Friday, May 27, 2011

My Robe That Was Made For Me

Who would of ever thought that I would be turning on the heater because I'm cold in late May.  Isn't it almost June? Shouldn't summer be almost here. Thunderstorms and downpour of rain with mixed hail has been our forecast in the last week. Two counties over a tornado touch and destroyed some farm buildings. On the news you hear about the devastation in the Southern United States caused by tornadoes where people have lost their homes and loved ones.  People are missing and can't be found since the storm.
I remember it as if it was yesterday, I was 23 years old, newly married and my husband and I were serving on junior high staff at our church.  We were studying the book of James in our junior high department.  I was so excited to be serving, learning and sharing with these young ladies.  We'd meet Tuesday nights to go over the lesson that was being taught and preached on Sunday. As leaders we'd use that week to dig deeper into God's Word to prepare to lead our small groups on Sunday. 
In that first Sunday's message I was struck with a truth that I still carry with me today.

James 1: 1-4
"James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes
who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing."

It's one word "when".  Our junior high pastor said, "it doesn't say "if you encounter various trials", it says, "when you encounter various trials."  Which means there is no question about it, trials are coming!
But yet when they come we act so surprised and shocked.  James gives us the warning siren that the tornado is coming and be prepared but when the tornado comes we are shocked as if we never received the warning at all.  We don't understand why God would allow it.  We question God love, grace and mercy and want to know why.  Trials are all around us.  You can't say that you don't know anyone who isn't hurting in some way or another whether its financial loss, relationships on the brink of divorce, loved ones struggling or even dying of cancer.  It's all around us but we are still shocked and don't understand why.  I know in my own depths of my soul and my heart I've had the thought and said, "I didn't sign up for this. Why are you doing this to me Lord?"  We knew what Christ was offering.  He made it very clear.

Matthew 10:38-39
"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
He who has found his life will lost it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it."

Luke 9: 23
"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me,
he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

We weren't ever promised a lap of luxury in the Christian life but in the recesses of our minds we must think that. The apostle James tells us why! Why are we destined to have trials?  It's the "testing of our faith." God wants to conform us to His image (Romans 8:29).  How can we be conformed to His image if we are so tied to the things of this world? How can we be conformed to Christ's image if we have earthly wants and desires that still entangle us? (2 Tim 2:3-4)
I love, love, love, Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, A Steadfast Heart.  I want to share with you some of the encouraging words Elyse shares from the outcome of  her trials.
"He's used our suffering as the means to reveal to us a new understanding about Himself,
His great goodness, and our considerable need for a Saviour."
'Our trials was fashioned for us by a wise god who knew exactly what kind of suffering
we needed.  The trials we endure are meant to get at the idolatry, self-love,
and independent unbelief that God desires to purge from our life.
They're also meant to cause us to love Jesus Christ more and more, and sometimes
they're not discipline at all but rather part of God's mysterious plan to glorify Himself."
"Peaceful fruit of righteousness" that is the result of God's perfect plan for us
is luscious, and there's only one way to genuinely savor this fruit: through suffering."
"We each have a road marked out for us by the Lord.  Suffering isn't one-size-fits-all.
No.  He's woven the exact robe that He wants you to wear, and it will fit you perfectly,
pinching where it should pinch and comforting where you need it most."
I have a robe that was designed just for me by my Saviour, the lover of my soul.  Who wants to refine me into His image and not my own.  Who loves me with a love that will not let me go.  I pray that as I currently hear the storm sirens warning me a storm is coming that I am assured and know there is nothing that comes my way that isn't from my Lord's sovereign hands.  I want to be confident in His love and grace for me, like Daniel, not to be afraid of what's ordained for me but know that God is in it with me. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spiritual Mothers - The Goal is Love

      I haven't been bloggin' as much lately.  Life has been rather crazy but in the midst of the craziness I had a great opportunity to share with the women at my church.  A mother - daughter team took on the adventure of putting on a Mother - Daughter Tea.  I was so bummed at first, being that I am a mother of three boys I didn't think that I would be able to go.  An opportunity presented itself and I was able to take two young ladies who I love spending time with to the tea since their mommies were out of town.  I was asked to share about what it means to be a "SPIRITUAL MOTHER."
       This was really hard for me to prepare.  I felt that I could say so much, but I really wanted to focus and get down to the roots of today's topic, "SPIRITUAL MOTHER."  I will share, what it is, who does it, what it is not, but most of all the main ingredient.  I was not raised in a Christian home so I don't share my faith with my mom, but even though we don't have our faith in common, I've learned a HUGE important thing from her.....LOVE!!!
    Love will be our theme today.  LOVE is why Christ was to be born! LOVE is what drove Him to the cross! LOVE is why He is alive and LOVE is why we live our lives for Him.  LOVE!  If love is what motivates Christ for everything He has done, than it should be our motivating force in all that we do as well.
I Timothy 1:5
"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience
and a sincere faith."

John MacArthur comments on this verse, "This is the love of choice and the will, characterized by self denial and self sacrifice for the benefit of others."

   God calls us to LOVE.  To love Him and to love others.  That is God's will for us, right?

Titus 2: 3-5
"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious, gossips nor
enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women
to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home,
kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the Word of God will not be dishonored."

There is that word again, LOVE! I am suppose to do that, LOVE! It's everywhere in God's Word, LOVE! I know that I was asked to speak to you and convince you, I am sure to persuade you and to encourage you to be SPIRITUAL MOTHERS, but in the same breath I have to ask you, do you love? What do you love? Who do you love? Why do you love? What is it that you love?
What's the answer? Is it Jesus? Are you in love with Jesus?

Women, if you want to attract other women to disciple, be in love with Jesus!
If you want to be attractive to your husbands, be in love with Jesus!
If you want to be admired and loved by your children, be in love with Jesus!
If you want to be a witness to the world, be in love with Jesus!

I am not going to give you a "to-do" list on how to be a SPIRITUAL MOTHER - DISCIPLER, I am going to ask you what's on your love list?
When the things we love or what we are holding so tightly to are loosened from our grips by trials, we are challenged to ask....what do you love? Who do you love? Why do you love? Is it Jesus?
Life and our loves become very crystal clear in the light of eternity, can you take what you love with you?
You are probably sitting there asking yourself "what does this have to do with being a "SPIRITUAL MOTHER?" EVERYTHING!!!  If the love of Christ isn't what motivates us in every aspect of our life, how are we any different than any other religion?

the goal of our instruction is LOVE - from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith

Our goal in our instruction is LOVE....we teach so the goal is LOVE, because LOVE produces a love for God which produces a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.  If anyone wants to spend time with me, is it because I love JESUS?  That should be the only reason!

I Cor 13:1 " If I speak with tongues of men and of angels but do not have love,
 I have become a noisygong or a clangy cymbal."

A noisy gong or a clanging cymbal? Is that what I sound like when I speak?

Young women, why do you want to spend time with older woman? Well, she has really obedient children and a really nice home.  There is no recipe, just one ingredient - IS SHE IN LOVE WITH JESUS?
Older woman, why do you want to spend time with that younger woman? Well, she really needs to learn how to be modest.  Someone needs to talk to her about her clothes.  Older woman, IS SHE IN LOVE WITH JESUS?  Go after her heart not her clothes. 

the goal of our instruction is LOVE from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith

If I am in love with Jesus, than I will be modest.  If I am in love with Jesus I will be a lover of my husband.  If I am in love with Jesus, I will love and instruct my children.  Younger women pursue older women who are in love with Jesus! Older women show and be examples to the younger what it is to be in love with Jesus!
I know that I've shared this story before with you.  There was a young woman who came back to our church and I just had this desire to get to know her.  (Ladies, if you get that urge, listen to it)  I asked her to coffee.  We went to coffee right away.  We spent a couple of hours together talking and getting to know one another.  I asked a lot of questions and she told me what she had been up to the last few years.   A month later or so, this same young woman was in my small group at our yearly women's prayer retreat.  After our first session, this young woman wanted to share her heart with the group.  She wanted to say how much she appreciated the fact that when I took her to coffee I actually got to know her and spend time with her.  In uncontrollable tears, she said, "that was the first time an older woman ever took her to coffee without having a list of all the things she was doing wrong." 
When I die and my faith becomes sight, Jesus is not going to say to me, "you can't come in. you have a feather in your hair!" Remember ladies, its not what we do, its what we love!  Are we in love with Jesus?
What does it look like?  It could be a weekly meeting and going through a book.  Sharing a meal.  Having coffee and talking.  Encouraging one another to love and good deeds.  Texting, writing, or emailing Scripture to one another.  Praying for one another.  Just hanging out in each other's homes. Living side by side.  Listening, loving, crying, hugging, grace, mercy, gentleness, patience.  It's getting a phone call from a younger woman in tears, so many she can barely speak.  You tell her to come over.  I am making dinner for my family, but we'll talk.  You get dinner on the table and than go for a walk with her and you listen.  You encourage with God's Word, you love on her, and you point her to Christ. 
Still today I have "older women" in my life that I have had formal times with, but my most favorite are our informal times....when I watch them from sometimes even from a distance.  These are just some of the things I've learned from the "Spiritual Mothers" in my life.  One thing they all share, they're in LOVE with JESUS.
- when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep - PRAY!
- when I don't have money to give, open my home and share a meal.
- my home is for ministry
- always wear something soft & silky to bed
- that I can be a strong woman, but still be a submissive woman
- I can have a sense of humor and even snort when I laugh

Let's end with John 21:15-17
"So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John,
do you love Me more than these?'  He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.'  He said to him, 'Tend My lambs.'  He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of John,
do you love me?'  He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.'  He said to him,
'Shepherd My sheep.'  He said to him, the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?'
Peter was grieved because He said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.'  Jesus said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'

John MacArthur's commentary states, "When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, he used a word for love that signified total commitment.  Peter responded with a word for love that signified his love for Jesus, but not necessarily his total commitment.  This was not because he was reluctant to express that greater love, but because he had been disobedient and denied the Lord in the past.  He was, perhaps, now reluctant to make a claim of supreme devotion when, in the past, his life did not support such a claim.  Jesus pressed home to Peter the need for unswerving devotion by repeatedly asking Peter if he loved Him supremely.  The essential message here is that Jesus demands total commitment from His followers.  Their love for Him must place Him above their love for all else.  Jesus confronted Peter with love because He wanted Peter to lead the apostles, but in order for Peter to be an effective shepherd, his overwhelming drive must exemplify supreme love for his Lord."
I think the coolest thing ever, other than Christ returning, would be this:  I walk into Starbucks.  I order my drink and as I'm waiting for my coffee I over hear two women talking.....
Have you ever visited FCF?  Well let me tell you, all those women there at that church are in love with Jesus! The talk of our town would be that the women of FCF are in love with Jesus! Every single one of us, madly in love with JESUS!