Tuesday, March 29, 2011

United We Stand

I recently took my girls to an event at a church that is part of the same non-denominational denomination of the church we go to. On the way home I made the mistake of mentioning that the church we had just been to was a sister church of our own.

“What’s a sister church?” Carley asked. I explained that it is a church that is the same type of church as ours, a Church of Christ, or a Christian Church. “Aren’t all churches, churches of Christ?” my wise daughter pressed. “Well, uh, yes” I answered, knowing this was going in a difficult direction, “but, different churches have different, um, beliefs and ways of worshipping Christ.” Then, 7 year old Laura chimed in, and showing her understanding of world religions, said, “Some people worship Boota”.

I have to admit I was relieved that the discussion had shifted away from denominational differences among Christians. It was a lot easier for me to explain to the girls the difference between Christians and “Boot-ists” than it was to explain the difference between Pentecostals and Presbyterians. I guess that’s because in my kid’s eyes, Christians, no matter what church they attend or denomination they ascribe to, are simply followers of Christ.
Their view of Christianity is so pure, so perfect, I don’t want to mess it up by telling them how far we really are from that ideal.

The Gospel of John records this prayer from Jesus regarding those of us who would one day be known as Christians, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Imagine what the Body of Christ, the church, could do if we really were all one. If we really had the complete unity that Jesus prayed we would have. I don’t know how that can happen in a world with somewhere around 38,000 different denominations. But a good place to start is in our own homes and own congregations. Let’s pray today that God will give us hearts focused on serving and glorifying Him in a way that unites us with other believers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

You're in Better Hands

Harold, who currently works as a waiter at the Nashville Hilton, is originally from the southern part of Louisiana. A few days before Hurricane Katrina hit, he, his wife and their 2 children packed up a few changes of clothes and other necessities and left town. Concerned about possible flooding, Harold wrapped up pictures, valuables and other irreplaceable items and tucked them away in his attic between the rafters before evacuating.

Thankfully he and his family escaped injury. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of their home which was destroyed. All their belongings, including the pictures and valuables tucked away in the attic were now buried somewhere under the 5 feet of putrid sludge that filled what was left of their home. His insurance company, you know, the one that promises to keep you in good hands, refused to cover his losses because of a technicality somewhere in the fine print of his policy. The worst part of all, however, was losing his Mother and Mother-in-Law who both died as a result of the storm.

I asked Harold how he held together through it all. He simply pointed heavenward. He said that he had to be strong for his kids and his wife during it all and that strength came from God. Several churches pulled together to help provide his family with the necessities until they could get back on their feet. And, now, three years later, thanks be to God, his life is finally starting to return to a new state of normal.

So, whose hands hold your life? There is only one set of hands prepared to carry you through the difficult times we are all eventually bound to face. Natalie Grant’s song, “In Better Hands” says it well, “I am strong all because of you. I stand in awe of every mountain that you move. I am changed, yesterday is gone. I am safe from this moment on. There’s no fear when the night comes round, I’m in better hands now”

Friday, March 25, 2011

More Like Falling in Love

I received an email from a young woman who was feeling distant from God. She said she wanted a relationship with Jesus like the one described in the song “More Like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray. Basically, she had identified that she wanted a relationship not religion, but wasn’t sure how to get there.

I think she’s right. We’ll never get to a place of real communion with Jesus by following a system of rules and rituals. Yes, church is important for fellowship and hopefully, provides us an opportunity to learn more about God and spend some time worshiping Him. But, too many people falsely believe that going through the motions of church every week will lead to a relationship with Christ. I don't think that works...it's never worked for me.

In my experience, the times I have felt closest to Jesus are when I am serving others. There is something about giving everything you have to people who could never pay you back that opens the door for Jesus to really take hold of your heart. I love the scripture in James 1:27--"Pure and undefiled religion before the Lord is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unpolluted from the world".

In addition to serving others and avoiding the pitfalls of sin, I also think it’s important to spend time with God each day by reading the Bible and praying. This is how God communicates with us. We can ask God where He is calling us to serve. We should also ask Him to give us the strength to help us avoid temptation and stay pure and unpolluted by the world. That's hard, I know. But, we have His strength and His Holy Spirit to help us. And, when we mess up, we have His grace to cover us...we can pray for forgiveness and move on.

I don’t have all the answers, but I think these are the things (seeking Him, serving others, and staying pure) that make our relationship with Jesus more like falling in love.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pulling Weeds

My hubby and I were pulling some weeds from a small flower garden in our front yard when I noticed that the weeds growing among the daylilies looked an awful lot like the daylilies themselves. So much so, in fact, that it was hard to tell the difference between the weeds and the plants. I told Alton that it takes a clever weed to grow and disguise itself among the leaves of good plants that look just like it. Then we talked about how the weeds in our garden were a lot like the sin in our lives…how the things that pull us away from God often look really good at the outset, only later to be revealed as destructive choices and behaviors that choke out the fruit we’re meant to bear.

Alton and I are not the first people to make this comparison between cleverly disguised weeds and sin. In fact, Jesus made a similar observation a couple thousand years ago…we know it as the “Parable of the Weeds” and it’s found in Matthew’s Gospel. In the story, Jesus describes a farmer who planted wheat and the farmer’s enemy who came along while the farmer was sleeping to plant weeds among the wheat, weeds that probably looked a lot like the wheat. The farmer advises his workers, when they discover the problem, to leave the weeds alone, because if they try to pull them, they may accidentally pull some of the good wheat along with the weeds.

This parable is loaded with meaning, and literally volumes have been written about it. One of the things I’ve learned from it, and the point I’m getting at today, is that Satan, like the enemy of the farmer, is crafty and clever. He will plant seeds of sin around us that, at first, may look like things that are good and appealing. How do we tell the difference? I think the fruit we bear is one way to tell. Seeds that God has planted in our lives will bring forth fruit that bountifully points back to and glorifies Him. Seeds planted by the enemy will not produce beautiful blessings. Most importantly, we need to remember to ask God to point out weeds in our lives and to rely on His strength to remove them.

The Parable of the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)

24Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.

"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

Matthew 13:36-40 (NIV)

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."

He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear

Monday, March 21, 2011

Savor the Flavor

I’ve been trying to drink more water lately. I find plain water quite boring, so I like to get flavored, sparkling water. And, because I’m a bit of a tightwad, I only allow myself one bottle of flavored water a day, then for the rest of the day I just refill that bottle with plain water.

One afternoon, my daughter spotted the bottle and wanted a sip. I told her that I had already finished the “good stuff” and the bottle was filled with plain water. She said, “That’s OK. There’s probably still a little flavor left in the bottle.” And, she was right...there was a hint strawberry-kiwi flavor in the regular water.

We all have a “flavor” that we leave behind…an essence that permeates a room after we’ve left. It can be a pleasant flavor-like Joy, Peace, Happiness or Grace. Or, it can be an unpleasant one…Bitterness, Anger, Impatience or Stress. Either way, our attitude, or flavor, has an effect on our surroundings and the people we come in contact with.

This is especially true when it comes to the people we spend the most time with, our spouses, family members and children. In fact, our “flavor” can be so strong and so consistent that it changes theirs, for better or worse.

Today, let’s pray that God will show us the way that our attitude is affecting those around us, and that He will give us the strength we need to replace any of our unsavory flavors with ones that are pleasant. Just as Paul encouraged the Ephesians, let’s pray together that we will “be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1&2

Many Happy Returns

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
-Chuck Swindoll

It had been a long day of traveling following a week and a half of mission work in Guatemala. Our group of 19 was ready to be home, reuniting with family members and sleeping in our own beds. However, our patience was put to the test when our connecting flight from Atlanta to Greensboro ended up changing departure gates 3 times and being delayed for over an hour.

I was pleased to observe the positive attitudes maintained by our group’s members, despite our anxiousness to get home. We used the delay as an opportunity to grab some dinner and spend some more time chatting with each other before we would have to part ways.

Unfortunalely, not everyone on our flight was able to keep the same kind of positive outlook. One passenger in particular caught our attention…a minister was overheard loudly complaining into his cell phone about the delay. He told the person on the other end of the line that he still didn’t have tomorrow’s sermon written because the airline kept delaying his flight.

My friend Glen, who also overheard the perturbed pastor’s phone call, said, “What he doesn’t realize is that God just gave him an extra hour to get that sermon done”.

Glen’s insight made me wonder how many times I’ve gotten wrapped up in a frustrating situation and missed out on the blessing God was trying to hand me. We’ve all been there before haven’t we? But, Romans 8:28 assures us “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

If we believe God’s word to be true, than we ought to trust that no matter what situation we face, God can and will use it for our good.


Do you have a great story about a blessing in disguise of a tough situation? Please share it by leaving a comment below or emailing me at tami@wbfj.fm.

He'd Better Be Sick!

“All I know is, he’d better be sick!”

Those were the words I muttered as I headed out the door. It was a busy Monday, I had lots to get done, and now I had to leave work at 9:30 in the morning to pick up a supposedly sick child from school.

It’s not that I minded having to leave work…I’m a mom first and taking care of my kids when they are ill is my job. And, I have a very understanding boss when it comes to this kind of stuff. But, to completely rearrange my schedule for a child who just has a bad case of the “Mondays”…well, that’s a different story.

Still, when I considered what I had said, “He’d better be sick,” I thought to myself, “What kind of mother hopes that her child is sick?” But, the more I thought about it, the more I felt quite comfortable with my statement. In my opinion, when it comes to a minor illness, I’d rather a child actually be sick than lying about being sick. An illness is temporary and physical in nature. Lying, however, is a condition of the heart. It’s spiritual in nature and is much harder to get over than a little bug.

I think God probably sees it the same way. There are times that He allows us to endure some physical discomfort in order encourage spiritual growth. Our eternal, spiritual natures are of such greater consequence than our temporal, physical ones. I don’t know about you, but this is such a hard concept for me to accept, because my physical nature is what affects me most right now. So, I have to learn to trust that God sees a much bigger picture than I do.

Throughout the Bible we see countless examples of people whose physical suffering produced spiritual growth. In Romans, Paul puts an exclamation point on the concept that our spiritual well-being should be our number one priority when he says, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5).

Will you join me today in Praising God for that infallible hope offered to us through his son, Jesus? Let’s also pray God will give us the courage to always seek spiritual growth before physical comfort.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nobody's Perfect

I have a news flash for you. You are not perfect. Neither am I. We are fallen human beings in a fallen world and we are going to mess up. A lot. Ecclesiastes 7:11 states, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." So, why do we try so hard to convince ourselves and others that we can avoid making mistakes?

A healthy dose of perfectionism can be good. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do your best work and to strive to reach your God-given potential. However, perfectionism, when it becomes out of balance, can be very unhealthy. George Bernard Shaw said, “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” How can this be so?

First of all, when we attempt to be, or at least appear to be perfect, we are forgetting that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We need to allow ourselves and others to see God’s work in our lives. That only works when we are willing to admit that we can’t do it all on our own.
The appearance of perfection also hinders our witness. Others may look at our wrinkle free exterior and assume that only perfect people can be Christians. I wonder how many people hold back from accepting Christ because in their mind they could never be good enough.

I once had a boss that loved to use this expression, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot”. This points to another danger of perfectionism. When we know it all, there’s no reason to learn and grow.

Perfectionism can also be paralyzing. We decide that if we can’t do something to perfection, we won’t do it all. How many important jobs are being left undone because we cannot do them to meet the impossible standards we have set?

Finally, we need to examine the reason for our perfectionism. Often, it is caused by pride. Perfectionism happens when our primary concern becomes how we are presenting ourselves and how good we look to others, not how we are presenting Christ and serving others. If that’s the case, it is time to re-prioritize.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Giving it All Away

Sacrifice. It’s a difficult word, isn’t it? When I hear that word, I think of giving something up that is important to me…. maybe something that I enjoy, a behavior that makes me comfortable, a person that I love.

Yet, sacrifice is exactly what Jesus asks us to do in order to follow him. And, how can we deny Him? After all, he made the ultimate sacrifice for us when he died on the cross, taking the punishment we deserved and forgiving us of our sins.

I can better understand why we have to be ready to make sacrifices for Jesus when I think about my relationship with my husband. I want to come first to him (after God, of course). I don't care if he still watches football, spends time at his art desk or spends an afternoon on his own, doing his own thing. Those are all things he enjoys. However, if he started putting those things before me on his list of priorities, I'd have a real problem with that!

So, what is it that God wants us to sacrifice? Everything. Does that mean that we have to physically give everything away, isolate ourselves from the people and places we love? Not necessarily. But we do have to have a heart that is ready and willing to part with anything in order to make room for Him.

Look at the example of Abraham. God asked him to sacrifice his precious son, the child that Abraham had been promised. When Isaac was bound on the altar and Abraham held the knife in his hand, it was evident that he was ready to let go of the single most important thing in his life in obedience to God. And, the Lord not only provided a ram for the sacrifice, he also blessed Abraham abundantly.

In the New Testament, we see people leaving many things to follow Jesus. Andrew and Simon Peter left their nets…their livelihood. James and John left their boats and their father…giving up not only their work, but leaving their family as well. Nathaniel left the comfort and safety of his fig tree to follow the Lord. Matthew left his sinful and greedy ways as a tax collector.

So, what are you still holding on to? What thing is it in your life that is stopping you from fully giving your heart to God? Ask God to clearly show you the things that you still put before him. Then pray that He’ll give you the strength and courage to let those things go completely.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Forget Me Not

The older I get the worse it seems my memory becomes. When I was a kid, I could remember all of my friends phone numbers; I could tell you anything you wanted to know about my favorite celebrities and I could memorize a song after only listening to it a few times. Now, I can’t even remember my own children’s names most days! The phrase, “Oh, I’m sorry, I completely forgot about that” has become a too-frequent part of my vocabulary.

I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Forgetfulness is just one of the less pleasant side effects of getting older. God knows how prone we are to forget things, which is why in the Bible he so frequently implores his people to remember his miracles, his covenants, his promises and his word. He urges us to keep these things top of mind so that we stay profoundly aware of His relationship with us and his presence in the world.

Jesus used what would be his last time around the Passover table with his disciples to encourage them to remember Him. Paul paints the scene in 1 Corinthians: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Following this example and taking Communion or the Lord’s Supper is a very intimate way to reflect and remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us on a regular basis. We can also look for other ways to remember God’s faithfulness. Maybe it’s a prayer journal that you keep. Periodically, you can look back through it to remember God’s intervention and answered prayers. An artist might create a picture or write a song expressing a spiritually significant experience. Parents, you can use time at the dinner table to ask your kids about the things they are thankful for and to talk about the way God is working in your family’s life. Be creative! How you do it is not important; but, what is important is that God’s love stays always fresh in your mind.

Bring the Rain

I am currently in Nashville for GMA. The highlight of the week is the Dove Awards, it’s sort of like the Grammies of Christian music. So, I’ve decided to use Moment for Mom to dig a little deeper into some of the nominees for song of the year.

One of my favorites from the list is “Bring the Rain” by Mercy Me. It’s a courageous song that with a theme that says, “If hard times are needed to bring me closer to God, then so be it…bring the rain.” Honestly, I don’t know if I’m spiritually mature enough to sing that song yet. It seems pretty risky to say out loud, “I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain.”

However, I do know that Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me and co-author of the song, knows exactly the implications of these words. Bart has seen more than his share of rain, including the untimely deaths of his father and his brother-in-law. In addition, his son was recently diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. So, I would consider Bart to be an authority on the ways that God uses our painful experiences as opportunities for growth.

We don’t have to take Bart’s word on it...God’s word verifies this in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And, Bart is not the only person who has gladly accepted difficulties with the greater purpose of growth in mind. In the first book of Peter, the disciple says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Nobody enjoys trials, but we are all bound to go through them. When we do, let’s turn our eyes to Jesus, asking him not only for comfort, but that he will reveal a greater purpose for our pain. So tell me…what’s a little rain?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dust to Dust

John 15:3-4: You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I gotta admit…I love cleaning gadgets. I am so easily lured by the promise of an easier, quicker and elbow grease free way to get things done that I’ll open my wallet for just about anything making that promise. But, I’ve found that there is one major setback with every new fangled cleanser, gadget and appliance on the market…you actually have to USE them in order for them to work! Believe it or not, that swiffer sweeper, greased lightening and $500 cyclonic vacuum do a horrible job of housecleaning when they are sitting in the closet. Don’t believe me? Just come over to my house some time and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s the same thing with our spiritual houses. God has provided us with countless tools to help us grow in our faith. But, if we don’t use them, they don’t work! I have at least 10 different bibles in my collection…the NIV, the Living Bible, the Message, Study Bibles, Life Application Bibles and Devotional Bibles. But it wouldn’t matter if I had ten thousand bibles and never read any of them. God has provided me with a wonderful church home, and dozens of other wonderful churches within a 10 minute drive of my home. He has surrounded me with supportive Christian friends and mentors. My bookshelves at work and at home are full of books about Christian Living and Spirituality and my CD shelves are filled with Christian music. God even offers open communication with him through prayer any time I want it. He has indeed provided the resources, but it is my job to put all these things to work in my life. Here’s the really good news, though. Putting our faith building tools to work is usually much more pleasant than housework and the rewards last for an eternity….that’s much longer than a clean kitchen floor!

So, today, take some time to pray that the Lord will show you the tools he’s placed in your spiritual “cleaning cabinet” and that He will provide you with the time, energy and motivation to put them to work in your life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Whine If I Want To!

The other day I threw a party for myself. A pity party. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s the kind of deal where you sit around moping because nobody appreciates your hard work. You tell yourself that nothing you do for others is ever enough and you might as well just give up.

Well, in the midst of my little party for one, an uninvited guest showed up…in the form of a new thought. I realized that probably everyone feels unappreciated from time to time; that I am not the only person alive whose hard work sometimes goes unnoticed. I put my new theory to the test and took an informal poll of my friends…and, wouldn’t you know it, over 75% of them said they feel unappreciated at least some of the time.

So, what does this mean? I think our feelings of being taken for granted come from 2 things. First of all, we probably aren’t thanking each other enough. When is the last time you told someone that you appreciated them because of something that they did, or just because of who they are? It’s such an easy thing to do… ”Thank You SO Much!”, “I Really Liked it When You ____”, “Good Job”, “I’m so glad to have you as my ____”are just a few words to use. Let’s make a commitment to express our sincere appreciation to someone every day.

However, if you feel unappreciated most or all of the time…it’s probably time to look within. Examine your motivation for doing things for others. Is it because you genuinely want to help, or is it because you’re looking for praise? Are putting too much of the focus on yourself and placing a higher importance on the things that you do than they really deserve? OUCH! Are your toes hurting as bad as mine are right now?

If so…open up your Bible…the whole chapter of 2nd Corinthians 9 contains some great advice on the attitude we ought to have about serving and giving…without expecting anything in return. Listen to these words from Paul, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What's Your Sign?

I love Brandon Heath's song, “I’m Not Who I Was”. In the song, Heath describes finding an old picture of someone with whom he’s had some type of falling out with in the past. Upon seeing the picture, he is reminded of the anger and bitterness this relationship left him with. However, he comes to the realization that he is no longer the same person that he was and he has forgiven his old friend. Heath wishes this person from his past could see the person that he has become. The song’s message is beautifully summarized in this verse, “Well, the thing I find most amazing in amazing grace is the chance to give it out. Maybe that's what love is all about.”

The video for the song shows pictures of people holding up signs. In the first picture of each person the sign they hold describes the kind of person they used to be. The second picture shows the same person with a sign describing the new person they have become in Christ. This video made me think about what my “Before and After” signs would say. One thing I have always struggled with being too self absorbed. The fact I’m an only child may have a little to do with that! But, It’s something I am really trying to change, because I know Jesus wants me to. So, my signs would probably say “Completely Self Centered” and “Trying to Put Others First”.

What about yours? What would they say? Can you look back at who you were before you knew Jesus and see a difference between then and now? That change is a sign that your faith is sincere and that your heart is in 2 Corinthians 5:17.. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Let’s pray that God will continue these transformations in our lives, making us more and more like him each day!