WANTED: Courageous mothers

Growing up in the time of western movies and Zane Grey books, my mother spent hours with her brother at the movie theaters or in the living room reading – taking in the adventures of these westerners. Watching western TV shows as a child, I too was enthralled by the adventure and courage of the strong women and men ready to fight against evil and protect the good. They were firm in what they believed and basically, you just didn’t “mess with them”. Today we need Christian mothers who like these heroes, fight against evil, stand up for good and who are:  Firm, Faithful, and Good.

The mothers in my own family have shown me how to be firm, faithful, and good. My maternal great grandmother and her daughter, my grandmother, were loving, strong women, and firm in their stand for God and His Word. They were both active in mission groups and teaching Sunday school classes at church, faithfully teaching their own children to love and worship God, to do good and hate evil by their example. They prayed for their families knowing God would take care of them.

Their faithful lives influenced my own mother – another strong woman, firm in her faith in God, His Word, her Savior Jesus, prayer, and doing what is right. My sister and I were often amazed at her connection with God. She could find out anything without trying when we did wrong and instilled a deep respect for God in our lives, telling us – “I may be your mother but God is your Heavenly Father and you answer to Him.”  We also knew God’s love and forgiveness through her love for us and her love for others. Although she taught Middle School math all week, she would still give up her time on Sunday mornings to teach middle school girls in Sunday school classes. She never had time or wanted to join in the women’s gossip groups but spent her time teaching others, loving our father, encouraging her family and helping us succeed.

Today, more than ever, there is a need – a wanted poster in every community and city in our nation for courageous mothers who are Firm, Faithful and Good!

Christian mothers who love their children are firm, not spoiling them but teaching them to love God and His Word, love and respect others, and to stand up for good, speak out against evil. They do not let the culture around them or others turn them away from their faith in God and His Word even if it means ridicule or unpopularity. They are immoveable.

 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Christian mothers who really love their children are faithful, taking care of their children emotionally, mentally, and physically. They are faithful to pray for their children and never give up praying. They know there is an evil enemy who wants to destroy their children and they stand as faithful guards praying for them daily.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”     Colossians  4:2

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12 

Christian mothers who love their children are good; they love good not evil. They train their children in what is good in the things they read or watch in various media, keeping evil influences away from their children that are around them in schools and neighborhoods. They show by example how to be good in taking care of the weak and giving to the poor.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” Amos 5:14

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

As we celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, I encourage all Christian mothers and those who are like a mother to other children, to be firm, faithful, and good. Just like the western heroes, may you be an example of courage to your children – a mother who abides with Jesus who gets her strength from Him.

 

Daily Faithfulness Rewarded

Reminiscing about his many years of service to God, this past Sunday friends and family, past and present members all gathered to honor Pastor Ken Aune as he retired from 39 years of faithful ministry. My husband Lowe and I joined many who traveled to this Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) in Cary, NC which Ken started in 1994, to celebrate a life of faithfulness to God. A servant, who had run the race well and finished well, planting two churches in Nebraska and North Carolina, influencing hundreds of lives with the gospel of Jesus.

Ken joins a host of pastors, missionaries, and teachers who have given most of their lives to serve God in ministry without much recognition from the world. Like many, he preached thousands of sermons, visited the sick, married couples, baptized believers (including our daughter), shared the good news of Jesus and prayed for those who needed God in their lives. These are the faithful who continue to plant seeds for the gospel of Jesus trusting God daily for spiritual fruit.

You may know about the great servants of God – King David, Daniel, Peter and John, and Paul but have you heard of Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, and Silas?  We may not know much about them but they too are listed as faithful servants of Christ:

“…Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ…” Colossians 1:7

“Tychicus…is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Colossians 4:7

“…Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you” Colossians 4:9

“With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother,” 1 Peter 5:12

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, desired faithfulness in his calling to preach the gospel. He said, “However, I consider my life nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24  And after a faithful life of following Jesus, enduring hardships, beatings, imprisonments, hunger, sleepless nights, and hard work (2 Corinthians 6:3-11), Paul could finally say:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

As followers of Jesus how can we be faithful to the course God gives us in a society that so easily quits? Where every day people walk away and say, “I just can’t do this anymore.”?  We need to lean on Jesus – abiding with him, trusting in his words that encourage us, asking for his power to produce the fruit of faithfulness in our lives.

Have you already quit or considered leaving what God has called you to do? Are you not seeing success as the world counts success?  Are you burned out and tired? God is your strength. He sees your faithfulness. His view of success is daily obedience and faithfulness to his calling no matter the results.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful…” Psalm 18:25

“the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

Has God given you a ministry to others in a church or on a mission field? Then be faithful to serve trusting God for the results.

Has God given you a family to provide for?  Then be faithful to work hard and trust God to provide.

Has God given you a husband or wife? Then be faithful to each other, serving each other.

Has God given you a season of being single? Then be faithful to be pure and holy in your singleness.

Has God given you children to teach and raise up to know him? Then be faithful to take care of them, teaching and training them to know God.

Has God given you the opportunity to be a student? Then be faithful to study, making wise use of your time.

Has God given you someone to serve – an aging parent, a handicapped child, or someone who is sick? Then be faithful to serve knowing you are serving Christ (Colossians 3:23)

As believers in Jesus, God calls us to be faithful and someday he will reward us for our faithfulness on earth. Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Revelations 22:12

Even though our friend, Ken, is finishing this part of the race by retiring from his church, I know he will continue to be faithful to God in whatever is next for him. May we daily abide with Jesus making it our only aim to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”

 

Is Your Spiritual Life Dormant?

 

Daffodils, gladiolas, and tulips are blooming in full colors, a sign of spring and new life. Their blooms burst out from bulbs that lie dormant during the cold winter months, hiding in the dark ground until the days become warmer and the power of the sun shines in the sky.

Much like the flowering bulbs, many Christians are hiding in the cold ground, lying dormant even though they have the potential to bloom and produce abundant fruit. Instead, there is no sign of new life. They seem frozen in their walks with God, at a standstill. Because of a cold heart towards God and His Word, the Holy Spirit’s power is dormant. Apathy ensues and soon there is little or no sign of life. They wonder why they can’t love others, can’t be patient, have no desire to forgive, don’t have self-control to stop certain actions, or don’t experience peace but instead fear and strife. They just don’t desire the things of God.

Believers in Jesus have been given an inner power, the Holy Spirit, who gives new life which produces spiritual fruit in those who desire to live godly lives. Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit would come to guide and instruct them, giving them the power to obey his commands.

“[God] will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you…He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us new life in our thinking and actions when we come to receive Jesus as Savior:

“the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God…you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his children.”  Romans 8:10, 15

“He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth, and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5

So why are some Christians not experiencing this new life?  Many do not rely on the power given to them by the Holy Spirit, and some walk away from God and his commands to be different from the world. They have gone back to their sinful ways and look no different than the world. Evidently, the Christians in Galatia also had this problem:

You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves… the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires…But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. “Galatians 3: 2-3, 5:16, 22-23, 25

There is hope from God’s Word. He says to take action. Don’t make the Holy Spirit sad, but choose to put away the sinful actions that keep us dormant in the cold:

throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception…Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” Ephesians 4:22-24, 30

When we as Christians admit that our lives are not fruitful and the Holy Spirit is dormant, we can go to God in prayer. He desires us to ask him to change us.

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” James 5:15

Maybe you need to pray right now, asking God to make you alive and fruitful through the Holy Spirit. Ask him to produce the spiritual fruits in your daily life. Then watch for the beautiful blooms as God works and renews your life through the Spirit.

 “When it is a question of God’s almighty Spirit, never say, I can’t.”            Oswald Chambers

Finding Peace in the Storms

A dark line of clouds in the distance, unusual calm outside, sudden darkness and roaring winds all alert me to what I experienced so often growing up – a possible tornado approaching.  Growing up in Alabama, part of “tornado alley”, I have a strong sense of knowing when a tornado is coming. Thankfully, I know what to do. In our schools we would have tornado drills in the hallways, and at home I knew when to run to the basement for safety. We always took the warnings seriously. Because I was prepared in knowing what to do, even though my heart pounded with some fear, I had peace.

Often we experience storms in life, some small and some with tornado force winds that bring a path of destruction. If we are not prepared we will not know what to do when they come. And they will come at some point. Our minds will become confused, our hearts will be stricken with fear and we will panic if we are not prepared.

When a sudden storm came on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples panicked in fear:

“But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:37-40

When storms come into our lives, we often do all we can to survive, then we panic, like the disciples, waiting for God to respond. Perhaps, we too become frustrated at God and ask Him, “Don’t you care?” Before we get to that point, though, there are ways to prepare for the coming storms in life so we can have peace instead of fear.

  1. Know God and read His word daily. Memorize Bible verses about His character so you can remember these when you become fearful. Keep your mind focused on God daily trusting in Him.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

Know that God is good:

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Know that God loves you and rejoices over you:

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

Know that God is in control:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

  1. Make prayer to God a daily habit. Spend time talking with God and listening to Him also. Thank Him for His blessings, rejoice in His love and goodness and ask Him for your needs. Make it a habit to give him your cares and concerns.

If we haven’t been talking to God daily and rejoicing in Him at all times then we will not know His peace in difficult times. Paul wrote these words while experiencing the storm of being in prison for his faith:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:4-6

King David often prayed to God. He gave his fears to God then rested knowing God would take care of the storms in his life.

 “Answer me when I call to you, O God…Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer… The LORD will answer when I call to him…In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” Psalm 4:1,3,8

So are you prepared for storms? Are you in one now? Go to God in prayer and read His word daily. He DOES care. He hears and will answer. Ask Him to replace your fears with His peace. Jesus told his disciples these comforting words:

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

The Power of Self Control

It’s February, just a few weeks since New Year resolutions. How is it going? Some victories, some changes? By now, some people may have given up or forgotten their new direction and desire for change.

When I decide to make a road trip I plan the route, clean the car, put my packed suitcase in the back, take food and drinks for the ride, and I’m ready to go. But if there is no gas in the car, with all my planning and preparing I’m not going anywhere. Like the road trip, I can make plans and have the best intentions for change but I need something important to get going. I need the power of self-discipline and self-control. Daily!

Right now, we are living in a time where self-control is almost nonexistent. We often hear people say, “I just can’t stop it”, “It’s just part of who I am.” Even Paul, the Apostle of Jesus admitted: “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.” Romans 7:21-24, NLT

The world around us and our own sinful nature war with our minds trying to stop us from doing what is right. So what do we do?  Give up?  Where is the power to change? Even on a long road trip, eventually you will need to fill up with gas again when you are running on empty. Are you running on empty?

Thankfully, as believers in Jesus we have the power that never goes empty. Paul went on to say, “Who will free me…Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:25 NLT

Jesus told his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing…but if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:5, 7

We can’t accomplish anything but through Jesus’s power. As we walk with, “remain” with Jesus, reading and “remaining” in God’s Word, then we will want what Jesus desires. Our desire will be to produce spiritual fruit. Then when we pray what Jesus desires Jesus will grant our requests. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit who will produce this fruit: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives…self-control.” Galatians 5:16, 22-23

As believers in Jesus, we should be the best example to the world around us of self-control. Yet, we often look like the world with little or no power. I call it spiritual “amnesia”. We have forgotten Jesus, His words and His promises to answer our prayers. We have forgotten the power He has given to us through the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. Jesus desires for us to change and He is willing if we just ask. It is a new year with new resolutions- a new week, a new day, a new direction. Don’t forget the gas, the power of self-control to keep you on the right track. Ask Jesus for His power:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your power to not only forgive my sin and make me your own, but also the power you give me through the Holy Spirit to live a fruitful life. Thank you that you desire to produce the fruit of self-control in my life. I give you my life and my lists and ask that you would change these areas. I am trusting in you to bring these changes. I need the Holy Spirit in my life moment by moment to guide me. Thank you that you promise to answer my prayer in your will. I look expectantly for what you will do in my life this year and desire to give you the glory for the change. In your powerful name, Amen

Peace instead of Fear

What burdens are you carrying today? What fears?  What needs do you have?  What do we do with them? This past year, I have joined with others locally and across our nation, to pray earnestly, unceasingly, not like before, as we have been burdened and fearful for our nation- the loss of religious freedoms, the ever encroaching evil in our culture and the fight for godly values in our homes and schools. God is working mightily through our prayers on a large scale.

Now that those times of prayer for the elections have past, will we continue to pray earnestly, unceasingly? The burdens and battles are never over in this world – whether for a nation or in our lives. We continue to fight the darkness around us in our  lives and homes, our communities and churches. Paul reminded the Ephesians living in an ungodly culture:

“Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” (Ephesians 6: 16, 17) 

Daily we feel the pressures and burdens living in this world. Satan tempts us to believe that God doesn’t care. He has left us. So, we decide to worry and fret, overwhelmed by carrying these burdens ourselves. But when I choose to go to God in prayer and give these cares to him, I do not go away empty handed – God gives me himself in return, his joy and his peace.

Thomas Watson, an English Puritan Preacher who lived almost 400 years ago wrote in his book, The Ten Commandments:

“Let us cast all of our burdens upon him-our fears, our needs and our sins. Christian what troubles you? You have a God to pardon your sins and to supply your needs, therefore roll your burden on him, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. Those who have a covenant union with God may be filled with contentment of spirit, for God is a rich blessing to the soul. He is a sufficient good. He who has God has enough…If God is our God let it cheer and revive us in all conditions…Let us live as those who have God as their own, and walk in holy lives, that others may see there is something of God in us.”

As I abide with God in a close relationship with him, praying daily and hourly for mine and others’ burdens, I can trust he will work things out in his good timing. Then God produces the peace and joy I need in my circumstances. My spirit is refreshed and I become refreshment to those living in darkness around me. Hopeless, they are burdened with sins and sorrows wandering around looking for someone who cares. I can lead them to our God and to His son, Jesus, who takes the burdens of those who call out to him and desire to live godly lives.

“Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not allow the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22

So there are two choices for me and you today as God’s children: 1) worry and fret until I am overwhelmed and totally stressed in my circumstances or 2) give my burdens to God through prayer and experience His peace and joy, trusting in a good and powerful God who loves me.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15

Are You Fearless for God?

Many Christians have lost everything fleeing there homes instead of giving up their faith in Jesus. They live in “tent cities” with no where to go.

 

This week, on October 31, among the “noise” of Halloween, some people celebrated the fearless act of a godly man who just couldn’t remain silent about the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther had studied God’s Word and came to see that forgiveness and salvation, our righteousness “is by a gift of God, namely by faith.” He believed, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).

This belief was not accepted by the religious people and the culture of his day. But with great courage and boldness, in 1517 Martin fearlessly nailed his 95 Theses proclaiming these truths on the door of Whittenberg Castle church. He was summoned to a trial by the Holy Roman Emperor to recant his beliefs but passionately proclaimed, “I cannot and will not recant…here I stand, I can do no other.”

Martin Luther is only one of thousands, millions, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ who have fearlessly, passionately and courageously proclaimed their faith in Jesus and God’s Word, and would not “recant” even if it meant death. These believers just couldn’t remain silent. Through torture, imprisonment, accusations, loss of homes and family – these are the persecuted who desire to obey God instead of follow the world.

In the early church, great persecution came to the followers of Jesus who wouldn’t stay silent about the One who had forgiven and loved them. It was assumed that this would be a part of their lives, as Paul wrote:

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life, in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  2 Timothy 3:12 

 Every believer in Jesus, who abides with Him, loves God’s Word, and boldly shares its truth with others will be persecuted in some way. Around the world we have seen Christians beheaded and crucified, refugees forced to leave their homes, countries and families and others who have stayed in those countries to share the love of Christ with their enemies. These are all part of the body of Christ. They feel alone and left behind by the rest of the world – even by other believers who have more of the world’s goods and more freedom. Most of them only ask for prayers or Christian materials so that they can continue to share the goods news of Jesus with others. They have truly given their whole lives to Jesus and live with a passion to tell others about their God who saved them from their sins and has given them hope. They must continue the work. They remain fearless.

I count it a privilege to be a volunteer voice for my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world through the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs. Although I may not be able to visit them and personally cry with them in prison, I can pray for them and share their stories with others. Through Voice of the Martyrs and other ministries, I can support them and their families financially sending clothing, food and Bibles.

God commands us as followers of Jesus to not forget our family who are persecuted:

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”     Hebrews 13:3

This Sunday, November 6, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. How will you remember them? Will you tell others their stories? Will you share them with your Bible study or church? I strongly encourage you to go to http://persecution.com and sign up for their newsletter, adopt a front-line worker to pray for, be a voice for the voiceless – remember those in prison for their faith in Jesus. And if you want someone to be a voice at your church or community group contact me. I would love to share their stories.

Many Christians meet secretly to read the Bible

Many Christians meet secretly to read the Bible.