Month: May 2015

How Hard Is It to Follow?

Follow Me

We all played Follow the Leader as children – a very simple game to play. One person leads and the rest follow, imitating every move the leader makes.

As Christians we are called to follow God, also imitating Him, but it’s not so easy. It’s easier to do our own thing especially when the going gets tough.

So how do we do it? How do people who really want their own way follow a God they can’t even see? I can suggest three steps that will prepare us to follow God.

  1. We must know the one we follow. If we don’t know that God loves us with an unending, perfect love, that he is rich in mercy to us, that his forgiveness covers all of our sins, and that he is worthy of our love and obedience, we are unlikely to be constant in following him. How do we know these things? Bible study and prayer – it’s as simple as that. If you want to know him study and pray.
  2. We must trust the one we follow. This one builds on the knowledge that we gained in the first step. We must go beyond a head knowledge to a knowledge that reaches to the heart. We can be confident that the God who loves us perfectly will faithfully lead us in the right ways. The God and Father who did not spare his own Son will be faithful to give you all good things.
  3. We must submit our will to the one we follow. This is the hardest one. We can know God and His love for us. We can trust him to lead us into the right way. However, if we are unwilling to give him control – to give up our ideas of what is best, we will not follow him.

Following God is not something we learn overnight. It is something we practice over many years, and it is something we will never do perfectly in this life. However, continually going through the steps of knowing him, trusting him, and submitting to him will help us to grow in our ability to follow our God.

Continue the good fight and keep running the race following the leader who loves you all the way!

 

linking up with Five Minute Friday at katemotaung.com

Five-Minute-Friday-4

I Often Wonder…

I Often Wonder
photo from Freely by Joseph Hooper

 

When I first came to trust Christ as my Savior, I didn’t know very much about Him. I had a Bible – The Living Bible. It was a paraphrase, not a translation. I didn’t know what that meant, but my friend told me to get a real Bible and start reading the book of John.

That was a long time ago. I’ve read through the Bible many times. I worked through countless Bible studies of all kinds. I’ve learned so much about God and yet, I still wonder about Him. As a matter of fact, I often wonder about Him.

As I’ve been reading through Ephesians this week, I have wondered:

  • Why did God choose me before the foundation of the world? I wonder why I was even a thought in His mind.
  • Why was it God’s will to adopt me – a sinner who was running away from Him as fast as I could go? I wonder why He would bother with someone who showed as little promise as I.
  • Why would He shed His blood to redeem me? I wonder how He could even think of forgiving my sin and at such a cost.
  • Why would He promise a glorious¬†inheritance to me? I wonder how He could bear to give me anything more than a place in the cellar and bread and water.

I often wonder about these things and the answer is always the same.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

I love those first two words – “But God.”

I was running away…but God.

I was dead in my trespasses…but God.

I wanted my own way…but God.

I still want my own way…but God.

I forget what I know to be true…but God.

I am hopeless, but God is rich in mercy, and loves me with great love, and saves me by His grace.

And His mercy and love and grace never end. I often wonder about that and then I am lost in the wonder of it.

I deserve none of it. I can’t even begin to do anything to earn any of it, and yet His mercy and love and grace never run out. There is never an end to it.

And what is even more wondrous is that He uses the story of His mercy, love, and grace to me to reveal His mercy, love, and grace to other sinners who need it so desperately.

He turns everything upside down – loving the unlovely, giving mercy to the merciless, giving grace to the worst of sinners. And then He turns all of that into more praise and glory for Himself. He beyond my understanding, and yet I try to understand.

I try to understand once again.

I wonder…

 

Linking up to Tuesday at Ten at Finding the Grace Within. Come visit and see what other bloggers are writing in response to the prompt “I often wonder…”

JPEG-image-2CCA02FF19CA-11

What If I Mess Up?!

What If I Mess Up
photo by Gratisography.com

Looked at a calendar lately? I have, and do you know what I saw?

10 weeks. In 10 weeks, eighteen and a half years of my life (in the form of my youngest child) will get on a bus and ship out for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

My family will tell you that I am not an overtly emotional person, but I have to tell you, I’m beginning to feel it.

What if I didn’t do enough?

Who am I kidding? I KNOW I didn’t do enough.

I should have made him read the Bible more. I should have made him go to children’s choir even if he didn’t like it. I should have continued to homeschool him (even though I was burnt out after 20 years of homeschool.) I should have kept him in private school (even though we weren’t going to be able to afford the upper school.)

I should have, I should have, I should have…

I could go on and on like this forever.

It’s interesting to me to see the way that God works when I am beginning to panic. Last night I was praying for all of my children and trying very hard to let go of all that I might have messed up in my parenting.

The very simple thing that God brought to my mind was, “Who do you think you are, and who do you think I am? Can you mess up my plans? Could your mistakes be unforeseen by me?”

I pondered on that – I am a sinner, saved by grace through faith, yes, but a sinner. It is not in my ability to be a perfect parent, which means that, yes, I have messed up.

However, the other half of that thought is that God is perfect and sovereign and full of grace. He can do whatever he wants with my children regardless of my parenting and regardless of the choices they make – both good and bad.

That was last night. This morning I was reading Kevin DeYoung’s book, Crazy Busy. In the chapter entitled Kindergarchy (love that word!) DeYoung wrote, “…we assume their failures will almost certainly be our fault for not doing enough…everything depends on us…”

Later DeYoung quotes Leslie Leyland Fields – “We will parent imperfectly, our children will make their own choices, and God will mysteriously and wondrously use it all to advance his kingdom.”

When we begin to panic and fret about not doing enough or about messing up our children, we are losing sight of who we are and who God is.

But I’m not done yet – God had one more thing to show me today.

This afternoon, one of our pastors shared his testimony with us. He came to Christ at an early age and was blessed to have a very devout mother who made sure that he went to church faithfully and that he memorized huge chunks of Scripture. All was well until he got into grad school, made friends with the wrong people, and fell away from church. After several years of sinful living, he woke up one morning sick and having no idea where he was or how he got there. In that wretched, low moment, his worried mother called him, offering help if he needed it and reminding him that God loves him. And then all that stored-away Scripture started flooding back to him, wooing him back to the Father who loved him and was eagerly waiting to forgive him.

Oh, the peace that is ours when God reveals himself as the Sovereign Ruler of all and when we really believe it! I mess up, my husband messes up, and my children will mess up, but God never does – never has and never will.

We can trust him with those children who are so dear to us – even when we really mess up.

 

Linking up to A Little R & R at rosilindjukic.com.

 

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

954149

I’ve put off writing about this book because – guess why? – I was afraid I couldn’t do it well enough. Now it’s time to stop being such a chicken and making such a big deal about telling you what I think about a book.

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. I guess I’ll be telling myself that until the day I die!

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. Easily, the book that has me thinking most so far this year.

If you haven’t been reading my word of the year series on Prayer you won’t know that I have been asking God to teach me to pray because prayer has always been a struggle for me and a source of distress for me.

I read Timothy Keller’s book earlier this year and got so much more than I even knew to look for. From explaining what prayer is to exposing¬†us to the prayers of some of the great men of the past to giving solid examples and patterns for prayer, Pastor Keller leads us to a greater understanding of and desire for prayer.

Keller 1

In his own search for real, life-changing prayer, Keller made four changes in his prayer life which, he writes, led to “a spiritual liveliness and strength” which he had never experienced before. His four simple changes were:

  • Praying through the Psalms
  • Meditation between Bible reading and prayer
  • Praying morning and evening
  • Praying with greater expectation

The bulk of the rest of book goes into leading us through these four changes through the writings of a number of Christian greats of the past including John Murray, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine, George Herbert, John Owen, George Mueller, and Jonathan Edwards.

Keller focuses on the rules of prayer practiced by Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, each of which he explains in detail. The three have quite a bit in common, but what I noticed most of all is that their prayers were based on and informed by the Word of God. We cannot respond to what we do not know. If we do not know God, we cannot respond to Him. We know God by reading, studying and meditating on His Word.Keller 2After setting forth the principles of prayer practiced by Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, Keller gives us his own four general principles or rules for prayer.

  • Daily prayer times twice a day – morning and evening
  • Prayer must be biblical – grounded in Bible reading and study
  • Personal prayer should be interwoven with corporate prayer
  • Prayer should be accompanied by meditation which is expectant of experience with God

The book also gives us patterns for prayer including Keller’s which is again drawn from his study of the great theologians of the past. His pattern for prayer, which he stresses may look different from that the reader develops, is:

  1. Evocation – reverently considering the character of the God before whom we come.
  2. Meditation – mulling over a small portion of Scripture as a “bridge into prayer.”
  3. Word Prayer – praying the text back to God.
  4. Free Prayer – pouring your heart out to God.
  5. Contemplation – listening to the Spirit and allowing yourself to be lost in the wonder of your God.

Now, all the information in the world will not make us into praying Christians. Knowing the principles of prayer will not build a vibrant prayer life. As Keller exhorts, “We will never develop it, however, unless we take up the discipline of regular, daily prayer.”

Perhaps because Satan does not want Christians to be praying, prayer is hard work. We must keep at it. Hear these final words from Timothy Keller:

In any case – pray no matter what. Praying is rowing, and sometimes it is like rowing in the dark – you won’t feel that you are making any progress at all. Yet you are, and when the winds rise again, and they surely will, you will sail again before them.

Are you yearning for “both conversation and encounter with God?” Then I highly recommend Timothy Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. And check back from time to time as I continue to strive to learn more about Prayer in 2015.

 

%d bloggers like this: