Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Do You Want to Do Next?

That's the question I was confronted with while surfing the web today. Maybe your internet browser is like mine in that whenever you open an additional tab, a new page pops up with three different surfing options. At the top of this page, in faded blue text, is the question "What Do You Want to Do Next?" I've seen those words as many times as I've opened a new tab on the internet. Usually my answer would be something like, "I want to check my Facebook page" but today was different. Maybe it was brought on by the Focus on the Family Rebelutionary broadcast I was listening to, and maybe it was simply God. Whatever the case, my answer seemed entirely more crucial than before.
With all the "hard things" I claim to do, it's easy to get complacent and think that I've already done enough. But God would beg to differ! He has so much more in store for me...things that I could probably never even dream of doing; things that will stretch me and bring Him great glory! Complacency can't be a part of the picture if I strive to be obedient and follow as Christ leads. I should constanly be asking myself, "What do you want to do next?" Actually, to be more correct, I should be asking God, "What do you want to do next?"
What is His will for my life in the next minute, the next hour, the next day? What does He want me to do next? Apart from Him I can do nothing.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,
Ellie V.

Monday, August 24, 2009

When It's All Said and Done-by Robin Mark

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it's all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love's rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
That you found purest gold in miry clay
Turn sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and in heaven after
For you've joined me at my true home
When it's all been said and done
You're my life when life is done.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Say...

In Matthew 16:13-28, Jesus asks Simon Peter a very important question. "What about you?" he says, "Who do you say I am?" That prompted me to wonder...who do I say Jesus is?

He is my Savior, my one and only way to the Father through his sovereign grace and blood shed on the cross. (John 14:6) Who do I say he is? He is compassion. (Psalm 103:8) He is mercy. He is peace. (Isaiah 26:3) I declare Him to be love. True love. (1 John 4:10) "For greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
He is all I'll ever need (2nd Peter 1:3) and all I ever want. He is the author and perfector of my faith. (Herews 12:2) He is my great High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14) He is my Lord. (Psalm 118:6) He is my life (Deuteronomy 30:20)...the air I breathe and the water I thirst for. (Psalm 63:1) He is my strength (Isaiah 40:29-31) and my portion. (Lamentations 3:24) He is the vine to which I cline to. (John 15:5) He is the hope to which I take hold of. (Hebrews 6:19-20) He is my shield (Psalm 18:30) and my joy. (Romans 15:13) He is my hiding place. (Psalm 32:7) He is my song (Psalm 118:14) and my shepherd. (Psalm 23:1) He is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. (Psalm 18:2)

...Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure because He will not abadnon me to the grave nor will He let His Holy One see decay. He has made known to me the path of life and He will fill me with joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand. (Psalm 16:9-11)

What about you, who do you say He is?
Ellie V.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Team Building

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." -1 Timothy 4:8

Last night I attended a "Team Building" event with my volleyball team. For 3 hours, everyone participated in group activities and listened to a speaker talk about the mental aspects of the game. It was an encouraging night as the speaker was a Christian, and although he didn't speak from a "Spiritual" point of view, his statements were very applicable to not just volleyball, but life in general.

One activity we did involved four hula hoops set up one in each corner of the gym. At the center of the room, the speaker dumped out a large bin of wiffle balls. First we split into equal teams and gathered around our designated hoops. Then we were told to pick up one wiffle ball at a time and carry them from the center of the gym to one of the hula hoops. On "go," everybody raced to the center and began frantically transferring wiffle balls to their team's hoop. Once the supply in the middle of the gym was depleted, we were told that we could rob balls from all the other hoops, and create alliances with other teams as well. The result? Pure chaos...competition at it's best.

At the end of the game, while we were all bent over panting for breath, the speaker looked us over rather thoughtfully.
"Girls!" he cried,"I told you at the beginning of the game to get all the wiffle balls into one hoop. One hoop."
Slowly, understanding registered on each of our faces. We had wasted all that energy and time stealing balls from each other, when we should have been working to get them all in one hoop collectively as a team. The speaker had made us play the game for one specific reason. "You spend so much time competing against your teammates," he said sadly, "Instead of simply accepting your role and playing as a team."

I think that out of all his statements, that one hit home the most. When the night was over and done, I couldn't help but reflect upon another team I'm on...the church. Alot of people fail to acknowledge the competition within ministry, but you don't have to look hard to find it. How many people (including myself) get so wrapped up in trying to excell at the "best gifts," that they neglect their true Spiritual Gift/s? How many times have individuals competed against one another for the most recognition? How could things change if we "accepted our roles" and "played as a team?"

Some verses to consider:
"But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."-1 Corinthians 12:18
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." -Ephesians 4:11-12

In Christ's Grace,
Ellie V.

Your Red Sea-My Take on the Life of Moses (Part 2)

The Red Sea. What a pivotal moment in Moses' life. Can you picture him standing there at the edge of that great big watery expanse? What might have been running through his mind? As I read through the latter half of Exodus 13 and on through 14, a few defined principles came to mind. I like them because they not only serve as good reminders about God's character, but they are also wonderful points to recall when it comes to Doing Hard Things.

-God's way isn't necessarily easier. After the Exodus, He lead the Israelites the long way around instead of through the Philistine country, which was shorter. (Exodus 13:17-18)

As rebelutionaries, it's evident that doing hard things isn't easy. God's way isn't always the smoothest, but it is always better.

-God is always there. He guided the Israelites with a pillar of cloud during the day, and a pillar of fire by night. Isaiah 30:21 reads "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

Even when we feel like we're taking on a task alone, God is right beside us every step of the way. We can trust in God's faithfulness!

-God's will is right. Nothing happens that is beyond His control. He may allow or even orchestrate certain set-backs (i.e. the hardening of Pharoah's heart in 14:4) but His plan is always perfect. Furthermore, he desires himself to be glorified despite roadblocks. ("But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." in 14:4.)

Sometimes our hard things may not work out. We need to understand that what "He opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." (Revelation 3:7) His will is the best for us, even if we don't see that until later.

-God calls us to rely on His strength and not panic. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that Moses could never part the Red Sea on his own. There, at that moment, when his role as leader was put to the test, God commanded him to lift his staff and stretch out his hand...He would do the rest.

Hard Things are kind of like the Red Sea. They can be menacing, intimidating, impossible...you name it. It's easy for us to sometimes look at the big picture and give in to fear when we see Pharoah's chariots racing after us. In those moments, we need to step back and give all our fears and abilities to God, trusting Him to move in the ways He sees fit.

So what about you? What's the Red Sea in your life? Maybe it's little in comparison to a huge body of water, but that doesn't necessarily mean it requires less trust in the Lord. Maybe your sea will require little steps...small leaps of faith, instead of one huge jump. Whatever the case, you can be sure to expect a hard journey, but one that will be full of God's strength, will, and presence.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Self-Pity...Sin in Disguise

Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

I've read those verses a countless number of times in my life. Like most things, however, obeying those commands is easier said than done. After my last post I got to thinking about excuses, and what's really at the heart of them. In my case--and in most cases--it's usually self.
One of the worst forms of selfishness, I believe, is self-pity. This is an aspect that I really struggle with because it is so deceptive at times. Have you ever noticed how sneaky it is?

Self-pity crops up in vulnerable moments...times when I'm more apt to complain and feel discontent. It's also easy to justify. ("I'm just having a bad day.") Worst of all, it clouds my vision. I slip into a totally different mindset that focuses inward instead of outward. While God commands me to set my heart and mind on things above, I choose to set my sights on earthly things.

The thing that often keeps me from calling self-pity "sin" is that it isn't super obvious. It's easy for me to judge a friend of mine because her selfishness is so exposed. Really, though, I'm no different than her. The Bible commands me to humble myself and put others first. When I don't, I disobey. Disobedience is sin, no matter how obvious it is.

So what's the solution to self-pity? I don't know if I'll ever be rid of it for good, but I believe a combination of things can really help. It's important for me to remember that self-pity is first and foremost a heart issue, and therefore must be bathed in prayer. Another thing to consider is the contentment factor. When I am content with who and where I am, I'm less likely to complain and slip into self-pity. (The latter half of Philippians 4 has some great verses that talk about contentment.) Lastly, if I'm going to battle self-pity I need to battle "self." As a believer I'm called to crucify my sinful nature and live like Jesus did. This involves always looking out for other people's interests (the verse above) instead of my own.

Like I mentioned earlier, it's easier said than done, but with God anything is possible.

Just Some Food for Thought,
Ellie V.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Excuses, Excuses....My Take on the Life of Moses (Part 1)

In moments of frustration, my first response is oftentimes to question God. Then again, maybe it's not "questioning" so much as it is "whining."

"God, why me? Why now?"
"I already have so much on my plate. Why would you add yet another thing?"
"Lord, look at me! I obeyed and yet I still failed! What's going on?!"

I had one of those pity-party sessions recently as I was trying to fall asleep one night. Fear lead to frustration, which then led to complaining. I was particularly stressed about a certain situation, and that--coupled with several days of missed quiet times--was enough to get me started.
"Lord, this thing you've asked of me isn't even a passion of mine! I'm not even very good at it, and every time I try, I fail or do it with the fear of failing. The church already has so many people better suited for this task. Why do you insist on using me?"

I'm so glad I'm not God. It amazes me how He can be so gentle in rebuking me in times like these. I could hear his response to my string of complaints almost as clear as day, "What about Moses?"
Moses. What about him? Instantly I thought about the chapter in the Bible that deals with the burning bush. Moses had so many excuses and complaints against God. Yet the Lord correctly Him both gently and forcefully at the same time. As if that wasn't enough, He raised him up to become one of the greatest leaders in Israel's history.
Returning to my story, I woke up the next day in a different mindset. Instead of working through my usual Bible Study in 2 Samuel, I turned to Exodus. Immediately, a couple of things jumped out at me in a way they hadn't before.

Starting with Chapter 2, I was reminded about how God's hand was evident in Moses' life early on. His life was carefully preserved...first at home, then on the river, and again with his adoption as Pharoah's grandson. The Lord was clearly protecting him in a time where little Hebrew boys were most at risk!

I began to wonder how this concept translated into my life. The way I now see it, God has been involved in my existence from the start. (Psalm 139 is good proof of this.) He was working to draw me to Himself from the beginning, and He has arranged the circumstances to bring me to where I am now. I don't need to doubt His plan or timing.

I wrote down a second observation after reading verses 11 through 15 where it talks about the Egyptian beating the Hebrew slave. The Lord had given Moses a heart that was stirred by injustice. Not only that, but his heart was prompted to act against that injustice. Now, don't get me wrong, murder was not the appropriate response to the situation Moses was in. I think murder is very rarely, if ever, an appropriate response to anything. I simply mean to point out that God gave Moses a specific quality that would be necessary for leading his people to freedom.

Moving on, then, in Chapter 3 the burning bush enters. This is one of my favorite scenes from the life of Moses, simply because it reminds me of myself. His excuses are so closely tied to mine...
#1) "Who am I that I should do this great thing?" (Verse 11...in my own words)
#2) "What if they don't believe me?" (Verse 4:1)
#3) "God, I'm not good in front of people! I am slow of speech and tongue!" (Verse 10)
#4) And finally, in verse 13, I can almost hear the fear and desperation in Moses' voice, "O Lord, send someone else!"

Again I am amazed at our God's response to each of these protests. After the first excuse, He told Moses who He was. He exposed him to the essence of I AM. Then, later on after the second protest, He showed Moses how He would empower him.

God's response to the third is my favorite. He replies, "Who gave you your mouth?" How many times has He said the same thing to me? "Ellie, who gave you your hands? Who gave you your talents? I know what I'm doing! Just trust me, dear one."

Moses' fourth excuse is probably the boldest of them all. The Bible says that because of it the Lord's anger burned against him. Yet, while He could have very well smited the man then and there, He simply told him not to worry. He would provide.

With all this in mind, one prominent thing I took away from my quiet time was the reminder that the Lord is Jehovah Jireh. He will provide for my every need (Phillipians 4: 19.) Too many times, I think this phrase only means material needs, but Jesus is not limited to just that! He has and will continue to give me the resources and abilities I need to complete the tasks He has called me to do. I'm not guaranteed an easy or problem-free ride. God himself told Moses to expect difficulties (Exodus 4:19.) However, I can embrace those problems in God's strength. He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. Who am I to complain?

In Christ,
Ellie V.