Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Salvation Story

"The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."

Acts 11:21

OK - I know I have some explaining to do:( I looked at the date of my last post and yelled "YIKES!" Boy, our summer has been the most hectic ever. I need school to start to get a break!!!

I have so much to tell you that it's been hard to know where to start. We have had all kinds of things happen in our family from Cassidy pulling her two front teeth, Jamison being potty trained (well, sort of --- at 3 1/2 years old I'll take whatever I can get!), Savannah going to New York, all kinds of new exciting ministry opportunities ..... But, I had to start with the best thing.

As you know with my writing - I need to share some background first! When I had Savannah and started staying home, I was asked to work in Vacation Bible School. I somehow weaseled my way out of it because we all know that no one is busier than a new Mom with one child! (Now, don't send me any ugly notes --- I'm just kidding! Well, kind of! Ha) But seriously, at that time I felt like my world was upside down! I had to deal with one child all day everyday and I did not want to take on any more ---- especially someone else's kids! Besides, I was ministering in "other ways".

Several years passed, and by the time Cassidy was pre-school age I kinda made an appearance at VBS. I willingly helped two days, but needed "my time" the rest of the week. And believe me, my prideful heart was very proud of my two days where I "suffered for the cause of Christ"!

By the time Jamison arrived, God had really been doing a number in my heart (thank you, Lord!). I realized that I had a gift of teaching not only adults, but children. I think it's my drama background that allows me to be a little silly with them. And - I discovered that I really did like other people's children after all! Hey, it wasn't that bad:) Since these gifts were God given, I needed to be using BOTH of them to be obedient in His calling for my life. I regret now that it took several years for me to figure that out.

So, three years ago I started teaching the Bible Story to the 1st-6th grade during VBS and fell in love with doing that. I enjoy getting actors to create the story if needed, making props, doing neat little activities so that the story really stays with the kids. I've also been asked these past few years to council with children who want to make decisions during that week to try to discern if they are truly ready to accept Christ.

OK - now - fast forward to 2008! I'm working with 4th grade this year (when I'm not teaching my story) and the first day I meet Devon. Devon is a rough and tough little dude - you can tell by the red bandanna wrapped around his Mohawk. He isn't the most disruptive in my class, but does his share. So, I make myself acquainted with Devon and decide that we will be pals this week. Devon is cool with that so we "hang" for the week.

One GREAT thing about out church is how open we are to the community. Every year we have far more visitors to VBS than our own children. We run near 200 during that week and we aren't a large church! I knew that Devon was not a member of Parkway and I encouraged him everyday to be sure to come back.

Well, on day four we have our "Salvation Story". Our Children's Minister does this and very simply and clearly lays out the plan of Salvation. Another thing I LOVE about our church is our sensitivity to make sure that these are individual and true decisions. We have a process of screening kids at the gate, so to speak, asking why they came down front. We then sort according to their need. We also have a wonderful follow up system, including a talk with the parents. Yes, we have some that just come and don't know why. We have some that come because their best friend came. BUT - we also have many real decisions.

From the counseling room, I saw Devon and my heart leaped! I had been praying for him all day. I could see his tone turning more serious through the day --- as the entire day was leading up to the story of Jesus on the cross. I motioned to the "gate keeper" so that I could be the one to speak with Devon. As we talked - he seemed just a little confused and was wanting to know about "Holy Water"! I was thinking, "Gee kid, I'm good old Southern Baptist. I don't even know about Holy Water!" I wanted him to accept and understand so much - be felt a check in my Spirit to be cautious. I continued to talk to him about the plan of salvation and said, "Devon, I want to make sure that you understand exactly what you are doing. I feel like we need to just pray today that Jesus will let you know without a doubt when you are ready to become a Christian." He was fine with that and we prayed.

On Friday, as soon as Devon arrives - he was grinning from ear to ear. "Ms. Ginger - I know I want to become a Christian. I'm ready to obey God and the Bible." So, we took off . I asked him a few questions and could tell by the joy in his eyes, that this time - Jesus was calling him. He prayed and immediately began telling everyone - all day- that he was a Christian. I am as serious as I can be when I say I physically saw a change on this little boys face. My eyes are filled with tears again as I recall his expression.

BUT - the story doesn't stop there. I found out that his mother had been praying for her kids to go to church. She felt something in her heart saying - "You don't need to just send them, you need to go too." So, just a few weeks before VBS at the invitation of a friend - she came to our church and on her first visit accepted Christ. She continued to pray for her kids and could see something taking place in Devon during the week of VBS. She was amazed at God's work in her family - she was not raised in church and knows very little (but is eager to learn) about the Bible. She couldn't get over that God would work so fast!!! Then, today Devon, his Mom and his Grandmother came to church. His Grandmother had barely walked in the doors of our sanctuary and couldn't stand it. She couldn't wait until the service started ---- let alone the end for an invitation! One of our Minister's just "happened" to walk by (which, we all know was not an accident!) - she accepted Christ right there. All three came down front during decision time to make their public profession of faith.

Now the moral of this blog is not to guilt anyone into teaching at VBS. I know I made a joke earlier about being so busy with one kid - BUT the fact for me was that I was not in tune to where God had wanted me. The truth is, I wasn't really even asking for His opinion on the matter. It makes my heart sick, to think about what I missed. I do not want that to happen EVER again. I don't know about you, but I want to be smack in the middle of what God is doing.

I don't want to be a "yes man" at church ---- doing everything that someone asks me. But, I do want to discern and say yes to everything that God asks me. I want His hand to be with me, so that many will believe and turn to the Lord.

When I think about it - that is flat out a scary thing. That means I will have to be different. I will have to live set apart. I will have to do things that are sometimes uncomfortable and step out in faith. I will be refined like silver. But I am learning that "The way up, is down". If something is honestly flat out scary - than I need to be flat down on my face in front of Jesus. Pouring my every fear into His tender ears that are so eager to hear from me.

"Dear Lord, I have so much going on in my life - everyone does. But this verse in Acts, stuck out to me today like a sore thumb and You know that I needed it. God, I've never considered myself an evangelist of sorts --- but, I am called to be one. All of us, every Christian - God when your hand is with us - people will believe. Not just a few, but a great number. In my speaking ministry - how I pray that You alone will be glorified and that a great number will come to know you because of our ministry team. In my personal life - how I pray that my marriage will reflect You. Father, I thank you for Russ and all that he means to me. Not only is he an amazing Christian husband, he is an awesome Dad! I do not deserve the blessings You have given me. Lord, in my marriage and as we raise our children --- I pray that a great number of people will come to know You. God, this is scary to say - but use my children. I see a true missionary heart in Savannah. Send them out to share your Word. Use our family to bring glory to Your Kingdom. Oh God, you don't need me, my husband or even my kids - but I thank You that You, a Holy God, are so willing to extend to us a personal invitation to not only live in eternity with You, but to also on earth - have an abundant life in service to You. Amen"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Anticipating the Voice of God

"I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me."
Habakkuk 2:1

Oh gang! I LOVE this verse. Honestly, I wasn't very familiar with it until last summer when I was able to teach Priscilla Shirer's Bible Study, Discerning the Voice of God. It was one of the verses shared on Day 1 of the study and I have found myself clinging to it a gazillion times since then. AND, I am needing to hear from God in so many ways as of late that I have pulled out this study to just re-do during my personal quiet time.

The study I just completed at home was on prayer. It was wonderful! It's been years since I've done a prayer study and it was just what I needed. I had never really thought about how your prayer life and your time in God's Word relate to each other so much. Obviously, I know that I need to be in His Word and I know I need to pray. And, over the years I have heard people with the most precious prayers and thought --- Boy, I'd LOVE to pray like that.

As I thought about these people - the one thing I've noticed they have in common is their LOVE for God's Word. They don't just glance at it on Sunday - they are breathing it. As I strive to spend time with Him daily - I have noticed a significant change in my prayer life. I use to NEVER want to pray out loud. Now, it is a joy. I use to get sleepy during the long prayers of others (sorry - just being honest!) and now I don't!!!! I am praying along with them for as long as they are! I still have so much work for God to complete in me in this area, but I am so thankful for the progress that He is making in me.

Also - I was once the typical "God, I need..... Can you..... Give me....." In my prayer time asking for so many things. I would just get into an "asking routine" and after I asked, I was done. I didn't even anticipate that He would answer. I knew God answers prayers and thought "Oh well, if it's His will He will give me what I'm asking." BUT - I wasn't concerend IF what I wanted was what He wanted AND I didn't EXPECT to hear from Him. I wasn't eager about His response. I wasn't listening for Him to actually speak to me about something that was possibly very trivial.

Here is a quote from A.W. Tozer. "God will speak to the hearts of those who prepare themselves to hear, and conversely, those who do not so prepare themselves will hear nothing even though the Word of God is falling upon their outer ears every Sunday."

God has so changed my thought process! You can not have God's Word without Prayer OR Prayer without knowing God's Word. That is just they way it works. Yes - we are all at different points in our spiritual walk - but we shouldn't be staying where we are today. We should be growing in our knowledge of Him (the Bible) AND growing in our personal relationship with Him (prayer). AND -here is the kicker!!! (sorry - lots of "and"s today!!!) We should be anticipating that He WILL speak to us. Standing on our guard post - stationing ourselves and keeping watch to see what He will speak.

I know I've kinda harped on "asking" God for things. And, that is not all wrong. God wants us to ask. What are you asking Him for? Do you need guidance with your job situation? Have a difficult child? Need money to get the bills paid? Is your spouse not a believer in Christ? The list could go on and on.

This is my challenge for you today. 1) Spend time in God's Word - make sure what you are asking Him for lines up with the character of God. If you need direction in this area, contact me and I can give you some great scripture references. 2) Pray. I mean get gut honest with God. Tell Him how great He is. Ask Him for forgiveness on how you fall short. Tell Him your need. 3) Anticipate hearing Him. Be looking for Him to move - EXPECT it. It will most likely come in a way that you would never imagine. 4) TELL ME! I can't wait to hear how God is working in your life.