Kick Off The Dust of Egypt

Most of are familiar with the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years Picture1before reaching the Promised Land. I often wondered how they felt during that time. Was it difficult to believe the promises of God? Did they struggle to hold onto hope that life would ever change?  All they knew of life was oppression, slavery and bondage. They had been born into that life in Egypt. Stories had been passed down through their ancestors of a life of freedom in a land that was truly their own. But their life was so far removed from those stories that they probably thought they were the ramblings and dreams of old people.

 And this God who was to save them? Where was He? Why was He taking so long to show up? And now that He had spoken to them through Moses, why was it taking so long to enter the Promised Land? Day after day, their life in the desert did not seem much different from their life in Egypt. So they waited.  They were in a holding pattern; out of Egypt but not yet home.

Finally in the book of Joshua, Moses dies and God allows the Israelites to enter the land He first promised to Abraham. The Israelites cross the Jordan River which God parted for them and into the Promised Land. God then instructs them to set up a memorial to remember the day that God parted the waters of the Jordan for them and brought them safely to Gilgal.

There at Gilgal, (a place of grace) God consecrates his people; sets them apart for His purpose. They are to keep themselves holy and be fully devoted followers of the one and only true God. The men are circumcised as a sign of being set apart and Joshua 5:9 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ “

I love this picture of God “rolling away the reproach of Egypt.” It is as if God is saying to His people; “You are no longer slaves and outcasts. You are now free men and women. I have rescued you. I have gone before you to prepare this land for you. Now kick off the dust of Egypt and live like sons and daughters of the Most High God.”

 Beloved, too many of us have been freed by the blood of Jesus yet we are still living with the dust of Egypt on our feet. We allow our past experiences to shape and color our        present.  We have allowed the dust of Egypt to cake around our feet and clog our journey. We may believe in our head that we are new creations but we don’t live like it.

 God has taken away your reproach now kick off the dust of Egypt! Jesus has washed that dust away with His blood. No matter what your past is Jesus has redeemed it and He will use it for his glory. We are NEW creations; forgiven, redeemed, blameless before God, adopted, chosen, holy, have received an inheritance, sealed by the Spirit, alive in Christ, God’s workmanship, created to do good works,  and a citizen of Heaven. Believe it all and live like it for it is all true. Do not believe what your emotions may tell you, your friends or family may tell you. Believe the One who created you and loved you before the foundations of the world were formed. Believe the One who sacrificed His son for you. Believe the One who bled and died for you.  Believe the Spirit that lives within you and you will live with joy and purpose every day.

 I remember when my burdens rolled away;I had carried them for years, night and day.When I sought the blessed Lord, And I took Him at His word,Then at once all my burdens rolled away.

 

Letting Go

It is almost September again, the time of year when mothers and fathers are sending their children off to pre-school, kindergarten or college for the first time. Some children will laugh and run right into their class. Some will hang on tightly to mother’s or father’s hand. Some parents will be celebrating their new freedom; some will be mourning the loss of a childhood. Whatever the scenario, I’ve come to realize that letting go of our children is a natural progression of life.

I remember several years ago when we dropped our son off at college for the first time. We packed all his worldly belongings into a 1995 Ford Taurus and headed for Biola University in La Mirada, California. He was almost 21 at the time and had worked and gone to junior college for several years before transferring to the university. He was ready to go and I felt confident that he would do well there. I was ready for him to go; ready for him to experience life outside of our small town; ready for him to know what it is like to live on his own; ready for him to meet new people and make friends whom he will hopefully have for a lifetime. And yes, ready for him to meet a “nice Christian girl” and settle down. I was ready to let go.

Letting go is a process. Their first step, their first sleep-over, the first day of school, to their first trip without you is a progression of trust for both parent and child. The child trusts that mom and dad will still be there when they return and will joyfully welcome them home. The parents trust that the child will remember what they’ve been taught and wear clean underwear.

Each new adventure our children have tests our parenting skills and our faith in God. It is through the raising of our children that we learn about God and about ourselves. Our children teach us how to live and love like Jesus. We learn what it means to love unconditionally. We learn how to care about someone other than ourselves. We know how it feels to love someone enough to give our life for that person. We learn how to trust God more completely as we must now trust him with our most precious possession. We learn how to pray. 

After my son Joel preached at our church for the first time, I received many compliments. “You have done a great job parenting”, people said. “You have raised him well.” The truth is he has raised me well. He has made me a better parent, a better person.

They say when you become a parent your heart is never again your own. I suppose this is true as it feels that a part of my heart is now at Biola. The humorist Erma Bombeck said children are like kites. “You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless … they crash … you add a longer tail … they hit the rooftop … you pluck them out of the spout. You patch and comfort, adjust and teach. You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly. Finally, they are airborne, but they need more string and you keep letting it out. With each twist of the ball of twine, there is a sadness that goes with the joy because the kite becomes more distant, and somehow you know that it won’t be long before that beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that bound you together and soar as it was meant to soar — free and alone. Only then do you know that you did your job.”

I am ready to stand back and watch my son soar to new heights and a new direction knowing that his kite string is still fully in hands of his Heavenly Father.

A few weeks after I dropped my son off at college he called me.  He needed my help, he frantically said. “What is wrong!” I replied. I am already calculating how long it would take me to get to La Mirada. “I’ve gotten a piece of dental floss stuck in my tooth and I can’t get it out!” he exclaimed. As I try to contain my laughter he continued, “It is not funny, Mom! I have class in an hour and this piece of floss is so big you could hang something on it.”

Ever the loving supportive mother, I gave him some tips on removing the floss, but not before I ask him to send me a photo of his predicament with his camera phone. As my cell phones beeps again with the incoming photo, I sighed. “Ah, my son still needs me.”

I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow

Repost from KEVIN DEYOUNG

I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow

This remarkable hymn (1779) comes from the pen of that remarkable man, John Newton (1725-1807). It’s a beautiful poem about how the Lord afflicts us that he might comfort us.

The song can be used with any tune in Long Meter (88 88). We recently sang the hymn at our church using the tune O Waly, Waly, which was the tune used at T4G 12.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.

Why are They Like That?

extrovert-introvert-comic-difference-between

I have a confession to make about myself; one that has taken me years to embrace. I am an introvert. Some people are surprised by that. I teach bible studies, have shared a testimony in church, and taught women’s conferences with over 300 women. I love speaking publicly. I love teaching, it is my gift. I also love being with people in small groups and having deep discussion. But after a while, all the people time drains me. I have to cloister myself to recharge.  Recently I had a week at work that was non-stop conversations and crisis interventions. After 4 days and some 32 hours plus, I was done. I felt as if I had literally hit a wall. I went home and crawled into bed at 6pm and barely spoke a word the rest of the night.  I am thankful that I now recognize this need in myself and make it a priority to recharge. I have gotten over feeling guilty at not doing “something” because I know how vital this down time is to my own health and sanity.

There are some other aspects of my introversion that you may not know. I do not like small talk. It is difficult for me. I would rather teach a conference to hundreds of women than go to a dinner party where I know no one and have to make small talk. My husband is a pro at small talk. He immediately makes everyone feel comfortable and chats away while I try to hide my discomfort. We will come away with business cards of many new friends after such a dinner party, while I will be relieved that I survived.  Some people think this means I do not like people.  On the contrary, I love meeting new people, but I prefer deep meaningful conversations over small talk.

Some other ways that my introversion shapes me is that I prefer writing over talking. Writing and journaling is common among introverts. Because I am a deep thinker and I take time to process things, writing is a better tool for my communication.  Most of the very gifted writers that I know in the church are introverts.

I also find it hard to interrupt people when they are talking and I do not like to be interrupted. That may seem like a no-brainer but I have found that it does not bother most extroverts. In fact most of my extroverted friends are adept at interrupting. They don’t realize that is what they are doing though. Their brain works so fast that the thoughts and words just tumble out of their mouths.  I have learned to not take offense and if I have been known to interrupt if I have a pressing need to be heard.

Introversion and extroversion is in our DNA from the time that God formed us in our mother’s womb. Most people are somewhere along the spectrum, but some people are extreme extroverts or extreme introverts.  In a nutshell, extroverts get their energy from being with people and introverts spend energy by being with people; hence the need to recharge. The differences between the two are too numerous to cover in this article. So what’s the point and why is it important to know this about others and ourselves?

Knowing ourselves helps us to recognize our strengths and weakness. It helps us to be aware of our “growth areas” so that we can work on improving them.  God is in the business of change. He invites us to come as we are (for He has perfectly made us) but not stay as we are.  I have heard many people say about themselves, “that is just the way I am and people will have to deal with it.” Boloney! We are the ones who need to deal with it.  I dislike small talk but that does not give me an excuse to opt of out it completely.

God wants us to not only know ourselves but also to be sensitive to the personalities of others.  I know that if I ask an extrovert in my bible study to share what God is doing in her life, most likely she will jump at the chance. If the woman I want to ask to share is an introvert however, I will take a different tactic. I would ask her privately and give her plenty of time to prepare. I would gently encourage her, affirm her, and reassure her that she can do this.

We are all ministers of Jesus Christ and we need to learn to work with others in a way that best for them, not necessarily what it best for us.  That means as an introvert I need to learn how to minister to extroverts. That means that I need to be patient while they talk things out. Extroverts tend to process their thoughts by talking. I need to encourage their enthusiasm and respect their independence.  I need to not be annoyed when they interrupt knowing they are not being rude. Their thoughts often come so fast that the words spill out when they think of them. I need to not expect extroverts to be like me.

Extroverts need to learn how to minister and be more sensitive to introverts.  They need to allow introverts time to process new situations. Be patient while they process their thoughts. Respect their privacy. I am a deeply private person and I am uncomfortable sharing personal information with people unless they are a trusted friend. Also I prefer to be the one sharing that information.  Extroverts can learn how to not interrupt introverts, but allow them to finish sharing.  Introverts tend to be uncomfortable when the spotlight is on them. Extroverts should keep this in mind. Most introverts prefer to receive both praise and correction privately.  Extroverts need to respect the alone time introverts need to recharge, and to remember that introverts are just “wired” differently than them.

These are just some of the distinctions between extroverts and introverts. All of us need to respect that God has given us all different personalities, gifts, talents, and temperaments. We need to keep this in mind when having relationships with one another and judge one another charitably (with love) and not critically.

Our best example of dealing with people is Jesus himself. He was a master at it. His message never changed but his methodology did. He dealt differently with different people. He was firm and sometimes harsh with the Pharisees. He was firm but gentle with the woman at the well.  Yet the message was the same. Repent, turn from your sins, and follow me.

Relationships with others are joyous, wonderful, frustrating, and messy.  Yet the only thing that is eternal on this earth is the souls of men and women. When we seek to live in harmony and understanding with others, we give glory to our Savior and we open doors to genuine relationships that testify of the saving work of Christ.

No Whining Allowed

When my children were little nothing would get on my “last nerve” quicker than whining.Picture2 That high pitched, protracted sound of complaining could make even Mother Teresa snap.  Their whining always came from a place of want and self-pity.  My standard response was, “Mommy can’t hear you when you whine.” (oh how I wish that was true!) Fortunately as they matured the whining came to an end.

I must confess that I too have a propensity to whine when life is not going my way.  About 10 years ago I needed to find a part time job to help supplement our income. The only job I could find was doing data entry work for a phone booth company making minimum wage.  It was quite a step down for a gal who had been managing businesses for the last 20 years.  My teenage son was making more money than I was.

I whined and complained to God about the demeaning job He gave me; about having to work at all; and about the measly salary I was making.  My attitude was evident to my employer. She pulled me aside one day and called me out on my bad attitude. I was ashamed and embarrassed that as a follower of Christ I was such a poor example of Him.

God used that incident to teach me to be grateful for the gifts He had given me and to not whine about what I didn’t’ have.  He then showed me an example in 2 Samuel of a man named Mephibosheth who had lots of reason to whine, but didn’t.

Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s son and  grandson of King Saul. Crippled as a baby he had no resources to provide for himself or his family. When David became king he adopted Mephibosheth out of kindness and gave his a room in his palace, a place at his table, and restored to him the wealth of his grandfather.

When David was forced to flee Jerusalem during a time of war, Mephibosheth did not come with him and David is told by Ziba the servant that Mephibosheth has betrayed him. Believing this to be true, David gives Ziba, all of Mephibosheth’s wealth. When David finally returns to the palace sometime later,  Mephibosheth greets him with dirty, torn clothes and an unkempt appearance, a sign of mourning. David asks him why he did not come with him. Mephibosheth says that Ziba deceived him and that he was unable to leave as he was crippled. David does not know who to believe so he splits the wealth between the two of them. Mephibosheth, however, is as a man who understands grace. “Give him all of it” he says, “it is enough that I get to dine at your table.”

Mephibosheth recognized that all he had was a gift from God who had ultimate power to give and take away as He pleases.

This was a lesson that the children of Israel failed to learn. They spent many years in the desert whining, wandering and waiting to enter the Promised Land. They witnessed God’s rescue and provision of them multiple times and yet they continued to whine about they did not have. They would have done well to remember David’s advice, Psalm 34:1, I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Whining is more common among all of us than we realize. When we feel we have been treated unfairly, passed up for the job promotion, when we don’t get that raise, when our lives don’t go as we planned or want, we whine and complain to God.  Perhaps we don’t realize that is what we are doing.  When we complain about what we DON’T have instead of PRAISE HIM for what we do have, we are essentially accusing God of not taking care of us.  We also place ourselves in the place of God by saying we can run things better than Him. This is at its core, idolatry. When we put ourselves in God’s chair we are worshipping something or someone other than God; ourselves.

Jesus said this in Matthew 6 of Our Heavenly Father, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

When I stopped whining about my job and began praising God for it my attitude changed; not overnight but a little each day. I found I actually enjoyed going to work again. I volunteered for overtime when it was needed, even working on Saturdays. I offered to do work for others.  I worked as unto the Lord and turned around my reputation in the eyes of my employer.  A year later when I was moving onto to another job my employer was genuinely sad to see me go because I was such a good, faithful, hard-working employee.  I don’t say that to boast in myself but to boast in my God who blesses us with His great gifts. May we always be grateful for his generosity and love for us.

When we mature in the Lord we are to put away childish things. Let’s put away our whining and be grateful for God’s  generosity and love for us.; praising Him in all things.

A Resolution Worth Keeping

I am not one for making New Year’s Resolutions and it seems I am not alone. Less than one Imagehalf of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Of those people, only 8% actually succeed in keeping those resolutions.

 This past year I did have a strong desire for something more in my life. I wanted more of God.  I have been a Christian a long time and yet I feel that there is so much more to know of God and my hunger for him is at times insatiable.

 How can we get more of God?  We know Him by finding Him in his word. God’s word is His very breath. It is not just letters on a page and pages in a book.  It is alive and it speaks to us. (Hebrews 4:12).  It gives us hope and encouragement (Romans 15:4). It lays bare the secrets of our hearts (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). Through it we are born again (1 Peter 1:23). And God’s Word changes us.

 I have been a Christian for a long time and a pastor’s wife for 30 years, but for many years I approached my bible study like a Chinese buffet. I would pick and choose what I felt I needed to study at the time. I take some joy, some love, and oh yeah “I got those kids Lord so give me some patience.” Just like the Chinese buffet I would feel full for a while, but it never lasted. I was approaching God’s word to find     solutions to my problems; not to find God.

 Too many of us do the same thing. We approach God and His word as a road map, basic instructions, or a verse a day to get us through the day. These things are good but they are not the best way to get more of God. We need all of God’s Word not just a verse or a devotional a day. How do we do that with God’s word? Read it like a book. Read whole books of the Bible at a time, and read the whole Bible, not just the New Testament. Realize that every book in the Bible is a puzzle piece to God’s story. Sometimes we view each book like it stands alone but they all work so beautifully together. As you read and study ask yourself “What does this tell me about God?” It is through God’s word that we learn of His character; that we come to know Him. And then ask yourself, “What does this tell me about myself?”

 I recently finished a study of the patriarchs of the OT, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. What a wonderfully rich study it was! I learned so much about God and myself. Through the life of Abraham I learned that God calls me to leave my comfortable life for a new journey with Him; even though I may not know where that journey leads.Through the life of Isaac I learned that God will ask me to climb some mountains in obedience and trust Him for the future.Through the life of Jacob I learned that my God is a God who came down from heaven to pursue me and sometimes because if His great love He wounds me.Through the life of Joseph I learned that whether I am in a pit, in a prison or in a palace, God is sovereign and works all things for His purpose and my good.

 Martin Luther said “The Bible is alive it speaks to me, it has feet, it runs after me, I has hands, it lays hold of me.”

 We want to gaze into the Word of God and let the Word of God gaze into our soul. It is active and living and we have to give it time to do a work on us that may take time. We have to think of bible study as a savings account and not a debit card. We don’t just go withdraw comfort when we need it, we invest and we build and it is long term. Then it is waiting for us when we need it the most.

 About 9 years ago I had a year of crisis after crisis. First the Paso Robles earthquake hit and devastated my home. That was just the beginning of what felt like a hurricane season in my life which included the sudden death of my mother, my own health problems, my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, my husband went into a clinical depression, my I laws moved out of state and we had to pack up their home of 40 years, all in the same year. And to top it off, we were vacationing with a friend at her mountain cabin and were just beginning to relax and enjoy a break when we had to evacuate due to a forest fire! It was definitely a time when I began to think that God was against me not for me.  But because I had invested God’s word and build up a savings account; I was able to withdraw on all that I knew of God and his character and His plan for my life; which allowed me to trust to God in the midst of the storm.

 

 As we head into 2013, consider making a resolution worth keeping; resolve to get into God’s Word and seek after more of Him . Your life will never be the same.

 

Betty Zeulner-A Holy Women Who Hoped in God

This is a Eulogy shared at the Memorial Service for Betty Zeulner

I am very honored and humbled that the Zeulner family has allowed me to share my memories of Betty. I Imagehave known Betty for some 18 years since my husband I came to FBC to pastor this church. Betty has been a dear friend and mentor to be for all those years. As I approached this day I thought about what I could tell you about Betty.

I thought I could tell you that she was a devoted wife to Dale for 63 years and she was. She loved Dale and supported him throughout their lives together. She prayed for him daily especially when he was in law enforcement. I am certain her prayer life was honed over those years.

I thought I could tell you what a loving mother she was to Susan, Tom , and Beth, and she was. She raised them to love God, she prayed for them, and tried her best to balance her parenting with giving them independence and freedom to be themselves, which is difficult for any parent. She loved being mom-in-law to Dennis, Jody and Steve.

I thought I could tell you what a proud grandmother she was . Kory and Kyle she was so proud of the men you were becoming. Tami, Luke and Heidi, Andy and Kate, Derick and Rebecca, Ryan and Jenn, she was extremely proud of you and the godly men and women you are, and are becoming; proud of your giftedness and your passion to use your gifts for the glory of the Lord.

I thought I could tell you what a doting great grandmother she was to Samuel, Jacob, Braiden,  Elijah, Hutch, Oakes, Zane, Taylor and Makayla.  Often she would come to Tuesday Bible study with new pictures of the great-grands to share.

Then I thought I could tell you what an accomplished artist she and how art spoke to her of her Creator, and how she loved colors.  That she was a prayer warrior; an evangelist, discipler, mentor; I could tell you what a dear friend she was to many of us as she was to most of you; how she mentored many young women especially young mothers in our Tuesday Bible study by just sharing life with them.

She was a special friend and mentor to me. She saw in this introverted pastor’s wife potential that I did not see in myself. She pursued a friendship with me and over the years though lunches she would not let me pay for unless it was her birthday, art shows, retreats, flower shows, and bible study.  She encouraged me, prodded me, and pushed me and praised me in her gentle Quaker way to growth and good works. When I became her Bible study teacher, she never let a class go by without a word of encouragement and praise, and in fact her last words to me in the hospital in Santa Barbara were words of encouragement. When my own mother passed away 9 years ago, I think she anticipated how rutterless I might become and she stepped in and became a second mom to me.  I often told my friends that when I grow up I wanted to be Betty Zeulner. 

There is a lot more I could tell you about Betty but there is one description of her that is more important than wife, mother, grandmother, friend and mentor. There is one description that encapsulates her life.  She was a Holy Women who hoped in God.

1 Peter 3 says wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, Do not let your adorning be external— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves,

This verse describes for me Betty more than any other. She was a beautiful woman on the outside for sure, and I am sure the Dale agrees. But her inner beauty and grace, her gentle and quiet spirit drew everyone to her. The moment you met her you knew that this was a woman who walked with Jesus.  She had difficult times like all of us, years of good health and sickness, times of prosperity and times of trials; but through it all her hope in God and her trust in Him never wavered.

Betty could hope in God because she spent time with Him in prayer; not just talking but listening; she spent time in His Holy Word; not just reading but mediating; she allowed the word to change her; and she spent time with God’s people not just worshipping but serving and sharing her very life.

To the very last breath that she took on this earth, she was a holy woman who hoped in God and hoped that all of us would also place our hope and lives in her God and Savior as well.

C.S. Lewis said that our life on this earth and all our adventures were merely the cover and the title page of our story. When we reach heaven we begin Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Betty is now living Chapter One of her Great Story. Oh But what a great and wonderful title page she gave us all.