God’s Path or Mine?

Outstretched arms

I’ve been re-reading a thought-provoking book: Seeking the Face of God by Gary L. Thomas. One section particularly spoke to me this week that focuses on our calling. This was perfect timing because I’ve been praying for wisdom concerning where God wants me to invest my time and gifts in light of His calling.

In one chapter, Thomas addresses humility and the dangers of pride. He made a powerful statement:

 

“Pride can turn us against our own purpose in life by filling us with ambitious yearnings that cause us to neglect our true call for today.” (p. 140).

To be honest, I have dreams and aspirations that I’d love to see fulfilled. But I don’t want to pursue MY dreams if they’re not HIS plan for my life. If these things are not His purpose for me, then I don’t want to invest my time pouring into something that would take me away from doing what He has called me to do today (and in the future).

He goes on to quote Francis de Sale:

“The enemy often suggests a great desire of things that are absent, and which shall never occur, so that he may divert our mind from present objects …”

A convicting statement. Am I desiring and working for things that are never going to happen, and allowing those efforts to divert my attention from the present task He has given me to do?

I’ve been mulling over these thoughts all week and asking these questions:

  • Am I giving myself wholeheartedly to what God has called me to do today, right where I am?
  • Or am I focused so much on something I want to be doing that I’m living in the future instead of in the present?
  • Am I neglecting something God has called me to today because I want something more?
  • Can I be content with God’s plan for my future, even if it doesn’t match up with my plans?
  • Am I willing to lay my dreams on the altar and let Him lead me down His path?

If I’m not willing to do that, I will be disappointed every time God doesn’t give me what I want. If I’ve put my dreams on the altar and taken my hands off, I can trust every step He chooses for me.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to leave Dallas and move to Memphis ten years ago. I thought staying in Dallas should have been God’s perfect plan for my life. Boy, was I wrong! God knew what He was doing, and He brought me to a job and ministry that is the perfect fit for me. He knows what’s best! I’m so glad I didn’t dig in my heels and stay put just because I thought that was the best plan. I had to let go and trust His calling. I’ve never looked back.

Perhaps you’re questioning what God is calling you to today. Can you trust His hand to lead you down His best path?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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My Favorite Devotionals

Books

I often get asked, what do you do in your quiet times with the Lord? I’ve written several posts about how I spend that time, but today I want to focus on one of the first things I do to get started. I like to begin my time with the Lord by reading a short devotion. It quietens my heart, brings my focus to Him, gets me thinking, and moves me into a time of prayer as I turn to God’s Word.

These are five of my favorite devotional books that I frequently use:

 

The Quiet Place: Daily Devotional Readings by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

This has been my favorite devotional book of all the books I’ve used. She just seems to nail what I’m thinking or struggling with. She gives a verse to ponder each day, along with thought-provoking application questions. I love this devotional book!

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

This classic book has been around for a long time, but I continue to go back to it from time to time. Some days, I have to reread sections to let the words sink in, but usually the words leap off the page and hit me right where I am. There is also an updated version available for those who want a modern-day language. This is a book worth having.

Streams in the Desert (Volumes 1 and 2) by Mrs. Charles Coleman

I love both these classic devotional books, although I slightly favor Volume 2. My mom used these devotionals, and that’s how I got introduced to them. They are comprised of short stories, poems, or quotes, and she always gives a verse to challenge us daily. These are quick and easy to read. Overall, a good devotional.

New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp

This is a good devotional book, although some days the writing feels academic. Other days, he speaks right to my heart. He has some excellent material in this book, and I’ve quoted him a number of times in my lectures and Bible studies. The devotions are a little longer than some of the other devotional books, but overall, a good choice.

Daily with the King by W. Glyn Evans

I’ve had this book for years and still go back to it from time to time. I have underlined something on almost every page. It is very relevant to issues we deal with daily. I highly recommend it.

Okay, these are some of my favorites. I’d love to hear what your favorite devotional books are. Please share in the comment section below. I’m always looking for new ones!

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Going Deeper in Discipleship

Bible studyWhat do you do with someone who is grounded in her faith and wants to be discipled? In a previous post, Discipleship 101, I shared about the materials I use with a new believer or someone who doesn’t have a solid foundation for her faith. Today, I want to share what I use with someone who has the foundation and wants to grow deeper in her walk with God.

 

When I disciple someone at this level, I want to know what her spiritual needs are and how I can help her develop in a certain area.

We may discuss a book or go through a Bible study or work through a passage together. Sometimes, I answer questions she has about the Bible or God’s will or something that has come up in her life. I often give her things to work on specifically in her time alone with God. Sometimes we spend time discussing her ministry and the challenges she faces. We always pray together, and I continue to pray for her throughout the week.

Some examples of areas we may work on together:

  • Sharing her faith more effectively, sharing her testimony, or leading evangelistic Bible studies
  • Learning how to study the Bible and apply it
  • Talking through doctrinal issues or tough questions
  • Helping her determine her SHAPE (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences) and discern where she can serve most effectively in her SHAPE
  • Managing her time and setting realistic goals
  • Dealing with spiritual warfare
  • Making wise decisions and discerning God’s will
  • Developing her personal mission statement
  • Helping her trace God’s hand through her life story

In this level of discipleship, I like to balance our time between working on something structured and spending time talking through life issues. I determine how to spend our time together based on her needs.

Because women were asking me for materials to use in these areas, I developed Book 2 of the Building Your Spiritual Toolbox series: Building on the Foundation. If you’re looking for something to use in discipling someone in these areas, it’s available on Amazon.

I’d love to hear from you. What is another area that would be good to cover with someone in this level of discipleship?

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Thankful for Moms

Mom in blueI remember several times as a child when I wanted to trade my mom in for a new one. But over the years, I have come to value my mom and the tough love she showed me at times when I needed it most. I wouldn’t trade her for any other mom in the world today.

This weekend we honor our mothers on Mother’s Day. (We should be honoring them every day of the year, but this is the day set aside on the calendar to honor them.) Even though my mom is with the Lord now, I still want to honor her.

I thank God for my mom. She allowed me to pursue what God was leading me to do when she would have preferred a different direction. She wanted me to work as a medical technologist after college. Instead, I chose to go on staff with Cru and raise support. She wanted me to stay in the US, but I felt led by God to serve in East Asia for four years. Mom became my biggest cheerleader, after the initial response of, “You’re doing what???”.

She has always been there for me – helping me move from city to city; cat-sitting; storing my “stuff” in her home so my house wouldn’t be cluttered; loving me when I wasn’t very lovable. It is easy for me to honor her because of the mom she is.

But I realize some of you reading this are not looking forward to Mother’s Day. Perhaps you have recently lost your mom and she is not here this year to celebrate and honor. You may not have a good relationship with your mom, or she has not been there for you or has hurt you deeply. God is sovereign over the families He placed us in. It’s not always easy to understand why, but one day He will show us His purpose in it.

Sometimes, as a single with no children, Mother’s Day can feel awkward for me. Mothers are honored, and I feel as if I am on the outside of an “elite group.” But, God reminds me that even though I don’t have physical children, I have spiritual children. Even though I haven’t gone through physical childbirth, I have birthed “babies” into the Kingdom.

I am so grateful for two of my spiritual mothers, Bonnie James DeArmond and Joyce Bademan for discipling me as a junior in college. They made a difference in my life, a difference of eternal significance as they nurtured me in my faith. Paul referred to that aspect of discipleship in 1 Thessalonians 2:7: “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”

  • Take some time today to thank God for your mother, even if it’s not easy. He chose her to be your mom. Even though there were times I would have traded my mom in as a child, I thank God every day that He gave her to me as my mother.
  • Take some time to thank God for those women who have built into your life spiritually and have helped you grow to become more like Christ.

To all you moms out there (physical and spiritual), Happy Mother’s Day!

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Running the Race

run the raceSeveral years ago, I ran a 10K race. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I almost quit after five miles, but thanks to a friend running beside me, I finished the race. Jenny wouldn’t let me quit, and she spurred me on step by step that last mile. Painful? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The Christian life is a race, and there are times we want to quit running and sit on the sidelines. So how do we finish the race and run it well when we’re tempted to quit?

The author of Hebrews talks about running the race in Hebrews 12:1-2. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus …

The key to running the race well: lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

If I want to run the race well, I need to be aware of those things that have the potential of hindering me on the race. Some of the encumbrances I need to lay aside are:

1. Fear – Fear of change, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of rejection, fear of what others will think.

Fear can be my greatest friend if I let God use it to draw me into a deeper dependence on Him as I trust Him in that fear. But it can be my greatest enemy if I let it paralyze me and keep me from stepping out and moving forward in the race.

I almost let my fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown keep me from taking this job as the Women’s Ministry director in Memphis. I was comfortable with my life in Dallas. Why would I leave comfort and move to a new city, a new job, new friends, a new church? What if I disappointed the church? What if I couldn’t do the job? What if they don’t like me?

Those fears ran through my mind over and over, but I’m so glad I didn’t let those fears entangle me and hold me back from following God’s leading.

2. Busyness

Life seems to get busier and busier every day. I find myself running from one thing to the next without much time for slowing down and resting. Busyness can get me off the course God laid out for me. Sometimes I have trouble saying no, and I get distracted and take a detour. Busyness can lead to burnout, and if I burn out, I won’t be able to run the race as God intended. I have to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and follow His course for me, not the side courses that tempt to distract me or the courses others want me to run.

3. Discouragement 

Discouragement is a master trick of Satan to tempt us to quit running the race. He would love to get us so discouraged that we  give up and sit on the sidelines.

I get discouraged when others criticize me or when things don’t go as I had hoped. I get discouraged when I fail at something  or I’ve sinned. My tendency is to beat myself up. Discouragement holds me back from running the race because I feel there’s no reason to keep running.

If we want to run the race well, we have to be aware of those potential things that will entangle us. Lay them aside, confess them, and ask God to give the strength to run the race He’s designed for us. IMG_2070 (002)

Just as I needed my friend Jenny to help me finish the 10K race, we need each other to spur one another on to the finish line. Let’s run the race God has set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

What are some other encumbrances that would hinder us in running the race well?

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You’re a Mess!

20160303_074956“What’s wrong with you??? You’re a mess!”

Those words came out of my mouth in frustration this past Tuesday morning. No, I wasn’t speaking to a child or to myself. I was talking to my sweet cat Hobson. In the midst of trying to have some quiet time with the Lord that morning, Hobson was a definite distraction.

He was chewing the cord on the lamp. I unplugged the lamp.

He tried to put his paw into the electric socket. I put a book on top of the socket in the floor to keep him from electrocuting himself.

He pushed the book aside and proceeded to stick his paw in the socket again. I put a heavier book on top, and finally he gave up and tried chewing the cord again. I wrapped the cord up.

Now, maybe I’ll get some quiet time, or so I thought.

He decided to move to the side table by my chair and began pushing everything off the table onto the floor. I finally stopped, looked at him, and said, “HOBSON! What is wrong with you??? You are a MESS!”

And then it hit me: I’m a mess, too. And God watches me make a mess, and He tries to protect me and redirect me, for my good. I’m sure there must be times He looks at me and says, “Crickett, what’s wrong with you? You’re a mess!” And yet, He loves me unconditionally.

To be honest, we’re all a mess without Jesus. And God sent His Son to die for us and to clean up our messes. I can’t really do anything to change Hobson except scold him or put him in “time-out.” But God can change us and clean up our messes through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

I am so thankful that He is working on me and in me daily.

As Paul said in Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Are you believing any lies this week? Lies that the world is trying to convince you as truth, or lies that Satan is desperately attempting to get you to believe?

When I was on staff with Cru years ago, Ney Bailey wrote a book called Faith is Not a Feeling. I still apply truths from that book some 30 years later. She taught us to identify what we’re feeling, but then write out the truth from God’s Word. For instance, “God, I feel _____________, but Your Word says _____________.” It requires walking by faith to be able to move forward believing God’s Word over our feelings. The enemy wants us to believe our feelings over what God’s Word is telling us.

For instance, there are days I feel …

God, You don’t love me. If You did, why didn’t you answer my prayer the way I wanted? Why did You let this happen? Why won’t You give me relief in this difficult situation? Why don’t You heal me?

God, I can’t do what You’re asking me to do. I’m not adequate or qualified. You’ve got the wrong person. I’m going to fail.

God, You can’t forgive me for this. What I’ve done is unforgivable.

God, I feel like a failure. You can never use me.

You get the idea. Our feelings shout at us and sometimes drown out God’s truth. What are your feeling today? What does God Word say about it? Take some time to write out what you’re feeling, and then list Scriptures that remind you of what God’s truth is. Here are some examples:

God, I feel all alone, but Your Word says, “I will never leave You or forsake You.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God, I don’t feel like You love me. But Your Word says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

God, I can’t do this. But Your Word says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

God’s Word is true. We can count on it. I’d love to hear what verses God has used in your life to help push away the lies of Satan and the world.

 

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Discipleship 101

abc-928383_1280Why do we not see more discipleship taking place around us?

One of the reasons I hear most often is that people don’t know how to disciple others or what to do with them. Where do I begin? Do I take her through a curriculum? If so, what would I teach her? Do we just hang out and talk?

I like to start at the same place with everyone I disciple – laying the foundation for spiritual growth, going through the basics of the Christian life with them. This is very important for a new believer, but it’s also important for someone who has never been grounded in her faith.

When Bonnie discipled me at LSU, she started with laying a foundation. Although I was not a new believer (I had accepted Christ when I was nine years old), no one had ever taken me through the basics of the Christian life. I had never been grounded in my faith, and as a result, I drifted away from the Lord in college. Bonnie gave me a foundation for my faith by taking me through the basics.

But I also start here with mature believers because I don’t want to take for granted that they know these important things, and I want to make sure they know how to clearly take someone else through this material. (I actually had an 80-year-old believer tell me no one had ever taken her through these foundational principles and she wish she had gone through this years ago.) I do it a little differently with a mature believer, but I still begin with the basics.

The goal in this level of discipleship is to ground them in their faith. With this level, it’s important to take them through Scripture, give them something to work through each week to help them become familiar with where passages are in the Bible. I developed a nine-week study, Building Your Spiritual Toolbox: Laying the Foundation, that others can use to help ground someone in her faith. Building Your Spiritual Toolbox

In laying the foundation we look at:

  • How to be sure of your salvation
  • How to be sure you are forgiven
  • How to draw from the power of the Holy Spirit
  • How to grow in the Christian life
  • How to spend time alone with God
  • How to study the Bible
  • How to develop your SHAPE
  • How to share your faith

I may take several weeks to cover just one of these areas, or, if I’m taking a mature believer through this, I may cover these areas quickly. I adapt the material and the speed I move through it to the person I’m discipling.

I’d love to hear from you with any questions or comments about laying the foundation for Christian growth.

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I Love You, Jesus

A Guest Post by Katy Kauffman: Katy is a friend of mine who shares a love for writing Bible studies and pointing others to Jesus.

good-friday-crosses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love You, Jesus.

You wrapped Yourself in human flesh, fragile and weak.
The Mighty God became a man, the Creator became as the created.

You were patient with the passage of time.
You grew up, learned, and read the Scriptures.
You taught the temple teachers.

You never chose sin, not once.
You followed God, obeyed Your parents, and loved others.
You defeated Satan’s temptations by the Word of God.

I love You, Jesus.

You had compassion on the multitudes.
You taught, healed, cast out demons, forgave sins, and healed hearts.
You still do today.

You accepted the cup of God’s will. Your friend betrayed You.
The disciples abandoned You. But You stayed faithful.
You carried the cross and walked the streets to Calvary.

Nails pierced Your skin, the crowd mocked You, the sky grew dark.
God placed all of our sin on You, all the sin of all people of all time.
You bore it willingly.

I love You, Jesus.

Your soul experienced separation from God. The Father’s heart must have ached.
The angels watched as You suffered.
Oh, if we could have stopped it, but we caused it.

You forgave those who crucified You.
You found another “son” to take care of Your mother.
You granted a dying thief forgiveness and paradise.
You cried, “It is finished!”

They pierced Your side.
They took Your body off the cross and put it in a borrowed tomb.
Sorrow consumed the faithful followers.

I love You, Jesus.

Three days sorrow lingered. The disciples hid in fear.
Mary Magdalene bravely visited the tomb. The stone had been taken away. The tomb was empty!

Five hundred saw You alive. You commissioned the disciples.
You promised the Holy Spirit would come.
You ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father as the risen King.

You still walk this earth, as the body of Christ lives, loves, and serves.
You still do miracles and heal the wounded heart.
Eternal life is a free gift because You paid for it with Your life.

I love You, Jesus.

You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The Suffering Servant, the Substitute Lamb.
The Great I AM, the Risen Savior.
You are my best friend, and You live in my heart.

I love You, Jesus. I love You.

Headshot_Katy KauffmanKaty Kauffman is a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has two published Bible studies for women, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory and Faith, Courage, and Victory. Her heart’s desire is for people to know and love God, understand the richness of His Word, and fulfill His plan for their lives. Katy is also an editor and the designer of Refresh Bible Study Magazine. You can connect with her at her blog, Life with God, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Social Media: A Blessing or Curse?

social media 2Is social media helping us or hurting us today?

I admit that I enjoy social media. I am on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. But I don’t know how to tweet, and I don’t use Pinterest (I know – some of you are in shock!). I just recently got on Facebook after years of saying I never would. But I wanted to stay in touch with friends and family and reconnect with friends all over the world. Facebook has allowed me to do so.

There are definitely benefits to social media (and I’ll refer mainly to Facebook in this post, for simplification). Some of the benefits are:

  • Keeping up with friends from years past on Campus Crusade staff; disciples, disciplers, coworkers
  • Keeping up with friends and ministry partners all around the world
  • Keeping up with what’s going on in my home town
  • Seeing pictures of kids and grandkids of friends and family

But, there are also negatives to social media if we aren’t careful. For instance:

  • It can monopolize our time and hinder us from getting important things done.
  • We can become consumed with how many “likes” or “shares” we get from our status, and those things begin to give us a false sense of worth (or worthlessness).
  • We can portray ourselves on Facebook in ways that aren’t true to who we are or how we’re really doing.
  • It can give us a false sense of community and keep us from building real community – face to face. I heard recently about a woman who committed suicide because she was so lonely. She had over 2000 Facebook friends.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Facebook. I’m not writing this to condemn Facebook or any other social media tool. I see the benefits. But I also see the dangers that can come from allowing it to get out of control.Some questions to ask ourselves to help keep things in perspective:

  • How much time do I spend on social media in a day, and does it take away time from doing something that is more of a priority?
  • Is it hindering my productivity?
  • Why do I spend time on social media? What am I wanting to get out of it?
  • Is it helping me connect with friends and family or hindering me from building face-to-face relationships?
  • Do I spend more time communicating through social media than I do talking with people face to face? Is it helping me develop real authentic relationships, or hindering me?

I don’t plan to quit Facebook or Instagram any time soon. But I need to keep evaluating my motives and the time I spend on it.

What are some helpful parameters you’ve set for yourself concerning social media?

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