Friday, August 26, 2011

Witnessing

What does it mean to you to be a witness of your Christian faith? As I read the last chapter of Rachel Olsen’s It’s No Secret I remembered what I used to think of when I heard of someone witnessing.

Flash back to one morning in college… It wasn’t yet 8:00 in the morning, and I was on my way to stop for coffee before getting to class. I encountered a man standing in my path waving a miniature sized New Testament Bible, yelling something about my going to hell. (See, if I’d already had coffee I might remember what he said.) But it didn’t matter. His approach was so offensive, he could’ve told me my hair was on fire and I wouldn’t have listened.

So, whenever someone said I should be a witness, I immediately thought there was no way I could stand on a corner somewhere yelling about Jesus. However, I’ve since learned that’s not what witnessing means.

From my NLT Study Bible…
witness, – a person who gives testimony (NLT Study Bible Dictionary/Concordance)

testify – to make a statement based on personal knowledge or belief; to give evidence or proof (NLT Study Bible Dictionary/Concordance)

Witnessing is telling what I know to be true. I know that Jesus Christ was crucified, died on the cross and buried; He conquered death when he rose from the grave. I know what Jesus has done in my life and how He continues to be with me daily. And I know that His life-saving grace is for everyone.

That’s how I can witness. I know I don’t always have the perfect words to say, but God uses them anyway. God will give us the confidence to speak boldly about His Son, Jesus, and then He does the work in the other person, and in us.

If you’ve been studying It’s No Secret by Rachel Olsen with me, thank you for joining me in this journey. I pray it’s been a blessing in your life.

In Christ,
Laura


Monday, August 22, 2011

Wisdom and Faith

wisdom (n) – knowledge, insight, judgment (NLT Study Bible Dictionary/Concordance)

This week’s reading in our study of It’s No Secret by Rachel Olsen starts with Chapter 11 about wisdom. Tucked into one of the Bible study questions at the end of the chapter is to read James 1:5.

James 1:5 (NLT)
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

I continued to read…

James 1:6-8 (NLT)
“But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

I also like how The Message reads…

James 1:5-8 (MSG)
“If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”

Think about this for a moment. God wants us to come to Him and ask for wisdom. He promises to give it to us, and even says he won’t look down on us for asking. But when we ask, we are to have faith in Him alone. We are not to ask for His opinion among others and then choose the answer we like best.

How often have I asked God for wisdom…
-but then took matters into my own hands?
-or acted out of emotion instead of wisdom?
-or thought, “I still don’t know what to do?”

Has this ever happened to you? Someone asks you for help or advice. Maybe it’s a family member or a co-worker. You take time to listen to what that person needs and then give the help or advice asked for. But when you finish, you find out the person is not going to take your advice, but do it the way she’d planned to all along. I’ve had this happen to me and it’s more than a little annoying. It makes me not want to give my time if asked again.

I wonder if God ever feels that way. Do I give Him reason to think, “Why are you asking me when you choose to go your own way?”

I’m afraid the answer is too often yes.

In Christ,
Laura

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's No Secret Study - Week 6

It's hard to believe this is the last week in our study of It's No Secret by Rachel Olsen. What did you think? Did you like the book? What will stay with you after our study ends?

Please share your thoughts by posting a comment. I'd love to hear how God has blessed you through this study!

Have a blessed week!

In Christ,
Laura

Week 6 – Aug. 21- Aug. 27, 2011
As you read each chapter, underline, highlight, or take notes on any points you want to remember.

Monday & Tuesday
  • Read Chapter 11 “Diversify Your Portfolio: Revealing the Secret of True Security.” Complete the Bible Study at the end of the chapter.
  • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the beginning of the week post. Leave a comment with your thoughts from the reading. 
Wednesday & Thursday
  • Read Chapter 12 “Become a Recording Artist: Revealing the Secret of Disclosure” and complete the Bible Study.
  • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the mid-week post. Leave a comment to the post with your thoughts from the reading. 
Friday
  • Read the Epilogue and catch up on the week’s reading, if you need to.
  • Spend some personal time with God and reflect on this week’s reading. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Confession and Forgiveness

I apologize for posting late this week! If you’re studying Rachel Olsen’s It’s No Secret with me, I’ve been reading Chapter 10 about confessing our sins.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34b (NIV)

I love this verse! God promises us in His Word that when we confess our sins to Him, we are washed clean by the blood of His Son, Jesus. He doesn’t remind us what we’ve done; He doesn’t keep score, or hold it over our heads. No, God forgives…and He chooses to remember our sins no more.

I have no reason not to confess my sins to God. He already knows them. He knows how my sins eat away at me. He knows the baggage of guilt and remorse I carry with me. He knows how my sinful ways separate me from Him.

God wants us to come to Him and lay our sins at the foot of the cross so He can restore our relationship with Him. He knows our hearts and wants to hear our confession.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Our loving God forgives, and He allows us to start fresh with Him…every day…every hour.

To God be the Glory!
Laura

Monday, August 15, 2011

Physical and Spiritual Rest

Everything seems worse when you’re tired. Anyone agree?

In chapter nine of It’s No Secret, author Rachel Olsen talks about rest. Our bodies need physical rest, whether it’s getting to bed on time, sleeping in, or taking an occasional nap. When sleep is in short supply, it affects everything from my personality, to my relationships, to what I do and don’t accomplish. My energy level is low, my concentration is lacking, and my patience is non-existent.

But have you ever felt like you’re caught up on sleep and something is still missing? Something you can’t quite put your finger on?

I’ve been learning the importance of spiritual rest—personal quiet time spent with God. Time when I set everything else aside and focus on talking to and hearing from God.

If you’re thinking you don’t have time to fit something else into your schedule, I hear you. There are plenty of days I tell myself I don’t have time, or I’ll get to it later. Sometimes I get to it, but sometimes I don’t. 

I work at a church where all staff members are encouraged to make time for personal devotions. At first it felt like something else I had to do. But isn’t that the way it is with any new discipline?

As I got used to making time for God, it went from something I knew I should do, to something I wanted to do. I see a difference in the days I spend one-on-one time with God. It might be that life doesn’t seem quite so difficult or that it’s easier to see the blessings in my life. Sometimes it’s an adjustment in my attitude or the ability to view a situation from a different perspective. Other times still, it’s a calm or peaceful feeling that on my own I don’t have; I know it’s from God.

Now that I’ve experienced the blessings of personal time with God, I know the difference in the days I don’t spend time with Him. On those days there is an emptiness to my day and an emptiness in me, one that can only be filled by God and my connection with Him.

Everything seems worse when we’re tired—physically and spiritually. God knows we need both physical rest and spiritual rest…and when we rely on Him, I believe He gives us both.

In Christ,
Laura


Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's No Secret Study - Week 5

Welcome to week 5! How are you doing with our study of It's No Secret by Rachel Olsen? Below you will find this week's reading schedule.

God bless your week,
Laura

Week 5 – Aug. 14- Aug. 20, 2011
As you read each chapter, underline or highlight in your book any points you want to remember. You may also want to take notes in your book or a journal.

Monday & Tuesday
  • Read Chapter 9 “Turn the Beat Around: Revealing the Secret of Rest.” Complete the Bible Study at the end of the chapter.
  • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the beginning of the week post. Leave a comment with your thoughts from the reading.
Wednesday & Thursday
  • Read Chapter 10 “Crave a Clear Conscience More than Clear Skin: Revealing the Secret Beauty of Confessing Sins” and complete the Bible Study.
  • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the mid-week post. Leave a comment to the post with your thoughts from the reading.
Friday
  • Spend some personal time with God and reflect on this week’s reading. This day can also be used to catch up on the reading if you got behind.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Asking for and Accepting Help

    Can I see a show of hands…was anyone besides me convicted by chapter 8 “Get By With a Little Help from Your Friends?” No? I was afraid of that.

    Author Rachel Olsen listed reasons she doesn’t ask for help—pride, fear, insecurity, self-reliance, perfectionism, busyness, and selfishness. I can relate to all of them.

    There is one time in particular that stands out in my mind. When my daughter was an infant, she cried. A lot. I was a new mom, inexperienced, and extremely overtired. I desperately needed help. I see that now, but I didn’t see it then. Even if I had seen it, I wouldn’t have accepted it. In fact, I didn’t.

    Shortly after she was born, I received a call from a woman at our church. I didn’t know her very well, but I knew who she was and liked her. We talked for a few minutes and she asked if she could come over to help me. She offered to vacuum.

    I thought it was odd. I’d never had an offer like this before and it made me uncomfortable. I politely turned her down.

    It was years later when I wondered why I didn’t let her come over. Why didn’t I say no thank you to the vacuuming, but ask her if she would care for the baby for an hour while I took a nap? Or why didn’t I just invite her over for someone to talk to? I don’t think she had an overwhelming desire to clean. I think she would have been happy to help in any way I needed.

    As I kicked myself for not accepting her help, I wondered if I could have relaxed enough to appreciate or enjoy it. The answer is no, I don’t think I could have. I would have cleaned before she came over. I would have made sure my daughter was dressed appropriately and looked adorable. I might have even figured out a snack to offer. I would have tried to host instead of accept the help she was offering, and I would have been on edge the entire visit.

    Would it be different today? I think so…I hope so…I don’t know. Here’s why…

    In this same chapter, Rachel writes, “…how many times do we find ourselves hanging dangerously off the side of some problem or the edge of some sin…searching on our own for a way down? Meanwhile, there is a Sisterhood nearby equipped by God to help.”

    My immediate thought was, “not that often”…and then I hung my head. Apparently I have an issue with denial as well as accepting help.

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Chapter 7 - Adjust your Scale

    I’m going to be honest with you…I’ve been trying to write something for today’s blog. I’ve read chapter 7 “Adjust your Scale” and had an idea of what to write about. I even got a few thoughts on paper, but they didn’t go anywhere.

    This week I’m taking a few days off from work to relax before the school year starts (next week!) and schedules get busier, but instead I’ve been stuck with writer’s block for two days. So, instead of stressing myself out (more than I already have), I’m going to leave you with links to two posts on author Rachel Olsen’s blog from April 2011:



    Have a great week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    It's No Secret Study - Week 4

    It's hard to believe we are already beginning week 4 of our study of Rachel Olsen's It's No Secret! I hope you are enjoying the book as much as I am.

    Have a great week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Week 4 – Aug. 7- Aug. 13, 2011
    As you read each chapter, underline or highlight in your book any points you want to remember. You may also want to take notes in your book or a journal.

    Monday & Tuesday
    • Read Chapter 7 “Adjust Your Scale: Revealing the Secret of Perfection in God’s Eyes” and complete the Bible Study at the end of the chapter.
    • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the beginning of the week post. Leave a comment with your thoughts from the reading.
    Wednesday & Thursday
    • Read Chapter 8 “Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends: Revealing the Secret of Interdependence” and complete the Bible Study.
    • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the mid-week post. Leave a comment to the post with your thoughts from the reading.
    Friday
    • Spend some personal time with God and reflect on this week’s reading. This day can also be used to catch up on the reading if you got behind.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Growth through Trials

    I have to tell you…“Don’t Be Afraid in the Dark” (chapter 6) is my favorite chapter in Rachel Olsen’s book, It’s No Secret. Each time I read it I think about the trials in my life that have brought me closer to God. Through each trial, the pain and struggle could have turned me away from God. Instead I clung to Him—for dear life. And each time He has brought me through with a stronger faith in Him.

    Unfortunately, that is not true for everyone. Perhaps you know of someone who has been hardened by life. Someone who is sure their pain is worse than anyone else’s and that God can no longer help them.

    I’ve seen a person that broken. I’ve heard the words, “Jesus can’t help me now.” It was heartbreaking. I wish I’d known what to say, but I was inexperienced in sharing the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ. I did my best, and prayed that God would plant and water the seed of faith in his heart. To this day, I don’t know if he turned back to Jesus, but I keep praying.

    Trials can harden us. Maybe we blame God. Maybe we don’t see Him taking away the pain. Maybe we think He’s punishing us. And we turn away from God, plunging ourselves deeper into the darkness.

    There have been times in my life when I felt so deep in the darkness I couldn’t see or hear God. I couldn’t feel Him, yet I knew He was there. And I knew He would let me see Him and lift me up when He was ready.

    What I’ve discovered is through each trial my faith grows. My confidence that I will see the hand of God in my life is strengthened. I know now to wait and look for God’s whisper that comforts me and says, “I’m here.” Maybe it’s His peace that allows me to rest when I’ve been too upset to sleep. Maybe it’s a gentle feeling inside when I read a Scripture verse. Maybe it’s the call from a friend at the exact moment God knew I needed it the most.

    He’s there with us through our trials when the pain seems more than we can bear. Will He take away the pain? I don’t know. I think sometimes He knows I need time to be sad, and He allows that. But I do know He promises He will never leave us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) He walks through the trials with us—step by step—if we let Him.

    I pray you let Jesus walk with you through your trials. Let Him comfort you. See how He whispers to you. And let Him draw you closer to Him.

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Living Generously

    In Chapter 5 of Rachel Olsen’s book, It’s No Secret, she talks about living generously. I have to admit that I sometimes struggle with this. I don’t consider myself obsessed with money and things, but yes, I do fret about finances and making ends meet.

    I think about things like long term giving. For instance, when trying to make a commitment to give, I wonder if I’m leaving enough to cover the bills and extra expenses. What if something happens like loss of a job, an illness, or an injury? I trust God to provide, but I’m finding again that I have room to grow in this area.

    A different question comes to mind and I wonder if you would chime in with your thoughts…How do we teach our children and grandchildren to live generously, while at the same time to be cautious and careful of organizations and individuals who are less-than-trustworthy?

    Click below to leave your comment…

    In Christ,
    Laura