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Copycat

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A few nights ago, my husband and I were privileged to minister in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. One evening during worship, I became aware of a startling and sobering truth.

I can’t remember what songs we were singing, but my eyes were closed and my hands raised when I had the strange notion I was being watched. I opened my eyes to see my two elementary-aged daughters with their little necks craned so that they could see me! They immediately turned back toward the stage and raised their hands.

My first response was to giggle. They’re copying me! I thought to myself.

I continued to worship and, as the music picked up, I began to sway back and forth. Again, I felt their eyes. When mine met theirs, they quickly turned away. And now, those two little heads began to sway in the same direction and with the same lack of rhythm as me.

It was becoming both fun and funny to me! They were mimicking me move for move. When my hands went up, theirs did too. When I swayed, they swayed — and in the same direction. When my eyes closed and my expressions became intense or passionate, their eyes closed and their faces scrunched up with intensity and passion.

Somewhere in this little match, I watched my girls transition out of a game of copycat and into standing before their Master in pure, childlike, fully-abandoned worship. I watched their lips, as they no longer followed the words to the songs being led. They were now creating their own words. They began offering their own prayers and words of love and adoration to their Savior.

This revelation moved me to weep and landed me on my knees. The Holy Spirit reminded me that I’m being watched. The most important people in my world are following me — the two little souls with whom I’ve been trusted to lead, guide, and train so that they’ll walk in the way they should go. I became an ugly, blubbering mess of Mama on my knees!

I’ve been in that place before. Before stepping out on a platform to preach, or leading a team across the country, and often times as I sit down to write. Those moments turn into times of pleading with the Lord, “Lead me as I lead them!” But those moments, as precious as they are, will never compare with the awe, fear, and reverence I felt in this one.

I was never the girl who dreamed of being married and having children. Growing up, my aspirations were toward having a career. I remember all of my friends wanting to work in the church nursery and hold the babies. As a young woman entering discipleship and ministry, I remember hearing everyone talk about getting married and having kids. As I continued in ministry, I just couldn’t fathom “slowing down” to raise children.

Fast forward many years. At 27, I found myself holding this little person who was so tiny, yet powerful enough to open wide a chamber of my heart I never knew existed. Twenty months later, her sister followed and another chamber, unbeknownst to me, burst completely alive. And the God of the universe — the one who fashioned them in my womb and knows every one of their days and mine — has set them apart for a purpose unique to them. He’s chosen to entrust their father and me with them.

This could be an overwhelming and bewildering thought as a parent, especially when we look at the world around us as it vies for the attentions and loyalties of our children. How are we to fight against such a strong pull and win?

We are given excellent examples as we read through Scripture. They can all be summed up in one word: discipleship.

Webster’s dictionary defines a disciple as “one who believes the teachings of a master.” It goes on to say that the disciple may help to “disseminate those teachings.” From this definition, many in the Church have come to understand discipleship as taking place when a more seasoned Christian teaches a newer convert to believe with faith the things written in the Bible.

However, if we will view discipleship from the premise of its origination in first-century Israel, we’d discover a very different definition.

In Jesus’ day, discipleship did not take place in a classroom or by receiving instruction sitting in a synagogue pew. Discipleship took place in every day life. The roads they walked, the hillsides, and the seashores became their classrooms.

Discipleship in the first century took on the same characteristics as parenting did when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt. In Deuteronomy 6:1-2, Moses instructs the people:

These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.”

In verses 4-8 he says:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

There was to be very little time in the family’s day when the parents weren’t teaching their children about the goodness of God.

And so it was with discipleship. A disciple learned from his master in the morning, day, and night as they walked along the way, prepared meals, and worked at a skill. And the most important skill a disciple would learn was that of imitation. The disciple learned not only what his master believed and to believe it also, but to act upon those beliefs in the same manner his master acted. It was not uncommon, and in fact was often expected for a disciple, to speak with the same words as his master and for him to respond with emotion as his master did. Many physical gestures and mannerisms of the disciple were but a reflection of his master. He wasn’t just to believe his master, but also to become his master. This process was not the byproduct of force, but of the disciple’s zealous love and commitment to his master.

When I learned about discipleship in the Hebraic world — discipleship the way Jesus did it — a light bulb went on in my mind. Initially I thought, Who wants to be an imitator? Aren’t we to be individuals? But then I thought of the kids, teenagers, and young adults I’ve ministered to over the years: countless individuals trying desperately to be “individual,” but really only becoming imitators of someone else.

I realized that I was always imitating someone else. To look back at pictures of myself in middle school, high school, and since, you’d see a girl wearing the same clothes seen in magazines or on schoolyards during that specific decade. My friends and I dressed the same, talked the same, listened to the same music, and teased our bangs into the exact same style.

Everyone will imitate someone in some aspect. Who then will I have my children imitate? The Apostle Paul knew this truth well. This is why he instructed his spiritual sons and daughters in the church in Corinth saying, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

I make many wrong decisions every day. I’m nowhere near the perfection of Jesus. I do, however, seek with all of my heart to know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. If my daughters will see this in me, then after strong contemplation and sobering awareness, I say to them, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Article photo copyright © 2012 Kelly Sauer. Used with permission.

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Rebecca Verbeten was born and raised in Southern California and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and two daughters. She received Jesus as her Lord and Savior when she was four years old and at that time fell in love not only with Jesus, but also with his Bride, the Church. She is a graduate of Master's Commission USA and spent eight years as staff and director of Master's Commission Springfield. She is a licensed minister with IMF, the International Ministerial Fellowship. Along with homeschooling their two daughters, Rebecca and her husband, Patrick oversee Zealous8:2, a ministry connecting young adults in 7 different nations to God's heart for Israel and the Jewish people. She never feels more alive than when she is exploring the Land of Israel with her family. Learn more about Rebecca by visiting her blog, Memoirs of a Slave Girl or following her on Twitter @Rebeccaverbeten

2 Comments
  • Rebecca, what a beautiful, living picture of modern-day discipleship! We work so hard to fit discipleship into parameters, programs, something measurable and quantifiable, but it’s really so much simpler. It’s all about living life so fully surrendered to Jesus that He seeps through all we are, what we do, every word we say or sing or write — less of me, more of Him — drawing others to Him through us. Powerful, Rebecca! Thank you!

    • Thank you, Cindee. My prayer is that the Lord remind me of this daily – moment by moment.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Copycat

by Rebecca Verbeten time to read: 6 min
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