Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Week Twenty-One - Striking the Rock

God's servant, Moses, was humble, "above all men which were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). From the moment of his birth, his life was full of challenges. Sometimes he did great, and other times he flopped. God spoke to him face to face as with no other man in Scripture, but still, Moses' humanity landed him in trouble.

When Moses shifted his focus off God and onto what was happening around him, he sinned. First, in Egypt, he killed Pharoah's servant. Then, when he grew frustrated with the children of Israel, he struck the rock. Both times, he lost something valuable. By killing the servant, he lost the privilege of his rich home and position in Egypt, and by striking the rock, he lost the opportunity to enter the Promised Land.

Henry Blackaby says, "In his frustration at the people's irreverence, Moses committed the very same sin, blatantly disobeying God's instructions. Moses allowed his attention to shift to the behavior of others rather than focusing on the activity of God."

This can happen to us as well. Blackaby writes, "If you concentrate on people, their weaknesses, their disobedience, their lack of faith, and their stubbornness will quickly frustrate you."

How true is that? How often have you grown weary of the complaining around you and spoke in anger or lost your patience? How many times have you gotten your eyes off the Lord and acted according to what you thought best, only to see it all go up in smoke?

These thoughts revived a truth the Lord began teaching me a truth years ago. Colossians 3:24, 25 reads, "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he that done: and there is no respect of persons."

When I was growing weary and frustrated in ministry, God asked me, "Gail, who are you serving?"

"I serve you, Lord."

"Then, keep your eyes on me and not on everyone around you. I'll take care of them. You just keep yourself in the love of God."

I can't count the times God has reminded me to get back into my place. And here's what I have learned, and learned, and learned! When my focus is on serving the Lord, I am happier, have increased strength for the ministry, serve with a better perspective, and know I am working from a place worthy of reward and pleasing to the Lord. Then, there is joy in serving Jesus.

But when I'm working from the reactions of people or my own agenda, I feel frustration, not patience; anger, not forgiveness; disappointment, not hope; and disgust, not love.

Putting it that way makes my sin easier to see and much less tasteful, doesn't it? Who wants to work with me if I operate in these negative terms? What kind of lousy leader or example am I? If I were in the people's shoes, wouldn't I want someone more positive and encouraging before me? Someone who led in love, hope, forgiveness, and patience? Someone who served Christ and enjoyed it?

Just from these thoughts, I am again reminded that the better way is God's way! Speaking instead of striking - speaking truth in love, pointing others to the same God who lovingly works with my weakness, forgives my disobedience and draws me back to hope and faith.

What about you? Do you, like Moses, strike out when the frustration gets too much? Is your service focused on the Lord Christ, or are you serving people? Serving people leads to disappointment and frustration, but serving Christ holds sure reward.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Week Twenty - What's Next?

Do you ever lay in bed wondering what in the world is going on? How this is all going to work out? What will be next? Sometimes I do, but then my Lord reminds me to faithfully take one day at a time. It's not my job to figure out the future - that's His. My job is to use today wisely and let Him take care of the rest. 

Facing the cross, Jesus left us a pertinent example here. How did He endure the cross and the apprehension? No doubt He knew each painful step along the way. He knew the cost and experienced His own level of trepidation. Elizabeth George says, "Our Lord did not halt all activity to brood over what was to come. He was not incapacitated by the fear of suffering, though he well knew that fear. To the question, 'What shall I do?' (which is so often our cry of despair), he simply answered, "This," and did what lay in his path to do at the moment, trusting himself completely into the hands of the Father. This is how he endured the cross."

And when we begin to wonder what is next, this is how we can endure life and its struggle - one day at a time, doing the next right thing. Will we be tempted to fret and worry? Probably. Will we experience a level of fear? No doubt. But neither of those things need to keep us from continuing forward. Elizabeth Elliot said, "Sometimes fear does not subside, and one must choose to do it afraid."

Here's what I have found. When I sense fear gripping my heart from looking at the things around me, I change my gaze. I mentally make my world much smaller and secure by focusing only on what I can humanly accomplish by God's grace each day. You see, none of us can control world politics. None of us can manage all of the relationships around us. But we can, by using the spiritual fruit of temperance, control ourselves. We can avoid being incapacitated by fear of the future by doing the next right thing.

It might sound simplistic, but the more you learn about the Lord, the more you know He desires nothing more from you than simple faith. That is how you please Him. That is how His peace resonates in your heart. It is by faith. And what you will find is that He is also faithful. He will meet you as you turn to Him and give you the strength, wisdom, and calmness you need to keep moving forward.

So today, let's stop surmising and ruminating over the 'what ifs' of life and focus our energy and faith into the day the Lord has given. I think you'll find His love and comfort waiting for you there!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Week Nineteen - Empty Promises

We all love to hear encouraging words. I've known days when a simple text or online message lifted my spirits and helped me carry on with my day. But just as Christine Hoover said, "No amount of human encouragement will ever meet the deepest need of the heart because it evaporates as soon as the moment passes."

What we really need is to hear encouragement from the ever-faithful, ever-true God. Only He can sustain us in the times of difficulty when human hearts fail, and words seem so empty.

The danger we face with the vast amount of social interaction before us is looking for our encouragement in cyberspace. What we read evaporates and disappears, yet we habitually return looking for new encouraging posts. A steady diet of these morsels will not suffice for a healthy and robust spiritual life.

It would be better to follow King David's example. When faced with the crisis at Ziklag, he didn't look for others to give him happy platitudes or empty promises. He "encouraged himself in the Lord." (1 Samuel 30:6)  He went to Scripture, singing and praying the Psalms and drawing encouragement through faith in God. David knew man's advice was fleeting and could change at any moment, so he placed himself before the Lord and drew strength that carried him through. We, too,  have access to that strength. 

Let me challenge you to not be satisfied with a Facebook post, but open God's word for yourself. Get before the Lord in prayer and let Him speak to your heart. If you don't know where to start, open the book of Psalms and read one Psalm each day. God's posts are eternal and speak directly to your soul.

Wisdom also teaches us to weigh the things we read, to check out the sources, and to try the spirits. Take the picture from this post, for example, "You can do it." This is humanistic thought. "You can do it" encourages you to rely on your own resources and creates unrealistic expectations. You may be able to do it for a while, but your strength will run out.  However, if you change that to "He can do it through you," the encouragement lasts much longer. Philippians 4:13 reads, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Be careful about the words of encouragement the world feeds you. Come back, as David did, to bowing your heart and mind before the Lord and let Him be the "lifter up of your head." (Psalm 3:3) 

So today, have you scoped Facebook looking for encouragement? You might find some. You might read some good stuff. But in a few moments, it will fade. You'll forget it. Better for you to look deeper into God's word and find healthy, eternal truths to feed your soul.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Week Eighteen - Lessons I Learned From Motherhood

As I watch my children raising their children, it is evident that parenting has changed. Where my childhood meant threats of having my mouth washed out with soap when my word choice was less than acceptable, my grandchildren receive gentle admonitions to a wiser choice of words. Instead of eating what is served without questions, bargaining with tasty treats is their motivation. My parent's command, "You better stop crying, or I'll really give you something to cry about," is now replaced with "I can see you're upset. Take a deep breath and use your words."

I'm not saying I want to go back to living under threats, but I do wonder how this coming generation will deal with the reality and harshness of life. But that's not what I want to discuss today. Instead, I want to look at six things about mothering that have not changed. Things every mother - no matter what generation - learns. So here we go!

First, I learned that organization and consistent discipline pay great benefits for me and my children - most of the time! Mothering requires precision plus plan b, c, and d if things don't work out. In other words, mothers need to learn to be organized and flexible!

Next, I learned that kids don't care. They love messy things. They aren't worried about showing your most embarrassing photo with great pride. They will invite friends in when the house is like a bomb, and they'll never blink an eye. My grandmother, who was a good housekeeper, had a little sign in her kitchen that read, "Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy." And sometimes mothers forget that kids don't care. They love you anyway. So, put hospitality before pride, and don't let it get the best of you.

One of my greatest lessons was that I have a breaking point. I'm not, and neither is any mother, a superwoman. We are just simple beings trying to do our best. And when we reach that breaking point, we may as well admit it. The kids need to learn this too. Don't push mom beyond the breaking point. It might not be pretty!

I learned to stop comparing my brood to others and pay attention to my own nest for peace of mind. There will always be someone doing things better. Good for them. And there will be those who struggle. I can pray and help where I can, but God only asks me to care for my own little group. No parent is perfect, myself included.

The family in Proverbs 31 praised their mother. My praise will come when I remember that humility has a flavor, and I need to learn to enjoy it. Proverbs 15:33 reads, "Before honor is humility." So, I learned to laugh when things go wrong, admit my failures, and remember I don't have to be right every time.

Finally, as I look back, it all passes too quickly. My grandmother wisely told me, "Gail, stop and enjoy them. They are only children once." I am thankful I listened to her advice because it does pass too quickly, and they are never little children again.

So, moms. On this Mother's Day weekend, take time to simply look at the beauty of your children and think about what you have learned from motherhood with a thankful and humble heart.

Here's my brood in 1983 and then in 1995. Today, they are grown, married, and faithful to the Lord in their various places. I am thankful the Lord made them a part of my life. I learned so much!