Fingerprints

Fingerprints

 

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but I keep coming back to the fingerprints. If my funeral was tomorrow, what would people say about me? What kind of fingerprints have I left on their lives? I hope they’d say I’ve left the fingerprints of Jesus, but I’m not too sure that’s what I’d hear, if I could hear the people speaking at my funeral.

 

I think about the past, and the many years I lived for myself, for my pleasures, chasing the lusts of my flesh. I encountered many people during that time who knew my dad was a preacher, who knew I was raised in church, but who also knew I was “promiscuous” and no different than any other “worldly” person. Those people don’t know me now; they only know the “me” of that time. I wonder what kind of fingerprint I left on their life about God, the Church, and Christianity. Sometimes the thought is more than I can bear.

 

And I think of my husband. I wonder what he would say. Would he describe me as the “Proverbs 31” wife? Would he say I left the fingerprints of faith on his life, or the fingerprints of a control freak that was selfish and an overbearing nag? Would he be able to say he understood a little more about the Jesus I always spoke of, because of my character, or that my character conflicted with the Jesus I preached?

 

My husband has seen me from the beginning to the end, from the best and the worst. He met me in my addiction/eating disorder days, he managed to stick with me through my crazy days of psychotherapeutic drug treatments, he even stuck around when I over-compensated for my failures and became a Pharisee beating him over the head with my Bible. He still stands by me as I serve in church, write, and pursue an education in counseling. He’s a quiet man, but supportive of me in all things. Sometimes I think he’s left more of a “Jesus” fingerprint on my life, despite our differences of faith perspectives. Certainly God has used my husband to speak truth to me in ways I haven’t always understood and sometimes even resented. God is good like that, and I am grateful for all He has taught me through my marriage. I love my husband more every day, and hope that if he were to speak at my funeral, he would say that his wife failed in some ways, but Jesus changed her life for the better, and through that, made her a better wife and better mother. But, if I were to die tomorrow, I’m not too sure that’s what he’d say.

 

I think about my friendships. I have a couple great ladies in my life who have been a huge support spiritually. Though we haven’t known each other long, we are spiritual soul-mates. They sharpen me as “iron sharpens iron” and draw me closer to God just through knowing them. They are leaving the “Jesus” fingerprint on my life. But would they say the same about me?

 

Without a doubt I know some of the friendships of the past two or three years did not turn out that way. I’m pretty sure some of those people would describe the fingerprint I’ve left on them like a crime scene photo. Ugly, bloody, brutal—selfish, argumentative, judgmental. Much like the people who knew me during my prodigal years, these people know the me of the Pharisee years. And sometimes the thought of that is indeed, more than I care to consider. I have tried to “fix” some of these bad encounters, but sometimes the hurts inflicted burn the bridges beyond what can be rebuilt, at least on this side of heaven.

 

And maybe most importantly, I wonder what kind of fingerprint I have left on my daughter’s life? Have I displayed the “Jesus” in the Bible verses she has memorized? Or have I displayed the version that says, “I only approve of you when your behavior is good.” If she were to stand at my casket, could she say her mother showed her Jesus? That her mother was real, honest, authentic, open, and also caring, compassionate, and ready to show grace and mercy?

 

Last weekend Pastor Pat delivered an excellent message (as usual) about “time”. Afterwards we received a sheet of paper to map out our life plan. It contained some key steps like identifying important relationships, our priorities, and how we want to be remembered. I haven’t been able to fill mine out yet. I’ve been somewhat paralyzed as I wait for the doctor to call me with the news. Perhaps the road I thought I would travel will not be what I envisioned even a few weeks ago.

 

Either way, I’m in a time of contemplation. No matter what happens, I know God has used this “illness” to get my attention and get me thinking about the fingerprints I am leaving on people’s lives, what I can do to possibly clean the messy fingerprints off the past and create new ones, and what I must surrender to God today so the new fingerprints reflect Jesus, not Rebecca.

 

 

Finally, I think of a message a great man of God and influential teacher in my life delivered a couple years ago in church. I’ll never forget these words, “The only thing that matters in life is your answer to this question: what have you done with Jesus? What have you done with Jesus?”

 

I’m not sure what’s in my future, but I know this: Jesus has set my heart free, and I hope and pray you have experienced that same peace and freedom that surpasses any human understanding. If you haven’t experienced this full life that Jesus wants for you, won’t you consider doing so today?

 

Having lived life “my” way I can say the end result is never worth the perceived freedom of making your own choices. God’s way is really better, really. It gives meaning to life, and a future beyond the few years we have here on earth. It makes all of this pain actually worth something. And even the happy times are more meaningful when God is present.

 

How do you want to be remembered? What kind of fingerprints are you leaving on the lives of others? What can you do to allow God to change that this very moment? We can’t change the past, but God promises that He will make even our ugly failures work for our greatest good if we would only choose to love Him today (see Romans 8:28). Today is the day to make new fingerprints. Friends, please don’t delay. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but with Jesus, you can know that your tomorrow is safe and secure no matter what life throws at you. And that is the only place to be. His fingerprint of peace rests on my heart; I hope it rests on yours.

 

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for your Word has given me life.” Psalm 119:50

 

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When the Past Collides with the Present and Little Hearts are Broken

 

I was at my wits end. Throughout the day I had told my child to do one thing or another, and over and over again she flat—out—refused! Now, my daughter is typically described (by teachers and babysitters) as a well-behaved, well mannered, obedient child. And normally I would agree. Disrespect, lying, and especially disobedience are not tolerated in this household. Having an only child and not being able to have more, it’s sometimes difficult to be consistent with discipline, but overall my husband and I agree about most things in that area and stick with our bottom lines.

And now I had come to that moment of extreme frustration. Baffled by my child’s blatant disobedience I knew she needed a punishment that would get her attention to the seriousness of the situation. “There will be NO Easter basket tomorrow,” I told her, “And NO restaurant.” The only thing Samantha had wanted for Easter was to visit her favorite restaurant and of course, get an Easter basket like nearly every other young child on the planet. But it wasn’t happening this year. With only hours to go until Easter, I phoned my husband, who was still working out of town, and relayed the message. He was disappointed because, like me, he enjoys giving things to our daughter. But he agreed with me (and despite our “faith” differences, one thing we agreed on from the beginning was to raise a calm, well-behaved, obedient, and respectful child because they are quite hard to find these days).

In an instant, as the sentence was laid down, my little girl’s heart broke. She cried for several hours repeatedly recounting her sorrow for her disobedience. With her sorrow came the request, “Can I get an Easter basket now? And go to the restaurant tomorrow?” And each time my reply was, “No.” And I would be met with a fresh wave of tears.

In that moment, holding my daughter’s sobbing body in my arms, I knew it was time. It was time to tell her what Mommy had done so very long ago. It was time to tell her, though she was still young, how serious sin is and why sometimes the consequences of our choices are not removed.

“You know, Samantha, when I was young I made a very bad choice. I not only disobeyed my parents, but even worse, I disobeyed God. My sin was very serious.”

“What did you do, Mommy?” Her eyes were wide with curiosity. She was realizing her Mommy wasn’t perfect after all.

“Well, I can’t tell you what I did just yet. It was very bad. Maybe when you’re older I will tell you exactly what happened. But for now, all you need to know is that I disobeyed God’s commands as well as the instruction of my parents. I wanted my own way, but what I got instead was a very serious consequence.”

(And, after a few moments of explaining what a “consequence” was, our conversation continued.)

“So, after your Mommy sinned, I received a bad consequence for my choice. I became sick with a disease, something that will never go away.”

Samantha began to cry again, “Are you going to die?!”

“No, no, no. I’m not that sick. It’s just something that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and it causes me a great deal of pain at times. Even though I told God how sorry I was, and even though I asked Him to take away the sickness, He chose not to remove it. Now the sickness reminds me of how important it is to follow God’s word and how God gives me ‘rules’ in order to protect me. ‘Rules’ like obeying my parents even when I don’t like what they’re telling me to do.”

“Ohhh…” She nodded in understanding.

“So, tomorrow, you will not get an Easter basket and we will not go to the restaurant. I know you’re sorry and God knows you’re sorry. I forgive you and God has forgiven you. But that doesn’t take away the consequence of your choice to disobey. Sometimes God doesn’t take away the consequences. And you know what? If I didn’t discipline you for your disobedience, then I would be disobeying God’s instructions. And I will not do that. So, unfortunately, we will not be doing the things you want to do tomorrow.”

We proceeded to discuss examples of people in the Bible who sinned, and whose consequence was not taken away (Adam and Eve, Lot’s wife…etc.). But we didn’t stop there, we also discussed the concept of mercy, and how when Jesus died for us, He showed us mercy in not giving us what we deserved. So now, because we believe in Him, we get to live with Him forever, even though we don’t deserve it. Sometimes we get mercy, and sometimes we need to experience the consequences of our choices to help us remember to listen to God.

We also talked about how our sin not only affects us, but others as well. Her daddy and I were both disappointed that we couldn’t give her the things we wanted. Not only does sin hurt us, it hurts others.

It was a great opportunity not only for Samantha, but for me as her parent. I admit, I was struggling with the idea of not getting her something for Easter, because I knew she would likely be met with a class full of children in Sunday School excitedly talking about all the neat things they received. I didn’t want her to feel left out. But I knew this life lesson was far more important than a few pieces of candy and some plastic eggs.

And you know what? Easter came, and she and I went to church with joy. In Sunday School she received a pencil and a single plastic egg filled with candy. She was so ecstatic at this gift! She practically skipped to the car as we left the church exclaiming, “God showed me mercy and I got something for Easter!”

As a Jesus-loving parent, I cannot tell you how much those words warmed my heart. It wasn’t easy to stick to my guns, as a parent, and enforce this punishment. After all, Easter only comes once a year. But in the end, God was faithful as I was faithful to obey Him (in disciplining my child and actually enforcing it). We both learned that obeying God is better. For her, she realized that the consequence is so not worth the temporary choice to have her own way (and now she’d have to wait another whole year to receive an Easter basket!). And for me, I learned that good discipline goes beyond making sure my child “fits in” or gets what all the other kids are getting. What’s more important than her measuring up to other kids is that she knows Jesus, loves Him, worships Him, and obeys Him even when it goes against what everyone else is doing. These are the life-lessons that will benefit her for an eternity, and that she will remember for years to come. Compared to a candy-filled plastic egg, that’s a pretty nice reward, wouldn’t you say?

I hope you all had a blessed Easter (Resurrection Sunday). In the Aarup household, it was the best we have ever shared together.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 3)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 3)

Rebuking the Devil 

Today we’ll be discussing Deadly D #6. (To read about 1-3, click HERE. To read about 4-5, click HERE.)

 

6. Distraction

In Satan’s economy, distraction is about as subtle a ruse as you will find. Not because he distracts us with horrible, grotesquely sinful things, but because the distractions are typically good and wholesome things. These good and wholesome activities keep us busy—too busy to find God’s best for our lives.

                                      

•In Ministry

Good counterfeits will look different to each of us because God hasn’t called us all to the same ministry. But in many Christian’s lives it looks like a heaping plate of hyper-involvement in various church activities with a side of complaining about busy-ness and a decadent dessert of stress levels through the roof. Rather than devoting 100% to a specific ministry, many Christians devote 10% to ten ministries, resulting in a good “product” that is not God’s best.

Stay Armed: Pray against a spirit of distraction, and begin your day arming yourself with the truth. If you do, you will have the peace of knowing your every activity—from preparing a meal for a needy family to sending a note of encouragement—is exactly what God would have you do at that moment. At the end of the day you’ll experience a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that only God can provide to those who walk in His will consistently and are led by the Spirit.

Seek Ye First: Prayerfully consider what ministries or activities God would have you involved in, and joyfully pursue them with your whole heart. Choose to focus on your own calling, not the calling of others. Cultivate your spiritual gifts instead of trying to develop a gift you haven’t been given.

 

•In Every-Day Life

Satan also uses our daily needs to distract us. Consider this short excerpt from Hal Lindsey’s book, Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (I strongly encourage you read this book!)

 

“The Devil exploits our personality quirks, the lusts of the flesh, and our natural physical drives to conspire against us.

There are times when I have a message to prepare or studying to do. I gather my materials and settle down in my study. Then they hit me—hunger pains! Now I know I shouldn’t be hungry—I probably had breakfast less than an hour before—but a built-in excuse has been offered me to get away from the Word of God.

I wish I had always said, ‘Satan, be gone,’ but I don’t. I begin prowling around, getting something to eat, and before I know it I’ve killed an hour—an hour of valuable time. I didn’t really need that food, but Satan can use any natural drives we have if they are not being controlled by the Holy Spirit.” (pg. 220)

 

Satan will use anything to keep us from time with our Lord. Just ask any stay-at-home mom who is often distracted with piles of dishes, laundry, dirty counters, and toys strewn about. It’s hard to get on our knees and into God’s word when there are a thousand things screaming for our attention (sometimes even children screaming for our attention).

Stay Armed: When it comes to combatting such daily disturbances, the best remedy is of course, beginning the day (before your feet hit the floor) with a prayer of protection.

An Ounce of Prevention: It is also important to eliminate potential distraction by practicing good stewardship. Keep the clutter to a minimum, don’t let the dishes pile up, keep your work space neat and tidy, eat healthy meals that nurture the body rather than work against it (maybe you’ll even save some money on doctor’s co-pays), get plenty of sleep (exercise helps with this too)…etc. Working from home and doing correspondence schooling, I have learned these lessons through trial and error (with an emphasis on error). But I’ve noticed a huge improvement in focused productivity when I consistently adopt these preventative measures.

 

“It has been rightly said that often the real enemy of the best is not the worst, but the good.

To be distracted is to forget Matthew 14:30, ‘But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, “Lord, save me!”’”¹

 

If you’re struggling with the Deadly D of Distraction, pray out loud: “Jesus, I confess that I have been distracted with so many good things I have failed to pursue the best things you have designed for me. In the name of Jesus I now renounce the spirit of distraction and choose to focus only on your will for my life. Please reveal any activity I need to let go, so I can whole-heartedly pursue the good works you ordained for me². Help me to be content in all you have called me to do, knowing that even the seemingly mundane things of life bring glory to you when my heart motives are pure³.”

How often have you been distracted with something good, only to miss out on God’s best?

(Speaking of which…I think I’m hungry now, the dishes are piling out of the sink, and I think my smartphone is buzzing…)

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1-      Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.

2- “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

3- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5, NIV

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You can support Rebecca’s ministry with one click! If you enjoyed this post and others, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

____________________________

profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

With Everything…

As an accompaniment musician, music is a big part of my life. God speaks to me through it all–the lyrics and the accompanying music. It’s definitely a language I love to speak and hear. Over the past several weeks I’ve put together a “spiritual warfare” playlist of sorts; these songs have powerful lyrics, point to Christ’s victory, turn my attention to Him and off my problems, and in that praise they drive the devil away. Today I share one of my favorites. I’ve had the awesome privilege of playing this with the band at church as well. Let me tell ya, it’s not easy to play this because you want to raise your hands in worship or cry or dance–it’s powerful (and it’s hard to do those things while still playing the piano!). I’ll share the link for you to listen, as well as the lyrics. This is a Satan-blasting song if ever there was one! LINK

 

 

With Everything

Let hope rise and darkness tremble

in Your holy light,

that every eye will see

Jesus our God.

Great and mighty to be praised.

***

God of all days,

Your glorious in all of Your ways

Oh, the majesty, the wonders and grace,

in the light of Your name.

***

Let hope rise and darkness tremble

in Your holy light,

that every eye will see

Jesus our God.

Great and mighty to be praised.

***

With everything, with everything,

we will shout for Your glory.

With everything, with everything,

we will shout forth Your praise.

***

Our hearts they cry, be glorified.

Be lifted high above all names.

For You, our King, with everything,

we will shout forth Your praise.

With everything, with everything,

we will shout for Your glory.

With everything, with everything,

we will shout forth Your praise.

***

(Joel Houston, Copyright 2008 Hillsong Publishing)

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You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post and others, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

The Voices in My Head: The Flesh (Part 2)

In the last post I gave a simple example of how to discern the voices in our head (God, Satan, or the Flesh). In this post I will elaborate more on the Flesh, which is probably where the greatest confusion remains in most Christian circles. First, the following is a simple way to define the voices:

God’s voice: The Bible as a whole, God’s Word, Truth, the Holy Spirit’s leading (always in line with God’s written Word).

Satan’s voice: Incomplete truths, deceptions, schemes, tricks, lies, temptations, partial Scripture quotes taken out of context to support a view that is opposed to God (see Matthew 4:1-11).

The Flesh: Learned behavior/habits, coping mechanisms, our own subjective thoughts (i.e. “I want to eat at Burger King today).

You would be hard-pressed to walk into any church today and hear a message teaching these concepts, which is dreadfully sad. Most Christians walk around with somewhat of a self-defeatist attitude. “I’m just a wretched sinner!” True, we are sinners saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), but once we have been saved we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10) clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Who I Am in Christ). We are no longer wretched sinners, but rather, children of God who still sin.

splinter1-150x150

     Neil Anderson uses an excellent illustration of this concept (from the book The Bondage Breaker). When you get a splinter in your finger, do you say you are a wretched piece of wood because you now have a splinter in your finger? Do you now take on the identity of the splinter as your own? Obviously not! No, you are a human being with a piece of wood in your finger. Scripturally you will find this concept made clear in Romans 7:14-25. It doesn’t take much work to discover that Paul is referring to himself after he has been regenerated (I know much debate remains about this fact, but if you’re using proper techniques of Biblical interpretation you can arrive at no other conclusion than this). Many of us can identify with Paul’s struggle. We know better, yet we still sin! What’s wrong with us?

The Flesh

     In simple terms we are infected with the “sin splinter” otherwise known as “the flesh”. The nature we were born with (self-serving/pride) along with the habits we’ve developed over a lifetime all contribute to this voice known as the flesh. Paul recognized this and he hated it. He knew he had been regenerated as a new creation in Christ, yet at times he still struggled to put that old nature to death. We can only imagine what Paul’s specific struggle was with but Scripture isn’t clear on it. It wouldn’t surprise me if pride had something to do with it, though. Deep down we are all struggling against a self-serving attitude, from the way we dress to the food we eat. Our world revolves around us, our desires, wants, and needs. No matter how awesome we are as Christians, pride will always be an issue because it is in our flesh which continuously wars with the new life we received when we accepted Christ. Jesus is the antithesis of pride and self. This is why just doing “what Jesus would do” is not as easy as it sounds. It contradicts our flesh! On our own we can’t will ourselves into good works with proper motives; this can only be accomplished through Christ’s rule in our hearts.

Coping Mechanisms/Habits (Flesh)

     As an addict I learned how to cope with mental anguish by abusing drugs. This was a learned behavior, as well as a sinful behavior. Over time it became a pattern of life. Feel pain—take drugs—pain goes away (temporarily). Some of us deal with unhealthy learned habits every day when we fight the urge to over-indulge at the dinner table or eat chocolate for dinner instead of broccoli (maybe even chocolate covered broccoli?). I grew up drinking soda and cool-aid every day, and eating macaroni and cheese and bologna sandwiches. It was a learned way of eating (and an early introduction to weight problems). As an adult I have had to work hard to re-learn a healthier way to treat my temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). But when that voice kicks in saying, “Boy, I’d sure love to sit down with a bag of Doritos and watch T.V. all day,” I can be certain this voice is my flesh and not Satan.

Defense Mechanisms (Flesh)

•denial (a conscious or unconscious refusal to face the truth)

•fantasy (escaping the real world)

•emotional insulation (withdrawing to avoid rejection)

•regression (reverting to less threatening times)

•displacement (taking out frustrations on others)

•projection (blaming others)

•rationalization (making excuses for poor behaviors)

[Strongholds] are fleshly thought patterns that were programmed into your mind when you learned to live your life independently of God. Your worldview was shaped by the environment you were raised in. But when you became a Christian, nobody pressed the “CLEAR” button. Your old fleshly habit patterns of thought weren’t erased.¹

I hope this clears up some of the confusion surrounding the flesh and what exactly it means. In the next post we’ll discuss Satan’s voice in specific detail.

     Are you able to recognize fleshly patterns in your own life? What is your greatest “flesh” struggle?

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¹ The Bondage Breaker ©1990/1993/2000 by Neil T. Anderson Published by Harvest House Publishers (pp. 60-61)

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Related Posts:

The Voices in My Head: God, Satan, or My Flesh (Part 1)

Satan, God, the Flesh, and Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare 101: Is it Real?

“First-World” Problems

**Published on Encourage 365, November 2012**

On Sunday my Pastor showed a riveting video called “First World Problems Rap” and the irony of this video should be evident to any viewer.  I appreciate the message and encourage you to watch it (it’s only two minutes).

 

(Here’s where you click the link to watch the video before reading on…)

 

So, yesterday our church launched a 30-day challenge to start a “First World Problems” complaint jar. You guessed it, every time we catch ourselves complaining about a “problem”–much like what is depicted in the video–we have to drop some money into the jar. At the end of the 30 days we turn in our jars to the church benevolence fund so the money can be used to help others. Immediately I knew I needed to participate (and I hope you’re challenged to do the same—donating the money to your church or charity).

 

Making a “complaint” jar is a great idea and something I hope to continue beyond the 30 days. Even in one day both I and my daughter have begun to realize how much we gripe about trivial things. Let’s face it, waiting in line at Starbucks really pales in comparison to the trials most children face in third world countries. I am ashamed to even admit how often I forget to pray for those children. Most of us will never get the opportunity to travel to a destitute country and personally help, but most of us do have the capability of helping out through active service in our communities.

 

The church I attend has several outreach groups that work with homeless people, foster children, disabled children, hungry families, and more. Even if your church does not offer these things, there is something somewhere that you could probably get involved in. Even if it’s just dropping off canned foods for a food drive or hygiene supplies to homeless communities. The needs are there, we just need to open our eyes and look (and pray) for opportunities.

 

All of our situations are unique. My situation requires me to be home much of the time. I’m a wife, I home-school my daughter, I’m a full time student, and a freelance writer. I am in my home a lot! But a few months ago I prayed for God to show me what I could do to get “hands-on” and He was faithful to immediately answer that prayer! Sometimes we are fooled in to thinking we don’t have the time or resources to make a difference when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. We may never know what impact our small acts of kindness could have on another life.

 

So my challenge to you is the same challenge my Pastor shared with the congregation. Make a complaint jar and keep track of just how often you complain about “first world” problems. The results will probably be shocking. Remember, the point is to change our perspective. Faith is supposed to be active. Jesus didn’t just sit in the synagogue all day and preach. He was out there demonstrating a hands-on faith, as were the disciples. And we’re all familiar with James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after the orphans and the widows in their distress and to keep oneself faultless from the world.”This is the kind of faith I want to demonstrate to the world; this is the kind of faith I ask God to create in my life.

 

A faith that moves.

 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

(Also see related article: Let’s Do Justice from Prodigal Magazine)

A Jesus Diet?

I didn’t grow up in a “fasting” household. I knew about fasting, but had never seen anyone practice it, much less preach about it. As an adult I’ve only been led to fast a handful of times, once for 3 days, and all the other times for only a day. A few days ago a friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page to this site: www.40daystosaveamerica.com and I clicked on it. Immediately God impressed upon me the desire to do a 40 day fast while not only praying for our nation before the elections, but seeking a personal spirit of revival and repentance.

No matter what comes of the elections, or what side of the street we stand on concerning politics, I think we can all agree that the world needs revival—Christians need revival. This is something we can all be praying for in our own hearts and the hearts of our brothers and sisters.

Not everyone will be called to do a 40 day fast, and many will feel led to give up something other than food. I know some who are doing a Facebook fast, a coffee fast, or giving up other things and exchanging those wants for prayer. Fasting or not, earnest, sincere prayer is essential for the Christian.

And just in case I was feeling like maybe I heard God’s voice wrong (or even hoping I heard wrong!), I received the following devotional in my email this morning, which happens to be day #1 of my fast. It spoke directly to me, and I know you’ll be blessed by it as well. No matter what you choose to do for the next 40 days, I hope you will dive deeper into prayer for whatever God lays on your heart. This time will certainly not be wasted, as we know He saves every prayer for a future sacrifice of worship (see Every Prayer Uttered).

Blessings, my friends!

~Rebecca

 

A Diet in Jesus’ Name?
By Skip Heitzig

We focus a lot on food. Eating is one of our favorite pastimes, and we talk a lot about food. There are even place names that are foods. There’s Two Egg, Florida… Bacon, Delaware… Pancake, Texas… Hot Coffee, Mississippi.

One thing you don’t hear a lot about today is fasting. But did you know the Bible mentions fasting more times (nearly 60!) than even the “important” subjects like baptism?

Fasting is not a “diet in Jesus’ name.” It’s not a way to lose weight and be blessed. Fasting is done for spiritual motives.

In the Bible, fasting was done in times of danger, like when Esther was preparing to approach the king of Persia (see Esther 4). It’s a part of repentance: Both Daniel and Ezra fasted in response to the sins of the people, and the king of Nineveh ordered a fast when that city repented (see Jonah 3). Fasting was done in preparation for an important task or ministry. Jesus fasted 40 days and nights before He began His preaching ministry, and the apostles fasted before they sent Paul and Barnabas out (see Acts 13).

Fasting is a time when we take the focus off of ourselves, and put it on God and His will. (And that’s hard, in a culture where we worship self-reliance, self-determination, and self-worth!) Fasting reminds us that we belong to Him and that He owns us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.). It’s a time when we discipline the body, and make our appetite our slave rather than our master.

In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus speaks of hypocritical motives for fasting. Note that he says “when you fast,” not “if.” Fasting is not to be for some group in a monastery; it’s to be the norm!

Jesus’ point was that God never fails to notice fasting that is heartfelt and genuine, and that He will reward it. (Note: We don’t fast to gain God’s favor or “twist His arm” so He will do something!) But how would God reward a fasting saint? Through deeper intimacy with Him. By letting us know His will. By giving us clarity of understanding in a difficult situation, or a new strategy for ministry.

There are benefits to fasting (and here I’m going from less to more spiritual):

Fasting is good for our health. During a prolonged fast, the body lives on surplus fat. It renews the body and the mind. It helps the body control weight and dispose of wastes.

It teaches us self-discipline. Many of us are slaves to habits, but fasting makes desire our slave rather than being our master. It reminds us we can live without a lot of things. The prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” will be more meaningful.

It helps us appreciate God’s gifts more. Fasting helps us feel our dependence upon God in this affluent, self-sufficient society.

It helps us see the needs of others: Going without food gets us in touch with people who live that way every day. That will make our prayer life more effective as well as activate us to help.

Fasting is always accompanied with prayer, and it will boost your prayer life. It’ll sharpen our praying—it changes the way we pray…and perhaps the results.

The pleasures of eating are fleeting, but the pleasures of fasting are lasting!

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