A few months ago, Howard and I were feeling led to plug in to a church within our own community and serve His people there. We had taken some time away from church after having Hope, mainly because the church we attended, though we loved, was about a half an hour drive away and with three kids it was becoming a real struggle. We also felt like though we made GREAT relationships there and felt loved, we were not building community around us that allowed us to "do life" with people on a daily basis because the distance was an obstacle. Our eyes were opened to the needs in our own community and our hearts were broken by the poverty we were seeing, both financial and spiritual. So, we decided to plug in to a local church, actually the church I grew up in. We knew it was not necessarily going to be a church that felt like a complete fit for us, but we felt like God was asking us to step outside our comfort zone. We talked about it and decided to commit to going for one year.
I can tell you that though we would much prefer a more contemporary type of service, changing our minds from the idea that we were going to church to be served to going to church to serve others has really made a difference for us. We are feeling loved and a part of a church family that is right in our back yard. Howard and I still work on doing church for ourselves at home, we worship, read and learn together, and on Sunday mornings we do Children's Church with the kids of our church. It has been an enormous blessing to us, it is so refreshing to watch little children worship God. It has helped remind us that Christ calls us to make ourselves like those little children and not worry about what those around us think.
When we started this endeavor, Howard reminded me that in the past when we really try to live completely for the Lord and deny ourselves, we have been attacked from all sides. Whenever we do the work of trying to further the Kingdom of God we really struggle with the stuff of life. WOW, has he been right.
The past few weeks I have literally been feeling Satan breathing down my neck. Our family has dealt with SO much sickness since November that it blows my mind. Our basement keeps flooding, financial issues arise, marital squabbles and relationship issues surface, and we find ourselves hands raised, asking what on earth He is doing.
I can tell you that especially since we began the foster care process things have become even more difficult, with each class we have taken we have encountered, sickness, babysitter issues, and conflicts of time. As we move forward with paperwork and preparations, money becomes scarce, people question our motives, and doubt sneaks in.
More often than I can count I have wanted to give up. More often than I can count I have wanted to just forget the whole thing and retreat back into safe family life where we aren't taking risks and putting ourselves out there. Each time I feel completely defeated and exhausted I find myself making excuses, God gently (and sometimes not so gently) nudges me back on the straight and narrow reminding me that he is not concerned with my comfort. So often, my human nature wants to take over and play it safe. I find myself counting the cost when Jesus clearly tells us not to. As I see all of these things happening I FEEL Satan breathing down my neck. He is watching.
We as a culture typically shy away from talking openly about the reality of Satan and Hell, but my friends, he is alive and as sneaky as ever. Those doubts that keep sneaking in...it is him...those excuses, him...he is trying hard to get us to quit. He plays on our insecurities and sneaks in when we least expect it. Often times I have wanted to tell Howard that it just shouldn't be so hard and that if we are truly in God's will it should be easier, but I KNOW what he will tell me, that is a lie straight from Satan himself. He sees the trials and obstacles as Satan and he considers it a compliment that Satan is threatened by us. I am learning from Howard as he rejoices in the hardships, knowing full well that it is because we are pushing forward that Satan is paying attention and pushing back.
As we push through each obstacle, the blessing just beyond are unimaginable...we can't help but laugh. Fifty dollars short of being able to file paperwork? Push through...well, what do you know, fifty dollars in the mailbox. I am not even kidding...every step of the way He continues to affirm and provide. It would be easy to give up and let Satan have his way. He is subtle but sneaky. Each day, as I face what must be done, I have to make a choice to choose joy and choose the path of God. Sometimes, it is a minute by minute choice and one I have to return to many times a day. I must command Satan to back off and allow the Lord to take the reigns. The cost is great, to serve the Lord with all we have. We are called to DENY ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. We can't serve two Gods, and the one true God demands our everything. We need to let go of all of the things culture tells us are important and cling to the Word of God, because it is only there that we will find truth.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Satan is here...he is trying to cause us to stumble, but God is bigger, and we choose Him. Obedience is all or nothing...you can't pick and choose...we desperately want to obey.