Tag Archive: Rath


Going Deeper with Jesus

Going Deeper small (2)This weekend, we begin a new 9-month sermon series at Gloria Dei, called “Going Deeper.”

Going deeper into God’s Word.
Going deeper in a relationship with Jesus.
Going deeper in our faith.

I was thinking about this idea of going deeper when I read this passage from Luke.

Now as they (Jesus and his disciples) went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Luke 10:38-39 ESV

A woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

Perhaps before we can even go deeper, we must first invite Jesus to join us where we are. He promises to always be with us, but He’s not pushy. He won’t force his way into someone’s life—or somewhere He’s not welcome.

But to welcome Jesus is to want Him present with us…to want to spend time with Him.

Martha’s sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

She sat and listened. She wasn’t multi-tasking and listening while doing something else. Her focus was only on Jesus. I can imagine her hanging on every word He said.

And I wonder, do we?

Do we solely focus on Jesus and listen to what He says?

When we open our Bibles to read His Word, does He have our full attention?

If we continue to read in Luke 10, we know that Martha was busy bustling about preparing and serving the meal. While Mary sat and listened. I think we can understand Martha’s frustration with Mary because we learn early in life that being busy is good. Being busy gets us places.

Jesus sees Martha’s busyness, but He doesn’t tell Mary to get up and help her.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 ESV

Martha is stressed out. Can you relate? I can.

Martha wasn’t out of line for wanting to serve Jesus, but she let it become more important than spending time with Him.

How often do we do the same—when obligations, even church obligations, weigh heavier than spending time with Jesus?

Mary had it right. Jesus was in their home and she wanted to spend her time going deeper in her friendship with Him.

We have the same opportunity to go deeper with Him every time we read God’s Word and let it soak in. Every time we worship Him. Every time we hear Him speak to us and we stop to listen.

In getting to know Him better, our faith grows deeper…and as Jesus said, it cannot be taken away from us.

When Our Best Efforts Are Not Good Enough

God's grace

As a wife and mother, I really don’t like the times I have to admit that my best isn’t good enough. In fact, I wonder how often I really do admit it because as I think about it, it seems like I keep trying an awful lot. That’s our reality though, isn’t it? Don’t quit. Keep trying. Work harder.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not for giving up after one half-hearted attempt. I believe that we can’t succeed if we don’t bother to try. And we definitely learn a lot from the mistakes we make.

But sometimes…our best efforts are simply not good enough.

We can live in guilt and regret over this fact, or we can accept it. I accept it for others without smothering them with a guilt trip. I suspect you do to. We extend grace.

But grace for ourselves seems to be so much harder. So, we keep trying. We work harder. We keep beating ourselves up.

And yet, our best efforts still will not be good enough.

It sounds depressing, but it’s not—it’s freeing.

Because God extends to us His grace—His free and unearned favor proffered to us.

Where we are not enough, He is more than enough. Always.

Our determination, strength, energy, and hard work will never be enough to restore our relationship with God—but we don’t have to—because God already has. (<==Click to tweet.)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

God offered the sacrifice we could never offer. He did the work we cannot possibly do.

He gives us grace.

And through God’s grace, we are able to extend grace to others—and ourselves.

Grace is freedom. (<==Click to tweet.)

Freedom to no longer live in guilt and shame.

Freedom to accept that while our efforts are not enough, God’s grace is more than enough.

Freedom to stop trying to do—and live in what’s already been done.

Freedom to breathe a sigh of thankful relief and live in His grace.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

[Photo credit: Stock photo: Alone by lake]

 

This weekend, we begin a new sermon series at Gloria Dei called Half-Hearted Zealot. We’ll be exploring what it means to be either a fan or follower of Christ. Click here to follow the series: Half-Hearted Zealot.

Jesus shows the wayDo you follow Jesus?

It sounds like I’m asking if you follow someone on Twitter, doesn’t it? In fact, wouldn’t that be an easy way to be a follower of Jesus?

Follow Jesus. Check.

Like Him on Facebook. Check.

That’s our culture now. We follow and like from afar. We don’t really have to do anything, but once we click the button, we feel like we’re in. Except that we’re not.

Our online world is more of a fandom, I think, than true followers.

According to Dictionary.com…

A fan is an ardent admirer of a pop star, film actor, football team, etc.; an aficionado or enthusiast.

A follower is a person who imitates, copies, or takes as a model or ideal; an attendant or servant.

Both definitions are nouns, but don’t miss the difference.

A fan is someone who is something. A follower is someone who does something.

The difference is subtle, but huge.

So, the better question is…

Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

Fans know about Jesus. They believe in Him, but are concerned with how they look as a Christian. They want others to see their actions, but they want their actions to be acceptable in the eyes of others. They want to be and look like a follower, but may not be willing to actually do anything as a follower.

Followers know about Jesus, but they also get to know Jesus personally. They believe in Him, but even more, they believe Him. They believe what Jesus says is true, and they are willing to act on it, regardless of what others might think.

Followers have an inner passion for who they are following. They know it won’t be easy to follow Him. In fact, everyday may be a struggle to put self aside and put Jesus first. But, they know it will be worth it.

As fans, we tend to rely on ourselves, thinking, I can’t possibly be a true follower—it’s frightening and overwhelming. I tried and I messed it up almost immediately. I know I’d keep failing.

As followers, we realize it’s not about us. We think, I can’t possibly be a true follower—it’s frightening and overwhelming. I tried and I messed it up almost immediately. I know I’ll keep failing—but I know God will keep extending grace and forgiveness.

God didn’t ask us to do it on our own. As followers, we have Someone to rely on—Jesus shows us the way…and God gives us what we need to follow. (<==Click to tweet.)

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT

 
In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: flight of stone stairs

Enduring Faith

Job-lg

Have you ever felt like the thing you don’t want to do is the thing God is drawing you to? For me, that was the Book of Job.

Years ago when I first started to read Job, I didn’t get very far. To be specific, I didn’t get past the beginning when God tells Satan he can test Job. I didn’t like that part. At all. So, I stopped reading.

And then over the years, there were times I felt drawn to Job. I underlined a verse or two, read a chapter here and there…and I started to see Job’s enduring faith in the midst of the unrelenting storm.

I saw his strength and faithfulness to God when his wife urged Job to curse God for all that was happening to him. Job refused.

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:9-10 NIV

Not only was Job losing everything, but Satan was wearing him down, using his own wife to convince him to blame God.

I often wonder if I could stand up under the pressure like Job did.

Sometimes we get the opportunity to find out…

This past year has tested me in various ways. Exhausting I-can’t-do-this-anymore ways. And sometimes I want to tell God I quit. I quit trying to keep up with everything in life. I quit trying to love others when that’s the last thing I feel at the time. I quit trying to stay faithful to Him.

But when God leads us somewhere, it’s for a reason. One night I realized why, despite my protests and digging in my heels, He led me to Job.

Because I was being worn down…to the point of thinking that if I quit being faithful to God, the enemy would let up.

But God intervened, as He often does. At the moment I was thinking of quitting, I remembered Job and how he was tested—and how he didn’t quit.

I imagine Job felt frustrated and angry, maybe worn-out tired. He complained, he cried out to God, and he questioned his suffering.

And then God showed up. Not to condemn Job, but to remind him of His omnipotence.

Job learned that suffering is indeed a part of life…but God was there with him.

Just like He was there with me that night.

Life is hard. But God is with us through the good days—and the bad—giving us strength when we have none…cheering us on when we’re worn down and the enemy is prowling…refining us for His purpose.

Through it all, Job endured. So will I. And so will you.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

[This post can also be read in its entirety at Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith / Photo credit: Stock Photo: Worship at Sunset]

Exploring God’s Word

Jer. 29.13

When I was a kid, I remember receiving a new Bible in Sunday school class. We promptly put paper dust covers on them for protection and learned how to look up a verse. I never, ever wrote in my Bible—I’m pretty sure that was a rule—a rule that was deeply ingrained in me. I know this because it was painful when a few years ago I decided it was time to start making notes and underlining verses in my Bible.

What’s taught to us is hard to overcome because I had to restrain myself when I watched my daughter highlight a page in her brand new Bible. I may have quietly hyperventilated, but I wasn’t going to squash her excitement. She was in her Bible, highlighting as she read—and she was reading more than a few verses. She read one book after another and told me why she chose each one, and which one was next.                                                                                                

She was exploring God’s word and sharing with me the verses that captured her attention. My heart swelled, and at the same time…I wish I had been like that at her age.

I wish I had been encouraged to read and ask questions, but I think times are different now.

There are more translations of the Bible, each speaking just a little differently to give new understanding of God’s word. More people are asking questions instead of taking a back seat in their faith. And there are good conversations happening, with people discussing what faith means in their lives. In these conversations, I feel better prepared and more eager to be involved when I’m focused on making my faith part of my everyday life.

I don’t want to stop at someone telling me what I should know. I want to see it for myself and go deeper. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe my pastors or doubt everything explained to me—it means I want more.

I need to know how God’s word is relevant in my life today, and having someone tell me that it is isn’t enough. I have to make that connection myself because that’s when it becomes real. And that’s what I can share with others—God’s work in my life.

I’m speaking for myself here, and not trying to say what you do or don’t do is wrong. This is me and my desire for more of Him.

But, I will encourage you…

If you want to ask questions—don’t be afraid to ask.

If you want to know more—keep looking.

If you want to go deeper into God’s word—keep reading. I’m constantly amazed at how He will give new meaning to verses I’ve heard all my life, but never quite understood what they meant for me.

And there is always more to explore…because we can never fully understand the depth of His love for us.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Bible

 

 

One-on-One With God

2 Chron. 15.2

I love working in a church environment. There are obvious perks – I don’t have to be concerned with rules about keeping work and faith separate. I can take a few minutes in the Sanctuary when it’s empty. And a Bible on my desk doesn’t look out-of-place.

But, there is also a hazard—thinking I’ve spent time with God, when I haven’t. Let me explain.

There are days of sermon theme planning, which involves spending time in God’s word, future vision planning for the sake of the Kingdom, and meetings about spiritual growth in the congregation. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been immersed in God’s work.

And then I realize I haven’t actually spent any time with Him. I’ve been in Scripture, but it wasn’t personal. I spent my day working for Him, but didn’t include Him.

And it makes a difference—in my attitude, my emotions, and even how fatigued I feel.

I didn’t spend time with God personally. One-on-one. Just me and Him. And I miss it.

So, I have to make a conscious effort to make sure I’m talking to Him, starting my day with Him, asking for guidance, and at times, just resting with Him.

I have to experience Him in my everyday. If I get caught up in busyness and work (even at church), I can’t hear when He whispers to my heart.

I also remember my days of working in the corporate world—meetings, working late, and no time for God. And days of being a stay-at-home mom—tantrums, laundry, talking to a toddler, and not knowing how to fit in quiet time with Him.

So, for me, wherever I am in life, I have to be intentional about making sure God doesn’t get the last little bits of my time, or worse yet, none at all.

I have to listen for Him. Sometimes, He’s loud and clear, and sometimes it’s a quiet reminder that He’s with me.

I have to be in Scripture, reading, pondering, and relating His word to my life.

I have to remember to start my day with Him and talk to Him throughout the day, not in formal prayer, but in conversation.

And I have to look for Him—His work in my life, the beauty He creates around me, and the way He answers prayer.

When I forget or don’t make time, I miss out. And it makes a difference. A big difference.

How about you – can you tell a difference when you’ve spent time with God and when you haven’t? Is it time to get intentional about listening and looking for Him?
 
In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Empty Bench

 

What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Philippians 3.8

What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.

Known then as Saul, he was zealous for the Jewish law. Born straight from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin, and circumcised at eight days old, he counted himself as righteous because he obeyed the law without fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And then…Saul met Jesus and his life was changed forever. He realized his value for upholding every aspect of the Jewish law paled in comparison to knowing Christ as his personal Savior.

Knowing Jesus changed him, and in turn, his values (and his name) changed.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

That’s what Christ does—He transforms us.

As our faith grows, our values change…because knowing Jesus changes us—from the inside out.

Walking with Jesus changes our hearts. It changes what we see as important. And it changes what we don’t want to live without.

How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

rose

I have never tried to graft a rose. Although I have roses in my garden, and it looks like a challenge I would take on just to see if I could do it, it looks tedious.

Grafting is a process that takes continued nurturing to make sure the bud cut from one rose fuses to the stem of the plant you want it to grow from. If the bud is cut wrong, it will wilt and die. If the stem of the main plant is cut too deep, the bud won’t get the nutrients it needs to grow. If the bud is not attached correctly, the two will not fuse.

Everything has to be just right for the tiny little bud to attach and become part of the main plant.

We, as Gentiles, have been adopted into God’s family—grafted to Him—the source of life.

Everything had to be just right for this to happen, and God is the Only One who could—and would—do it.

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

God is the gardener—with more love and patience than I can ever imagine—tenderly nurturing every branch of the vine.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)

After a while, a gardener knows if the rose bud will grow or die. Just like it will not grow if it does not get the nutrients from the main stem, our faith will not grow if it is not nourished through the source of life.

So, how do we make sure our faith continues to grow? By abiding in Jesus. He holds us close, but He won’t force us to stay attached to the vine.

We must make that effort…

…to be in His Word

…to listen for His voice

…to worship with others

…to pray daily, talking to Him and including Him in our day

…to follow His lead, even when we’d rather go our own way.

This effort may not be easy, but it will always be worth it.

How do you make sure you remain in Jesus—the true vine?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Photo credit: Stock photo: ROSE

What’s Your One Focus?

One Focus - GD

It’s that time of year when we tend to take stock of our lives. We look back at the year, and we look forward with changes in mind.

Changes we write as resolutions.

Changes that often don’t make it past January 31.

What if we skip the list of things we want to start or stop doing, and instead have a focus for the year?

One focus. Something to think and pray about throughout the year.

It might be one area God wants you to pay attention to, or one word that will shape your year. Maybe it’s one Scripture verse you want your life to reflect.

Whatever it might be, one focus is easier to remember than a list of resolutions, and it’s less frustrating because you have the entire year to ponder your focus.

If you get to February 1 and realize you haven’t been working on your resolutions, it leads to discouragement, possibly feeling like the year is already off to a failing start. But, with one focus, you can be thinking about it before it’s time for action. In fact, you might not be able to stop thinking about it, even if you’re not sure what to do with it.

How do you decide on one focus for the year? For me, I pray about it, asking God what He wants to show me, or what I need to learn. And then, I wait, and I listen.

One year, I questioned the word I felt God giving me. When I dismissed it, He gave it to me again. And again. After a few weeks, I realized He wasn’t going to let it go and I better get used to the word. Obviously, I would be in for a year of learning something, even though I didn’t know what it was yet.

This year, He’s given me two words. (Sorry, I’m not telling what they are yet.) At first, I thought it was just something going through my own thoughts. But the next day, those two words were more firmly on my mind and I realized God was answering my question of what He wanted me to focus on.

And that focus scared me a little. Well, maybe it was more than a little. I prayed about it, thinking I could still be wrong. But, no, He only gave me those two words.

Here’s the thing…if your focus doesn’t scare you a little, it’s probably not the right focus. After all, the purpose of this is personal growth and change, right? And that’s scary.

But…it can also be kind of exciting. My two words aren’t causing me to squirm anymore. I’ve accepted that this is my focus, and I’m anticipating God will be challenging me in some new ways this year.

So, are you ready to consider one focus for 2014?

For more information, you may want to Google “One Word 2014,” but be ready for more links than you probably want to explore. To narrow it down, here are two resources on the One Focus topic worth visiting:

Oneword365.com

Myoneword.org

If you are looking at one focus this year, whether it’s a word, phrase, Scripture verse, or something else, will you share it in the comment section? Let’s encourage each other this year.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Waiting on God

Jer 33.14-15

Have you ever noticed that waiting on someone else is so much more annoying than when someone is waiting on you?

When someone is waiting on me, I have control. I know I’ll deliver on what I said I would do. But when I’m waiting on someone else, I can’t be sure of the outcome. Best case scenario, I wait and the other person comes through, even if it’s a little late. Worst case scenario, the other person doesn’t follow though and I’m left waiting with something left undone.

When I’m waiting on God, it feels like I have no control.

I can’t control when He’ll fix a situation or a person.

I can’t control when God’s right time will be.

I can’t control when or where I’ll hear from Him or how He’ll call me.

And it’s annoying because from what I can see if I’m asking, then it must be the right time!

But when I’m not in the midst of turmoil and can take a step back, I see differently. My time is based on my emotions—emotions that feel out of control to me, but are just a minor storm to God.

I see only what’s around me, but God sees the big picture. He sees the storms raging and His people crying out. God sees it all, including our hearts, our needs, and our deepest desires.

My time of frustration and despair may not be the right time in God’s plan, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

God promised to never leave us and God always keeps His promises.

We can’t control God’s timing, but we can control what we do while we wait.

While we wait on God…we keep praying.

We keep walking close to Him.

And we keep trusting Him.

Because no matter how much of the picture we can see, God sees it all.

And His time is always the right time.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 
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