I read this today written by Katie Brazelton, and thought that I'd share.
1 Samuel 1:1–28 Probably the hardest thing for me to surrender to God—and this may sound silly because you may be expecting me to say, "My children"—was the huge, five-bedroom home I purchased five years after my divorce. I knew that my home belonged to God and that I was simply a steward of what he had entrusted to me, but that didn't keep it from becoming an idol. My wonderful house in its expensive zip code supplied status. I couldn't imagine giving it up, especially if God wanted me to live somewhere I didn't like.
I eventually realized I was supposed to sell that house, but for a full year I dug in my heels and refused to do it. What a nightmare I lived trying to untangle God's best for my life while still continuing to weave in my stubborn wishes. But God was persistent. He kept reminding me of his desire through the wise counsel of my brother Paul and sister Cathy. He continued to impress on me the need to downsize and simplify my life.
I finally came to the point where I knew I simply needed to obey God and sell the house. When I moved into a smaller home, I suddenly had much more time and energy. I found that I could focus more earnestly on my writing, which was something I had not been able to do previously with all the repairs, chores and decorating.
As terrible as it sounds, it was easier for me to surrender my children to God than it was to trust him with my home. Sad, huh? But I knew in my heart that my children would be in better hands with God than with me. While it was still excruciatingly hard to turn my children's lives over to him, I released them to his loving care by saying a simple, heartfelt prayer to that effect. Actually, I had to say that prayer many times. It seemed to take me forever to be able to voice words that were not a lie. Though I did not drop off my kids at the local temple to be raised by a holy man, like Hannah did with her son Samuel, I did choose to trust that God would love them and guide their lives better than I could.
"So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD."
Related ReadingsGenesis 22:1–19; Matthew 6:19–34
Fourteen years ago, a friend of mine was praying for me and she told me that I was a midwife – she said that God’s purpose for my life was to help people birth their dreams. I didn’t take it serious until 2012….
2012, I was running at full speed; chasing after my dream of money and ‘success’. However, I had forgotten why I was running. Luckily, something drastic happened to me towards the end of 2012 that halted everything for me. It was a life altering and eye opening experience for me. It became clear to me that, “I did not want to spend the next 5 years chasing after money, only to find that I’ll be back at the same place I was; emotionally, mentally, and spiritually drained”. My ‘chase’ came to a screeching halt, everything was put on hold, and I spent 2013 re-evaluating my life and purpose. I found myself in tears most of the time picturing what would matter the most at the end of my life. What would my eulogy consist of? What would my lifetime achievements be?
The first thing that I did was list all the things that are most important to me. I wrote down all the things I wanted to do. I turned from my own ideas and started committing my daily lives again to God’s mission. As I did this daily, I realized that there is no better way to receive help and direction in your own life than to focus on someone else. It seemed completely opposite of what the world tells us. After all, if you're not looking out for yourself, then who will? Well—that would be God, I told myself. Because when you focus on someone else's business, God will focus on yours. It means planting seeds in great soil, and then simply waiting for God to bring a harvest into your life.
The next thing I did was deciding that whatever venture I commit to must align with my personal mission, my values and my goals. For every new opportunity that comes along, I would ask myself how it aligns with my goals. Regardless of how much money I could acquire, if the venture did not align with where I wanted to be, then I would not pursue it.
Today my personal mission is to motivate, inspire and empower people to live happier and more fulfilled lives. I am living my purpose!
Crystal Chinelo Onyeador is fighting cancer. Let's Rally around Crystal Chinelo Onyeador to help raise funds to ease the stress of treatment and provide care for her while she battles cancer. Chinelo has an amazing spirit and is facing her diagnosis with unparalleled bravery and a good dose of humor. Please help to lighten her load and keep her smiling through this difficult time. Visit www.ihaveapurpose.org to read her story and donate.
But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me--and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
We must not see grace as a provision made after the law had failed. Grace was offered before the law was revealed. Indeed, grace was offered before man was created! "You were bought, not with something that ruins like gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, who was like a pure and perfect lamb. Christ was chosen before the world was made, but he was shown to the world in these last times for your sake" (1 Pet. 1:18–20 NCV).
Why would God offer grace before we needed it? Glad you asked. Let's return one final time to the charge card my father gave me. Did I mention that I went several months without needing it? But when I needed it, I really needed it. You see, I wanted to visit a friend on another campus. Actually, the friend was a girl in another city, six hours away. On an impulse I skipped class one Friday morning and headed out. Not knowing whether my parents would approve, I didn't ask their permission. Because I left in a hurry, I forgot to take any money. I made the trip without their knowledge and with an empty wallet.
Everything went fine until I rear-ended a car on the return trip. Using a crowbar, I pried the fender off my front wheel so the car could limp to a gas station. I can still envision the outdoor phone where I stood in the autumn chill. My father, who assumed I was on campus, took my collect call and heard my tale. My story wasn't much to boast about. I'd made a trip without his knowledge, without any money, and wrecked his car.
"Well," he said after a long pause, "these things happen. That's why I gave you the card. I hope you learned a lesson."
Did I learn a lesson? I certainly did. I learned that my father's forgiveness predated my mistake. He had given me the card before my wreck in the event that I would have one. He had provided for my blunder before I blundered. Need I tell you that God has done the same? Please understand; Dad didn't want me to wreck the car. He didn't give me the card so that I would wreck the car. But he knew his son. And he knew his son would someday need grace.
Please understand; God doesn't want us to sin. He didn't give us grace so we would sin. But he knows his children. "He made their hearts and understands everything they do" (Ps. 33:15NCV). "He knows how we were made" (Ps. 103:14 NCV). And he knew that we would someday need his grace.
Jeremiah was depressed, as gloomy as a giraffe with a neck ache. Jerusalem was under siege, his nation under duress. His world collapsed like a sand castle in a typhoon. He faulted God for his horrible emotional distress. He also blamed God for his physical ailments. "[God] has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones" (Lam. 3:4 RSV).
His body ached. His heart was sick. His faith was puny ... He realized how fast he was sinking, so he shifted his gaze. "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him'" (vv. 21–24 RSV).
"But this I call to mind ..." Depressed, Jeremiah altered his thoughts, shifted his attention. He turned his eyes away from his stormy world and looked into the wonder of God. He quickly recited a quintet of promises. (I can envision him tapping these out on the five fingers of his hand.)
1. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
2. His mercies never come to an end.
3. They are new every morning.
4. Great is thy faithfulness.
5. The Lord is my portion.
The storm didn’t cease, but his discouragement did.
Unlike us, God never gives up on a person. Never. Long after we have moved on, God is still there, probing the conscience, stirring conviction, always orchestrating redemption. Fix your enemies? That’s God's job.
Forgive your enemies? Ah, that's where you and I come in. We forgive. "Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (Eph. 4:26–27 NASB). The word translated opportunity is the Greek word topos, the same term from which we get the English noun topography. It means territory or ground. Interesting. Anger gives ground to the devil. Bitterness invites him to occupy a space in your heart, to rent a room. Believe me, he will move in and stink up the place. Gossip, slander, temper – anytime you see these, Satan has claimed a bunk.
Evict him. Don't even give him the time of day. In the name of Jesus tell him to pack his bags and hit the road. Begin the process of forgiveness. Keep no list of wrongs. Pray for your antagonists rather than plot against them. Hate the wrong without hating wrongdoers. Turn your attention away from what they did to you to what Jesus did for you. Outrageous as it may seem, Jesus died for them too. If he thinks they are worth forgiving, they are. Does that make forgiveness easy? No. Quick? Seldom. Painless? Hardly.
Forgiveness vacillates like this. It has fits and starts, good days and bad. Anger intermingled with love. Irregular mercy. We make progress only to make a wrong turn. Step forward and fall back. But this is okay. When it comes to forgiveness, all of us are beginners. No one owns a secret formula. As long as you are trying to forgive, you are forgiving. It's when you no longer try that bitterness sets in.
Stay the course. You'll spend less time in the spite house and more in the grace house. And as one who has walked the hallways of both, I can guarantee that you are going to love the space of grace.
Take a moment and look around you. Do you realize where we sit? This planet is God's waiting room.
The young couple in the corner? Waiting to get pregnant. The fellow with the briefcase? He has resumes all over the country, waiting on work. The elderly woman with the cane? A widow. Been waiting a year for one tearless day. Waiting. Waiting on God to give, help, heal. Waiting on God to come. We indwell the land betwixt prayer offered and prayer answered. The land of waiting.
Are you in God's waiting room? If so, here is what you need to know: while you wait, God works.
"My Father is always at his work," Jesus said (John 5:17NIV). God never twiddles his thumbs. He never stops. He takes no vacations. He rested on the seventh day of creation but got back to work on the eighth and hasn't stopped since. Just because you are idle, don't assume God is. "Be still, and know that I am God" reads the sign on God's waiting room wall. You can be glad because God is good. You can be still because he is active. You can rest because he is busy.
Remember God's word through Moses to the Israelites? "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD ... The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace" (Ex. 14:13–14). The Israelites saw the Red Sea ahead of them and heard the Egyptian soldiers thundering after them. Death on both sides. Stand still? Are you kidding? But what the former slaves couldn't see was the hand of God at the bottom of the water, creating a path, and his breath from heaven, separating the waters. God was working for them.
God worked for Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel told her that she would become pregnant. The announcement stirred a torrent of questions in her heart. How would she become pregnant? What would people think? What would Joseph say? Yet God was working for her. He sent a message to Joseph, her fiance. God prompted Caesar to declare a census. God led the family to Bethlehem. "God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him" (Rom. 8:28 CEV).
To wait, biblically speaking, is not to assume the worst, worry, fret, make demands, or take control. Nor is waiting inactivity. Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief. To wait is to "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; ... not fret" (Ps. 37:7).
Read Joshua 3:1-17
The Israelites were eager to enter the Promised Land, conquer nations, and live peacefully. But first they had to cross the flood-level waters of the Jordan River. God gave them specific instructions: in order to cross, the priests had to step into the water. What if these priests had been afraid to take that first step? Often God provides no solution to our problems until we trust him and move ahead with what we know we should do.
The Israelites crossed the Jordan River in the spring, when it was overflowing its banks. God chose the time when the river was at its highest to demonstrate his power—parting the waters so that the entire nation could cross on dry ground. Some say that God used a natural occurrence (such as a landslide) to stop the waters of the Jordan; others say he did it by a direct miracle. In either case, God showed his great power by working a miracle of timing and location to allow his people to cross the river on dry ground. This exhibition of God’s supernatural power served to encourage the Israelites’ hope in God and to gave them a fearsome reputation among their enemies, who greatly outnumbered them.
God had parted the waters of the Red Sea to let the people out of Egypt (Exodus 14), and here he parted the Jordan River to let them enter Canaan. These miracles showed Israel that God keeps his promises. God’s presence among his people and his faithfulness to them made the entire journey from Egypt to the Promised Land possible. He was with them at the end of their wanderings just as he had been with them at the beginning.
What obstacles are you facing in your life? What is keeping you from moving forward? Is God calling you to take a step of faith? God may clear your path only after you begin to walk forward in faith. Remember how he has been with you in the past, and trust that he will continue to go with you.
Monica never stopped praying for her son. She had raised Augustine in the Christian faith in their small town in Algeria, but when he was a teenager the family moved to Carthage in North Africa. Possessed of a brilliant intellect and an even stronger will, Augustine rejected his mother’s faith and instead chose a life in pursuit of immorality. In his autobiographical book Confessions, Augustine spoke of his years of debauchery: “Years passed, in which I wallowed in the mire of that deep pit, and the darkness of falsehood . . . All which time that chaste, godly and sober widow . . . ceased not at all hours of her devotions to bewail my case unto You. And her prayers entered into Your presence.”
Three hundred years before the birth of Augustine, we can only imagine how another mother labored in prayer for her children. In addition to Jesus, her firstborn, Mary of Nazareth had several other children. And yet their family was spiritually divided. John’s Gospel clearly tells us that “even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). The skepticism of her younger sons toward their elder half brother must have pierced Mary’s heart.
The black Friday when her oldest son hung on a Roman cross had to be the worst day of Mary’s life. And the Sunday when he rose again was the very best. Among those to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection was his brother James. We don’t need to know the words that passed between them. It’s enough to know that when the disciples and the women gathered to pray in the upper room following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Mary was among them. And her other sons were with her! Praying. The One they had rejected in life was the One in whom they now placed their faith for eternity.
Monica’s prodigal son Augustine became one of the most famously devout fourth-century Christians: the Bishop of Hippo. The Confessions of St. Augustine is a classic of the Christian faith. Mary’s son James became leader of the church in Jerusalem and wrote the New Testament book that bears his name.
Do you have children, grandchildren or children whom you love—related to you or not—who have turned away from God? Years may pass without any apparent external change. But heaven hears your loving intercession on their behalf. Take heart! God hears your prayers for your children.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Idols are as false as a scarecrow dangling from a pole in a melon patch. Idols cannot speak or walk; they can do no harm, nor can they do any good. While idols are worthless, worshiping the true God is completely worthwhile.
Don’t hang your heart on the gods of this world: strength, sexuality or status. There is only one true God. Listen to him when he speaks to you through his Word. Feel his presence when you gather among his people. Pin all your hopes and dreams on him, the one true God.
“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman.”
( Ps. 15:1-3
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