Guest Post: Spiritual Weariness

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My youngest daughter, Courtney, is a fifth-grade teacher at VisionWay Christian School. Each morning, the teachers and staff gather for a time of devotion. She shared her January devotion with me, and while we aren’t all teachers, I believe her reminder of spiritual weariness can challenge and encourage each of us. I’m thankful she’s sharing on my blog today.

Seven years ago, I spent two weeks in Cambodia. When I turned 18, I told my parents I was going to Cambodia with Rapha House on a mission trip. I guess that was my first “adult” decision.

I didn’t know anyone else who was going. I didn’t really know much about Cambodia. But I had become passionate about Rapha House since a youth conference early in my high school years. Rapha House was on the front lines of ending sex trafficking in Cambodia and around the world. My heart broke when I first heard the stories of the girls they worked with and what they had gone through. I could not imagine.

But when I stepped off the plane in Cambodia, I suddenly could imagine it, because I saw it. Nothing could have prepared me for those two weeks, which changed my life forever.

Our little group of 16 Americans and one very feisty Khmer woman pulled into the city limits of SIem Reap, one of the main cities in Cambodia. We were there to learn more about the culture as well as see the tragedy of the openness of trafficking there. Our guide warned us that people often get physically sick in Siem Reap.

Sure enough, not two minutes after pulling into the city, we had to pull off the road. Several members of the group were immediately sick. I didn’t understand this. Was it the air?

Sure, the air was heavy, gross, and dirty. Sure, we were eating food that was…questionable. Sure, we were tired from the completely different time zone. But that’s not why some of us got sick.

I experienced things there that I still can’t talk about. Some things are just hard. Going through the red light district and seeing girls from age six or seven through young adults waving men over to the shops. Seeing the tourists and listening to their blatant reasons for their “one night layover.” Walking through the night market and realizing how truly naive and clueless I was about the world.

I began to understand why so many in my group were sick. It was weariness. Not just any kind of weariness, but spiritual weariness. The air wasn’t just heavy from pollution and yuck, it was suffocating us spiritually. Being around such darkness for any amount of time takes a toll. Constantly pouring ourselves out to people can be exhausting.

I know this comparison is a stretch, but bear with me. While I have never experienced the level of spiritual weariness I did in Cambodia seven years ago, the weariness exists here, too.

We’re teachers. Our kids are back from Christmas break. There’s snow outside. And it’s testing week. What on earth is there to be weary about? Physically, we might be worn down. Mentally, we might feel like we’re going a little crazy. And then we think of the little boy in our class that doesn’t ever seem to have enough for lunch. Or the girl who rarely talks, and we know things haven’t been good at home. We spend so much time preparing Math lessons and class projects, we sometimes forget that we are weary in another way: spiritually.

I love walking down the hallway in the morning. When my class goes to our special, many of you are either in prayer time or beginning the first lesson of your day. I love listening to your excitement and encouragement as you talk to your students. I love hearing you lead your classes in prayer or guide your students to lead their classmates. I love knowing I am part of a community of men and women that cares so much for the eternal future of these kids.

But I also know that it is hard to pour yourself out for your students day after day.

Chad Sykes says, “Spiritual weariness is fought by a steady diet of the Bible. God’s words to us in Scripture infuse life into our very bones. Paul explained to Timothy that the best way to become equipped for what lay before him was by the words of Scripture. I believe Paul wasn’t merely describing a knowledge-based intake of Scripture; he was talking about an intake of those words into both our hearts and minds. Through the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness. The Bible protects us from having the wrong view of God and of ourselves. It enables us to live ready to respond to God and others in the world, because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“We are—at the same time—people in the world and people of the Word. The world in this current age attempts to convince us of truths contrary to God’s revelation to us. And at times, we get caught in the rip current of uncertainty, hopelessness and despair. The only way to swim out of that undertow is through the Holy Spirit revealing God’s truth to us. In and through Scripture, God Himself has spoken. In the battle for our hearts, minds, ideas and the world, God’s truth overwhelms the lies of men.”

“The Bible is as necessary to spiritual life as breath is to natural life. There is nothing more essential to our lives than the Word of God.”

God, we’re tired. It’s only Wednesday, and Friday seems a long way off for some of us. But we know you are good, and we know you will strengthen us through prayer and through your Word. We’re thankful we have this place to come each morning in fellowship, and we’re grateful to work in a place where we can speak your name and teach your Word freely. Help us today as we prepare to pour into our students. Remind us that you made each of them one of your special children, and that you love them unconditionally. We lift up those who are sick or hurting today, and we pray for safe travels for everyone on the road today. Thank you for giving us your Word and revealing yourself to us. In your name we pray, Amen.

The Doubt and Confidence of Your Calling

Today’s guest post is from my friend Gloria Lee. Enjoy!

393290_10150363917819007_140620465_n“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12

I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children. However, God called me to be a children’s pastor.

When I first started out as a children’s ministry intern 20 years ago, I was intimidated by parents. They were all older than me. I was just getting my hands wet in ministry. I knew I had a lot to learn.

I went to seminary and received my masters in Christian education. I spent three years studying how I can better minister to children and families. I still felt intimidated by parents. They were still older than me with more life experience. I was young and timid. I knew I needed to build confidence, but I thought it would just come with age, life experience, marriage, and kids.

Approximately 10 years into ministry, I was convicted that my role as the children’s director included starting conversations with parents about being the primary faith leaders for their kids. I also knew my role wasn’t just about teaching the kids but it was ministering to the families, including matters pertaining to parenting. I started sharing with the parents separation anxiety tips when they drop off young children, resources to help parents lead their kids in their faith, and other information I had read in books and articles.

One Sunday, a group of parents started attacking me verbally. They told me that my job was teaching children, and I had no business telling parents what to do. I was completely taken aback by their comments. They continued to tell me that everything I had to say showed my lack of experience as a parent, and I wouldn’t be telling them these things had I been a parent. I was in a state of shock because I was only sharing with them what I had learned working in public and private schools for years, from reading many books and articles, and from classes I had taken in school. Confused, hurt, and shocked, I went home that night and cried myself to sleep convinced there is no way I could be called into children’s ministry as a single woman without children.

I was ready to throw in the towel. Things got worse, and I didn’t want to disturb my senior pastor with church matters during his sabbatical. I had weathered through some tough ministry times before… I had been attacked for being a female leader in the church, I’ve had to carry the children’s ministry through months of ugly leadership division that resulted in a church split, and I even had a pastor threaten to “blacklist” me if I didn’t do as I was told (his demands had more to do with my personal life than ministry such as not being allowed to have a roommate because parishioners shouldn’t see how pastors live outside the church—yes, ridiculous I know!). But this time, my confidence was completely shaken… and I was convinced I had completely misunderstood God’s calling and entering ministry was a big mistake. I must have misheard His calling.

I wrote my letter of resignation and got up the courage to call my senior pastor on his sabbatical. During our meeting, he looked at me directly in the eye and said “My wife and I trust you with my own children. You have played a big part in my kids coming to know Christ. I call you when I need parenting advice. I believe with all my heart that God has called you to minister to children and families. I want to affirm you of your calling. I have no doubt in my mind I hired the right person for the job.” Tears kept streaming down my face, but I wasn’t convinced. A couple weeks later, my pastor affirmed my calling from the pulpit. The group of parents that had attacked me left the church silently.

But the story doesn’t end here. That experience alone left a huge hole in my confidence. I found myself apologizing for not being a parent when I talked to parents. I found myself quoting authors and speakers, but not speaking from my own knowledge or experience. One day, a missionary I respect said, “How are your kids?” I answered back, “I don’t have any kids.” She said, “Of course you do. You have hundreds of them. You care for each one’s spiritual health, sometimes more than their biological parents. Your interaction and experience with hundreds of kids make you more experienced than most parents.” Her words were medicine to my soul, and I started my road to healing and regaining confidence in God’s calling for my life.

Since then, I have worked hard at connecting with other children’s pastors who have excelled despite not having their own kids. I have worked hard at being confident in my role. I have worked hard at leading and encouraging with God’s authority rather than apologizing for my status. I have worked hard at honing my knowledge and skills.

Earlier this year, I was at a gathering of children’s ministers in my area. During introductions, I caught several newbies saying “I don’t have any children of my own so I’m not sure if what I’m doing is correct.” I felt the strong urge to empower them and tell them to embrace God’s calling and be confident in their roles.

Today, I know with confidence that God has called me to minister to children and families. I have 20 years of experience in children’s ministry, and I have had the privilege of ministering to hundreds of children and parents. I am confident of what I know, and I continue to learn more. I don’t pretend to know and feel as parents do. But I know that God has given me the gifts and authority to equip, encourage, and support families.

I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children, AND God called me to be a children’s pastor. What is God’s calling for your life? How have YOU found confidence in His calling for your life?

gloriaConnect with Gloria on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Fulfill Your Calling

DoLifeDifferent Today’s guest post is from Jill Hart, founder of Christian Work at Home Ministries (CWAHM) and author of the recent release Do Life Different. Today’s post is an excerpt from Do Life Different. Enjoy!

In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV

You may have heard of King Hezekiah. His story is pretty amazing. He becomes king at age twenty-five and immediately sets out to restore the land and tear down the idols the Israelites had been worshiping. Hezekiah restores the land to godliness. He restores the priests and asks them to cleanse and purify the temple. He reinstates Passover. More than that, Hezekiah goes to the temple and bows down before God.

A king bowing before the King of Kings. Isn’t that a powerful picture?

King Hezekiah is a beautiful example for us work-at-home moms. He gave himself fully to his work for God. His calling — being King — was his work for God. He did it to the best of his ability, seeking God at every turn. Sometimes we feel as if our calling is inadequate. I longed for many years to be a missionary, thinking of that as the highest calling God could put on a woman’s life. But, during my years as a mom and a business owner, I’ve begun to understand that God almost always calls us to minister in our closest sphere of influence before taking us to the next level. He wants us to impact our families, our churches, and local communities. He wanted King Hezekiah to clean up his own life. Only then could Hezekiah be the example for his kingdom.

No matter what God calls us to do, we can do it to the best of our ability – for God. When I’m intentional with my kids, when I make wise business decisions, when I put another’s needs before my own, I’m serving God. We need to show our faithfulness in the things that seem small. We need to minister in the areas of our lives where there may not be fanfare or recognition, just as we do in the bigger areas God may call us to. What’s your calling? Do you struggle with the misconception only missionaries and pastors work for God?

JillHartConnect with Jill and CWAHM on Facebook and Twitter.

Growing in God Through Life’s Challenges

Today’s guest post is from Dinah Cook, founder of Changing Your World Coaching International and author of the upcoming release Fixing a Broken Glass, testimonies from ordinary women who God has used to do the extraordinary.

whyI have to continually remind myself who God is in my life as I deal with my mother getting older and requiring more attention and care. I have to remember who God is in my life as I deal with a recent job layoff and I question how I will make ends meet. I have to remind myself who God is in my life as I fight to see what is God’s perfect will for my life during this season of transition.

As I face current life challenges, I recognize that I was in error when I found myself questioning God with “why” questions, such as why I had to take a particular path which caused me great frustration and why  events that seemed unfair (from my perspective) were allowed. I realize God allowed me to take this journey to strengthen me, cleanse my heart of things that were not good for His plan for me, to educate me,  and to put more of Him in me so I could have more compassion for others who may face similar challenges. He was teaching me to draw nearer to Him and to trust Him with my life.

God showed me His amazing love and patience when I lacked trust. He loved me when I questioned why I was on this particular path. He showed me great love when I repeatedly vented to Him about the hard things that occurred that I didn’t understand. God listened patiently and gently reminded me to trust Him. He encouraged me to go to His Word, and through it, He reminded me He is for me and not against me.  God has shown me that He is the same almighty God when things are going well and when things are hard. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV) says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

God has taught me that, as a believer, I will experience both the cross and the blessings. Through this journey, God is continually drawing me closer to Him. He has taught me to hold on tightly to His hand, to walk with Him, and to learn to do hard things with Him, not trying to solve every problem on my own. I have learned that I have to trust God with my life. I am not in control; He is. I am slowly getting better at trusting God by reading His Word and watching His hand work out my life’s challenges for my good.

We as believers of Christ Jesus must remember that He will allow us to take paths that may seem difficult, but during those hard times, He is also calling us to draw nearer to Him and to trust Him. God doesn’t want you to look back at things which are behind you, and He doesn’t want to you focus on your present circumstances. God wants you to keep your eyes on Him and to move forward with Him. Remember that God is always walking with you during your times of challenge and uncertainty. God’s hand is always open and available for you to grab and hold. Always remind yourself who God is by getting into His Word and speaking His Word out loud daily. Listen to God speak to you with His still small voice. God desires your trust and He desires to have a closer relationship with you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

DinahConnect with Dinah on Facebook.

A Slow Leak

30days Today’s guest post is from Allison Cain, speaker and author of several books, including 30 Days in Zechariah

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:2 NIV

I was thinking…

It’s interesting how we believe what the newspapers and internet say but question what the Bible says. It’s sad how quickly we will dismiss what the Bible says because the world has changed since it was written. I think the landscape has changed, but I don’t think they human heart has changed one bit. I don’t think Satan’s desire to deceive us and lead us astray and into sin has changed. I don’t think our God has changed – nor His mighty promises.

Think about it.

This week will you join me in pondering what it is we don’t buy into about God’s word? What is it that you question? What would you ask an angel of the Lord right now if given the opportunity? What don’t you trust? Where is your faith lacking?

It isn’t easy, but these are important questions for each of us to answer. If we don’t face the weak, leaky spots, they will continue to grow bigger and bigger until they overtake all of our faith. It’s like a slow rot. It takes courage and strength to look inside our hearts and see what is there, but when we do – when we face the question, fear, or uncertainty and ask God to change it into a stronger faith and trust in Him, He honors that.

It may not happen over night, but He will honor your desire to trust and follow Him. If asked, He will gladly help us overcome idols and the things of this world.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

When you discover the hole in your faith: 1) take it to God in prayer 2) look in your Bible or ask a pastor or friend for some verses that reaffirm God’s promise you are questioning 3) write out those verses on cards and place them around your home, office, car or school 4) read them over and over and continue to pray throughout the month 5) keep a journal on your phone or on paper about how God is showing you His glory, victory and truth.

How is He opening your eyes and heart and growing you closer to Him? We would love to hear about what the hole in your faith is, the verses you discover bring you strength and your journey to a stronger faith and trust in God. Consider sharing them here if you feel led to do so.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1-3 NIV

Father, we ask you to search our hearts for anything that is getting in the way of knowing you, believing you, loving you and serving you. To some it may be obvious, but others are struggling to pin point what the obstacle is. Please reveal it today and give us the strength and courage to place it on the alter before you so that we can move forward in our relationship with You. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

allisonConnect with Allison on her blog and Twitter.

Just Enough

Today’s guest post is from Cindy Cannon. Enjoy!

moonThe heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands – Psalm 19:1

Recently while traveling to the hospital, one very early morning, for my dad’s surgery, I noticed something interesting in the sky. The moon was just a quarter moon, but I could plainly see the entire moon. Only a sliver of it was displaying light. It was something that I had never noticed before. It simply appeared as if the Lord had put a piece of cloth or a piece of paper over most of the moon, covering the light. The more I gazed upon the moon, the more I realized that we, too, can be like the moon; sometimes we only display a sliver of light. God has so much to offer us, yet we only want a sliver. If we seek him or ask for the whole thing, we might be asked to sacrifice or be uncomfortable. Sometimes I think we want to seek God and get just enough of him; just enough of God to take away the pain in our lives, just enough to bless us, just enough to see him, but not too much. If we get too much of God, we might do something crazy, like giving something up to help someone else.

God so desires that we seek him! Matt 6:33, tell us to seek him and all these things shall be added unto us. Luke 12:31 tells us to seek the kingdom of God above all else, and he will give us everything we need. What joy and peace we have in this promise. If we seek him first; he will give us everything we NEED. Maybe not everything we WANT, but he will provide for our NEEDS. Often we seek ourselves first, and give God what is left at the end of each day or each week. If we could only see that he wants us to seek Him first. Oh, how he wants to pour out his spirit upon us.

My heart rejoiced as I looked up in the sky and noticed the work on the Master’s hand, how the sky was proclaiming and declaring he is God. No other can hang the moon in perfection. The next time you are out late at night or early in the morning, take a few minutes to just look up and behold the work of his hands, he wants to do work in your life. He wants our lives to be a “full moon” displaying the light of him in us. Search your heart this morning, do you seek him first? Is your life a full moon or a quarter moon? Seek him first and see what beauty can come from it!

CindyConnect with Cindy on Facebook and Twitter.

Questioning that Produces Spiritual Growth

Today’s guest post is from Tracie Johnson, founder of Response to Grace and…one of my very best friends. Enjoy!

Have you ever needed to ask a question, but you were fearful of the response and what it would require of you? Consider the questions below.

  • “I know what I did was wrong, what can I do to make things right?”
  • “I heard several Sunday school teachers were sick this morning, how can I fill in?”
  • “Do you need help with the funeral dinner? What can I contribute?”

In addition to questions posed to family and friends, we are sometimes fearful of answers to questions we need to ask God. When was the last time you asked God a question similar to the one below?

  • “Lord, I want to follow You more fully. What do I need to do?”

All true believers desire to ‘grow up’ in Christ. We long to be more like Him. We want to do what pleases Him. We long to be mature in our faith. But growing can be painful, and often scary.

Spiritual maturity requires a willingness to submit to the Lord in each and every area of your life. It requires unquestioning obedience. Many times, submission and obedience prompt uncomfortable feelings and a fear of where the process might lead. However, if you are willing to step out in trust, the process of growing closer to the Lord is always worth the work involved.

How does one embark on this spiritual journey of growth? The Bible is full of instructions to get you started. Reading through one of Paul’s letters to the New Testament churches is a good place to begin. However, glimpses of discipleship and lessons for spiritual growth are nestled deep in all the Scriptures.

I recently committed to reading the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. The four brief chapters in Malachi contained a short list of questions that pricked my heart. While the questions were voiced by a rebellious and insincere people in response to a rebuke from Yahweh, these questions can serve as a starting point for spiritual growth when asked with a humble heart and a willingness to listen and obey.

I have listed the questions for you below. If you are willing, present them to God in a time of quiet reflection. Listen to His prompting as He reminds you of His great love and calls you to draw closer to him with all of your heart, mind, and strength.

1. ”How have You loved me?” – Malachi 1:2

This first question gives God a chance to remind you of His extravagant love. In light of His sacrifice, anything God asks of us seems insignificant and trivial. How can we not work to weed out sin and draw ever closer to Him when we remember the grace He has bestowed upon us?

2. “How have I despised Your Name?” – Malachi 1:6

This question focused on the people’s loss of respect for God and His authority. When you ask this question, listen for the Spirit to reveal where you have neglected to fully obey God’s commands or instruction.

3. “How have I defiled Your Altar?” – Malachi 1:7

The prophet Malachi told the people God was displeased because the sacrifices they brought to Him were defiled and imperfect. While God doesn’t expect perfection from us, He does desire our best efforts- especially in our relationship with Him and service for Him. Asking this question allows God to pinpoint areas where you fail to give Him and His Kingdom your best.

4. “How have I wearied You?” – Malachi 2:17

We weary God when we intentionally turn away from what He has planned for us. We also weary Him with disobedience that stems from ignorance. Through this question, will you give God an opportunity to lovingly point out your errors and/or actions that draw you away from Him rather than toward Him?

5. “How have I robbed You?” – Malachi 3:8

We can rob God with our time, resources, and talents. Everything God has gifted you with is intended to be used to further God’s kingdom. We can also rob God by withholding part of ourselves from Him. Allow the Spirit to speak direction into your life through this question.

6. “What have I spoken against You?” – Malachi 3:13

In Malachi, the Israelites complained and questioned God. They voiced the opinion that their obedience and worship was for not. They came to believe following God really didn’t profit them. While we may not be so bold, as humans we are prone to question- especially when we don’t understand God’s ways. In your time of reflection, allow God to reveal your doubts and fears. Then turn them over to Him, knowing that He is sovereign and He knows what is best.

7. “How can I return?” – Malachi 3:7

Finish your time of prayer and meditation by asking God how you can draw closer to Him. Maybe He will instruct you to spend more time in His Word. Maybe a commitment to increased prayer will help you put Him first every day. However God responds, be intentional in obeying. Your desire to grow in Christ, and the actions produced from your love for Him, will result in spiritual growth and maturity.

tracie

If you enjoyed the challenge to grow this devotional presented, Tracie invites you to join her at the Response to Grace online study site, where drawing closer to God is the purpose behind all she shares. The site (www.responsetogracestudy.org) makes available devotions, free bible studies, and bible study tools.