I hope to inspire and encourage others through my own life experiences and my faith ...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say ...

"So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire." James 3:5

I love my children ... I mean there are no words to express the love that I have for my children, they are precious to me. As parents, I think that we sometimes tend to over analyze our children - probably because we love them so much and want the absolute best for them and want to ensure that they are going forward in the right direction.

Being the sarcastic person that I am, I have been known to lovingly tease my girls. I don't ever talk badly about them or tear them down, that is a point I want to make clear, but sometimes Senior Airman and I will talk about them to each other or to other people in ways that don't exactly flatter them. For example, we have teased that our oldest will be the least likely to get into trouble in high school. She will be the smart, over achieving, people pleaser. Our youngest will be the wild one, the one that we will have to worry about rebelling. Lastly, that our middle child will be most likely to be the clueless blonde cheerleader type, beautiful but a little spacey. Ok, when I actually write it out, it seems worse then it did in my head ... hence the lesson that follows ...

For reasons that I won't get into, there is a reason we tagged our middle daughter that way. We love her dearly, but she does fit the genre of that stereotype. We have harmlessly teased about that since she was very little. It has always been in love, but I recently realized it was wrong of me. During my quiet time a few weeks ago God really laid this child on my heart. He deeply convicted me of this teasing. He showed me that she is a precious child of God and that He created her to be exactly what she is. He showed me that as her mother, I should always build her up and praise her for the wonderful qualities that she holds, rather then tease her (especially to other people) about something that she may never even become. I immediatley repented and promised to think twice about putting lables on any of my children in any sort of fashion.

That same night I went to my Led By The Spirit class and had a prophetic word spoken over me from someone who didn't know me or my children. God spoke to me again through this stranger and I was shocked at the message. He said that this child specifically, was extremley smart and that He wanted me to believe in that firmly. He said that we will have to fight for her academically as she might learn differently then other children, but not to forget that she is a very smart girl and so on and so forth. Wow ... I mean it was like God prepped me for that message by first showing me my sin in teasing and then by reinforcing qualitites she held that I suspected she might lack. He believed in her and I needed to see her in the same way. I just sat there and cried. I was so ashamed at myself.

Sometimes the most innocent words can hurt the most. My daughter is young enough that she will never remember us teasing her and labeling her in the way we did, but what if we had kept it up? What if she overheard us talking about her like that to other people? Would she feel encouraged by our words or embarassed? I find myself being much more sensitive to the words I use to descibe my children or even the way that I talk to them ... As a naturally sarcastic person it is a challenge for me. As Senior Airman likes to remind me, even though I am just kidding around other people might not see things the same way and get hurt or offended by my words. I challenge you to watch the words that you are speaking over your children. Be purposeful to uplift them, encourage them and empower them - even when you think they can't hear what you are saying. Our children thrive and cling to our every word so make sure you are using your words wisely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Divine Expertise ... What's Yours?

Have you ever felt useless? Maybe your life is completely fulfilling but you wish there was some way that you could make a more significant impact on the world around you ... I know that I have felt that way. In fact for the past couple of years I have struggled with finding my place in this world. I adore being a mother, wife, daughter and friend but I couldn't help feeling that I was called to higher purpose ... that I could serve God and be a part of the bigger picture.

I searched for a ministry to get involved with in my church, but nothing really stood out to me. I started a class that encouraged the discovery of personal spiritual gifts. I had read about spiritual gifts in the bible and knew that everyone was supposed to have them, but hadn't really studied it much further. After taking a gift assessment I was not surprised to find that my spiritual gift was that of exhortation (encouragement). I have always been an optimist and seem to be one that others come to for advice and encouragement. I decided to start practicing using my gift through writing (another area of my life that I have felt led to pursue). I can tell you that, when you can combine your God given gifts with something that you are already passionate about, sparks fly! Although I am new at this, I feel God pulling me in and showing me how to use these giftings to minster to others.

What excites me about this is that we don't have to search for a spiritual gift that fits us, because in fact we are born with them! God has placed several gifts on each of us and we are called to use those gifts to further His ministry. Roman 12:6-8 says, "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly."

Don't be discouraged in thinking that you don't have what it takes to use your specified gift ... the good news is that we already have in us everything we need to put those giftings to work! You will soon find that your divine gifting is your expertise! I encourage you to uncover your spiritual gifts and then ask God to develop those in you further and show you where you can use them. Doors of opportunity will open up for you and lead you to ultimate fulfilment in serving Him. It is exciting and honoring to see what God has given us and we can use those to minister to others. Speaking from my own experience, after discovering what He has given me and pursing that gift for His glory, I feel inspired, driven and excited to go forward.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Life that Lasts

My very first attempt at simple exegeis and personal application:

1 Peter 1:13 "So think clearly and exercise self control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ."

1 Peter was written sometime around the time of 62-64 A.D. probably in Rome. 1st century Christians were being persecuted for believing in and obeying Jesus. It was during the time of the great persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero (Peter was eventually killed during the great persecution). Christians suffered in numerous ways including but not limited to physical abuse, debilitating diseases, social ostracism, persecution and even death. Sufferings, then and today, tempt people to give up and take the easy way out. Peter had encountered a tremendous amount of persecution and suffering himself and the purpose of this letter was to encourage and give hope to other Christians in hopes that they would not give up but stay strong and hold true to Jesus Christ. He wrote the letter to Jewish Christians who were driven out of Jerusalem and scattered across Asia Minor and to Christians everywhere.

Peter is concluding a theme on salvation in verse 13 and he uses words that create powerful imagery in order to appeal to his readers. The verbs think, exercise and look give strong suggestions on how we should act or what we should do in order to be closer to Jesus Christ. He advises that we should think clearly (be mentally alert, judge, regard, use or exercise our minds in order to make decisions) and exercise (discipline, exert, systematically train by multiple repetitions, “practice makes perfect”) self control (which means to control our impulses, self discipline, practice will power and restraint). Then we should look forward (perceive with attention, direct our gaze or expect) to the special blessings that will be bestowed upon us when Christ returns. These words in association with the theme of salvation through Christ are used to suggest a call to holy living.

Literally, Peter is finishing explaining the glories of what is to come. He gives Christians a few requirements of holy living and he paints a picture of what is waiting for us in the days ahead and what blessings salvation will bring. He points out that although there will be suffering and persecution we should be assured that grace is upon us. When we practice self control and put our focus clearly on Christ we will be rewarded. “Our lives are to be controlled by our focus on the ever present reality of Christ’s return and the glory that comes with that” (Dwight Edwards).

It is so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives and lose our focus on Christ. When we are tired, weak or feeling hopeless it is easy to become frustrated with God and look for worldly ways to ease our sorrows. It is easy to rely on ourselves or on worldly things instead of Him in these situations. Peter calls us to live holier and rise above this. He encourages us to not only live in the here and now but also in the future; to look forward to the rest, grace and blessings that Christ has waiting for us. Nowhere in the bible does it say that living a Christian life is easy … in fact it is clearly points out that we will face trials and sufferings in our Christian walk. Peter is trying to encourage us to trudge through those sufferings and he gives us guidelines on how to do so. He says that we should think clearly and exercise our self control. That means we should judge our thoughts, use regard and practice restraining ourselves from sin. He goes further to say that as we do those things we should look forward and expect what special blessings that Christ has waiting for us. So, keep your minds on Christ and mediate on things to come instead of worrying about today. Romans 8:6 similarly focuses on this theme, “For to be fleshly minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

When I am tired and my faith is being tested I will change my focus from death to the blessings and life that Christ offers me. I will meditate on His words, promises and give thanks for the blessings He has bestowed on me. By doing this and changing my thought process I will be exercising my self control. When I practice self control I allow myself to be closer with Christ and live in accordance with His will for my life and reward is sure to follow.