Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles: Guest Post by Amy Ahrens

I am honored to introduce you to my friend, Amy. When she shared this principle with me, I asked her to share it for Red Chair Moments. Enjoy! ~April

Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles

by Amy Ahrens

Recently, I pulled on a sleeveless dress to wear. Observing myself in the mirror, I realized I needed to start working on toning my arms. At the gym, I asked the physical trainer about toning my upper arms. Once I was taught the exercises, I began to implement them into my routine. If I put on that same dress today, would I miraculously have toned arms? No, it will take several weeks of exercise before I start seeing results of this discipline.

Later that week, I facilitated the Experiencing God, Bible study by Henry Blackaby. The class discussion for the week focused on the difference between being self-centered and God-centered. One of the women raised a great question, “Now, that I’m aware that I’ve been more self-centered, how do I change to be more God-centered?”

I responded, “Just as my upper arms were not toned overnight, in a similar way, becoming more God-centered is not going to happen overnight. Once you become initially aware, ask God to help you become more aware of the Holy Spirit’s voice in your day-to-day life. Ask for the courage to listen and obey.  As you begin to “exercise” this muscle of listening and obeying, the more strengthened and toned this muscle becomes.”

However, the more we ignore and disobey God’s Spirit, the harder our hearts become to hear His voice.  It’s like each time we put another cotton ball in our ears, until there are so many we can’t hear anymore.  The hardest times to listen and obey are in the tense situations, such as an argument where you sense the Spirit cautioning you not to speak hurtful words,  but you are so angry that you find yourself doing it anyway.

Take baby steps. Start exercising your spiritual muscles by obeying in the non-tense situations. This could be when you feel the Spirit nudging you to reach out to someone who is hurting or by praying if God wants you to fast.   Fasting is a spiritual discipline like communion, prayer, and reading your Bible.  It is the act of denying yourself of particular foods, drinks, or a meal, or activity (such as TV or social media).  When you deny yourself, and feel that craving for whatever you are sacrificing, reach out in prayer. Cry out to God in a hunger for Him.  It makes you more aware of what He is doing in your life.  By fasting, your prayers will be more fervent, and it exercises that spiritual muscle of becoming more God-centered.

This year for Lent, my daughter felt led to fast from ice cream and soda. It was difficult for my husband and two teenage boys to remember. However, it was a great learning experience for her. Shed had to stand firm when people around her were eating or drinking those items, and not bring attention to herself. Ultimately, it deepened her relationship with God. Each time she cried out to God during those difficult times of craving ice cream and soda, was reevaluating why she was fasting to begin with.

Sometimes God calls us to fast when He knows we are about to encounter a trial. It strengthens us as we shut out the noises of the world and connect to the Vine (John 15:5) When we remain in Him, we produce His fruit (Gal 5:22-23) in every area of our lives.   Trials would be those “tense” times, and after strengthening those muscles, then we are more likely to be “toned” and to act in God-centered ways in the midst of the hard times.

The more we obey and experience God at work, the more we trust Him.   We see in the Bible how God works in unexpected ways, and as we see Him working in our lives. We also see that He answers in unexpected ways. Trusting in God’s promises when we can’t see His hand will tone our spiritual muscles.

Amy is married to Peter and together they have 3 teens.  She works from home as an administrative professional in addition to owning her own Mary Kay business.  She serves in her church as a middle school small group leader and coaches and mentors moms of young children through a ministry called Moms & More.

8 Steps Toward Healthy Christian Living

Medicine and Pharmacy

As a pharmacist, I dispense medication, education, and recommendations. As a Christian and writer, my mission is to encourage others by dispensing spiritual medicine for a healthy soul.

Today I am sharing with you my sermon notes from Pastor Karl Hofheinz’s message delivered September 25, 2016. (I will link the message once uploaded).  “Open wide your mouth” (Psalm 81:10) here comes a dose of spiritual medication for a healthy soul.

Healthy Christian living reaches for the Word of God daily. Click To Tweet

Healthy Christian living reaches for the Word of God daily. Spending time in God’s Word improves our vertical relationships with God and our horizontal relationships with others. Paul’s book of Colossians opens with eight timeless steps for healthy Christian living. These crucial steps are:

  1. Knowledge of God’s Will. Colossians 1:9

Six Areas to Possess the Will of God:

  • Abiding in God’s Word (Bible). (John 15, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:11, Psalm 105)
  • Obedience to God’s written voice (Bible). God doesn’t reveal the finished plan at once, He asks for the next small step of obedience.
  • Being one with God. (John 17) Know the heart and mind of God so that His glory radiates off us.
  • Have no unconfessed sin in your life. (Psalm 51). When we want to hear God’s voice, get rid of sin.
  • Healthy Christian LivingBe careful of who is speaking. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Who’s idea was it anyway, mine or God’s? Did I pray about this decision or am I moving forward with my own agenda asking God to bless my idea? Is this assignment God’s will for my life? I need to be careful of the right heart motive. Am I secretly trying to impress others?
  • Possess a “Not I, but Christ” attitude. (Galatians 2:20) Just as I punch the snooze button each day, I also need to punch the “220 button” resetting my attitude toward Christ’s desires.
  1. Walk Worthy of Jesus. Colossians 1:10. We are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). As his personal representatives here on earth, we need to represent Christ well.
  1. Fully Please God. Colossians 1:10. Our desired target is to please God in our actions, love for others, and relationship with Him.
  1. Bearing Fruit in Every Good Work. Colossians 1:10. John chapter fifteen is the fruit chapter. A healthy Christian Life possess fruit, more fruit, and much fruit, which comes only by abiding, dwelling, saturating, ourselves with God in prayer and reading His Word.
  1. Increase in the Knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10. Be in the Word of God daily. Reading devotionals and listening to podcasts are great supplements, but we need to read it for ourselves and not be spoon fed from someone else. God wants us to “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) for ourselves. “Put on your new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge.” (Colossians 3:10). “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Five Ways to Increase in the Knowledge of God:Healthy Christian Living

  • Study the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Memorize on the Word (Psalm 119:11)
  • Mediate on the Word(Joshua 1:8)
  • Hear the Word (Romans 10:17)
  • Read the Word (Revelation 1:3)
  1. Be Strengthened by All Power According to His Glorious Might. Colossians 1:11. The weapons of our warfare are mighty (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We have the weapons of God’s Word, Prayer, and Fasting.
  1. Possess Patience and Long-Suffering with Joy. Colossians 1:11. If we think right, we will do right, and act right. “The peace of God which transcends all understandings will guard our hearts and minds” (Philippians 4:7-8).
  1. Be Thankful. Colossians 1:12. God the Father, through Jesus Christ, has qualified believers to share in the eternal inheritance of Heaven.

Taste and see the Lord is godDavid wrote, “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Use these sermon notes as a study guide, but more importantly, seek God and read His Word for yourself.

Imagine you and your friend are standing outside a pavilion offering free ice cream. Your friend returns, slurping up the ice cream dripping from a waffle cone. Salivary glands erupt, as you see the sugary goodness. Having never tasted ice cream before you watch and listen as your friend describes the flavor and texture of the ice cream. You too can taste ice cream for yourself. It is free and available to anyone. Christ’s love is free and available to anyone anyone willing to believe.

Will you make movement toward God?

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.

*Images courtesy of Pixabay.

Would You Like Garlic Bread? Learning to Serve While Waiting on God

butler waiter server Pixabay“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27,NIV)

Recently I shared about having Faith While Waiting for Answers. A friend reminded me that in restaurant industry waiters are also called servers. She commented that we should be seeking ways to serve while we wait.

This notion of serving while waiting presented itself to me in a unique way this week. Our church youth group participated in a progressive dinner. When I learned the theme for the evening was Italian, I dropped off our son and left. I love pasta and bread, but unfortunately, this food combination will trigger an attack of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis.pasta Italian Pixabay

Driving home a gnawing feeling rose in the pit of my stomach. What Lord? I prayed. Is this really how you’ve been taught, if you can’t get benefit from an activity than you leave? Go to the preacher’s house. These words downloaded into my brain. I did not hear them audibly but the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to me. I answered back, Okay I’ll go to the preacher’s house (the third stop on the progressive dinner), but Lord if it is okay with you, I’m going to grab a bite to eat at home first.

Beating the youth group bus, I knocked on the front window and waved at the pastor’s wife Sandy, standing in the kitchen. Wiping her hands on a kitchen towel she said, “What are you doing here?” I explained the situation and she grinned. pasta Italian 2 PixabayLess than an hour earlier, she prayed, “Lord, how am I going to serve forty people spaghetti and bread by myself?”

We worked swiftly in the kitchen stirring noodles and sauce and sharing life. It did not matter that I could not eat the meal I was serving or that I lacked the strength to participate in the entire progressive dinner. What mattered was that I responded when I felt the Lord’s prompting.

God will test our obedience in small areas before he will give us grander opportunities Click To Tweet

God will test our obedience in small areas before he will give us grander opportunities. In Amy Carroll’s book, Breaking Up with Perfect, she describes “God’s love language is obedience.” This is a lesson I often remind my middle school children, but this week, it was a lesson God taught me himself.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” (Luke 16:10, NLT)

What unexpected blessing has God given you, while responding in obedience, when called to serve in your season of waiting?

~April Dawn White

*Scripture is NIV or NLT from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of Pixabay. © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Ram in the Thicket

It’s been a brutal week. I’ve wrestled with physical pain, emotional lows, and misplaced hope.

Searching for comfort, I went back to the beginning, back to Genesis. Abraham’s fierce obedience was not overlooked. Better than an ace in His pocket, God had a ram in the thicket for Abraham.

Don't worry faithful one, God has a ram in the thicket for you. Click To Tweet

Like the ram in the thicket (Genesis 22:13), God already has the answer to prayer in place for just the right time.

While my situation has not changed my outlook has, and it is well with my soul.

~April Dawn White

*Images courtesy of Pixabay. © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

P.S.

My brutal week ended with magazine publications for fall of 2016 from Clubhouse and Reach out Columbia magazines! I love when God shows off on my behalf. One thicket, two rams.

Holy Headache: A Lesson in Divine Appointments

A Red Chair Moment at
Ridgecrest
My head was pounding, no doubt due to the haze of yellow pollen that enveloped Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I walked to class early to reserve a seat. Steve Laube’s class filled up quickly, everyone vying to listen to this legendary literary agent. If I hurried, I would have time to return to my room, grab a Coke Zero™ and swallow a handful of ibuprofen, and allergy medication.
As I approached my building I saw my friend Sandra, sitting at an outdoor table. She didn’t see me walk up and I pondered whether to stop and say hello before or after grabbing headache medicine. I felt a nudge to stop now rather than later. “Honey, are you okay?” Her tearful eyes answered my question.  
An hour earlier, author Susan May Warren gave the keynote address. She spoke of her experiences as a missionary in Russia. She captivated the audience, by her true story of God’s protection and provision, while being held hostage and robbed. Susan spoke about starting over with nothing when her family returned to the United States eight years later. In a shaky voice, Sandra explained she had a similar experience as a missionary in Eastern Europe. Susan’s speech stirred up emotions Sandra had suppressed. Until Susan May Warren’s speech, Sandra didn’t know of anyone else who would understand.
Susan May Warren’s autograph for
my library book
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
As Sandra spoke, the silver charm of her necklace reflected the early morning sunlight. Inscribed on the simple charm was Psalm 139:14.  I knelt down and prayed for her. We hugged and I wiped my own misty eyes, wishing I had worn waterproof mascara.
There was no time for me to return to my room for headache medicine. While checking my make up in the lobby restroom and I realized my pounding headache was gone! Outside I skipped towards Sandra (yes I skipped). I was excited to explain how God removed my headache!
Did God give me a holy headache so that I would come across her path? Was my headache a test of selfless obedience? During my week at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I signed up for several faculty appointments. However, my headache and discussion with my Sandra was divinely appointed.

 

What about you? Have you experienced a divine appointment? Please share in the reply below. 

~April 

You Can’t Out Give God!

Andrew gave all that he had.
The Wade Family Christmas is a large affair, with a gathering of over one hundred, our clan mostly dressed in Wranglers and boots, gather at a local reception hall. Each year, our extended family chooses a family in need. Often we donate food and firewood, and money. This year my parents, and the kids and I packed up our firewood to give to a family member going through a difficult time. After dinner, the monarch of the family announced another collection would be used to purchase new dentures recently lost at the nursing home.
            A few days later, I discover money and a note on the kitchen counter. I counted the money and read the note from Andrew: “New teeth.” I called Andrew into the kitchen to explain. He said, “Well, it’s not a lot, but it’s all the money I have, except for Wal-Mart gift cards. You can’t buy new teeth with a Wal-Mart gift card can you? We know two people who need new teeth and I want them to have my money. I have teeth. Everyone needs teeth, mom.” I cried. I lifted my head to the heavens and thanked the Good Lord above for this boy!
            We spent Christmas Eve with my parents, my sister and her children. After the presents were opened, my mom announced she had one more gift to give. She handed Andrew a crisp twenty-dollar bill and said, “Andrew, I heard about you giving all your money away to help buy new teeth for Wilton. This is for you!”  Andrew’s eyes lit up with excitement, and then he spoke, “But Grandma, this is too much. I only gave away $18 not $20.” She smiled at her only grandson and said, “No, you keep it!” From across the living room cluttered with wrapping paper, I asked “Andrew, what is it I always say about giving?” With a huge grin, he erupted, “YOU CAN’T OUT GIVE GOD!” It’s true; we can never out give God! In fact, the Bible says to test God on this subject.
Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
(Malachi 3:10 NIV)
            I received many treasured gifts this Christmas. However, the most treasured gift was watching Andrew walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s nudge to give; then watching his face light up when he received back more than he gave. That’s how God works. You can’t out give God!


~April 
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