Friday, March 21, 2014

Your will, not mine..

Four months ago, I had to wean Beckham.  I knew it was the best thing to do because we had way too many issues with nursing, but I was crushed by the decision.  When I pictured myself as a mom, I pictured myself nursing my child.  I thought “that is just the way God intended it to be” and there was no question in my mind that it was what I would do.  As soon as we left the hospital though, there was issue after issue and our little guy was just that – little.  He only gained a pound by week seven and it became clear that I was not going to be able to produce enough milk for him.  

We began supplementing, but as he grew and needed more milk I just couldn’t keep up and eventually had to completely wean him.  The Lord was extremely gracious in that time and showed me that it was okay to not nurse Beckham.  (That’s another story for another time.)  But over the past two months since he has been completely weaned I would still find myself questioning God’s goodness over this issue.  When it all started I would pray “God I know you are completely sovereign and completely powerful, so You can fix this.  Please fix this.”  He never did.  The enemy then took that understanding of God’s sovereignty and used it to put doubt into my mind about God’s goodness.  “If God is completely sovereign and completely powerful, why didn’t He fix it?  He mustn’t love you because He knows you are trying to do what is best for your child.”   I bought into that lie and would still find myself questioning God’s goodness.

Yesterday, as I was thinking about it again while giving Beckham his bottle, the Lord opened my eyes to see that I have been deceived by the enemy.  I immediately repented and asked the Lord to give me a different understanding of the situation.  I wasn’t asking Him to show my why He never corrected the nursing issue.  I wanted to see His goodness in the situation and be able to trust Him with it.  The Lord answered that prayer very quickly and I would love to share what He taught me yesterday.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew what was going to happen to Him because He understood what the different prophecies said about His death.  He was “grieved and distressed” and went off to pray (Matt 26:37,39).  His prayer is so powerful, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt 26:39).  A little later He prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matt 26:42).  Jesus did not want to undergo the suffering, humiliation, and shame He was about to face, but He entrusted Himself to the Father and knew He had to be obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).  But it is one thing to pray this way; it is another to live it out when faced with suffering.  Jesus did just that.

Immediately after this moment in the garden, Judas arrived with a mob to arrest Jesus.  He was taken to the high priest, scribes, and elders who held a trial to condemn Jesus to death.  They brought false witness after false witness into the trial, but “Jesus kept silent” (Matt 26:59-63).  Then He was taken before Pilate and again “He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge…” (Matt 27:14).  Why?  Because Jesus knew that if the Father wanted to save Him, He could.  He knew that His life was in the Father’s hands and He was going to be obedient to the Father’s will no matter what (Matt 26:53-54).  If Jesus had answered their questions and proved they were false witnesses, then He could have been released and the scriptures would not have been fulfilled.  But instead, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).  Jesus gave Himself fully over to the Father’s will knowing that His Father was completely sovereign, completely powerful, and completely righteous in everything He does.

So how does this relate to nursing?  I realized that if Jesus endured the ultimate suffering trusting His Father through it all, then I could suffer through bottle feeding as well.  I can trust the Lord to judge righteously and know that just as He saw it was best to not save Jesus from the cross, He saw it was best to not fix the nursing issue.  I don’t have to live in fear that I won’t be able to nurse any future children we might have, but I can pray for the Lord’s will and trust it to be good.  For “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).  Isn’t that the point after all?  Jesus died on the cross so that I would die to sin (and my sinful desires) and live to righteousness.  He didn’t die so that I would become His child and then get everything that I want (because most of the time they are sinful desires).  He died so that I would live right before Him by faith trusting that He knows way more than I ever will.  He died so that I would entrust myself to the Father just as Jesus did.

Such peace filled my heart yesterday when the Lord gave me this understanding.  I now have truth to hold onto and a greater appreciation for my Savior who fully entrusted Himself to the Father’s will without question.  May that be the cry of my heart “not my will, but Your will be done.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fear and Ministry

Fear is something that I never thought I struggled with.  I have been reading through “Dangerous Calling” by Paul Tripp (which I recommend for anyone in ministry) and recently read a chapter on fear.  My eyes are now opened, and I see a very fearful man inside.

I have not yet served full time in Romania and I have already felt the weight of ministry.  Getting there: raising up prayer and financial partners is a tiring process.  Tripp says in the book, “There are few things that will reveal to you the full range of your sin, immaturity, weakness, and failure like ministry will.  There are few things that will expose your weakness to others as consistently as ministry does.  There are few endeavors that will put you under public expectancy and scrutiny like ministry does.  There are few things that are as personally humbling as ministry is.  There are few endeavors that have the power to produce in you such deep feelings of inadequacy as ministry does.  There are few things that can be such a vat of self-doubt as ministry is.  In your ministry there is a great temptation to be sidetracked and harmed by the fear of you” (p. 129).   I see this truth so clearly now.  I fear failure because I see my weakness much more clearly now, but my fear is based in the fact that I was placing my hope in myself instead of in my God.

Next, I fear the future.  Tripp points out that, “You always live and minister in the hardship of not knowing.  In both life and ministry you are called to trust and obey and believe that God will guide and provide.  You and I do not know what the next moment will bring, let alone the next month or year.  Security is never found in our attempt to figure it all out or in trying to divine the secret will of God.  His will is called his ‘secret will’ because it is secret!  Yet in all of this, because you are a rational human being, there is a desire to know, to figure out ahead of time.  The more you concentrate on the future, the more you’ll give way to fear of the future..” (p. 134).

Both these fears are built on a lack of the awe of God in my life.  I fear failure at times because I am looking at my own weakness instead of the power and reliability of our God.  When I fear the future I am not trusting that God is in control.  Tripp adds, “Awe of God really is the only way to be free of fear of what is coming next.  When my trust in God is greater than my fear of the unknown, I will be able to rest, even though I don’t have a clue what will greet me around the corner” (p. 134).

Food for thought: Do you have an awe of God that controls the way you live and what you think about?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When "Doing for God" Doesn't Leave Time for Prayer

Lately God has been teaching me a lot concerning the balance between how much we pray and how much we “do”.  It is so easy to get caught up in doing things for God that we don’t spend time praying and listening Him.  We see this point illustrated in this passage. 

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  --Luke 10:38-42

I can relate much more to Martha than Mary.  Everything, especially ministry related things, always seem to be a priority.  Consider this situation: A pastor is preaching at a park and thousands come to listen to Him.  They stay there all day and want Him to continue teaching into the evening hours.  Exciting right?  They are thirsty to hear of God!  But instead of continuing to preach the pastor send them all home so that He can spend alone time with God.  What would you think of that pastor?

That is what we see Jesus doing in Matthew 14:22-23.  He just fed over five thousand people miraculously with five loaves and two fish.  The crowd would have been a very captivated audience, and He sent them away.

“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.”  (Matthew 14:23)

Jesus always made prayer and time with the Father a priority.  He did not allow the masses dictate how He spent His time; He did not allow the “needs” to control His schedule.  Neither should we.