One of the greatest joys a woman will ever experience in life is giving birth. Though having a baby is oftentimes uncomfortable, it's a miracle we women treasure for a lifetime.
When a woman discovers she is expecting, thoughts begin to race through her mind. Is it a girl or boy? Is my child healthy? Should I quit my job after the baby is born or return to work? The answers may be unclear at this point but one thing is for certain, she's expecting!
I believe it happens the same way in our spiritual walk with the Lord. As we develop a relationship with God, He plants His Word deep in our hearts and when the time is right, the Holy Spirit reveals it and causes us to grow. By the time I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, she had her own blood type and her heart was already beating. The first trimester of pregnancy is accompanied by many changes and transitions.
After the morning sickness disappears and the baby is getting bigger every day, a woman can hardly wait to meet the person growing inside her. So it is in the spiritual realm. We wait sometimes patiently, but most of the time anxiously, for the manifestation of what God has for us. With every passing day of spiritual maturity, our potential becomes possibilities and our hopes become reality.
And just as expectant mothers do in the natural realm, we have a shower in anticipation of the new arrival. We shower God with shouts of praise! We shower Him with adoration! We thank Him for His goodness, and we love Him for His grace. Why? Because He is faithful!
By faith we are able to believe God's promises. Scripture says "For all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us" (2 Cor. 1:20, NKJV).
That's right! God will fulfill every Word He has ever spoken in your life. If He said you would preach His Word, get ready because it will come to pass. If He told you you're going to be a missionary, get ready because the mission field is calling your name. If He said He would use the pain of your divorce to minister to others, I suggest you get over your shyness because many hurting people are headed your way.
Whether you feel equipped to do God's bidding, it does not matter. Every blood-washed woman is expected to carry His Word. It doesn't matter if you feel worthy or not. The lover of your soul has placed in you everything you need to fulfill your calling. Ready or not, it's time to come forth. Happy Labor Day!
Although twice as many Americans say they have no faith compared to 1990 there's a new hope on the horizon.
Are Americans becoming disillusioned by religion?
According to a new study, detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), released last week, traditional religion is playing less of a role in American life. More people are opting for non-religious weddings and funerals (30 and 27 percent respectively).
In just 18 years, the swing is significant, revealing that despite nearly 50 million adults added to the U.S. population by growth and immigration, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.
Most significant-the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined, more than 11 percent in a generation. According to Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA TODAY, "the faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: the Bible Belt is less Baptist ... the Rust Belt is less Catholic ... and everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers - or falling off the faith map completely."
In fact, the number of people who say they have "no religion" has nearly doubled in the same time (8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent today).
This dilemma largely stems from how people perceive Christianity in the U.S. Unfortunately most people are only exposed to two types of Christians-Separatists and Conformists and neither option is very compelling.
In The Fine Line, published by Zondervan, I address these recent trends by exposing the two irrelevant camps of Christians fueling this disillusionment.
The first camp-the Separatists-are anti-everybody, anti-everything, and they retreat from culture. Their excessive rules are an attempt to escape the world. Those who lean toward the Separatist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow: rules to replace relationships, microscopes to replace mirrors, and performance to replace passion.
Rules and Relationships: Rules give them the illusion of control. They allow Separatists to hide their hearts safely behind their lists of do's and don'ts. By embracing ritualistic rules they inevitably forfeit a vibrant relationship with God.
Microscopes and Mirrors: Microscopes magnify the image of small objects. When used to examine cells in the science lab, this is a good thing. But microscopes shouldn't be used to examine everything. Jesus warned, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:3). Unfortunately Separatists not only disregard this Scripture, but also their fellow Christians.
Performance and Passion: Separatists replace an inner passion for God with an outward performance for people. They fixate on out-doing others.
The second camp-the Conformists-are hypocrites, biblically shallow and consumers of culture. Their excessive desire for trendiness results in merely mimicking culture.
Those who lean toward the Conformist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow: media to replace meditation, liberty to replace love, and tolerance to replace truth.
Media and Meditation: Conformists rarely take the time to get quiet before God. The average American is exposed to over 3,000 ads every single day. As a result, keeping our minds biblically and theologically sound is difficult to do. Conformists fall into the pattern of being amused-not even recognizing the meaning of the word or its impact on their lives. Amuse means "to not think." Conformists might benefit by thinking a little bit more about why they don't think.
Liberty and Love: No one likes to be restricted, especially Conformists. It's easy to flaunt our freedom without considering how it affects others. Many Conformists have a personal vendetta against Separatists because they barely escaped their grip of control. As a result, Conformists enjoy their freedom and vow never to be subjugated to any individual or organization again. But many times they go too far and their freedoms quickly end up enslaving them. What started as a social drink here and there rapidly evolved into a love affair with hard liquor in order to cope with the stress of life. And what began as watching films that incorporated risqué images somehow transitioned into a steady diet of porn movies.
Truth and Tolerance: For Conformists truth is only true when it's convenient. Besides who wants to come off as someone else's judge? Conformists certainly don't. Separatists are too narrow and so Conformists instead prefer a generous orthodoxy that incorporates anything and everything. In the process, their orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief') becomes anydoxy.
Thankfully there is an alternative.
Enter stage right the Transformists, a new breed of Christ followers who are in the world but not of it and more clearly mirror New Testament Christianity. Transformists embody the Scripture, which exhorts Christians to neither separate from culture nor conform to it, but rather to be "transformed by the renewing of their minds" (Romans 12:2).
The back-story of Transformists is quite convincing. For starters, they don't need to have everything figured out, for that would mean they're Separatists. They don't need to say anything goes, for that would mean they're Conformists. They neither add to God's Word nor do they ignore it. Instead, they obey it.
They're not perfect, but they're seekers. They long to have a pure relationship with the Creator of the Universe. They desire to know the "why" behind the "what" and the purpose behind the principle. Of course there will be mistakes along the way, but this is what sets them apart. They have a little more grace and patience with each other, because they know what they've been saved from.
The movement is beginning. The gathering has united. They come from a variety of backgrounds, but share a common purpose. Above all else, they passionately love God and people. They don't fear culture because they're called to shape it. They don't fear Christianity because they're called to embody it. They are the Relevant. They are the Transformists.
Although initially the trend of ambivalence toward Christianity might seem disturbing, true followers of Jesus have an epic opportunity in these tough times to change the unconvincing stereotypes of Christianity set forth by Separatists and Conformists.
Despite nearly 2.8 million people identifying with dozens of new religious movements, calling themselves Wiccans, pagans or "Spiritualists"-such people are forced to re-evaluate their faith when they interface with Transformists and the undeniable grace and truth which defines them.
By integrating their faith with their culture Transformists are a breath of fresh air to both the world and the church. And because this remnant is walking the fine line of being in the world and not of it, there's hope on the horizon once again.
Kary Oberbrunner, MDiv, DMin, is a self-proclaimed "Recovering Pharisee" and founder of Redeem the Day Ministries. The author of The Fine Line, Called, and The Journey toward Relevance, he serves as the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Grace Church in Powell, Ohio. Kary and his soul-mate, Kelly, are blessed parents of Keegan and Isabel. Contact him at www.KaryOberbrunner.com.
When my daughter was growing up, I would talk to her about prayer all the time. I would tell her that praying to God was like talking to Mommy and she could do it anytime, day and night, at the day care or in church. It didn't matter.
It wasn't long before Faith would slip to her knees, bury her little face in her hands and pray. She would tell the Lord, "Thank you for being so nice to Mommy and me," or "Thank you for helping me tie my shoe laces." And there were times when she would have to tell the Lord, "I'm sorry" and "Forgive me, please."
Several years ago I listened to a preacher share a funny story about his adventures at his high school prom. He said he had purchased a beautiful corsage for his date, rented a tuxedo for the special event and got all dressed up.
But no sooner had he and his lovely escort arrived at the prom than one guy after another rushed over to the girl and asked to dance, and she said yes. This went on most of the night until the preacher got fed up with the other fellows cutting in on him and he said to himself, Man up and go get your date!
So he took a deep breath, whispered a quick prayer, and went on the dance floor. He tapped his date on the shoulder and said, ""Excuse me, may I have this dance since I'm the one who brought you to the prom?"
She said yes and the two danced the dust up off the carpet for the rest of the night.
This story reminds me of God.
He is so good to us. He makes ways for us when there seems to be no way out. He beautifies us with the garment of praise when we feel discouraged. He stands by us even when other people forsake us. And when the enemy tries to steal our dreams, kill our hopes and literally destroy us, He steps in and gives us the power to defeat him.
I know the cares of life are vying for your attention, but don't forget to praise the one who brought you out of sin and shame to a place of peace and joy.
Scripture says God will turn our hardships and pain into praise: "'Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!' You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever" (Ps. 30:10-12, NKJV).
In these tough times of economic downturn, war and uncertainty, it's easy to depend on the president, the government or self, but let's not change partners. Let's continue to praise God for His mercy, kindness and provision. Dance with the one who brought you this far.
Last night I read the book of Job and was taken aback by the turn of events that left a man devastated by unthinkable tragedy. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
Most of us can't relate to the depth of Job's suffering. He had 11,000 livestock, enough hired help to man a mansion and most of all, a wife and 10 children. And then Satan came in and wrecked his life killing his seven sons and three daughters, the servants and his animals.
Job lost it all, but he never gave up on God.
I don't know about you, but I haven't always responded to hardships and pain in my life with unwavering faith. I sometimes doubted God, took matters into my own hands, and did whatever I could do to make things better. But nothing changed until my heavenly Father said that's enough. He not only rescued me from the enemy, but from myself.
Look at how God blessed Job after his ordeal: "Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys.
"He also had seven sons and three daughters. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations" (Job 42: 12-13, 15-16, NKJV).
God is the same today, yesterday and forever more. He is faithful and will never change. If He delivered Job from the grip of the enemy and blessed his life, He will do the same for you.
So be encouraged and keep your focus, and don't let the enemy make you curse the Father. He tried that trick with Job, but Job refused to "charge God foolishly," and we must respond in the same manner.
Brian Zahnd, founder and senior pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., recently released a book based on David's response to the tragedy at Ziklag. What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life is a must-read, and if you want to be uplifted and learn how to respond to hardships, I suggest you read it today. To get your copy click here.
Well, today is the first day of the rest of your life, right? Let's invest the remainder wisely.
If you are reading these words, know this, we have already been, and will continue to be praying for you, our readers. No hollow promises or lip service. No good intentions unfulfilled. You can absolutely count on it.
Now let's talk about what I want you to consider right this minute. But do me a favor, in the busyness of your day, please find a way to engage your heart, otherwise, with your mind alone, you will miss what I am saying - guaranteed. Reading this would then just be another mental exercise, part of the blur of another seemingly average day filled with too much information. Hearts engage!
Last Sunday I witnessed a powerful move of God. While leading worship, one of the singers got violently ill and could barely stand because sharp pains were piercing her stomach. A deacon whipped out his cell phone to call for an ambulance, but the preacher stopped the service and asked, "Before you call 911, may I call Jesus?" The woman said yes, he prayed, the Lord healed, and spiritual pandemonium broke out in the sanctuary.
Prayer changes things. When we come together in unity worshiping the Father, He comes into our presence and brings with Him all that we need. Our faith was so real in that building, the woman's healing created a traffic jam at the altar. Some people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit while others simply worshiped God and thanked Him for His presence.
Despite what we see in the natural realm-a failing economy, broken marriages, war, cancer and more-God will intervene in the affairs of His people with a holy visitation when we come together and pray.
The Bible says, "And when they had entered [the city], they mounted [the stairs] to the upper room where they were [indefinitely] staying-Peter and John and James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas [son] of James. All of these with their minds in full agreement devoted themselves steadfastly to prayer, [waiting together] with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers" (Acts 1:13-14, The Amplified Bible).
All types of people were in the upper room. A liar, a thief, a woman who had once been possessed with seven demons, the mother of our Lord and others. But they were all partakers of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as demonstrated in Acts 2:4.
God is no respecter of persons. If He responded to prayer 2,000 years ago, He will show up and move by His Spirit when we come together in one place, with one heart and no agenda, wholeheartedly seeking Him.
But let's not wait. Let's come together, corporately right here on Spiritledwoman.com. As a result of the Internet, we can reach heaven on behalf of millions of unbelievers and Christians alike. Logon to the site every day this week, post your prayer and watch God move by His Spirit.
I don't know about you, but I look forward to Valentine's Day. No, I don't have a husband to lavish me with roses and candy or a doting boyfriend anxious to ask for my hand in marriage. (I do have my eye on a certain guy, but he doesn’t even know I exist!) The day is special to me because my twin sister and I were born on February 14.
Though I've never been married, I don't waste time lamenting my status as a single woman. There's someone in my life and he thinks the world of me.
My father is special to me for a zillion reasons. Down through the years he's been a loving husband and father. He's a protector, provider and an awesome grandfather. My dad would take a bullet for me if he had to. But I'm most grateful to my father because his example led me to the Man in my life.
Christ is the center of my world, and the more I get to know Him, the more real He is to me. And every time I celebrate a birthday, I'm reminded of His faithfulness. The Bible says "For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth" (Isaiah 54:5, NKJV). Jesus can be your Husband and my Husband at the same time and never cheat.
That's why February 14 is so special to me. Not only is it the day I was born; it's the day I renew my vows to the Man in my life.
So don't be upset if you weren't showered with gifts, candy or flowers on Valentine's Day. Just thank God for His message of covenant love. It's not just for couples, it's for every single one of us.
Last Saturday morning I did something I haven't done in awhile. I teamed up with the women in my church and went door-to-door witnessing to residents about the love of Jesus.
My pastor is determined that in 2009, our church becomes a hub for evangelism and outreach. He feels the best way to be a beacon of light in the community is to do what Elvis Presley did, "leave the building." The Bible says, '"Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled'" (Luke 14:23, NKJV). Last weekend we knocked on more than 400 doors during our Canvassing for Christ event.
Every resident I encountered that day was friendly and receptive to what my friend, Shirley, and I had to say about Jesus. In fact, we were fired up and ready to save the world with a two-minute spiel and prayer. But when we knocked on the door ready to rattle off the "If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?" type questions, we were greeted by ordinary people with obvious needs, so we flipped the script and listened to what they had to say.
One night last year I was about to climb into bed when I felt an urgent need to slip to my knees and pray fervently for my uncle, Don. I had actually had a gnawing feeling all week that God was speaking to me about him and had tried calling him so we could pray together, but I wasn’t able to reach him.
I knew in my spiritual “knower” that I needed to intercede for my uncle.
Has the Lord ever dropped the name of a person in your mind or flashed someone’s face before you? Sometimes He will tell you directly to pray for a person, and at other times He uses a different method to grab your attention. Either way, I believe it is God beckoning us to pray for others.
Have you ever looked at or spoken with a person and then walked away wondering what the person is really like at home--when they are not in the public eye? There are some obvious things you can learn about other people simply by the way they dress or style their hair, but all that is superficial and can easily change.
So what you see in a person is not always what you get.