Fanning the Flame #18 Things Are Changing

We had a congregational meeting last Sunday, and there was a difficult discussion.  Over the course of many years, people have designated part of their contribution to benevolence;  instead of giving this money away, it has been used as a cushion to help pay the daily expenses of running the church.  Worse than that, it became a crutch to allow ourselves deny the ugly truth that we’re not giving enough to sustain God’s church.  We need to repent and rectify this situation.

Fortunately we do now recognize this sin, and the council has a plan to wipe out our debt and give us a clean slate( a positive step).  This leaves us with the problem — how do we go forward without falling back into the same pattern?  We’d all like to pin the blame and the responsibility to fix the issue on somebody else.  If only EVERYONE would give more.  If only SOMEBODY would plan more fundraisers– etc., etc..

Then Beth Ann made a very good point.  FIRST we need to PRAY.  I have been at St. Paul’s for over thirteen years now, and I have never heard anyone say this in the midst of a meeting before.  This is a change.  I only wish we had taken it further and PRAYED right then and there.  It might have changed the whole tone of the meeting.  This morning God has put another conviction about this on my heart — we each need to pray, not for God to provide a miracle, or to make everyone else do the right thing;  we need to pray that God would show each one of us what we can do to nourish and sustain God’s church right here where we are.  I need to search my heart to see what God would have me do. I need to become a better steward, not just of my money, but of my spiritual gifts and my time.  I need to be like the little boy who trusted Christ with his few loaves and fishes.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  1 Timothy 2:15

I can’t change anyone else, but I can change myself.  I don’t want to stand before God, ashamed because I gave Him only the leftovers of my life.  I want to hear the words,

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! Matthew 25:23

I’m convinced we’re changing and moving in the right direction.  This is a sign that God is at work.  My prayer is that He will continue to change us by first changing me.  Pray with me, friends and readers … I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

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But What If Chaos Reigns?

Joan has been blogging about the upheaval in their lives, the mess, the inconvenience.  I feel badly that this has happened to Joan, but a part of me smiles when she describes what she’s going through.  My life is always chaos and I’ve learned to live in it.

Starting with losing our home in 1992 and having to move; we were almost truly homeless, but for the Grace of God.  My husbands terminal diagnoses in 1999, my son losing his job around 2008 and he and his family moving in with us.  My husband’s death in 2015 and just this year my house was hit by a car!

I don’t live a quiet, peaceful life.  There is always something happening that seems to demand my attention.  How have I learned to live like this?  Trusting that God’s got this and He will see me through.  When I was growing up and throughout my young adult life I thought that my life would settle down, husband, kids, living a good quiet life.  This did not happen…  Oh, the husband and kids happened, but quiet?  No.  It’s always been one thing after another.

To help keep my environment on a somewhat even keel I would take steps to keep my eyes on Jesus.  An hour of quiet, just me time away from my house.  Listening to the local christian radio station for uplifting music and some bible teaching on my drive to and from work.  Going to church regularly.  These are some of the things I put into my life to keep my spirits up and my eyes on the Lord.  These actions are intentional.  I’m working to put more intentional things in my life like regular bible study and prayer time.

If your life sounds like mine, you have to be intentional to keep your environment on a sane level.  It’s hard to put in place but keep at it.  These things will eventually become habitual.  Then when chaos reigns, you can continue to smile and say “God’s got this!”

 

An Environment in Chaos

“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed, it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart;  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:32-33

Right now my environment seems to be in a state of chaos.  There was a major leak in the condominium above ours which called serious damage to our bathroom and kitchen.  We cannot live there until at least some of the rebuild work is completed–we are essentially homeless.  Even as I say this, I realize our blessings are great, because friends with a finished basement have taken us in, and we are able to go to our daughter’s apartment to cook and wash our clothes.

Our problems are minor in comparison to the troubles facing many in our world.  We have food, clothing, a roof over our heads,  and caring friends and family.  Yet we’re unsettled.  We can’t find things when we need them;  our routines are disrupted.  We feel a loss of control and security.  Satan loves this sort of thing, because it distracts us from God’s presence.  My prayer life has dwindled and the other morning I cried for no real reason — I simply felt frustrated and fed up with our situation.

In the verses above, Jesus tells us these times will come.  We need to expect them and not allow them to disturb our peace in Him.  We are never alone, never truly homeless, because He is with us, and He has overcome any chaos the world can create.  When our focus is on Christ, any problems in the environment recede.

Does your environment feel chaotic?  Turn it over to the Prince of Peace.  He loves you and so do!

Trusting Your Leader

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"I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my guide." - Martin Luther

Let’s Go On An Adventure or Fanning the Flame #3

“He set out, not knowing where he was going.”  Hebrews 11:8

Before my mom went into a nursing home, my siblings and I were doing our best to care for her in her own home.  Each day one or more of us would stop by to make or take her a meal, straighten the house, give her a shower and sometimes take her out for a ride.  One of my sisters said she would say to mom, “let’s go on an adventure” — mom would smile and her eyes would light up.  She loved to get out and just ride around. She didn’t worry because she trusted her daughter to bring her back safely.  Bev said they would explore the country roads nearby, just getting on one and following it to see where it went.  Sometimes they came back out in a familiar location, other times they’d just have to backtrack in order to get home.

Well, our congregation is about to go on an adventure.  The Fanning the Flame program was approved at our voters’ meeting by an approximately 2-1 majority.  Now the hard work and anxiety really start.  We’re setting out on a journey, and we don’t even have the map!  We know we want to end up as a healthier church body, but we’re not sure what that means or will look like. We don’t know exactly what it will require. We may end up with a totally unexpected result.  We must trust the process and trust God.

P.S. I read from two different devotionals today and the theme in each was going out in trust.  This is probably not a coincidence.  The first scripture is at the beginning of this article.  The second is below:

Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  Matthew 14:28-29

Pray with us friends and readers as we step out onto the water!

Simplify–And Satisfy

Did you know that simplicity is a spiritual discipline?  Not something we think about much, is it?  I’m currently reading a book, Awake My Soul by Timothy Jones and I just finished a chapter titled, “The Soul and the Simple Life.”  He says that learning to live simply will allow us to be freer and less anxious, but it requires radical trust.  Here’s a quote:

“When I follow God, generosity becomes an option.  Knowing that today will provide the daily bread I need allows me not to exhaust myself in storing up what I think in my worst moments I will need.  I leave the issue in hand far bigger–infinitely so– than mine.”

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I admit this is not easy for me.  I like to be prepared for the worst (or at least fool myself into believing I’m prepared).  However, Jones is right.  It can be exhausting trying to imagine and provide for every potential problem;  it’s probably not even possible.  How much easier to simply (no pun intended) trust God and do our best day by day.  I try to work on that, but often fail.  Here are some words of advice on simplification from Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.

  1. First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status ….Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life. ..

  2. Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.  Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction.  …(he says if you find you cannot live without something such as particular foods or technology get rid of it).

  3. Third, develop a habit of giving things away.  If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it.

    Sounds pretty scary and drastic doesn’t it.  What it boils down to is stop worrying about how to impress others, avoid the things that tend to control you, and be generous.  I know even I can take baby steps in trying to do this.  What about you?  Can you simplify your life so that it becomes more satisfying?

 

 

Living in the Present Moment

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