At All Times-Psalm 34:1

August 2, 2012

Fighting Spiritual Obesity Guest Post

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Whitney Standlea @ 11:27 am

I hope you will stop over at Biblical Counseling For Women to read my guest post entitled “Fighting Spiritual Obesity: A Workout for Fat Christians.” Biblical Counseling for Women is a blog written by a friend of mine that is a Biblical Counselor certified by NANC and the IAB. At this blog she provides encouraging, biblically based counseling on a host of issues ranging from marriage to extended family relationships.

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June 4, 2012

The Mirage and the Oasis: A lesson on uncertainty and the presence of God

The Lord leads His children through the wilderness often. The “wilderness types” we might walk through are many:

  • lonely places of longing for a mate or genuine Christian fellowship
  • spiritual dryness
  • feeling the heat and pressure of constant spiritual oppression
  • suffering through a financial crisis
  • physical ailments or chronic pain
  • fruitlessness in ministry
  • an unfulfilled desire
  • directionlessness

My husband and I have been walking through the wilderness for the last several years emobdying the latter two. We had health, joy, fellowship, and many other blessings, but we lacked direction. My husband was walking  through life with a deep desire to minister fully to God’s people. Several years post college graduation with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and a growing family, he cut back on his major responsibilities of volunteer ministry at church to meet the demands of three children, a wife, and a home. Of course he was still ministering at the church, but his passion and his calling to do more was constantly burning… with nothing to be consumed by it except his own heart.

Stepping out in faith we began (just over a year ago) to search for a vocational ministry position for my husband. This time period seemed to be a climax of the directionless and unfulfilled desire from the proceeding years.  As we prayed and waited, painstakingly search for a church that was solid in theology and a good fit for his gifts, it seemed that nothing was certain around us. We put our house on the market, but it wouldn’t sell for what we needed. We got close with one church, but then weren’t chosen. We were constantly questioning whether to proceed with putting resumes out or to wait until our home sold.

At Christmas time I remember telling my husband how crazy the future seemed. As we considered pulling out Christmas decorations we knew we could sell our house and be living with my parents before it was time to open presents. We didn’t know where we would be celebrating Christmas the following year. Still in our home? Living with my parents still searching for a job? Living in Florida, Utah, Kentucky? Would we have two mortgage payments? Would we be able to come home and see family for Christmas? Where would he be working? How much money would he be making? Would there be snow or beaches for Christmas? Would we be floundering to build new relationships in an overwhelmingly large church or welcomed into the homes of others from our newer and smaller church family? Uncertainty about the future never seemed so extensive to me.

It was during this time that I learned my first lesson in the wilderness:

The future is always uncertain. What changes is our perception of certainty.

The Christmas before we had established our first Christmas traditions in our new home. We went through the whole season assuming it would always be the same. Our Advent Calendar would always be hung in the empty wall in the family room, we would always watch the snow out our picture window, and family would be less than an hour’s drive away. In reality, although not in the forefront of our minds, our house could burn down December 26. My husband could lose his job December 27, we could be called to leave for the mission field December 28. A crisis could hit our church December 29 leading to a church-split and forcing our family to find a new church “home.”Each day brings a circus of uncertainty that we aren’t even aware of.

When we stop to enjoy the temporal blessings that surround us (a loving church family, a safe neighborhood, a stable job), it is like a little oasis in the middle of the wilderness. The sand stretches around us endlessly, but we are oblivious to the wasteland around us because the overgrowth from our little paradise is too thick to see out. It doesn’t take much, just a machete, to hack a little whole in the bushes, and we see what lies on the other side: wilderness. Untamed, unbridled, unknown.

God leads us into the wilderness, no doubt. Sometimes he walks us out of our little oasis of refreshing pools and out into the sand. My husband’s aching desire to minister more provoked his dissatisfaction with our “oasis” and led him out past its overgrowth. Sometimes our oasis is stripped from us as God sends trials, death, and other kinds of loss that remove whatever “oasis” we were clinging to. It is in the wilderness that he teaches us, refines us, sanctifies us. And in the wilderness, I learned a second lesson which answers every struggle:

Above all else, He gives us Himself.

In times of uncertainty, or whatever else we may be struggling with in our wilderness, God has chosen to give us Himself. Remember the Israelites’ wanderings in the dessert:

    And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
(Exodus 13:21-22 ESV)

They did not know the way. But Almighty omnipotent God was leading them. Not only did He lead them, but He put His presence in the midst of them.  We certainly don’t walk around with a pillar of fire guiding our steps anymore, but how remarkable is the salvation that Christ has purchased for us! We have been promised that He is with us always. That nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, that His spirit abides in us if we abide in Him. What a precious hope it is that as we walk through the dessert! Whether we are friend-less, mate-less, job-less, money-less, direction-less, or health-less, we are never God-less. We are never hope-less.

We are getting ready to walk into a new “oasis.” My husband starts a new job soon that will allow him to fulfill the burden God has placed in him. We have direction about big life decisions like location, income, and living arrangements. As we walk out of this “wilderness” these are the most important lesson I have learned: Nothing is really certain. The oasis is truly a mirage. All the good things in life come from God and we should certainly enjoy them. But if we will reach out and touch them they will crumble. We will find they are only a mirage, unable to stand the attacks thrown by life in a fallen world. But as we walk back out in to the sand, we will find with certainty that God is certainly present with us. He is certainly enough. As I enjoy this new season of seeming certainty and blessing, I hope I can keep my eyes set on the greatest joy of God’s presence, knowing that everything else can be gone in a moment.

May we walk with joy in any wilderness He leads us through, knowing that He will give us Himself.

Excerpts from Deuteronomy 8 (emphasis added):

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.

(Deuteronomy 8 ESV)

May 27, 2012

Judgement: The Zeal Zapper

Filed under: Personal Reflections — by Whitney Standlea @ 8:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Last week I wrote a post about dealing with the competitive thoughts we can have toward our husbands when they don’t do things our way. I shared that I often pit myself against my sweetheart, becoming grouchy or bitter over what I see as his weaknesses. I quickly lose the ability to love and serve him, worship God, and walk in joy. The solution: Serve Jesus! If I stop focusing on serving my hubby, and start focusing on serving Jesus, I can really begin to serve and love. When I do things for my husband out of a love for God, I never lack zeal.

Walking forward with this same truth, I want to share with you some thoughts on judging and criticizing your brothers and sisters within the church. Those of you who are involved in church ministry may deal with this quite a bit. Judgment toward other believers can really zap our zeal for the Lord.

We had “Ministry Emphasis Week” at our church this past week, and my pastor preached through Romans 12. Even as he was speaking, the (rather frequent) thoughts I had been having about serving in the church started to bombard me again. Judgmental thoughts. Those thoughts that over-estimate the amount of time I spend “ministering,” while questioning the motives of other brothers and sisters for not being more involved. Can you believe me when I tell you that I actually sat there in the pew thinking about how So-and-So could help out more with Such-and-Such if they weren’t probably spending so much time in front of the computer or sleeping in everyday or so selfish or so…? Not only was I judging them, but I was making sweeping assumptions about the lifestyles of some folks I barely even know!

Part of me is doing all of this to feel better about how much time I invest in the church. It sure does make me think I’m something special when my husband and I are working harder than everybody else. It’s amazing what mental gymnastics I will go through to justify this unreal perception just to give myself a mental pat on the back.

And what good does it do? I work myself up into this unpleasant state I mentioned before and it drains me of all my joy when serving. Instead of walking into the nursery with a joyful spirit, ready to serve and love the children around me, I’m bitter about how many times I’ve had to work while there are other women who are not in there to help.

The answer to this judgmental mess is simpl: Serve Jesus! Although it is in the context of judging one’s convictions before God, I love the truth Paul uses in Romans 14:4:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Doesn’t that just put everything in to perspective? I master is Christ.  I report to Christ. I am accountable to Christ for my actions and how I have used the gifts He has given me. My brothers and sisters in the Body are not reporting to me for how they have used their gifts that God has given them. Those brothers and sisters of mine at church are servants of Christ.

Are you are tired and weary from active, extensive service in the church? How much more zeal and joy can you have if your focus is on serving your Lord, Jesus Christ, rather than on serving others or wishing they were serving with you?

Do you question others’ choices in how they serve the Lord? Let us not forget that God has given different gifts within the body and that each one is accountable to God for the use of those unique gifts. Focus on your gifts and be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted you with!

If you are walking a self-absorbed life, lacking in zeal for the Body, how much energy and motivation can you have to serve others than to know that you are accountable to Jesus Christ for the gifts, the time, and the resources that He has given you ?

Select verses from Romans 12 (ESV), emphasis added

            [1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. … [4] For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, [5] so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. [6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…

[9] Let love be genuine. … [10] Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. [11] Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. …[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

May 21, 2012

Eliminate Competition. Stop Serving Your Husband.

Filed under: Personal Reflections — by Whitney Standlea @ 1:21 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I am writing this on my six year wedding anniversary. I remember standing at the alter with my husband, listening to the words of our dear pastor and friend: “You are a team, a ministry team.” He asserted to us that our union was blessed by God to be used by God for His purposes and His glory. We were to work together at life, love, family, marriage, ministry as one unit. We have often referred back to that “team” concept at different times in our marriage, for different reasons. One barrier keeps coming to mind as I think about our marriage and our joint effort at living life in service to God through our family and the church: competition.

Competition has been a great battle for me in our marriage. While desiring to be on the same team as my husband, I often want to pit us against each other. I’m not talking here about “outdoing one another in showing honor.” I’m talking about that constant comparative mindset that asks the questions, “Who’s put in more hours of work today? Who’s changed more diapers today? Who’s been on their feet the most? Who has been the most focused” I am trying to mentally tally the day’s labors and see who deserves to take a break more. Other times I am attempting to justify my desire to expect more from my husband.

Hidden in all of this is my people-pleasing little heart. It’s that part of me that is wanting him to notice and appreciate all the work I’ve done. It’s the part of me that won’t ever say it, but secretly thinks I deserve something from someone for whatever it is I have done. This competitive attitude can ruin an entire day. “Welcome home, Honey!” turns into “Will you fix the light as soon as dinner is over.” Cleaning up a few dirty dishes while my husband catches the weather forecast, turns in to a muttering affair of begrudgement that lasts the entire evening because “He’s too self-absorbed to assist me with anything as small as cleaning up the kitchen.” It won’t matter how many home projects he completes that night, how involved he is with the kids, or how servant-hearted his attitude. Any rest, any break, any moment where he is not fulfilling my agenda suddenly becomes an opportunity to pounce on his “un-sportsman-like conduct” in the midst of our “team-effort” of caring for our home and family.

I have found that this attitude entirely strips me of the ability to

Have joy.

Serve my husband.

Love.

And Worship.

What an unpleasant state of affairs!

Trying to move forward and resolve this messy heart of mine, I have found the following truth to be most helpful…

I am a servant of Christ. When I serve others, it is primarily for the purpose of serving Jesus.

When I start focusing my attitude around serving my husband, it quickly becomes a competition of serving one another (Disclaimer: Despite the impression my thoughts might be giving you, he serves me very well!). Anything he does that isn’t focused toward me or doesn’t fit my agenda, suddenly gives me self-vindicating ammunition for why he is just so unworthy to be served by wonderful me-I hope you’re hearing a bit of the ridiculousness of this thought process. However, when I decide to do something extra for my husband or complete one of his usual chores because I know that I am serving Christ by loving and giving of myself to others, then I can suddenly drag that trash down the stairs without a scowl on my face. I can volunteer to watch the kids by myself so he can have a chance to relax-even if I’ve been with them all day. Seriously, how can I not complete any task with joy and worship when I’m doing it for the Perfect Lamb who died that I might live for Him?

My perspective on my husband and myself also realign when I walk in light of this truth. He is no longer the self-absorbed tv-watching sluggard that I have pitted myself against in fierce competition. He is just the hard-working man who has been on his feet all day and needs a minute alone. And I am not longer the wonder-wife who has slaved the day away. I am just me, serving Jesus, with my husband-teammate. So, dear sister, stop serving your husband. Start serving Jesus. Walk in joy, love, and worship as you serve others for Him.

Romans 12:10-11 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

February 23, 2012

God’s Love, Prayer, and Suffering: Preventing bitterness and cultivating hope

My mom recently faced some serious medical issues. I love her. Naturally, with great concern I prayed for her and shared her situation with friends so that they might pray as well. Among many other things we prayed that God would heal her or allow treatment to work effectively on her behalf. We do this all the time, and so do you. The majority of prayer requests we hear from others are related to suffering (usually health issues) of some kind. We pray that the surgery will go well, that the cancer won’t come back, that the kids will get better, that Grandma’s hip would heal, that the baby would be moved out of the NICU…

Many people who do not love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ still pray, and pray primarily about these types of requests. They are not on their knees praying for the salvation of the lost, strength to love their enemy, or unity in the church. They are praying that people will get better. Day after day they pray, and some folks get better, some folks get worse, and some folks die. How does this effect a person’s understanding of and response to God?

I believe that how we respond to God’s answers to our prayer for relief from suffering (whether our own suffering, or someone else that we love) rests primarily on our definition of God’s love and the purpose of His sovereignty in our circumstances. Let’s take a look…

Jillian. Her Dad is dying with cancer. She’s a good mom of two kids and she wants them to grow up knowing the dad she loves so much. She and everyone she knows are praying that the treatments work. Jillian has a simple understanding of God’s love: God cares about people and wants them to be happy. He’s there to take care of them, provide for them and love them, as long as they are good people. Jillian is a good person and she prays to God. Jullian assumes that God will care for her, provide for her and give her a good, happy life. If she believes that God’s love means that God is going to do whatever He can to preserve her happiness and well-being, then God most definitely should answer these earnest prayers.

What happens when He doesn’t? Jillian would have to conclude one of two things… God really doesn’t love her, or God really wasn’t able to heal her father. So Jullian is left being angry with God for His unloving disposition toward her or disappointed with God because He is weak and powerless.

This is why a clear understanding of God’s love is absolutely essential to responding to trials in life. Let’s fix Jillian’s definition….

 Love is making much of Christ.  Yes. I stole this definition from John Piper.

I think a little quote from C. S. Lewis helps explain: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” We often think of love in terms of making someone happy. If you love your wife, you are going to do things that make her happy: mow the lawn, buy flowers, answer the phone when she calls, say kind words. But if we push happiness to its fullest end we see that the only real happiness and joy is found in God Himself, manifest in the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [I’m not going to establish this from Scripture in this particular post, although it could be done. I’m assuming you agree with me on this statement for now.] So God, in the truest sense of the word, loves us by relentlessly pursuing glory for Himself and His Son Jesus Christ, knowing that when we see His great glory and rest in Him we will have real joy. For God to settle for anything less than that would be essentially unloving. All in all, God is not about giving us what we think will make us “happy,” but rather giving us what will drive us to Him. This is one of the reasons why, while sovereign over it and able to stop it, God continues to allow the devastating consequences of sin to plague the world with sufferings of various kinds.

Let’s go back to my mom. As she receives treatment, how should I respond if it is ineffective? What should I say to God if I pray for healing, and instead my mother loses her hearing, or her life? As I think of God’s love for me (As I think of how God will make much of Christ to me), I consider Romans 8:25 and following:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [I can pray with confidence that my petitions are being presented by the Spirit to the Father, and He is even asking what I know not to ask for on my own behalf. He cares about me, about my mother, and about everything that I am hurting over.]

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [I know that what I face will CERTAINLY be used by God to work out my good… which is that He would make much of Christ in my life so that I would be more like Christ because of my trials.]

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

[Ha! If Christ has justified me, I am certain of God’s love for me. If Christ was raised from the dead, I am certain of God’s sovereign power to exercise that love toward me in any circumstance.]

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Nothing can separate us from the love that God has shown us. Lo, Christ is with us always and God will always be making much of His glorious Son in my life-even if it comes through trials and difficulties and prayers that aren’t answered the way I’d like.]

(Romans 8:26-39 ESV)

January 29, 2012

Healing from Sexual Abuse

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Whitney Standlea @ 9:44 pm

If you have access to “Living with Teenagers” magazine (a publication from Lifeway that is often found in Southern Baptist Churches or in your Lifeway Christian Store), I hope you’ll check out my article called “Healing from Sexual Abuse” in their February edition! The title is a bit deceiving as the article focuses on how to respond to your son or daughter if they disclose to you that they have been sexually abused. Learn more about “Living with Teenagers” here. Thanks!

January 15, 2012

What to do with Easter?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Whitney Standlea @ 3:07 pm

“Maybe we could not allow anyone in the family to shower, wash dishes, or clean ANYTHING from Good Friday to Easter Sunday to illustrate that without Christ’s forgiveness we are tainted by sin!”

My kind and gracious husband simply replied, “No.” That was his response to my many other *more extreme* suggestions like keeping and slaughtering a lamb for our family’s Easter tradition.

Just being frank, Easter is a difficult holiday for me. Traditions, crafts, activities and fun exist for the whole Christmas season and many are even Christ-centered. In a way, it is almost easy to celebrate the joyous coming of Christ! But Easter is different. Although just as great a cause for joy and rich with theological and practical significance to the Christian, Easter is challenging to celebrate. Its somber: Death, suffering, sin. What are we suppose to do with these things? It seems that the Protestant Evangelical tradition is lacking in resources and traditions that promote reflection, understanding and appropriate celebration of this event. Granted, we celebrate the truths of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection daily as believers, but doesn’t such a significant event warrant a special time of celebration like Christmas? Something more than just a “Good” Friday that most of us still work on followed by a Sunday feast with new dress clothes?

I’ve been struggling with what to do about Easter for some time. My first attempt and tradition is a personal one that my husband is not able to take advantage of with me because he has to work. It is keeping a “Sabbath” of rest on Good Friday. You can read about my first attempt here.

This lack of Christ-centered Easter traditions and my years of struggling to decide how to celebrate this as a family is why I am so eager to use our new Easter Banner in our home and to share it with you all here through Heart FELT Truths. I am excited to use this tool to draw our focus to the cross during Holy Week and teach my children about the work of Christ! I will have more information and photos up in about two weeks!

I hope you’ll respond to this post with your own thoughts and maybe some Christ-Centered Easter Traditions of your own.

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