Listening

Hebrews 4-12

Do you ever wonder if God is speaking to you? Or maybe you wonder, how does God speak to us? I know I do. So often I’ll think I’m hearing Him, only to find out that I was totally missing the mark. While other times I’m certain it is my own thought process that is leading only to discover that it really was the Holy Spirit’s prompt. Oh, how I wonder if I’ll ever figure it out?

The other day was a prime example of the latter. Me and my 4 children had spent the day with another home schooling family and late in the afternoon we began our journey home. I’ll confess that I’m not a super planner and have a tendency to only focus on one thing at a time. That day was no exception, because just before we were to merge onto the interstate, I glanced at my gauges and was surprised to see that all important needle pointing very near the “E” on the fuel gauge. Stopped at a light I look up and see a station and the thought drifted through my mind, You should get some gas. I quickly surmise that I still should have plenty of fuel to get us to the city of our destination where my normal fueling station is. Doing so would mean earning those all important points as well as saving a few pennies per gallon. Yes, I’ll wait.

The light changed to green and we begin our journey again. Me, confident that we will save time and a little money by my rational decision.

No sooner did we get out of the city did the horizen light up with brake lights and the rapid deceleration of the vehicles in front of us. As soon as I realized we had all made the quick stop without a crunch, I breathed a prayer of thanks. As we inched forward in the backed up traffic I tried to guess what the hold up was? Construction? Accident? who knew? It wasn’t long though before I realized we might have a second back up on our hands. There it was, that worrisome ding that we were low on fuel. Great.

Traffic was now at a complete standstill. A first responder buzzed passed on the left shoulder of the line of cars. Next a State Police officer. Then the Jaws of Life. Followed by more police and an ambulance. This was not looking very good.

I did the only thing I could. I turned off the car to save fuel, and we prayed for the the people involved in the obvious accident. In the back of my mind however, I couldn’t help wonder, if God had tried to speak to me back when we were at that last traffic light? Was it He who put the thought in my head to look at my gas gauge? Was it He who stopped me right in front of a station that could have saved us from this inconvenient and embarrassing predicament?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it must have been a Holy Spirit prompt. But regardless of whether it was my own rational or if I had totally missed the message that could have saved us from the stress and discomfort of sitting on the side of the highway on a rather chilly evening with an empty tank. If nothing else, it did make me think. Where else am I missing Him? Where else am I not quite listening? I know it happens.

I know it happens in church when my head is bowed and I just barely hear that still small voice and then I finish the sentence for Him. I know it happens when I’m at home trying to survive the day and I snarl at the God images in my care instead of taking time to reach out for their hearts. I know it happens in the time spent on my phone rather than seeing the person in front of me that might desperately need a smile, a word of encouragement or a hug. I know it happens every time that I choose to do something “important” rather than opening His Book and listening to the words printed on the page.

You see, I do believe God speaks to us. He most obviously speaks though His Word. Every time a verse leaps off the page and cuts through to the heart. He speaks to us in the songs of worship and praise. He speaks to us in the quiet moments and in the chaotic moments. And I believe he whispers at the stop lights before we choose our own way home. God speaks to us, for our good. To bring us hope. He speaks and breathes love even when we least deserve it.

The question is: Are we listening?

~Rita

 

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Terrified…

Habakkuk 3-18-19

This past weekend the news was a little overwhelming, wasn’t it? It seems we are reminded daily that we are not safe anywhere. That even the places who for much of the span of history have been sacred and places of refuge. Even there, terror and evil has the audacity to walk through those doors. I don’t know about you, but that makes me angry, and sad, and really, if I’m honest a bit confused. Why God? Why does it have to be this way?

I’ve spent a quite a bit of time lately trying to gain perspective about the world in which we live. In a season, where I’m trying very much to keep my focus on gratitude and blessing. I’m going to be quite honest and admit that with all that is going on, with all the suffering, with all the evil that seems to be winning, it really is difficult to maintain a heart of thankfulness.

~

Did you know I’d never read the book of Habakkuk before? It’s kind of a small book. Only three chapters. This morning, still sad and overwhelmed, I prayed for something to remind me of the purpose of living in such a broken world. As I went to my familiar places, I found them offering great inspiration, but not a word to satisfy the longing within my heart. As I began flipping pages I landed in Habakkuk. There the words before me leaped of the page.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4

Habakkuk was a prophet that lived during a time when Babylon was overtaking the known world. It was a terrorizing time no doubt, and they didn’t even have the media to stir the pot and sensationalize evil like we do today!

Reading Habakkuk I realized two things. First, evil has been and will be a part of our world until the awesome day of Christ return. Second, God’s sovereignty is still in power even when we do not understand the plan.

Habakkuk’s prayers resonate with me, because I have prayed them myself. “How long Lord?” “Why do you let such evil take place?” My questions come not because of a lack faith, but because I hate to see a world perishing. I hate to see people choose evil instead of good. Yet this book also reminds me that God is sovereign, and that He is also our strength. 
Holocaust survivor Corrie TenBoom once said:

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”

Unfortunately evil will be a part of this world until the end of days. But, as Christ followers we can take comfort in a Sovereign God who knows exactly what is and must take place until then. 

And what are we to do while we wait? I think we can find solace in that last chapter of Habakkuk as well. At the end of the book Habakkuk makes the decision to submit to the Lord. To lift him as God above all, and glorify Him even during unimaginably hard circumstances. In return he received strength from the Lord to go on. 

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:18-19

 

 

~Rita

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Reference

Habakkuk Ch. 1-3

The Season of Gratitude

Psalm 107-1

Welcome to November!

The month of Gratitude. At least that is what comes to my mind on this first day of November. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a season, when we try to put our priorities in order. We begin to look more inward. We find ourselves indoors, ordering our homes and preparing them for the new season before us. We check our hearts and prepare for gatherings with those we love. Those easy to love and those hard to love. But really, it is so much about the love, isn’t it?

You see, I believe in order to feel grateful about anything we need to be able to love and receive love. Gratitude comes from that place in the heart where we feel we have been loved. It is the feeling that because someone loved us we received a gift. Gifts of time, gifts of gathering, gifts of seeing something as extraordinary. Gratitude is also an expression of the love we have for others. That offering of our hearts to another. That offering of time to read one more story to that precious little soul. The offering of putting our wants aside so that we could get one more gift for another, or meet the need of another. 

So, as we enter the season of Thanksgiving, I would like to encourage you to see your gratitude, for what it is: The opportunity to give and receive the love that has has been lavished on us through Christ. I have no doubt that in doing so your heart will be filled with the deep gratitude that the life in Christ offers. 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Psalm 107:1

 

~Rita

Reformation Day

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It was on this date 500 years ago that the German Monk Martin Luther nailed The 95 Theses to the Church door in Wittenburg Germany. The actions of this Christian hero upon realizing that his salvation comes from faith through Christ alone, began a movement called the Protestant Reformation.

We have him and many other Christian heroes to thank for our freedom to worship God, as well as read and understand the scriptures. So, while some use this date to honor a different holiday, October 31st is also a date of great relevance to our Christian Heritage. 

It is said that Martin Luther began his journey to realizing that salvation is offered to each of us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ while studying the book of Romans. I wonder how these verses impacted him? 

“11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Romans 13:11-12

Happy Reformation Day!

 

~Rita

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Resources
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martin-luther-posts-95-theses
http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/reformation_day.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_Day

Image of Character

Today’s post comes in the form of an essay written by one
of Western Days Ministries young friends. Hannah is a remarkable young lady who’s love Christ and for others shines brightly. We are so pleased at how God is growing and using her to further His kingdom. 

Character Essay

            When people ask me about my character, my mind automatically thinks about all the good I’ve done. I think about how I encourage people, especially my friends and family. I think about my patience and how, unlike some other people, I can tolerate waiting in a long line or can help someone who requires patience and gentle assistance. I think about my positive attitude, and how I can make the best out of every situation, or how I not only help others but I thoroughly enjoy doing so. But character is not all about the good you do, it’s also about who you are when nobody is looking. The times that I was rude or didn’t accept someone who needed a friend come to mind; or the times that I have lied to others or even myself. The times that I did or said something wrong behind closed doors. Of course, like most people, I want to become a better person by the time I graduate, but that’s not all. I want to become like Jesus. I don’t want to be God, but I want to reflect his character. Schiller family photoshoot in June 2017
Though I am loving, hate creeps into my heart occasionally. I may be joyful, but I still entertain dissatisfaction. For the most part, I feel peace about my future, then worry settles in when I think about it too much. Patience is a virtue I seem to possess, but at the same time, I battle anxiety daily. I am kind, but at the same time I catch myself worrying about myself way too often. People will tell you that I am good; a good student, a good person, a good friend, but in reality, being good is the last thing on my mind sometimes. I try my hardest to be faithful, and I am for the most part. I go to church. I say the right things, but sometimes my heart is not in it. Once anger settles in, gentleness gets set aside. I have self- control, but putting it to use is another story. I have just as many weaknesses as I do strengths, and of course, I tend to dwell on the weaknesses more. But the truth is I am fearfully and wonderfully made, yet a sinner in need of saving. The character of Jesus is all of my strengths and more. I realize that the only way to be like Jesus is to know him. All in all, my character is human. I do both good and bad things. When people talk about me, I hear words like sweet and helpful. Honestly, I do want to develop into a better person, but that’s not all. By the time I graduate, I don’t want people to see me and my character, I want them to see the image of Jesus shining through me in all that I say and do.

 

Birth Pains

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Read Matthew 24

I’ve given birth to 4 babies, naturally, no drugs. Now, please understand I’m not sharing this informtion to boast, but just to give you the idea that I might have an understanding about the birthing process.

(Hold on guys! don’t click away just yet, I promise this post is for you too. Read on, I promise not to scar you.)

Right now there is a lot going on in this world that might concern us. Wars, rumors of wars, storms and earth quakes. Suffering, persecution and uncertainty. We do need to be aware. We need to keep a pulse on what is going on in this world. But, you know what we don’t need to be? We don’t need to be worried.

You see, the thing about labor, or “birth pains” is that is really hard work and it can be painful, but there is usually a fantastic reward for persevering and finishing that work.

If we look at what Matthew 24 says about labor, I think we can agree that the earth is in it.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Matthew 24:4-8

It is also true that as labor progresses those “pains” will become more intense and increase in frequency. We will be tempted to give up. We will be tempted to look for the easy way out. But we can’t, and thankfully we have the best labor coach ever: Jesus Christ.

So, hang in there. Do not be alarmed. These things must happen. But, when it’s all over. When we have been stretched beyond what we can imagine, our reward will come.

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Matthew 24:31

So, how do we make it through all that we could potentially face during this hard work?

Let me give you some tips on dealing with birth pains:

  1. Read all you can about the process so you won’t be caught off guard.
    If you are in God’s word daily, nothing should catch you by surprise. Remember, we know how this whole thing ends.
  2. Trust your Labor support. It is their job to help you, they know you best and will keep your best interest in mind. They know the birth plan.
    So, what I’m saying is. Jesus knows you best. He created you to be alive at this very moment. He WILL stay with you until the end. He will not give up on you, so don’t give up on him. He CAN be trusted to see you through.
  3. It’s gonna get hard. It is suggested that you find a different terminology than the word “pain.” If you think of this process as painful, you will feel defeated and that you do not have any control over what is happening. While the process will continue either way, if you change your terminology to “hard work” or “dis-comfortable” you are more likely to maintain your prospective that this is a temporary situation, with an end in sight.
    What I mean is, Jesus is coming! No matter how bad it gets, there will be an end. So, rather than wallow in the hard, let’s keep our eye on the prize and remember that any suffering we experience are a privilege and have a purpose. (2) 
  4. When the contraction/birth pain reaches it’s peak it is helpful to have a focal point. This kind of goes with #1. When I was in labor my focal point was often the eyes of my husband (whether he liked it or not.) It was his eyes and his encouraging words that helped me remember that I was created to do this. I was designed to bring these babies into the world. Likewise, we are created to live in this moment. Keeping our eyes on Christ will help us manage the most difficult parts of this life we live. Just remember Peter at this point. So long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could walk on that water, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Him, he became overwhelmed by the storm around him and he began to sink. (3)
  5. Keep breathing! Breathing deeply will help you relax and release. Don’t fight the pain/discomfort.  The more we fight to hold onto even the little we have, the more we will feel overwhelmed. We must remember that God created birth. Be it the birth of a new human life, an animal, or His New Heaven and New Earth. Keep breathing. At the right time we will receive the reward He promised to us. 

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:18-25

As someone who get’s overwhelmed easily, and feels deeply for those who are suffering. I want to be clear that I am not trying to discount the hardship many face, will face in the times to come. It can be overwhelming when we think of all that is going wrong in the world.
My point is to encourage us to remember that we serve a BIG God. Keeping our perspective is key; nothing on this earth happens that He does not know about or have His hand in.  

Missionary Corrie Ten Boom said it well:

“Look around you and be distressed,
look within you and be depressed.
Look to Jesus, and be at rest.”
– Corrie ten Boom

Blessings,

 

~Rita

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References:

  1. Matthew 24
  2. James 1:2-4
  3. Matthew 14:25-32
  4. Romans 8:18-25

 

 

 

 

Where have you seen God?

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Where have you seen God? This is the question that Western Days Ministries leadership often asks. Where have you seen God in your life this week? 

It is a familiar question, however, it has the tendency to make us all clam up. Why? Are we afraid? Do we suddenly draw a blank? Do we doubt that we have really and truly seen God at work in our lives?

At our most recent gathering, this familiar question was asked. I think we still –though we shouldn’t — get caught off guard when it is asked. Perhaps, and unfortunately, it is still not so common in churches today for the “audience” to participate. 

The thing is, that it is moments like these, where we are collectively sharing how God is showing up, (Not to puff up ourselves,) that we encourage one another. In doing so we bring glory to God. And it is no secret that Glorifying God is exactly why we are gathering together in the first place.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another
—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25
[emphasis mine]

 One of the purposes of the gathering of the Church is to encourage one another, especially as the day of Christ return is approaching! 

It is so important, vital even, that we believers regularly gather together with other believers (however God leads you.) To encourage one another, to comfort one another, to testify how God is working in your life. We (and I’m also talking to me here) should be jumping out of our seats to testify of God’s power, comfort, goodness, faithfulness, hope, correction, patience, healing, etc… and do you know what happens when we do?

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
Revelation 12:11

We triumph! There is coming a day when that enemy of old will be destroyed once and for all. That victory will come because of Jesus and his sacrifice, AND because of the words of our testimony. Because of these things we have a part in the defeat of the devil. We win. When we testify to how God is prevailing in our life, we push back the dark. Amen?

~Rita