Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

~ Written by Viki Rife

My first real experience with the game of ping-pong was on a ship. There was a ping-pong table on a lower side deck. The deck was actually a long, narrow corridor with a railing separating it from the waves. The ping pong table was popular, so a ten-year-old like myself didn’t have much chance of getting a turn.

Then the ship hit a storm as we approached Rio de Janeiro. The storm was so intense that it delayed the ship’s arrival by two days. Virtually all the passengers and a good number of the crew took to their cabins, seasick. For some reason I felt fine, so a friend and I headed straight for the ping-pong deck.

You guessed it. Learning to land that ball on the table when the ship is tossing in a storm is not really the way to learn to play well. We never could predict where the table would be or at what angle. Ping-pong balls don’t handle well in high winds and high waves, either. To make a long story short, I concluded that I didn’t want ping-pong in my life.

I feel a similar frustration when I try to balance the messages that keep pinging into my life. I missed an important e-mail because it somehow went to my bulk mail. My husband sends a text asking me to pick him up at the car shop and the message doesn’t reach my phone for 52 minutes. I’m awakened at 1 a.m. by an urgent amber alert from a state 1,500 miles away, where I visited last week. A telemarketer calls from three time zones away just as I’m finally asleep.

We live in a world of ping-pong relationships. Information is coming at us much faster than our brains can keep up. The table keeps bouncing. How are we expected to manage it all?

The overwhelming communication demands of our society and the constant interruptions of every project we attempt is like ping-pongs constantly hitting our brains. We desperately need a break.

Jesus was aware of the danger of relational ping-pong. Luke 5:16 tells us that He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. I guess I’ll turn off my computer, leave my phone in another room, and spend some time seeking His advice for my bruised brain. I don’t have to live with a ping-pong mind.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

At first glance, things weren’t going well. The once booming church’s numbers had dwindled drastically. The offering plate struggled to provide funds to keep the church’s doors open—though they still were. The elephant in the room was no longer being ignored.

Things had changed. Those changes had come at a great price. But redemption wasn’t lacking when you spoke to the people who remained in the pews. Bitterness which had lined the halls for decades had finally been brought to light and resolved. Unbiblical teaching had been eradicated from the pulpit. Relationship with each other and their Savior was now more important to the remaining congregants than their religious traditions.

They were seeing God more clearly than they had in many years.

Sometimes, change hurts. Every time, no matter how good the changes are, starting anew is scary. However, letting the fear of pain stand in the way of taking the plunge and starting new would be a tragedy. Starting over and being given a new opportunity doesn’t always make sense; nor does it always feel good. The joy of a fresh start is we have a chance to depend on the Jesus who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

May your New Year be laced with the adventure of depending on our faithful God!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

As I opened my car door, I heard an ear-piercing scream. Looking up, I saw a mother coming toward me pushing a grocery cart loaded with bags with one hand while trying to carry a struggling, screeching child. As the mom passed, she looked at me apologetically and said, “I won’t give her any more candy.” The child screeched, “She’s mean!”

As mothers, we know what that’s like. Some of us have spent nights awake with a sick child who had found a stash of sweets and pigged out. We know things about the human body that our child cannot comprehend. There are times we choose to say “no” to our child.

Why do moms put themselves through the battle? It would be so much easier to let a child have whatever would keep her from making a fuss. It almost seems counterintuitive these days that the moms who love their children say “no,” but the ones who don’t care say “yes.”

“Is God good?” is a question people have to resolve in order to trust Him. In His wisdom and love, he sometimes has to deny us what we want most. He does it because he is good enough to care about us even when we kick and scream against him. His goodness is evidenced through his “no” as well as his “yes.”

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I’ve experienced seasons which left me seemingly drowning in hopelessness. I knew my Savior was Jesus Christ. I knew my eternity was secure in Him. I knew the Truth of the Gospel. But despite that knowledge, I felt weighed down, pointless and distraught. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Those were not fun times. They aren’t necessarily seasons I enjoy remembering. However, I still find myself wandering back to those memories and pondering what I learned despite my less-than-desirable emotions and circumstances.

The reality was, my hopeless, and seemingly pointless, season taught me to fall to my knees. The anguish in my heart forced me to not only darken the door of the Throne Room, but to run and fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father. In those seasons of hopelessness, I needed my Creator-Savior in a way I rarely had before.

It’s because of such intimate moments with God that I’ve learned to treasure those hurtful and heartbreaking seasons. I may have lost almost everything I held dear, but I gained the sweetest intimacy of all. I gained a deeper understanding of the faithfulness of Christ. 

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Thanksgiving Day is family reunion day on my mom’s side of the family. We gather in the hometown of one of the cousins (this year in Tennessee) and have the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. After the meal the men watch football (or sleep!), the women visit and the children play. We end the day by singing praise songs, sharing what we’re thankful for, and eating leftovers.

As much as we love each other and enjoy getting together on this special day, this is just a small slice of our individual families. Things look good on the surface as we catch up with one another on a fairly superficial level, but the truth is that although all of us are Jesus-followers, each family has struggled with heartbreak or a painful, messy situation of some sort. We are no different than other families.

Every family is at least a little bit dysfunctional, mine included. Usually we try to keep the messes hidden so we’ll look okay to the rest of the world. But Elisa Morgan, one of Christianity Today’s top fifty women influencing the church and culture and former CEO of MOPS International, has opened wide the closets of her life to reveal her personal story of brokenness, from her family of origin to her family today.

The Beauty of Broken is a raw, candid and heartbreaking look at the issues that Elisa’s family struggled with and that many parents face, including divorce, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, homosexuality, and more. In childhood, when her parents divorced and her mom sought refuge in alcohol, Elisa thought it was her fault that her family broke, so she tried her best to fix things, or at least to hide her family’s problems. As an adult, she was determined to make an unbroken family. So she bought into the myth that if parents implement “perfect family values,” their kids will turn out okay and they will be immune from being broken. But the problem, she acknowledges, is that she was broken. “Everybody is. So no matter what we do, we all end up making broken families…There is no such thing as a perfect family.”

Using her family of origin and her “family of creation”, she shares the hope that God offers in the form of twelve “broken family values” such as commitment, humility, reality, relinquishment and more. She reminds us that God understands that no one is perfect, but he wants us to remain in relationship with him as he picks up our broken pieces and shapes them into his design for us.

My family is broken, just like yours is. It’s true that we haven’t dealt with all the struggles that Elisa’s family faced, but my husband and I are broken people just like you. How grateful I am for a loving God who is able to take our brokenness and use it for himself.

The book ends with an Appendix of Hope and Scriptures of Hope to remind the reader of God’s love and healing grace in the midst of brokenness. But at the beginning Elisa writes, “This is my story. This is not the story of [naming her other family members]…This is my story, as I believe God wants me to tell it. And maybe – just maybe – it’s your story too.”

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Fourth in a series
By Sharon MacMillan

As a Bible study teacher, have you found yourself running for a notebook so you could write down some golden nugget of truth that would be just perfect for next week’s lesson? It’s a veritable feast as you talk over some new insight that had never dawned on you before with others who love to know God’s Word.

Peter experienced joy as he preached to the crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2. After he had identified who Jesus was and what He did, Peter saw 3000 people respond to the message, becoming believers in Jesus! If you had been the one giving the message instead of Peter, what would have been in your mind as you watched people from all over the inhabited world bowing their knee to Jesus at that moment? Peter may have had joy in watching new believers coming into the fold, but he did not respond with pride or self-adulation after the painful lessons he had learned from Jesus a few months before. He knew that Jesus had called him to feed God’s flock. And obeying Jesus in answer to His call was his only desire.

Jeremiah’s experience as a message-bearer of God presents a contrast to Peter’s. Sometimes there is no joy in being the messenger for God. He had been appointed and prepared to relay a message of coming judgment to disobedient Israel. Instead of a joyful embrace to God’s offer of mercy, the people came against Jeremiah with angry red faces and eventually put him in a pit to keep him quiet and away from them. God didn’t relent. When Jeremiah tried to hold back speaking the message of gloom, doom and judgment, the words would burn within him. You can read about this conflicted prophet’s testimony in Jeremiah 20. God needed Jeremiah to warn Israel to turn from their adulterous ways so they would not be destroyed. The result was not blessing for Jeremiah, but suffering.

What is common between these two men? Both had been prepared to receive God’s message so that it could be delivered effectively: Jeremiah’s mouth had been cleansed and Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Both knew that obeying God by giving His message was their first priority no matter what the results. Both knew their God and knew the messages were truth.

We Must Remain True to God’s Word
Beth Moore’s chapter on “Calling all Teachers” from Mercy Triumphs helps us understand the role of the teacher, which explains why not many should be teachers. The teacher must not compromise from giving God’s message of truth to God’s people, even if suffering is involved. A few chapters later in Acts we see that Peter didn’t always have an adoring audience and he ended up in prison. One thing cannot be disputed: To be effective, a teacher must teach God’s Word with no apologies and no compromise. We know that in the last days, days that are similar to ours, people will have itchy ears, wanting to hear pleasing messages, not necessarily convicting ones. But we must continue to teach the Word without watering it down or softening the message so that conviction can take place. We, like Peter and Jeremiah, must teach out of an uncompromised heart in our love for God.

We Must Teach Out of Godly Character
Referring again to Beth Moore’s, “Calling All Teachers,” her comments on James 3:1 regarding teaching are welcome words of wisdom to the one who wants to take this calling seriously and desires to be effective. She calls us not only to teach without compromise, but also to not allow ourselves to be affected by praise or criticism. Both can make you motivated or unmotivated with wrong motives.

The teacher must not be lazy – there is no substitute for the hard work of study so that God can interface with the teacher. What a waste of words if we end up teaching our own ideas! We would be taking others down Misleading Avenue or become misled ourselves. Both will incur God’s judgment instead of the blessing He wants to give. In learning new things from the Lord we are at risk for both pride and humiliation. Neither one of these should be allowed to rule over the life of a teacher. We must teach from a sincere heart (James 3:17). We should be eager to let God do His good work of disciplining and chastening so that we are in sync with Him, teaching the message as a faithful messenger.

Our Hearts Must Be Nurtured by God
Oswald Sanders, author of Spiritual Discipleship, tells us what God is after to make teachers who are able to teach His powerful Word of truth. We need a transformed life where the heart is burning with passion for God and for His people. Jesus taught, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we possibly teach the truths of God if He is not the LOVE of our hearts? He knows the process by which transformation can take place.

How does God nurture those called to teach? He reveals Who He is in His holiness so that all desire is turned towards Him as we spend time in His presence. In a most holy moment (Exodus 33:11-23), God unveiled Himself to Moses for our viewing. What was the result of revealing His glory? Moses bowed to the ground and worshipped. We will find ourselves responding to God in the same way as He reveals Himself to us. Our sin will be magnified; our need of Him will cause us to fall before Him in thankful adoration for His grace, mercy and love. The cross of our Savior will become all the more precious to us.

How could we ever impart the knowledge about the Almighty God without our own encounter in His Presence? We are to be emptied of our own speculations, our own intentions, our own resources to make room for the powerful Word of Truth and the Presence of His Holy Spirit within.

The veil used to cover Moses’ face becomes a symbol of what happens when we are face to face with God. When the people of Israel saw Moses after He had been with God, his face was so radiant he had to use a veil. Every time the people saw Moses with the veil, he was a stunning reminder that God had been with Moses. They could learn from Moses’ radiance alone that God is gloriously holy and yet approachable if we follow in full obedience. Moses was able to speak face to face with God. The words he shared with the people were not his own words but God’s.

God ‘s Teachers Must Be Tested
James teaches what God’s goal is for His teachers. He wants them to come to maturity, to be complete, lacking nothing. He wants teachers that have been taught by God Himself. How would God bring this about? He brings Father-filtered trials that develop our perseverance or endurance. He will not let up on the process until we receive the promised crown of life, which He delights to give to His beloved people. In the process we will have been transformed into His likeness. Through these trials, disciplines will be established that will be useful for effective teaching. Dependence on Him will be taught so that we will not teach from our own wells but from His. He will become more precious to us than we could ever have dreamed. And that will be a priceless thing to impart to others. What an honor to represent God and His truth to His people!

So if we are to be teachers we will be led into his Presence, we will be tested so that we can learn the truth of His Word, we will become so in love with God that nothing matters but doing and teaching what He has given to us to teach. “I will be with your mouth” is just as true for us today as it was for Moses. Believe it! And let all else go!

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This is the last of a three-part series responding to a concern that by taking missions out of our name, missions will disappear from who we are. This series was co-written by Viki Rife and Janet Minnix.

Recently, Grace Brethren International Missions decided it could better operate around the world by removing the word missions from its name. However, removing the word did not change the ministry’s purpose. Rather, Encompass World Partners now has freer access to places where missions would be suspect at best, and illegal at worst. In much the same way, Women’s Missionary Council felt it was strategic to change our name to give us greater access to the woman who needs more than a missionary focus – who needs to be mentored in biblical womanhood and grounded in the sure foundation of God’s Word. However, a name change did not change our purpose. A woman who internalizes God’s truth will grow in her love for Jesus and develop a heart that listens to God, hears His calling and willingly engages in His mission in the place He chooses for her, using the talents and abilities with which He has gifted her.

We believe that the best way we can help mission efforts to thrive is to equip and inspire women with God’s call for all His people to be on mission. If we invest in helping women set aside the “fluff” that distracts them from being fully committed to God, we are preparing them to hear His calling. If we equip them with solid Bible knowledge and an understanding of how to listen to Him and serve Him, they will be ready to go wherever He sends them. And a natural outcome of their increased commitment to Him will be a desire to pray for lost people and for those who are reaching them.

We believe that if we help women grow and change internally, the results will be much more effective than just giving them a list to pray through. Their prayers and investment will then be based on a heart that understands the challenges missionaries face, because they themselves will be passionately involved in reaching the lost in their own sphere of influence. We believe that strengthening women in their walk with Christ is the best way to assure that there will be future workers for the harvest.

So, why does Women of Grace USA exist? To equip women with a strong understanding of God’s truth, to encourage them in the disciplines of prayer and study of God’s Word, and to challenge them to respond to God’s call in their lives. Is it women’s ministry? Yes, because it is ministry to and for women. Will missions disappear? No, because Women of Grace USA is preparing women to be missionaries where they are, whether next door or around the world.

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