This Trial Is Killing Me!

Not long ago I had the blessing of a lovely summer afternoon in the swimming pool. I grabbed a pool noodle, sat on top of it and floated and drifted a couple of hours away. Had I worn a device to track my exercise, it would have only marked my steps into the water. There was little effort or difficulty in my afternoon. It was leisure that I loved, though it had little bodily profit!

A day later I saw a You Tube video of a woman showing how to make the pool a place of exercise. With the guidance of a coach, she did several kinds of swimming strokes, making long, difficult laps the length of the pool. She kicked, bobbed, and pushed her way through a regime that literally took her breath away. She did everything the coach was telling her to do. At one point she said to him, “You’re killing me!” It was hard work but it was truly profitable to her!

The contrast of those two pool adventures reminds me of how life is for the believer. There are times when we float along, enjoying the refreshment of God’s grace, yet we aren’t stretched or changed by those careless hours. It’s in the time of trial when we find ourselves kicking, bobbing and pushing; clinging to God’s instruction and listening to His voice that change really comes. When the bodily movements are not resisting the Lord and what He wants to do, it will truly benefit our Christian life!

Proverbs 12:28 says,

In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.

God knows that we need seasons of difficulty to strengthen our prayer muscles. Our heart muscles of faith in His Word may need to be greater. The very breathing in of our knowledge of His character may require stretching, so He brings resistance and difficulty. We may cry out, “You’re killing me!” because we’re tired. We want the straining and hardship to be over. We would rather be floating on a raft, gazing up at the clear sky, than being splashed in the face of our own weakness. But when we call out to the one in charge, our sovereign God, who loves us and wants us to grow and change, He comforts. He marks out a pathway of life – deep, strong, eternal life that is far better than the weak one we would choose if we might.

If you’re in the midst of the hard laps of trial right now, look beyond the poolside and see the change that will result if you listen to the One who is guiding you. He’ll know when it’s time to allow you to float again. And when you see your reflection shining back at you in the water, you can be sure that it will look so much more like Christ!

Denise Signature 150 px

Organizing Your Prayer Journal

The Word of God is my favorite Book.  Oh, how I love it.  My Bible is a treasure to me.  Its worn, marked up pages and loose binding are all precious, and I wouldn’t take  a million dollars for it. I mean it.

Now, let me tell you about my second favorite book.  It’s my prayer Journal.  I began using this almost ten years ago.  It has been to the “hospital” many times.  I’ve had to make new pages and add paper reinforcers.  I’ve had to remove pages to make room for more requests, more answers to prayer, and more notes from my morning Bible reading.

When I look at its pages and see the check marks, which reveal an answer to prayer, my heart leaps with gratitude and joy at my wonderful God.  It’s a reminder to me that God answers prayer!  It keeps me coming back day after day, moment by moment to cry out to the Lord for the burdens and needs in my life and the lives of others I know.

Corrie Ten Boom referred to prayer as our steering wheel.  I’ve likened my prayer journal to a car.  Without the car, the steering wheel wouldn’t have direction or a place to go! Of course you can pray without a journal, but in my experience, before I began a serious prayer journal, I prayed, but I really didn’t have a prayer life. A life is the period of existence, activity, or effectiveness of something inanimate, and without the direction of my journal, my prayer life really wasn’t that effective.

Using the imagery of a car, let me explain how a prayer journal can help your prayer life.

It’s great to have a glove box (pocket) at the front in order to hold verses of Scripture that you can pray.

The radio being on, (you singing a song of praise) is a great way to start your time alone with God.

Every car needs a clean windshield (heart), and it’s helpful to have windshield cleaning fluid (a time of confession of sin) ready to do the job necessary to have a clean heart..

It’s time to start the engine (petitioning) when you specifically ask God for the requests before you.  Have a seat for everyone (a different page for each family member).  List their needs for each day of the week.

What a blessing it is to look in your rear view mirror (at the past) and see how God has answered your prayers!  Be sure to make a check mark beside that request and write how God took care of that request.  It will increase your faith and cause you to pray more fervently in the future!

If you have a trunk (back pocket) in your binder, put your prayer bulletin there, missionary prayer cards, or other tools that will help you pray more specifically.

Park the car (sit still and alone) while you pray.  Don’t let the engine idle (don’t have distractions around you).  Be all there so you can pray and then listen to God.

Rosalind Goforth, missionary to China in the late 1800’s wrote a book, How I Know God Answers Prayer.  She had to have a method of recording His answers in order to write a book like this.  Could you write a whole book of how God has been at work while you’ve prayed?  It will only happen as you record it, otherwise you will forget.

I challenge you to get a journal of some model (kind) started.  See how it will change your prayer life!

Do you use a journal when you pray?  What’s keeping you from starting one?

With love,

Why We Must Be Serious About Spiritual Growth

This week I’ve shared posts about spiritual growth – how it happens and how to aid it’s development, but you may be wondering what the big deal is.  Some women have the thought that when they get older then they’ll work on it then.  Life is too busy right now to think about Bible study, prayer and a close walk with God.  After all, their life is going along pretty good, so what’s the fuss about?  Can I share a few reasons why it’s crucial that you’re a growing follower of Christ?

  1. Christ didn’t just die to save you from hell.  He died to have a relationship with you, and you with Him!  John 15:15 –Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. A believer is truly cheating themselves out on so many blessings when they don’t walk with the Lord each day.  He gives direction, guidance, help, conviction when we veer off the path, acceptance, joy the world cannot give, and a purpose for this life we live on the earth. People that get saved and then ignore Christ are missing the whole point and will be saved, “so as by fire.”
  2. Trials don’t come with a warning.  How can you be prepared for a crisis, then?
    When a woman in the public eye learned that her husband was having an affair, how could she wake up in the morning and not be absolutely overcome with so much grief that she wouldn’t be able to function?  How can parents endure the death of their infant?  How do you face a health crisis of your own?  Where do you turn for stability when a teen turns their back on everything they’ve been taught?  The only way we can prepare for any crisis is by filling our hearts and minds with God’s Word and His promises and having them in our heart.  It’s like having a room of ammunition  ready to shoot at the lies that come to our hearts.  Truth is in God’s Word.  If we have waited until “some other day” to grow spiritually, you can bank on it – when a crisis comes, the only way to manage is to find a way out through substance abuse or escape.  What a sad ending.  Rather than having an anchor for our soul, we would be totally unstable.  Now is the time to prepare for a storm.
  3. Your testimony is at stake.  The psalmist said in Psalm 119:74,  They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.  What do others see when they watch your life?  Are you a Christian in name, but you don’t know what God’s Word says?  Can you teach your children about the Bible, or is it a foreign book to you?  Do others question the validity of your life as a follower of Christ because you know more of the world than you do of Christ and His Word?  Our lives and words should match up, and that can only happen when we’re in the Word regularly, reading, studying, memorizing, making notes, and digging until we’ve heard from God.  When we do that, it will change us!  That’s a living testimony.  Here’s how it will look:
    1. You’ll step out in faith because you know you can trust God.
    2. You’ll be a Word-filled person who speaks God’s Word to yourself and others.
    3. You’ll be sharing the Gospel with the lost, conscious of those around you that have not heard the Good news.
    4. You won’t fall apart in storms.
    5. You’ll be consistent  – not perfect, but steady and sure, keeping your eyes on the goal of heaven and eternity.

Growing in Christ is for every one of us. If you struggle with a desire to grow, ask God to give you that longing.  He will, and then watch what happens over a period of time – it will be another act of God’s amazing grace!

Let’s keep growing, friends, it will refresh you like nothing else in this world!

8e63c63ac0bc189bf1c68b03c74dbb5f (1)

 

Sure and Steady Growth

 

flower box a.jpg

Isn’t it amazing what a little dose of Miracle Gro will do for a plant? This window box is nearly bursting at the seams with pansies, Lobelia, Creeping Jenny and a couple other annuals after a couple waterings with the fertilizer.

On the outside of my box of Miracle Gro it says, “Starts to work instantly – promotes quick, beautiful results.” I must say, it really does work well – if you remember to use it! Sometimes when I’ve neglected adding the plant food to my watering can I’ll be reminded just by the look of the plant. The blooms aren’t multiplying; instead it’s just maintaining its existence in my yard. Then the thought strikes my mind – “Add Miracle Gro!” Bingo! The plants take to it, and they’re off and blooming again.

I wonder if any one’s thought of creating a miracle grow for the Christian life; a neat little package that if applied weekly will guarantee “quick, beautiful results.” “That’s ridiculous!” you say. Of course it is, but I wonder how many would pick up the package and give it a good consideration? Growth in our spiritual life is gradual. It comes slowly, from day by day study of the Word, and that’s hard. We want to see sprouts of new growth overnight.

wp-1498059655397
Just as I neglect the needed addition to my plants occasionally, we’re prone to neglect what we know will bring growth in our spiritual lives. It takes too much effort. We may be very thirsty and know we need a drink from the Living Fountain of God’s Word, but it’s just easier to go talk to a friend about my issues. We’re content with a little splash of water – a quick prayer, a light reading of Scripture without a real longing to commune with our Savior.

Sometimes our loving “Gardener” will bring a trial that will force growth. We’re pushed to the Word every day because it becomes our very sustenance. We can’t survive without it and we are very aware of need. For weeks, perhaps months our lives sprout under the nourishment of God’s Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.”

After the trial, have you ever found yourself feeling not so needy and falling back into your comfortable routine of neglect? We all have to guard our hearts so that we continue to grow by delighting in the Word. We are preparing for the next trial before it arrives.

Psalm 119:80 – Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed. 

When the next trial comes, we will find that our heart is “sound” or secure in the Word. We have new blooms, so to speak. They’ve come gradually by the meditating of the word (Psalm 119:11) and we won’t be ashamed, in other words, we won’t fall apart and come unglued because we didn’t know how to apply the Scriptures to our situation.

The missionary Amy Carmichael said this about spiritual growth:

“Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they are won through step by step by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph to spiritual maturity. That is the work of the moment. “

We’ll never be done with growing until we reach heaven’s shores; it’s a slow yet deliberate process. There’s no Miracle Gro remedy for us as there is for my plants, but growth is certain if we just do what we know we need to do with our gracious Savior’s enabling.

What are you doing today to promote growth in your spiritual life? I’d love to hear about how you study the Word to keep it fresh!

8e63c63ac0bc189bf1c68b03c74dbb5f (1)

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge:
but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
Proverbs 15:14

What parent is there that would want their child to remain an infant all their life? As cute as our babies are, we rejoice at each step of growth as they mature. In the same way, as we continue on this journey of walking with the Lord, we have must first have a relationship with God by receiving Christ as our personal Savior. After that, the natural outflow from our spiritual life should be growth.

We all experience dry spells, but for the most part, we should be making progress spiritually. It is aided by purposeful focus. We will purposefully seek knowledge if it is our desire to grow in the Lord more each day.

In order to go beyond just floating along in our Christian life, we need to dig deeper. The means that one woman, Elizabeth George used was:

  1. She never bought a skirt or pair of pants without pockets in it. At the beginning of the week she would write a new memory verse on a 3×5 card and would take it out all day long and read it and work on hiding that verse in her heart. What verse are you currently working on memorizing?
  2. She had “Five Fat Files.” She purchased five file folders in order to tuck away information on Biblical subject matters. She was to pick five areas in which she wanted to grow in expertise so that she was filling herself up with knowledge in these areas.

    In order for us to follow this advice we need to ask ourselves (and pray about) what we’d like to be known for. Do you want to be known as a woman of prayer? Mentoring? Soul winning? After you’ve chosen your five Biblical topics, seek knowledge in these areas. You’ll then know what subjects to be studying. We can’t read everything, but when we have chosen five areas, we have a better idea of what kind of books we should be looking for. We’ll know which workshops to attend when we go to a ladies’ retreat. We’ll clip articles from magazines on those subjects, or print off information we read on the Internet. We can talk with people who are excelling in those areas and ask them questions.

It really helps to funnel our attention to a much smaller focus, and then to seek knowledge especially in those five areas. How will this aid your spiritual growth? You’ll be anxious to get out of bed in the morning to jump up and get in God’s Word to learn more what He says about those five subjects.

Along with filling your five fat files, Elizabeth encourages us to code our Bibles. If you’re seeking knowledge about prayer, mark a P next to each verse you read about praying, a person who prayed, how to pray, Jesus’ prayers, etc. If you make a study of the Women of the Bible, role of women, older women, place a W beside each passage you find about them. Each day as you read your Bible, read it with a pen in hand; that is an act of faith, revealing that you’re certain the Lord is going to show you a nugget that you need to mark.

This kind of study is the main stream to ministry. As you fill yourself up in these five areas, you’ll be like a teapot jumping on the stove. You’ll be so filled with knowledge from God’s Word that you’ll be pouring out on other people. Like the woman that Elizabeth learned from, women will seek you out to get wisdom from the areas in which you have grown.

So, what kind of ministry will you have from the outflow of your spiritual growth? By His grace, let’s each choose those five areas and start growing!

Because of His grace,

Growing Spiritually In the Busy Years

She remembers the day when she could get up, pour coffee, grab her Bible and head out to some comfy, solitary place to read, journal and pray.  Now this busy mom’s alarm clock is a baby, a toddler and her school-aged children.  Their faces, their needs, their cries all come first.  There’s only apple juice, baby bottles, Cheerios and burned toast first thing after getting up.  Oh, the coffee is made, but has been sitting on the burner for far too long. Her time in God’s Word is a desire in her heart, but how will it happen when there are so many other demands on a young mom’s plate?  What is a young mom to do to grow spiritually?

Your demands as a woman might be different, but you’re busier than you’ve ever been, and find it difficult to cultivate time in God’s Word that is meaty and meaningful.  What is a busy woman to do to grow spiritually?

 

I believe there are several practical ways for every woman to spend time in God’s Word when life is busy.

one minute20150323_084620

  1. Place devotional books, books of God’s Promises, or other short reads in places where you can stop for a minute and read something from God’s Word.  Put those kinds of books in a basket in the bathroom (if you’re fortunate enough to be in there alone!), in the laundry area, or in the car.  Read something that will encourage your heart for that minute or two.
  2. Listen to podcasts of preaching or other biblical broadcasts while you’re nursing the baby, folding clothes, making dinner, riding in the car, etc.  Screenshot_2015-03-23-08-50-41 (1)
  3. Listen to Scripture on your phone.  In the same times I listed in #2, when you can’t sit down and open your Bible, you can still listen to someone else read it!  I love the You Version.
  4. proverbs marked20150323_091209Read the Proverb for the day.  It probably only takes about five minutes to read a chapter.  Highlight the verse(s) that jump out and speak to your heart and needs.
  5. Don’t fill your mind with television and other “junk!”  Use every opportunity to fill your heart and mind with God’s Word instead!
  6. Write one verse that you want to memorize  on a 3×5 card .  Tuck that card into your pocket and keep it with you all day.  Pull it out and refresh your heart with the next sentence, and the next and the next.  In a couple of day’s time, you’ll have it memorized!  Scripture in your heart can feed you all day long!

As your life slows down, begin to add in more and more of the kind of Quiet time that will really nurture your heart.  These strategies are for a season, but not forever.  Eventually you’ll be able to be back in a regular routine of study, journaling and prayer, but in the meantime, you can still be fruitful and growing!

Don’t allow the busy times to make you stagnant.  This (busyness), too, shall pass – but you’ll never recapture what you could have gleaned if you don’t grab the spiritual nuggets when you can!

Are you a busy woman like I described?  Which of these tools will you try?

With love,

8E63C63AC0BC189BF1C68B03C74DBB5F

Preparing a Child’s Heart To Know Christ

51e0b-flowers005

I’m thrilled that gardening season is here!  Each day I enjoy going outside and tending to each potted plant, window box and flowering bed.  I pull off dead blooms, fluff the tender foliage so it will hang beautifully over the edge of the pot, and then give a gentle showering of water so it can soak into the roots, adding growth.  From time to time I also add Miracle Grow – a plant food that speeds up the growing process and makes sure the plants are healthy.  The results are beautiful!!

As we’ve talked all week about a child being saved, every one of the steps above, regarding tending a plant, could be applied to bringing a child to the place where they understand their need for Jesus Christ to be their Savior.  We need to harvest the garden of their hearts so it will be their early understanding that they are sinners who are in need.

Making the plant application, let’s look at a few practical ways that parents can help their children get to that point early on in life.

  • Pull off dead blooms – This involves seeing that something is in their life that shouldn’t be and literally “nipping it in the bud!”  =)  When they disobey, for instance, we don’t overlook it or redirect their attention to a “better option,” NO!  That sin must be dealt with in a biblical manner.  Even from the time they’re very young they should understand that obeying isn’t simply making mommy a happier person – obeying mommy means you’re obeying God!  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Galatians 6:1  Teach them that simple verse by saying it each time they disobey you.

    “Disobedience is sin.  Each time you disobey Mommy, you’re sinning against God.  But God loves you.  Let’s ask Him to help you obey.”

    Using God’s Word as your guide, teach the child that what they’re doing is sin that makes God sad.  “You needed a Savior so God sent Jesus to die for your sin!”  You don’t have to preach a message, just those simple statements about God’s holiness (you didn’t say it that way, but that’s what you’re teaching) and His love, points them to their need for Jesus when they sin.

  • Fluff the tender foliage.  Encourage any tenderness the child shows towards their sin.  Let them cry, but then comfort them and remind them that God loves them and so do you, and God wants to help them NOT sin.  Any time they want to move forward in an invitation, or they ask questions in family devotions, encourage that!  Listen.  Answer their questions. Be supportive!
  • Give a gentle showering of water to encourage growth.  Sprinkle truths about God, His Word and the application of it through everything you do each day.  It’s far more meaningful to see a mom live out the Gospel each day and share out of the overflow, than to occasionally get a “lecture” every now and then from an inconsistent life.  Consider:
    • Let thankfulness be in your words about God’s provision for your groceries, your home, your clothing…everything you have.
    • Point out the beauty of God’s creation when you are outside.  Speak Scripture – “The heavens declare the glory of God – Hey kids, how does that sunset tell about God’s glory?”
    • Speak about what you learned in your Bible reading and how it applies to what’s going on at that moment.
    • Whenever there is a need, stop and pray.  Show your child that you’re dependent on God in every situation. – If you see an ambulance or a car accident, why not pray for those involved? If they’re anxious about a test they’re headed into school to take, stop and pray before they get out of the car.
    • Be living out the Gospel by sharing it with others when you’re out, when people are in your home and at church.  Your children need to see your example of a Christian who is a follower of Christ.
    • Read Scripture with your child.  I love the idea of reading the psalm of their age every night of that year!  Most psalms in the early chapters are very short, so I imagine that both you and your child  will have it memorized before the year is out!
  • Add some Miracle Grow – Make sure your child is regularly in places where they will receive extra doses of the Gospel outside of your home – Sunday school, church services, revival meetings, Youth group, youth activities, and Christian camp.  Don’t send your child to church services – go with them.  Then send them on their way to the extra outings, praying that the Gospel will be proclaimed and their heart will be tender.

Tending to my plants is messy and daily.  My hands end up covered with dirt, and if I neglect their care, you can only imagine the ugly results!  The same also applies to the tending of our children’s spiritual needs.  It’s a daily discipleship that is often messy and inconvenient, but the results aren’t just for a summer of glory – it’s for eternity, and it’s such a blessing to be a part of that! This is our heart as parents, is it not? ~

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  III John 1:4

God is the One who will bring the fruit.  We just need to be faithful to plant and water, then leave the results with Him.

What are you doing today that will point your child more towards Christ? 

8e63c63ac0bc189bf1c68b03c74dbb5f (1)