Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All for God's Glory

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 38 & Day 39 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

These words have been screaming at me from the front of The Purpose Driven Life book since we started this study in April. It's something I always wondered. What is my goal in life? After my son was diagnosed with autism five years ago I thought it was to help other mothers who don't know Jesus get to know him. After reading The Purpose Driven Life, I've realized it's so much bigger than that. Sure I need to reach out to other moms who have children with autism to show them how much Jesus can and will help us through this difficult time. However, it's so much bigger than autism. Autism is my platform. That's where I start. Where I go from there is up to me.

Day 38 & Day 39 really started to pull the whole book together for me. Day 38 taught me that I need to not only think about reaching out to my family and my friends and to local moms who have children on the spectrum, I also need to reach out to the entire world. That's a big job to put on someone's plate that already has a lot on it. But, stop and think about it. Who all are you in contact with that doesn't know the strength we have in Jesus? I have family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, therapists, doctors, friends on Facebook, friends on Yahoo groups, and so many more. We have been placed in their paths for a reason. How do we start? How can we make a difference in this world for God?

On Day 38, Rick Warren shares with us that one of the best things we can do is pray. On page 301, he says "The Bible tells us to pray for opportunities to witness, for courage to speak up, for those who will believe, for the the rapid spread of the message, and for more workers." He goes on "People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers." We need to start our mission by praying. God will lead us to our mission. Whether it's through the Internet or taking a journey across the world, it will happen. We just need to open ourselves up for it. I love how Rick Warren says on page 304 "There are over 6 billion people on earth, and Jesus wants all his lost children found." How can you do your part to help? Start by praying.

On Day 39, we learn about balancing our lives. The Purpose Driven Life has taught us the five most important things to living our lives for God's purpose. On page 310, Rick Warren reminds us of how Jesus used these five things to prepare his disciples to do the same. "He helped them to know and love God (worship), taught them to love each other (fellowship), gave them the Word so they could grow to maturity (discipleship), showed them how to serve (ministry), and sent them out to tell others (mission). Jesus modeled a purpose-driven life, and he taught others how to live it, too. That was the "work" that brought glory to God." After everything that Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us, why shouldn't we be living a purpose-driven life as well? It all starts with a prayer. Praying is easy. God will show us where we need to be and who we need to help as long as we let him in. How much easier our lives would be if we could remember this. Remember what Rick Warren said on page 299..."The only way we make this paradigm switch is by a moment-by-moment dependence on God."

Get into the habit right at this moment of praying. Yes, we can still pray to God when we need his help, need a miracle, etc...However, what most of us don't pray about is our mission and who we can help. I know it can be kind of intimidating teaching someone about Jesus. However, if you stop and think about it, that's just Satan playing with your mind. What if they ask you a question you don't know? What if they laugh at you? What if they....? It's Satan. You know Jesus. You know what he's done for you in your life and what he will continue to do for you. All you need to do is show them his love. God is so awesome that not only will he bring us our missions, he'll prepare us as well!

As a side note, if you are looking for a short book on ways to share your faith, I've found great comfort in "How to Share Your Faith" by Greg Laurie. It's an easy read that has helped me a great deal. You may be able to check it out at your local library!

Bible Verses from Day 38 & Day 39
Jesus said to his followers, "Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone." -Mark 16:15

Send us around the world with the news of your saving power and your eternal plan for all mankind. -Psalm 67:2

Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. -Ephesians 5:15

Don't let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance. -2 Peter 3:17

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On a Mission

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Days 36 and 37 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I have learned through this book that in order for our lives to have meaning, passion and to make the world a better place, we must live with purpose. The only way this will really work is if we allow God to make His purpose our purpose. He prepares and trains us through our life experiences so that we can fulfill His mission: to share the truth about God, salvation through Jesus Christ and to impact the eternal destiny of the souls we come into contact with. In this way, our mission continues the work that Jesus began on earth. He continues his work by using people who were made for very specific purposes.

When we are operating in God's will, we can do very difficult things with peace and joy in our hearts and can go a step further to bless others. I really felt a great deal of connection to the statement that "Your mission is a wonderful privilege" (p.283) Whether we are working in ministry within our faith community or in our dealings with people in other aspects of our day-to-day lives, we have countless opportunities to impact others. There is no work that is insignificant to God, especially if it is done with great love and care. Going back to what I was saying about operating in God's will, I believe that a big reason why there is peace is that we know we are doing what we are supposed to, fulfilling our purpose in a way that is pleasing to God. I have been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to homeschool my son with autism. Once I felt that this was truly what God wants me to do in this instance, I was able to make the decision easily and have had tremendous peace and happiness. Before the decision, I was plagued with fears of not being capable or patient enough, and afraid that I would burn out. Those fears can still creep up, but more than anything I feel it is a privilege to be able to do this. I am still adjusting to how much work this endeavor entails, but truly feel so blessed and happy to do this work with love for God. Focusing on this helps to squash the fears and trust God to lead me. Anytime that we are given an assignment from God, instead of viewing it as an impossible undertaking, we can instead choose to see it as a great compliment. There is nothing more amazing than being used by God to impact someone's life, even more so to influence their eternity.

Day 37 takes our mission a step further by showing us what it means to be messengers of God. He has created each of us uniquely and formed us with a multitude of life experiences. Each one of us in uniquely equipped to be the ones in very specific circumstances to share the truth of Jesus through our Life Message in our words, actions and demeanor. I have always been somewhat intimidated by to commission of Christians to evangelize the world. This is not because I don't want to, but am not always sure just how to go about this in the way that will best bring someone to Christ. It is easy to avoid this and be tricked into thinking that we don't have what it takes to evangelize. I like the way that Rick Warren very plainly shows us how to extract our Life Message from our experiences and to begin by sharing our experiences with other people. I always thought you had to be the equivalent of a Bible scholar to make people understand and want to come to God. This is a great example of Nicole's point on Day 35 about impressing vs. influencing people. We most definitely need to continually spend time in, meditate on and grow in our knowledge of God's word. However, we need to make sure we use our experiences to influence instead of our knowledge to impress. Once we establish this connection, we are better able to share how salvation through Jesus Christ can change someone's life and eternal destiny. Rick Warren states this very well on page 290 by saying, "Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to others." By answering the questions in Day 37 about our life experiences, we can have better knowledge of our Life Message and be better prepared to use what God has done in our lives to impact others.

Rick Warren also shares this from the Bible, that we are to "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect." (p.291, from 1 Peter 3: 15-16) When you are speaking from the perspective of a shared life experience, you can do so with greater humility and compassion. I have learned in my most difficult interactions with people to ask God to show me them as He sees, or to show me their heart. When I am able to do this, I can find that humility and compassion, even if I don't have a shared life experience. In addition to how we are formed by our life experiences, God also gives each of us a different passion. This will often guide us to reach out to specific individuals, by feeling God's love for his children in a particular situation. As Rick Warren points out, giving us all different passions ensures that God's work gets done in all areas.

In all things, we must always stop and pray first. The early church members were empowered through the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. In the same respect, we should always trust in, rely on and look to Him in all that we do for God.

Bible Verses from Days 36 and 37:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. -Acts 20:24 (NIV)

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. -2 Corinthians 5: 18-20 (Today's NIV)

The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver. Listening to good advice is worth much more than jewelry made of gold. A messenger you can trust is just as refreshing as cool water in summer. -Proverbs 25: 11-13 (CEV)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. -Colossians 4: 2-6 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Impress or To Influence?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 35 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)'s not something that most of us like to admit we have. We like to hide them, pretend we don't have any or run from them. However, they're still there. Lurking, waiting to pounce on us, make us feel inadequate and keep us from doing what God wants us to do. It's amazing how God can take our weaknesses and the areas in our lives when we are the weakest and turn them into a strength we never knew we had.

Day 35 had countless points that I would love to share with you. Too many for me to even list. Therefore, I encourage you to read Day 35 if you haven't done so already and really learn how you can turn your weaknesses into something productive. If you have read Day 35, I recommend that you read it again when you are your weakest. I really love how Rick Warren reminds us of Paul and how we can be like him during our weakest times.

For now, I'd like to talk about one point in particular that Rick Warren lists in Day 35.

"At some point in your life you must decide whether you want to impress people or influence people." page 277

This really stirred something inside of me. I immediately thought to myself..."of course I want to influence people." However, we live in a world where we are constantly trying to be the best. The best mom, the best wife, the best friend, the best employee, sometimes even the best Christian. Today's society has put so much pressure on being the best that our world has become one to impress and not to influence. Reading The Purpose Driven Life is really showing me how God uses us to influence others. Especially in the area of our weaknesses, our storms, our most difficult struggles. It's really inspiring to watch how God can take a moment when we are at our weakest and see how he helps strengthen someone else with it. That is, if we let him. We need to be very humble and uplifting and share with each other our fears, weaknesses and worries. Then, we need to step back and let God do his work. As he's working in us, others are watching and are amazed at how we handle our situation. They see a strength that we couldn't see. They see a rainbow in the midst of our storm when we are blinded. The more we keep pressing forward and doing what God needs for us to do and trusting that he will help us, the stronger we get. Case in point number 1.... last week, my boys celebrated their 8th birthday. One of my boys has autism. Birthdays are suppose to be a time to look forward to and a time to celebrate. I can honestly tell you birthdays are hard for me. It's one more year that my son is more behind than I thought he would be at that particular age. I was harvesting a lot of feelings about this and actually waited until the last minute to even send out invitations. One day, I opened up to a friend who doesn't have a child on the spectrum but one whom I knew I could share this to. I was very vulnerable and it was difficult to share my fears and my feelings. However, I kept feeling that God wanted me to open up about this. I was worried I would cry. But then I thought who cares if I cry...why is it so bad for me to cry? So I opened up and showed every weak side of me with everything dealing with autism. I can honestly tell you that I have no idea if I helped her in any way. She did help me. After pouring my heart out to her, she was able to remind me how well my son is doing and how much more potential is out there. The birthday week was a huge success. God turned this weak time in my life around. I know that God used this particular situation for something even bigger. I may not see how it helped strengthen someone else but it felt really good to be able to open up and know that God will use it.

Case in point number two...I have several friends who have recently lost a child. I can't even imagine what it would feel like if one of my children died. It's heartbreaking and hard to even imagine. What is amazing to me is seeing the strength that each one of my friends have during this time. Not only the strength that they show but also where they are getting this strength...from God. During one of the most difficult times in their lives, they have shared their faith in God. They might not be able to see it at this time, but I can see this incredible amount of strength coming from their families and it has taught me how to turn to God to find my strength when I am weak.

Do you want to live your entire life trying to impress others? Do you want to devout countless hours trying to have the perfect kids, husband, house, family? You will spend so much energy on trying to look like you have the perfect life when none of us do. The best thing you could do is open up, be vulnerable and share your weakness with others. God will work through us to help each other become stronger.

I want to live my life influencing others. I encourage you to do this with me. Let's really humble ourselves and share our weaknesses, fears and storms with parents who have newly diagnosed children, with non believers, with parents who don't have children on the spectrum, with people who aren't even parents. Let's show how God is strengthening our weaknesses to any one who will listen. It's amazing who God has watching us when we don't even realize it and how much we are helping them when we let them in.

Bible Verses from Day 35

We are weak...yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. 2 Corinthians 13:4

I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people. 2 Corinthians 12:9a

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

See You Next Week!

As everyone is playing catch up from the long weekend and getting back into the swing of things with school, we will not have a study post this week.

Please join us on Wednesday, September 15th for the next installment in this study.

Hope you have all had a wonderful summer!

Nicole, Jessica and Chrissy

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thoughts that Serve

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 34 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I have learned that before your outer life can show a change, your inner life, or thoughts must change. It is really eye-opening to know that although I may work very hard at how I am perceived by others, what matters most to God is what is in my heart. Chapter 34 tackles this by showing us how real servants think.

I'm going to borrow this writing style from Nicole and list the points from this chapter that jumped out at me before I go any further:

Service starts in your mind.
Attitudes count more than achievements.
Real servants don't try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.
Your service for Christ is never wasted regardless of what others say.
Only secure people can serve.
The closer you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself.

The title of being a servant doesn't really sound very appealing in wordly terms. However, in the kingdom of heaven, there is no greater honor. I believe that truly becoming a servant of God in our thoughts and lives is a lifelong process. It matters to God that we continue, step by step in this process and continue to make progress.

Just as Joseph was entrusted as a steward when he was a prisoner in Egypt, we too are entrusted with great opportunities for servanthood. Joseph's good attitude and service earned him promotion after promotion, until he was eventually in control of Egypt under Pharoah. We may feel incredibly lowly as we deal with the day to day challenges, many which are upsetting and unpleasant. However, if we do our work with love for God and with a desire to use our lives to please Him, our good attitude and faithful service will help us to be promoted, both in this life and the next. As Rick Warren pointed out in this chapter, this promotion will likely not be accompanied by a glorious title or award. Every time our child makes a hard-earned and precious gain, there is promotion. Every time we are able to bear a challenge with grace, we are promoted and ready to move to a new level in our relationship with God.

The thing about God is that He sees and knows everything. He knows if we are doing something to look good or if our heart is in the right place. That is why what is in our hearts matters more than what others see on the outside. I really liked the statement "Only secure people can serve" (p. 269) Competitiveness, criticizm and petty comparisons cannot touch us when we know who we are in Christ. Rick Warren really explains this well by saying, "Because they remember they are loved and accepted by grace, servants don't have to prove their worth. They willingly accept jobs that insecure people would consider 'beneath' them". (p. 269) We are then freed from the expectations of others as we do our work. When we realize that we are working for God, and already have our value and acceptance from Him-the pressure comes off and we are free to truly shine.

Obstacles to thinking like a servant are also important to recognize. As the author points out, how we handle and perceive money is a key factor to how well we can serve. Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry talking about money, and how it can become an idol that replaces God. In fact, Rick Warren makes the point of saying that it is money that sidetracks people from serving God more than anything else. There is a great statement on page 267 that sums this up beautifully, "When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave" (Rick Warren) We need to check our motives, be honest and trustworthy with money, as well as use it to build God's church and help others.

Just as how we serve matters when no one can see or when circumstances are trying, it matters what kind of attitude we have when we are mistreated. People often expect the worst from others and it is a powerful witness when a person can be positive, kind and loving after being mistreated. This doesn't mean being a doormat, it means not allowing that person to take the joy of serving God from you or your personal peace. That to me is real power. It is also impossible to do apart from God.

Bible verses from Day 34:

Whatever you do, work at it with your all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. -Colossians 3: 23-24

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. -Philippians 2: 5-7

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me. -John 12:26