Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meet Rico & Oliver...Our Answered Prayers!

Peyton has been begging for a puppy of her own for years and recently, my husband agreed to begin the search!  We called last week when we saw the ad for two Shih Tzu male puppies for sale and after speaking with the sweet lady on the other end, we were informed that there was another woman who was looking at them and she would be going to see them on Thursday night.  The owner of the puppies promised the other lady that she wouldn't do anything until she had a chance to meet the puppies and see if she wanted them.  I wasn't sure if my husband would want TWO puppies anyway (we already have one dog!) but he was all for it - said it would be good to get both Kennedy & Peyton one to help teach them responsibility.  He said it could be my birthday present. :)  Sweet.

I told Peyton and Kennedy that we would go see them only if the lady didn't like them, but honestly I couldn't figure out how that would ever happen because they were the cutest little boys I'd ever seen!  But immediately, Peyton started to pray.  As I tucked her in that night, she prayed..."Heavenly Father, please can we get those puppies?  I love them so much.  You made them so cute!  But if you don't want us to have them I hope you will help me not to be too sad.  Just please make the right decision.  Thank you!"

Earlier, I explained to her that sometimes things don't work out the way we want them to but it's because God has another plan, even when we can't understand how it could possibly be for the best.  I told her not to get her hopes up too much because it would be really hard if this other woman decided to get the puppies.  Then I told her that God would help her if that happened.  Apparently, she must have listened because her prayer was just precious!

The girls continued to pray throughout the day.  They got home from school and said "Mommy did they call yet?"  I said, "No, they didn't.  Remember...they won't call until Thursday night and it's only Wednesday."  She prayed again.  "Please God.  Can we have the puppies?  Can you help my heart if we can't?"  

Right after dinner, the phone rang.  Peyton answered it and gave it to me.  It was the owner of the puppies.  She said "I have some good news for you.  Apparently, the woman who wanted the puppies was surprised by her best friend today who bought her a puppy.  You can come meet them if you want to!  They are available!"  I couldn't believe my ears.

I looked at Peyton and she was already beaming with excitement!  She jumped up and down and then Kennedy started jumping too...it was a sight.  I said "OK, we'll go see them tomorrow (knowing that we would probably be getting them)!  But isn't there someone you need to thank right now?"  They bowed their heads and Peyton prayed...Heavenly Father, thank you so much!!  You made the right decision!"

We've had Rico and Oliver for about two days now and they are just awesome.  We picked them up on my birthday!  What a blessing they are!  And the girls are so excited.  Yes...it's been a little bit of an adjustment but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are family now.  I will never forget the beauty of the faith of a child who knew that if she prayed, no matter what happened, God would answer.  I'm glad He said yes, of course, but I'm also very aware of the fact that if it had not worked out this way, she would be just fine.  I thought about what I'd told Peyton... "Don't get your hopes up!"  Wow.  I guess she showed me, huh?  I love it when I'm wrong...well, at least this time!


Here's Peyton with the puppies, a photo taken earlier today as we drove to Pet Smart....

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unity in the Community

As I speak with others in the church, I see a common concern among believers about the unity in the church - and with good reason.  Even Christ prayed for our unity in John 17:20-23 before He was crucified - He knew this would be an issue and He even said the purpose for our unity was "so the world will believe, in fact, that You sent Me."

Friends, please...let's pray about how we can all get along.  Eternity is at stake for so many!  Who would want to be a part of a group of people who cannot get along?

God is the Judge, the Holy Spirit convicts...our job is to love.
ROMANS 14 (MSG)
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

   "As I live and breathe," God says,
      "every knee will bow before me;
   Every tongue will tell the honest truth
      that I and only I am God."


So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don't you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault. You're certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God's work among you, are you? I said it before and I'll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What NOT to Do!

I found this and thought it was amazing...hope you will find as much insight from it as I did!  I've never been a fan of confrontation, but as I learn more about how walking in offense can destroy us, I'm more and more convinced that godly confrontation is essential - when done in love, gentleness and respect.

How to Turn a Disagreement into a Feud:

1.    Be sure to develop and maintain a healthy fear of conflict, letting your own feelings build up so you are in an explosive frame of mind.

2.    If you must state your concerns, be as vague and general as possible. Then the other person cannot do anything practical to change the situation.

3.    Assume you know all the facts and you are totally right. The use of a clinching Bible verse is helpful. Speak prophetically for truth and justice; do most of the talking.

4.    With a touch of defiance, announce your willingness to talk with anyone who wishes to discuss the problem with you. But do not take steps to initiate such conversation.

5.    Latch tenaciously onto whatever evidence you can find that shows the other person is merely jealous of you.

6.    Judge the motivation of the other party on any previous experience that showed failure or unkindness. Keep track of any angry words.

7.    If the discussion should, alas, become serious, view the issue as a win/lose struggle. Avoid possible solutions and go for total victory and unconditional surrender. Don't get too many options on the table.

8.    Pass the buck! If you are about to get cornered into a solution, indicate you are without power to settle; you need your partner, spouse, bank, whatever.

-Ron Kraybill

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Kitchen Table

I was so touched by their joy and love for one another as I sat at the table with my missionary friends from East Africa who now live here and attend my church.  They were talking about the need they had for a kitchen table and how they were praying for one.  I began to think about what I would do if I needed a kitchen table.  Would I pray for one first?  Or would I start saving or pull out a credit card because I wouldn't want to wait for it?

I could see they loved to tell this story.  It wasn't a story about a kitchen table - it was a story of God's faithfulness.  He was saying that she wanted a table that pulled apart and could get bigger when you have friends over.  He didn't know what she was talking about.  They didn't have tables like that where they came from!  But she had seen one at a friend's house and thought it would be perfect.  So she prayed for one, specifically.  He laughed as he recalled the way he said "No! Don't pray for that - it could never happen!" But she prayed anyway. 

Not much longer after that, they received a call from some friends who had some furniture they wondered if they might want.  They drove over to check out the selection and found a nice kitchen table in the corner.  And wouldn't you know...it had a leaf in it that could be put in to expand it!  He was overcome with emotion as he looked at his beaming wife who was smiling ear to ear.  Her prayers had been answered!  They tearfully thanked God for this answered prayer. 

This story is just one of the many I've heard from this precious couple.  They serve the Lord in missions and they are living by faith that God will provide for them and they are being shown His faithfulness in their lives in such mighty ways.

I listen to their story and I'm so blown away by how God miraculously provides for them, and yet as they look around at the Americans who have so much, they say "You must be so thankful!  You are so blessed by so much!"  I wonder, though..am I thankful?  Do I realize that I'm so blessed?

One thing I know is that God loves to provide for His children.  And when He does, a simple "thank you" will warm His heart.  Yet all too often, I feel I neglect to ask - much less thank God - for the provisions He gives to me.  Maybe it's because I'm from a country where we get what we want and we usually get it quickly, forgetting that all things come from Him.  I'm not sure.  But I know right now that I'm aware and I'm really convicted.

What a beautiful reminder this has been for me.  God is my Provider.  Not my credit card, not my check book, not my wallet, my savings account and not even my paycheck.  God is my Provider!  He loves me and He cares for me and He wants me to ask Him for what I need.  I need to depend on Him more and trust Him more.  And I need to be sure to thank Him.  We really are so blessed.

Acts 16:18 .... He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

Proverbs 30:7-9
  "Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
       do not refuse me before I die:

  Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
       give me neither poverty nor riches,
       but give me only my daily bread.

 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
       and say, 'Who is the LORD ?'
       Or I may become poor and steal,
       and so dishonor the name of my God.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Facing the Truth

It's been my enemy from birth.
It's kept me from achieving some of my dreams.
It's destroyed many of my relationships.
It's given me a bad reputation.
It almost cost me my life.
It's Pride.

Pride is the ugliest, most destructive force I've ever had to deal with. Pride sneaks in. It robs me of my joy. It keeps me focused on myself intead of others. Pride is what brought Satan down - you know initially, he was a beauitful, magnificent angel named Lucifer. But he wanted to be more like God. Then he wanted to actually be God. That's when he fell. He and all the angels who decided to take their eyes off of God and put them on themselves instead.

Pride is what almost made me decide not to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had lived for twenty years pretending to be a Christian, leading bible studies and keeping people in the dark about who I really was. I think I even fooled myself. You see, I had said a prayer as a young girl to ask Jesus into my heart because someone told me that if I didn't, I would go to hell. That is not a place anyone wants to go! So, of course I did what I was told.

There was a problem, though.  I didn't understand why I had to ask Jesus to be my personal Savior. It was because of my sin. I could not have a relationship with God until my sin was taken care of. God is holy and He will not tolerate sin - even if He wanted to have a relationship with me, He couldn't - until my sin was dealt with. So that's what Jesus did. He lived a perfect life - never sinned (amazing) - and when He died, He knowingly and willingly took all the sins of everyone on Himself and all we have to do is admit we are sinners in need of a Savior (confess), ask forgiveness of and repent of our sin (turn away from) to accept His sacrifice on our behalf in order to be restored to God. That seems simple...but in order to admit I was a sinner, I had to swallow my pride. And that's not so simple!

I remember sitting in a discipleship class in my church, seven years ago.  My pastor explained how there is a changed life with true salvation - you cannot help but change when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live inside of you!  These changes happen not because you are trying, but because you are a new creation - made alive through God's power, not yours. Jesus is not just your Savior, but He is also the Lord of your life at that point. I realized I didn't have a changed life. I didn't read or care about God's Word. I didn't grieve over my sin, I just tried to cover it up. When the pastor asked us if we knew for sure that Jesus Christ was the Lord and Savior of our life, I was confronted, again, with pride. But this time it was spiritual pride.

Everyone thought I was a Christian already. What would everyone think if I all of a sudden admitted that I was never a Christian to begin with? I mean, I led bible studies. I went to church every Sunday (sometimes with a hangover, but nobody knew that!). I had convinced even myself that I was a Christian. I had put my faith in a prayer, though - not in Christ or His sacrifice for my sin!  So, I sat there struggling with whether or not I was willing to come clean. But God would not let my pride keep me from the truth any longer and finally I admitted to everyone that I was accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior that night.

And you know what? It wasn't scary at all! Instead, it was freeing! No more lies, no more games, no more double life. It amazed me how many others shared their stories with me and they had been through the exact same thing. But when I think about how pride almost cost me this amazing gift of walking with Jesus Christ, I cringe. If pride is keeping you from being honest with others and maybe even yourself, please don't let it rob you of your joy for one more minute!  There is hope and forgiveness with Jesus Christ - and as long as you are breathing, God is giving you time to come to Him, in humility, through the sacrifice of His Son.

Psalm 119:29 - Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing Your instructions.

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

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