Responding in Love: Family Gatherings according to the Book of James.

Thanksgiving night I sat with our very small gathering, Grandpa snoozing to the left of me, Grandma listening to the chatter of my 8 year old’s endless story to the right of me, and in front of me my boys having the perfect wrestling match during the Thanksgiving football game. I was basking in the blessing of my family gathering when I got a message from someone who had just asked a guest in her home to leave for HITTING her. So it’s obvious that my scene isn’t the only family gathering scene out there.

Families can be messy. And maybe they don’t all end in physical altercations, but family gatherings at the holidays can be stressful, anxiety ridden, and the dread of the year. So how can we maneuver through them and come out on the other side with joy?

Although the Bible is full of verses that lead us to godly relationships, I’d like to look at just one small book, the book of James, to give us a guide to a successful holiday season. If you’ll join me this week, I’d like to do a series “Family Gatherings according to the Book of James”.  So check back in each day for a few more tips as to how you can enjoy your family this holiday season.

James jumps right into saying “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow..” (1:2,3) So before we really dig in here, let’s just stop and know that trials bring endurance. And when family gets messy, instead of dreading it, look forward to what it builds within you to endure.  “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (1:12) God wants you to endure it; He wants you to triumph over it. And He has a purpose for letting you go through it. So, now we need to figure out HOW to endure it, HOW to get to the great joy, and HOW to let it grow. And James does not leave us hanging.

The first thing I feel we all need to do, and do it immediately, is pray. James 1:5 says that if we need wisdom, we should pray for it. And going into a messy Family gathering requires wisdom. We KNOW what we should do. We know HOW we should act; but when we pray for the wisdom that God gives, we learn what to DO with all the “right things” we know. We must walk into the holiday gatherings with wisdom. Don’t wait until the night before, begin today praying for peaceful gatherings, and wisdom for when they are not.

When you pray, don’t start off with, “Lord, You know how annoying Jimmy is!….” Instead ask God to help you see Jimmy as HE sees Jimmy. “Lord, give me compassion for Jimmy. Help me to be patient, and to love him past the things that annoy me.”

If you notice, verse 5 does NOT say, “If you need your brother to stop getting on your nerves you should ask God to give him social graces.” No, the verse is geared inward. What can I do to endure patiently? Most all conflicts can be subdued by ONE person choosing not to react.

So many “flaws” we see in others are just a matter of preference between people. So if we can begin to condition our minds to look past the differences and value the person because Jesus does, we can smile through even the most annoying character trait.

Pray ahead of time that YOUR heart towards your family is lined up with God’s will.

This is where responding and reacting come in, or I should say where their differences come in. When personalities clash, RESPOND in love don’t REACT in annoyance and make issues into problems.

Now, there’s that issue of the abusive family member. If you know there’s the possibility of their toxicity working hard to ruining a family gathering, by all means add to your prayers for yourself prayers for them.  Pray that Addict Addy stays clean and clear. Pray that Judgemental Judy doesn’t ruin the holiday. By all means, lift up Negative Nancy, and Trouble Maker Tommy that God would intervene in their lives and bring joy where they are lacking. But be sure that when the addict gets defensive, the judgemental begins to judge, the negativity rises, and the trouble begins to brew, that you RESPOND in a godly way, and refrain from REACTING in ways that can escalate the situation. Boundaries are important. No one should allow abuse in their home, or to their loved ones. And like the situation I mentioned at the beginning, there are times you have to ask loved ones to leave, or you have to decide not to share the holidays with certain family members, but it’s all done with the goal of glorifying God among your family gatherings.

Respond with Jesus in mind, it’s His birthday we’re celebrating anyway. And in order to endure to the end, refrain from reacting and pray. Begin that now.

Lord, we pray that you will be in the midst of our holiday celebrations with family and friends, even the friends and family that are not so easy to be in a room with. Help us to love them as you love them. Help us to set boundaries where boundaries need setting, and to do so with glorifying you in mind. Open our eyes to see the Holy Spirit among our gatherings and help us to respond in godly ways to conflict. Let your light shine through us to those we celebrate with.

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Would You Save them if you Could?

My husband and I love ministry.  We are coming up on 18 years of doing ministry together, and about 20 + years of being in ministry of some capacity. It’s important to us, and although there have been rough times, it has been such a great adventure. We are currently heading towards our 7 year mark as lead pastors at our current church and God has laid on our hearts some very big steps to take with the ministry here. We’ve been praying and seeking God and getting excited, and sharing our vision with our church.

Recently God laid a sermon on my heart and I shared it with my husband. We sat at the table for hours discussing what could happen if we could get our church of 50 or so people to grab hold of the vision of 1 Peter 2:9. “You are a chosen people. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 

If we could convince them that they are the priests, under Jesus, the High Priest, our church could grow exponentially. In the Old Testament, priests had to take charge of their tabernacles. They had to work hard to move it as the Israelites traveled, they’d set it up, tear it down, pack it properly. Then they’d slay and butcher the sacrifices, and clean up the blood afterwards. They would minister to the people in the tabernacle, and like Samuel, they’d minister in their community. But then Jesus came, sacrificed once and for all and with that the levitical priesthood was no longer needed. Their sacrifices held no power, and Jesus transferred that honor to us. WE became the royal priesthood. And as modern day priests, we should be setting up the church each week… bringing in friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, filling the seats that sit empty. We should be preparing the place, praying over each service. It is our responsibility to pack it up properly, to take the sermon each week and carry it to the community, traveling the sermons of grace and healing, salvation, and freedom to the places you travel next. The ancient priests did not sit in a service and wait to be fed. They ministered. They came into the holy place with the idea that they were there to minister. 

Americans every week leave churches never to return with the mindset of “I’m just not being fed there.” When Christians come and sit and are completely content being consumers and not contributors, we are failing our churches. It won’t matter what church you go to, big or small a church full of consumers is an unhealthy church. It’s nearly universal in churches all over that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the church… and what remains usually falls on the Pastor. 

Like I said, we enjoy doing ministry. It is a strong passion of ours, and we count it an honor and a privilege to serve. But we create an unhealthy church when we fail to promote the need for members to come alongside us and participate in the ministering. Pastors ARE priests, they are not exempt from this, but because they are willing to do so much of the work within the church does not exempt the believers from doing their part.

A few days before the sermon I got to preach at the church, I had a dream, one I felt was 100% God’s vision. In the dream I had preached but I had no recollection of doing so. I kept asking Pastor what it was like, and apparently I had been very upfront and rather stern in my sermon. I began to worry that the people would be upset and I was fearful they would misunderstand and think I was angry or overly critical but Pastor remind me that God had taken over and preached through me, and that was why I had no recollection of standing before them. Then pastor asked, “What did you think you were doing if you weren’t preaching?” And in my mind I was outside the church in the middle of a raging river where waves were crashing over people who could not swim, and could not find their way out. I was pulling as many as I could out of the river and onto the shore. I had a strategy, I was going at it with zeal, but SO MANY were slipping through my fingers. I just could not get to them. I could not convince them on my own to swim to shore and so they were drowning, dying right before my eyes. And I kept turning towards the church screaming for the church to come help me. I was left wondering why they sat in the church knowing so many were drowning outside their walls and if only I could convince them to come out and help, oh what a difference that would make. I just couldn’t do it on my own.

So as the dream continued, my husband had been staring out the church windows as I told him about the raging river and all the lost souls within it. He said, “Because of what happened in this church service today, look at what is happening out there.” and he pointed me toward the window. And outside I saw that same raging river and so many in my town and county were being beaten by these waves, but among them were my church family. They were pulling them to safety one by one, two by two. So many were being saved. My husband then turned to me and said, “So now, we gather the towels, the blankets, the bedding, the supplies and we get prepared for the people to bring them inside to be ministered to.”

You see, the Pastor IS a priest. He still goes out and ministers outside his church walls, but he was never meant to do it alone. His main job is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:12). To help the church members realize their true potential, to teach them, encourage them, and to equip them to minister… but you have to be willing to minister. You have to be willing to be the royal priesthood. For you are a chosen people, You are His possession and YOU have been called out of darkness and into the light, you know the way!

I know we can save no one, the saving power is in Jesus alone. But, They won’t see Him if we won’t reach out.  They won’t feel it if we don’t give Him it out. They won’t come, if they aren’t invited.

It is a biblical mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19,20) None of us are exempt from this great commission. And yet so many leave it up to missionaries and pastors. This was never the way God intended the church to be.

But you’re not alone. This end of verse 20 says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  This was not an empty promise. The last thing Jesus said before He ascended into heaven was that he’s send a comforter. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8,9) 

We have the holy spirit to empower us to be bold when we don’t feel we can approach the subject to our friends. We have the Holy spirit to embolden us to reach out to a dying and hurting community with the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the resources within the Holy Spirit that can heal the broken hearted,overcome the damage done by abusive backgrounds,  encourage the depressed to courageously move forward, stimulate the lonely to reach out, revitalize discouraged teens and children with a new and holy energy and introduce hope into the lives of countless people who feel rejected and alone. And the tragedy is, we don’t utilize it. The silence in the church is deafening. We have the Spirit, and we are hoarding it. (as if we ever could!). 

So, would you save them if you could? If you saw people drowning in their sorrow would you save them if you could? If you saw people sinking into despair would you save them if you could? If you saw the culture around us begin to devour young people by the handfuls and YOU had the answer to save them, would you give what you had? You CAN save them. You aren’t the savior (obviously) but you know Him. You don’t have the power on you own, but he gave it to you. It starts with just one person who decides to be a spirit inspired, supernaturally empowered, priest who will engage in the Great commission to reach people with the life changing message of the Lord of all Lords, Jesus Christ!  They won’t see it if we won’t go. Again, they won’t feel it if we don’t give it out. They won’t come, if they aren’t invited. Will you be a priest in this royal priesthood? Will you save them by giving them the message of the cross?

If you’re willing, begin praying for Jesus to revitalize your heart. Find time in the day to set aside all other prayer requests and specifically pray for the spirit to give you boldness in this area. Leave me a comment if you’re willing to make a change and live as a royal priesthood (maybe you’re living in, Praise God! I’m believing for your life to overflow onto those around you!)

If you feel like you’re the one drowning, can I introduce you to the only one who can save, Jesus. Will you email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com I’d love to talk to you about a proven way to improve your life.

And if you’d like to hear the sermon our church heard this past week, you can hear it here. It’s titled “Priesthood of the Saints”

 

Rest, Even When it’s Not Bedtime

If you have no time to rest, it’s exactly the right time.”
-Albert Einstein

I won’t lie, I do have a lot to do in a week’s time. Between Homeschooling, the church, my part-time (VERY part-time) job, and a house to run, the hours go by quickly and to tell the truth sometimes not everything even gets done. Of course we all have the same 24 hours in a day, it just depends on how much you plan on packing into those hours.

And that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today. Are you packing so much into the day that rest is not on the to-do list? I’m sure I just heard readers (even as little as I may have) sigh, and simultaneously roll their eyes. Don’t worry, I have pre-teen/teenagers… I’m immune to eye-rolls!
“When am I supposed to rest? There are dishes to be done, a pile of laundry waiting, 40+ hour work weeks, church commitments,  PTO, a baby to nurse, a toddler to read to, after school homework, Girl Scouts, Awanas, cupcakes for my child’s class, a gym membership that is NOT being used enough and my weekend is full of soccer games, basketball, hockey, and I’ve just started the youngest in ballet! I barely get 5 hours a sleep at night and you want me to find time to REST!?

Oh I heard you loud and clear. And no where did I say it would be easy. Nor did I say it was my idea. God established rest for our own good. There was a reason He established a day of rest. Our brains were not created by the greatest of creators to go non-stop without proper times of rejuvenation. Science can agree with God here. Studies have shown (google it) that the average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Even if we exclude mothers of babies who still wake at night, most people do not get near this amount. I hear boasts all the time, “I only need 4 hours!” or “HA! I do fine on 3 hours and a short nap”. As if that is some badge of honor. But that simply was not how you were intended to function. And even as some feel they function perfectly fine, life is going at such a quick speed they are losing out on so much of its beauty.

Rest is not easy and requires discipline and sacrifice. Rest also requires that we forget what the world is telling us, and do what is best for US and our families. Society tells us to keep kids off drugs and off the street we need to fill their time with sports and activity so they don’t have the opportunity to get in trouble. But when they can’t keep up with the busyness and high demands (because they were never intended to) they withdraw, and may even become depressed.

It’s simple, we were never intended to live such a busy life, but instead to find time to rest. Not only should we get plenty of sleep at night, but we need to discipline ourselves to find time within the day. Satan wants you so busy that you forget about God. And when the void shows up, the one you can never fill with activities, only with God, the enemy tries to tell you you just haven’t found what fulfills you yet, and so you try just another activity.

Well, it wasn’t knitting, let me try learning a new language. Oh, I still feel unfulfilled, maybe I can serve at church 5x a week. 

And yet, none of it ever fills you up because what you’re really needing is rest.

Pete Scazzero in his book “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship” reminds us that God did his work in 6 days and took a full day to rest. If it was good enough for God, it’s good enough for us. We were created in His image, so if he needed it, and saw it important for Himself, we need it and need to see it important for ourselves. Although resting does not save our souls (you won’t lose or gain your salvation if you take my advice here) it does save our LIVES. It gives us peace, some calm, and time for reflection.

When I met my husband, and even a few years into our marriage I hardly ever sat down. It started when I was in highschool. I went to school, got out early and went to an afterschool job. When I was done with that job, I went on to another job until 9pm. I’d come home to dinner in the microwave and homework at the kitchen table. On the weekends when the afternoon job was closed, and I’d met my 20 hours at my night-time job, I’d head into full day shifts at a weekend job. When I was done with that job I’d immediately have plans with my friends and was never home a minute before my curfew. When I got married I wanted to slow down and focus on building a marriage. I went from 2 full-time jobs and school to one full time job next to our home, and took a semester off of school. Our goal was to focus on ministry and each other. But I couldn’t sit still. I cleaned our apartment 3x a day. If a speck of dust was seen, I had to dispose of it. If my husband was done with is drinking glass, the glass needed to be washed. I needed to stay busy. My husband would take my hand and lead me to the couch and say, “Will you please sit down, you’re making me nervous.”

If we were going to build a relationship that would stand the test of time and finances and children, we needed to take the time to sit with one another, listen to one another, take time out for one another. Our marriage would not have made it to this point, 18 years of ministry, 13 years of parenthood, 4 kids deep without taking the time to spend with each other.

The same is true with God. You can fill your days with good things (community service, church ministry, outreach to neighbors, after school programs, sports, running a home) and still fall short with God all because you fill your time with things that are not as productive as REST.

Fast forward 18 years and we’ve built our lives around an inward focus. We do not allow multiple sports for our kids. Part of our reasoning behind homeschooling is so we can take time to learn, and fit in family time even if my Pastor Husband is called away. We value days off, and I spend each night on the couch with my husband still cultivating a healthy marriage.

I, now, wake before my children so I can have some alone time with God. I maybe couldn’t do that when my babies were waking every couple of hours a night… but now it’s a priority. **When I don’t do this, and I wake with the kids, who inevitably wake with the amount of energy and noise comparable to sprinting cheetahs as they chase down VERY loud hyenas. And instantly I’m thrust into my day before my eyes can even focus. In contrast, when I decide to get up and spend time in prayer and in my Bible, I’m focused in a new way when my kids begin to trample down the stairs.

I can not express enough how beneficial this is to my day. It means I have to go to bed earlier, cut out some night-time activities so I don’t neglect my marriage, and utilize my remaining hours wisely. I’m aware that not everyone homeschooled, and many of you have full-time jobs. That just means saying no to even more. Make your time at home in the evenings a calmer, less scheduled time. Carve out time on the weekends to sit and reflect on your week’s end, and the week coming up.

Do not plan things on Sundays, make the commitment to make that day  set aside for God, family and self. Keep in mind that this does NOT have to happen on a Sunday. Pick any day of the week, or any 24 hour period that you can set aside for God, family, and self. For some, because of work, school, church, or maybe even shared custody of the kids,  Sunday isn’t a great day for this (although please find a Weekend church to attend). Maybe Friday 6pm to Saturday 6pm works for you. Whatever time you pick, make it sacred. Guard it. Make it a top priority.

Another thing we do is require our children to stay in their rooms until 7:30am and go to bed between 8 and 8:30pm. We started this when they were still in their cribs. Even if we sat in the rocking chair until time to get out, we taught them that we don’t get up and wake everyone before that 7:30 time frame. It took training at first, but now they can play quietly, read, or draw, or whatever as long as they are in their rooms. And by 8:30pm all our children are in bed (unless we have church or we extend it on the weekends). Of course we want to teach them that proper sleep is important. But we also want to schedule “off” time for us. As a family we pick up and tidy the house before that 8 o’clock hour. So when the kids are in bed, Mama is off duty, Dad is done with his day and the two of us can cuddle and binge watch The Closer! We can talk freely, discuss the ups and downs of the day, come up with a parenting plan, discuss the ministry, our dreams, hopes, wishes… and be downright silly. It’s a date every night. It may not be ultra romantic, but it’s us… just us. And that’s a priority!

Whatever your schedule is, carve out time for rest. Carve out time to slow things down. Carve out time where running from one activity to another is not required. Your productivity will increase. You may not get as much done in one 24 hour period… but you’ll be a better person, and you’ll be better at the things you’ve made important. And ultimately, you’ll grow in your relationship with God.

 

Like Podcasts? Take a listen to some of these on the topic of Rest:
A Real Rest from Chris Hodges’ Church
The Emotionally Healthy Discipleship’s 10 Reasons Sabbath is Core to Leadership

 

 

Hello, My Name is…

WAY back in the day when Pastor and I were youth pastoring we had an intern. On the intern’s first day we all sat around and chatted, and it came out that he and I had attended the same Bible Camp in early high school. As we chatted more the intern started acting a little distant. His conversation was quick, his eyes no longer focusing. And me, the chatty one just kept talking about this Bible camp. Soon, the conversation got awkward.
“Oh man, my best friend always had guys following her around everywhere she went, even at Bible Camp.”

Intern: Yep, I think I know her and the boy who had the crush.

“Oh, and one year the kid had a friend, they just hung around WAY too much!”

Intern: Yep, I was that friend!

“Oh, no! It wasn’t you. This kid was scrawny, super annoying, he even asked me out… I of COURSE said NO!”

Intern: Yep! That was me.

“I’m serious, it wasn’t you. That guy’s name was Bob something… ” (no real names are used) Plus, this guy was pitiful. He was dirty, smelly. I think he may have even been slow.

Intern: Was it Bob SMITH??

“Oh yeah!!! It WAS Bob Smith! Man, that kid was really scuzzy, I felt bad for him. ” (Please remember, this was WAY back when… and I was not very nice, and I’d NEVER say ANYTHING like this now!!! I promise!)

Intern: I am Bob Smith!!

“I thought you were Larry!?” **I didn’t actually know his last name, so at this point I’m nervous that I was speaking of the poor boy’s close relative. However, it got worse!

Intern: I am Bob Larry Smith. I changed my name a few years ago. I go by Larry now!

Remove shoe, expose foot, insert foot into mouth… the entire foot.

No amount of backpedaling could reverse the things I’d said bad about this poor intern RIGHT-TO-HIS-FACE! I was mortified… not just of the fact that I’d said it to his face, but I was just SO mean in my words.

The intern with much grace and ease turned to my husband and said, “Sorry, Dude, I think I hit on your wife when we were kids!” HA!

This story came to my mind as I read the first chapter in our current Bible Study book for church. “The Daniel Dilemma” by Chris Hodges. The chapter speaks of how often we allow Satan to dictate our identity, our “name”. He calls us scrawny, annoying, pitiful, dirty, smelly, scuzzy. He tells us that we aren’t worthy to be around certain people. And unfortunately he does it through other people. (sometimes even Christians… oops!)

We live in a society that is searching for their identity. And it’s heartbreaking to see how many are so far from who God has called them to be.  Hodges points out that the enemy wants to distract us from focusing on our relationship with God and instead focus on what others say about us. (pg10)

Jeremiah 1:5 says Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…

Many times God changed a person’s name in the Bible. Once men like Abram, Jacob, Simeon, and Saul had an encounter with God, they were changed, they were new, they had a new purpose. The author points out that “these identities were not really new;  they were the ones Israel, Abraham, Peter and Paul we always supposed to have. They just hadn’t fully stepped into who God had made them to be until God marked them and called them by new names.”

Larry did not want to be Bob anymore. He was living up to the bullying he’d received from others. Bob was living what he was believing. He believed that he was too poor to rise above. He believed that all the insults, and circumstances, and ungodly words that came from people claiming to be godly were true. And Bob stopped finding his purpose in God. It wasn’t until Bob decided he no longer wanted to listen to the evil in the world dictate who he was anymore, but instead began to listen to his creator, his author, his identity maker!

Bob said good-bye to what people placed on him, and said hello to the only One who mattered. And out emerged Larry. A man who found his calling in Christ.  I praise God for the calling He put on Larry’s life, although I do not know where the intern is now, but I do know that when he changed his life, his name, and his identity, he stepped right into where God wanted him.

Who are you? What is your name? Are you Depressed? Anxious? Poor? Confused? Unworthy? (The answer is NO!) You may feel this way, but your identity is SO much more. God’s got a new name for you, and with it comes a great purpose and blessing.

If you are in the St. James, MN area and you feel yourself standing at a crossroads in your life, and you’re ready for a new start, please contact me by either emailing me ( thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com ) or dropping by the Crossroads Church at 721 Weston Ave. You can find out more about the church by following the Crossroads Church’s Facebook page. We have services every Sunday at 10am.

If you have been struggling with your Christian identity in a culture of compromise,  I highly recommend Chris Hodges book, The Daniel Dilemma.   You can order the book on Amazon.

I’m praying for you right now!

Anxiety and Trust Can’t Coexist

When I was eight years old I remember laying in my bed at night and crying over all the possible things that could go wrong. I cried for every person I knew that smoked because what if they died of emphysema? I’d stay up worrying about if my baby brother would grow up to like me, and I’d fret about mosquitos giving me AIDS (no joke, I was terrified!). I was never a risk taker in my teen years, too many things could go wrong. My biggest risky behavior was to drive a tad over the speed limit… and I got busted for it WAY too many times!

Fast forward to becoming a mother, and this anxiety hits in the deepest depths of my mind. I’ll never forget that moment that I first had the overwhelmingly panicky, fearful moment. My oldest child (only child at the time) was only about 7mo old and we were driving along Mammoth Mountain in California. The snow had piled so high along the sides of the road that the road was narrow and the cliff was right there! It was beautiful… to some… to me it was our death trap! The higher we drove on the mountain, the more I glanced back at my baby, and the more scared I became until finally I blurted out, “TAKE ME HOME!!! I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE, NOW!” I shocked my husband and myself.

I do not have anxiety at a clinical level. But I have moments of complete fear, to the point of tears, and I begin to lose sleep over all of the what ifs. Last night was one of those nights. In about 3 weeks we’re returning to one of my kids’ favorite places, and one of my biggest fears. Wisconsin Dells. You see, for people like me, large crowds and 4 kids spark anxiety. Swimming pools spark anxiety. Add those things together and you’ve got it, I’m up at night with anxiety filled dreams, and a list of what ifs a mile long.

But, this isn’t our first time to Wisconsin Dells’ crowd filled, death traps upon death traps of water slides and pools (sorry… ), and it most likely won’t be my last. I made a decision a long time ago, as I’ve been dealing with this for 13 years now, not to allow this issue of mine to rob me of the wonderful fun my family has. It isn’t easy. My dreams are vivid, life-like, and scare me to the point of tears almost every single night leading up to this trip… but they won’t overcome me.

Anxiety and trust cannot coexist. If I want to honor God by trusting him with the things most valuable to me, my kids, I have to take captive every single anxious thought. Trusting God is not as easy as typing that out. It takes practice, discipline, and constant attention to the destructive thoughts that come in order to push anxiety like mine aside and choose to trust God.

Many people do not like this idea. They don’t believe they have control over the thoughts that come in their minds. They take the motto of “It’s too hard” instead of “Be anxious for nothing”. And to be honest, it offends them to read something like what I am typing. When we struggle to overcome something, the last thing we want to hear is that our trust in God is wavering. But there is the truth, and that’s what we have to look at. Anxiety and Trust cannot coexist. And in the midst of a late night battle with anxiety I have to make the choice to either dwell there, give into the thoughts, and feed the anxiety or to trust God to care for and protect my mind, and ultimately me and my children.

“But it’s so hard! The thoughts are so strong, and constant. HOW can I possibly drive them out!?”

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

So, First, read the Word of God and BELIEVE it when it says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-8 MSG)

You have to replace the anxious thoughts with God trusting thoughts. Believe me there may be days where this is ALL you do in your mind. It’s gruelling, but SO worth it. In the NLT it says, ” Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Part of this process is to remember ways God has protected you, cared for you, and met your needs.

When my 2nd daughter was born I had a hard time laying her in her bed and leaving the room for the night. I was going through a really rough time, we had moved from CA to WI and had no jobs to support us. I was having some trust issues with God and one night when I simply could not pull myself away from her bedside I sat on the floor and cried. I said, “God! How can I trust you when we have no car, we have no jobs, and now two kids, what are you doing here!?” and right there on the floor of my infants room I hashed it out with God. He won of course reminding me of every time he’s met my needs. He reminded me that when I don’t trust, I pull away. And when I pull away, I put an unsafe distance between me and God. God never moved, but I took steps away. And once I began to thank Him for all He’s done, that peace surrounded me and I could trust my daughter in His hands.

I prayed that if something truly warranted my attention that I’d know the difference between anxiety and a call to action. That has proven itself many times over now and I know the difference in the feelings.

After two miscarriages and finally a very difficult pregnancy and an even more difficult birth of our 3rd child,  I found out I was pregnant with my 4th. Fear began to creep in. And I chose to not live in fear. So I took this verse in Philippians and put it to practice. Every fear that came up, every what if that tried to steal my joy, I turned into prayer. For example: When I did not feel sick one morning after having severe morning sickness the day before, instead of freaking out because my experience told me that meant miscarriage, I prayed, “I’m so thankful that I feel so good today, Lord. Thank you for the reprieve, but I’m scared. I’m scared that this is a sign of miscarriage, please take care of my baby. I give this baby to you for you hold his future in your hands. I TRUST you and will choose to trust instead of fret.” I did this many times a day. My delivery was so horrible with baby #3 and I’d fret the delivery of # 4 almost every day of the pregnancy, but I turned them into prayer EVERY.SINGLE.TIME until that peace came over me… and that delivery was the easiest of all 4. It was so good!

So I think of those times and I remind myself that God has taken care of our family from the very beginning and he will not stop now. When I wake up at 4am riddled with dream after dream of my children drowning or getting lost, or kidnapped while at the Dells, I get myself up and pray myself through immediately, even if that means missed sleep tonight… tomorrow will be better.

I also pray the scriptures. I believe the Word of God is true. And so I pull out a few scriptures and I pray out loud the TRUTH over my fear. I put my kids’ names in the spots where it makes sense…

Lord, I look up to the mountains—
For my help comes from there. 
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
 
He will not let My children stumble;
the one who watches over them will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over my children
never slumbers or sleeps.
 
The Lord himself watches over them!
The Lord stands beside them as their protective shade.
 sun will not harm my children by day,
nor the moon at night.
 
The Lord keeps them from all harm
and watches over their lives.
The Lord keeps watch over them as they come and go,
both now and forever. (Psalm 121, bold print = changes)
I fill my mind with prayers of trust until there is no room left for thoughts of anxiety. And to be honest, this took me 90 or so minutes last night. It’s NOT easy… but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
God is a sympathetic God. None of us are perfect, and we’re all given our own set of struggles to overcome. God does not leave us to do this alone! He’ll walk each step with is.
For some anxiety isn’t an issue, for others, it can be a cancer. And just like cancer treatments can be aggressive, so must our course of action to overcome fear and anxiety. For some it’s not the safety of their children, but their checkbook, they fear and fret every time it’s time to pay the bills. They lose sleep over how they will put food on the table. For others it may be the drive to be perfect in all they do. They fear making mistakes and they live in this constant pull between the impossibility to be perfect, and their anxiety over beating that impossibility. Although the symptoms are different, the cancer is the same… and the treatment will always be to CHOOSE to be anxious about nothing and pray about it all.
I suspect this won’t be my only night where I have nightmares. I have 3 weeks before we have the time of our lives at the Waterpark Capital of the World. And I’ll need to up my prayer time each day we are there, but I’m committed to choose peace and trust. It’s what the Word says to do.
Below are a FEW scriptures you can turn to prayer as you choose to overcome your anxiety. I got this set from a bible.com (youversion App) reading plan called, “Praying through the Scriptures: Anxiety” I keep this plan on my phone at all times so if I’m struggling I know where I can find some good solid scriptural prayers. I know there’s more out there, feel free to share them in a comment!
I’m praying for YOU, too. Anxiety can be debilitating. Don’t dwell in it (it’ll grow!) instead, choose trust. And remember Trust and Anxiety cannot coexist.
  • Matthew 6:25-34
  • 1 Peter 5:7-11
  • Philippians 4:4-7
  • Proverbs 3:5-8
  • Psalm 46
  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

And if you think about me during the week of June 17th-20th, lift me up in prayer. I would never want to ruin this week of fun for my family because of my lack of trust. I have always enjoyed myself in years past, and I plan to do it again this time.

For the Sake of the Neighbor’s Salvation

 

How many of you know that the world and it’s moral compass is proof that Jesus is coming soon! We’re seeing a lot of scripture truly come to life and we need to heed the warning. Let’s take a look at  1 Timothy chapter 4

This chapter starts off with the warning from the Holy Spirit that some will turn away from the faith of Jesus Christ. Falling away comes in many different forms. One can give up completely, turn their backs on God, and profess atheism. One can begin to believe lies that the world tells them, and begin making up their own Jesus. So they no longer worship the TRUE Jesus, but a made up version, a false version… which is idolatry at it’s sneakiest. Or, one can continue coming to church, continue preaching to the world the true Jesus… but live in complete contrast to Him. They hold the truths in their hands and not their hearts. They say all the right words, but act not a one of them. Their conscience is dead, what once convicted them, no longer applies… to THEM, others, sure, but not THEM.

This is Satan coming to kill, steal, and destroy! His goal is to Kill our salvation, steal our purpose, and destroy our witness. And in the end times, we can’t afford for this to happen!


Timothy was a pastor, but this chapter wasn’t included in the Bible strictly for pastors. God wants our eyes to be open to be doing the work as well. Has anyone ever seen a baby bjorn. Has anyone seen THIS 

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This is how many Christians expect to live. Your pastor is NOT going to get in a man bjorn and follow you around. You can’t strike up a conversation with your grocery clerk and then turn your back and say, “Now my Pastor will invite you to church!” You can’t pack your Pastor up for every family gathering and let him do the witnessing for you. He can’t live YOUR life and influence YOUR circle. As much as most Pastors LOVE bbq, they can’t be at each one of your houses talking to your neighbors while you grill! YOU must step up, you MUST start inviting people to church, or the Church (capital C) will die. You MUST tell others about the AMAZING, AWESOME, LIFE CHANGING SAVIOR OF THE WORLD! I can not emphasize this enough! This is not optional.

But here’s the good news. God never reveals a problem that is too big for Him to solve. And right here in this chapter (and really all throughout the Bible), he gives us the HOW. How do we tells others, enhance our witness, and become effective Christians?

One… You must be anchored in God’s word. Paul says To be Nourished by the message.  The Bible is truth. It is 100% solid. It will give you ALL you need. Arguing over whose faith is right, or fighting against false teachings in a unloving way is never needed. Don’t waste your time. Instead, as verse 7 says, “train yourself to be godly.” Turning your focus on yourself, and your own relationship will win others to Christ WAY faster than pointing out all their wrongs. The healthier you are, the healthier example you set for the neighbors/community around you.

Secondly,  you must train for godliness.  Yes. Exercising is important. Building muscles keeps us going in life. The stronger your muscles, the better your endurance, metabolism, and even mental health are.  There’s no argument that it’s very important. However, the Bible doesn’t speak to a vigorous physical exercise regimen… but it is VERY clear that training for godliness is a must.

This word “godliness” in verse 8 means to have the character and attitude of God– We aren’t made in the image of Arnold Schwarzenegger. We were made in the image of God! So, is that true in your life? Do your neighbors, your co-workers, your family see the image of God in you?

I definitely don’t have the image of a beauty queen– but I pray that in every encounter the image of God shines more beautifully to others than any tiara I could ever wear upon my head! I pray that the way I treat my husband, the way I handle telemarketers, the way I negotiate internet rates… I even pray the way I discipline my children is proof that I was made in the image of God. It won’t’ mean I won’t mess up… but it is my duty to pursue, and train myself to live in such a manner. Bodily exercise is good… for awhile, but it won’t affect eternity. It won’t go into all the world and preach the good news… but our godliness will.

It is NOT easy, and Paul does not hide that it will hard. But he, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we work hard and continue to struggle through this training because  Our hope is in the LIVING GOD. David challenged Goliath in the name of the LIVING GOD… and guys… he slayed the giant! When we choose the godly life, we, too can slay our giants.  We can tell the rage that lives deep down, “You come at me with frustrations and stress but I come against you in the name of the LIVING GOD!” You can tell your insecurities… “You come at me with shyness and self loathing… I come against you in the name of the LIVING GOD!” You can stand there in front of your giant, whatever weapons he may bear and you can remind him that you have THE.LIVING.GOD and HE is the only weapon you’ll EVER need!

We have power! And it’s a SIN to keep it to ourselves!

We must teach these things and insist that others learn it.  I am NOT saying you beat someone over the head with your Bible, follow around after them chanting “GET SAVED OR BURN” rhetoric. You know, kids don’t learn sometimes on the first time… and sometimes not the 2nd time… and sometimes not the 3rd… or 4th… or 5th time… but we never just walk away and let them ignore the thing they HAVE to learn. Instead you continue to guide, and teach, and speak, and work it into daily life. And if we’re doing it right… we’re not doing this through beating them. Haha. So, we don’t beat people over the head, but we don’t neglect teaching them either. Teaching is more than just preaching, too, by the way.  We show them with our lives, we point them towards Jesus in how we talk to them. We pray for our neighbors and not gossip about them. We seek God’s direction, and we invite grocery clerks to Church. Or we pray with a grieving co-worker. We stand up for the weak, and live out our convictions, even when no one else agrees. You don’t HAVE to preach… but you do HAVE to witness!

There are NO excuses. Timothy was young– but was still called to be an example. So what is your excuse?
If you spoke them out, how ridiculous would they sound?
I did this. I stood at an alter where I felt God was wanting to use me, but I’d held back. And I said out loud my excuses… Are you like me as I stood there and said,
“I’m too fat to approach people and tell them about God.”
Ummm, yeah, where is THAT in scripture?
“I’m just too shy, I’ll stumble over myself if I try to witness.”
“God, I sin.” (Well, DUH!)
“I’m just too busy.”
When you HEAR yourself saying something so outlandish it should resonate with you that you’re just stalling. And you’re giving the enemy a footstool.

 We are called to point others to the saving Grace of Jesus fearlessly and let God do the rest! Paul told Timothy to “preach” through example– preach by the words you say but also HOW you say them–
Preach not just in how you live, but by how you enhance the lives of others.
Preach not by declaring that you go to Church, but instead SHOW them why you can’t stay away!

Preach in the way you live, in the way you love, in how deeply you live out your faith and how pure you are (vs 12). And do all of this by focusing on the scripture, encouraging and teaching others what the Word says.  

We mess up when it comes to the last few verses here… and it’s funny that verse 15 starts  Give your complete attention to these matters…

Timothy was given a gift– This refers to the varying spiritual gifts given to Timothy but it’s also the same word God used to speak of the gifts He gives US! We, as I’ve said before, are made in the image of God– We were given gifts and attributes to use to reflect Him… And yet we neglect them. We live in fear instead of peace. We live defeated instead of victory, we live insecure instead of the child of the God we were created to be! Where do we see the image of God fearful? Defeated? Insecure?

Timothy isn’t the only one that has been given supernatural gifts from God– the word was written TO US! FOR US! We should trust that God will do great things through us– and we must begin to flow with the moving and leading of the Holy Spirit. We must throw ourselves into this task so that everyone will see the progress as verse 15 says.  We need to  Give it our all. We can’t afford to live a passive Christian life. Other’s salvation is at stake.

People are staying away from church because they don’t see the point. The church going people they see are the same as the bar going people. They see anger outside… AND inside the church. They see a world full of hate, division, and pain… and unfortunately… so VERY unfortunately, they see it inside the church.
But maybe one of the most detrimental to the church is that lack of power they see when they look at the church. We’re so passive that they don’t see a reason to change.

Paul is speaking from experience here. No one could accuse Paul of living a passive Christian life.

 1 Corinthians 15:10 says But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Paul knew spiritual growth didn’t just happen, we MUST actively pursue it.

We can have a saved soul– I mean, we’ll make it to heaven– but we can waste it in the process.

I mentioned at the beginning Satan’s goals for us. Kill, steal, and destroy… but what is God’s goal?
TO HAVE AN ABUNDANT LIFE! A powerful, effective life!  All of this culminates in this last verse in 1 Timothy
Why does all of this matter? Your salvation is at risk… but also

For the Sake of the Neighbor’s Salvation, you MUST take your faith outside the church walls and into your own sphere of influence.

If you are saved, and you’ve made that choice, the angels in heaven rejoice because of it, but… for the sake of the neighbor’s salvation you can NOT stop there. Your world needs salvation, too. Your living, your teaching, your witness saves people.
Satan knows that many solid Christians are pretty solid in their faith. He has probably figured out by now that he won’t get some of you to denounce Christ. So he shifts his purpose and works diligently to make you ineffective. If he can get you to look just like the world, he’ll ruin your witness… and he’ll win.
If he can get you to doubt yourself, and keep you living in fear, never stepping out to speak to your family about Jesus… he wins.

We, too easily, disqualify ourselves. We fail to believe the promises written right there in HIs word– and we play right into Satan’s plan for our ineffective lives. And for the sake of our neighbor’s salvation we CAN NOT let that happen! We aren’t going to be perfect… but we ARE going to make a difference.

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church. It’s the day the believers of Jesus went to an upper room and they waited for the promised holy spirit to arrive. In order to take the church out of the building, and into the community, we need the outpouring of the holy spirit. I’ve spoken a lot of MUSTS… and as much as I don’t want to sound so bossy and demanding, I’ve felt SO strongly that it is TIME. The Church needs to be a light into the community, and it can’t be just your pastor’s responsibility. They can’t be strapped to each one of you… You don’t need them (although they ARE important parts of God’s plan here).  You NEED Jesus! You NEED His power, His influence, His witness. But you can no longer keep it to yourself. If you are unwilling to take Jesus outside of  your own personal walls, you’re neighbors are going to die, and they WILL go to hell. I don’t know another nicer way to put it. The truth is, it’s time to leave your pews and trust God for the power to take the message out.

May I challenge you? Make a commitment to 1 Timothy 4. To live a godly life as an open witness… for the sake of your salvation… and the salvation of those who hear you!

This Monday devotion was brought to you by yesterday’s Sermon at Crossroads Church. If you’d like to hear more, learn more, or clarify more, please visit our Facebook page, give us a call (507-375-5920. Leave a message if you need to) or come to our Sunday Services every Sunday at 10am. 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN. I’ll save you a seat!

To the Overwhelmed Mama

It’s Mother’s Day week. This either brings excitement to your mind, or dread. You may be looking forward to an amazing day planned in your honor, or you’re preparing for unmet expectations… yet again. Well, I’d like to spend a few days this week encouraging Moms with some things I’ve learned  I’m learning on this journey. I’ve only been here for 13 years, and I know there’s this entire teen-mom thing just waiting for me (x4). But for now, let me share my heart at this stage.

Being a Mom of 4 (with an extra baby 10hrs of the day), I’m a tad overwhelmed. I may make it to church in time, and have most of the kids’ hair brushed and dressed semi presentable… but the chaos that gets us there is pretty overwhelming. There’s just so much to do. Laundry, cleaning, grooming, laundry, teaching, loving, encouraging, laundry, sports, shopping, feeding, laundry, breaking up fights, cultivating family bonding, laundry… and have I mentioned the never-ending loads of laundry? Even if I have the kids do their own, our schedule does not always allow for them to finish it all in one day, so the mounds begin to form, and the digging to find clothes adds to the frustration, then Sunday comes and no one has anything decent to wear… see, I’m getting overwhelmed just talking about it. But, the Laundry isn’t the only thing on the never ending list!

We are gearing up for a garage sale. And to be honest that was all because we’re really gearing up for family to come and stay for a couple of days in our home. So that means I want the bedrooms to be “guest-ready”. The problem is that My room and bathroom is downstairs, the Fab Four sleep and have a bathroom upstairs. Do you know the destruction that goes on when there is no parent living on the 2nd floor, just room after room of unorganized, hoarding, slime making kids!? If you don’t know… you don’t want to! It can get bad!

But I have to be honest, checking 4 bedrooms (oh how I’m blessed that each kid has their own room!!– But it can appear to be a curse!), 4 closets, a bathroom, a hallway, and the stairs EVERY DAY on top of everything else can be a tad overwhelming for me. I know that sounds lazy, and seem silly, but I also check 4 maths, 4 englishes, 4 sciences, 4 handwritings… I oversee 4 completely individualized curriculums, a baby who is here 40-50hours a week, sports schedules, doctor appointments, dentists appointments, and I’m married to the Pastor. And I don’t even have the energy to go into the work of the church.

Please hear me out, I LOVE this role as Mother (and wife, and pastor-wife). I really do! But, it can get so overwhelming. And so at the end of the day, there are days I’m just glad we made it. I’m just so thankful we all have smiles on our faces as I drag myself to the bottom step, cuddle them all, pray over them all, and send them to their beds. And as I lounge on that bottom step thanking God for those amazing little blessings, I snarl my upper lip, let out a sigh of exhaustion, and say, “Oh MAN, I forgot to check their rooms!”

So, day after day of that, when I FINALLY do check rooms, they are such a mess! And I drop my shoulders in despair as emotions of failure, inadequacy, incompetence and overwhelming unworthiness sweep over me. I can not mange bedrooms, I must be a failure as a mother! Lie number one!!!

Boy, did that escalate fast! But it’s true. We somehow equate being a good mother with how well we manage all the things that are piled on us day in and day out. We let messy playrooms, bedrooms, faces, and bottoms determine our self-worth. And just when we conquer managing the bedrooms, we notice those pesky stairs! HOW in the WORLD do stairs get so incredibly messy!?

But, that’s a LIE. Our success in motherhood has nothing to do with getting our kids to sports on time. It isn’t found in the cleanliness of our kids ears, or thank heavens the amount of times we’ve actually scrubbed that kids’ toilet!

You are a great mom because you love your kids. You are a great mom because you are pursuing a good life for your children. You are a good mom because you protect them, encourage them, love on them, and nurture them. You are their mother! Not their maid! And God has given you these blessings, not to overwhelm you, but to draw you closer to Him. My prayer life has increased exponentially since having children… even more so the more kids I’ve had.

Motherhood isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but there is no better calling on this earth! And God never expected you to do this alone. I wake each morning and hit snooze on my alarm. It’s only 5 min, but I bombard heaven in those 5 minutes. I ask for patience, endurance, and a measure of Grace. I pray against the urge to be perfect, and for a peace to calm my overwhelming tasks throughout the day. I pray for my kids, and their walk with God that day, and I ask God to help them help me. It’s not a lengthy prayer, but it’s my way of reminding myself that it’s not my responsibility to walk this day alone. It puts before me the fact that God is on my side, desires for me to walk in His will, and will help me to do so. This doesn’t mean I don’t pray throughout the day as well… believe me, I am doing it often. “HELP, GOD!” “Protect this child!” “Oh God, I’m glad you love them! Remind them that I do, too!” and many many “Please forgive me, Lord” prayers! But nothing rejuvenated me more than that 5min prayer before I put my feet on the floor each morning.

Mama, be encouraged today! Know that God wants you to raise your kids in His love, and if you have to skip room checks in order to do that, then so be it… Just know even in the midst of the many sports trips, doctor visits, late night feedings, and all the ever-loving trash that comes along with motherhood, Jesus is walking this path alongside of you. He desires your company, and relishes in leading you as you raise these precious blessings He gave you. He chose this calling for you, He won’t fail to equip you to do it.

Praying for each of you lovely mamas this Mother’s Day. mothers-day

For those in the St. James, MN area, Crossroads Church will be starting up a Parent support gathering. These nights will be laid back nights for parents to come and meet other parents. If you are in the area, we’d love for you to join us. We will all be in different stages of parenthood… but we’ll share the same overwhelming feelings that come with the journey. June 10th at 6:00p will be our first gathering. If you’d like more information, please like our Facebook page so you can receive updates as the date comes closer.  Feel free to call the church office for more details as well. 507-375-5920 (leave a message if you want a call back)

Christians, Have You Been Sleeping?

Have you heard of the story of Jonah? You know the guy who was swallowed by a big fish and lived to tell the tale? It’s a great story of God’s provision even in the midst of… well, being in the stomach of a fish! But, even before his 3 days in the digestive track, he was in the pit of despair. Jonah was running from God. How is it that a prophet, someone who was chosen for such a grand task for God, could refuse to tell the people of Nineveh about the God he served?

Some of us are not too different from Jonah.

So here’s the beginning of the story in a nutshell… Jonah is told to go to Nineveh to tell them about God. Jonah HATES the idea, the people there are not jews, and Jonah is not too thrilled about telling them about HIS God. So he jumps on a boat sailing in the opposite direction. He finds a nice cozy place down in the hold of the ship and goes to sleep. Meanwhile there is a storm blowing. Violent winds were threatening to break the ship apart.

Now, how is it that Jonah could sleep so soundly? How is it that a man of God can be actively running, and yet so easily fall asleep… and even sleep through the violent storm shaking his boat?

Same way Christians today do the same thing. There are christians that are sleep walking. They are talking in their sleep, laughing and crying, and living… but their completely dead to the world around them.

Jonah maybe closed his eyes this time, but he’s been sleeping for a while. He turned his back on what God asked him to do, coming up with his own way for doing things. So when God didn’t do it HIS way, he high-tailed it out of there. He was dreaming if he thought God would ignore this.

Back to our story… While the storm is raging, the sailors are scared to death! They are trying every god they can think of. They are asking these gods to stop the storm… Their gods are fictitious. They don’t exist, they have no power. So of course they do not work. They are throwing cargo over, doing everything they can think of to keep from dying. All of them, crying out to gods who could do nothing, all while there was a man on board who had a relationship with the One True God… but was sleeping.

Christians!!! There is a storm in our world. Violent storms of sin, and pain, and hopelessness, and anxiety, and depression, and fear, and crime, and hate are threatening to break lives apart… and you’re lying there sleeping. You are the one who knows the redeemer, the hope-giver, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the peaceful One, the loving One… and you’re sleeping in the hold of the ship! Jonah slept while people fought for their lives… Christians! The world needs our message, and our testimony, it’s time to WAKE UP!!

The Captain of the ship finds Jonah and asks him to pray to his God, the ONE TRUE GOD. It’s their last-ditch effort, but they’re hanging on to a thread of hope. Jonah had the one who could deliver! We hold the truth, are we living it? The world may never come to us like the captain of this ship did.  If we lay around snoozing until they do, we’ll miss out. We won’t be apart of their journey, and their journey may end with the storm!

So, Jonah wakes up, the crew figure out that it’s Jonah’s fault that the sea is raging. They learn of his sin and since the storm was getting worse they desperately ask him what they should do now. I mean, come on, if the one person who claims to know God is causing the storm, what is there left to do!?

Christians, when we sleep through this life and pretend we’re fine… we are causing storms all around us. We are causing others to question our God. We are causing others to stumble as they try to stand upright through the torrential winds of life. How many times have we heard, “I don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there.” Although there are many flaws to that reasoning, it’s true that there are too many christians forgetting to live what they say they believe. They are  sleep walking. And they are a danger to the world around them.

Jonah decided he needed to be thrown into the sea. He knew God, he was just not living what he believed. He knew that God could fix it. Not just the storm, but HIM. He knew that the storm was his fault, and he acted in order to remedy the situation. It’s probable that Jonah repented at that moment. He woke up, and in order to save the people in his boat, he was willing to be thrown overboard.

It’s never too late to WAKE UP! There may be damage done, but you can make a difference in the lives around you. You can still decide not to ignore those hurting around you. Maybe you ignored the problem for years, and you’re too ashamed to admit that you’ve slept right through their issue. You can still throw yourself at the mercy of Jesus, and let Him wake you up.

HOW DO YOU WAKE UP!?

  1. Have a thorough consciousness of the reality of the world around you. Don’t turn a blind eye, pray for those lost in sin. Open your eyes to those hurting, and hopeless. Acknowledge that hate exists, and that people are falling into storms of anxiety and depression on a daily basis.
  2. Believe that the comforter CAN comfort those you see hurting in the world. And then ACT! Don’t be like Jonah and withhold the knowledge of God from a dying world.
  3. Serve God. Don’t stop because the storm is raging. It’s time to start living what we believe. When life is hard, when God asks more of us than we think we can do, serve God.  When trials come, Serve God. When things don’t work out the way you intend, serve God. You’re the Christian! You know the power of God, so don’t just believe it… ACT!

Jonah was thrown into the sea. And the sea suddenly fell calm. Jonah splashing into the sea showed the sailors that his faith was backed with actions. He was no longer one of those people who claim Jesus as Lord, and yet act no differently than people who have no god at all. When they saw this, they were amazed, and began serving God, too.

Our greatest evangelistic tool is not to blend in and sleep our way through the Christian life. It’s to wake up and  live a REAL Christian life. We must notice the need of Jesus in the World around us,  show them that we believe in the Jesus we claim as God, and we need to serve Him wholeheartedly. Show, with our lives, that Jesus is REAL. WAKE UP, Live bold, and awaken those around you!

Christians, we can’t sleep through this. We must “Go into all the World…” And if they catch us sleeping, we can lose them. Don’t worry, He promises to be with us always…

We, are not alone. Although Jesus IS enough, He isn’t asking us to do it alone. Find some good Christian friends who are AWAKE, and serving well. Surround yourself with the fellowship of other believers. And, let’s keep each other out of the belly of a whale!

A Full Length Mirror

I recently stayed in a hotel room (to ride out an April Blizzard, if you can believe that!) and within the room was not only a full length mirror right where you’d normally get dressed, but also a very BRIGHT mirror. There’s nothing worse than being confronted with a very bright full length mirror…. while getting dressed. Talk about emphasizing every small (and not so small) part of your body! Putting makeup on was puzzling. Do I need more, or is this lighting deceiving and I’ll really leave the room with so much makeup caked on that I’ll look like a clown? Did I really think I looked good in this outfit? OY VEY!

I know my body isn’t perfect, I’m actually quite sure it’s far from it. I know that my face has some flaws and could benefit from some light makeup… but nothing prepares me for that up-close spotlight on all my flaws. I found myself dressing in the far corner of the room, and standing several feet away as I applied my makeup for the day. And I wouldn’t say I have a crippling self-esteem… it’s just a bit too much reflection for my taste!

Have you ever said those things while reading the Word? Have you ever felt a tad too revealed after listening to a convicting sermon? Have you ever felt completely exposed when confronted with your sin? If so, GOOD!!! That’s GREAT! It’s exactly what’s needed! If not, it’s time!

You see, I know I have some a lot of weight to lose. But if I don’t look, I can just put on my big clothes, sit around and not really have to face the fact that I’m overweight and need to change. But, MAN ALIVE when confronted with that full length mirror, I’m back on the healthier lifestyle bandwagon! If we don’t look at our spiritual life, we can just keep on going to church, reading our Bible reading plans and checking off the boxes, and yet we never truly grow much closer to Jesus in the process.

It’s important for our physical walk through losing weight if we weigh ourselves, look at our transformations, and SEE the change. The first few pounds are the hardest. But when we start to see our jeans a tad more loose, and our faces thin out, we’re more motivated. But how do we measure spiritual maturity? We look into that full length mirror that’s lit up on all sides! We pay attention to where God is shining the light and start to fine tune them.

Nancy Demoss Walgemuth says God creates circumstances in order to show us our great need for Him, and His work in us. She preached at a conference in 2016, and gave the example of a mother who never knew she was an angry person until her 2-year-old painted the living room furniture with butter. At that moment God gave that mother a circumstance to show her what was truly inside her… A full length mirror!

My kids can walk around all afternoon with jelly from their PB&J at lunch all over their face. They don’t care because they don’t know. I mean, they know they didn’t wipe their face with each bite, and that at some point they did feel the wet goop touch their face. But their focus was on other things and so they got used to it. It isn’t until I tell them to go look in the mirror do they fully grasp how crazy they look with a Joker-like grin of Jelly plastered across their face.
Unfortunately sin isn’t as cute. We know the issues has crept in, but we get side tracked and we don’t confront it any longer. It finds its way into our lives and makes itself comfortable. And before long we’re not just angry at our kids, we’re snapping at our spouse, our neighbor, our co-worker… our God. And we know it’s there, but as long as we stay in the dark corner, we won’t have to face the full length mirror, and we can skip having the light shone on what we’ve worked so hard to hide in the dark.

Maybe its not anger. Maybe it’s pride, or a critical spirit. Maybe it’s complacency, or a life of a busybody. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s not pleasing to God, it needs to go. And God wants it gone. But we have to be willing to let Him shine the light on us to expose those deep places. We can not hold back.

I’m not an expert in the field by any means, but I’m walking through it. I’m daily asking God to create in me a clean heart and to make my spirit right with Him. And in order to do that, I have to be willing to give up any and all things that hinder that clean heart and right spirit. I have to pray these scriptures…

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ” Psalm 139:23,24

“Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 (NLT)

But, beware… When you pray them, if you’re honest and truly are inviting God to turn on the bright lights, you need to be prepared to deal with what He shows you. Pushing it away will not get rid of it. Working through it will.

  1. Listen to sermons that won’t just tickle your ear. Find ones that will point-blank heap on conviction. I’m not talking about preacher who preach fire and brimstone… I’m talking about sermons that cut straight to the point and confront the tough issues. Ones that you hear and audibly say, “OUCH!”. Then begin praying through what hit the nerve.
  2. Tell a close friend so they can hold you accountable. Don’t pick your critical friend. You don’t need criticism. You need accountability. Tell your friend, “Please stop me if I begin to gossip to you.” or “I’m dealing with some pride in my life, if I start putting others down so I can puff myself up, will you please remind me of my goal to stay humble.” **If you’re the friend who has been asked, be loving, pray for the proper time to speak up, and don’t hesitate to call them out, they need it.
  3. Search God’s Word. Look for scriptures that speak to the sin you’re trying to conquer. Put those scriptures on notecards and put the notecards around your house. Put them inside cabinets you open frequently. Put them in your purse. Make a screen saver that will pop up every time you open your phone. Here’s mine…30874629_10156426241409430_1675829259_n
  4. PRAY! Nothing will get you through this gut wrenching fully lit, full length mirror like prayer will. Pray daily that God will point out every bit of what He wants removed. Pray that your eyes will be open to seeing it in yourself. Pray that you’ll be swift in dealing with it. Pray that sermons will penetrate your heart, that your heart will be open to a friend holding you accountable, and that scriptures would be so real to you that you begin to actually live them.

Please do not hear me saying that you should be down on yourself, that you should heap condemnation on yourself, or that you should feel you are anything less than the amazing person Christ died for. No, instead I’m telling you that there’s amazing freedom in knowing that God is fine tuning you, shining a light on all the parts that do not come into obedience to Him. When God does this it is so that He can USE you. He wants you to be a vessel He can work through. And what an honor and a blessing to draw close to Him and experience the power He has as he speaks to others through you, helps others through you, and changes lives through you. The greatest thing is that he doesn’t NEED us. But he uses us anyway. So, it must be for OUR benefit. And as I stand daily in front of that mirror, I’m noticing more and more the joy I have. I know I haven’t conquered it all, I probably never will. I’m flawed, and beautifully imperfect… but I strive not to stay there.

So, take a deep breath, and step in front of this full length mirror with me! It may not be beautiful at first glance… but believe me God sees something amazing…

Let’s turn the lights up!

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Psalm 51: 10-12

 

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Crossroads Church in St. James, Minnesota has the desire to make it easy for every person to Discover God, Grow in Him, and Reach out to Others. If you’d like to visit a service, please join us each Sunday at 10am at 721 Weston Ave in St. James. Our services start at 10am and there is something for the entire family. Like us on Facebook.

You can contact the Pastor’s Wife via email at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

 

Why Church this Easter?

There used to be a tradition that people attended Church on Easter and Christmas. Even if they never attended any other time of the year. It used to be that weeks before Easter mothers everywhere searched for the perfect color coordinating outfits in the perfect pastels for their family so that Easter was the perfect photo opportunity. Pink plaids, eyelet lace, Easter bonnets, and collared shirts… AND CHURCH, that was the tradition. Then our society started to buck the traditional ways and people who attended church only on Christmas and Easter were given names like “Chreaster”, so even those 2 days got missed.

More and more churches are reaching out and people are politely declining the invitation to attend church. The tradition of going no longer holds any appeal, and the commitment of going is no longer a priority. As a regular church attendee, I haven’t missed an Easter Sunday service in 25 years. So if anyone has some experience in this, I’d be one of them… So would you take a moment and examine my answer to Why Church this Easter?

For a Christian, Easter is the foundation of our faith. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our faith would not exist. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He conquered death by defying its parameters. It’s what gives Christians life! So it seems fitting that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should set aside an hour each year to celebrate that. For me, I can hardly contain my delight. I’ve lived a blessed life following Jesus and trying my best to live close to His teachings. So when given the opportunity to gather with like-minded believers and specifically celebrate all that Jesus did, I’m ecstatic. Easter is my favorite time! But for those who are trying to live this life without a weekly boost of church, I can see how much harder the journey can become. So it’s all the more important to join a church Easter Sunday to reconnect, celebrate, and refuel.

For Christians who used to go to church, and have walked away from it for a time, this is a great time to try again. I’m all for coming to church every Sunday. I belong to a church that is just as excited to see someone walk in in October as they are to see someone come on Easter. However, sometimes it’s hard to make that decision to come back to church on a random October day (or any day)… but not on Easter. It’s almost expected. So it takes a pressure off.

For someone who is seeking, who is unsure where they fit in, Easter is a great time to visit and get a feel of the church. The attendance may be up for church that day, so it’s less intimidating for you to walk in as a new-comer. You’ll learn a lot about the Christian faith by coming on a day where the foundation of that faith is going to be celebrated. This is a great day to venture out and attend the church you’ve been thinking about attending for while.

For the regular attendee who has never missed a Sunday, don’t let this be the Sunday you miss! Of all the services I’ve ever attended at the various churches I’ve been to over the last couple of decades, Easter service is so heartwarming. The energy is high, the joy is evident, and the celebration is heavenly!

Now, here’s the thing. You may be thinking I’m giving a free pass to ONLY coming to church on Easter. You may be wondering why a church lover is promoting this “Chreaster” mentality.  And here is why… TODAY is the day of salvation. Today is the day of God’s favor. God set in motion thousands of years ago this EASTER celebration by giving us His son as a way for us. Jesus was the sacrifice that we could not give. He died in our place so we could have a relationship with God for all of eternity. The world thought they could kill Him. But, He could not be contained by their ideals and ways. He conquered death and rose from the dead. Christ raised Himself to show Himself powerful over death and sin. So, if Easter is the only time you plan on going to church this year… THEN GO! Go and see for yourself all that Christ as done. Go and fellowship with other believers and see how much that can benefit your life.

Sin and darkness creep at every corner. A day can’t go by that we aren’t affected by evil everywhere. We see it on the news, in the schools, at our jobs, and it’s increasing. The world won’t be won by marches, facebook rants, and divisions among political lines. But for that one special Easter Sunday you’ll get a glimpse of the Man who can change this world. With Christ in our hearts, and the encouragement we get from attending a church that helps us grow WE will be the change. And we’ll eventually overflow onto our neighbors so they THEY can be the change… and why wait any other Sunday but THIS EASTER!

Of course it’s the goal of every church that you’d return week after week… but you’ll have to make the decision to come the first time. So, Why Church this Easter? Why not? This just may be the day that changes your life!

Quick disclosure…

  • Please don’t let the pressure of color coordinated, perfect Easter outfits hinder you. Come!
  • Please don’t let your hate for tradition keep you from joining in the tradition of Church on Easter. Come!
  • Please don’t worry about the many years you haven’t made it to church, this is a new day, a new choice, and a new adventure. COME!
  • Please don’t be intimidated. We’ve been praying for you, we’re expecting you, and we are SO excited about you! YOU are welcome! COME!

If you are in the St. James, MN area, Crossroads Church will be meeting Easter Sunday at 9am for breakfast and our service will follow at 10:15am. YOU ARE INVITED!Copy of Church FlyersInvitation

Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN 507-375-5920 Follow us on Facebook

If you are too far for our services, and need a church recommendation, feel free to email the pastor’s wife at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com. I can find you a GREAT church in your area!

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