Thursday, September 30, 2010

Desire Part 2: What Satan Wants

Last time, I wrote about having true joy over earthly pleasures. But my flesh doesn't just desire pleasure - it also desires evil. The flesh in me wishes ill on others. The flesh in me wants things that are not good for me. The flesh in me hopes for the pieces to fall in place so that I can cheat my way out of something. Didn't we already talk about how my flesh wants and wants and wants?

And there is an enemy who loves my flesh and its incessant desires. This enemy is real. His name is Satan.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)
Do you remember Cain? He brought his offering to the Lord, and for whatever reason, it was not pleasing to Him. If you were Cain, how would you have reacted when God called you to the carpet? I would have been embarrassed, upset, and trying to cover for the reason my offering wasn't acceptable. Cain? He got angry:
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6-7, NIV)
My fleshly desires, if allowed, open a tiny crack for that prowler to stick a toe in. "It desires to have you..." This is what Satan wants. He wants me to slip - to open the door a crack - to let sin takeover for a split second so he can fling the door wide open and clinch me.

Don't miss our good God's subtle mention of grace. He says, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" But he doesn't say "If you do not do what is right, you will not be accepted." - No! He says you are in danger. While I let sin creep in and watch my life disintegrate into a fleshly toilet, God is waiting - waiting to take us back into his arms, to lift our downcast face, and restore us.

Come back Tuesday for the last part of the Desire series, and we'll find out what exactly our God wants.

Oh Lord, save me from myself. You have already redeemed me, and that means the enemy can't snatch me out of Your hand. But he does want to destroy my witness to the world for you. Protect me from the lie that says a little sin won't hurt.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Desire Part 1: This Is My Desire

What is your deepest desire? This is a question that was posed to me through Beth Moore's book Jesus: 90 Days With the One and Only. Yeah, I'm reading Beth Moore - don't hate! I'm getting a lot out of this book. Sidenote: The 90 Days has pathetically turned into about 9 months - and it's not over! Sidenote 2: she makes me want to call you "beloved" in my blog. I refrain when the desire hits. :)

Back to the question about my deepest desire. I really had to think about this, but I knew I needed to explore two paths:
  1. What does the "Christian" in me think?
  2. What does my flesh think?
My pat answer is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And I know deep down that I truly desire that. But I also know there is a lot of flesh in this hunk of human - and what does she want? I wrote down the first thing that came to my flesh-mind: Happiness. This answer, if I were to hear it from someone else, would make me gag. It's so trite, and "isn't it what we all want?" ::Bat eyelashes::

Um...yes, it is what we all want. But I think it takes a different form than what our flesh thinks. My flesh wants a big, professionally-decorated, windows-covering-the-walls, comfy, built-in-espresso-machine-in-the-kitchen house. My flesh wants a free schedule and endless sleep. My flesh wants - and it never stops wanting.

My heart, however - the soul-thing that is connected to the Holy Spirit - wants joy. Joy fulfills. Joy is not dependent on temporary things. Joy overflows from a life that has been redeemed!
Those delivered from bondage will travel on it,
those whom the Lord has ransomed will return that way.
They will enter Zion with a happy shout.
Unending joy will crown them,
happiness and joy will overwhelm them;
grief and suffering will disappear. (NETBible, Isaiah 35:9b-10)
My joy cannot be rooted in things of the here and now - even great things, like my husband, my son, our jobs, our ministries. The joy I want can only be found in our Savior. In pursuing His kingdom and His righteousness. And I'm even more amazed that I won't even know the extent of joy possible until we enter His heaven and are drawn right to our knees.

So, beloved :) - what does your flesh want? How do you remind yourself to find the True Joy?

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Desire series - the desire of our enemy.

Heavenly Father, your truth is always better than my flesh. Thank you for giving me joy that is rooted in You. You know best that I often do not experience this joy because I'm focusing on earthly desires. Align my will to Yours. Let Your true joy overflow in my life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Anonymous Prayers

Being a pastor's wife gives me a unique vantage point. So often, I allow the lies to creep in that say being a pastor's wife is a burden rather than a blessing. Just view this previous post to see the evidence.

But not this past Sunday. At church, I was talking to a couple during our "question of the day" meet-and-greet time. Someone flanked me with a big hug, and said, "Hi!" I looked over and saw the hugger was a recent acquaintance - I have briefly taught her daughters in children's ministry, and I sat next to her during a women's minstry lecture for about 15 minutes until I had to get my separation anxiety-ridden son and get the heck out of there. So I was a little surprised that she was hugging me so tightly, but I also liked it because I truly love people! I really didn't think anything of it beyond that.

After the service, we were both picking up kiddos from children's ministry, and she stopped me. Kind of unsure, or maybe a little embarassed, she said, "I just want you to know that I've been praying for you. And I'm not really even sure why!" WOW. There it is, folks. Being a pastor's wife just doesn't get any better than this. People just pray for you - for seemingly no good reason! It totally rocks the PW house in my book. Now what this gal didn't know is I NEED HER PRAYERS! Yes, we all need prayers, and I hope you all have people loving on you in this way (if not, let me know - I'll pray for you!). But, pastors and pastor's wives and families especially need prayer. With our lives being devoted to ministry, our enemy would heartily destroy us in an instant. What's more, I can tell when people are praying for me. There are moments that I can sense the raising of a burden, and I know God's power is at work and that his people are petitioning on my behalf. I thank you for these "anonymous prayers".

My desire is that every one of you would be in this battle, too. That you would be daily walking closely with the Lord, and that your words and your actions would be making the name of Christ glorious in this place. And that means you need prayer for this, too.

God, give us all the courage to fight against our real enemy. Make us devoted to You and Your glory. Thank you for your followers who are so selflessly seeking you. Give them endurance to keep their eyes fixed on the author and perfector of our faith, Jesus.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It Overflows

It had been a week since Brad had asked for forgiveness. And I still wasn't budging. Although I had forgiven him in the sense that I love him, can see past this sin, and still want to be friends for life, our relationship had not been reconciled. Reconciliation is about restoring the relationship - coming back to the place we were, overflowing with joy that God brought us together, shouting our family motto, laughing together. There was no laughter. No joy. No shouting - well, the good kind of shouting, anyway.

You see, when God forgives us, we are immediately reconciled to Him.
but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him (NETBible, Colossians 1:22)
And I did not yet see my husband this way. Instead, when I looked at him, I saw the man who hurt me - who would hurt me again. My hurt personified itself in the cold shoulder, fake smiles, and other curt gestures. I wanted to be restored, and I felt my heart yearning for that true forgiveness, but it just wasn't happening this time.

While I was away at the store, I thought to myself, When I get home, I WILL be joyful. Unfortunately, that's not how it works, and I knew that. You can't muster this stuff up. It comes from the overflow of grace and mercy that God Himself has given to us:
And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. (NETBible, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
The "ministry" and "message" of reconciliation - that ministry did finally come to my husband, but not because of something I did. I asked God for help. He is the reconciler and the mediator. It's truly wonderful to see how He restores us to Himself and even to each other!

Thank you, God, for the ministry of reconciliation - the restoration that You offer freely through the blood of Christ. I am so unworthy and humbled to receive it. I am even more lowly to give it. I cannot be as magnanimous as You, but I ask that You increase that part of my heart. Let this be a picture to the world of how worthy You are.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today's Trouble

I have been dying to try these delicious-looking homemade cinnamon rolls. The hubby and I are digging in our heels and really trying to stick to the grocery budget this month. With $47 left for the next 12 days, I thought making these would be a nice, ingredient-on-hand treat for our Saturday morning. I warmed up the cup of milk and threw in the yeast. When I reached into the fridge and saw that I didn't have enough eggs, blood flushed to my cheeks, and I started to feel sick. Why, you ask? Wouldn't it be easy to run to the grocery and pick up a $.99 carton of eggs? It would be, but I chose not to. Among the various reasons was the fact that free-range eggs are more like $3.50, but I also have this sick addiction to beating myself up. I calmly stirred the yeast into the milk, knowing I was about to pour 1 cup of paid-for milk down the drain. The lies in my mind began: Idiot! Why didn't you check the ingredients better? You should have prepped these last night anyway. If only we (or THE HUSBAND) made more money, I would just toss this and try again another time - without a care in the world! How are we going to make it on a ridiculous $47!?

I poured the milk into the sink and left my husband and son playing in the livingroom. I quietly, like the good martyr I am, took a shower and got dressed. While I was in the shower, I was reminded of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. I prayed that God would remind me of his promise to care for us, and that I, for once, would actually trust him. Once I had a chance to read these verses again, I saw a connection I never noticed before. In verse 25, Jesus tells us
Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? (NETBible)
Like a good Christian, I thought, Of course, we should want to glorify God in all we do, but Jesus spells it out for us plainly. The "more to life" is in verse 33:
(32) your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (33) But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NETBible)
Newsflash to Stephanie: God knows what you need! And He WILL provide them for you! Not only that, though. Here's the biggie: If I am spending my time worrying about even the basics of my life, I am missing out on the pursuit of his kingdom and his righteousness - which is what I REALLY need.
For the unconverted pursue these things (NETBible, verse 32)
My Provider, as I sit here making this temporal grocery list and clipping little coupons, You know exactly what I need and how you will provide it. Help me to not get caught up worrying about these insignificant things, or, again, feeling sorry for myself. Instead, show me what it means to really pursue your kingdom and your righteousness. Lead me by Your Spirit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm Not Supposed To Be Here

I did not sign up to be a pastor's wife. But I knew gals who did. When I was in college, I would ask a fellow chick, "What do you want to do with your major?" To which she would say, out of her utter sweetness, "I just want to be a pastor's wife." What? I didn't know that was a career goal! If I had, maybe I would have thought outside the box a little more about my plans and changed them to, "Independently Wealthy Free Agent."

I hesitate to say my husband was "called to ministry", because all followers of Christ are called in this way:
Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20, NETBible
There was a definite time, though,  when he felt the burden for ministry, as the shepherd feels a responsibility for his flock. And my point is - this was after we were married! Worse, this was in our first year of marriage. I was shocked and sort of upset that he couldn't have made me aware of this before I agreed to marry him! I mean, I do NOT fit the traditional pastor's wife role - at least the caricature I had in my mind. I don't wear makeup every day, and I almost never do my hair. I don't usually wear dresses at all, let alone to church. But I'm also not frump girl. I wasn't sure at this point whether or not I wanted children. I did not see myself saying Hello! to everyone with that lovely pastor's wife smile.

But I could not deny his calling; in fact, I knew it was from the Lord. And when he has accepted to seminary with a presidential scholarship, I had to stop thinking about myself for a minute and instead think about an entirely new calling on our marriage - a pastor and pastor's wife, joined together by God for His purposes. We had already dedicated our marriage to God and knew ministry would be a part of our lives. Now, it would be weaved through our lives in a very unique way.

Now that I have been a pastor's wife for a bit, I feel sorry for these girls who dreamed of becoming a pastor's wife. It is very different from what I thought it would be, and I'm sure it is for them too. My husband and I have hit many snags along the road, but God has seen us through every second and has made our marriage so much stronger by His grace.

God, you have called us with purpose, just as you did with the apostles (Mark 3:13-19), and just as you do with all believers. I thank you for how you are using this journey to teach me more about you. I pray that I would not feel sorry for myself ~ because your will is good and your plan is perfect. Transform me more today into the woman you want me to be.