both worlds. Outward examples of what being a 'religious' person did therefore gaining something in the religious circles of the day coupled with inward freedom and cleansing of grace. Yet Paul restates here that if you so choose to continue to keep even one part of the law, then by the entire law you will be judged and you will never be capable of keeping it all.

And in doing so,
"...you are severed from Christ."

THERE IS NO STRADDLING THE LINE WITH JESUS.

You are either with him or against him. You are either sitting under his yoke, blanketed in his grace with renewed mercies every morning, gaining freedom and power from him, OR you are placing yourselves under the yoke of slavery and in bondage to the things of this world. 

You are either FULLY TRUSTING that his death was enough for you, enough to cleanse you, enough to redeem your broken soul, enough to mend your tattered heart and realigned your scattered life, OR you are trusting in the false things of this world, in yourself and your own sense of control, in the 'law' and the things you can do. 
One leads to life, the other slavery. 
One leads to freedom, the other bondage. 
One makes room for growth and expansion and calm, the other breeds stress and pressure and failure and that imminent sense that everything is closing in. 

Grace or Law.

You get to choose. 

You get to choose where you sit, under which yoke you will live.

Trust Jesus. Fully. Wholly. Period. No additions. No Jesus and ____________. Just Jesus. Only Jesus. 

Only Grace. 

I was going to go into the next few verses but this got to be quite a bit longer than I was anticipating so we will visit those next time. 


Where do you sit? Do you live thinking that the things you do can impact your eternity? Do you live under the yoke of Christ or do you live in bondage to the things of this world - pleasing others? Pleasing self? Doing things to make you feel good? Accepting any religion as truth despite what the scriptures say? Where do you sit?

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley

Thursday, March 27, 2014

His Delight

It has been a long couple of nights with our baby girl resulting in a lack of mental energy and motivation to write. For that I am sorry.

Today's post will be quick but it has been an inspiring truth to me over the past few years as I have come to see its fruition in my life and in the journey we have ventured down.

As I was doing the studying for our weekly bible study, I came across this verse which brought such a sense of relief and a warmth of love, God's love washed over me. I couldn't help but want to share that with you today also so that maybe you could be comforted by these words.

"He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delights in me."
When all is crashing in around you, when your world seems to be falling to pieces, when the day to day pressures close in, when the weight of life bears down, when all seems to be shrinking around you, know, know, KNOW that the Lord your God is a God who rescues and delivers. He saves you from that and lifts you to a 'Broad Place.'

When all is pressing in, God holds the walls back.
He is your support, your comfort, your saving hand, your rescue.

He will fight alongside you and when you feel too weak to go on he will fight for you.
Valiantly.
Passionately.
Fiercely.

Why?

Because he delights in you.
The Lord God, the King of this Universe, the one who created everything with the breath of words, He, that God, DELIGHTS in you.

Which means no matter what scars you bear, what weights you carry, what pasts and present circumstances surround you, what patterns and habits you can never seem to shake, what things have happened to you and things you've done to others, no matter what, he not only loves you but he delights in you.

This word, Delight it means something that gives pleasure or enjoyment.

God find pleasure and enjoyment with us. He wants to be in relationship with us. He wants to fellowship with  us. He is not hovering over us ready to punish. He is not angry with us or mad at us. He is not lording control over us.

He wants to be one with us and us with him because he enjoys us and our company.

He enjoys me. He enjoys you

And with that all I can do is say Thank You Lord. Thank you Abba, Father, for finding delight in me and for being my ever present support and my ever necessary rescue.

Do you know that God delights in you? Whether you feel that way or not, know that it is true. Allow yourself to open up your heart to believe this truth meant for your broken heart and hurting soul.

You are His Delight!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where to put the kiddos?

"But Jesus called them to him, saying, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'"

My husband and I have never looked too intently into the details of a church's children's ministry prior to going there simply because we never before had children of our own. We didn't realize there is such a vast range of programming and structure for a children's ministry and looking back, we have been a part of a multitude of such programs. 

We have seen the extremes of no children anywhere near 'big church' to no resemblance of a children's focused ministry during the main service and everything in between. So with this, I want to open the door to discuss and venture down the rarely taken terrain of children's ministry. 

I see verses like that one above that says more than just 'let the little children come to me.' The second half of what Jesus says there could have so many implications within the environment of church.


"...and do not hinder them..."
 What does it mean to hinder a child in their venture of finding and falling in love with Jesus when it comes to the church? Does having children sit in the pews open the door enough for them to see and experience Jesus? Does a children's program during the service give them enough substance? Does having your children in the pew mean they are more likely to remain there throughout their life? Does having a children's oriented program provide difficulty when the transition to 'big church' is to happen?

I have seen many blog posts about this topic recently and rather than add to the chaos of people claiming and holding firm to one side or the other I wanted to subtly poke my head out there and offer something a little different.

My husband and I have traveled and lived in numerous cities and states and have visited more churches than we'd like to count in an effort to find a 'home church' in each of the places we've lived. And while prior to now, we haven't based that decision much off of what the children's program looks like, we haven't been oblivious to the atmosphere and attitude that surrounds the kids at the church.

We have been to churches where children are seen and not heard, or rather are barely seen and never heard. The children's programs at these churches are disconnected from what is happening during the service and disconnected from much of the power and authority and excitement found in the scriptures.

We have been to churches (like our current one) in which the children's pastor derives the children's message straight from the pastor's message, providing a cohesive learning environment and opportunity for further discussion between family members as they were able to learn the same truths at each individual's level.

We have been to churches where chaos ensues with children running around the 'sanctuary' worshiping in the only way they know how - crazy. 

And others where there is a sense of rigidity and regulation to the children sitting way too straight, way too still in the pew making way too little of noise for a child. 

We have also been to churches where the children were in the service and parts of the service were directed and aimed toward the children. There was a whole family worship atmosphere and attitude surrounding the entire service.

My conclusion in all of this:

     1.) NO ONE SIZE: While some ways of children's programming during a church service are better than others - there is no one size fits all example. Some environments work great for some families and children. The church I described where there was a whole family worship mentality worked amazingly for those families and that church and the church we go to now where the children learn the same message and same truths but at a level they can understand works amazingly for them.

                        ....Which leads me to an even greater point:

     2.) IT DOESN'T MATTER:  It doesn't necessarily, entirely, completely matter where your children are for 1-2 hours of their week if they aren't seeing and experiencing Jesus through the way you live throughout the rest of the 166 hours a week that they aren't in Sunday morning church. If your children aren't seeing you model what it looks like to have an active, living, genuine, relationship with Jesus, it doesn't matter if they see it for 1-2 hours each Sunday. What you do throughout the week is going to speak louder and deeper than anything they will get out of Sunday (TWEET)

And lastly, which somewhat follows in line with that:
   
    3.) Talk: If your children are sitting in the pew with you - talk with them after about the sermon. If your children are in a children's program during the service - talk with them after about what they learned. And then keep talking about it all week. Because it won't become a part of their every day life if they don't hear it and live it every day. Continue the Sunday sermon into your Monday and Tuesday and every day of the week. Which again brings me back to point 2...many times parents want their children to be more 'spiritual' than they are...but they have to see it and learn it first with us parents...

So I ask, are you living out your faith in a very real and tangible way that your kids can see? Are they struggling with something in school, friendships, on teams, with the family - do you pray with them about it or direct them to scriptures? Do you have time in which you study and look at God's word separately and together? What about time praying with and for your children and having them pray with and for you and their siblings? What type of Monday-Saturday living are you showing your children and does it involve Jesus?

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley

Sunday, March 23, 2014

You, Mom, Are Free.

Galatians 4 wraps up with reminders of previous things Paul has gone into more detail about in his first 3 chapters of Galatians as well as a look back into the Old Testament to show how the gospel was present there with the contrast between Sarah and Hagar being the sons of slavery or the sons of freedom.

But I must say I was so excited to get to the first verse of Chapter 5 because it feels like such a battle cry. Let's take a look there together:

"For FREEDOM Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." 


AMEN!?!?

When I first started this series, I wrote a post about this verse because I was so excited to shout out the freedom call! You can read that post here> If you feel you need a swift kick in the pants to get on a path of freedom jump on over there and take a look. 

I find many times it's easy for me to get caught up in what scripture is saying and with a desire to seeing women walking confidently forward in the life God wants for them I can become very much 'battle cry' in my writings. 

Today, I take a different approach. 

Using this same verse, there's something more I feel compelled to share. 

Rather than scream from the rooftops about the freedom that you have in store for you, the freedom that is rightfully yours because of Christ, the freedom that he wants you to embrace and live under, I want to soften this scream, decrease a few decibels and whisper into the hearts and souls of moms everywhere. 



You, weary new mom, having just made it through another day with what seems like every last ounce of energy dissipating quickly into the evening sky, you are free.

You, burdened mom, living with the self impressed guilt of looking into the lives of grown children gone seemingly astray daring to wonder where you went wrong, you are free. 

You, working mom, balancing the full work load and making an impact at work all the while thinking about your babies and running through the list of all you'd like to accomplish in those few precious hours with them each night, you are free. 

You, full time mom, struggling to remember your last good adult conversation, fighting not to lose yourself in between the PB&J sandwiches, the soccer games, underneath the nursing cover, drowned out by 'mom watch this' and 'mommy can I?' You are free. 

You, hurt mom, weighed down by the comparison you put on yourself and the judgments others sprinkle over you, subtly questioning your ability to be a mom, or at least portraying the idea that they could do it better, you are free. 

You, doubting mom, wondering if you're doing any of this right. You are free. 

You, guilty mom, saddened by the number of times you lost it with your kids in the past month, week, day, hour, though you try so hard you can never seem to stop your tongue from burning, you are free. 

Rather than belt this truth over you, I want to cup your strong fragile hearts in my own shaky hands and whisper so softly yet so confidently, you dear one, are free. 

Whatever mom you feel you are or combination of moms or one not even listed, know today that you are free. And no matter how many times you mess up, how many times you forget promises or field trip notes, how many times you feel not good enough to hold the title mom, know that you beautiful girl, are free, you are loved, and you are not defined by anything other than what Christ proclaims over you - a child of God's, precious, known, loved, forgiven, redeemed, restored, 

FREE.

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley