What’s Your Story?

“…And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel…as it is written, ‘Those who have not been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’.” Romans 15:20-21 ESV

Paul quotes Isaiah here to explain Paul’s own mission to the Roman Church: to evangelize. Paul fulfilled his mission in part by sharing his testimony, and we are called to continue that today.

You may think, I’ve been a Christian since I was little. Nothing exciting has ever happened in my life. I wasn’t saved from drugs or a bad relationship or anything drastic like that. My testimony isn’t terribly interesting.”

While God has given dramatic testimony to some, the stories of others are less so. But those stories are not less valuable. All our stories are given to us by God to be used for His glory. And there is someone somewhere who would benefit from hearing it.

Be thankful for your redemption story. Share it boldly. Ask God to use it for His glory. After all, that’s why He gave it to you.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

Why “Venting” Won’t Cut It

When God shows us our sin, we have to repent and turn from that sin back to God.  That means we aren’t supposed to go back to that sin.

Easier said than done, right?  YES!

Some things I turned from and never looked back.  Some things I turned from, and God had to work on me a while.  Some things God convicted me about, and I still struggle to turn from them.

You probably have a similar experience although the sins you struggle with – the things you do that do separate you from God – may be different from mine.

Lately, God has been convicting me about my talk.  He reminded me that we have to be holy in our behavior.  He also reminded me that what comes out of my mouth reflects what’s in my heart.

 

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Image Credit: Instagram

He reminded me that I should come to Him when I get frustrated with someone else’s behavior rather than “venting” to another person about what has made me angry or hurt my feelings.

“Venting” is what we call it when we complain or fuss to a third party about our frustrations.

For example, I could vent to my sister when I’m frustrated with my husband; I could go to her (and sometimes do) to complain or fuss about something he said that hurt my feelings or something he did that made me angry.

So, I vent to blow off steam, to let off the pressure, and then it’s all over, and I can move on, right?

But really this is just talking behind my husband’s back, isn’t it?

And it didn’t really fix anything, did it?

In fact, the only thing I’ve succeeded in doing is making it worse.

If we honestly look at it, venting is dangerous.  It changes our mind and heart toward the person or thing we are venting about.  It hardens our hearts more toward the situation and the people involved.

It also hardens the heart of the person we vent to.  It literally changes how that person perceives the person we’re venting about.  So, it causes the confidant or third party to sin, too.

So, what the heck do I do when I’ve been wronged, and I’m angry?  When I need to fuss about what someone’s done to me?  When I need to vent my frustrations?

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Image Credit: Les Feldick Bible Study 

Go to God.  Pray to Him.  Talk to Him about what that person said or did.  How the person made me angry.  How I want God to change that person.

You can do this, too, when you need to vent.

You can yell at Him.  You can cry.  Be angry.  Be hurt.  Be heart-broken.  He can handle it.

Warning – God might not change that person who wronged you.  But, He’s very likely to change your heart toward that person.

I know you don’t want that.  You aren’t the problem, right?  The other person is…so you may have to “get right with God,” as they say, before you can do this – knowing you’re more likely to be changed and the other person might not be.  Wrestle with Him about that, too.  God will speak to you in that wrestling. He wants you to bring it to Him.

And maybe God can use the change in you to bring about change in the person who wronged you after all.  Maybe the other person sees the change in you and how you treat them, and God uses that to soften their heart so He can change them…kinda crazy, huh?  But that’s how God works.  His kingdom is upside-down, and His ways are not our ways.

So let’s try it.

I’m working on it, too.

The next time I am angry or hurt and feel the need to talk to someone about my issue with someone else, I’m going to talk to God instead.  I’m going to take my frustration or anger to Him and allow Him to have His way with my heart.

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Image Credit: Klove.com

Pray this prayer with me…

Dear God,

Living in the world as your child seems difficult sometimes.  Your ways aren’t my ways.  You call me to be different, and I want to do your will.  You are wise.  You are love.  You are the Creator.  You know how this is supposed to work.  You see how it is meant to go.  You know how it is going to end up.

You have control, and I thank you for taking that from me.  You take my burdens and ask me to simply rest in you.  You ask me to take your yoke which is light.  You ask me to live according to your commands.  Help me to do that.

Take my life, Father.  Have your way with it.

Amen

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Read more posts about how to handle hurt feelings.  Also, read more posts about how to handle Satan’s attacks.  The temptation to vent to someone other than Jesus comes from Satan, and you can combat that temptation the same way I discussed combating other temptation from the enemy.

Are You Stubborn Like Me?

The promises God gave us in the Bible are sufficient that we should obey what He tells us to do right away. He promises us, His children, everything He promised to the Israelites in the Bible. God, through His word, promised us His presence, salvation, grace, love…this should be enough to warrant our immediate obedience when we have a word from God.

But, just like Gideon in the book of Judges, we hesitate. Our faith is weak. Our theology is off. We want God to prove it’s Him! We ask for a sign to make ourselves more confident.

I’ve been there. I’ve taken months, even years to respond with obedience to conviction from God through the Holy Spirit. At first, it was because I didn’t know it was God. I wasn’t walking with Him. I wasn’t allowing Him to be my shepherd, so when He spoke, I didn’t know His voice.

Now, I honestly have no excuse. I walk and talk with Him daily. His voice is familiar. Yet I’m still slow to respond sometimes. I’m still reluctant.

At times, I’m just plain stubborn. I don’t want to do what He’s told me to do – not right then at least.

But delayed obedience is disobedience.

Sometimes I don’t want to do the thing the way He’s told me to do it. In my pridefulness, I think my way is better – MY timing, MY sequence, MY procedure.

Even though I know better, y’all!

In the end it always comes back to Him though. I try to do it the way I want to do it rather than the way God said to do it, and I screw it up. Then, I have to throw up my hands, and do it His way after all.

Wouldn’t I have wasted less time, used less energy, and endured less struggle if I just did it the way He told me to do it in the beginning? The first time I felt Him nudge my heart?

He gets the glory in the end anyway – no matter how I respond in the beginning. But do I miss out on some of the blessing I would have received if my obedience had been immediate? Do I fracture my faith? Do I tarnish my testimony? Do I hurt my heart? Am I a poor witness for others?

Fixing Me Was God’s Job (Repost)

Author’s Note: Ethan and Emery are in school, and i am on week 2 of my new job (will blog about that soon since I addressed it in an earlier post). So, I am taking a short break from writing new posts this month so I can focus on time with the kids and getting used to the new job.  In the meantime, I am reposting pieces of my testimony that were published when I started the blog in October 2017). 

God can use any time, place, or circumstance He wants to use to get through to you.  He can speak to you in the most unlikely of places and in the craziest of ways.

When I was 31, after spending more than 10 years ignoring God’s voice (and at times even denying that Jesus existed), I actually obeyed God’s calling and left my full-time job to be a work-from-home-mom and be with my then-16-month-old son.

To date, it it probably the craziest thing I have ever done.  Most of the things God asks us to do seem crazy at the time; that’s why those things are known as a “leap of faith.”  They aren’t things we could accomplish in our own power or with our own knowledge, skills, or money.

And that’s where I was in May 2010: being obedient to Jesus when I still wasn’t even sure I believed in Him!  I didn’t have trouble believing in a Creator God overall, but I had lost Jesus – the man who walked and talked and healed and taught and died and lived again.

So, what God did was to remove me from the busyness of the life I had created with a job and a mortgage and a husband and a child and a pet, and He sat me down at the family-heirloom dining table in our house and confronted me with myself.

Now, I’m not trying to say that staying home with your baby isn’t busy, but it was a lot less so for me than when I worked full-time outside the home.  I still worked part-time from home and cared for our home and our son, but God had cleared my schedule quite a bit.

Life was quieter now.  Life was slower now.  I had time to think.  (Funny, “thinking” was what got me into the mess I was in in the first place, but thinking was also what God used to get me out).  I finally acknowledged that I needed help with my mind and my thoughts about God and Jesus.

At first, I tried to fix myself.

I remember reading a book or two I thought would help me believe in Jesus again.  At this point, I really wanted to believe in Him but couldn’t fathom ever being able to again.

I did pray sometimes and ask God to help me.

I was so used to scholarly-type study from 6 years of higher education that I thought maybe I could study my way back to believing in Jesus.

So, I got a Bible commentary to read what scholars said about the Bible hoping that some smart person’s “proof” would sway me.  I read the book of James because I heard someone say it was a good idea for new Christians to start with that book when reading the Bible.

God led me to meet some Christian moms from our church and start going to MOPS – Mothers of PreSchoolers – at our church with them in the fall of 2011.

I began to feel God more.  It was slow, but it was there.  I knew my worldview was made-up, but I still didn’t want to submit it to God.

I was working hard to fix myself before I went back to the Lord.  I thought He wanted me fixed before He would take me back.  {Spoiler alert} That’s where I was wrong.

Fixing me was God’s job.  Fixing YOU is God’s job.

He doesn’t require us to come to Him already perfect.  {Hint} If you wait until you’re perfect before you go to God, you’ll never go to Him.  If God waited to save us until we were perfect, He’d never have anyone to save!

When It All Changed (Repost)

(Author’s Note: August means school is right around the corner, and the kids start 4th grade and kindergarten in a few weeks.  Plus, I start a new job after Labor Day – will blog about that soon since I addressed it in an earlier post.  So, I am taking a short break from writing new posts this month so I can focus on time with the kids and getting ready for the new job. 

Have you ever been walking along through your life, happy in your own little bubble of comfort and familiarity, when all of a sudden – BAM – the bubble bursts, and you realize not everybody is like you?  Yep!  That’s exactly how I felt when I was 18 years old, and I stepped onto the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW).

The first 18 years of my life were fairly structured and sheltered.  I had a simple childhood.  Most of the people around me had grown up in a similar way.  Most of my friends were from middle-class, southern, Christian families, too.

My family went to church regularly, and I was saved sometime around 12-years-old.  To add to that, my parents were fairly strict, so I stayed out of trouble in high school.  I grew up in a small town anyway.  Everybody knew my parents and me, so it would have been challenging to get away with very much.  I was what you’d call a ‘good girl’, for the most part, but it wasn’t necessarily because I was convicted as a result of my relationship with God and wanted to bring Him glory.  It was mostly to avoid being grounded and having my car taken away. 🙂

But, when my parents cut me loose on the campus of UNCW in August of 1997, I took full advantage of the 150 miles between my hometown and the exciting new place to which I had moved.  I had my wild streak and made up for the lost time in high school.

(It is noteworthy to mention that, although they were a two-and-a-half-hours drive away from me, my parents and my upbringing still held pretty strong sway over much of my behavior.  I did what I wanted to an extent, but I still held it in check.  That distance didn’t mean they had no influence or power over me at all.  I didn’t want them to make me come home, so I took my rear end to class and made decent grades).

Although I got to exercise my freedom and experience some of the things my parents warned me about, the thing that was damaged most by my choices was my faith…and I didn’t even realize it was happening.

During my first semester as a college freshman, I took an elective called Introduction to Religion.  It was a survey of religion as a whole – more of a philosophical look at the institution of religion, if I remember correctly.  I have no idea why I took it though; I must have needed an elective, and it fit into my schedule.

I distinctly remember a lecture early in the semester when the teacher said that religion was man’s creation.  He explained that man-made religion was a way to answer life’s big questions: Why am I here?  How did I get here?  What happens when I die?

Those words stand out to me even now.  That was a pivotal moment for me.  I should have followed Paul’s warning to the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 10:5…”take captive every thought to obey Christ.”  But I didn’t do that. I highly doubt I even knew that was a thing.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Instead, I remember thinking that my eyes were being opened.  I was excited!  I felt enlightened!  I felt as though I were figuring out some mystery all by myself.  This was an epiphany – an important revelation to which I was privy.  I thought, “Everyone is just trying to figure out life and make it in this world!  We just do it differently.”

Photo Credit: Pinterest

This enticed me further onto a path that I happily walked down.  I was willing.  I was discovering.  I was eager to uncover more of this new reality about which I was learning.  I didn’t see it at the time, but these patterns of thought were what led me to completely turn my back on Jesus and spend more than 10 years walking out on my own.  I thought I was liberated.  I thought I was so modern.  But I was heading toward a dangerous place, a place God doesn’t intend for His children to go.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Christian Mom – What are You Teaching Your Kids?

What do you want your children to remember about you after you’re gone?  What do you want them to learn to value from you? What’s the most important thing you could teach them?

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The Hooks Family June 2017 – Image by Real Promises Photography

My children will likely learn that family is to be treasured.  We are very careful to spend time with both sides of our families: their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins as well as extended family – great grandmothers, great aunts and great uncles and other cousins.

Ethan and Emery already know a little bit about household finance as Bill has focused on that since we used Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball method to get out of debt.  Bill frequently plays Ramsey’s radio show podcasts in the car and at home.  Ethan even requests to hear them sometimes.  (I think it’s because Ramsey often says things like “dumb”, “idiot” and “stupid” – words we have asked our kids not to use.  I hear stifled snickering coming from the back seat when Dave explains to someone, quite emphatically, how stupid it was to go into debt to buy a new car).  The main thing is, though, that both kids are learning at a young age that it is essential to manage your money and that going into debt is a big no-no.

The kids also are learning that it is necessary to take care of our bodies – to remain physically active and to consider what we eat. Bill and I typically get up an hour early 3 days a week to do cardio workouts at home.  Sometimes the kids get up early too, and heckle us about how we’re doing the moves wrong or asking how come mommy is stopping (breathing heavily with my hands on my knees) when the people on the video are still going. We often have conversations about why they should eat less mac-n-cheese and french fries and more green beans and grilled chicken.

But, I have to ask myself, “Are these the most vital things my kids should learn from me?” Family, finances, and fitness are valid lessons. In fact, they are part of what it means to Christians to be stewards of our bodies and the resources God has given us.  They are significant pieces of the Christian walk. But, should they be our main focus?

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Family photo of me and the kiddos summer 2017

The answer is – NO.

If I follow Christ, and I do, the most important thing my children should learn from me is to trust God.

End of story.

I was reading a lesson in the Experiencing God bible study by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King, and was reminded of this.  The authors write, “Our greatest contribution to God’s kingdom is teaching our children to watch to see where God is at work around them and then join Him.”

The thing is, God already has a purpose for them.  He did before Bill and I ever even decided we wanted to be parents.  {Hint – He has a purpose for everyone. Don’t believe me? Read Psalm 139: 13-16 and pay close attention to verse 16}

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Yes – God already has a plan for each and every one of us including my kiddos.

The lesson in Experiencing God reminded me that, first, God’s purpose is that people become more like Christ.  I was reminded to pray with and for my children.

Ethan has already asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life, so one of my prayers for him is that God will show us how to disciple Ethan so that Ethan will learn to follow God’s call on his life.

As far as we know, Emery has not asked Jesus into her heart, so my prayer for her is that she will and that she will come to trust Him and follow His calling on her life as well.

I was also reminded to talk to my children about how God has already worked and continues to work in my life and in our family’s life.  (This should be just as much a part of our family’s story as are Dave Ramsey radio show podcasts and cardio workouts).

Incorporating this could be a little tricky for parents though.

Our first instinct as parents is to point our children back to ourselves: when they ask for advice on making a decision, when they face a difficult situation with peers, and so on.  I don’t think this is 100% wrong 100% of the time, but we have to be careful. Are we facing these issues in a Christ-like way or as the world would face them?

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

For example, Ethan is already talking about what he wants to do after school, what his job might be.  When he talks to me about it, I try to encourage him to ask God. I have assured him that God has a plan for him and will tell him what to do if he will only ask.  Plus, I don’t want to inadvertently point him toward or away from something just because it is what I would prefer for him to do.

Henry Blackaby says to ask “God-centered questions.”  He explains: “Instead of ‘What would you like to be when you grow up?’  I would ask, ‘What do you sense God wants you to do?’…I wanted my kids to learn to put their trust in God, not in their parents.” (emphasis mine)

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

This is ultimately what my husband and I want as well.  I pray that this is what you want for you family, too.

So, let’s follow the recommendations in Experiencing God: Pray with and for our children.  Talk to them about how God has and is working in our lives.  Worship and serve with them.

This is the greatest thing we can do for God’s kingdom.

How about you?  How did your parents point you to God and encourage you to seek Him and His purpose for you life?  How do you foster this in your own children?

If you do not have children of your own (or yours are adults), how can you encourage a pursuit of Christ in the lives of younger or less mature Christians around you?

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10: 24-25, NIV

 

What To Do If You Have a Critical Spirit

You’re in for a treat today – our first guest post on Servant Girl Stories. I am honored to introduce my friend, Leigh, founder of Be Still Mama ministries at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. Leigh and I met about 3 years ago when she and her husband, Brian, joined our life group at church. Since then, I have grown closer to her as a friend as our journeys as moms have merged. I also participate in Be Still Mama and enjoy working with her to encourage and love on the moms who also become involved in the ministry. She has such a heart for moms of young children and desires to pour into those moms and help lead them to the foot of the cross. Please welcome, Leigh Anderson!

By: Leigh Anderson

Growing up in the cul-de-sacs of a few big city suburbs, riding bikes and managing sticker collections, I didn’t have much to be critical about other than broken sidewalk chalk or a missing New Kids on the Block cassette tape. Or the fact that we got to pick out one “sugar cereal” per month and my brother would eat the entire box in one sitting as soon as we got home. Those were my critical moments, until my life changed one day in the formal sitting room in the front our house.

It was late afternoon, our friends were playing outside, and it was the first time I’d ever felt my chest tighten and my stomach go into a knot as the word “divorce” came out of my parents’ mouths to my brother and me. (Divorce is just as much a part of my parent’s story as it is of mine, so I share this milestone with the utmost respect for them but as a pivotal point of brokenness in my life).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

The onslaught of changes was not gradual; it was abrupt, and life as we knew it was completely different for all 4 of us mere hours after that conversation happened. I experienced brokenness beyond what I’d ever experienced. And being so young, it was difficult to name it or understand it or tell anyone how I was feeling because I simply didn’t know.

We moved out of state shortly after that, and our new reality was unlike any I’d ever experienced. It presented more challenges than successes. That wasn’t only true for our family but also true within the new community where we’d moved.

Naturally, if people have something in common, that will be the subject of conversations. Our common thread was struggle, and it was mostly what anyone talked about. There weren’t people in our community coaching people to have positive attitudes, to talk highly of each other, to stop gossiping, to lift each other up, or to spur one another on. It was just natural to share the crappy thing that happened that day and who did it. Those were just the everyday subjects of conversations.

Slowly but surely as we lived our lives and grew up, that mentality of complaining or criticizing, something I viewed as normal and right, stuck with me. And I didn’t even realize it was something bad.

I didn’t realize all of this until a friend recently had the courage to shed light on this aspect of my personality and challenged me to really work on it. After talking with her and thinking about it for a while, a light went off in my head. I’ve known for a long time that I struggle with a critical spirit during particularly stressful seasons of my life, but now I know why. And now that I know why – because it’s been a part of my life for 30+ years – it’s time to make some changes.

In Be Still Mama, the ministry I lead, I’m passionate that we all find the root to the challenges we face. If we don’t dig straight for the root, treating the symptoms is a waste of time. When we focus on the bad in others, our circumstances, or ourselves we focus our eyes on brokenness, not wholeness. God’s will for us is wholeness, and we can only have that in relationship with Him. When we focus so much on brokenness, it’s what we ultimately become – broken in our relationship with Him – because we took our eyes off of Him and started staring at everything that’s wrong.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

We form and feed critical spirits within ourselves when we continue to focus on the flaws of our spouses, our children, our friends, or the people we resent. The resentment comes after they fail to meet the expectations we’ve set for them – my husband hasn’t lifted a finger around the house, my friend didn’t respond to my text for 12 hours, my kids won’t listen or obey and they fight all the time. It’s easier to tear down these people in an effort to feel better about ourselves than it is to compliment them on something they’ve done well or a character trait we really admire. When in reality the latter is the key.

My pre-programmed reaction for brokenness is to criticize and wrestle with how that circumstance or that person made ME feel. I made every encounter with brokenness about me, and that’s the total OPPOSITE of what we’re called to do with it. Big no no.

When we encounter brokenness, specifically in people, we have several choices. We can talk about them to others, we can criticize/judge them within our own hearts, or we can make the choice to see them exactly how Jesus sees them.

The reason God doesn’t want us judging each other so harshly is because we simply don’t know what we’re talking about. We see a sin; God sees the heart. We see an annoying behavior; God sees a stronghold. We see poor choices; God sees pain that they won’t let Him heal. Many of these instances naturally become a lot less personal because I’m making them more about God and less about me.

Learning this lately has been so refreshing. It also shined light on how damaging it was to my own heart to operate in a critical and negative way. And as a mom, if my heart’s damaged and I operate out of that place, there’s a high probability that I’m causing damage to my family.

Encourage someone today. Double points if it’s someone who’s recently really let you down. We encourage and uplift people as an act of obedience to God’s commandment for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. You need encouragement; you need forgiveness; you need to know you matter, so give that to someone else today. May we not love in an effort to see what we can get from other people; may we love other people because we love God – as simple as that.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Meet the Author: Leigh Anderson is a follower of Jesus, wife to Brian, and mom to two toddlers. She graduated from Newberry College with a degree in Communications and Sociology and went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Film/Television/Media Theory from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Although her plan was to sell everything and move to New York City to take a producer position at CBS News New York, God had other plans. Instead, she spent the last 14 years in professional ministry roles in communications and marketing. Most recently, she was the Director of Marketing and Community Engagement for the Christian radio station New Life 91.9.

After being laid off from New Life in 2014, she became a stay at home mom and through the inspiration and leadership of another Charlotte ministry leader, launched the ministry of Be Still Mama at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.

You can find Leigh on Facebook at Leigh Baldwin Anderson and at the public group Be Still Mama.

Rethink the Resolution

Don’t make any New Years resolutions for 2018.

If you’ve already made some, just forget ‘em.  Statistically speaking, most people don’t keep their resolutions anyway.  I quit making them several years ago because I didn’t keep them.

Resolutions are a little self-centered anyway, don’t you think?  We resolve to lose 20 pounds or stop smoking or train for a 5k or cut gluten from our diets or get out of debt.  Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good things.  It wouldn’t be bad to determine to do some of them in 2018.

But, I propose we do something more God-centered in 2018.  Let’s make a pledge with God, for God, rather than making resolutions with ourselves, for ourselves.  Let’s pledge to strengthen our relationship with God this year.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

How do we do that?  Well, how do we strengthen a relationship with anyone in our lives: spouse, child, parent, sibling, co-worker, neighbor or friend?

Engage with that person.  Talk with that person.  Listen to that person.

Engage. Talk. Listen.

This is how we build and grow our relationship with God as well.

Engage with God’s Word in the Bible.  Talk with Him in prayer.  Listen to Him in quiet time.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us about God’s Word: The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Commentary in the English Standard Version says, “The Word of God then acts as God Himself, so that one’s innermost thoughts and intentions are exposed.  This happens constantly in Christians’ lives.”

When you read God’s Word, it physically does things to you because it behaves as God Himself.  To borrow words from the verse, it is alive, it is sharp, it pierces or cuts, and it discerns or judges.  When you read God’s Word, it drives through to your very core and exposes everything to God – what you think, what you feel, what you intend to do, your fears, your values, your beliefs, everything.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

What do you think will happen if everything in our hearts is exposed to God?  He will give us grace and mercy, and He will change our hearts.  He will align our hearts with His will, and when our hearts are brought in line with His will, our relationship with Him deepens.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Talking with God in prayer will also take us closer to Him.  Sometimes people ask why we should talk to God when He already knows our thoughts.

Let me use an illustration I have heard so many times that I cannot give credit to the original source.  Just know that it didn’t come from me.

Imagine you’re in a romantic relationship – married or dating.  This is someone you supposedly care about very much.  Imagine what would happen to this relationship if you never talked to this person.  You sat beside this person on the couch and watched TV or you rode beside this person in the car and texted or you sat across from this person at the table and ate your food, but you didn’t talk.  You didn’t share your feelings or reveal your fears or discuss your goals or tell this person you loved him or her.

Bottom line: this relationship would not last.

It works the same way with God.  He wants us to talk to Him and with Him.  He wants to hear from us.  He wants us to share our fears and our desires with him.  What’s more, the Bible assures us over and over that He is listening. And He hears our prayers.

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One such verse is Psalm 34:15.  It says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears hear their cry.”

He.Is.Listening.

Talk to Him.

However, the most important way to go deeper in your relationship with God in 2018 is to listen to God.

Remember the scenario of the romantic relationship earlier?  Well, let’s say you do talk when you’re with that person.  You talk A LOT…about yourself: what you want, what you need, what you’re afraid of, what you think, what you don’t understand.  But, you’re so busy talking that you don’t listen to the other person’s fears, desires, and thoughts.  What will happen?

This relationship will not last.

Now, imagine this other person in the relationship where you’re doing all the talking is God – the Sovereign, the Most High, the Alpha and the Omega.  He knows all – including the purpose for our lives, so it stands to reason that we ought to listen to Him, probably even more than we talk to Him.

In Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, King Solomon talked about our attitude toward God.  He said, “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.  Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God.  For God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.”

Listening is imperative if we are going to grow closer with God.  We have to listen so He can tell us His will.  We have to listen so He can show us the way.  Then, when we do pray, our hearts are in line with His will, and we will want what He wants for our lives.  That should be our goal.

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We listen in our quiet time.  I’m sure you’ve heard this term, quiet time, before.  This is time we spend with God just listening. Being still.  Being quiet in mind and body and focusing on what He has to say to us.

Focus on what He tells you to do during this time.  Who does He want you to talk to?  Where does He want you to go?  What does He want you to do?  When you go to Him and are quiet, He will tell you.  As you listen to what God has to say, He changes your heart so that you want what He wants.

This is my pledge for 2018 – to spend time with God – reading His Word, talking with Him, and most importantly, listening to Him.  This year can be a year of spiritual change for you and for me if we will pledge to do these things to grow closer in our relationship with our God.

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Do you spend time praying, reading the Bible and/or listening to God?  If you do, what are some of the positive effects this has had on your life?

If you don’t do these on a regular basis, what do you think is keeping your from doing them?

I Was The Prodigal

It was a gradual thing: me turning my back on God and deciding Jesus never existed.  It was gradual, but it eventually held fast.  My heart became stone.

Just as gradual was me turning BACK to God.

He had been working on me persistently since about 2005, and He really stepped it up when He called me to leave my full-time job to stay at home with our son.  I obeyed; it was May 2010.  Through a series of events, He kept wooing me closer – slowly but steadily.  He had me in a group of Christian moms who met in a MOPS group sponsored by our church.

I was searching – this time for Jesus.  I really wanted Him to be real to me again.  When I read things in the Bible that He’d done, I wanted to KNOW for sure that those things had actually happened.

I wanted to KNOW that His feet had taken him to sit by the well where He talked with the woman from Samaria (John 4:4-26).

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I wanted to BELIEVE that He actually wore the cloak that the woman in the crowd touched.  She’d been afflicted for nearly 12 years and had found no relief.  However, she heard that Jesus was coming and believed that just touching His clothes would heal her of her affliction (Luke 8:43-48).

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I needed Him to be real again.

After about a year, the MOPS group dissolved into a Women’s Bible study.  I moved on to that with some of the mom-friends I had from MOPS.  I was very excited!  I was ready to be pushed and challenged and really dig into the Word.  It was time!  God was stirring.  He had been working on my stone heart; it was softer now and ready to be fed.

I dove head-first into the first Bible study, Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering, by Angela Thomas.  In this study, Thomas uses the Sermon on the Mount to show how to give our lives as an offering to God.

I prayed.  I read the study and my Bible.  I wrote in my journal – things I felt, prayers to God, and what I learned from reading the scripture.

God began to speak to me – through the study and through sermons at church.  I had never been convicted by a sermon in my life!

Our preacher, Mike Whitson, talked one Sunday about how a Christian should show God’s love.  We should love other people simply because they are God’s child, not because they are lovable.  I realized I didn’t love people unless I wanted to.  During the invitation, the preacher called for people to come to the altar, and I practically RAN down there!  It was one of the few times in my life that I have voluntarily gone to the altar.  I begged God to help me love people because I didn’t.  I asked Him to break my heart and make me love people the way He did.

About the same time, Preacher Mike gave another sermon about the Christian life producing fruit because of the Christian’s relationship with God.  I didn’t have anything like that in my life.  I could say I was saved when I was 12, but now I was in my mid-30’s and had nothing to show for it.

Those two sermons convicted me.  I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  I asked God to break me.  I asked Him to help me to love people like He did.  I begged Him to help me believe in His Son again.

And, all of a sudden, He DID!  Jesus was there, and He was REAL!  The process God used to get me to that point was gradual, but He was working on me and softening my heart.  When I finally realized it, it seemed like everything was just…“POOF”…fixed…after praying and begging and reading and journaling.

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HE WAS REAL AGAIN!

When I read things in the Bible that He’d done and said I saw them and heard them and believed them.

The Angela Thomas study showed me that I’d done a crucial thing – I had turned back towards Jesus.  That’s all He’d been waiting for.  He was waiting for me to ask.  He was waiting for me to give Him permission to take over my life and heart.  I didn’t need to do anything to fix myself or make myself believe in Jesus again…except turn my face back towards Him.  He did the rest.

Thomas used the story of the prodigal son to illustrate this concept.  She described how the prodigal realized the error of his ways and set out for home to ask his father’s forgiveness and try to ask him for a job.  The story says, however, that when the father saw the son, way off in the distance, coming back toward home, the father RAN to meet the son.  The father was so excited that his wayward child was coming home that he didn’t wait on his child to get to him…he RAN out to meet his son.

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Thomas explained that this is how it is with God – you simply have to turn towards Him and He will run to you.  This is exactly what happened to me.  He saw me turn towards Him.  He knew my heart, that I wanted Him, and HE RAN TO ME!

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Praise the Lord!

He healed my damaged mind.

He softened my heart to allow Himself back in…and I believe!

I KNOW!

Hallelujah!

Have you ever been a prodigal child?  From God or from your family?  What made you turn back towards home?

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Fixing Me Was God’s Job

God can use any time, place, or circumstance He wants to use to get through to you.  He can speak to you in the most unlikely of places and in the craziest of ways.  When I was 31, after spending more than 10 years ignoring God’s voice (and at times even denying that Jesus existed), I actually obeyed God’s calling and left my full-time job to be a work-from-home-mom and be with my then-16-month-old son.

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To date, it it probably the craziest thing I have ever done.  Most of the things God asks us to do seem crazy at the time; that’s why those things are known as a “leap of faith.”  They aren’t things we could accomplish in our own power or with our own knowledge, skills, or money.

And that’s where I was in May 2010: being obedient to Jesus when I still wasn’t even sure I believed in Him!  I didn’t have trouble believing in a Creator God overall, but I had lost Jesus – the man who walked and talked and healed and taught and died and lived again.

So, what God did was to remove me from the busyness of the life I had created with a job and a mortgage and a husband and a child and a pet, and He sat me down at the family-heirloom dining table in our house and confronted me with myself.

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Now, I’m not trying to say that staying home with your baby isn’t busy, but it was a lot less so for me than when I worked full-time outside the home.  I still worked part-time from home and cared for our home and our son, but God had cleared my schedule quite a bit.

Life was quieter now.  Life was slower now.  I had time to think.  (Funny, “thinking” was what got me into the mess I was in in the first place, but thinking was also what God used to get me out).  I finally acknowledged that I needed help with my mind and my thoughts about God and Jesus.

At first, I tried to fix myself.

I remember reading a book or two I thought would help me believe in Jesus again.  At this point, I really wanted to believe in Him but couldn’t fathom ever being able to again.  I did pray sometimes and ask God to help me.

I was so used to scholarly-type study from 6 years of higher education that I thought maybe I could study my way back to believing in Jesus.

I got a Bible commentary to read what scholars said about the Bible hoping that some smart person’s “proof” would sway me.  I read the book of James because I heard someone say it was a good idea for new Christians to start with that book when reading the Bible.

God led me to meet some Christian moms from our church and our area,  and I started going to MOPS – Mothers of PreSchoolers – at our church with them in the fall of 2011.

I began to feel God more.  It was slow, but it was there.  I knew my worldview was made-up, but I still didn’t want to submit it to God.

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I was working hard to fix myself before I went back to the Lord.  I thought He wanted me fixed before He would take me back.  {Spoiler alert}  That’s where I was wrong.  Fixing me was God’s job.  Fixing YOU is God’s job.  He doesn’t require us to come to Him already perfect.  {Hint} If you wait until you’re perfect before you go to God, you’ll never go to Him.  If God waited to save us until we were perfect, He’d never have anyone to save!

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What is the craziest thing God has ever asked you to do?  How did He achieve this thing through your obedience?