Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scripture 14

Be Imitators, Walk in Love
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

I love how God’s word is not a mere rule book to “good” behavior, but a guide to changing our thinking, which renews our mind, then refines our hearts, which leads to changing our behavior. I really liked some of the exhortations Paul gives us in Ephesians 5. It’s not a just list of “do’s” and “don’ts”, but it’s full of admonitions to help us live in a way that would imitate God.

Do not be deceived by empty words (v.6), walk as children of light (v.8), try to discern what is pleasing to the LORD (v.10), look carefully as to how you walk, not as unwise but wise (v.15), give thanks always and for everything (v.20), and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (v.21).

The LORD could give us a list of “good” behaviors and “bad" behaviors, He could simply say “don’t do this or that”. Instead, like the Good Shepherd he is, He leads us to think for ourselves, to consider, to try to discern, to look carefully, to figure out what is wise and unwise living.

So this week, as I meditate on Ephesians 5:1-2, I will ask the LORD to show me what it means to be an imitator of God, how I can better walk in love. I am asking Him for wisdom and discernment for my life, my choices, my relationships, etc. I will not simply try to do better at my life, but get to know the LORD better, the only One worthy of being imitated, the only One who can change me from the inside out.

What do you think it means to imitate God?

To walk in love?

To discern and be wise?

(Matthew 5-7, Romans 12, Exodus 20, Psalm 37, Micah 6:8, James 4:7-10, 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 4:8)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Train Up . . .

I am heading back into my classroom today to start the new school year and my time with the LORD this morning was a perfect way to begin! I listened to another sermon by Chuck Swindoll from Ephesians 6:1-4, and Proverbs 22:6.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4)

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

I’m not a momma yet (LORD willing someday), but I do adopt these 20 or so students into my heart during the school year. I love them, pray for them, cry for them, give to them, guide them, teach them, shepherd them, counsel them, and discipline them. I remember reading during my first year of teaching that discipline means to “teach and train”, and I thought “great, I can do that”!

A couple of years ago I had a VERY difficult and challenging student. He was exposed to drugs in the womb, watched his father violently attack his mother when he was little, had night terrors, fits of rage, talked to himself, was diagnosed with depression . . . and more. Needless to say, every minute of the day was a challenge, not knowing which side of him I would see.

I soon realized that being “firm” with him just wasn’t going to cut it. I thought, well this guy has just never been “disciplined” before, so I’ll break him in, and it will be tough at first, but he’ll learn to “obey”. Little did I know that this type of an approach, with a child like this, was a recipe for disaster. I soon realized that my “firm hand of discipline” exasperated him.

I remember reading in Ephesians 6:4 one day “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I realized what I had been doing. I wasn’t “bringing him up” I was "jerking him up", expecting him to “obey” me, and he looked to it as a fight! I was provoking him to fight with me, rather than nurturing him and pointing him in the right direction.

Listening to this sermon reminded me of my role as a shepherd for these children. A shepherd nurtures, guides, and protects. A shepherd doesn’t just stand over there sheep and whack them with the rod when they’re off the path! There is more to it than that. Chuck Swindoll reminded me that “training a child up” does not mean taking them to Sunday school, getting them around the right people, forcing them to memorize scripture, etc. It’s not about getting them to bend to your rules or forcing them to act a certain way. It is about creating and cultivating a thirst to obey God.

Bringing them up means nurturing them to be the people God intended them to be, and remembering as we do that, to point them in the proper direction (by teaching, training, and disciplining).

And while sometimes a shepherd does have to break a sheep’s leg to keep him from running off now and then, it is not without proper instruction of why he did it and pointing out the correct way so he doesn’t have to do it again. So as I prepare for my new school year, I meditate on this concept of shepherding, on training up a child, and on what it means to nurture, love, instruct, guide, and train.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Scripture 13

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Last week in life group, we had to share the biggest thing we have prayed for and the greatest answer we received. I was so thankful to exalt His powerful name in sharing the day He answered my prayer far more abundantly than I could ever ask or think.

My first year of teaching, the teacher next to me became a very good friend. Her name was Rachael and we she was so helpful, funny, and kind. She was so gracious to me. I was a new teacher, a new bride, and new to Pleasanton. She gave me so many fun ideas for teaching and invited Santino and me over for dinners and parties, making my transition into a new city and a new career so much easier.

I can remember talking with her about God and religion and her philosophy was “That’s fine if that’s what you believe; just don’t try to push it on me.” She was very open, respected others beliefs, etc. She had been trying to get pregnant for a few years, and soon she was! Sadly, a few weeks later, she told us she had a miscarriage. This was her third miscarriage in two years. I was so sad for her. I remember just sitting on my couch weeping for her pain and so sad for her heart that longed to be a mother.

All I could do was tell her “I’m sorry, and I will be praying for you.” And I did. I remember praying for her, through tears, asking the LORD to heal her broken heart, and LORD willing, to bless her womb in the future and show her His love and power. I prayed for her here and there over the next few months, as the LORD would put her on my heart, continuing to ask Him to bless her womb and draw her near to Him.

A few months later, she announced she was pregnant again! This time she waited until she was 20 weeks along to share the news! She said but wait, that’s not all . . . I’m pregnant with twins! I can remember rejoicing, and feeling like the LORD has just answered my prayer in a huge way, beyond what I asked! So I continued to pray for those babies to grow healthy and full term.

They were due on December 16th that year. Soon, it was Halloween. She was still working, the babies were still growing. The next day, she did not show up at work. She had 6 weeks left in her pregnancy, and we were all waiting to hear if she and the babies were okay. At around 10:00 that morning, November 1st, there was an announcement that the babies were born, and both were doing just fine. I can remember standing there, filled with joy, because the day after Halloween, November 1st, is my birthday!

I felt overjoyed and so humbled! The LORD not only answered my prayer for Rachael to get pregnant, he blessed her with twins, and she delivered them on my birthday! I wanted to fall on my face and just praise the LORD. He led me to this scripture . . .

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” He answered my prayer in ways I couldn’t think or imagine. God is beyond our expectation!

I talked to Rachael after she came home from the hospital and told her how I had been praying for her and how amazing it was that her babies would share my birthday! She thanked me for her prayers, and told me she named her baby boy Tobias. She asked if I knew what his name means . . . The Hebrew meaning for the name Tobias is “God is good”. Yes He is!

From that day forward, I decided to pray for anything and everything, knowing that He is able to do far more than I would ever ask or think, according to the power at work within me.