Proof in the Perseverance

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“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”     1 Peter 1:6-7 NASB

I love how this passage discusses being distressed by various or all kinds of trials. Isn’t that true of life? Aren’t we often distressed by all kinds of things? Each season of life brings new trials. Peter was writing to persecuted Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. These Christians were indeed experiencing various trials and having their faith tested daily. While we may or may not ever experience persecution to that extent, as believers we all face times of having our faith tested. We all want to give up and quit occasionally when our assignments in life get hard. In this passage are several reasons Peter gives us to keep on going:

1) Trials are Temporary

Though it often seems like a trial will last forever, it won’t. In pursuing a Ph.D. several years ago I had to remind myself that this is only a season, even though at times it felt like I would never finish! Sometimes our trials last longer than we would like, but they are temporary in light of eternity.

2) Perseverance is the Proof

Our perseverance through trials provides the evidence of our faith. Jesus never said being one of His followers would be easy. In fact, He pretty much guaranteed we would experience trials (John 16:33). The proof of our faith is found in those moments when we want to give up or run away from a hard assignment and Christ’s love compels us to keep going.

3) God Gets the Glory

While not always our first thought in the middle of a difficult situation, ultimately God is glorified when we persevere through the hard stuff. It’s easier to see how this works in hindsight, but in the meantime, we can rest in the fact that somehow God is working out our difficulties for our good and His glory.

Challenges and trials will come your way, but be encouraged that they do have purpose. Recently in reading one of my favorite devotional books, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, I came across this quote:

            “If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account. Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.” (Chambers, May 5)

 

May the proof of your faith be found in your perseverance.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

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There was a day in my ministry to students when I would inwardly chuckle at them. You could spot them from a mile away. They had to be everywhere and know everything their children were doing to the point of being obsessive about it. There’s even a name for it. In youth ministry world we call them Helicopter Moms because they are known for swooping in whenever any problem occurs. It seems to be a growing trend for Millennial parents. Of course, I would never be one of THOSE moms…that is, until I became one. It was easy to think I would not be tempted to hover over my child’s every move when she cooed at me from the infant carrier. At that point we had total control over her every move. Then she got older. And the rotors started spinning.

I’ve been on both sides, ministering to moms who were struggling with Helicopter Mom tendencies and as a mom struggling with them myself. If you find yourself ministering to parents, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

 

1) Give Helicopter Parents a Break

One thing to remember is that you may not know the backgrounds of these parents. They may have had their own experiences as a child or adolescent where trust was broken with an adult. I have talked to many moms who come from a background of abuse and desperately do not want their children to have similar experiences. They may know of circumstances with friends or even in the news where adults broke trust with children. Just remember to be sensitive with parents. You really don’t know what drives their hovering tendencies. If nothing else, moms have an almost irrational sense of need to protect their own. Letting go and letting kids grow up is really hard. Be patient with them.

 

2) Encourage Them to Trust God

Fear is at the heart of most helicopter parenting. Fear of what could happen. Fear of the unknown. Fear of everything. I call it the “What If” syndrome, and I will admit that this diagnosis has characterized me far too often. Trust me…I’m married to a man who teaches risk management to ministers. Need I say more? I know at least 100 ways you could be harmed or injured, just at church. Did I mention recently our daughter ended up at an urgent care facility after an event? At church.

Sending your children into the world as they grow up is extremely scary. Instant access to the news alone is enough to want to keep your children inside your house. Forever. Not to mention they may have access to media outlets too. Remind parents of the importance of trusting God with their children. We are not called to give way to fear but to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within believers (2 Timothy 1:7). The Bible talks a whole lot about fear. Over and over the Lord says throughout scripture, “Do Not Fear.” I think that’s because fear is such a common human experience. We need the reminders often. Parents are no different. They need all the help and encouragement they can get to trust that God is in control of their kids.

 

3) Help Them Navigate Culture

            I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our culture is really toxic for children and adolescents, and navigating it as a parent is extremely difficult. I’ve been researching adolescent culture for over 10 years but helping my tween daughter walk through it is an entirely different story. You can help parents out by educating them on how to live firmly rooted in the Word of God in the midst of an ever-changing culture. Parents need to be guideposts for their kids, knowing what’s out there but guiding them on a different path of being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Staying ahead of your kids with regard to culture is tough. You can come alongside parents and teach them how navigate its murky waters.

 

Not being a Helicopter Mom is a daily battle of faith. If you encounter these parents, don’t judge. Just walk alongside them and help them fight the battle too. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, whether in ministry, parenting, jobs, marriage, or daily life, we all could use this reminder,

“The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid…” Psalm 117:6 HCSB

More Adventures Await!

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As the new year unfolds, I’ve been reflecting on the journey God has brought me thus far. Here’s a little about my story…

Fourteen years ago this month I moved onto the campus of NOBTS. Having just graduated with an undergraduate degree in Accounting, God was guiding my life in a completely new direction. Full of passion and energy to serve the Lord, I had no idea what God had planned for me, only a firm conviction that God had called me to be equipped to serve Him in whatever capacity He led. It was both exciting and terrifying! Blind faith seemed to be the theme of my life. For the record, I’m much better at walking by sight. What can I say? I like to have a plan! Despite my clear inadequacies in the walk of faith, God continued to guide me faithfully each step of the way as some of my questions about direction were answered and new ones developed.

Fast forward eight years and God clarified my calling even further leading me again to NOBTS to pursue a PhD. By this time I was a ministry wife and mom of a toddler. My husband and I were serving full time in ministry, and he was working on a PhD as well. Life was crazy, but God faithfully guided us through. Then 3 ½ years ago we moved back onto the main campus of NOBTS when Jody was called to a ministry of full time teaching. Since completing my degree I have continued to serve as an adjunct faculty member while chasing a (now grade school!) child and preschooler all over campus.

Once again this January, God is leading me in a new direction to serve as Coordinator of Women’s Programs at NOBTS, one that I would never have imagined fourteen years ago. It’s easy to see in hindsight how God has led me and prepared me for each step of the journey. Walking in faith every day is much more challenging. Here are a few things from 1 Corinthians 10:31 that God has taught me along the way.

Enjoy the process –   Each part of the journey has value even if it doesn’t make sense at the time. Enjoy whatever God has given you to do today.

Be faithful today –  Whatever God has given you to do today, do it well for the glory of God.

Remember your purpose – If we keep our eyes on the big picture, the smaller details of life do not seem so monumental. Ask yourself, “Am I glorifying God in all that I’m doing today?”

Following God is the journey of a lifetime. More adventures await!

 

Christmas Perspective

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“This Christmas, Lord, help me make time for the things that matter.” That was my journal entry moments after I sat rocking our son back to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. With December barely underway, already I was thinking through the million and one things I had on my to do list, but what mattered most in that moment was the child sleeping peacefully in my arms. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the Christmas season and all that it entails. Tree decorating, baking yummy goodies, festive gatherings, Christmas carols, I could go on and on. With all of the fun though comes all of the stress! It’s very easy to forget about the things that are most important.

Frustrations can run high during the Christmas season. Long lines, too much to do and too little time to do it. Apparently Cyber Monday is a bad day to actually shop in a store. Who knew? I made the mistake of trying to buy groceries on the day in which everyone is encouraged to shop online. To my dismay, the computer system of a store (which will remain unnamed!) was overwhelmed, and unable to let me purchase items in the store. Frustrated by my inconvenience, I was tempted to think I had just wasted precious time. Then I was reminded that I live in a city with plenty of stores and plenty of options for purchasing groceries. Am I that shortsighted that I forget just a few days after Thanksgiving all that I have to be thankful for? I began to think, with the Christmas season upon us, what is most important? What matters most, having everything in life be convenient or taking the time to show people the love of Jesus who is the reason why we celebrate in the first place? People matter more than convenience, more than perfect decorations, more than busy schedules. Jesus came to earth for people. You and me.

“The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14 HCSB

What matters most in your life this Christmas? I can assure you I am asking myself the same question. In the midst of the crazy hectic pace of the month of December, I want to focus on what counts.

Lord, help us make time for the things that matter.

 

“I Just Want to Be Queen of the Universe!”

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Recently my daughter decided she wanted to be the center of attention when we had guests over. A natural actress, she thought this would be her perfect opportunity to show our guests her talent. She was dismayed to find out that our company had come to visit and catch up, not to be entertained. When I talked to her later about her need to perform, she shook her fists and said, “I just want to be the queen of the UNIVERSE!!” Silently I laughed and thought, “Well, sweetie, get in line because you are not the only one who wants to be the queen of the universe.” I may not say it, but often in my heart I act like I should be queen for the day too.

At the tender age of 8, Lydia was able to articulate what so many of us feel. Isn’t that true of all of us? It’s the reason we all sin. Our selfish sin natures tell us that it’s all about me. What I want is most important. The world should revolve around me. I should be the center of attention. It’s painful sometimes to realize the truth. The truth is it’s not about me. I am not the center of the universe. God is. It’s a lesson we learn over and over throughout our lives.

The truth is there is freedom in knowing that it’s not about me. I mean really…what if the world really was on my shoulders?? I would be completely crushed under the weight. Instead, when I do feel crushed by the world, I am not because God holds me up (2 Corinthians 4:8). Even though my selfish heart sometimes screams for attention, deep down I am relieved to know that I am not the center of the universe. That’s too big of a job for me.

Putting others before ourselves sets our hearts free to live the joyful abundant life Jesus longs for us to experience (John 15:5). When we focus on others, our problems don’t seem quite so big. The weight of the world gets smaller as we rightfully realize that we are not the center of the universe. We were never intended to be.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 NIV

Keep Singing

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I am not a musically inclined person by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately, my mother’s talent in being an accomplished musician did not get passed on to me. Life just makes sense to me in terms of numbers, not music notes. However, I have found that when I am facing trials and difficulties, hymns of faith seem to wash over my soul like a soothing balm. Ten years ago when my husband and I left the city of New Orleans for higher ground, we sang our way through the confusion and devastation we witnessed in Hurricane Katrina.

King David said, “I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips” Psalm 34:1 HCSB. This is from a man who was on the run from a crazy king at the time! Lately, as I see tragedy strike in different ways, I just keep singing, not songs of rejoicing but songs of hope. David also said, “My heart is confident, God; I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being” Psalm 108:1 HCSB. I wonder if perhaps David’s heart was confident because he sang. As he sang praises to the Lord, his heart was filled with hope.

One hymn in particular that I keep thinking about is Standing On the Promises, particularly verse 2 that I will share below.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.[1]

Sometimes all we can do is hang on tightly to the truth we have in God’s word. And when life gets tough, we can just keep singing.

[1] Carter, R. Kelso. 1991. Standing on the Promises. Nashville: Convention Press.

Daily Faith

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With the recent passing of my favorite author, Elisabeth Elliot, I have been reflecting on the impact her writings have had on my life, especially during my early 20s when I desperately wanted to know God’s will for my life. So many questions pervaded my mind during that time. Looming large over them all was the overarching theme of what God wants me to do. Then I came upon a quote from her that said, “Do the next thing.” I was hoping for a detailed roadmap of everything that was supposed to happen in my life when God was telling me just to take the next step. At the time I was primarily a student, so I understood for that time God was calling me to be the best student possible. Once that assignment was complete, He would show me what was next.

In the years since, some of those initial questions have been answered but many others have shown up. As life progresses, new questions of God’s will spring forth. We won’t see the full picture this side of eternity. If we could, faith would be unnecessary. Faith is a daily walk listening for the Lord’s still, small voice saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 HSCB. Through God’s roadmap, the Bible, He shows us step by step what direction to take. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, the Apostle Paul noted that we only see things in part right now, like looking in a mirror. One day we will have full knowledge when we meet the Lord face to face. Until then, we must keep walking in faith and simply “do the next thing.”