Start Where You Are

October 31, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

One of my all-time favorite preachers is Dr. Lee A. Simpson.  If you’re not from Texas maybe he will take some getting used to because of the accent, but wow!  Is he phenomenal.

I’ve started putting his CD’s in my van to listen to on the way to pick up children from school and after dropping them off.  I also need to put a pen and paper in there because I’m constantly going, “Where’s something to write that down!”  Which of course is not terribly safe at times.

The series I’m listening to now is about Maximizing your life–living up to God’s best for you, and Dr. Simpson gives three very important, very simple steps to maximizing your life.

I so love this because he is so wise about how real change happens.  First, it doesn’t happen overnight.  Even those people you see who become an “overnight success” really weren’t.  How many hours did they spend by themselves practicing their gift?  Yes, they had a gift, but without the will to practice, that gift would have been wasted.

But here’s the thing.  Too many people want what that “star” has without being willing to do the work.  They cry out to God to improve their circumstances but make no effort to do so in concert with God.  It’s like they want the miracle of the loaves and fish, but they’re still sitting at home going, “Well, I heard that Jesus guy is coming into town, but there’s going to be so many people there, and Josephine might call, and I really need to feed the goats, and if someone doesn’t get to this laundry soon…”

We make excuses, and we miss the miracle.

Dr. Simpson says to maximize your life, you must do three things:

1) Start where you are.

2) Use what you have.

3) Maximize your state.

Because I believe all three are critical, we’re going to spend a little time with each over our next three visits together.  Today we start with Starting Where You are.

How many times have you said, “I know I should be giving to the church, but once I have more money, then I’ll give”?  Be honest.  Have you ever said that?

If you have and you’re honest now, you know it’s a lie.  If you had 20% more money every month, you would spend at least 20% more, and still not give.

If you don’t give now, you won’t give then.  Why?  Because what you do now shows the kind of person you would be if you got over there.

It’s not a matter of money.  It’s a matter of heart.

Who you are = What you do

It’s that simple.  So if you want financial success, you have to start where you are with the finances that you have.  If you’re struggling to pay bills every month, cut back on your spending.  Whatever that means.  Big or small.  Spend less than you take in.  And here’s a good way to start that process… Take 5% of what you earn and give it away.

I know the church says 10, but start where you are.  And where you are right now is that you believe you can’t give ANYTHING away.  When you’re convinced that you can give some away, then give a little more and a little more.

But this isn’t just about church-giving.  It’s about self-giving.

If you want to be a better father or mother, look at how much time you spend with your kids.  Start where you are.  Be honest about that.  And then increase it.

The first step of Start Where You Are is to admit where you are.  I think a lot of us go through life purposely putting on blinders to what’s going on in our lives because we don’t want to face it.  So look at where you are, and admit the places that you’re struggling.

Maybe the struggle is in your marriage.  Start where you are, and do something to move in the direction you want to go.  Give your spouse a hug or a kiss.  Do the dishes without being asked or nagged.  Pick up that tool he needs or take out the trash.  Start where you are, wherever that is, and move in the direction you want to go.

Next time we’ll talk about Using what you have.

Until then, have a blessed day!

*~*

“Lucky is a book that makes you feel like you are there as the characters struggle through what the world lays before them. God comes through in the most amazing ways and you cry and cheer as they come to terms with how life can be when you lean back and trust God.”  — H. Riggs, Amazon Reviewer

LUCKY

Book 2

~The Harmony Series~

Get it on…

Amazon Kindle

B&N Nook


Jesus our Husband and Lord

October 27, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Last time we talked about how we are the Body of Christ that Jesus is the head and the Church is the Body.  Today we’re going to talk about a similar Scripture that is actually told and retold in many different ways in the Bible.  It is the idea that Jesus is our Bridegroom.  Now for the men in the audience, stay with me here because this is cool.

First off, let’s start with what the term “husband” means.  You all know that a husband should love his wife even as he loves himself.  That is, he is to take care of her.  In fact, Genesis says this, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-2

So the fact that Jesus is our Bridegroom (note how that term encompasses both in a marriage though we typically view it as only the groom) means that He is our husband to take care of us and our wife to support us and that He has taken us and united Himself with us!  Jesus is our husband.  He is our caretaker, our provider, our protector.

Further, He is one with us in the flesh and Spirit.  He is not over there when we’re having trouble.  He’s right HERE and He’s bringing His best answer into the situation.

Going further, Jesus is also our Lord.

Now this term has been used so much, we don’t even hear it.  But what does the term “Lord” mean?

Well, in Medieval times a lord (small l) was the owner of the manor or land.  There were lords who owned everything, vassals who exchanged their services to the lords for the ability to manage a portion of the land, and fiefs who actually worked the land.

The lord could do whatever he wanted with the vassals and the fiefs.  He could allow them to “rent” his land for a period of time.  He could also throw them out if he so chose.  He was “lord” of his property.

When we say Jesus is Lord of our lives or Lord in our lives, that term encompasses two distinct but entwined ideas.  The capital L means that Jesus is not a human lord, He is Divine.  He is God.  So He doesn’t just own a plot of land.  He owns EVERYTHING!

Further, He is the owner.  He’s not renting.  He’s not there at the graciousness of someone else.  He is LORD.

So, when you put these two concepts together, you begin to see the incredible difference Jesus can make in your life.  He is Lord–the Divine owner of everything–and He is your husband-wife.  He is there to support you, to love you, to protect you, to help you, to comfort you…

As Dr. Lee A. Simpson says, “Never say I’ve got a problem.  Say, ‘God, we’ve got a problem.””

He goes on to say that if the electric company turns off your lights, they don’t just turn off the wife’s lights or the husband’s lights.  They turn off ALL the lights.  When you make a marriage covenant with someone, you’re in life together.  His problems become your problems and your problems become his problems.

It’s the same with God.  When you enter into a covenant relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit, you’ve joined a TEAM.  You’ve set them up as the LORD of your life.  Your problems are now Their problem.  They are your husband, your caretaker, and they are one with you.  So if you’ve got a problem, don’t try to handle it yourself!  Tell God.  Let Him help.  Beg Him to help.  He will because your good is his good as well just as it is in a marriage.

Not only that, but God will always come searching for you no matter how lost you get, no matter what you’ve done, God still loves you.  Just check out what Hosea was willing to do for his wife Gomer.  But that’s for another time…

Have a blessed day!


The Body of Christ

October 24, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Christ is the head and the Church is the Body of Christ.

I’ve been thinking about the ramifications and manifestations of this spiritual truth over this past week, and when you really think about the symbolism and how it relates to our lives practically, it’s nothing short of revolutionary!

For example, we are all called to be the Body of Christ.  So what is a “body”?  What does it do?  What is it’s main function?

Well, one is to be a physical manifestation of a spirit.  My body is different than yours just as my spirit is different.  Our bodies shape us and define us.

For some, the body becomes all important, but the body itself is only temporary.   It is something to hold the spirit which is eternal.

The same is true for us as the Body of Christ.  We are the physical manifestations of God in the world.

Think about that for a moment, please.

WE, each one of us, broken, scarred, hurting, sad, scared, lonely… are the physical manifestations of God!

The Spirit, God’s Spirit, which gives us life, moves and breathes and exists in the world in the body of each Christian.  When others look at us and to us for witness, they are rightly saying, “The way this person acts is a representation of God Himself.”  But is it?  Are we?  Are we living up to that calling?

Or are we calling ourselves Christians while living as if we’d never even heard of Jesus?

As Casting Crowns says, (paraphrase) we stand at the altar and we have this closeness with God, and then somehow we lose that between the altar and the door.  We forget to LIVE as Christians.  We forget we are the body, the physical being of God here on earth.  What a travesty!

However, that’s not where the symbolism stops.  Look at your own body.  What do you do if it is hurting?

Well, that probably depends on how much it’s hurting, right?  A little twinge in a finger probably won’t net life-saving heroics.  We put a bandage on it and pretty much forget about it.

But what if that twinge is a gash that’s bleeding?  Now things are more serious.

I did this very thing one time.  I was chopping weeds (I know!) with a pipe at my dad’s farm when I was about ten, and I caught my little finger between the pipe and a piece of metal on the downswing (no, I don’t recommend doing that!).  It severed the tip of my little finger all but a small piece that was holding it together.

The first thing I did was scream for help!  Literally!  And everyone came running.  There was blood everywhere.  They loaded me up, took me to the E.R. and I got three stitches in it.  Eventually it healed to be like new again.

What about us in the Body of Christ?  What if one of our members is hurting or bleeding?  Do we hear their cries?  Or do we try to put a bandage on a wound that needs more serious attention?

Sadly, I think we do this “just enough to get them to stop whining” problem-solving too often.  I see it with people who quote Scripture at those who are hurting.  Now there is nothing wrong with quoting Scripture, but when the other person really needs a hug and a long, long talk, it’s pretty shallow and empty.

Sometimes “triage” in the Body of Christ means sitting down and listening to someone, being there for them, and letting Christ speak through us.

None of this is easy and it takes a lot of time.  But if we are on this earth to be the Body of Christ to others, what more important task do you have?

 


How Am I Doing?

October 20, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I’ve honestly never thought of myself as a statistics fan.  In fact, I hated the class in college.  Strangely I’ve found recently that I’m addicted to statistics.  Particularly as they relate to projects I’m working on.

There’s my page count and word count and how far I’ve gone in a day.  My number of Facebook friends and fans, and my Twitter followers.

There’s my viewer count for my blog and my subscriber count for the same.

There’s my page count for the book I’m editing.

There’s how many books I’ve sold for the month on Nook and Kindle.

Two weeks ago it was how many tickets we still had to sell for the fundraiser I was working on and how many we had sold, and how many we had to sell each day to reach our goal, and what percentage we were at, and how many each member had sold…

You get the picture.

What’s weird is that I let these numbers affect how I feel about myself sometimes.

They are kind of like the numbers on the scales (which also affect how I feel about myself).

They are all kind of a barometer trying to answer the question “How am I doing?” Am I going in the right direction?  Have I arrived yet?  How many more pages, followers, views do I need to make me feel okay about myself?

It’s so goofy.

Those numbers will NEVER give me peace and hope and understanding.  They cannot hold me on a cold night, whisper that I’m okay, tell me that God’s Plan is working in my life.

I wish I could say that I’m no longer going to look at those numbers, but the sad truth is I know I will.  I just have to remember that they do not define me.  They do not measure my acceptance or worth.

Only God can do that.

So what numbers are you looking at to try to answer “How am I doing?”  Maybe together we can decide to let God answer that instead of counting on the numbers to. :)

Have a blessed day!

 


Being the Channel

October 17, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I love teaching Sunday School, mostly because it forces me to think on my feet about God.  It forces me to put pieces together to explain God and His love and how His love works in our lives and in our world.

Today we went over the term “Kingdom of God.”  Now, maybe you, like I used to, think this terms refers to Heaven–as in someday, somewhere in some far away place we will know God’s love and be at perfect peace.  Okay, it does mean that, but it also means something very different.  The Kingdom of God literally refers to God’s love active in the world RIGHT NOW.  Not someday somewhere… right here in your world and mine.

So if God’s Kingdom is supposed to be right here and right now, why don’t I feel it?  Why doesn’t this feel at all like the Heaven I imagine Heaven will be?

Here’s the thing I learned today:

There is God and there is the world.  WE are the channel through which God’s love reaches the world.  If we are not, the world is the world–dark and sinful.  If we choose to be the channel, if we choose to let God work through us, only then does His love go to work reordering the world.

We then talked about what sin does to the channel, how it breaks the flow of God’s love, how we choose to break the channel.  The way to repair it, to heal it, is to confess we’ve sinned, and allow God to reopen that pathway.

That’s not always easy, but God can and will do so if we let Him.

The truth is being a channel of His love is the most awesome way ever of spending your life.  If you don’t feel like a channel, it might be time to say the prayer of St. Francis:

“Make me a channel of Your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love,

Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord.

And where there’s doubt, true faith in You.

Make me a channel of Your peace,

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.

Where there is darkness, only light.

And where there’s sadness ever joy.

Oh, Master, grant that I may never cease

So much to be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

And to love as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of Your peace

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

In giving of ourselves that we receive,

and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.”


Never Thought of It Like That

October 11, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Sometimes my kids blow me away.  Last week I was going through the open documents on my computer, trying to pare them down, and I came across this essay my 7th grade daughter wrote for her religion class.  Now it is the writing of a seventh grader who is just learning to weave disparate thoughts together into something long enough to please the teacher, but the main theme is profound.  See if you don’t agree:

The Two Sons

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’ He answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind, and went. He came to the second, and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but he didn’t go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. When you saw it, you didn’t even repent afterward, that you might believe him.” When  Jesus told the parable of The Two Sons, it was meant to represent something bigger and that should be applied today. Even though it is applied today you need to know the basics of it.

The Parable of the Two Sons is found in Matthew 21:28-32. It is told right after the authority of Jesus is questioned and right before the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  Jesus speaks to the believers who say they are without sin, but the tax collectors and prostitutes, aka nonbelievers, were accepting the message taught by John the Baptist.

Some people think The Two Sons represents us and the tax collectors. They think it is meant to represent how the sinners and tax collectors repent and do the right thing while the second son, representing us, say we are going to obey the law and don’t. I think this parable is meant to represent how all people can be good and the people who think they are perfect make mistakes and disobey God’s Law. This parable is important because it shows how everybody is not perfect and the people who everybody thinks are huge sinners repent and do the right thing.

People can apply this parable today by not questioning the Law of God and not think that we are perfect. Also that everyone can do something good no matter who they are. There would be no more war if all people would follow the parable’s meaning because we would all realize that we aren’t perfect and that everybody would follow God’s Law. Everybody should say that they will obey and then obey.

The parable of The Two Sons is a parable found in Matthew. It is meant to represent something more than a story. Even after about 2000 years, we still go back to this parable and say, “I need to be the first son.”

 

“I need to be the first son.”  I need to be someone who maybe doesn’t always get it right, but who is trying.  I love that.

One of the things I’ve fought against the hardest my whole life was the belief that God required me to be perfect or I was worthless.  It was all-or-nothing, and that belief left me feeling miserable and frustrated.  What I see in this essay is a new way of thinking about God and His love.  I see that my daughter is getting a new message from me and from God:  I don’t have to be perfect, and I can choose to love those who aren’t perfect as well. I will make mistakes, but God can and will forgive me when I do.  Yes, everybody should say that they will obey and then obey, but seeing the parable this way, I know that God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows we are going to mess up.  He knows we are going to say we will go and then not, or that we won’t and then do.  Both are wrong, but both can be forgiven.

None of us are perfect.  None of us have perfect obedience.  On this point, we all need to be forgiven.

I think that’s a great place to start.


When God Knows Best

October 3, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

There are times in my walk with God that messages come through–several of them–on the same topic.  Sometimes I know what they mean and why He’s sending them.  Sometimes I don’t.  This is one of those messages, so I’m sharing them with you.  Maybe this was meant for one of you rather than for me.

The first time I heard the message was on the radio.  I happen to listen to KLOVE a lot, and every so often they will have preachers on there with short messages.  The first message was about a young man of deep faith who had gone to Afghanistan in defense of our country.  One night he and his brigade were to accomplish a mission by going on foot across a vast stretch of sand.  However, as they were preparing, the wind kicked up, and it got worse and worse.

Knowing the mission was important, the young man prayed long into the night that God would quiet the wind so they could get the mission done.  He prayed and he prayed, but the wind howled through the night and into the morning hours of darkness.  Just after sunlight, when they could no longer do the mission because of the light, the wind finally let up.  The young man was quite upset.  Why had the Lord not answered his plea?

Then they came out of their covering and looked out across the sands where they were to run to make the assault, only to find it strewn with thousands of landmines.  Had the wind not stopped them, they would have been shredded by the mines.  Because of the wind, because of God, they were not.

God knows best.

The second message was similar but two days later, again on KLOVE and by a different preacher.  Now you also have to know before I tell this one, that I don’t listen to KLOVE consistently.  I listen for a little while in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon.  So these two messages came through though they were “random” to me.

In the second story, a man was stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific.  He scrounged for food and found a coconut tree.  The tree had enough food on it to last a week, so the man ate for a week, thanking God for the provision and praying for more.  On the sixth day, however, the coconut tree caught fire and burned to the ground.  The man was flummoxed.  How could God do this to him?  Now he had no food!

Then a short hour later a boat appeared, and the man was rescued.  But how?  How did the people on the boat even know where to look, the man asked.  “We saw the smoke and thought we should investigate.”

Sometimes God does not handle things the way we would or think He should.  It is in those times that we must remember that God really DOES know best, and He will take us safely through if we learn to trust Him completely–even in those times when we don’t understand.


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