Category Archives: Guest Posts

What Fire Won’t Destroy: 2 Tests to Discern Lasting Value

Standard

 

Thank to author Kristen Hogrefe for the following guest post! You can follow Kristen on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


 

If you’ve seen the news recently, your heart probably goes out to the people in California who have lost their homes—even their lives—to wildfires. I read about one couple who started packing their car with priceless vases and artwork, only to find they couldn’t evacuate in time. They lost everything but survived.

If you had a wildfire tearing toward you, what would you do? While I hope this scenario never happens, the question does prompt us to consider what we value most.

In Luke 7, a discouraged John the Baptist questioned if he’d missed the mark, if everything he “valued” counted for anything. He sent a message from prison to Jesus along these lines: Are you really the Christ, or should I look for someone else? Given his circumstances, can we blame him for asking if he were following the right man? After all, heralding Christ’s arrival (his life’s work) was costing him everything. Had he chosen the wrong path?

Recently, my Bible study group discussed this interesting passage, and I’d like to share some takeaways that might help us discern if what we’re valuing is worthwhile.

 

Test #1 – Does what we value stand up to Scripture?

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:22 NKJV)

Before we’re tempted to judge John for his doubts, let’s consider his point of view. He had done the job God had given him, and now, he was sitting in prison. Seemingly forgotten. If we were in his shoes, we probably would have had a few questions of our own.

Though at first Jesus’ response seems strange, let’s take a closer look. By citing His miraculous works, Jesus reminded John of the Old Testament prophecy He was completing. (See Isaiah 29:18, 35:5-6.)

In other words, Jesus said: Yes, John, I am who you think I am. Look how I’m fulfilling the prophecy of God’s Word.

How can we use Scripture to evaluate our values and choices? Consider these principles. Are our motives:

  • Generated by the Spirit or the lustful desires? (Galatians 6)
  • Generated out of true love or selfishness? (I Corinthian 13)
  • Generated by the desire to please God or others? (Matthew 6:24, Galatians 1:10)

 

Test #2 – Does what we value matter for eternity?

“For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28 NKJV)

At first, this verse had my friends and me puzzled. Why does Jesus call John “the greatest” and then say that whoever is least in the kingdom of God “is greater”?

The difference is the perspective of eternity. In terms of his earthly ministry, the prophet John surpassed all other prophets. The Old Testament prophets had the job of foretelling the coming of Christ, but John was the only one to announce, “The Messiah is here!”

Although John’s mission on earth merited the highest honor, it paled in comparison to the worth of a person’s salvation. “Whoever is least in the kingdom of God” is someone who accepts God’s gift of salvation. That salvation matters for all eternity and is therefore “greater” than any earthly ministry, no matter how great.

Jesus isn’t saying that John’s work wasn’t important. Instead, He’s saying what’s more important is the consequence of that work: the salvation of souls.

How can we use eternity as a touchstone for our values? Remember that …

  • Earthly possessions fade; eternal treasures last. (Matthew 6:19-21)
  • Selfish ambition doesn’t satisfy; Jesus set the example of serving others. (Philippians 2)
  • The substance of our work matters less than our faithfulness to it. (Matthew 25:14-29)

 

Closing Thought

Here on earth, fire may raze everything in its path. Not so in eternity. At the end of our lives, when we stand before God, He will judge our works by fire and sift out what doesn’t matter from what does. (See I Corinthians 3:9-15.) The fire won’t burn “enduring” deeds. Paul makes clear that our works don’t impact our salvation, but they do affect our eternal reward. (See I Corinthians 3:15.)

Do the things we care most deeply about matter for eternity? We can’t define our success by others’ opinions or monetary gain, though there’s nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves. However, what we value most should transcend the temporary.

For reflection: What do I want most right now? How does this desire stand up against these two tests?

 

[Click to tweet: What do you value? Does it matter in light of eternity? Guest post by @kjhogrefe on BigSisterKnows. @bigsistertweets]

 

When Will You Finally Slow Down?

Standard

Lately, I’ve been in a season of slowing down, resting, and trusting that God has a plan (a good plan). I’m thankful for the encouraging words of other authors, one of whom is Lucinda Secrest McDowell. Lucinda has a beautiful new book called Dwelling Places, and she agreed to provide the following excerpt as a guest post. I’ve had the great fortune of being in one of Lucinda’s classes, and I can tell you she is a wonderful lady with a powerful message. I’m sure her post will resonate with you as much as it did with me.

 

LucindaSecrestMcDowellDwellingPlaces2

Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Driving through Pebble Hill Plantation I saw the road sign that caused me to grind to a halt.

            “Slow Down. I Mean It!”

And Pansy Poe, the owner of this beautiful estate outside my Georgia hometown, had signed her name to give it more authority.

Actually, God could have authored that sign as well.

I believe He sends signs warning me to “Slow Down” all the time, but I’m usually running by too quickly to notice. Missing what God has for me – “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32.18)

Or, as one seasoned pastor advises, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

When was the last time you really rested? Hard to do, isn’t it? Our environment is constantly depleting us with noise, distractions and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. We are just too busy to rest.

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means that you are busy, just like everyone else,” claims Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and father of six who struggles with finding true rest. “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

Do you want more of Jesus and His rest?

I believe our greatest threat is distraction. Did you know the root of this word is the Latin word distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart?” No wonder we feel torn in every direction!

The author of “Sanctuary of the Soul” says that we have noisy hearts. “The fact that our schedules are piled high and we are constantly bombarded by multiple stimuli only betrays that we have succumbed to the modern mania that keeps us perpetually distracted. The moment we seek to enter the creative silences of meditative prayer, every demand screams for our attention.”

How can we quiet our hearts and discover these “undisturbed places of rest?”

Unplug. Sign out. Turn off. Hang up. Be ‘Closed for the Weekend.’ Clean up your surroundings so fewer projects call out your name. Put sleep and ‘nothing’ on your agenda and then keep those appointments. Determine your greatest distractions and energy-drainers and decide to be proactive about curbing their power over you.

And then go to Jesus and rest in His care. “Faith means resting – relying – not on who we are, or what we can do, or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what He has done. And He has done everything.”

Slow Down. I Mean It!


Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers “Encouraging Words” to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of twelve books, including Dwelling Places, Live These Words, Refresh!, Amazed by Grace, Quilts from Heaven and Role of a Lifetime. Whether co-directing the “New England Christian Writers Retreat,” mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Cindy’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at EncouragingWords.net

 

The Places You’ll Go, Part 2

Standard

This week’s blog picks up where we left off last time. If you missed Part 1 of Kristen Hogrefe’s blog last week, check it out here. Thanks again to Kristen for sharing her insight and encouragement with us! ~ Ashley

Wherever you go_Part 2

Photo and design by Kristen Hogrefe.

 

 “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Perhaps you recognize this conversation from Alice in Wonderland.

If you’re a graduate, maybe you feel a little bit like Alice. You’d like very much to stop and ask for directions.

I hope you wrote down and started praying over your list of dreams and goals, like we talked about last time. These can become your map as you seek the next step to pursue them.

Along the way, life is going to take you places you might not expect. Last week, we saw the first two, and today, we’re going to look at two more.

 

THE DESERT

Missionary explorer David Livingston trekked across Africa from west to east and braved many hazards, including the great Kalahari Desert. If you’re looking for an inspirational biography, I challenge you to read his.

He had this perspective on where life took him:

I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God, than on the throne of England, out of the will of God. 

Although you may never cross a literal desert, you will face times of spiritual dryness or times when God doesn’t seem to hear your prayers.

That’s when waiting on Him becomes so important. Trust me, I’ve been there. The “waiting room,” as I’ve come to call it, is not a fun place to be. When is a door going to open? When is God going to make a way where there seems to be no way?

Ironically, the barrenness of the desert can produce some of the richest fruit in our lives, because it forces us to depend day by day on our heavenly Father.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

Learn to face deserts with anticipation, because you never know how God will lead you through them and what will be waiting on the other side.

 

THE GARDEN

By garden, I mean quiet and still places that bring to mind shady trees, a gentle breeze and a cozy hammock.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV)

The garden is a place of rest, refreshment and refocus. When you find yourself with breathing room, don’t chide that the action and drama of life have slowed. Take the opportunity to spend more time in God’s Word and enjoy the people and opportunities at your fingertips.

While planning ahead is great, counting your blessings in the here and now is also important.

Thank God for what you have, and trust Him for tomorrow.

 

COMMENCEMENT

Graduate, I’m excited for all the places you’ll go! God has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11), and wherever you go, He’ll go with you (Joshua 1:9). Don’t waste the precious life entrusted to you, but pursue the passions God’s laid on your heart. Give God permission to redirect as He sees best, and get ready for the next step on your journey.

As Dr. Seuss said:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

~Kristen Hogrefe