A Choice to Make and a Path to Take

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Imagine for a moment that you are standing at a crossroads. The path to the left is flat as far as the eye can see, smooth and lined with flowers. The other path is hilly with rocks scattered along the way. Which path are you likely to choose? Before you answer let me add one additional piece of information, God is asking you to go on the hilly, rocky path. Now, which path will you go down?

I love what Lysa TerKeurst says about life in What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, “Life isn’t about being comfortable and taking the easiest route” (pg. 146). This is seen through the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was going out to check on his brothers in the field and ended up thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, taken to Egypt and put into prison. Not necessarily that flower-lined path is it? However, during the entire time the Lord was with him. The same is true in our lives. There maybe times when we step out for God, we say yes to Him and things seem to become more difficult instead of easier. However, it is during those times that we can lean on our Savior. He will give us the strength, courage and guidance we need. Like Joseph, we must trust God in the good times and the bad.

Sometimes in the valleys of life we become discouraged and defeated and choose to sit along the sidelines just wishing for the other path. Let’s look at Joseph again to see how he reacted during a low point. When Joseph was put into prison by a false accusation, he could have chose to sit in jail and sulk and ask God why his life wasn’t better. However, Joseph did just the opposite. He chose to allow God to use him and his gifts right where he was. Joseph decided to obey God out of love, not duty. God turned around and used that decision to say yes as Joseph’s ticket out of prison years later. I want the same thing in my own life. I want to be used – in the valley or on the mountaintop – to bring honor and glory to God.

You might think, well that’s all fine and good and if I ever get an opportunity to say Yes to God, I will know what to do. But let me remind you that “we don’t have to seek to create opportunities to say yes to God. God has already gone before us and established them. We simply have to respond” (pg. 149). God has the entire tapestry of your life laid out; you just have to decide whether you will say yes to His pattern and His timing. The majority of our most important opportunities come when we least expect them, just like Joseph. However, if we continue to stay close to God, we will be ready when He calls us to say yes.

It is so hard to believe the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study is coming to an end. I pray that you do not leave what you have learned locked inside your notes and book to gather dust on the shelf. This is a journey that will not be finished until God calls us home. Therefore, you and I need to continue to apply these principles to our lives as we daily walk in obedience and say Yes to God.

Radical Obedience

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Several people from the Bible come to mind when I think of obedient – Abraham, Noah, David. All these men did what God told them to do. Peter would have to be my New Testament example of radical obedience.

Let me set the scene for you, Peter and some others had been fishing all night without any results. They were bone tired and defeated. This was their livelihood, they were fishermen yet unable to catch anything. Jesus gets into the boat and begins teaching the people on the shore. After he finishes, he tells Peter to take the boat out further and cast the nets again. Peter responds with, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Even when it didn’t make any sense, Peter chose to obey. His obedience resulted in so much fish it filled both boats.

Many times like Peter, we do not get all the information or understand the reasoning. However, you and I are supposed to fully surrender and obediently follow after God’s commands.

Peter discovered several things that day that we can apply to our own lives.

  • Obedience may challenge our pride

Peter, as a skilled fisherman, chose to swallow his pride and obey Jesus’ command. There maybe times in our own lives when we are asked to do something that goes against what we thought we knew. You and I cannot let our own positions get us puffed up and we think we are above what God may ask us to do.

  • God will utilize our experiences to equip us for His calling

Peter was a fisherman by trade and then became a fisher of men. God will use everything in our lives to prepare us for what He is calling us to do.

  • Obedience will motivate those around us

Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Peter’s life that was changed that day. James and John were also fishermen that witnessed everything that took place and decided to cast their nets aside and follow after Jesus. Your own obedience can have the same effect. People will see a difference in you and it will inspire them to say yes to what God is calling them to do.

I want to leave you with a quote from Lysa, “Our calling is revealed as we walk in daily obedience to Christ in the little things” (What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, 117).

 

Your Response:

How can you apply these principles to your life this week? What act of obedience is God calling you to? Lay aside your nets and follow after Him.

Who Am I? Discovering the “Me” I’m Meant To Be

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We fall victim to societal pressure to believe that our appearance, status and possessions will make our lives better. When we give into this notion, we are letting society construct our identity. The real question we need to ask ourselves is where does our identity come from?

Another way to put this is: What types of things define a person? Say, for example, you were to introduce yourself to someone you do not know: How would you define yourself? Would you define yourself by your family relationships, by a professional title, or lack of one, or by where you live or go to church? People generally define themselves by age, intelligence, education, marital status, material things, and family.

Satan, the Enemy, knows exactly how and where to attack each one of us. He knows where we are vulnerable. As Christians, we need to learn to recognize the lies and replace them with God’s truth. Satan wants us to focus on our flaws and feelings of inadequacy, and then exhaust ourselves trying to hide them. God, on the other hand, wants us to focus on His acceptance, security and significance and thank Him for His promises that remind us of who we are in Him. We need to remember that God is well pleased with us before we do anything simply because we are His children.

God was there from the very beginning. He spoke each one of us into our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), at just the right time to be here now. It was not by accident, nor was it a surprise to God. We need to get rid of any image of ourselves that is not from God. We have to stop believing what others have said or how we have been labeled in the past, and stop accepting how others define us.

This is a concept that I have struggled with for some time. Honestly, it is so much easier for me to believe the negative than the positive about myself. My insecurities about myself and falling victim to the lies started back in the first grade. My teacher’s negative comments stuck with me. Throughout school, I became more swayed by what others thought about me. Before long, I could not even begin to answer the question, Who am I? Because I had no idea. I had lost all sense of “me” and who I really was. It took quite a while to break free from those lies. In fact if I let my defenses down, the lies and insecurities start to infiltrate my mind and try to take over even to this day.

When we let these lies take hold in our mind, we begin to feel as if we have to hide behind a mask. That way, we can present to the world what we think they want to see. In actuality, by listening to others instead of God to frame our identity, we are building a wall that masks who we truly are. With the empowering of the Holy Spirit and prayer, we can start taking down this wall that has been built by others piece by piece to pave the path to victory — our identity in Christ.

When you start comparing others’ outside with your inside, you need to stop and be reminded what God says about you. (identities from Made To Crave – Lysa TerKeurst, 52)

  • Forgiven child of God (Romans 3:24)
  • Set-free child of God (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Accepted child of God (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • Holy child of God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Made-new child of God (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Loved child of God (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Close child of God (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Confident child of God (Ephesians 3:12)
  • Victorious child of God (Romans 8:37)

When the comparisons start flooding your mind, let the words of this song, More Beautiful You, wash over you. You are loved, special and beautiful – just as you are.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you today loaded down with the burden of trying to be what others want me to be. I ask that you take this from me and remind me that my identity comes from you alone. You formed me for a specific purpose and plan. You do not make mistakes. Therefore, help me to daily let my true identity in You shine forth. In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Peace Like A River

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As we continue to journey through the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study, God is bringing so many things to light in my life. I would love to be able to sit down with you over coffee and share what each of us is learning, however, since that is not possible, this forum will have to suffice.

The word peace just keeps coming up – in this book, devotions this week and messages I’ve heard. When I continue to hear the same thing through various avenues, I know God wants to speak something into my life.

Peace..Peace..Peace

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the phrase, “peace like a river”. In the past, I viewed this as a still or passive phrase, which doesn’t encapsulate my life at all as a wife, mother of 5, writer, volunteer for Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies and active within Maryland Community Church. However, I have found that is not what this phrase means at all.

I invite you to envision a river, not a pond or stream, but a mighty river. Is it flowing or perfectly stagnant? Of course a river is not still; there is movement in a certain path. When you and I choose to say yes we can have peace like a river because we know the direction we are headed and no matter what obstacles or rocks that may come in our path, God will help us keep going.

Peace can also come because of Christ’s unconditional love for us. I adore the reminder Lysa TerKeurst gives in this book, “it is not perfect performance that captures His attention. Rather, it is my complete dependence on Him that He notices” (pg. 89). God doesn’t love us for what we do, but who we are. Don’t let the enemy try and trick you into believing you will never be loved or used by God because of your past or even your present. Dear friends, Christ shed His blood on the cross to wash us white as snow.

You are loved, valued and treasured.

Let God’s truths break the chains of doubt and insecurity. Peace is one of the greatest blessings from saying yes to God. So step out and say yes to God this week. You will find peace in his loving arms and direction for your journey.

 

Your Response:

How is this study going? I’d love to hear what you are learning or how you have said yes to God.

 

Psalm 84:2

My-soul-years-Psalm-842Each one of us was create to crave, that yearning, longing was knit into our being by our Creator. God also gave us free will. Therefore, it is our choice where we place our focus. Our focus leads to a craving.

As I enter this first week of the Made to Crave online Bible study, I am amazed at what God is already bringing to light in my life. This study is not designed strictly for people who desire to lose weight. No, this study is for anyone who craves anything above God. Let that sink in. If that applies to you, I encourage you to take that first step and sign up for the study.

The key verse for this week really speaks to the desire to crave God above all else.

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord, my heart

and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:2

Let’s break this verse apart and see what it is saying to us. The phrase “my soul yearns, even faints” is describing a deep longing or craving, if you will, to be in God’s presence. This same idea is expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God.”

Take a moment; push the cold winter weather out of your mind and think of a hot summer day. You have been out in the garden working or laying on the beach (imagine your favorite summer activity) and you are hot and thirsty. You cannot think of doing anything until you get a big glass of ice water. That very desire is the type of longing we are to have for God – wanting to be in His presence more than anything else.

The last part of the verse, “my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” simply means that every part of our being – internal and external – is calling out to God.

Don’t let failures in the past keep you from coming to God. His mercies are new every morning.

This is a journey comprised of one decision and one step at a time. Let me assure you that though it may not be an easy road it is the only way to gain true and lasting peace.

Take a moment to watch this video and let the words wash over you today.

 

Your Turn:

  • Take a moment and rewrite Psalm 84:2, making it personal (insert your name where it says “my”). I encourage you to make that the desire of your heart
  • What is holding you back or getting in your way from craving God?
  • I would love to pray for you today, simply leave a request in the comment section.
  • If you are participating in the Made to Crave study, please let me know. I would like to connect with you.

Hello…Discerning the Voice You Hear

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I love talking to my family and friends on the phone. It is so much more personal than a text message or email. Last night, I called my oldest daughter, Taylor, who is away for the first time at school. When she answered the phone neither one of us had to ask whom we were talking to. After almost 16 years, I immediately recognize her voice and she recognizes mine.

This phenomenon is the same with any relationship. In order to recognize someone’s voice, we have to spend time getting to know him or her.

I have had people ask me, but what about with God? How can you be certain what you are hearing is actually from God? Since, I have never heard His voice audibly, I have to ask myself a series of questions to see if what I am hearing is from God or not.

The following list of questions is from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. (A special thanks to my dear friend, Kristy Aiken, for making this beautiful picture incorporating the five key questions).

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By filtering everything through these five questions, I can quickly determine whether something is from God or not. He will never contradict Himself and His Word.

At this point in my life, I do not want to simply push my own agenda. I long to live a life saying Yes to God and therefore, I must make certain it is God’s voice I am following.

The next time you hear a still small voice, I encourage you to examine it to see who is on the other end.

What about you, how do you discern God’s voice? What steps have you taken to make certain you can recognize His voice?

Thank You Letter

 

Today’s post is going to be a little different. I am going to share a thank you letter with you. This woman, through her books and ministry has made such an impact in my life. I pray that it will give you hope and encouragement today, no matter what you are facing.

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Dear Lysa TerKeurst,

You have had such an impact in my life in so many ways, I just wanted to take a moment and tell you thank you.

The first time I ever even heard of you was at a Women’s Unity Night in Terre Haute, Indiana. I attended the event with a friend and your words spoke right to my heart. That night I purchased your book, What Happens When a Woman Says Yes to God. I read this book right before going on a mission trip to Barbados. It gave me the courage I needed to say no to my fears and yes to God and go on the trip. My experience on that trip changed my perspective. I was ready to say yes to God in other areas of my life after I returned home, because it had made such a difference.

Some time passed and then I happened to run across, Melissa Taylor’s blog inviting me to participate in her first online Bible study over your book, Made to Crave. This online Bible study was an answer to prayer. It opened the door to countless breakthroughs in my life. Over the course of the study, I lost 30 pounds, but what I gained was so much more. I was physically and emotionally stronger, but most importantly – spiritually stronger. I now had a closer relationship with God than ever before. Through Melissa’s encouragement, I was led to start my blog, Living With Eternal Perspective.

I continued to participate in the online Bible studies with Melissa Taylor, through Proverbs 31 Ministries, and the Lord kept leading me step-by-step along my journey. The next major hurdle was to register for She Speaks conference. This conference helped me in more ways than I can even begin to express in this letter. God then guided me to the completion and publication of my first book, Get REAL: Stop Hiding Behind the Mask. I am now sharing my story and the work God has done in my life with others.

Currently, I am an Online Bible Study Leader for your book, Unglued. God is continuing to lead me in stepping out in faith and drawing closer to Him. This study has been simply amazing. I cannot say that I will never have moments where I come unglued, but I am making imperfect progress.  The women in my facebook small group from around the world are incredible. They are such an encouragement and a source of accountability along the way.

In closing, I want to thank you for continuing to say yes to God and follow the calling He has on your life. Lysa, you are blessing the lives of countless people around the world. Your ministry is making a dramatic impact for furthering God’s kingdom. Keep following God’s leading and encouraging women to do the same.

 

Blessings,

Jamy Whitaker