When a Second Grader is Your Role Model

My creaky body is finally finished yelling at me for going to kids camp. I swear, even my hair hurt when I got home! But oh, what a time it was!

The kids were flat-out phenomenal. I couldn’t get over how the older kids looked out for the younger ones. It’s obvious Woodridge kids are getting some solid Bible teaching and some excellent parenting.

I can still hear their laughter as they played. I can still see their red, sweaty faces after they played ga-ga ball in the muggy Louisiana heat. Oh, and I can still smell ’em, too! Ha!

I was blessed to spend time with a wide array of age groups. I had the 4th-6th grade girls in my cabin, a mixture of all the grades in my Trash Band break-out track, and the 1st-2nd graders in my small Bible group.

There wasn’t a kid I didn’t like, but there was this one girl—she inspired me without even trying.

She’s a freckle-faced second-grader with enough spunk and sweetness for a whole Brownie troop. I loved watching her in action. She got along with everyone. The quiet ones and the loud ones. The young ones and the old ones. The boys and the girls. She seemed so comfortable in her own skin.

In small group, she listened and led by example. Oh, and she asked me to explain how God and Jesus are the same person. Can I just say that wasn’t in the curriculum? She seemed satisfied with my answer, though. I hope God was!

One afternoon, she walked up to me and took my hands in hers. With a concerned face, she asked, “How come you have all these bo-boes on your arms?”

Over the last few years, I developed a stress-related skin problem on my arms. When anxiety hit, I caught myself digging at those wounds. Long story short, my arms are scarred and still healing some, but, like my heart, they’re getting better every day.

My sweet girl’s compassion touched me deep. I hugged her and said, “Oh, I was a little sick for a while, but I’m getting better! No worries.”

I was telling her the truth. Every day, I feel stronger body, mind and spirit. I’m hungry again—for God and for life.

I want to be like my little second grader role model. Curious and compassionate. Friendly and focused. Unhindered and unafraid.

A few months ago, a FB friend posted this meme on her page.

I found myself commenting, “I don’t think I have one of those.”

I was so low. So heavy in spirit. I honestly didn’t see a way out. I couldn’t sense God’s presence, and I was too tired to care. I couldn’t remember ever feeling confident, free and unafraid.

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God (Psalm 69:1-3 NIV).

These last couple months have been miraculous. God is healing me in every sense of the word. My foot is healing from surgery slower than I’d like, but my heart and mind are pulsing with hope and purpose.

I waited patiently for the Lordhe turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV).

I think I do have one of those girls inside me. A girl like my freckled-faced camper. A girl like the one in that meme. A girl brimming with confidence and laughter and limitless potential. It’s gonna be fun finding her!

Lord,

Thank you for bringing me back to life! I don’t want to waste a minute of this joyful existence. May the new song you’ve placed in my mouth draw others to Your heart. 

I know there are countless folks out there just like I was. Stuck in the muck and losing hope. Please rescue them just like you did for me. Use me in any way you wish. Give me divine appointments with broken hearts. Use my story to extend hope to people barely hanging on.

I am Yours, AMEN

Has God brought you through to the other side? Who can you use your story to help today? Are you in the middle of the muck and plumb out of hope? I’d love to pray for you. Leave a comment or message me through the contact tab. We’re on this journey together!

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Sifted | Sermon Note Sundays

I’m back from kids camp, and, boy, am I pooped! But there’s no way I was going to miss Pastor Chuck’s third sermon in his series on demolishing strongholds. I’m plumb tired of lugging mine around.

Here’s a quick review just in case you missed the first two sermons in the series.

A spiritual stronghold is anything we have in our lives that has a hold on us and keeps us from being as close to God and as right with God as we can be. It’s that sin that, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to shake. It distracts us from being about the Father’s business and from sitting at His feet.

No matter how we try, we can’t rid our lives of spiritual strongholds on our own. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). We can’t fight with our fists or our faulty willpower. We must use spiritual weapons. The only way we can pick those bad boys up is if we throw down up our hands and surrender.

Lord, I surrender. I can’t do this myself. I need You! 

The next step to kicking those strongholds to the curb is to train our minds to think biblically. When those strongholds try to pull us in, we must replace those temptation thoughts with truth straight from the Word of God. The more we do it, the easier it will become to resist the pull of sin.

Lord, Your Word holds all the truth I need to combat the lies of Satan. Give me the strength and discipline to fill my mind and heart with Your word and to fight temptation with Your Word hidden in my heart.

To read my recaps of Pastor Chuck’s first two sermons, go here and here.

This week, Pastor Chuck didn’t exactly give another step to demolishing strongholds. He issued a warning.

Satan wants to take us down, and he will use any means necessary to make it happen.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

He’s not the cute and cunning cartoon character with the pitchfork and shifty eyes. He is a vicious and relentless foe we’d best not underestimate.

Pastor took us to the Gospels where Peter found out first-hand that Satan is more than a pesky fly at a picnic.

In Matthew 26, Jesus is sitting at the Passover table with His disciples trying to explain what is to come. He warns them that bad stuff is about to go down and that He already knows they will tuck tail and run.

Peter, in his macho way, says, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (26:33 NIV). Jesus lets him know that not only will he fall away like the rest of them, he will bold-faced deny Christ three times before it’s all over.

Luke adds an important statement to this Upper Room account. He records Jesus as saying, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31 NIV).

I love this Scripture for so many reasons.

Simon, Simon

Jesus had given Simon the new name, Peter, which means “rock.” I guess you could say Simon was his natural name and Peter was his supernatural name. When Jesus warned Peter of his upcoming failure, He called him Simon. He knew Simon’s fleshly fears would get the best of him. He knew he’d fall back to the natural when the going got tough.

Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.

You see that? Satan had to ask to mess with the disciples during this time of turmoil. This tells me that nothing is out of God’s control.

Now, for some, this might feel disturbing. God allows Satan to torment us? Why? How mean is that? He could keep Satan away from us if He wanted to, so why doesn’t He? I’ve asked those questions myself.

Nowadays, I choose to find comfort in the truth that God’s hand is ever on my life. If He allows me to be sifted, He will bring something good out of it. I also have to believe that there are times Satan wants to sift me and God says, “Nope. Not today.”

So what is this sifting that Satan desired to do to Peter and still desires to do to us?

John Piper, in his sermon, “The Sifting of Simon Peter,” explains.

What does “sifting like wheat” refer to in real life? The best clue comes in the next sentence where Jesus says, “But I prayed for you that your faith fail not.” Satan aims to sift Simon and the others like wheat. Jesus aims to keep Simon’s faith from failing. So probably “sifting like wheat” means doing something to make the disciples’ faith fail.

We can imagine a picture like this: Satan has a big sieve with jagged-edged wires forming a mesh with holes shaped like faithless men and women. What he aims to do is throw people into this sieve and shake them around over these jagged edges until they are so torn and weak and desperate that they let go of their faith and fall through the sieve as faithless people, right into Satan’s company. Faith cannot fall through the mesh. It’s the wrong shape. And so as long as the disciples hold to their faith, trusting the power and goodness of God for their hope, then they will not fall through the mesh into Satan’s hands.

Faith cannot fall through the mesh. The more our faith becomes part of us, the better we can hold up to Satan’s sifting.

But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

This part does me in, people! Jesus, the very Jesus who bled and died for me, prays for me the same way He prayed for Peter! He bends the Father’s ear and whispers MY name. YOUR name. He whispered His dear Simon’s name.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34 NIV).

He’s praying that our faith will hold firm. He wants us to climb out of that sifter stronger for the sifting.

And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Jesus didn’t say IF. He said WHEN. He knew Peter would screw everything up and even told him so, but He didn’t intend to leave Peter in his guilt and shame. After Christ was resurrected, he went to Peter, dusted him off, and set him back on the right path.

Our God is a God of restoration. Even when we crash and burn, He doesn’t leave us rubble.

“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me'” (Jeremiah 15:19 NIV).

Our past sins don’t disqualify us from future purpose. God went on to use Simon Peter to preach the truth of the Gospel boldly and to strengthen the fledgling church that still stands today.

The Prince of Darkness wants to stifle our light, friends. Are we going to let him win? If God sees fit to let Satan sift us as wheat, will our faith keep us from falling?

These are questions only you and God can answer. Sifting will come. Are you armed and ready?

Lord, Satan is a lying snake, and I refuse to take him lying down. You are my safe place, my strength, and my song. I choose You and Your ways. I can look back and remember times of sifting where I lost my faith and fell flat. And I remember other times when I barely hung on. I want to be so full of faith that I bounce right off that sifter and land on my feet. And then I can fall at Your feet and give You all the praise and glory. 

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