Monday, November 29, 2010

Faithfulness

I often feel like I am the hare in the story of the tortoise and the hare.  Just to remind you...he may have been quick and impressive out of the starting gate, but he didn't finish the race.  I feel like I get very zealous for things and begin running toward the finish line, only to get exhausted and distracted, stopping along the path in order to rest.  Meanwhile, my passion fizzles, I become bitter and exhausted and my heart begins to change.  That was why I prayed and asked God "Why do I do this?"

God has answered my prayers with some amazing insight as I have sought His word and time alone with Him for the answer.  The beginning of this answer began when I was reading Matthew 23:23: 
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
Did you catch that?  Jesus spoke these words and He said the more important matters were justice, mercy and faithfulness.  Faithfulness.  That was what I lacked.  How had I missed this?  I've read this verse many times but never caught that word mixed in there like that.  I was so convicted.  This verse would not let me go - all day it ran through my mind.  I had a check-list going in my head about all the things I'd started and not finished.  At first, I was overwhelmed with what other people must think of me, but I quickly remembered that it wasn't of my concern what anyone else might think.  I knew God wasn't pleased...and that's all that mattered.  The more I worried about what others thought, the more I lost focus of what He was trying to accomplish in my life through this difficult realization.

I'm thrilled to say that even though it's been a hard week, it's been a good one.  The Lord has shown me why I don't finish sometimes.  He has also reminded me, very mercifully I might add, of all the things I have finished and continue to press toward, faithfully.  I love how He balances things out so I'm not overwhelmed with all I'm doing wrong by throwing in the things I'm actually doing right!

I wanted to share with you what He has shown me in case it might help you in your walk with Him.  If you find yourself unfaithful in certain areas, ask yourself these questions:
  1. What was my motive for beginning the task in the first place?  If your answer is "because nobody else would do it", "because I couldn't say no to him/her", "because I want to be needed" or "because nobody else can do it as well as I can", you're in for some trouble.  The motive for doing something, for serving, for giving of your time must always come from a heart of obedience to what God is calling you to do.  If we want to be faithful, we must be sure that we are walking in His will and doing what He wants us to do, otherwise we are working in our own strength and we will lose heart.  Ask Him to examine your motive before making commitments.  Proverbs 16:2 "People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives."
  2. Did I pray about it and seek wise counsel before deciding to do the task?  Sometimes my biggest problem comes from committing to do something that I've not prayed about or talked with my husband and/or mentor about.  I hear of a need and I jump to fill it because it seems like the right thing to do and I enjoy serving.  I go in with full fervor and then fizzle out within weeks.  Even if things "seem" to be right, we must pray.  You must be in agreement with your spouse and/or seek wise counsel before committing to do something.  Proverbs 12:15 "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others."
  3. Am I doing this because I think God needs me to?  I think we often subconsciously think "What would God do without me?" When in reality, God is perfectly capable of filling a position!  He is God - He is powerful and He is not desperate for our help.  He gives us opportunities to help, but just like when our kids "help us" in the kitchen, it would probably be easier if He just did it by Himself.  But He loves us and He gives opportunities to help for us to grow, learn and become more like Jesus.  But, just like if our kids tried to do it all, they would quickly become discouraged and overwhelmed, when we try to do it all, we do the same.  My mentor once said "If you feel overwhelmed, you're probably doing something God hasn't asked you to do."  
  4. Did I hurry through the decision making process?  Whew, this is a big one...did you give yourself time in making a decision to commit?  If not, you may have acted hastily.  Personally, I've decided to implement a 3-day period of prayer and counsel prior to making a decision to serve in a specific area.  This gives me time to consider, to calm down from all of my initial excitement and zeal to "save the world" and helps me to slow down.  I have seen, time and time again, that hasty decisions are usually not the right ones.  Slow down, give yourself time, and if the person asking you doesn't grant you the time to pray about it and seek wise counsel, then you probably don't want to work with them anyway.  Proverbs 19:2 "Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes."
  5. Am I being led by the Spirit of God?  This is huge.  If I am being led by the Spirit, I will not gratify the desires of my flesh (Galatians 5:16).  If I am being led by Him and the task is something He wants me to do, I will have the power within me to finish.  I will be given supernatural strength, fervor and determination.  Otherwise, I'm working in my own strength.  We all know that without Him leading us, we will not succeed.  He must be the One we follow.  Not the opinions of others, not the approval of others and not the manipulations of others (including our own selves!).  If you are led by Him, your motivation will be a pure heart-motive that overflows from a love and compassion for what you are doing - not a desire to fill a role or be someone important.  
  6. Am I giving up too easily?  Sometimes we are absolutely called to do something, but then things get hard.  We begin to feel like we cannot possibly make a difference - we are just one person!  But God says our hard work will be rewarded.  He says there is much to be gained by our faithfulness in not only the big things, but the small things.  If you are doing what God has called you to do, you can still find yourself becoming discouraged when things seem difficult or impossible.  Galatians 6:9 reminds us:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Ask God for His help to persevere.  Your faith may be tested, but James 1:3 says that will give your endurance an opportunity to grow.  Never, never, never, never give up.  He is faithful, even when we are not.
The bottom line is that sometimes our discouragement comes because our motive was wrong in the first place, but sometimes it comes because that's what happens when we are doing exactly what God wants us to do and the temptations to give up or become overwhelmed come at us full force.  Only God can show us the truth of our own situation and the motives of our heart, but we must be willing to be still and listen.  We must be willing to admit we have been unfaithful and receive His forgiveness for it, asking Him for wisdom to do the right thing and for the endurance to finish strong. 

Psalm 119:29-31
Keep me from deceitful ways;
   be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
   I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, LORD;
   do not let me be put to shame. 

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If the Leaves Could Talk

Strolling along the beautiful walking trail in my neighborhood lined with trees, I saw some leaves dancing on the ground.  My first thought was "What on earth would they have to dance about?  They're dead!"  The poor little leaves.  It looks like their "hayday" is over.  They are withered up and they've fallen to the ground only to be raked away and toted off as trash.  It's a shame, because they look so beautiful on the outside with all the reds, oranges, yellows, purples and browns scattered across the walking trail.  But just because they were beautiful, that didn't change the fact that they were not alive anymore.

But they were dancing...

I wonder... if the leaves could think, what would they think?  Maybe they would recall the days when they were just a tiny bud, bursting into the warm sunshine with excitement and a zest for life.  Each precious day, they would soak in the rain, the sun and enjoy the warm breezes that blew through, prompting them to sing in unison with the other leaves holding tightly to the tree branches as they all rustled with the wind in harmony.

I wonder... if the leaves could think, would they think back to the day that they realized things were beginning to change? Life was beginning to get more difficult and the sun wasn't shining down on them as much.  Their colors became more beautiful and vibrant on the outside, but inside they were not feeling beautiful or vibrant at all.  I wonder if they knew something was wrong.  Instead of a welcoming breeze, the winds were chilly and uninviting.  I wonder if they recall the moment they realized they were hanging on by a thread to the tree...ready to fall to the ground, to give up and just let go at the first sign of the next breeze. 

I wonder... if the leaves could talk, would they tell us how it felt to float gently to the ground the day they finally let go?  The force of the wind was more than they could bear.  They had to surrender.  Would they tell us tales of how they would lay there, among other beautifully colored leaves, wondering what was going to happen next as they huddled together, terrified and vulnerable.  Would they admit that they pondered if this was the end of the road for them - that there was nothing left?

Then I wonder...if leaves could talk, would they tell us about the day the wind gust began to blow through their huddle with a powerful blast and instead of singing with the other leaves up in the tree as they did in their youth when those gusts would go through, they found themselves dancing with those very same leaves, all dressed up in their autumn colors, as if they were celebrating their new life!  A chance to dance freely - given only by the strength of the powerful and mighty wind.

Yes, the leaves may have been dead...but the wind brings life to them.  So they celebrate!  They are filled with hope again.  Life is different now, and their path is determined by the wind these days, not by the security of the tree branch they so tightly held onto before the change.  They must trust not in their own strength to hold on now, but in the wind's strength to carry them through to where it would have them go.  Their mourning has turned to joyful dancing and they are clothed with joy!

What a beautiful picture this has given to me of the life God gives to us through His Spirit.

Psalm 30:10-12

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
      You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
      O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!


John 3:8
 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rejoicing in His Faithfulness!

Some of you may know that my dear friend, mentor and Ministry Coordinator, Linda Reppert, has been having some serious heart issues.  She was told many months ago that she would need open heart surgery to replace or repair a faulty valve in her heart.  She has been amazingly grace-filled through the past few months and has been a true blessing to walk beside in this journey.  I've seen God work in her like I've never seen before!

She is currently in Ohio at the Cleveland Clinic and has been since Sunday.  Her heart surgery was scheduled for tomorrow, so they have been doing testing all week.  There have been prayer groups all over the world praying for her throughout this entire journey - and this week, the prayers have been going up full-force!  Today, she had her last meeting with the surgeon before the surgery.  Here's the email I received from her after that meeting:

Dear Friends and Family:

God has given beyond what we could ask or imagine. Bottom line is that my open heart surgery has been called off. I am doing far to well to go through the risk of valve replacement/repair surgery.

I just finished meeting with the best surgeon in the country. He had 3 cardiologist review my records yesterday and it is their belief that I will not come out any better with the surgery. They said there are some nonsurgical methods that are not yet FDA approved that will be coming out in the next 5 years.  I maybe a candidate for these methods. My treatment with medicine will be good until then and possibly even good enough for the next 20-30 years! I will be monitored every 6 months and reevaluated only if my situation gets worse, but I have been stable over the last year. The surgeon said to start hitting tennis balls again.

My heart catherization showed that I had ZERO blocked arteries and they said all my tennis playing and healthy eating was reflected in my test and blood work.

I am ever so grateful for the love, prayers, support, meals, cards, text, e-mails and care takers that have given of themselves to help me.

Up until my very last appointment with the surgeon today, they did all the preparation work for surgery.  I feel like Isaac when the knife was raised and all the preparation was made and then God called out NO - do not use the knife on your child. Coming to His alter I join you in giving PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING!

God has heard the prayers of sooooooooooooo many and with that I can not say how grateful I am!

"But unto you who revere and worshipfully fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings, and you shall go forth and leap for joy." - Malachi 4:2

Love to all,

Linda Reppert
Ministry Coordinator
Get Gutsy for God
www.lindareppert@blogspot.com


Linda, I praise the LORD on your behalf and look forward to how God will use this testimony to touch lives for HIS GLORY!!  Thank you all for your prayers and love!  Rejoicing in His Faithfulness! 

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