Friday, August 30, 2013

Obedience is Success

For the past two weeks, I’ve been over at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church talking about being on mission—stepping out of our comfort zones and sharing our Christian faith with others when the opportunity presents itself.

Today, I’m there talking about success…not how our world determines success, but how God looks at success.

Or does He?

Does God call us to be successful or does He call us to be obedient?

When God calls, we have two choices—to follow Him, or ignore the call.

Which will you choose?

I hope you’ll join me on the Gloria Dei blog to read my post where I talk about when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet. (Hint: Jeremiah’s excuse of why he wasn’t the right person sounds much like the excuses we often give.)

How do you feel about God’s response to Jeremiah’s excuse, and to our excuses?

In Christ,
Laura 

For the first three posts in the "A New Reformation" series:


Friday, August 23, 2013

Right Where You Are

I’m excited to be posting for Gloria Dei Lutheran Church today in collaboration with the current sermon series…“A New Reformation.” 

To read the first two posts in the series:

Today, I’m talking about witnessing and being missional—two terms that can be intimidating and make us uncomfortable…or two terms that can be exciting.


Being on mission is the paradigm shift of a lifetime. The greatest adventure is to hear the invitation and respond. The greatest tragedy is to ignore our calling and go on living life as usual. – Britt Merrick, Godspeed

Two words used to bother me…witnessing and missional.

“Witnessing” made me envision standing on street corners and knocking on doors, neither of which I’m comfortable with.

And worse, it made me flash back to the guy yelling on the college campus, telling me where I was going before 8:00 in the morning. (Note to college campus yellers: Confrontational does not invite people to listen to you or care what you have to say. I’m just saying.)

Missional is a newer term, and when I first started hearing it, “being missional” sounded like witnessing. So, I didn’t like it.

But I see these two words differently now, and they no longer invoke an instant “no way” from me.

To witness means to tell your personal story as you know it—what God has done in your life.

To be missional is to have the freedom to interact with others and tell your story when given the opportunity.

Right where you are.


I hope you’ll join me at the Gloria Dei blog to read my post, where I explain the three reasons intimidating turned to exciting for me.

How do you feel about God asking you to share your story with others?

In Christ,
Laura

Linking up with Faith Filled Friday and Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter


Today, my pre-teen daughter, Kelsey, is no longer a pre-teen. That’s right, I am now the mother of a teenager.

While she has been informing me for the past month or two that “technically” she is now allowed to do such-and-such, I have resisted entering this territory until absolutely necessary.

By the way, sweet daughter, you should hold off on playing the “technically-I-can-because-I’m-now-13” card until you actually turn 13. Just saying.

Regardless, there are three things I want to make sure my daughter knows as she continues to grow up.

Dear Kelsey,

*God loves you more than I am humanly capable of loving you.

That doesn’t in any way take away from how much I love you, but God will always love you more. And nothing, nothing¸ can separate you from His love.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NLT

As you navigate through life, you will have questions and uncertainty. Take it all to Him. He knows you and what you are struggling with. Your questions will not make Him love you any less, I promise. But more importantly, He promises.

*I love you, always and forever, no matter what. I’ve been telling you this since you were small, and I don’t want you to forget.

I may not always like what you’re doing, but I always love you.

There may be consequences for your behavior, but they don’t take away from how much I love you.

I may be frustrated, irritated, or angry (and on bad days, all three), but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you anymore.

And I will be here for you.

*I like you for who you are.

Yes, I like you because you are my daughter and I love you. But I want you to know that I like you—because you are you.

I like the beautiful girl you are growing up to be. Beautiful on the inside and the outside.

I like the caring person you are, and how you believe in what’s right.

I like watching your faith grow and seeing now how important God is to you. I like sharing my faith with you and having you share yours with me.

I like you as a person, and even if you weren’t my daughter, I would like you.

You are awesome! And it shines for all to see.

Happy Birthday Kelsey!

Love Always,
Mom

In Christ,
Laura

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God Can Work Through You

Welcome! We are now in the last week of our study of Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs…Chapter 8 “Embrace Grace…What a freeing experience!”


Throughout the Bible, God has worked through, not independent of people. If you look at some of God’s chosen in the Old Testament, they were certainly flawed in one way or another.

Just like us today.

He didn’t choose to work around these flawed and sinful people, but through them.

Just like He does today.

God knows our sinfulness, and yet chooses to cover us in His grace. He rebuilds us, with our faith and trust in Him growing stronger than before.

And then…He wants to work through us.

Who did God work through to reach you?

He knew who to bring into your life at just the right moment. Maybe it was someone you could relate to, or someone you looked up to. Did that person tell you what you needed to hear? Or simply love you for who you are?

Often, it’s in hindsight when the dots can be connected, and you can see how God brought someone into your life and why.

And now, He may be moving you into someone else’s life.

If you’re like me, you may question what you have to offer, unable to see how God can use something from your life to help another.

We may not know now, but God knows, and He will reveal it at just the right time—His time.

I didn’t know how He could use the emotional and physical pain of a miscarriage. Years later, I didn’t talk about it often, and when I did, I still got choked up and tearful.

It didn’t seem like something He would bring good from…until I knew another woman experiencing the same. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to comfort, not by telling her I knew what she was going through, but by just saying, I understand and I’m here if you want to talk. And she did.

I never thought my trying to juggle a small child and working outside the home could help someone else. I never even felt like I had it together during that time.

But many years later, a new mom stopped to see me and she asked me how I did it. She needed to talk, and I could listen and offer suggestions from my experience. I didn’t think more about it until later, when she thanked me. It was what she needed.

As I began to see how God can and does use what we go through to comfort others, I knew He would do it again. It doesn’t lessen the pain of a situation, but it does bring comfort in knowing He has a plan, and He can and will bring good from all things to those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

We connect with people in different ways based on what we have in common, age, experiences, etc.

God might work through one person to reach you in a way that no one else will. And God will work through you to reach someone—someone who may not connect with anyone else.

But through you, God reaches her and changes her heart.

Are you willing?

No matter what we think, God can work through us. But we have to be willing to follow His lead and open ourselves up to the work He wants to do through us—and in us.

You see, there’s healing through letting Him use us for His purpose.

He heals us while He enables us to comfort others.

And the fact that He covers us in His grace and then says we have a place in His Kingdom work—it’s too incredible to even put into words.

Don’t underestimate what God can do in you…and through you.

If you feel comfortable, would you share a time when God worked through your pain to help another?

In Christ,
Laura  


Monday, August 19, 2013

Does My Behavior Inside the Church Support My Claim?

I’m excited to be posting for Gloria Dei Lutheran Church today in collaboration with a new three-week sermon series…“A New Reformation.” 


When we were still relatively new to our church, we arrived a little early and sat down in an empty pew. Only minutes before service began, a larger family than mine walked up to where we were sitting and looked stunned to see us there. And annoyed.
Very obviously annoyed.  
Although there were plenty of open pews in the same section, they looked at us, stammering and acting put out. I’m not dumb, and as I saw the mom was not going to let this drop, I asked her, “Do you want us to move?”
“Oh, no. No.” She sighed. “We’ll sit back here,” she said, finally moving to the pew behind us. Her family followed. We had apparently rocked their world.
Truthfully, if it had been our first visit to the church, I don’t know if we would have returned. I felt like we’d been put in the spotlight—the “you-sat-in-my-pew” spotlight. The one that makes you cringe and feel like you’re being stared at throughout the entire service.
It was hardly welcoming. Nor was it conducive to hearing God’s message in a worshipful setting.
Their reaction to us sitting in their invisibly-marked-with-their-name pew was not what I expected.
Their behavior did not support their claim of being Christians.

Will you join me at Gloria Dei to read the rest of my post about our behavior inside the church? And if you would, leave a comment.

Does your behavior inside the church support your claim of being a Christian?

In Christ,
Laura 




Sunday, August 18, 2013

Embrace Grace Study - Week 8

Thank you for joining me in this online study of Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs. Walking along with friends makes the journey more enjoyable, don't you think?

In Christ,
Laura  

Week 8 – Aug. 18-24

Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 8 “Embrace Grace…What a freeing experience!” and answer the study questions.

Wednesday – Visit Liz’s blog for her study on this chapter. Embrace Grace Bible Study: Embrace Grace

During the week – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for this week’s post and leave a comment with your thoughts on the study.

Friday – Continue reading to finish the book, if you need to. What meant the most to you in this study? What impact has it had in your life?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Does My Behavior Outside the Church Support My Claim?

Welcome! I’m excited to be posting for Gloria Dei Lutheran Church today in collaboration with a new three-week sermon series…“A New Reformation.” 

Today's post is Part One of a two-part post. Join me on Monday for Part Two…Does My Behavior Inside the Church Support My Claim?

Below is the beginning of Part One...Does My Behavior Outside the Church Support My Claim?
I keep hearing questions about church attendance.
Why is it going down?
Why doesn’t church attendance seem to be a priority anymore?
Why aren’t we attracting new members? While I think there are many factors, I wonder if part of the reason is how Christians are perceived by others.
In general, Christians are seen as judgmental, anti-almost-everything, and critical of anyone who doesn’t attend their church (and even some who do attend their church). This perception is reinforced through stories of religious extremes broadcast by the mainstream media. 
But what about right here, today—does my personal behavior tell others I’m a Christian?

I hope you’ll join me at Gloria Dei to read the rest of my post about our behavior outside the church. On Monday, I’ll be posting Part Two about our behavior inside the church.

In Christ,
Laura 

Linking up with WholeHearted Wednesday and Faith Filled Friday

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Repentance Is Not Easy

Welcome! If you’re reading Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are in Chapter 7 “Embrace Repentance…Striving for perfection can be exhausting.” 

Repent – to turn away from sin, disobedience, and rebellion, and turn back to God. (Tyndale NLT Study Bible)
Repentance is anything but easy.

It starts with acknowledging that we’re living in disobedience to God, and wanting that to change. That’s humbling.

It means giving up what we want for what God wants…even when it feels like dying. It’s painful.

Repentance is being obedient to God’s ways in a world that says we should do it our way…even when it means we stand out against the crowd. That’s being vulnerable.

Repentance is giving up the way we’ve been living to find new life in Christ…even when the old way is all we know. And that’s scary.

Repentance leads us forward—into a relationship with God, where He is waiting, ready to draw us into His sweet embrace…that’s comforting and where I want to be.
In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7 NLT
There will be days when we want to go back to our old ways because it’s easier, just like the Israelites longed to go back to Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-4) Even when the old is awful, it’s what we know.

It will take everything we have to stay on God’s path—and our everything won’t be enough.

But…

Where we aren’t enough, God is more than enough.

God rejoices when we return to Him. And He knows the danger we face of losing our way again when we’re not focused on Him.

The enemy knows too, and will do everything he can to move us away from God.

But God doesn’t leave us on our own. He goes before us and walks beside us. (Deut. 31:8) He tells us not to be afraid and not to get discouraged.

Because we will.

When we have no strength left in us, He has more than enough strength.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV
When we lose the desire to live differently because it’s just too hard, God steps in.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT
When we don’t have it in us to resist the temptations, God is faithful.
When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13b NLT
When are called to fight against the enemy, God dresses us with His armor.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:13 NLT
With our eyes focused on God, we can do this. We can turn around and live right with Him.

Not through our own strength, but through His.

All because of Him.

In Christ,
Laura 


Saturday, August 10, 2013

God Can Do Anything {Ephesians 3:20}


God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Ephesians 3:20
(The Message)


In Christ,
Laura 



Embrace Grace Study - Week 7

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura  

Week 7 – Aug. 11-17

Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 7 “Embrace Repentance…Striving for perfection can be exhausting.” and consider the study questions.

Wednesday – Visit Liz’s blog for her study on this chapter. Embrace Grace Bible Study: Embrace Repentance

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for this week’s post.

Friday – Reflect back on this week’s reading and spend time in prayer.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peace That Comes Only from God

Welcome! I’m over at 5 Minutes for Faith today where I’m talking about peace—the peace God gives—the kind you can’t explain and can only find with Him.

Here’s the beginning of my post…
Sometimes God stops us in our tracks…for our own good.
 I was recently on my knees in prayer…over a situation I have no control.
 A situation that was getting the best of me.
I didn’t know what to pray anymore, and I’d moved to just trying to prepare myself for whatever might happen.
While I talked with God, something changed in how I was praying. 
“I know what you’re doing here God, and…”  
Immediately, I felt God ask me…  
Do you know what I’m doing?”

I hope you’ll join me at 5 Minutes for Faith to read all of my post. And, if you would, leave a comment so I’ll know you stopped by.

Has there been a time in your life when God stopped you in your tracks?

In Christ,
Laura  


Monday, August 5, 2013

Let It Go

This week we are in Chapter 6 “Embrace Forgiveness…Can I know for sure that God has forgiven me?” in our study of Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs.


Have you ever noticed that sometimes, after confessing our sins to God and receiving His forgiveness, we won’t forgive ourselves?
And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12, Jeremiah 31:34 NLT
God forgives and chooses not to remember. So, we remind Him.

We carry it around…the weight of guilt and shame.

What God removed, we keep trying to reapply—who we were before, to who we are now.

Of course, we’re human and we can’t forget the way God can, especially if we’re living with the consequences of the past.

But we can let it go.

The enemy loves when we live with guilt and shame. He tries to remind us of the past and drag us back down. And even better for him, is when we do it to ourselves…over and over again.

But when God forgives, He washes us clean, and we get to start over. Every day. Every hour. Even every moment.

Let it go.

Holding on to the past means our hands are full—tightly gripped and clinging to what God has already set free.

But when we release the guilt and the past, our fingers uncurl, maybe one at a time or maybe all at once.

Will you do something with me?

Hold your hands out in front of you with your palms facing up. Clench them into fists and think about something you’ve been holding onto. Something you’ve already asked God’s forgiveness for, but you can’t let it go.

Now, release it to Him. You may want to say it out loud, or quietly to yourself. As you verbally or mentally let it go, unclench your fists and raise your arms up high.

With our hands open and palms facing up, our hands are no longer full. But they are not empty, because God replaces our past with our future.

And with open hands, we have room to receive all He wants to bless us with.

As you release it with your hands, let it go in your heart, too.

With open hands and hearts, we become willing and able to embrace all God has to give.
Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. James 1:17a NLT
The temptation may be there to take it back. We know the feel of tightly clenched hands, and the familiarity of who we used to be.

When this happens, I have to go to God and ask Him for the desire and strength to leave it all with Him.

But if, like me, you find you’ve snatched it back again, don’t give up. Make up your mind to let it go, and give it to God again…and again, until you find yourself not wanting to take it from Him anymore.

What in your life do you need to let go?

In Christ,
Laura 
Photo: Woman with Wreath of Flowers in Her Hands – Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Embrace Grace Study - Week 6

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura  

Week 6 – Aug. 4-10

Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 6 “Embrace Forgiveness…Can I know for sure that God has forgiven me?” and review the study questions.

Wednesday – Visit Liz’s blog for her study on this chapter.

Thursday – Visit and leave a comment at Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith with your thoughts.

Friday – Spend time in prayer. How is this study impacting your life?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Wedge of Sin

Photo Credit: Kelsey Rath 2013
I find it frustrating when someone won’t apologize for something they’ve done. Or at the very least, admit it and take responsibility.

It can be downright maddening, and something changes in the relationship. A wedge forms and separation begins.

I wonder if this is how God feels when we pretend we’re not guilty or we make excuses. Does it drive Him nuts when we choose to be stubborn and not confess our sins to Him?
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:8-10 NLT
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows our sinfulness, and yet, He still wants to be with us. So much so, that He sent Jesus to bridge the gap we could never cross.

He wants a one-on-one, personal relationship with each of us. And because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can have that relationship with God.

We can go directly to Him with a repentant heart and receive His forgiveness. And with His forgiveness, He washes us clean.
And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12, Jeremiah 31:34 NLT
God promises that when we confess our sins to Him, He hears us and forgives us. And He chooses to not remember them. He won’t remind us of what we’ve done wrong, even when faced with the consequences of our sin. He won’t keep a list and bring it up over and over.
I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again. Isaiah 43:25 NLT
Never think of them again. Washed clean.

What a wonderful, loving promise!

And yet, despite His promise, how often do we decide our sin is just too great to approach Him?

How often are we stubborn and pretend we didn’t do anything wrong? As if God doesn’t already know.

He knows. And He still loves us.

Nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38) But an unrepentant heart can drive a wedge in our relationship with Him. A wedge that leads to separation. Not because of Him, but because of us.

So, He waits. And when we’re ready to turn back to Him, He’s there.

Patiently waiting.

Is there a time when you knew you were being stubborn and not turning to God?

We're in chapter 5 this week, "Embrace Sin...how could he love me after all I've done?" in Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs.

In Christ,
Laura