Monday, June 30, 2008

He Calls Her Blessed

"Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." Proverbs 31: 28-31

I couldn't sleep last night, and I almost got up in the middle of the night to come down here and do some blogging. I just had so many things on my mind (not to mention a large cup of chai loaded with caffeine), and I really need to learn when I should stay in bed and when I should get up and do something. These verses just kept rolling across my brain last night- almost like a marquee- simply scrolling, reminding me... I think they were reminding me how lucky and how blessed I truly am. I think I was learning a lesson.

Earlier in the evening while our friends were here, and we were enjoying their company, I overheard a conversation my husband was having about me. :-) It was sweet, as he was busy talking about me and how he really admired my...relationship with God maybe? And it was sweet, but I can't say that I enjoyed hearing him say that. It was almost, (but not quite) embarrassing to me. I don't know, I guess that was just my personality kind of taking over, because I am not fond of attention- and I'm especially not fond of praise, I just always think that someone else deserves the praise for things that I do or accomplish. But then as I lay in bed last night these verses came to mind in Proverbs 31. Probably one of the single best studies I've done personally was the Proverbs 31 study, and as these verses kept rolling through my head, I had that feeling. That feeling of "oh...that's what this verse is saying" and I just had this feeling like I need to learn to accept the praise that is so freely given.

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her: many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." That's exactly what Proverbs 31 says- it says her husband will call her blessed and will praise her. And then I thought of other women, other wives... we were talking last night about parents who abuse their children, and men who beat their wives, and how we just don't' understand the mind that thinks that way. How someone can not love a child, how they can look at the mother of their children and not be filled with adoration. I was also thinking about how recognition comes to us women from other sources. Sometimes a friend will compliment us on something, sometimes we'll do something notable and we'll be in the newspaper. Frequently within church bodies there are awards and recognition for service, but if there was one person who I should be most honored to receive a compliment from, it was the one person that I was being embarrassed about. In a marriage, in our Christian walk that we take together, who better to sing praises to me than my husband. If there is one person who should be holding me up, one person who should compliment me and hold me to a higher standard- it should be my husband. The one person who knows me better than anyone else should be the same one from whom I accept praise and compliments.

I mean, look at the praise this man is giving to his virtuous wife! "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." That is high praise indeed, and I need to take my lessons from scripture here. Sometimes it is mentioned that we need to be careful about how we praise someone or give compliments, but right here in the Bible these verses are telling me two things. First, to the husband of a virtuous wife, these verses tell me that he is a blessed man to have this woman for his wife and he needs to recognize that. He needs to build his wife up with praise and honor, because if he doesn't, who will. It's part of his role in life as a husband to praise his wife where praise is due. And secondly, to the virtuous wife, these verses are telling me to accept the praise. They are telling me that I am a blessed woman indeed to hear these words of praise coming from my husband. It tells me that I have earned his praise, indeed, and that as a virtuous wife, I need to be gracious and accept the praise that comes from his mouth.

I will say that while I tend to write this blog with a focus for women, it also has me wondering more about Proverbs 31. When I did the study for the second time and blogged about it, it was from a woman's perspective. I wonder what it would be like from a man's perspective. I wonder if I shouldn't look at the chapter again from the eyes of the husband, and see what The Wife Of Noble Character tells us about the husband. Maybe I'll look into that another day- keep half an eye out for that. In the meantime, I will remember the words of King Lemuel's mother. I will do my best to remember to accept the praise from my husband. It should be an encouragement to me, it should tell me that I'm on the right track, and I will let it do just that. I will let it encourage me to keep moving forward, and I will do my best to try and live up the praise that is so freely given.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

What a great God! Can you imagine having his patience? Yikes! As he watches from Heaven and sees us make mistake after mistake, error after error, yet He still loves us- and He still wants us to spend eternity with Him! When I think of how patient God is with us...well, it makes me determined to try a little harder to be more patient. Sometimes I really get filled with this sense of urgency- I'll be working on something or formulating an idea, and then I feel that the idea has to come to complete fruition right away. I get frustrated and annoyed that other people don't immediately jump on board and get as excited as I do. It's patience that I need to help me from becoming discouraged and disappointed.

What I am finding to be challenging when it comes to patience is the idea of waiting for an idea to be brought out. Recently while sitting in church during the sermon I had a really strong idea come to mind. It puzzled me at first...but then later on when I mentioned it to Andy, he had the same exact thought at the same time. So my first thought was, oh my gosh, we have to tell someone about this, we have to get this ball rolling. But we didn't tell anyone else about it, and the more we think on it, the more I feel that we need to have patience and preparation before revealing what God has shown us. It's timing and patience. And since God has an infinite amount of patience, we need to draw on His patience, and rely on His timing.

Patience is one of those things that people always say not to pray for- because then you get plenty of practice at it. I think I can be okay with that. Because as I practice more patience on the spiritual side of life, it seems to me that patience on the practical side of life will automatically fall into place. And I don't know anyone who couldn't use a little more patience. :-)

Friday, June 27, 2008

More on Money Matters

"In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,
but a foolish man devours all he has." Proverbs 21:20

This verse this morning reminds me of how much God has blessed us. Once upon a time, we would have devoured all we had. Once upon a time, every paycheck came in, and out it went, usually on stuff we didn't really need. We never set anything aside, and we never were prepared in case of an emergency. Thankfully God's been working on us with that. We now have a tiny little nest egg set aside for an emergency. It may not be much to some people, but it is a great victory to us, and a testament to how God has been working in our lives that it's there for us to see. Are we the house of the wise? I certainly wouldn't go that far... we still do some foolish things. But we are definitely wiser than we were a few years ago, and for that I am humbled by the blessings that God has still given us.

And rather than talk on again about money and give some practical tips, I'm going to do something I rarely do, and that is direct anyone reading this to another site. One of the websites I read often has a fantastic post up about money, and I think it would be well worth your minute to hop over there and read it. So head on over to the Proverbs 31 Ministries site and read some great practical tips for getting ahead with your money. They say a lot of the things I would have mentioned, only much more eloquently- and they are great tips!

Today is Friday, Andy came home a day early this week, so it's going to be a wonderful day! God is great!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

"your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10

I keep thinking about this verse. And I keep thinking about the fact that it is part of The Lord's Prayer, and people probably say this all the time without really thinking about what they are saying. "On earth as it is in Heaven." Well, how is it in Heaven? While we don't know a lot of what Heaven is like, we know some things. There is no sickness in Heaven. There is no sorrow, no sadness, no grieving. There is no evil, no wrong-doing, and there is no suffering. Heaven is peace and joy and love, and an eternity spent in the presence of our Awesome God.

So when we pray, when we recite "On earth as it is in Heaven." What are we actually saying? We're asking that there be no sickness, no sorrow, no sadness, no discouragement. We're asking God to make things here on earth like they are in Heaven! And even better, is that Jesus himself told us to go ahead and say that- he told us how to pray and told us to ask that it be "on earth as it is in Heaven."

What an encouragement! Really, when something or someone in life has you down, take a moment and pray, "on earth as it is in Heaven" and just see how saying those words can make you feel better almost instantly. We can find comfort and encouragement in one of the most often quoted passages of the Bible- and that to me is a great thing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So Long, Farewell...

To sin, I mean.

"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD." Jeremiah 23:24

I fell asleep last night thinking about this. Why do we sin at all? Think about it. As Christians, why on earth do we justify a sin and follow through with it? I mean, I know that the devil constantly puts temptations in front of us to try and get us to sin, but why do we let him win? It seems to me that in the face of temptation, this verse alone would make someone think twice. Think about a child. A child has been told absolutely not, they may not have a cupcake until after dinner. Yet the cupcakes are on the counter in the open (temptation). If the child is going to "sin" they are going to wait until no one is in the room and try and sneak a cupcake-likely heading off to a hiding place to enjoy it. Now if there are parents in the room watching the cupcakes at all times- is that child likely to try and sneak a cupcake? Not likely. Now unlike this pretend cupcake scenario, the fact is that God is always watching. He knows absolutely everything- he knows my every thought, and every hair on my head is numbered. (That's a lot of hair to number!)

We can say that "we're human" and sin happens sometimes...but I'm starting to wonder if it doesn't. If there is an option to not sin. And why not? Part of what this journey through life is, is the growing process to become more Christ-like, more holy so that we can be admitted to heaven. And sinning does not equal more holiness. When we become save we repent our sins.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Matthew 3:2

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:15

"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" Luke 5:32

The dictionary defines repent as "to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life", so repenting is more than just confessing our sins- it's changing them. Repentance is changing our mind and the way we think so that we don't sin.

Now the truth is that if we did sin, if we did make a mistake, we can take comfort in the fact that we have a Heavenly Father who will forgive us even then, we know that. But for me... I think that's simply not good enough. It's not enough to wake up in the morning and be thankful that I have a God who forgives me when I do wrong. Instead, I want to change my mindset. I want to wake up in the morning and say "God, let me become more like you today- keep me from sin and from trouble." By focusing on "the adult in the room" instead of the temptation, I can change the way I think. After a while, the temptation will fade away and not be so prominent, and over time, those cupcakes won't even be an issue. I think it's time. I think it's time to end the sinful nature and strive to become more like Christ.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matthew 6:21

Now if you've read this far and read to the end today, I also just wanted to mention today that this post is the 500th post here at Heart and Soul! Who knew! There have certainly been days where I have thought about hitting the delete button and freeing up my mornings, but, oh, the journey I would have missed! I'm still interested in adding a few more people to the site here. Have you thought about sharing from your heart? Not every day, not even once a week, but I've had thoughts about how wonderful it would be to have a group of people that just share from the heart things they've been learning from God- whether that be daily devotionals, or something more personal. We can set it up too to be completely anonymous if that is an interest for you, but if you've had the thought, maybe it's time to give it a try. No conditions, no commitments, and no requirements other than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Let me know, I'd love to have you on board.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

That's Called Growing...

"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3:3

As I read this verse today, I thought, man, that's called growing! He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one- each trial we go through is a means of strengthening- of growing. Each time we come out the other end victorious, we've grown and added some spiritual muscle. And God most certainly does protect us. He will never allow the devil to test us more than we can handle. God knows us, and knows what we can take and what will cause us to break. Job is an excellent example of this. God knew Job, he knew his servant's heart, and knew that everything could be taken away from the man, and he would still love God.

"Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."

9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Job 1:8-12

Job completely lost everything. He lost his children, his wife, his riches, his home, his land, his livestock, his friends, absolutely everything. Yet he still loved God. He lost absolutely everything, he had nothing, but he obeyed his God and in the end, God restored to him everything. God gave him back everything- and then some. God did not allow Job to be tested beyond what he could handle.

"The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years." Job 42:12-17

God will protect us and will strengthen us so that we can defeat the enemy. After all, that is one of our purposes here on earth. To love our God with all heart and soul, and to defeat the enemy. Because we know the end...and in the end, the enemy loses, and God wins. I want to be on the winning team, so the strength training is necessary- often unpleasant, but still necessary. Just as real strength training for sports brings pain and discomfort- often injury. Yet, it takes dedication and sacrifice. And if we can be willing to go through all that for a game...for a conflict in sport. How much more should we be willing to dedicate and sacrifice for our God?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Knowing His Word

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

Something every Christian will tell you is that they wish they read their Bible more. I know every time I pick mine up I find something new in it- even if it's a passage that I've read a hundred times, there is always something new that comes to mind. Yet it never changes. The Bible may have different translations, but the meanings are all still there. I love reading my Bible, and I know I don't do it enough. Andy used to always talk about how envious he is of people who can recite dozens of verses, or open up the Bible to passages as they come to mind. I used to tease him that he, too, could have this power if he would read his Bible to begin with. Lol. And wouldn't you know, more and more often lately he'll mention a verse to me, or open up his Bible and look up something that came to his mind. The more you read your Bible, the more it sticks with you. I can quite long lines from many of the books I've read over time- especially the ones I've read several times over. I could probably recite most of the Little House series if I really put my mind to it. Yet I don't know my Bible like that, I want to know it more, and know it better.

Because God's Word is where we find confirmation. When we come upon something new or different at a church or in a book or on TV, we can see if it's truly from God by looking in our Bible. The Bible is timeless, and any work that truly comes from God will have backing in the Bible. When we experience something new, a new work, and we're wondering if it really is from God, we can look in our Bible and see what God has to say about it.

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Galatians 1:8

Right there in Galatians, it tells us that we will not receive something "completely new" from God. Entire new religions have been founded on "dreams" or "visions" that may have truly been dreams or visions, but had that person looked in their Bible, they would have realized the trickery of the enemy. Our God is awesome, and will never leave us floundering or wondering- instead he gave us the gift of His Word, so that we might know Him more, and know what comes from Him and what doesn't. And the key to all of that is time in the Bible.

By spending more time in the Bible we can be more prepared, when someone comes up to us and questions us on why we do this or that, we can show them right where it is in the Bible. When someone we know is having a difficult time we can direct them to verses of encouragement- when we're having a rough time we can know which verses speak to us and lift us up. When someone who doesn't know God comes up to us we can show them all the love that God has for them within the pages of His Book. God's Word is priceless, and no harm ever came to anyone who spent more time in it. It's totally worth every second- and even if all you have is five minutes of time, turn to the Psalms and see what gem is hiding there for you today. Turn to the Proverbs and read a nugget of wisdom. Turn to the Gospels and read John 3:16 with fresh eyes:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

For God So Loved. Now that's a great way to start a Monday morning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

With All Your Heart

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

How do we approach God? How do we pray for something? This verse in Jeremiah tells us exactly how we should be approaching God and asking Him for something in prayer. With All Our Heart. A normal prayer would go something like this: "Dear God, thank you for Person X here, we really appreciate them and all that they do. If it be your will, would you please heal Person X of their sickness. Thank You Lord, and thank you for this, this and this."

Hmm. We said "if" and "would you please"- that sound a little half-hearted to me. And it is half-hearted. If we were seeking God with our full heart we would know that it is His desire that no one be sick.

"Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." Luke 8:48

"Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed." Luke 8:50

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:15-17

Using all of our heart- which is full of all of our faith, our faith in which we know that God will take care of our dear friend and heal them, our prayer might go more like this:

"Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this wonderful Person X which you have brought into our lives. Thank you for blessing them with the gifts of A, B, and C, we truly appreciate them, and we truly appreciate Your blessing upon their life. In the Name of Jesus, may person X be healed of sickness. May the Lord bless them further and cleanse their body of all disease. We thank you Jesus for doing a work in Person X's life, and we thank you for Your sacrifice, which heals everything, because By Your Stripes we are healed..."

See the confidence there? How often do we pray for something- like help with a situation or our finances, but we really only sort of pray about it. Why don't we start digging deep? Let's start getting down on our knees in prayer, humbling ourselves before His mighty feet and really and truly seek His help. He can make even the most serious of problems simply disappear. We will seek Him and we will find Him....When we seek Him with all our heart.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Avoiding The Dream-Crusher

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6

Have you ever shared a dream or a great idea with someone? You have this grand idea for something, and all they do is laugh at you? Or worse, they pick apart why what you just said won't work. They debate your ideas- and often times, those "suggestions" often come unprovoked. You were excited- you had a plan and an idea, and one mention of it to one person, and now your idea isn't looking so great to you. Even worse is when you are certain this is an idea that God has given you- a direction for your life. Yet the whole idea has literally been crushed before your eyes. It's so easy to get caught up with the naysayers and maybe discard those ideas . So how do we stop from becoming discouraged with our ideas and dreams?

We stop giving our pearls to pigs. And we seek out the people who maybe are going to appreciate our pearls.

Take heart in knowing that your dreams, your visions, and your ideas are from God- it's just that sometimes, other men, other people of God don't see the vision that you see. And that's okay- but we must not be discouraged by these naysayers. This just means that God's plan will be even better when it comes to fruition. This just means that the right people to help you see that dream become a reality are not in your scope of influence yet. We need to wait on God and watch for that other dreamer. We need to keep our eyes open for those other people who also are treasuring their pearls.

God has plans for us all. Sometimes they are plans for now- and sometimes, he gives us a vision that won't come to fruition for many years. We can hold to this. We can hold to the fact that they are visions and ideas from God, we just need to learn to be careful who we share these dreams and visions with. After a while, I think you recognize the person or persons who aren't going to share your enthusiasm. So you hold those pearls to yourself- recognize they are valuable, and only when someone inquires about your pearls do you let them out a bit at a time to share.

And also, lets be careful to not be the pigs in someone else's life. When someone else shares a dream or vision with us, lets remember this verse and not be quick to pick apart another person's vision. We maybe don't agree with it, and it very likely isn't a dream that's meant for us to share in, but we can appreciate that person sharing this vision with us. We can pray with that person about their dream and we can support them. I think this is especially important when talking with young people and youth. They are so full of dreams and hopes and visions for the future. We who have gone before them may know a better reality- but woe to the person who crushes that tender young spirit! Let them keep their dreams and hopes for the future. let them keep their zest and zeal for life and what may lay ahead for them. We can encourage them and we can pray with them and pray for them- and give them an example of how a Christian should act to their fellow Christians- as an encouragement. Our role in life is not to walk around and shoot holes in other people's ideas. Our role, our job as Christians is to lift each other up, to encourage one another, and most importantly, to pray for one another when we need it.

Let's not be pigs.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God Always Has A Plan

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior." Habakkuk 3:17-18

This verse today made me think of my parents. :-) That may sound like a bad thing, but as I read verse 17, and read the despair between the lines- and then verse 18 that says that God still gets the praise- no matter what, I thought of my mom and dad. I imagine they said this very thing time and time again as they watched each of their children leave the safety of home and try to make their own way in the world.

When I was 19 years old I was tired of living at home. Everyone I knew had gone off to college, and me, I had stayed home to work for a year and then go to tech school. I can't tell you how many times during that first year of school that I went apartment hunting. Any time someone I even remotely knew was looking for a roommate and apartment, I was right there, considering my options. Of course, my part time department store job wasn't going to pay the bills to move out of mom and dad's house, but I so wanted to be away. I wanted to make my own decisions, and I wanted to not have to go to church every Sunday. When the opportunity came to move to the East Coast, I grabbed it and ran as fast as I could. And of course, despite the best job I ever had and the great apartment, and the world at my feet, I just was so miserable!

During all this, during all this time, I was of course, missing my family. I didn't miss them at first, but it didn't take long, as I would call home and talk to everyone and hear about all the excitement- and I was missing it, and I just figured that was part of growing up and being on my own. What didn't occur to me at the time was that God placed that desire to be with my family again in my heart. And I know now, that the entire time I was "wandering the ways of the world" my parents were deep in prayer with God for me. Because, of course, they are great parents and pray for their children. And once the child has flown the nest, there is nothing better for a man or woman of God to do than pray for their child. I sure know now that they prayed. I could have made very different decisions had they not been praying, because while I was lonely and not happy, at least I was on my own- and in Washington DC, what could be better than that?

But God had a plan for me. My parents knew that, but they also knew that I was off course and needed prayer to help me find the right path. And while I know they prayed hard for me and my lack of God in my life at that time, I also know that they rejoiced, because they knew that God had great things for me, I just needed to see that, and to see Him.

Even though my eldest child is only nearing 8, I can sure take this lesson from my parents and run with it. I'm sure the time will come when I need to cling to the lesson they learned and the lessons I learned. Because I do know this, each person, each of my children, needs to make the decision for God themselves. They need to make that choice, I can't make it for them. As I watch my little lady grow, I can only pray that she need not go through some of the challenges I did. But at the same time, as she does grow and become older, and exerts her independence, she needs to be able to do that. I need to let her spread her wings and fly, and as she's flying, I can do what a parent does best, and that is pray. And be an example. And anytime she needs me, I need to be there with open arms, to console and comfort and offer encouragement.

And all this time, while I'm praying earnestly for her, I can remember that God does have a plan for her. God has a great life planned for my beautiful daughter, and I can rejoice in that. I can rejoice that no matter what hardships may come first, that in the end, she will make the right choice. That may not make it easier for me when the time comes, but it's a hope that I can cling to. And perhaps as other people come into my life, and may be struggling with their own near-adult children, I can point to myself, and I can say "look at me! I turned out all right." And I can encourage them to pray for their children- the best thing they can do for their children is to pray. I know my Dad still does it every morning. He prays for each of his children, their children's spouses, and now the grandchildren as well (his prayer time keeps getting longer!), may I continue to follow the example my parents have laid before me and know that the power of prayer will get us through any struggle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter." Exodus 13:17

This was one of those things that stuck with me from our Exodus study. As the Israelite people were leaving Egypt, they could have taken a straighter path towards home than they way they took, but God had other plans for them. He took them on a much longer, much more winding journey than the straight one they could have taken. The reason given in the Bible was that the short journey went straight through Philistine country, and God thought that the Israelites would see the giants and decide they preferred Egypt to facing the giants. And reading on and seeing all the challenges the Israelites faced...God was certainly right. Exodus would have been a much shorter book in the Bible.

Life though, is really just like the journey the Israelites take. We all grow up with dreams and ideals of how life is going to be. We graduate from high school and expect to go to college, get a good education, followed by a great job. Along the way, we might even meet our husband or wife and get married and start a family. Somewhere in there is the first purchase of a home, car, and all the grand things in life. And life would certainly be easy if it took that path, wouldn't it? If we could script out our life and follow it, we could maybe say that life is rosy, that it's been good to us. But where was it that we grew? Where was it that we went over an obstacle that really made us stretch and learn? When we end up following a different path, a much more difficult one than we had planned, we can take it into perspective and remember the Israelites. Every time our path takes an unexpected turn, it's an opportunity to learn, grow, and become a little more mature.

People who climb mountains for entertainment certainly don't always choose the easiest mountain to climb. What would be the point of that? There would be no challenge- and thus, no victory at the end worth celebrating either. We can keep that in mind, keep that perspective that once we have overcome whatever is facing us, we have reason to celebrate, because we persevered, and we are better people because of it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and when you find your dreams and ideals not quite as simple as you thought they'd be, relish the opportunity to tackle life head on. You know you are not alone in your journey, and when you get to your destination, you will be closer to your Heavenly Father than you ever thought possible.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More on The Money Game

"Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?" Proverbs 17:16

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Matthew 6:24

Sometimes I have a few days where I really dwell on thinking about one thing or another, and I just feel that God wants me to share more of what steps we've been taking regarding being wiser with our finances. I'm pretty sure that most of the things we've been doing are common knowledge- or they are things that we've heard or read time and again through financial gurus. No matter. Because the entire point is that these things are working, and God is working a great miracle when it comes to money matters for us, and I can't help but feel that there are people who need to hear this stuff- even if it's for the ten-thousandth time. I also have to say this, that there is no point in reading tips and suggestions and trying to be smart with your money without praying about it. Until you really and truly give your checkbook to God, until you choose that money is not what is important, you will have that chain around your neck, you will feel like you are under the control of the dollar. Break free! Turn to God and give Him your checkbook and your finances. Ask that His will be done, because let me assure you of one thing- poverty and being poor are not from God, and He wants all His children to be prosperous.

So I guess that would be the first thing that I did regarding our money. When Andy wasn't even bringing home enough money to make ends meet, I would spend entire days just dwelling on the empty checking account, I would look up our account online all day long, praying each time that this check or that check hadn't been processed yet- it was a horrible way to live. I guess I needed to get to the bottom of the barrel, and when our rent check bounced and we had to embarrassingly call our landlord, explain what happened, etc., that was mortification for us. I literally took my checkbook, laid it on the table, and said, "Here God, take it, please." And then I prayed for a good long time for better wisdom and help in spending what he gives us. I also have to admit that I really, really felt like I needed to take a scissors to all of our credit cards and charge cards. But I didn't. I rationalized that we needed the credit cards for emergencies. And I needed the store charge cards because I really do get the best sales and deals when I use my card at all these places. I liked having the credit cards in case we needed them.

Except that we wouldn't use them for emergencies. Of course. And you know, it really doesn't take long to max out a credit card on this and that, and before you know it, your payment gets bigger and bigger, and then, you just have to be late with a payment, because there's no other way to get everything paid that month. You all know what happens with a missed payment...the interest rate skyrockets, and all the sudden our monthly payment is triple what it was just a month ago, and at that rate, it would take about 10 years to pay off this one credit card. Now imagine having a walletful in this same situation. :-( I did what I could, paying this and that, but there was just never enough to go around, and then have to take care of the basic expenses like clothing and food- it just was becoming increasingly frustrating, and one day, I really, really strongly felt that the key to getting rid of this weight was with those cards. I had been praying so intently for healing for our finances, and this was definitely something that the Holy Spirit was telling me- "cut them all, rely on Your Heavenly Father."

So I did. I sat down at the table and snipped every single one. All of them. And then I went through our paperwork to make sure there weren't any just hiding in there, and I snipped those too. And then I called Andy, and told him that he had to cut up his too- and sure enough, he did. Almost immediately, I felt freed. Really. By cutting up those "in case of emergency cards" we were putting even more faith in our Lord and His provision for us. We were saying "Okay God, if we need it, you will make it possible." Now, just because they've all been snipped they don't just go away. First, I need to pay them all off so that I can cancel them. So I've been doing just that. This month two more cards will be paid off completely, and then they will be eliminated. God has made this incredibly possible. Where before I would look at a balance and only see despair, now I get a bill and I am able to make a sizable payment, and as I pay off these next two, I'll be able to make bigger payments on other cards. God IS taking care of us!

And this last weekend I was lamenting to Andy the demise of our JCPenney card. If there is one place where a charge card is beneficial- that would be one of those places. I literally can save hundreds of dollars on clothes for my family by using our card there. But then it takes several months to pay for them, plus interest, and yada, yada, yada. Now that we're entering summer, we needed to go and pick up shorts for the kids and Andy, and I really was trying to reconcile if there was a way to wisely keep the JCPenney card in my wallet. It would take two seconds to request a new card... and then God took over and showed us that with Him, all things are possible. We did our shopping. We picked out the clothes we needed and took it to the register. And there, the salesgirl not only gave us the sale prices, but then she gave us the extra sales prices usually reserved for cardholders. She rang up our purchases in three separate transactions to make the most of a coupon deal that was running and we actually ended up saving even more than if I had used our card. :-) As we walked out of the store I just had to laugh and shake my head. "Okay God, You win."

We truly and honestly believe that if we need something, God is going to follow through. There is no need to charge up hundreds of dollars on this and that- God will take care of us. Currently, we're in the market for some new furniture-both bedroom and living room furniture, and while we keep going through sticker shock every time we look at furniture, we also know that when the time does come to actually buy the furniture, the money will be there for it, and we'll be able to buy it joyfully, knowing that we won't have to spend months and months paying for it.

I'm also still following my "do I really need it?" program. When the kids and I head out to do some shopping- whether it be grocery or otherwise, I say a prayer. I pray to the Holy Spirit to help me spend each dollar wisely, and to keep me from being frivolous and stupid. And by golly it is working. We can spend hours walking through the mall, and still come out with the pair of shoes that Abigail needed and nothing else. I can walk into Target- a normal danger zone for me, and walk around and really and truly see all the things I don't need. It's all just stuff. It's such a different perspective. It used to be that I would walk around and look at all of it and think "someday, I'm going to have all this" and now, while I could afford to have a bit of it, I look at it and think about how it's all just stuff. By shopping carefully and being choosy about what I buy, we have more money for other things like giving. Clearance aisles used to be a magnet for me. I'd walk that clearance aisle or clearance rack looking for something, anything, just because the deals were so great. We'd go to rummage sales, looking for any piece of junk that was a good deal. Except all those good deals add up, and really, we don't need any of it! That's the thing that has been impressed upon me- and that is that we don't need it.

And the result of all of this is that the stress and uncertainty of money is gone. Literally gone. I no longer go to the store and swipe my debit card and pray that it isn't declined. I no longer write a check that I need to pray that it doesn't go to the bank until such and such a day. And even better, more than once, the opportunity to give money has come up, and we've been able to do so. And I'm not talking about tithing. I'm talking about the extra giving- giving money to other ministries or causes. It's wonderful to be able to give to those who need it, and I know that's what God wants us to be doing with our money instead of spending it on stuff- just because we could. And speaking of tithing, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that, because I think that is the key. Before I spend a dime of Andy's paycheck each week I look at how much he earned and figure out our tithe check for the week. We give that first, right off the top, and then we never even miss it. When Andy was making very little it was much harder to write that check because the smaller that income is, the bigger the tithe check seems. And I would be lying if I said that we tithed every single week when Andy was unemployed or working a job with little pay. But we did when we could. And right now, while Andy is doing well with work, it's become even more important to us to tithe. God is blessing us, we need to make sure we're doing the right thing with His money.

His money. That's the mindset we've undertaken. Every dime that comes into this house is not ours. It is God's, and as a result, we need to be wise with how we spend it. We need to honor God by being conscious of our choices, by being careful with what He's blessed us with. We have a great God who loves us and wants us to be happy, and I know that He is pleased with where we've been lately. And I'm pleased. I'm not stressed and constantly dwelling on our bank account. God will continue to take care of us, and I pray that as He does so, that we will continue using what He gives us wisely and in the way it's meant to be used.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Talk Is Over-rated

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." 1 Corinthians 4:20

This verse made me smile this morning. Of course, more and more verses make me smile these days, but it just made me think about how much emphasis we sometimes place on the act of talking. The thing is, sometimes talk can be a major distraction- and in more ways than one. Think about the times you've been in a Bible study and you're all discussing a passage in the Bible. Quite often someone will start to make a point that just plain confuses everyone. I know I've been guilty of that, I'll know what I'm thinking, but conveying it, it just doesn't come out right. When that happens in a setting like that, it can totally wreck the flow of the evening. You can be on a roll, and everyone is really learning something and then- wham! Out of left field comes this point that doesn't make any sense and that just sucks the whole group down. In those cases, I've decided that I really need to think about my points before I make them. If I can't come up with a coherent way to make my point, it's not meant to be made and heard by other people. Maybe that was a revelation just for me at that time. God does work in mysterious ways sometimes.

And then maybe there are other times where you have a time limit. Take church for example sometimes. You may have a set order of service, but then one time, the Pastor or a visiting preacher get long-winded and just keep talking. Talk, talk,talk, and while they may be making fantastic points, not many people are paying that much attention, because they're focused on the clock, they have things to do, they want to get home and do this, this, or that. And then church is finally done, the prayer time is cut short, and any fellowship is over your shoulder as you dash out the door.

I guess I'm just thinking that sometimes we just need to stop talking. I know plenty of people for whom silence is uncomfortable, but its in those silent moments that the Holy Spirit does his best work. When you can just take the time and remove all distractions and really focus on God and His wonder and might, that's when we might see something we've never seen before. There definitely is a time for doesn't do any good to learn something from God and then keep it to yourself, but it's so important to take those quiet times. It's so important to stop chattering, because we can't hear God if we just keep talking. You're not having a conversation with someone if you do all the talking. Sometimes we need to listen and observe. The best things happen in those times.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sometimes There Will Be Tears

"Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, " I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD." 2 Kings 20:5

"Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You" 2 Chronicles 6:19

"Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry;Do not be silent at my tears;For I am a stranger with You,A sojourner like all my fathers." Psalm 39:12

I guess I don't really have much to say this morning. It's kind of one of those reflective mornings. I was reading yesterday about the tornado that went through that boy scout camp, and silly me, tears just came to my eyes as I read about those poor boys being tossed around like toothpicks. My heart just broke for them- and then to hear about them rallying to save each other's lives... I just felt like I couldn't pray enough for everyone affected by that disaster.

Then this morning on one of the bulletin boards I spend time at, one of the regular posters posted about a very difficult time they're having health-wise, and it just broke my heart again. Immediately I said a few prayers for that person, and I have no doubt that she'll be on my mind for much of the day today.

And all over the Midwest, people are being forced from their homes due to flooding, and even though I know that our home and our belongings are "just stuff" there is a sense of...violation...of having to flee one's safe-house, the home where they live. I pray for all those people, that they may get to return home soon, and that the blessings of God may fall on them thousand-fold. That all their belongings will be restored to them, and that they may know the comfort that only Jesus can bring to them.

Sometimes, we just need to pray.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stop Putting God In A Box

"When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?"
The LORD answered him, "Go, for I will surely hand the Philistines over to you."

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, "As waters break out, the LORD has broken out against my enemies before me." So that place was called Baal Perazim. 21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.

22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, "Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." 25 So David did as the LORD commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer." 2 Samuel 5:17-25

I heard this passage mentioned last night, and when I wake up and I'm still thinking on it, you know it means something. It really made an impression on me. What makes an impression is that God did not work the same way twice. The first time David battled the Philistines here, he marched straight into them and battled them and won. Then the second time, David asked God what he should do. Rather than just assuming that God would take care of things again, he asked God. He asked God what they should do, and God gave them different directions- a different mode of attack, which was very successful in the end.

When I think of this, I cannot help but think of all the church services that are the same. And I'm not specifically picking on my church, because most churches are guilty of this. They do their service the same way all the time. Meaning this, you start perhaps with some singing, then do a prayer, take an offering, deliver a sermon, say a prayer and then be done for the week. The singing may be the same number of songs every week, and the prayers may even sound similar from week to week. And yet...yet we expect God to move greatly every week. Why? We don't allow God any opportunity, we don't allow Him to share in directing how the service flows. When the entire church is worshipping God and really getting into one particular song, we don't continue along that flow. Instead, we need to move on to the next song because we have a specific order that must be kept. We need to wrap up so that the message can be delivered so that everyone can be on their way back home an hour after arriving at church. God just doesn't work like that!

When we get into a rut and work the exact same way from week to week, we're limiting the potential for God to work. Look back at David's battles. He could have marched ahead straight into the Philistines the second time without consulting God, and he may have won anyways. But by inquiring of God first, he opened the door for God to work in His glory. And he did! "...because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you" God went first! God paved the way for David to obliterate the Philistines, and you know that when all was said and done, God received the glory for the victory, and not David. That's how it should be. When we listen to God and are prompted by God, we follow. When church is over and all is said and done, we shouldn't be patting each other on the back, saying what a good job so and so did. We should be thanking God for a great service that day. We should be thanking God for working through us, not congratulating each other. We need to take the focus off of man and put it onto God.

So perhaps it's time to take God out of the box. Stop limiting God and what he can do. Maybe one week, the sermon should go first, and then worship. And maybe one week, instead of taking a physical offering, the baskets should be left at the back of the church and people drop in an offering on their way out- or conversely, maybe the offerings should be presented to the altar one week. Maybe one week there should just be praise and worship- and no sermon. And maybe one week, there should be a sermon and a whole lot pf prayer and reflection, with very little or no singing. And who knows. By letting God dictate the order of the service instead of man, maybe He will show up and the service could be concluded in His Glory with healing and miracles. Just imagine what could happen if we give it up and let God have at it. Our God is a great God and a God of love. With God, all things are possible. All things. Not just some things or most things, but ALL THINGS. It's time to remember that and take God out of the box we've put Him in.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Waiting Is Tough!

“Why doesn’t the Almighty bring the wicked to judgment?
Why must the godly wait for him in vain?" Job 24:1

Job certainly was getting tired of waiting for God to show up. He ranted and raved for the whole chapter about how gloomy and doom-filled the world around him was. I think that sometimes we end up doing the exact same thing. We wait and wait and wait, and try so hard to be patient, but before we know it, we're tired of waiting, and our frustration level is soaring. I don't know about anyone else, but when I get frustrated I get irritable and annoyed. I tend to get snappish and unpleasant to those around me. Really, it's ultimately a lesson in patience. How do we handle learning patience? I don't know anyone who handles it well.

I am also one who frequently finds themselves wrapped up in a sense of urgency. I always feel like things should have been done yesterday. I was a great retail manager because of that one thing, as long as I felt there was always something that needed to be done, I worked very hard like a busy bee. And yet...

As I'm sitting here writing this, a thought simply came to me, that I can do the hard work while I wait. See, this morning I was thinking about our small group. This fall we're going into uncharted territory with our group time. It's important, and it's something that God has told both Andy and I that we need to do, and we're very excited to get to it. Yet we also know without a doubt that we are to wait until fall to start our new exploration. That's a long time away! More than once I've wished that we could just jump right in and get rolling. Except that as it turns out, there is preparation to be done first. Lots of preparation. We have a whole lot of praying to do to prepare every one's heart to receive what they are going to receive. We have spirits of contention and confusion to pray out and block from our home. We have people to talk to to and assure them that they will indeed be welcome in our home. And we have oh, so much to learn. We need to decide the best way our group is going to benefit from this, and before, as small group leaders, it was easy to follow a study guide or a chapter in the Bible. But this...this is a whole new world for us. All of the sudden we are going to be responsible for introducing a group of people to a whole new side of God that they hadn't perhaps experienced before. And while it's so exciting- so exciting, we also need to pray that we are taking the right steps at the right time.

So we will wait. Maybe not quite with the annoyance that Job uttered aloud, and while we can look forward to the time to come, we also can turn our eyes to Him and do our preparations according to His purpose and His timing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Will Ever Praise You

"O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you." Psalm 63:15

I love this Psalm. Of course, I love most Psalms, but this one this morning is just so true to me. I heard someone say last night how they used to think that people who really got close and worshipped God were crazy. And now that's he's one of them, he thinks that the other people who don't get close and worship God are crazy. :-) It was cute, and totally spot on.

See, I'd kind of forgotten. When I was a teenager I would get the opportunity to really experience God twice a year. Once in the summer when I would go to camp, and then once in the fall when we would go to a Youth Convention, where we would worship and experience God for 3 days. I always came away from both experiences energized and ready to live for God. Of course, it wouldn't last very long. Not that I was a bad teenager, but the actual getting close and letting God in was not a daily thing, and the more days you go without, the easier it is to forget and set it aside. It's very much like exercising. When you first start doing it you're all pumped up and ready to go and you're excited about it. Then you miss a day, and the next day it becomes easier and then easier, and before you know it it's been an entire month since you exercised.

But now...well, it's totally different than those teenage years, it really is. Back then I was ready to storm my high school and try to save all my friends and classmates. Now, I feel like I'm getting ready for the world. I don't know, I just am at a point where I love my time with God so much, and every day I crave it, and I don't understand those who don't want it, and especially those who try to contradict it and pick it apart. Really and truly, if God spoke to Andy and me and told us to pack our belongings and move to Uganda tomorrow we'd be there by the end of the week. We're just so in love and so enamored with God that we want to do everything He wants us to do.

Last week I had a day where I was ready to give up. I blogged about the enemy attacking, and yes, I realized it, but still. Did I really want to have to keep putting up with these attacks? And what for? I just felt a moment of despair where all my zealousness and energy I have right now for sharing the Glory of God seemed pointless. But then, I was cleaning at church. I decided I needed to dust the woodwork today, which means I need to walk the entire church- the entire first floor gets dusted in the corners-top and bottom, and all along the walls. What a better time to pray for the church as a whole than when I'm circling it in it's entirety. So as I dusted I prayed in the spirit for courage and guidance and assurance, and then I swear I heard a voice say to me "Stay On Target" which made me smile completely because it's a line from one of my favorite movies- Star Wars.

And in that moment I felt the despair lift and I felt newly energized and ready to go. Then a few moments later as I was kind of questioning God and wondering how things were going to continue and how they were going to unfold, I heard another voice, this time from a different favorite movie of mine. This time that voice said "A penitent man will pass", which is from an Indiana Jones movie. That one still has me thinking because penitent means humble, and I already think that I need to be careful and make sure that the things I say and do are things that God wants me to say and do, and not just things that I think would be good to say or do.

So I say this morning as David did "I will praise you as long as I live" because life truly isn't worth living if that praise isn't coming. God is My God and I will follow Him and all of His ways.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Road Less Traveled

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

I love that poem by Robert Frost. I have no idea what the man was thinking when he wrote it, and I'm sure scholars have picked it apart over and over, but by golly, it sure can be applied to the Christian life.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

As we see in Matthew 7, the Christian path, the one that Christ made for us, is the one less traveled. But to travel it, to make that choice and head down the more difficult road truly is the one that makes all the difference. And along the way, along that path, every once in a while there will be a small, enticing trail that leads back to the other path- the path that's easier, that everyone else is following. This trail has been carefully laid by the enemy and he wants you to take it. With constant prayer and our Lord's help we can see these trails for what they are and pass them by and stay constant. Occasionally there will be a fallen log or a bog to traverse. Perhaps there will be a sudden drop that we need to find our way out of. But along this path, along God's path, there will always be help. There will always be others there to help us along our way- we do not walk it alone.

"Small is the gate, and only a few find it." That's such a heartbreaking thought. I thought of this yesterday as we woke up in the morning and headed to church. No one in the area was stirring. No one was on the road driving, none of our neighbors were out hopping into their cars to go to church themselves. I pray that God uses us to stir our city. To stir our neighborhood, so that we can take as many through that narrow gate as possible. We don't want to go by ourselves, we want to take our entire community with us. And with God, all things are possible.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bearing Fruit

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord" Ephesians 5:8-10

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5:22-26

I was thinking just now about The Lord of The Rings- the movie. Shortly after Frodo Baggins becomes the ring bearer he learns that others are going to be after him to steal the ring from him. It truly dawns on him when one of his own fellowship turns on him and tries to take the ring. Frodo decides to set out on his own, because there is no one he can truly trust. There is no way for him to see into the hearts of all those around him and see who will be true to him and who will try and betray him. And in a way, I thought that this really exemplifies how we really don't know what is in the hearts of those around us. How do we really know that they people we look up to are living a Christ-like life? How do we really know that the people we look up to are truly people we should be emulating and learning from?

We are fortunate that there is a way! We don't have to wander about like Frodo, seeing betrayal in everyone's eye and trusting no one. Those who truly belong to Christ will bear fruit- the fruit of the spirit will be evident in their everyday lives. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Gentleness and Self-Control. A person who truly has a heart for Christ, and believes, will bear these fruit- sometimes without even realizing it themselves. What goes into the mind is what comes out, so someone who is spending time in the Bible, and spending time with the Lord in prayer and meditation will exude fruits of the spirit on an everyday basis. When someone takes in garbage- spends time doing or watching things they know they shouldn't, that's what comes out.

Sometimes that inappropriate stuff will come out and be rationalized- say gossip for example. We can rationalize gossip by saying that we "need to know more to pray about a situation" or "it's okay to get all this out in this situation." But really, gossip is never okay in any guise or form, no matter how you dress it, gossip is still gossip. In these situations we need to realize what's going on and put those fruits to work! Gentleness will stop the gossip gently. Kindness would recognize gossip and walk away. Self-Control will keep someone from gossiping in the first place. The fruit of the spirit all work together to enrich and enhance our lives. When we are bearing fruit of the spirit, it is a sign to others that the spirit is at work in our lives and working through us. It's these fruit that will help direct us to those we should be learning from.

I am so thankful that we don't have to be like Frodo and wander alone in the wilderness. We have a God who loves us, and Spirit working in us, and God has given us other believers to stand with when we need them. The fruit of the spirit brings a wonderful peace and order to life, and I pray that they continue to produce, because Lord knows we all need a little more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control in our lives.

Friday, June 06, 2008


"Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the LORD his God." 2 Chronicles 27:5-7

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

"Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:9-11

It's been a bit of a week. I knew it was coming. I just knew it. Earlier this week life was rosy and wonderful and we knew we were wrapped in God's Love and overall, we've just been rosy and ducky this week. Then two days ago I began writing to our small group about our fall plans. We've been seeking God on the next step for our small group, and felt confident with where he wants us to go, so it was time to share this with our group. I was smack dab in the middle of writing to everyone about our exciting plans (literally, in the middle) when the devil came a-calling. And that is almost literal as well- the person on the other end wasn't the devil himself, but boy, was the devil using an unpleasant phone call to try and rile me up and attack at me. Of course, I didn't recognize it at first, but really, about 20 minutes later as I was trying to decide whether or not to finish my letter, I knew. I knew what had just happened, and I began to pray.

I've been praying quite a bit over the last two days over this matter, because it's really been bothering me, and then last night I was literally losing sleep over it. Once again, I felt a knowledge come into me and I began praying "God, take this away. Take away my anger and my offense with this matter. If it's your will, take away the matter altogether, but I refuse to dwell on it any longer." And I'll tell you, I very shortly fell asleep after praying, and I slept well last night.

Then this morning, first thing I check my e-mail, and I swear to you, there is another one. A completely different, unrelated thing...but a whole new matter to stir the pot with! Now, I'll tell you, a few months ago I would have looked at both matters, and clearly saw an answer. Saw that "oh my gosh, it's a sign! A sign for us that we should start looking to move on to something else!" But by the grace of God, I know better. I recognized this attack for what it is. The enemy will use anything, anything to get us off track and mess up our lives. The devil knows that God has great plans for us, and now that we know what some of them are, we can expect the devil to try and wedge his way in. Except that he has no power here. This home and this household, and the hearts within are property of Jesus Christ, and as such we are under His protection. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and is there to help us pray away the enemy attacks as they come. And you know, a few months ago, right now, I would be stewing. I would be fuming and enraged, and instead, I am excited!!

Yes, excited! Because we will remain steadfast- and these spiritual attacks are indeed a sign- but not a sign to flee, a sign to persevere. A sign that God is indeed working and that we are on the right course. We will remain steadfast and persevere to reach our goals and no one is going to be able to stop us, because we carry before us the banner of the Lord. Yahweh Nissi- The Lord Is My Banner. With God before us, who can be against us?

I refuse to take any offense and I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to to help me recognize these attacks and that He will give me the words to pray and the right words to say in all these situations as they come up.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Rainy Season

"The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none." Deuteronomy 28:12

Before the rain can come and do it's job, the land must first be prepared for rain. Think of a field in relation to the rain in this verse. If it simply rained, and no work had been done in the field, what would the rain produce? Nothing. A few weeds perhaps, but otherwise, nothing. It takes the faith of a man that the rain will come to go out and prepare that field for rain. The man first breaks the soil, then he sows his seeds into the ground. Sometimes there is some fertilizing that goes on either before or after the seeds are sown. That is a lot of work to do! Yet, a faithful man will do all this work, knowing that the rains are coming, that God will bless all of his hard work and allow the rains to come and nourish his crops. And when the growing season is over than this man has harvested and sold his crops for a mighty profit, he will be the man other people turn to in times of need, because they know that he has been blessed. He will have no need to borrow anything from anyone else, because God honored his hard work and provided the necessary rain.

This analogy can be applied in so many areas of our lives, really. How are you preparing for rain? We've been preparing for both spiritual and financial rain in our household. We've been preparing for spiritual rain by pulling out the weeds. We've really been working on changing our attitudes and outlook. We've also removed the rocks and barriers in our lives that were really preventing us from totally opening up to God and His Will for our lives. We're fertilizing with lots of faith, and we're simply waiting now for God to sprinkle his spiritual rain into our hearts and grow something amazing. We've been preparing for financial rain by sowing seeds. We've followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit several times over lately and have sowed some financial seeds into ministries which have been placed on our hearts. This is all above and beyond what we give for our tithes, and while the seeds we've sown have not been grand in any way, they're still seeds, even the smallest seed can produce great fruit.

We have faith that the rains are coming. They've already started, in fact, and we know that there will be a mighty harvest at the end of the rainy season. God doesn't start a work and then not finish it, we know that and are looking forward to seeing the results, the changes. Yet we also know that the change that is coming is not going to be the new normal, as change is constant. We are constantly changing as each and every day brings us just a little closer to becoming more like Him. We welcome the change and we welcome the rain. We've been preparing for it, and we're so ready for the blessings on our hard work.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Chucking Time

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I was thinking about camping this morning. Tomorrow is the last day of school, and after that, we have day after day of no alarm clock in the morning. I would be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward that. It made me think of camping, where we don't even use a clock the entire week we are camping. We wake when the sun is up and we feel rested. We make a meal when we feel hungry, we play when we feel the energy building up and wanting to get out. We build a fire and gather round it when we want some together time, and we go to bed when our body says that we are tired. Not once do we consult with a clock first to see if it's okay.

As I read the verses above, I noticed that it doesn't say anything specific regarding the time. It doesn't say to check with the clock first, or check with the calendar to see if it's the right time of year. There is a time for everything, and the beauty is that time really can be what we make of it. As we're nearing the summer vacation I think of bedtime. The kids have a strict bedtime during the school year, they need their rest badly. But when there is no school we can be more flexible, we can send them to bed when they seem to need it, not so much according to a clock. Think of all the activities we do according to the time the clock says it is. Sure, there are things like work and school that need to be dictated by a time to keep everyone on task, but think about your home life. You get home at 4:00, you have to make dinner because you need to eat by 6:00 at the latest. Then you need to hurry and get the clean up done because that show you like to watch is on at 7:00. You hurriedly tuck the kids into bed at 8:30 because something else is coming on in a few minutes and you hate to miss a little bit. At 10:00 you watch a bit of the news, and then you turn in because it's only 7 1/2 hours until the alarm is going off, and you must get a good night sleep- regardless of whether or not you're actually tired.

I say it's time to chuck the time. It's time to stop living our lives according to the clock, or according to the calendar. How often do we look at a day on the calendar that is a week away and think about how busy that day is going to be. We get stressed simply thinking about those moments that are a whole 7 days away. Instead, lets live in the now! Let's enjoy the time we have with those we love and make the most of it. Let's stop relying so heavily on the clock and just let life happen. I'll tell you, when I am spending my quiet time with God in the evenings, sometimes three hours will go by in what seems like seconds, and before I know it, it is well past my bedtime. Yet I still wake in the morning refreshed and ready to go. Had I sat down for my "God Time" with a schedule in hand, it wouldn't have been near as great of an experience, and I wouldn't have just been able to enjoy being with God. I would have kept glancing at the clock, anticipating the next scheduled event in my life. Too often we lose the greatest moments in our lives because we're so busy looking ahead to the next. We're so excited about the great dessert that's coming that we don't enjoy the excellent dinner that's already before us.

It's time to go camping. It's time to just live every moment as if it's the last moment, and enjoy it to its fullest. It's time to give our time to God and ask Him to help us use it to the fullest, and use it to His advantage. There is a time for everything, it just doesn't always require the use of a clock.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Keep On Pouring

"The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."

2 Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
"Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil."

3 Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."

5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one."
But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.

7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left." 2 Kings 4:1-7

As I read this story from 2 Kings I can't help but wonder what it felt like in that house. Imagine being present and witnessing this miracle. Imagine simply knowing this woman! I am certain that everyone in her community knew her. They knew her husband before he died, they knew her sons, and they knew the dire straights she was in. One of the things I find interesting is that no one else stepped in to help this woman. There wasn't a neighbor offering food or bits of anything to help them get by, there was nothing, so this woman did the only thing she could do, she turned to God for help. And boy, did He help!

I suspect the presence of God was very real in that room as this woman poured the never-ending oil from her jar. And notice, of course, that she didn't even question Elisha once, she just did as he told her to do, trusting that God had her back and would see everything right. Oil in those days was such a valuable commodity. It was difficult to produce oil! Seeds, nuts, olives, etc, needed to be pressed by hand, and the precious oil carefully collected and filtered. A jar of oil was very valuable indeed, so imagine how this woman and her sons felt as they watched their house fill with jar after jar of oil. I can't begin to think about the gratitude, the tears that must have filled their eyes as they watched hope pour out time and time again. And not only did God provide enough oil for them to pay their debts, but he provided them enough to continue to live on. God didn't just take care of the present need, he also took care of the needs to come.

This woman put all her eggs in one basket, she had nowhere else to turn, so she turned to God, and with every scrap of faith she could muster, she trusted in Him and His provision for her and her sons. What a testimony she had later on to all her neighbors! The amount of oil she had to sell would have taken weeks and months to press, and here she had such quantity in a shorter period of time. Their neighbors and friends would know that God provided for His servant, and as such, perhaps a heart or two would be turned in his direction.

For that is really the point, isn't it? When God provides for us, and there is no disputing that it was all God, it becomes a great testimony- a sign of God's love that we can share with those around us. The point of a real miracle is to give God the Glory for the miracle. To point to Him and say to others "look what my God can do!"

I pray that I can be like this woman in 2 Kings. That I can follow His instructions without questioning, and that I can be used as a means to further His glory. And I also thank Him. I thank Him because I know that His provision is always there, and he will continue to provide- and not just for the immediate needs, but for the future needs, before I even know they exist.

Monday, June 02, 2008

But We Can Try!

"Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil." Proverbs 16:6

"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." 1 John 2:1

Every day sin is there. It taunts us and teases us, it tempts us to do what we know is wrong. Thank God that Jesus died for us, to take those sins away from us and cleanse us. It's human nature to sin- the devil is always there trying to make us stumble, and we are so lucky and so blessed to have the grace of God to forgive us when we do make a mistake. He is a loving father who will always welcome us with open arms and tell us it's okay.

But sometimes, I think we tend to take advantage of that grace. We can rationalize that "just one more time" will be okay, because tomorrow is a new day and we will be forgiven of the tresspasses of yesterday. And we will... but it seems to me that we can try harder. We can try to attain a blemish free life. And why not? Why can't I set my sights on making it through the day as stain free as I woke this morning. Yes, I may not succeed, but if I wake in the morning knowing that I'm going to fail at some point, I may as well not even get out of bed. I need to wake each day with a new attitude, with the idea that this is going to be the day that I live like I have Jesus in my heart. Today is the day that I learn to love my neighbor as myself, and today is the day that I share the love of Christ with my nieghbor. There's nothing wrong with setting a high expectation, because I do know that should I fail, that I will always have another opportunity, that's the beauty of grace.

Grace will always give me another shot, but I need to not take advantage of that. I need to not say that it's okay to fail because I'll have another chance. It's not okay. It's never okay, and I think we've been too complacent about that. I think we use it as an excuse to sin, the "well, we're not perfect, we're only human after all"...Yes! We are human! But when I am standing before My Lord on that day of judgement I don't want him to look at me and say "Well, you tried, I guess...over and over and over again." I want more, and I think we can try for more. I think we can reach for that perfection, and who knows, maybe once or twice we can succeed!

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9