How do I know?

Isaiah 55:9– “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Exodus 33:13-15–Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”
And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

I had been thinking earlier today about God’s timing.  You know what I mean, how His timing is different than ours, how I want to be sure to do the things He wants from me when He wants me to do them, and how to tell when it is His timing and not mine.  I think I mentioned before how I want to start a MOPS group at my church and I have been seeking a lot of advice from others in order to determine how and when to get it going.  I even posted this verse as my Facebook status: 2 Peter 3:8–But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

So, that was the context of this discussion I was having with God about His timing.  Should I follow this person’s advice and get it going soon, trusting You to provide the leadership resources later?  Should I count the cost and wait until I have all of the leaders I need before starting?  Should I start it now in a different way and wait to see what direction You want to take it?  Is this just my idea, or are You in it?  How do I determine which doors that You open are the ones that I should walk through?  Is it possible that there is more than one way to approach this?  Am I hesitating, or am I waiting on You?  If Your ways are that much higher than mine, how can I ever really know and understand Your will?

All of these things were running through my head when another door opened right in front of me (I don’t want to get into the details right now).  This was a big one, too, that I couldn’t ignore.  So, here I am, standing in front of too many open doors to count and wondering if it is possible to walk through more than one.  Or, alternatively, maybe I can go through this one now and then come back and go through a different one later?  Can I clone myself and do more than one of these options?  Maybe there’s somebody else that you have in mind.  Not choosing is a choice, right?

So, here’s the skinny: I need some godly advice.  How do you determine what God’s will is in your life; and, once you’ve determined that, how do you determine when it is God’s timing?

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Don’t wake the Mama Bear

1 Corinthians 7:32-35–But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.  But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.  There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.  And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

I want to start out by saying that this is not a post about how people shouldn’t get married.  Some people should get married, others are meant to stay single.  I’m not going to weigh in on that issue because, as a married woman, my view is skewed.  I can only see one side of the marriage issue and it is the one that I am on.  I love being married, I love my husband, and I love my kids.  This is a post about being distracted from the Lord because of that love.

Yesterday my church started Vacation Bible School and it has been a great time so far.  My almost-3-year-old was able to participate this year because they had a class for him, so I only had to manage my almost-1-year-old (who I discovered is teething).  I didn’t have to go, but did for two reasons: 1) my hubby is an elder, and our church is small, so I usually try to help as much as I can with one hand full of baby, and 2) I wanted to cover the VBS workers and attendees with prayer.  We also have a group of individuals visiting from a church in Texas visiting to help out, which is where this post came from.  Let me explain.

I don’t usually write much about my kids here, because this blog isn’t really about parenting or children, it’s about me and my weaknesses, mostly.  Sometimes, however, the two things are one in the same; that is, sometimes parenting brings out the worst in me.  For instance, yesterday I arrived at the location that we are holding VBS (we don’t have our own building, but we have land and will build at some point) a little early so I could get my son registered and help out if I was needed.  There were lots of people there getting the last minute stuff ready and finishing up their meal (we have VBS in the evenings because that’s when people are available to help…again, small church).

Time for an aside: let me tell you about my son.  I love him dearly, but he can be somewhat mischievous.  He is a very active, very intelligent little boy.  Somebody who doesn’t know me or my children would probably look at him and think that he is out of control.  He doesn’t sit still, constantly gets into whatever he can reach (which means more stuff every day because he’s a growing boy), and finds ways to annoy people (unintentionally) that they didn’t even know possible.  He is, however, one of the sweetest little boys you will ever meet.  He is gentle, kind, loving, sharing, everything that I would love for him to be, except obedient.  He’s strong-willed, but not malicious.  Now, as I said, if you didn’t know us you might think that he was never disciplined, but you would be wrong.  In fact, if you saw him for the first time today, you wouldn’t know how far he has come in the last year.  So, having said all of that, I digress.

My church family knows my son.  He has grown up around them and they are familiar with all of his issues controlling his energy (I wish I could bottle it…I would be rich).  There are people around this week, however, who aren’t familiar with him, as I mentioned.  These folks come in, see what they think is a problem child, and act accordingly.  I can’t really blame them for that.  I did, however, have my Mama Bear instinct turned on yesterday when a lady told me, in a tone that I apparently took as hostile in my Mama Bear mode, that I needed to “keep him out of [here] because we’re finishing our supper.”  I had the completely wrong reaction, which was to mutter under my breath something to the effect of, “because he’s a dog and he’s going to eat off of your plate?”  I couldn’t take the implication from her statement that there was something about my son that made her not want him around (if you don’t like kids, why are you here to help with VBS?).  I fumed about it the rest of the night and asked my hubby to pray for me that the attitude would change (it has, mostly).

I want to control my tongue.  My rash responses are wrong and are evidence that God has not yet completed this work.  I know that, as far as Mama Bear reactions go, mine was pretty tame, but it was actually a pretty strong reaction for me these days.  I’m generally pretty mellow these days, not much of a worrier, taking most things in stride.  There is, however, still some debris floating in my glass (the analogy goes like this: you put some debris in the bottom of a glass and then pour in water.  The lightest things float up and out first, then the bigger things, until only water is left.  The debris is sin and the water is the Holy Spirit.  As you are filled with the Holy Spirit those things are gradually removed from your life, but some remain for a longer time and some might never be removed in this life.  Your cup can still overflow with debris in it, though, because God uses imperfect vessels to do His work).

Now, to get back to that scripture from 1 Corinthians.  Again, I love being married and being a mother.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I can understand, however, what Paul is saying in those verses.  If I didn’t have a husband or children, my reactions would be different.  I would be free to help with two hands instead of one.  I wouldn’t be distracted from my (fill in the blank) time with God.

So, there it is, another one of those things that God is working on in me.  It seems like I should run out of things to write about eventually, if He is truly going to bring this work to completion, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to happen in this life.

My cup overflows

Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

Luke 6:45–The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

1 Thessalonians 3:12–May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

2 Corinthians 9:8–And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

God is so good!  Sometimes, unfortunately, I forget that, but God is always faithful to remind me.

I have to admit that there have been (many) times in the past few years that I have been filled with anger, envy, bitterness, resentment . . . bad things.  It is so easy, when I focus on myself and the things that I want others to do for me, to get into this, “Who’s going to serve me?” frame of mind.  I start thinking about how hard it is to be me, how easy other people have it, that I give everything that I have and nobody gives back, and other “pity party” thoughts.  The thing about that is, it takes my focus off of Christ, which never pays off.

Other times, I start getting really hard on myself.  I need to be a better mom, wife, housekeeper, person.  Here’s the rub, though: that isn’t humility, that’s pride.  We (and by we I mean me) sometimes think that being humble means thinking (or pretending that we think) poorly of ourselves.  I don’t think that’s the way God would have us think.  After all, He made us, so He would probably like us to enjoy His creation as much as we do any of His other creations.  Also, this takes my focus off of Christ, which, again, never pays off.

I cannot stress how far I am from that place right now.  When I fix my eyes on Jesus, the blessings are immeasurable.  When I get in that mindset that I described above, I think that I don’t have enough for myself, let alone more to give to others.  When I fix my eyes on Jesus, however, “my cup overflows.”  He not only gives me what I need, but fills me so that I can give to others out of the “overflow of my heart.”

Several times in the last few days I have had people say to me, “but you of all people have an excuse not to do these things.”  I don’t, though, because God gives me everything I need to do His Will.  For He gave me a Spirit of power and self-control so that I can do whatever He needs me to do, whether that is take care of my family and home, serve others in my church family and the Body of Christ, reach out to the lost in the community, or anything else He might want from me.  If I have the skills, gifts, energy, time, resources to do anything, I only have it because God gave it to me, so it isn’t mine to keep, anyway.  I need to offer it back to God to use as He sees fit.

The thing about being good stewards of the things that God gives us is this: if you give it back to Him to use, He blesses you with even more.  So, I have to remember that God will take care of my needs, so I shouldn’t hoard the things that He gives me.  Now if I can only learn to take hold of the Fruit of the Spirit (especially self-control), then I will be a better steward of those things.  But, I’m a work in progress.

The borrower is slave to the lender

Back in 2007 my husband and I took Financial Peace University at our church (we have since been part of a church plant in a nearby town).  At the time we decided to take the class I had been a student (working on my second Bachelor’s degree) and was still paying off my student loans from my first degree.  We were also paying off my husband’s student loans from his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  We didn’t have a car payment (although, we did stupidly purchase a new Subaru four years earlier . . . we paid it off with an inheritance that my husband received when his grandfather passed away) and our mortgage was well within the range of what we could handle (we could have been stupid with our purchase of a home, too, because Countrywide wanted to give us a mortgage that was twice what we ended up with).  We wanted to get out of debt, though, before we started having children.  So, I quit school and we started taking the class.  It changed our lives forever.

We learned so much during that time and were debt-free thirteen months later (except for our mortgage).  One thing that I learned was what God has to say about money and its use (see this page for just a few of the 800 verses about money in the Bible).  I also learned new ways to come alongside my husband to work together toward common goals (our marriage hasn’t been the same since).  Of course, my attitude about money has changed, as well, but that is kind of a given if you take a class about managing your money.  This has become something that I am very passionate about, so I want to share some of my feelings about it.

So, what does God have to say about borrowing money?

Proverbs 22:7–“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”  If you borrow money from anybody, you become a “slave” to them.  If you owe somebody money, then you are not free to do as you choose with your money until you pay back your debt.  This is true even of personal loans.  Think back to how borrowing money from somebody has changed your relationship with them.  The word “uncomfortable” comes to mind.
Romans 13:8–“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  We should always pay the debt of love that we owe one another, but shouldn’t owe anybody anything else.  It isn’t that we shouldn’t do anything for anybody else, but we should do it out of love, not obligation.
Luke 14:28–30–“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”  If you don’t have the money for something, don’t buy it.  Pretty straight forward.
Proverbs 22:26–27–“Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?”  Don’t guarantee somebody else’s loan.  If you do, then if (when) they fail to pay back the debt, you become responsible for that person’s loan.  Co-signing a loan makes you slave to somebody else’s lender.
Proverbs 17:18–“It’s stupid to guarantee someone else’s loan.”  Same as above.
Proverbs 11:15–“He who is surety for a stranger will suffer, but one who hates being surety is secure.”  More of the same.
Psalm 37:21–“The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives.”  If you do borrow, be sure to repay your debts.  It is, however, better to be able to give than to borrow.
Proverbs 6:1–5–“My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird for the hand of the fowler.”  If you have guaranteed somebody else’s loan and you realize that it was a mistake, do whatever is necessary to get out of it.  Better to admit that you made a mistake than to become a slave for somebody else.
Ecclesiastes 5:5–“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”  Again, it is better not to obligate yourself to anybody, including God.  However, if you do, make sure you pay your debts.
Philippians 4:19–“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  This one is important.  What are we really doing when we borrow money?  For some it is simply a way to get more stuff that they don’t need.  How many of us, though, borrow money for things that we should be trusting God to provide, that is, our real needs?  God has promised to provide for us, so don’t borrow money to protect your pride.  I have seen the way that God has provided for those who are really in need in truly amazing ways.  Don’t miss a chance to be blessed because you don’t see the solution God is going to provide.

The manure slide

I live in a fairly agricultural area.  While I am not a farmer or a country girl by any definition of these terms, I do live within walking distance of several farms.  One of those farms has what my hubby has deemed a “poop slide.”  I don’t know exactly what the point of it is, but it is a giant mechanized slide down which the owner sends manure.  There are also some kind of retaining pools or something, which I assume are somehow related to the manure, but I don’t know how.

The point is this: when the slide is running, it stinks.  I didn’t grow up around farm animals, nor do I particularly want to live near them, so the manure smell sometimes makes me gag.  For some reason that I cannot explain, my backyard is sometimes stink-free, even when the front yard and house are full of manure scented fun.  So, this got me thinking.

The prayers of the saints are supposed to be like incense offered before the altar of God in Heaven and our gifts to the saints are a “sweet-smelling aroma.”  When we are out in the world we offer up the “aroma of Christ” to those around us, which is beautiful to some and rotten to others.  But, if we are continually offering up prayers that are a sweet aroma to the Lord, why does the world stink so badly?

Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment,
And cause it to give off a foul odor;
So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

We are told that we are not to conform to this world any longer, but are we really obeying this command?  Are we, as Christians, making sure to keep the “dead flies” out of the ointment?  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  Ouch.  I don’t know about you, but that cuts me to the quick.

How much of my time is spent on worthless things, rather than things of God?  Do I really need more television (or do my kids)?  If I have one extra hour a day, should I watch (half of) a movie, or should I [clean house, spend time in prayer, read a book about marriage, talk to my husband, etc.]?  I choose other things far more often than I choose spending extra time with God.  I also frequently choose doing nothing (that is, I choose checking out what’s happening on Facebook) over doing something beneficial to me or to others.

I just wonder how different the world would be if I (we) chose to use our time differently.  How would my neighborhood be impacted if I went on a prayer walk instead of checking my email?  Do I really want the world to smell the aroma of Christ, or do I want to spend more time being entertained?  I know, some will say that you don’t have to choose between the two, that you can share Christ’s love with the world and watch a movie, but shouldn’t we choose the former more often?  I know I should.

So, I’ll end with this thought: “I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas” (Leviticus 26:31).  I want God and everybody else to “smell the fragrance of my sweet aromas”, not the manure smell of the poop slide.  It’s time for me to do my part to rid the world of the “stench of folly” and the first step is to rid my life of it.

Out

This is what most of my prayer sessions used to be focused on (I try to remain balanced these days and pray for all of these areas).  How many prayer requests do I receive each day?  Hard to say because I just started writing them down today, but I know that I forget most of them.  One of the best things about prayer is that you can share it with others.  So, here is the last of my posts on prayer.  Let’s pray for others.

OUT

Psalm 20:4,5–May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.

Pray that God will grant others the desires of their hearts, will fulfill their purposes, will fulfill their petitions, but most of all that He will save them.

Jeremiah 37:3b–saying, “Pray now to the LORD our God for us.”

If somebody asks you to pray for them and you say that you will, do it, especially if they are not believers (or if you are uncertain of their salvation), because God doesn’t hear their prayers.

1 Timothy 2:1,2–Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Pray for leaders, even ones you don’t like, because God gave them their power.

Jeremiah 29:7–And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Pray for peace in the city, state, country, world you live in.

1 Chronicles 29:19–And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.

Pray blessings for your children, literal children and spiritual children.

Philemon v4–I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers.

Always remember to pray for others.

So, I really want to pray for you.  Feel free to leave your prayer requests in the comments and know that I will pray for you.

In

If there is anything that we can learn from the Lord’s Prayer (and we should learn many things from it), then it is probably that it is okay to pray for ourselves, as long as we pray for the right things.  The third post on prayer is about praying for yourself.  So, what does the Bible have to say about praying for our own needs?

IN

1 Samuel 1:15–But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

We should pray urgently for our needs, pouring out our souls before the Lord.

1 Kings 3:10-13–The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.  Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice,  behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.  And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.

If we ask for the things that are important to God, He often (but not always) blesses us in other ways.  (I don’t want anybody to think that I believe that everybody will be materially blessed in this life.  I store up my treasure in heaven and that is where we should all desire to be most greatly blessed.)

Psalm 46:1–God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

Pray for strength in times of trouble.

Psalm 138:3–In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.

Pray for boldness, especially in adversity.

Hebrews 4:16–Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Approach the Lord boldly in time of need.

Matthew 6:6–But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly

Don’t make your prayers for others, make sure they are for the Lord (I think of this especially during corporate prayer.  You don’t need to share all of the details during your prayer or while making requests of others.  God knows the details and you can talk to Him about the specifics when you are alone with Him if you really feel like you need to.  I cannot express enough how much I detest when prayer time turns into gossip time.)

2 Corinthians 12:8,9–Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Pray for healing, but accept whatever answer He gives.

1 John 5:14,15–Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

I think the key to this verse is “according to His will.”  If you ask for things that are not in His will, He will still answer, but the answer might be, “No.”

Matthew 26:39–He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.

Pray for what you want, but make sure you want His will.

Exodus 33:13–Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.

Pray for guidance and grace.

James 1:5-8–If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Pray for wisdom.  Also, pray believing that you will receive the things you ask of God.

There are lots of other things that you can pray for yourself.  God wants to provide for your needs, spiritual gifts, and many other things.  Feel free to share more verses about praying for your own needs, or share specific needs that you have in the comments.

 

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