Respect dare series – day 29 – Joy

Philippians 2:14-17

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

When God tells us to do something, we’re to take joy in it. I’m called to serve my husband and family. This should be my joy. It shouldn’t be done like a child who’s tooth is being pulled out! Obedience with joy honours God. Serving my family joyfully honours God and Glenn. It also brings up my children in a culture where obedience to God is seen as a joyful pursuit.

My action for today: Be mindful of my heart attitude. Develop a sense of worship during daily tasks by intentionally praying out loud through them. Read Scripture to our boy to keep my heart in God. Listen to worship music in the home.

My prayer for today: Father, let me grasp into your joy in all circumstances. Let me serve you in joyful obedience. Make my heart to delight in doing your will. Amen

Obedience in joy from a place of worship

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Next level of trust

In these months leading up to motherhood, I find myself challenged by the need to put my child into God’s care. I have become used to trusting my life into God’s hands and going where He sends me regardless of personal fears or worldly opinions. It has become much harder since becoming pregnant. Now I have to trust another into His care.

It’s only natural to want to protect our children. It is also a godly principle to care for the ones He places under our protection. Yet we are still called to faithful obedience – despite any fear or concerns. We are not wittingly to put our family in danger, but what if God sends us to a risky place or tells us to go where we’d rather not with a family? I have always admired the obedience and faith of friends who have had such a call as a family, and have said I would go likewise if He called my family. But practice is harder than theory.

My first taste of this new barrier to obedience was a ministry trip to Rwanda. Glenn and I both felt peace about the trip and felt it was from God. At first that was enough, but then the fears and doubt began to creep in: What about malaria? What about Zika virus? What about typhoid? (I feel safer on Rwandan roads then South African so that wasn’t a fear!).

I began to doubt whether I was making the right decision. What if something happens? How could I possibly defend God sending me somewhere my child was at risk? I began fearing for God’s reputation as much as my own! I know well enough that the One who sends us is faithful, but that doesn’t always mean physical protection – just consider the original readers of Hebrews, one of the very books I was going up to teach. Those believers were at risk of torturous death for their beliefs – as were the lives of their children – and yet the author challenged them to look to Christ and persevere. Hmmm.

Ministering with baby

Ministering with baby

I have been and returned from Rwanda safely. My time there was a wonderful period of fellowship, catching up with friends, and teaching the Word of God. The teachings definitely took more out of me with my little one inside, but were very rewarding. It was a blessing to be back in that environment.

This is definitely a new season, and I know that this will likely be an on-going lesson as I learn to not only trust myself to God, but my family too. I am sure the next time He sends me to minister where I have fears for my child I will face the exact same doubts, but I pray that I will have the courage to walk in continual obedience.

Bible students completing a group activity

Bible students completing a group activity

Please see: http://www.sbsinternational.org/ for more information about the SBS.

Please see: http://www.ywamrwanda.com/ for more information about the Kigali YWAM base.

Practice what you preach

“Practice what you preach”. A common expression and one I should abide by.

I’ve seen it many times in ministry where people are over burdened because they are staying in positions that they are no longer meant to be in. It is easy to tell these people things like: ” Maybe you need to step out before God will bring another in”; “It’s God’s ministry. He must take care of it”; and “Perhaps the project has served its season.”

Sigh. Deep breath. Sigh.

Practice what you preach, Shannon.

I have been involved with Redefined Ministries International before its birth. I was there in the dreaming, the planning, and the actualisation. I visited the people of Mahagi Territory, and feel in love with them. It is a second home. The Congo makes my spirit soar.

Women enjoying each other's company. What a welcome I received from the women of Jalasiga, DRC!

Women enjoying each other’s company. What a welcome I received from the women of Jalasiga, DRC!

When we were still dreaming about how to meet the needs in our Congo community, I committed for 5 years. In this time we have seen God work miracles and have achieved more than we could have hoped for. The ministry is going strong and is entering into a new and exciting season. Yet for the last 6 months, as the 5 year period draws to an end, I’ve felt restless. I’ve been pestering God about whether I will be committing for another season or handing over the reigns.  I’ve thrown out “fleeces” (see Judges 6:36-40), with not much reply. Now at last I feel the answer.

I’ve sought a go ahead to stay with the ministry, but have heard nothing to continue. I wanted to hear God say “stay”, but all my questions have come back with the answer “go”.

There’s been a fair amount of stress, fear, and apprehension over the decision because I do not want to let the team down. I do most of the administration work for Redefined, so there will be a huge gap left when I leave. However, it is not for me to fill it, but for God. Please keep this need in your prayers. Please also let me know if God lays it on your heart to step in, even if only in a small way.

It has been a relief to come to this decision. I would have been willing to continue in the role; it isn’t that much of my work, but I think that makes it all the more tempting to continue. Yet I feel God is bringing me into a season to invest at home, and I must be obedient. There is a lot of need in South Africa. Well, let’s face it: in this fallen world, there is need in every country. God has His reasons, and I’m not called to ask: “why?”,  or to figure out His purposes, but respond with: “yes, Lord”.

So the end of the matter is that I will stay with the ministry for another 3-4 months to help with transition. During this time, I will trust Him to either bring people in to fill my shoes, or show us how to move the Congo Project in a different direction. Please also pray that those still in the ministry will not try and take on my workload as they are already working to their capacity.

(I’ll continue to help with networking so feel free to contact me about the ministry after this time frame – I’m talking about stepping out of my formal role as Administrative Director).

Check-up for Success

We have celebrated the end of 2013 and now the New Year is here!

Many of us have looked back on the year just past with glasses of evaluation. Some of us ticked it off as a successful year, looking at the achievement of goals. Others may have decided it was a hard, or happy, year, measuring it in emotional terms.

And even as we evaluated the old, we looked forward to the new with expectant eyes. We set goals, considered plans, and thought on what was to come.

As I considered 2013, I found myself looking for achievements. I wanted to see what I had obtained, completed, or succeeded in. As for this New Year, my focus has been on goal setting and re-focusing my vision. Being on holidays, I’ve also been consciously refuelling my brain for another mental slog in order to see these goals achieved.

And yet I’ve also found myself asking: “What is success before God?” I’m a “striver”. I like to achieve. I like tangible results. And I work myself hard in order to feel I have accomplished something of worth.

Pondering the question “What is success before God?” I came to one word: obedience.

But this led to another question: “If success before God is obedience to Him, how do I know that I’ve been obedient?” I may have achieved many things, but if I’m not walking in intimacy with God, then I may have been walking far from the path He would have had me on. What I achieve is meaningless if it does not coming out of a place of intimacy with God. It is my identity in Christ and my relationship with Him that brings meaning to my life.

So as we enter 2014, I want to encourage you to see time with God as the ultimate goal. Foster your relationship with God this year. Seek time with Him. Build intimacy with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Balance doing for God with time spent being with Him, so that when you are doing, you are doing His will and achieving His purposes.

Happy New Year! May you be blessed with His peace, hope, joy and love in 2014.

To success

Reputation on the Line

This week in class we have been going through the book of Ezekiel. It is one of my favourite books in the Bible because of how much Ezekiel’s life challenges me.

Ezekiel was a man who for seven years was not able to speak (unless they were the words God gave him to speak) and he was not able to leave his house (unless it was for a specific purpose that God was sending him on). Ezekiel was married at this time; imagine what this would have meant to his family not to be able to communicate any personal matter.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God; a man sent to speak God’s words to the people of Israel when they had been taken into exile in Babylon for breaking their covenant (contract) with God. The people of God went into exile in three groups; Ezekiel was amongst the second deportation to Babylon before the nation completely fell to the Babylonian Empire. He spoke before people believed that Jerusalem (capital city) would fall to Babylon and as a result, his words were not believed.

Ezekiel walked in total obedience to God through his life, which resulted in him doing some crazy things – included lying on his side for a year and a half and eating nothing but daily portion of lentils and water, which he had to cook over poo. Gross? Yes. Require crazy-obedience? Yes.

Ezekiel’s reputation would have been destroyed by what was required of him. His credibility as a prophet (as one truly sent by God) may have gone up when Jerusalem fell to Babylon, but he would remain “that crazy guy” who dug through walls, lay on his side, and built model cities.

Ezekiel’s life should challenge us. I’m not saying that we should all go out now and lie on our side for a year or anything, but I do believe that this book calls us to bring radical obedience into our faith. It is easy to argue with God when He asks us to do something that we feel others would see as illogical, but why? Ezekiel’s ministry began with a revelation of the glory of God. He fell on his face before God’s awesomeness. If we live in awe and reverence of God, then we will fear Him over the opinion of others.

The APPLICATION question for this is:

“Is my reputation too valuable to me to put it on the line to serve God???”

Sometimes we look at this as meaning change, but it doesn’t have to be radical change in what we’re doing (e.g. a new job), but rather how we live out our faith in our day to day life. Yes, sometimes God calls us to change jobs or to give things up in a way that others will criticise. But mostly it’s that daily call to obedience, that small thing that we must be willing to appear different in.

When you boil it down, Ezekiel walked in OBEDIENCE. He faithfully obeyed God through all the craziness. Are you prepared to do the same?

  • Do you have a sudden desire to lift up your hands in worship or sing a hymn as you walk down the street?
  • Are you prepared to miss out on a fun activity that popped up because you need to uphold your word to help a friend out, even when pressured by the cry “they’ll understand if you postpone”?
  • Perhaps the request is to stop to talk to that dear old woman at the bus stop and giving up half an hour of your time to listen to her. Or perhaps it is offering to pray for the businessman drinking his coffee in the table opposite you at the cafe.
  • For me, it is often the simple challenge of continuing to write, not knowing if it is being effective, not knowing if it is challenging people, or whether people do not like what I’m saying.
  • What is God asking you to be obedient in?

 

Up ahead: Next blog I will look at the significance of Ezekiel’s actions and why it was important that he acted these out.

Not so strong

This week we were in the book of 2 Corinthians and as always it reminded me that I am actually very weak, very small, very unable, and very insufficient. BUT (there is always a “but” and this time I am thankful for it!). But… I was also reminded of God’s strength in my weakness.

We are bombarded everyday with the message that we must have it altogether, that we must be able to multi-task, that we must be able to work long hours, keeping a full time job, whilst managing a family, whilst meeting with friends, and helping out at church, and having daily quiet times with God, go to church, keep the household cupboards stocked, have hobbies, … and the list goes on.

Two weeks ago I felt God expanding my vision on the mission field. He was challenging me to dream bigger and expect to do more. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was over the week where I was physically tired and stressed about my upcoming teaching on Hebrews. I must be honest – I thought God was off in His timing! To me, it didn’t seem like the best time to be giving me a vision of MORE when I felt I was using all I had to meet the current challenge.

However, when we entered into 2 Corinthians I was reminded that, as big as the vision seems, it is not too big for God. He reminded me that it isn’t up to me to do the impossible or to be some kind of super woman. All I need to do is step out in obedience, walk according to the vision He has laid upon my heart, and allow Him to accomplish what I cannot do.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

These words sum up the book in my mind. God is strong. We are not. And thankfully, we do not have to be.

Allow God’s grace to cover you when your own strength is insufficient. Step out in confidence and boldness, walking towards the dream that He has laid on your heart, and allow Him to do what you cannot.

Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be afraid for your weaknesses to be shown. But allow God to receive glory in your weakness. Allow Him to show His strength in your life.

A Painful Question; 1 of 3

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

We can focus on Jesus’ calling Peter to “feed the sheep”. We read in the Gospels and book of Acts how Peter became the leader of the young church and think that he was privileged to receive such a call (as indeed he was). But we can also learn a lot from his response to his call.

We need to consider the question:  Why was Peter grieved? Peter was hurt that Christ had to ask him the question three times. Eventually he answered:

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (John 21:17)

Peter was forced to look deep within his own heart. And what did he find? A consuming love for Christ. Immediately after this, Jesus said to him:

“Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” ( John 21:17-20)

Peter was martyred for his faith. Perhaps, being forced to see his love for Christ was what he needed to endure the later persecutions; he knew his faith was stronger.

Recently, I’ve been counting the cost of God’s call on my life. It’s hard to go away from family and miss out on special events in the lives of one’s friends. It has been difficult to accept that I may not ever own my own home, or even a car. But, through this, I have been forced to come to accept an even scary truth: regardless of what God asks me to sacrifice, I know that I’ll obey. That’s scary! That’s terrifying! Because when you read of what God has asked others to do…

Christians are not called to an easy life, but God gives us the strength we need to endure. He gives us the courage to step bravely out into an unknown future. And He reveals more and more of His character to us through our walk, because the more we see of Him, the more willing we will be to follow Him. When you have fallen in love with Jesus, you are compelled to follow Him.

God demands all of us, but He is worth everything!

I repeat the prayer of Maris Willis and pray that you will, too:

“Father, hear the prayer we offer; not for ease that prayer shall be, but for strength that we may ever, live our lives courageously.”