In November 2013, I (Marilyn) attended a Bible Study in an Assisted Living Center in a small Texas panhandle town. Bob, a 67-year-old resident, was leading a study on Acts 4. As he read the chapter discussing each verse, his passion, knowledge and love of Jesus was evident. Bob, pastor of a tiny church nearby, was not an ordained or trained pastor. Without notes, he taught the lesson from his heart as he shared Luke’s words sprinkled with God-inspired personal insights.
Bob, a humble and simple man who clearly loved Jesus with all his heart and soul; a man who found joy and peace in the challenges of his life; a man whose greatest desire was to serve Jesus and share the gospel in both word and deed — made an impression on my life that day. He challenged me to be BOLD in my faith, to speak out in BOLDNESS, and to share with others.
Thanks to Bob, I no longer ‘just read’ Acts 4 and specifically Acts 4:12. Each time I read or study this scripture, I remember Jesus’ humble servant, Bob, and the passionate love for Jesus that radiated from him as he spoke of the disciples’ sacrifice and Jesus’ gift of salvation.
“Salvation is found in no one else (but Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Thank you Lord for crossing my path with Bob’s. May you bless him. May he continue to serve you all his days. May we too BOLDLY share the truth of salvation with the passion and love exemplified so clearly by this simple man named Bob.
After our second session studying “What’s Best Next” by Matt Perman yesterday, I was reminded of when I was first learning Perman’s principles for productivity. The biblical way he approaches “getting organized” forced me to become a disciple again of God’s Word and learn something new for immediate practice. As it goes with most kinds of change, the process was challenging and at times painful. But just as we have read the last few weeks in his book, we are called to be good stewards of our time because we love God and therefore love people. Love and generosity should drive our productivity as well as our daily choices.
A few years ago a friend mommy blogger hosted a blog series, asking women to write entries on varied subjects while including practical tips relevant to their topic (see my original post here). Since I was at the time halfway through the pursuit of a Masters in Theological Studies, she asked me to write one offering tips on going back to school mid-mommyhood. As requested, I included practical tips that had helped me survive (including reading the book “What’s Best Next“!), but I also gave an apologetic for why I had chosen to go back to school in the first place. Below is an excerpt:
“At first thought, it may seem as if going back to school is a decision “for me.” Au contraire. My husband and I are approaching our 13th wedding anniversary, and of those 13 years, he was enrolled in either undergraduate or graduate school for almost a decade.
While there were several very difficult years (we added 4 to our family count in 7 years), I truly enjoyed the innumerable late night conversations as he stretched my brain working out his thoughts. Our little family stood beside him when he graduated with his Masters of Divinity, feeling like we all owned a part of that degree.
Little did I know God was preparing me for my own journey back to school as a homeschooling mom of 4.
“Why go back?” “Who will this benefit?”
Five years ago, my oldest was given a school assignment while studying the medieval time period. The assignment required the family to design and create a family crest. After much discussion (read debate), we all agreed on the following family motto: Amo, Disco, Duco: (I love, I learn, I lead). The motto was birthed out of Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV),
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
If you think about it, these verses drive the desire to be educated. As our love for God grows, we want to know Him more. As we know Him more, our love for Him grows. We know wisdom’s source:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10 ESV).
The Burt family motto, Amo, Disco, Duco merely speaks to the two greatest commandments Jesus provided as the foundation for our existence. In loving God we desire to learn. His love drives us to love and lead others, following in Christ’s footsteps.
Furthermore, do we ever cease to be a disciple? God has called and gifted each of us, empowering us to participate in the Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:28). This means God is glorified as we cultivate and sharpen the gifts He has graciously given each of us, aiming to influence our culture.”
With the Lord’s help and the never-ending support of my family, I finished the degree half a year later. Yet the journey with discipleship, loving God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength, is a lifelong endeavor.
If you are diving into What’s Best Next with Thrive this month, yesterday’s session was a day of many practical tips full of change – which can be challenging. But don’t give up. Take the first steps this week.
- Come up with a draft of your mission statement, the declaration of your core purpose that stands true even when your world falls apart.
- Next write down a few of your core principles that guide your life.
- Finally, jot down your core beliefs including the baseline principle for why you do what you do – the gospel, what God has done for us in Christ.
I can finish this post the same way I finished the guest blog for my friend:
“Bottom line – women rock. You can do this and even enjoy the process! Above all, God will be glorified as you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. So buy some frozen dinners, brew a cup of coffee, and dive in.”
Toddler parenting is fairly new in our household. Communication with a stubborn opinionated two-year old takes a lot of goldfish bribes, patience, deep breathing, and love. We have found a few key phrases we consistently speak to our daughter, N, in order to get our point across in a loving fashion. In the process, we have found a picture of ourselves with our Heavenly Father.
When N falls and looks up at us, we tell her she’s safe, imitating a baseball umpire. This phrase however, refers to things much deeper than childhood scrapes and bruises. When we stumble in our faith and look up, Psalm 91:4 tells us “With his feathers he will cover you, under his wings you will find safety.”
When an emotional power struggle rears its head, we tell N she can “obey and have fun with us OR not obey and have no fun (aka time out).” Likewise, our desires can cause a power struggle with our Father, who simply responds, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). Disobedience will instead bring consequences.
“Look at me.”
When N is running full speed in her own direction and we need to get her attention, we will say “Look at me.” Sometimes we have to get on her level to disrupt her play. How many times is this me, caught up in my own desires and the Lord has to get my attention? John 8:47 says, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” O may I be more attentive to the messages the Lord has for me!
Even though I know it’s just a season we are passing through, I am thankful to be reminded that God’s love is sovereign, gracious, and merciful. What parallels are you seeing in your season of life that reflect the Father’s love for us?
Ok. Writing your testimony is difficult. Not because you don’t know what has happened in your life, but because life keeps going and doesn’t give you time to absorb half the things that happen.
I am the product of a woman that searched many religions and was raised in a semi-Catholic home and a Muslim man who is very close-minded. Needless to say, that relationship did not work well. I was however, loved very much by both parents. My father loved me so much. That love birthed his decision to show me his way of life by abducting me to the Middle East. After eleven months my mother was able to bring my back to the great state of Texas with the help of a church. My mother finally settled on this small Baptist church that helped to locate me as her church home. They needed her four-octave range in their choir and we needed stability. I grew up with the kind people of Oak Ridge Baptist Church in San Antonio. It was there where at the innocent age of nine, I felt the “tug at my heart.” I participated in See You at the Pole, GAs, and every VBS imaginable. My mother ran any and every committee that she could. We were at church on Mondays for visitation, Tuesdays for the benevolence closet, Wednesdays for business meetings and service, Thursdays because she said so, Friday for youth and children gatherings, Saturday for work days and Sundays for the Sabbath. I lived there. I feel safe in saying I was raised in the church.
I eventually went to summer camps where I fell in love with the green grass and quiet campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. I decided in sixth grade UMHB was the campus for me. I would attend there a few years later where I would continue my very strict plan of earning a degree in psychology (so that I may solve the problems of the world). During my sophomore year I was told in order to be a true therapist, I would need a master’s degree. This became my new plan. I did not however, plan on meeting the man in which my dreams were made of. Of course I had to marry him and alter my plans ever so slightly. During all this planning, I tried to be strong in the loss of my mom to colon cancer. It was not until January of 2008 that I realized my mom had given me more than I could ever plan for or achieve. She had given me a wonderful example of true faith. I changed my life focus from “I” to “Him” and have been searching and striving ever since.
I have lived an eventful life in the eyes of most, but I find it simple to the greatness I have now with my beautiful boys that keep me running, as well as the voice of God I daily long to hear. I still crave to be a great therapist for the people I serve, but I want much more to be the wife, mother and friend Christ wants me to be. I am thrilled to have our church family here, building and investing in the continuing story of my life.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.”
Several times a year, my family embarks on a massive purge of stuff. This purge usually precedes birthdays and Christmas because we need to make room for the highly anticipated new gadgets. A few years ago, I gathered the kids together, passed out garbage sacks to everyone, and prepared myself for the occasional whine and complaint. To my surprise, my then 7 year old joyfully exclaimed how excited she was! She said she loved getting rid of things in order to make room for the new. A few hours later, I peeked in her very full bag of to-be-discarded items, and realized her excitement may have run away with her. Ironically, I had to convince her to keep a few sentimental items.
A few months later, I was reading the parable of hidden treasure in Matthew 13 and saw the simplicity of the principle through the eyes of a child. This parable indicates that when the man found the treasure, the kingdom of heaven, he realized its value was more than anything else he had. Selling his other possessions was not an act of sacrificial, obligatory obedience, but an act of joy. In fact, Romans 14:17 defines the kingdom of heaven as “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The man’s former possessions were completely irrelevant in light of the beauty of this newly found treasure. In selling all in order to make room for the new, he clearly revealed what he treasured in his heart.
My house can quickly accumulate stuff, some of which might be considered valuable. In the same way, my heart tends to involuntarily hoard that which I treasure. And often times, that which I treasure would be considered by most to be beneficial and not destructive. But no gift God has given me compares to the value and worth of the kingdom of heaven, the rule of Christ in my life. Some seasons I do well with treasuring Christ above all else. Other seasons, a de-cluttering session is needed to purge that which I have begun to hold too closely. To lose these things is not a sad loss when I gain the kingdom of heaven in return.
It occurred to me while writing this piece that every year we make a big fuss…almost in a panic. Oh no?! It’s New Year’s Eve!! How am I going to enhance or improve in my life?
Let’s see: I’m already in church, read the Word…oh wait…only a minute on Sundays during church. (Shhh…did I say that out loud?!) I need to work on doing that everyday.
Ok, what is my New Year’s resolution?
Because I never keep the resolutions anyway, my solution is no resolution. I need to just take inventory of my life, write down what I need to do, should do, and can do.
My plate is always full: kids, relatives, work, errands…my work is never done. Sometimes I need to write a note to find the note that it seems I have lost and can’t find. Sometimes after taking care of what seems like everybody else, I seem to have lost myself.
One thing I’ve learned is a new year is just a new date. If you are serious about getting yourself together you wouldn’t wait until a new year starts. You would say the Nike logo to yourself…JUST DO IT…and move toward change.
We have all been through trials and tribulations. We have all had days when we wish we could pull the covers over our head and hide from the world, or wish we had a magic wand to make everything right.
So, I’m asking you to commit to a 21 day jump start to improving yourself and your life. Choose a devotional plan. Here’s a few examples I saw online that caught my attention: 21 day devotional plan for busy women, 21 days of powerful breakthroughs, a 21 day challenge-Made to Crave, 21 day devotional to beat depression, 21 days with the Holy Spirit, and 21 days of prayer…just to name a few.
Remember, Philippians 4:13 says,
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
In Mark 9:23 Jesus said,
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
Finally my personal favorite from Ephesians 6:11.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
No one is perfect, but YOU must perfect what you want in your life. Here’s to New Year’s solutions for 2017!
The Smallest Stone
As a child, I remember throwing rocks into our pond to see how big of a ripple it would make when it hit the water. The larger the rock I threw, the larger the ripple. This memory came to my mind the other day while I was all snuggled and cozy in my chair watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. The actress in the scene made a statement that made me pause and rewind the movie (thanks to DVR). She said,
“The smallest stone makes a ripple in the water.”
Hmmm…that statement touched me, and it got me thinking. Because of life’s hardships, trials, family, work, church, etc., sometimes I feel my stone is still sitting on the bank, and I make no ripple. I sometimes think I make no difference at all.
But whatever I may feel, the truth is, I MAKE A RIPPLE. The smallest stone makes a ripple in the water. So, I started pondering, what kind of a ripple am I making?
My prayer for this New Year is that God will use my ripple for HIS kingdom, and HIS glory, and that my life would make a positive difference in each person and circumstance that is in my path. I pray my ripple would reach the other side of the pond’s bank in lasting godly impact.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Taste and See
While sitting here thinking about what to write, a myriad of verses swirling through my head, the idea of trust keeps popping back up. It’s such a simple word, yet it entails a powerful meaning for those of us in Christ. After all, our lives as Christians began with the act of trusting Jesus to be our Savior.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, Trust is defined as “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”
Sounds fairly straightforward, doesn’t it?
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though I am challenged to practice this thing called trust on a daily basis. Whether it be as a teacher dealing with a particularly rowdy group of 9th graders, as a mom wondering if I am making the best decisions for my family, or trying to figure out how to pay for something else that’s broken on the car, my life is defined by challenges that require me to trust in my God.
So, how does one do that exactly?
This question seems to be asked many times when we discuss trusting God. Exactly, how do you really do that?
The answer I usually give: experience. We trust God’s ability and reliability because we have experienced proof of it. Psalm 34:8-9 says,
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, For those who fear him have no lack!”
Taste and See!
It’s easy to recall times when I have tried to work out my problems without turning to the Lord for help. The result was a “lack” in every sense of the word; lack of peace and a lack of solution. But then I call to mind those times when I turned first to the Lord for His provision.
Maybe for you, it was something big such as bringing you through an illness or providing for a major expense you weren’t expecting.
Maybe as it so often is for me, it was something small like giving an exhausted teacher a little extra patience with that rowdy group of 9th graders. In those times, oh how good He has been!
So today, whatever size challenges come your way, will you “taste and see” how good He can be?
Prayer Breaks Chains
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
Imagine a powerful singer belting these lyrics: “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain” (Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs). Your heart leaps for joy because you know it is true. You want to jump up and down, scream and shout, because it has happened in your life so many times.
This past year God has broken some chains in my life. I have been able to approach another and offer true forgiveness for a hurt that has been there a long time. It is freeing!
I have seen God break the chains of depression and physical illness in my own life and family. He is able!
He carried me through the overwhelming task of serving on the pastor search committee. Just as the tears would begin to flow, God sent unexpected help in the form of messages from His word and help from precious friends.
He has begun to deal with areas of apathy in my own life, places that need to be awakened by a fresh movement of His presence.
The second part of the song mentioned above says, “There’s an army rising up to break every chain.” I am seeing this happen in the life of the church. Walls are being removed, relationships are being restored, and God’s presence is working and moving in the lives of His people. I believe prayer is the driving force. When we pray according to God’s will, He is faithful!
For what will you pray in 2017?
Ask God to remove whatever chains are keeping you from experiencing His presence fully and completely, then join in with our family at TVBC. Let’s be that army making a difference in the lives of others.