Thursday, January 31, 2008

Abounding Love

"You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you." Psalm 86:5

Abounding in love to ALL who call to you. Not just some who call to you, or those who are called to serve, or those who have spent a lifetime with God. God loves us all, and not just plain love- abounding love. Abounding means "great quantity or to be prevalent". That's a lot of love for us who are imperfect sinners.

God is forgiving and good, He forgives us of all of our sins- every single one, every single time. He has abounding love for us, which means he loves us beyond compare- each and every one of us. He truly is a great a God, and how blessed we are to have him there for us to call to when we need Him.

What a wonderful God!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lessons from Moses

"Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.

10 Then the LORD said to Moses, 11 "Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country."

12 But Moses said to the LORD, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" Exodus 6:9-12

"Now when the LORD spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, "I am the LORD. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you."

30 But Moses said to the LORD, "Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?" Exodus 6:28-30

I've been thinking about this ever since we discussed it Sunday night with our group. First of all, as you read these verses, we see that Moses was arguing with God. Of all things! God was telling Moses to do things, and Moses would do it, and the expected results would not happen. God told Moses that he was going to lead the people out of Egypt, and so far, Moses's attempts at doing so have fallen short. Pharaoh was no closer to letting the Israelites go than he had been before Moses began talking to him. Moses was becoming discouraged, and he was arguing with God about it- blaming it on himself.

Something that we all realized at our group on Sunday was that God acted this way on purpose. He hardened Pharaoh's heart for a reason. It was so that in the end, there would be no doubt whatsoever, that it was God, and God alone, who was responsible for freeing the Israelite people.

This is an amazing something to think on- and it has given me such encouragement this week. Andy's really been struggling with his job. He really hates it, and it doesn't being in enough to get the bills paid. We both really felt at the time that he needed to take this job, and we felt certain it was from God. And then he actually started working...and things promised weren't taken care of, and we both began to feel like he'd made a terrible mistake in taking this job. On Monday though, it occurred to me that he has this job for a reason. He has this specific job so that when something wonderful happens, we will know that it is only from God. And because everyone we know also knows of our situation, they will also know that our blessings will be from God alone, and it will be such a wonderful way to show God's love for us.

So now, while we still don't like the job Andy is in, at least we can appreciate it. We can appreciate what God is doing, and maybe it just makes it a little easier for Andy to get up and go to work each day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

To Die To Live

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Matthew 16:25

We had a really interesting discussion this past Sunday about the concept of this verse with our small group. We talked about how Jesus had died for us, for our sins so that we might spend eternity in heaven with our God. And how if Jesus could do that for us, the least we could do is let ourselves die so that we could be closer to God. And just what did we mean by that? Well, this is different for each person. To die to ourself is to give up the thing or things that keep us from drawing closer to God. For some people, that may be alcohol or drugs. For some people that could be television or the internet. For others still, it could be reading the wrong kind of book, playing the wrong games, or talking to the wrong people. Each person is different, and each person has their own "thing" that gets in their way from drawing closer to God.

Giving up our life, our self, to God is such a large thought to me. Giving up the things that maybe even contribute to part of who I am in order to draw closer to God could be such a tall order- and a difficult one at that. But what does one do when one of the things standing between you and closeness with God is actual people. What do you do when you know what God is asking of you, and there is a person in the way. Perhaps they're doing what you are supposed to be do you get up the courage to potentially cause hurt to someone else? That can't be right...can it?

That's where we talked about spending more time with God in the first place. Only by taking that time to read the Bible and talk to God in prayer do we learn to recognize His Voice. When we think God is pointing us in a particular direction, is it really Him talking to us? Or is that our selfish self again trying so hard to find what we are meant to do?

This verse today says so much in just one little line. By spending more and more time with God, one on one, we become more willing to give up our selves for Him. And by being willing to give up ourselves, we draw even closer to Him. And eventually, His Voice will be loud and clear, and we will know what He wants us to do.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Do Not Compare

Envy is an ugly monster. Even great followers of Christ, I think, can find themselves caught up with the green-eyed monster. How many times do we see someone do something, or get something, and we wish we had it too. It's very, very easy to find ourselves comparing others to us. But if we focus...if we can manage to focus on God and give him our envy and our attention, he can make it right.

Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this" Psalm 37:4,5

If we can manage to eschew that envy, to turn our focus away from the "stuff" and the doings of other men, God will show us what it is that we truly do want. "Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." God knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants us to give him those selfish desires and those thoughts of envy. If we commit our way to the Lord- the whole way, not just part of the way, He will not only give us the desires of our heart, but he will free us from envy. He will take away those thoughts of envy.

"Trust in Him and he will do this. Trust in God and His will for your life, and not only will he free you from those thoughts of envy and selfishness, those thoughts that cause us to compare others to ourselves, but he will also give us the desire of our hearts. He will give- not sell, not barter, not loan- he will freely give. But he first step-the first giving must come from us. We need to give him our all, give him our hearts and give him complete control.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blessings Upon Blessings

It's birthday weekend at our house. My precious son turns four tomorrow, and we're celebrating over the two day weekend. Every day I am just amazed at how he is growing and turning into such a fine young man. He has the biggest heart- his day is not complete without hugs for everyone around him. And he brings such joy to me everyday. Every single day he does something or says something that just makes me laugh. He is truly a blessing and a gift from God. Our family is definitely enhanced with him being a part of it.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4

"Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied." Genesis 33:5

"Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him." Psalm 127:3

Zander truly is a gift. As I'm watching him skip around the house, playing with his sister, I can only think about how wonderful he is, and how wonderful God is for giving me such a blessing. Thank You, Lord for my beautiful son.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Advice on God's Will

This was in interesting verse to me today!

"Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed." Proverbs 15:22

It seems as Christians that we spend a lot of time seeking out or trying to seek out what God's Will is for us in our lives. It's interesting to me how God's will is really always changing as we are changing. Like right now, it is God's will that I stay at home. His will is that I be at home with our children, raising them and caring for them. In a few years, God's will for my life will likely change as my children mature and grow and become less dependant on Mom for everything. But how do I know when it's time to do something else? How do I know when I should be seeking God's will?

That's where this verse is very helpful. "Plans fail for lack of counsel". Before we make a big decision or a big change, the Bible tells us to seek counsel. It tells us to talk to others and our elders and get the opinions of many before making a major change. The second part of this verse says "with many advisers they succeed". The word many here is key, I think. It doesn't just say one person, or an elder or a minister, it says many- that's tells me that we should be discussing major decisions with as many as will listen to us and help advise us. Discuss it with the people we trust most when it comes to issues of life.

This just struck me as very interesting today. Usually, when I'm thinking about God's Will, it's about something very personal. I think about things like whether or not we should move to a new town, or whether or not we should have more children. Whether or not I should think about working again, things like that. Those are all very personal to me, yet in order to make the best decision and truly discern what is God's will for me, I should be discussing these very issues with others, according to this verse in Proverbs. Seems to me, that in addition to praying about a decision, and asking God for guidance, we should also be asking him to open our eyes as to who the best people to consult with should be.

Seeking God's Will is never a small task, but it's very nice to know that we can turn to others for guidance, as well as God and our Bible. Not only will you find the answers to decisions, but you will also find yourself closer to the people around you, I suspect. It's kind of cool that God puts people in our lives at the right time, so the next time there's a big decision to be made, look around. You never know who may have been there before you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fighting The Busy-ness

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:12

Even David needed help sometimes. That was exactly what I thought of when I read Psalms 51 today. Throughout the chapter, David just comes across as a man who is tired. A man who is exhausted and busy and all he wants is to be refreshed and be able to spend time with his God. He asks God to "grant him a willing spirit, to sustain me." That sounds to me that he's just plain worn out, and he's turning to the One who can give him sustenance and the energy to accomplish that one more task that's laid before him.

Isn't it wonderful that we have a God to turn to in times like this? When we're being pulled in twenty different directions and we feel like we're moving from task to task, we have a God that we can turn to and ask for help. We can ask for the energy and the sustenance to make it through another day. Or perhaps God will place something in front of us that lifts us up and fills us with energy and joy for another day.

Sunday's have become a lot like that for me. Anyone who's been reading this blog from day one knows about all the struggles I've had with wanting to go to church for awhile. I'm beyond happy to say that with all the prayer and perseverance and help from God, that right now, I no longer dread going to church. In fact, I look forward to it. I look forward to the early morning worship rehearsal and have had no problems getting up earlier to get the kids ready and get there in plenty of time. And in fact, the attitude change that I've been experiencing is filtering down. Last week the kids were ready early and asked if they could go even earlier with Andy.

The point here is that we need to ask. If we're tired and weary from being too busy, or if we need an attitude adjustment, we have a God to turn to to ask for help. When I look in my Bible and I see that even David needed to call out for help sometimes, I feel encouraged. I feel like if a great man of God needed to ask for help sometimes, that it's okay if I do too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jealousy from Above

I'm still in Deuteronomy today, and I was reading chapter four when I came to this verse:

"For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." Deuteronomy 4:24

A few weeks ago we had a guest speaker at church who talked a lot about giving God some attention. He asked how much time every day we spend watching movies and TV, and how does it compare to the amount of time we spend with God. He wasn't really saying that TV or movies are bad, but he was asking how our relationship with God was. He was asking if we gave God even a fraction of the time we spent being entertained. I think it got a lot of people thinking.

Reading this verse today immediately had me thinking about that message. While I can't say I felt convicted at all, it did give me reason to think. I do begin every day in God's Word, but I don't necessarily spend time with Him every day. That prayer time can be fleeting, it comes and goes, and I'll spend a lot of time during the day lifting up a little prayer heaven's way, but a good, solid chunk of time devoted to prayer is not to be found.

SO I wonder what God thinks. He's a jealous God, according to the Bible. He wants my attention. I know this, and I do find myself thinking about it often. But to be completely honest and out there with it today, I think I am afraid to get to that point. I think there's a part of me that thinks that if I really get down to it and spend some quality time one on one with God, that he's going to tell me to do something I don't want to do. I know I'm not the only one who feels that way. Yet at the same time, maybe if I did spend some of that time, He'd finally reveal some of His plans for Andy and I. I guess I'm just not there yet.

So I'll be thinking and praying on that. There is empty time in each and every day, it would certainly do me well to fill it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Encouraging Others

Sometimes I get so caught up in seeking out my own encouragement, that I forget that others could use my encouragement as well. It happens, we spend so much time worrying about ourselves and our walk with God, that it doesn't occur to us that those closest to us could use a little boost. Maybe it's a spouse, maybe it's a friend or family member, and maybe it's a church leader or a pastor. I was reading Deuteronomy today, and I came upon a command to Moses from God about encouraging someone else. Moses was feeling bad for himself. He had led the Israelites away from Egypt, and here he is on a mountaintop talking to God, and then he learns that he is not going to make the entire journey. He is not going to get to arrive in the land that they've been struggling to reach. He got a little annoyed with God, and begged that he would be allowed. Instead, God told him this:

"But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see." Deuteronomy 3:28

Moses was so busy worrying about himself, that he forgot to look to the others that were with him. Joshua was going to be God's chosen leader for the Israelites, and rather than worry further about himself, Moses was going to have to put his strength and energy into building up the new leader for his people.

May we do a better job at taking the time to look around us and see the struggles that need encouraging. May God open my eyes to seeing where encouragement is needed, and then giving me the words I need to give that encouragement.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Gaining Confidence

We've been studying the book of Exodus for our group, and this week was focused on chapters 3 and 4, where God tells Moses what he would like him to do. One thing that really stuck out for me this week was that Moses tried to talk God out of it. He didn't want to do it- he didn't want to be the leader God was telling him to be. He had real doubts about his public speaking ability, and really tried to convince God that he wasn't the man for the job.

"But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"' Exodus 3:11

"Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." Exodus 4:10

"But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Exodus 4:12

And of course, God had his way and it was Moses who set forth to free the Israelites from the Egyptians, but not without much complaining and much doubt.

Then this morning I opened my Bible to Judges, chapter 6 and found a similar argument going on between God and the young man Gideon.

"When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior."

13 "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."

14 The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"

15 "But Lord , " Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."

16 The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."

17 Gideon replied, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Judges 6:12-17

The thing is, I bet that most times, when God asks us to do something, or shows us something that needs to be done, we kind of look at it like Gideon and Moses both did. "Who, me? You've got to be kidding, I don't think so." But God knows us, he wouldn't set a task before us that we can't handle anyways. That task could lead to something that you never thought possible too- it could bring someone else encouragement, it could bring spiritual growth to yourself or others, it could lead someone to the Lord. You never know who is going to be touched by your willingness to follow God's directions.

There's more to this though. Look at what God says to both Gideon and Moses-

"The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" Judges 6:14

"The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." Exodus 4:11

God gave both men assurances that he would be with them, and he would help them with the tasks before them. That in itself is a great encouragement- to know that when God places a task before us, he will not abandon us to the task alone. He will be with us and will help us learn exactly what we are to do. We can have our doubts that we are up to the challenge God has given us, and God will give us the strength we need to overcome those doubts. And God was patient with both these men for a time, encouraging them and assuring them that indeed, he did choose them to do his work.

Of course, that doesn't help identify exactly when God is pushing us in a certain direction, but I think that's a post for another day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Reminder

Just a reminder that Heart & Soul takes Sunday's off. Enjoy the day!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2,3

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fight Fire with Kindness

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 9:17-21

Have you ever had someone mad at you? I know I have, the kind of mad that makes someone take the long way around to avoid me completely. And I'll tell you, when the situation comes to light for me, I have to confess that my first thought is usually something in terms of revenge. Kind of a "you didn't like that? Wait till you see what I do next" type of thing. Not a very Christ-like attitude I'm afraid, but it is true. But these verses found in Romans can be just the thing to turn to when you're in just such a situation.

By being kind to your enemy, you will heap burning coals on his head. By being kind to your enemy, you're taking away some of their reasons for being an enemy in the first place. You're disarming them with your kindness and generosity, and who knows, you could end up being friends despite your differences. This verse in Matthew also addresses this:

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

What would Jesus do to his enemies? He certainly wouldn't fight back with anything other than kindness and scripture verses from his Father. In order to be more Christ-like, we need to check ourselves when it comes to our "enemies". It doesn't mean that we suddenly need to become best friends with them, but we do need to respect them and treat them as a brother or sister in Christ deserves to be treated- and that is with love. Christ's love can break down any walls of resistance.

On a related note, there's the treatment of a stranger. Showing kindness to a stranger can sometimes completely change their lives. Who knows when a simple act of kindness could somehow lead another life to Christ. It could happen. And you also never know, when you help a stranger, you could be helping a servant of God.

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

Friday, January 18, 2008

How's This For A Shot of Encouragement!

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

I love this verse! First it says that God is faithful. That right there is a great thing to read in the morning. God IS faithful, and he will remain faithful to us for always. After that it says that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. This is also a great thing. Just yesterday I was talking about how God knows our every thought, and he also knows our character. He knows what we can handle, and will never give us more than that. He may allow challenges and temptations to come our way, but it's to prove ourselves. Or to prove our God to ourselves, and we can overcome every challenge that comes our way through Him. Every time Andy and I find ourselves in the middle of a trial, we wonder what is going to come of it. And regardless of how long the challenge lasted, on the other side we always come out a little bit wiser, and a whole lot deeper in our faith. Because our God is faithful, and he has proven it to us time and time again.

And then the verse finishes up with something even more encouraging! When we are tempted-when there is something blocking our path and we are so tempted to stray, it says that God will provide a way. He will provide the means necessary to overcome the temptation that is calling your name. That is excellent news to read! It means that when temptation is calling my name, I need to look to heaven and my God for the way out. I have complete faith that he will help me around each and every obstacle that comes before me, because HE IS faithful.

And finally, then I want to go back to the beginning of the verse. Knowing that God is faithful, that he will not allow temptation beyond what we can handle, and knowing that He will provide a way out, we can also know that what is tempting us is not unique to us. We are not the sole bearers of that burden. Others have gone through what we are going through, and often times, we need to reach out to those around us to help us through. We will not all the sudden be confronted by a new temptation beyond the scope of man. It's these times that God often puts people in our lives who have gone through what we are facing, and we need to listen and see what they have to say to us.

With God by our side, we can overcome anything. No struggle is too much for us with God. He will come through every single time. That is a great way to start a Friday morning!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Every Little Piece

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." Romans 12:3-8

Have you ever built a jigsaw puzzle? You know how you're working on a big sky section, and every single piece is colored the same, yet is very different, and only goes together one way? It can get terribly frustrating putting that puzzle together. But eventually, with perseverance, you do manage to figure out how the pieces go together and you are rewarded with a completed puzzle.

People are the exact same way. We all have different ways that we are different, yet each of those differences are important to the group as a whole. And in the end, all those differences work together to make one big picture in the body of Christ. Where one person may be gifted in accounting and budgeting, another person is gifted in shopping frugally and getting the best bang for the buck. One person may be talented at doing crafts and being creative, another person may be gifted with keeping a place clean. Sometimes these different talents may butt heads, they may disagree and have differing opinions. But that is only because they aren't looking at the whole picture in the right way. By utilizing each persons' unique gifts and talents, the whole picture will come into focus, with each person fitting in in just the right place.

So what piece are you? Are you doing what you can to fill in your place in the puzzle?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He Knows My Name...

" O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me." Psalm 139:1-5

There's a song we sing at church that I don't always pay attention to. The chorus goes like this: "He knows my name, he knows my every thought, he sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call." We'll sing it, I'll play it, but I don't always grasp it. The point is that God knows me. He knows every single thing. He knows my name, my thoughts, my hopes and dreams. He knows the good thoughts and the bad thoughts, he knows the thoughts of a servant, and the thoughts of selfishness that I sometimes have. God also knows every single thing we do. Everything! He knew that this morning Abigail was going to get herself up and ready for school before the alarm went off. He knew the cereals that my children were going to put in their bowls, and he knows how the rest of my day is going to go.

God knows me better than I know myself. On one hand, that thought can be a bit...frightening. He knows everything about me...yet he still loves me! On the other hand though, it can be such a comfort to know that someone knows us so well. When we're having a rough period of time, or a rough moment, we can turn to God and seek his comfort or his help. And despite all my flaws and faults, God loves me unconditionally. He will never give me more struggles than he knows I can handle. Even when it seems like I'm overwhelmed, I can remember that God knows me better than I know myself, and wouldn't let me tackle the challenges alone.

"Oh Lord you have searched me and you know me." What an amazing God.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

God's Timing Is Always Perfect

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."

15 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

17 Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."

18 She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him." 1 Samuel 1:10-20

Sometimes it's really hard to wait on God. Okay, maybe most times it's really hard to wait on God. We live in our time, our world, where we have calendars and deadlines. It's easy to look at a calendar and say "Lord, Andy needs to work by this date or we'll be in big trouble." It's difficult to instead say "Okay Lord, your will be done, but him to work when he needs to be at work." In Hannah's case above, God's timing was absolutely perfect. He needed Samuel to grow up and do great works for Him someday, and in order to do that, Hannah needed to be willing to give her precious son back to God. Had she conceived a child earlier in life, she would not have been so downcast and forlorn and so desiring the child that never comes. God saw this and waited until her heart was just right and ready for Samuel to come into her life.

Even though we have plenty of examples of waiting for God's timing in the Bible, it's still hard. I can read the stories and scripture and take encouragement from many men and women of God, but that doesn't make it any easier to wait on God's timing. Yet...while it's not easier to wait on God, we don't really have much choice in the matter right now. We've seen in the past what happens when we take matters into our own hands, it just causes more trouble in the end. So we wait. And we pray, and we listen carefully for that voice to tell us to take action. It will be there when we need it most, and all I can say is that I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, I'm holding to hope and the knowledge that we have a Perfect God, and his timing is always Perfect.

Monday, January 14, 2008

So How Are YOU Today?

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

2 Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.

4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.

5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars ;
he puts the deep into storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.

9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

What do we do when we greet someone? As you're out walking and someone walks past, what do you say to them? Sometimes hello or hi? Or maybe every once in a while you venture out and ask "how are you." Do you stick around for an answer? Do you care about the answer? I've been thinking about this a lot lately. When people ask me how I'm doing, I think my standard answers are simply "fine" or "good". Yet... as a Christian, one who is blessed over and over by God, shouldn't my answer be more than a simple good? Even when I'm having a bad day, I'm always better than good, because I have a Great God and He is always there for me.

I could be having the worst day ever, and when someone asks me how I'm doing, I should be able to hold my head up and say that I am having a wonderful day because My Savior paid a price for me, and I get to live every day for God. Every day should be a wonderful day.

This past Saturday we took the time to watch the movie Facing The Giants again. It really is an excellent movie to watch. Every time we do, I get so encouraged by seeing the examples of God's Love, and God's Power played out on the big screen. And every time we watch it, I get something new out of it that just gives me a charge for a few days. This time, I was thinking about how the football team made the decision to praise God when they won, and to praise God when they lost. It occurred to me, that if our purpose, our number one goal in life is to bring glory to God, then every day should be a fantastic day. Because if we have a great day, we thank God and we praise him for it. And if we have an awful day, we thank God and we praise him for it. Either way, He wins, and ultimately, that's what it's all about.

So today before I've even really gotten going for the day, I know it's going to be a great day, because "Jesus loves me, this I know". And with that before me, I know it's going to be a wonderful day.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And Then There's Kindness

Yesterday I was thinking about compassion, and today it's kindness. They kind of go hand in hand in my mind. Kindness is one of the character traits of Jesus, and if there's someone worth aspiring to be like, it would be Jesus.

"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." John 13:3-5

So what is kindness? Kindness is helping that elderly lady get from her car to the grocery store. Kindness is a phone call to someone you haven't seen in a while, checking to see if they're okay. Kindness is seeing something at the store that reminds you of someone, and picking it up for them as a surprise, just because gift. Kindness is going out of your way to make sure that all the guests at your meal have food to eat that meets their dietary restrictions. Kindness can simply be a smile and a genuine "how are you today." Jesus was kind, and love poured out from him as he performed his acts of kindness to those around him.

I was thinking of that this morning as I whipped together some bread dough. I love to make bread, and I've been making a few loaves this week for our upcoming small group. We may have some new friends coming who have dairy and onion allergies, and to be honest, at first I was a little dismayed at the thought of coming up with menu items they can eat. But the more I thought about it, and the more I spent in my Bible this week, the more I began to enjoy the process. I took great care in selecting a menu that our friends would be able to eat. And when I realized my usual bread dough had milk in it, I decided to make a different version. It's much more difficult to make, but it's going to be so worth it in the end.

It can't hurt to show a little kindness in your life. To be more like Jesus is something worth striving for every single day, and if one of the things you can do to be more Christ-like is to show a little kindness, don't you think that is worthy of doing? Show a little kindness today, it could go a long way in lifting someone's spirits.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I used to not feel sorry for people who were busy. Those "soccer moms" who worked all day, then drove their six kids around to twelve different practices, and then tried to squeeze in exercise time and feed their family dinner. I used to just shake my head and lament that they did that to themselves and that it didn't affect me in the least. Not my problem. Except that we live in a world where there is always something to do, always something demanding our attention. We recently did a study on managing our time better, and I've found myself with a truckload of time and no commitments on the horizon. At first I was relishing this, and thinking about all the new recipes I was going to try, and all the things Zander and I were going to do together. Then my eyes were opened to the struggles of a friend or two.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." 1 John 3:16-20

Let us love, not with words, but with action. How could I say I loved my friends if all I did was watch them struggle and wrestle with life. It was really impressed on me that I needed to jump into the fray and lend a helping hand. I have offered that hand and am in the midst of my own little challenge now, but I think it was worth it. Every day as I sit down to chip away at this new task before me, I can be reminded of my friend and say a prayer for them. And sometimes that's all you can do. You can encourage and pray, because often times there isn't anything you can help with, but at least you can offer. Even an offer or two for dinner could be helpful to someone who is really busy. What could be better than coming home from a busy day to dinner already prepared, and not from a drive-thru or box.

There are so many ways that we can show compassion to those we love. By opening up our eyes and our hearts to compassion, we can take a better look and see if there's some way that we might be able to help someone who is struggling. That's what Jesus would do, and it is what God wants us to do. For through us, and our actions, it's God's love that shines bright and true, and could be the greatest encouragement someone needs. Are you willing to be used by God today? Compassion is love in action, give it a try.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Something New from God

"See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you." Isaiah 42:9

Often times, when we're relying on God, he provides what we need at just the right time. God's Timing. Sometimes it seems that things just take too long to be taken care of, and then sometimes they aren't taken care of at all, and then also sometimes things are taken care of in a completely different manner than what we expected. This verse today reminds me that God knows what we want. He knows what we need. Perhaps, while we are waiting for God to take action, the answer will be there in a completely unexpected manner. In our earthly minds we see one way through a problem. God has helped us take that one way before, and that is in the past. Maybe now, this is the time where a new and unexpected path will be revealed. We simply need to wait and see. God will tell us when it is time.

Isaiah was asking God to do great things to show His Greatness,

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!

3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you." Isaiah 42:1-9

Look at verse three there, "For when you did awesome things that we did not expect." In times of wait, it seems to me that we need to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open so that we can catch that which isn't expected. We need to have our minds open to the possibilities and to God's Will. For He truly does know best, and He will always provide what we need.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reading The Bible Can Sometimes Take Encouragement

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." Deuteronomy 4:9,10

One of the things our church is doing in 2008 is encouraging the members to read the entire Bible. It's a challenge, and one which I readily signed up for. I read my Bible daily, but often times I find myself turning to the same books in the Bible over and over. I'll get the idea to read my Bible, and I'll start reading straight through, and then I get to the book of Numbers. And the book of Deuteronomy. Many, many bits in those books are very dry, very boring, and when I read them it's excruciating to me. Many a Bible reading plan has faltered under the spell of Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Today thought I was reading a quick devotional and the light bulb went on about those particular books in the Bible. They are there to remember. Deuteronomy 4:9 says "do not forget the things your eyes have seen." and then instructs the people of Israel to tell their children, and their children's children. So we read today, so as not to forget what God does for his people. We can read for ourselves any day we choose exactly what God did for the Israelites. We can see just how many generations come from one man- according to God's promise to that man. By reading the history, the time that past, we can see how life has changed, but how God stays the same. God makes his promises, and then sticks with them. And he wrote the Bible for us to see that.

Those days when we find ourselves trapped in a portion of the Bible that seems utterly pointless to us, we can know that God put that scripture there for a reason. That reason may be hidden to us at that particular moment, but perhaps a few chapters down the road will shed more light. So don't be discouraged with your Bible reading. If you're reading this, and you've been thinking about reading your Bible more, but aren't sure where to start, here's a handy link for you. will help you keep track of what you read, and help you to read the Bible in one year's time. You do need to register, but then they will help you to keep a log of what you've read. That could be very handy for some people. God speaks to you and me through His Word, it's well worth it to take the time to spend in it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Simply Prayer

"Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Psalm 141:2

"Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens." Lamentations 3:41

Our church right now is part of a prayer watch in our community. That means that each church who is participating is taking a 24 hour chunk of time to pray continuously for our community. At first, I will admit that I was hesitant to sign up for a time to pray. First of all, it was broken up into half hour chunks. That's a long time to pray. And not only is it a long time to actually be praying, in the life of a mother, a half hour is a very long time, and it is very difficult to find that 30 minutes where I can be alone and by myself. My first thought had been to take a time in the middle of the night, where I could be pretty much ensured quiet and solitude. Except that I don't think I have the diligence to actually get up when that alarm goes off. I could very easily see myself turning off the alarm and rationalizing going back to sleep. So that wasn't an option for me.

Then I thought about prayer. And while I still wanted it to be undisturbed prayer, my eyes were opened to the possibilities that I can pray anywhere. I puzzled over this for a minute and realized the one place and the one time where I can be assured complete solitude, unless a real disaster should strike. And that is in the shower. As strange as it may sound, (and with the help of my husband who got the kids rolling this morning while I did so,) I set my alarm for a few minutes early this morning and hopped in the shower to fulfill my prayer commitment. Surprisingly, it worked very well. I spent the entire half hour talking to God and sharing my heart, and I didn't get interrupted once.

So the moral of the story today is that I have no excuses. I've really been chiding myself because while I take the time every day for a devotional, I don't take the time to really talk to God every day. My reasoning has always been a lack of time to myself. Today I realized that I don't need time to myself to spend time with God. I can do it anywhere. And if my daily prayer time is done in portions in between tending to my children, that's okay too. I simply need to spend more time in prayer. And if it means something as unorthodox as the shower, so be it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Do You Go That Way?

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:9-11

I was reading my devotional today, and the devotional itself struck me as really interesting this morning. It kind of was on discovering God's Will. It talked about how sometimes, when an opportunity knocks or a door is opened to you, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should take that opportunity. That sometimes, what looks like it may be a door opening from God, may actually not be, and could take you farther away from God. Hmm. That is quite a bit to think on!

The devotional also went on to say that just because we don't receive resistance from God, it doesn't mean he wants us to keep on that path. That in those instances, he wants us to decide. He wants us to choose to stop and take a different path and seek out what his will for our lives truly is. I guess I can see this. A job opportunity come up, one which seems great and everything you could want in a job. And it is great, the job itself is good, and you make a very nice income. Yet because of the job, you spend less time with family or with God, and we continue with the job, because surely God provided this job for you. And maybe he didn't. Maybe he wants you to seek him more, and take that other job which will provide you more time with your family and with Him.

This really is quite a bit to think on! So basically, we need to pray about every opportunity that comes along. We really need to focus our minds and our eyes on God and ask for his help in discerning his will for our lives.

"Folly delights a man who lacks judgment,
but a man of understanding keeps a straight course." Proverbs 15:21

I guess when I think about this, one of the things that comes to mind, is that when we are debating a change, maybe we need to ask ourselves, how does that change bring glory to God? Let's say we are contemplating a job change. How will that change bring glory to God? Will it give you more time to spend with God? Maybe it will pay you a little more so that you can give more money to God's works. But then with that new money, do you have to spend that much more time with the new job? There are really so many options, so many different ways to look at it. While I profess to be no expert, it seems to me that there is only one thing that you can do in these times- and that is pray about it. No decision worth making should be done immediately. It should take time, and prayer, maybe seeking consul from an elder. Will the right decision ultimately be made? Time will tell, and if it doesn't feel right after a while, that's always an opportunity to try again.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

God's People

"Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country."

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly." Exodus 1:8-14

We're starting a new study of Exodus with our small group this week. I thought if I got the chance, I would post some of it here, as I find the book of Exodus very encouraging and fascinating.

Here in these first few verse we see just how much these people are blessed by God. They are slaves of Egypt, yet the Israelites work hard, worship their God, and are rewarded for their diligence. Even though they are an oppressed people, God helps them to multiply and grow in number. They are worked to the bone, yet they persevere and are rewarded with good health and families. And I imagine, that each night in their prayers they prayed for deliverance from their oppressors.

As these people worked hard as slaves, they also became very strong. The King of Egypt began to fear the Israelites, for he knew, that all they needed to do was take up arms against him, and he would fall. In his fear, he ordered that the boy babies be killed, so that they too, wouldn't grow up to be so strong. Yet God still protected his people. The babies lives were spared as well, and as we will see in the chapters to come, the people relied on God, and this reliance will ultimately cause great fear in the eyes of the king.

The thing that I keep thinking of here, is that even though the Israelites were in a bad situation as slaves, they still worshipped God. They still relied on God and his protection over themselves and their families. I can't imagine being in that kind of a situation, and still praising God for his protection and provision. That shows the heart of these people which God has claimed as his very own. I'm looking forward to seeing exactly what God does to protect them and keep them.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Being Responisble with God's Provision

I know everyone had done it. They have bills to pay and tithes to be made, and not quite enough money to go around. Yet a sale flyer will show up in the mail, or online, and in mere moments, a decision has been made to put off paying for the things that are important, and instead, a shopping trip is planned. The trip goes well. The things sought out for a very nice price have been found, purchased, and brought home. You feel good about the shopping trip. Then on Sunday at church, the offering plate goes by and you don't put anything in. All the sudden, that shopping trip isn't feeling so good. You think wistfully of those silly craft items that you bought and tucked away for another time. You almost feel ashamed. You really didn't NEED those things, instead, you were swayed by a great price on things that you might find useful down the road.

We've all done it. I've done it far more than I would care to admit. This is one of those lessons that God has really been dealing with me on over the last several months. I've really had to pay attention to those desires to go spend money that really isn't available to spend. This past Christmas was the perfect example of how paying more attention can really help me to be responsible with what God has given us. In the past, when we've done our Christmas shopping, we've planned a couple of trips out where we really just walked into a store and wandered the aisles putting this and that into the cart, not really paying attention. I would look at an item and wonder if Abigail would like it. If I thought she would, it would go into the cart. There were many gifts that my kids received that had very little thought put into them. Simply a "that's what was on the shelf" mentality, and a need in my mind to buy them lots of gifts.

This year was different. We had very little money to spend, and needed to be wise with the gifts that we bought. As a result, we ended up with less gifts for the kids, but way more thought went into them. I took the time to seek out what I knew they wanted, and budgeted carefully so that I would be able to buy them gifts they would love. It worked beautifully! I don't think there was a gift under that tree that hasn't been cherished and appreciated. There aren't any of those gifts that they could have done without or that they really didn't like. They both knew that their gifts had been lovingly and carefully selected for them, and I think that made them appreciate their gifts even more.

Something that God has placed on my heart to do is to really think hard about a purchase before I make it. Even if it's something simple, it can make a difference. A few weeks ago I needed ink for my printer. I really didn't want to spend the money, but I thought I had no choice- I really needed to do some printing. But when I got to the store, they were out of my ink of all things, and I had to go with a back-up idea. Which was to use a different printer that we have that already had ink. If I had only thought about it well in advance, I simply would have hooked up the different printer. Sometimes I put blinders on and I don't see the big picture. I get it in my mind that I need to buy the supplies for a new wall-hanging decoration for church. And I hope and I hope that the money will come in to do so. Then, as I'm putting away my Christmas decorations, I see bits and pieces that can be put together to make a rather stunning wall-hanging, without costing me a penny.

By opening up my mind and my eyes to really seeing what's before me, and what we have, I can be more responsible with what God has provided us. Instead of rushing out to go see that new movie in the movie theater, we rummage through the board games and find one that we haven't played in a while. Or we'll record a movie that is on TV that we've talked about watching with the kids. Add a homemade pizza, and we've had a fantastic family night without spending a penny and leaving the home. God is so good! He's been placing these ideas and inklings into my mind, and it's just been wonderful to have my eyes opened to the possibilities.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25

I can't wait to see what is to come! I cannot wait to see what else God will open my eyes to. Just yesterday I was wishing I had the money to treat myself to a new tablecloth. Not minutes later I was rummaging around in the basement and I found two lengths of fabric that I forgot I had! They are more than enough to make a new tablecloth, and I cannot wait to take the time to piece it together. God is great, and just waiting for us to ask him to open our eyes to his possibilities. Are we ready for them? I know I am, and I'm looking forward to the experience.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tackling That Housework

It's been awhile since we've talked about some truly practical applications of the Bible. This would be one of those subjects that I suspect many a person has trouble with- whether they stay at home like me or work outside the home. Every day I survey my house and I just whither inside when I think about all that truly needs to be done. Some days it looks clean from the outside, but I know that there are crumbs in the couch cushions, and I know there are spider webs creeping about the laundry room. I know about the state of clutter in my pantry, and it causes me distress to even think about it, so I never get around to tackling it. Seems that I am in need of some reminding.

"I love you, O LORD, my strength." Psalm 18:1

He IS my strength, even when it comes to something as mundane as housework. When the very last thing I want to do is vacuum the stairs, I can ask for a little assistance from above to find the motivation to get the task done.

"All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23

All hard work brings a profit. Even my sorting and picking through the pantry. As I sift through boxes and bags and cartons, who knows what treasure may be hiding. There have been times in the past where I've found something that I've completely forgotten about. My hard work was rewarded in that instance, and keeping the pantry clean also has other benefits. By having a clean pantry, I can easily see if there is a pest invasion, and I can see what is about to expire and keep my family from eating spoiled food. It is an important task, and maybe by seeing that it is important I can find the motivation to get it done.

"She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks." Proverbs 31:17

"She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27

Great reminders from our Wife of Noble Character. By keeping a clean house, I am being a good steward of what I have. I am keeping my husbands home free of disease and dirt, and keeping it ready to welcome unexpected visitors. But it doesn't happen overnight. It must have been about a year ago now that I wrote a post about cleaning my house in one day, and then keeping it clean. Where on earth did that go? I remember doing it clearly. I would go from room to room, touching up what needed to be touched up in the morning, so that I had the afternoons to spend how I wished.

Lately I have become discouraged with the housework, but today's verse are an excellent reminder to me. They remind me that God cares, and wants to help me daily, even with something as simple and mundane as the housework. He will help me to find the motivation I need to keep the laundry moving every day so that I am not faced with a mountain by the time the weekend rolls around. God IS my strength, and I pray that he will once again fill my heart with purpose and keep me going, for without him, I am nothing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Make the Most of our Time

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

This verse was in my mind last night and this morning. Andy and I have been watch The Lord of The Rings the past few days, and one of the lines from the movie really struck me as true to us today, and this verse echoes it. This is something that Gandalf says to Frodo when Frodo mentions that he wishes he'd never had the ring.

"So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us. That's just so true! We only have so many days to live our lives- what should we do with them to best utilize our potential. The Psalm above says to "teach us to number our days aright." I think that is an important thing to think on. If we live each day as if we only had a few left, would it make a difference? If I thought I only had a few more days left to live, would I really spend it watching TV or using the computer or even cooking away in the kitchen? I think not. You can bet that I would be spending as much time with my children and my family as possible. You can bet that I would be doing what I could while I could.

I read a book this past year about a woman searching for her mother. When she finally found her, her mother was very ill and had very few days left to live. And one of the last things that her mother wanted to tell her before passing on was how much she loved Jesus, and how she hoped that her daughter would meet him too. What would I tell my child in that instance? I can honestly say I don't know.

We have a new year in front of us, a new opportunity to make a difference, to make a change. Will I live this year as I did before? Flitting from day to day as if there were many more? Or will I start to make a difference? Will I try harder to reach out to those around me, as if our days were numbered? If I knew that Jesus was coming back for us in the next few years, wouldn't I do everything in my power to try and take as many of my family and friends with me? Maybe I need to apply some of that sense of urgency to my everyday life. Instead of treading so lightly around those who do not know Jesus, so as not to offend them, instead I need to be more up-front. When someone comes to me with a problem, instead of just being a willing ear, I need to offer to pray with that person about their problems. I need to offer verses of encouragement to them too.

What do I do with the time I have been given. That's a great and humbling thing to think on.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

Just as we've said goodbye to 2007, when we become a Christian, we say goodbye to our old selves. That's a very appropriate comparison, don't you think? We can never go back to 2007 and re-live it. We can never do over any second of the past year. Just the same, we are a new person when we accept that Christ died for us. We can never go back to our old self- we are a new person with a new heart and soul, and it's wonderful!

If you haven't made this big change in your life, please consider it today! You really have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. You gain a lifetime here on earth with Jesus at your side, and an eternity in heaven afterwards- and it costs you nothing. There are no strings and no contracts to sign, just a simple prayer- ask God to forgive you and enter your life. It's as simple as that. Consider starting this new year in the best way possible- as a Child of God.