Monday, March 31, 2008

Love Is

" Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Deuteronomy 6:5

"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" Deuteronomy 10:12

Reading Deuteronomy is always the most taxing one for me to read when I am doing a Bible read-thru. There's a reason I read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and then move on to the New Testament for a while. Then I take the time to sit and read some of Deuteronomy, and every time I find all sorts of great stuff in there, and I wonder why I avoided it in the first place! The essence of Deuteronomy is that God is faithful and powerful- what couldn't be great about that! It also talks a lot about obeying God and following his commands, and that is also important.

Something that struck me today as I read the verse above is that love is a command. It is a direct order from God to love others. That ultimately makes love a choice. It is our choice whether or not we choose to follow God's commands. It is our choice whether or not we are going to follow his direct order and love each other.

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12

Notice, it doesn't say anything about romantic love here. I'm not talking about the love between husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. I'm talking about God's love- Agape Love. Agape love is from the head, it is a love that we have made a conscious choice to place into being. It is the self-sacrificing love that we display when we show our genuine concern for those around us. It is the love we show when we serve others- the love demonstrated by God for us in the Bible.

Love is a command and a decision. Will we choose to love? Will we choose to follow God's command and love? We can say we love God with all our heart, but until we follow His commands and share His love with those around us, we are not being truthful. The heart of God's love is all about service and sharing His love with others.

"He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." John 14:24

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Recipients 2

Sorry it took so long to get back...I hope that gave you plenty of time to check out 1 Peter for yourselves! So, what did we learn about the recipients in the rest of the book? Here's what I learned.

vs 3 - they have tasted the kindness of the Lord
vs 5 - they are living stones being built as a spiritual house
vs 7 - they believe
vs 8 - they are a chosen race, a holy people, a royal priesthood, people for God's possession, all to proclaim His forgiveness
vs 11 - They are alive
vs 15 - they can silence ignorance by doing right
vs 20 - they patiently endure when suffering for what is right
vs 21 - they are called for God's purpose
vs 25 - they strayed like sheep and have now returned to God

Chapter 3:
vs 14 - they suffer for righteousness and are blessed
vs 15 - they have hope inside of them
vs 16 - they are slandered
vs 17 - they suffer for right rather than for doing wrong
vs 21 - they are saved by baptism of resurrection THROUGH CHRIST

Chapter 4:
vs 3 - their time for doing what pleased the Gentiles is past
vs 10 - ALL have received a spiritual gift (and should use it!)
vs 12 - go through ordeals for testing of faith
vs 14 - they are reviled for Christ's name and are blessed because the spirit of God rests in them

Chapter 5:
vs 7 - God cares for them
vs 10 - are called for eternal glory; are being perfected, confirmed, strengthened, and established by God

These are all exciting things to me because, in a sense, we are the recipients of this letter as well! This teaches me about myself. I am CALLED by God, He is continuing to work in me and make me useful to His glory. Yes, I may sometimes suffer or be slandered because I choose to do what is right but it is for His glory and I will be blessed later for it.

However, one thing to notice...if I am truly living through His Spirit, I will abandon those things that please and "satisfy" the Gentiles (non-believers); my time for those things is up! Oh my...I struggle with temptation to do (and sometimes give in) the things that please the Gentiles; Praise God that He is merciful and gracious, giving me opportunity for forgiveness. One thing I've learned through experience is that I cannot resist without His strength, I am SO weak on my own.

(Part of the following is from guidance from the book I'm is the "thought of the week"). So, just as the recipients of 1 Peter, we do not live in an ideal situation or perfect circumstances. We may go through trials that lead to suffereing. Yet, we are to live "in" the world and not "of" it...we are aliens, in conflict with the world we live in and the experience with God's grace we have had. Yet, we must stand firm in our faith despite an circumstance or suffering. We have everything we need to do this through God's grace and provision!

Up next: how to respond to others and stand firm in grace.

Friday, March 28, 2008

When...Not If

"But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

3 For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.

4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.

5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, 'Give them up!'
and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made." Isaiah 43:1-7

God is always with us. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. We could be going through the nightmare of a loss or a tragedy, and it could seem like our world is at an end, except that God is always there. He is always there to hold us up and sustain us through. Always. Look at verse 2 up there, it says "when you pass through the waters," it doesn't say "if you pass". Tragedy and sadness will occur, we will be disappointed time and time again, and portions of life will always be difficult. But we have a God who will carry us through. We have a God who will pick us up and carry us across that river when we need him to.

God IS great!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back T o The Basics

"My salvation and my honor depend on God ; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." Psalm 62:7

I was thinking about something last night, and I thought it would make a good subject for a blog post. I was thinking about books. I am a book fiend, I always have my nose in a book or two at one time, and I almost always enjoy them. At the same time, I do take the time every day to spend with my Bible as well. I've talked so many times about how important that is to me. Even one single verse every day is better than nothing. Then there is my husband. He simply doesn't read much, since he's been done with school, reading has not been a priority or something he does for enjoyment. I certainly don't blame him one bit, he is a busy man, and I know not everyone enjoys reading. But he really struggles to read his Bible. He struggles to find the time every day to do so, but he does try.

Yet...when you walk into a Christian book store these days, the book selection is amazing! There are so many books available- personally, I love all the fiction now available! That didn't used to be. Then there's all the non-fiction. The books that are designed to help you grasp a concept in the Bible or become a better person. These are the books Andy and I were discussing last night. Every once in a while someone suggests that Andy read one of these kinds of books, and he really struggles with that. As someone who simply doesn't read much, or has the time to read much, isn't it better that he concentrates the little reading time he has on the Bible? Which is better, reading The One Book written by God, or dozens of books written by men and women about God? Honestly, I think that's a no-brainer.

I guess I just think that as a whole we as Christians put to much stock in what man has written. I even heard someone mention once that they could tell which books their pastor was reading by the sermons he was giving. That's just sad to me, what better inspiration is there than the Bible? As an avid reader, I understand the pull of a good book- fiction or factual. Sometimes I do appreciate a book pointing something out in the Bible for me that I may have missed before, and I make no secret that I use study guides to do my daily studying, but it always comes back to the Bible. There is nothing that man can write that can compare with what God has written. Nothing.

"Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God." Joshua 3:9

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." 2 Samuel 22:31

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God." Ecclesiastes 5:7

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Setting Aside The Petty

"Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise." Jeremiah 17:14

I will never forget our family's trip a few years ago to and from Florida. It was a long trip- we decided to drive the entire distance from our home here in Wisconsin to Orlando. Andy's baby brother was getting married there, so we needed to go, and we decided to turn it into a two-week vacation. As with any road trip, tempers were short, and the little things would be annoying in the car. With very young children in the backseat demanding much attention in between bouts of car-sickness, it was a journey to remember.

The first day of our return trip home we will certainly never forget. We were all exhausted from the week of wedding festivities, and we really were ready to be home. Except that we had a four-day journey ahead of us. We were driving north, knowing that we were driving into hazardous weather. We crossed the Florida line into Georgia, and were just a few hours shy of our destination for the day when we hit the torrential rain. Our already short fuses got even shorter. Zander hadn't been eating very much on this trip and he was crabby and tired of french fries and grapes. Abigail was tired of throwing up every time she got in the car, and I think Andy and I had had enough of each other. We had to slow way down in the rain, and the slower we drove, the more annoyed I got. We were hours from our hotel already, slowing it down would take twice as long! Other drivers just made me angry when they would do something strange, and all Andy would do was look at me and I would snap at him. It was not a pleasant car to be riding in.

Then we pulled off the highway to make a turn, and a huge tractor-trailer was at the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. It didn't move. It was blocking the road, had it's turn signal on, but didn't move. What the...? We were literally stuck. All we could do was wait for him to move out of the way, and about five minutes later he did just that. I still remember glaring at that truck as we passed him by. And then not five minutes down the road, we saw the flashing lights of the ambulances and police cars...and the downed trees, power lines, and the swatch of damage left by the tornado that had just passed through. It was intense. The air was still charged with the energy from the tornado, and 16 month old Zander quickly became affected by it and threw up all over me. After that, our drive was very quiet for awhile as Andy and I both reflected to ourselves that if that tractor trailer had not been there, we could have found ourselves in the middle of a funnel cloud. We knew that God had been looking out for us, and it really changed our demeanor for the rest of the trip home.

We stopped early that night, and the next three days of travel were the most pleasant we'd every had. There was no bickering, no fighting, no short fuses with our children. We became instantly patient with them and with each other. We looked at things with a whole new light, because we knew that God had placed that truck in our path to save us from death. The petty things we found troublesome before were gone and seemed so trivial in light of what we'd witnessed.

I think that sometimes we get too caught up in the petty. Even now, thinking about that trip, I am overwhelmed, because that wasn't the only time God was evident on our journey. More than once we experienced his hand of protection, and it really stayed with us. Sometimes we just let those little things fester and bother us instead of looking at the big picture. Especially in our relationships with people. Think about it. How often do we think of a friend or family member and think about their little quirks or idiosyncrasies that bother us? When we get together with those people we brace ourselves for the little things that annoy us instead of simply embracing that person in love and looking at the big picture. Within our marriages we let the little things annoy us, and sometimes those petty annoyances can build up and cause friction. Instead, we need to let those things go and see just how trivial they really are.

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7,8

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

He Never Disappoints

"He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. 7They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over." Mark 8:6-8

I love reading the stories of Jesus feeding crowds of people with nothing. Every time I read one of the accounts it puts a huge smile on my face. There are so many things in the Bible that we read them and we wish we had been there to see that event in person- this is my event. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall, watching that bread divide and divide again, and then to have so much extra leftover at the end! Food is one of those things that we all need to live- there's no way around it. And God always provides necessary nourishment for His children when we need it.

I can't tell you how many times I've experienced this very miracle myself. With our group meeting at our home every week for a meal, you would think that we would go through a lot of groceries and use up our stores very quickly. Yet each and every time that I look at what I've prepared, and wonder if it will be enough, it ends up being more than plenty- and then we end up eating leftovers of it for half the week to follow even. I also love how God places it on my heart to make someones favorite food. It happens quite often that I'll prepare dinner only to have one person mention later on how such and such is their favorite, and they've been wanting it for awhile.

I guess it's really about the spirit of sharing. Each week we practice the hospitality that God has blessed us with, and there's nothing better than sharing what God has given us. There have been weeks where I have looked at the grocery budget and just shook my head. By the time I planned out our Sunday dinner, there wasn't much left budget-wise for other groceries. We've trusted God nonetheless. The Sunday groceries came first, and every single time, God's come through in a big way. And he doesn't always come through in the same way- that's been kind of fun. Sometimes he lays it on someones heart to drop off a bag of groceries. Sometimes there is so much leftover Sunday that we could eat for the entire week off the leftovers. Sometimes we'll find extra cash hiding somewhere so we can pick up a few extra groceries. And sometimes God will just completely bless us in a way that we know only came from Him. We trust God by continuing to be generous with what he has given us. Jesus and His disciples could have very easily fed themselves and ignored all those people around them. Instead, they prayed and shared with the spirit of generosity, and that spirit was blessed to the utmost. Five loaves of bread and two fish fed 5,000 people. God provided for each and every one of those people, and he will continue to provide for our family.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It Is A Gift!

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

This morning, as I slowly return to somewhat of a normal routine, I thought this verse seemed completely appropriate. I read this and I thought to myself, "it is a gift, isn't it?" Life in itself is a gift, eternal life, well, that's something truly special. I'll tell you, this whole last week I spent a lot of time with God. There was little else I could do, as I would curl up into a ball and close my eyes for hours at a time, and God and I would have a little chat. I really felt awful, and it really bothered me that I was completely missing Easter week. All the plans for fun and celebration was just gone, and nothing I could do about it. But then I was gently reminded that the purpose of Easter, and the week leading up to it is not about putting up decorations and cooking treats and buying Easter gifts. So while I certainly didn't enjoy being ill for an entire week, it did make me more reflective. I was able to really think on Easter and what it means to me.

Plain and simple, it is a gift. Jesus died for us, and then rose again so that we might live forever in heaven with him. What an amazing gift-an amazing love that was shared with us. And it's a gift without strings. There aren't requirements that I must fulfill in order to receive this gift, all I need to do is accept it.

Thank you Lord for this amazing gift, and thank you so much for my returning strength, I pray that you will continue with the healing work you are doing in our home.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chapter 1 - The Recipients

I hope you enjoyed reading 1 Peter as much as I did! I keep reading parts of it and learn something each day. Today we are looking at the first chapter, paying special attention to the recipients. What do we learn about them in this chapter? Here's what I saw:
1:1 - The are Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia, and Bithynia
1:2 - They were "chosen by the foreknowledge of God" in order to obey Jesus
1:3 - they are born again in a living hope through Jesus
1:5 - protection comes from the power of God through Christ
1:6-7 - they are undergoing trials but should rejoice in them
1:8 - they love God even though He is unseen
1:14 - they are obedient children of God
1:18-19 - they are redeemed by the imperishable, the Lamb of God
1:21 - they are believers of God through Christ
1:22 - they are obedient and purified souls to love
1:23 - they are born again of imperishable seed

Why is marking this important for us to do? Well, it tells us about who the letter is being written to AND teaches us! If you are a Christian, this is talking about you! There are also several things repeated in here to learn about the recipients...go back through your list (or mine) and see if you see it?

They are obedient. The redemption is through the imperishable! Through Jesus' sacrifice and OBEDIENT example we are redeemed!! What a wonderful thing to be reminded of at this time of year.

Up next: Mark the references to the recipients in chapters 2-5. I'll be back in a few days to share what Ive learned by doing this.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

1 Peter - Be Encouraged

One of my favorite ways to study the Bible is through a method called inductive study. Through this method, which I learned through Precept Ministries, is pretty simple. It involved reading the passage of scripture many times over across a span of several days. Through these days, you pick into the words, what they mean, who the passage is directed to, when it was written, who wrote it, and what it tells us about God and His relationship to us. I'm about to start a study on 1 Peter and would love for you to join me!

First, you should read 1 Peter all the way through. Even read it again. I did! Oh, I got so excited as I was reading this. It is so full of Truth, instruction, and encouragement for us! As you read, pay attention to who the author is (hmmm!) and what his purpose is writing is (hint: he actually tells you at the end of the letter!).

So, the author is Peter writing to the Christians who are spread throughout the region (this is located to the north and east of the Mediterranean Sea). Why did he write to them? To encourage them, remind them of God's grace and what they are called to do because of the redemption Christ has offered them. Even just reading through this letter twice, I was reminded of my weakness and total need for Christ's sacrifice for my eternal security. AND that because of that eternal security, I should live in a manner that points to God each public AND private!

Up next: read through Chapter 1 again, this time noting references to the recipients (you, your). If you want to mark in your Bible, come up with a certain symbol for each (e.g. I use an orange circle for the recipients). If you don't want to write in your Bible, just make notes in a notebook. This really does help! Note your first impressions of the recipients of this letter. See you soon! Enjoy God's words to us!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There Is No Other

"then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:10,12

That's what struck me about this verse today. "Salvation is found in no one else." As young people today are encouraged to find their own paths, a lot of times that leads to an exploration of other religions. A year ago or so our small group spent some time looking at other cultures and the other religions around the world. What we found is is that all the other religions out there have a "path" to follow, but no guarantee. There is no other religion that guarantees salvation by accepting the gift that Jesus gave to us. This verse in Acts points that out, that there is no other name in the heavens that can save us.

It is through Jesus Christ alone that we may have eternal life. This next week is Easter week... I never really know how to celebrate Easter. Christmas comes easy, it's a time of great joy. Easter should be an even greater time of joy- Christ died so that we might live! He rose from the dead! What could be more exciting than that! Yet so often the Easter focus is on the solemnity of the occasion, and I'm just not sure that is totally warranted. Absolutely we should take the time to reflect on the amazing sacrifice made on our behalf, but should it be somber? I think not, I think the time of reflection can be based on joy, based on being grateful for the gift of life, not regretful because it was necessary.

I'm looking forward to the week ahead.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weakness Is Good...?

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I've read this about 12 times this morning now. "For when I am weak, I am strong." That's just one of those concepts that you read about, and until you go through it, you have no idea how true it is. Sometimes we need to be completely at the bottom of the barrel before we really let God in. It can be so easy to rest in the security of "stuff" of house and clothing and cars. While those things are necessary to live in the world today, they're not our everything. We don't work so hard everyday for the home we live in. I am so thankful for the home we have, there have been instances in the last few months where our landlords could have easily asked us to move. But they've been blessedly patient at times, and God has always come through for us when we needed it most.

I find that I scold myself when we are at a low point. I scold myself for waiting so long to let God take over. Why do I give him my checkbook when there is little to nothing in it, but I am more hesitant to give it to him when it is nicely fattened from all his provision. I do desire for this to change. At the same time though, according to the verses here today, we need the low points in our life too. Those low points are the time when we are most vulnerable, and when we are most open to letting God do a great work in our lives. And I have to say, I'm agreeing a bit with Paul here. He delights in hardships and difficulties. And you know what there is to delight in? We can delight in the fact that we will be out of the hardships and difficulties. As the old song goes, "God will make a way, when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see, he will make a way for me."

On the other side of this hardship is a new beginning which God has created for us. I pray that his power is shown to us, and to those around us. That through us, people will see his glory and mercy and provision and will know that God IS the provider of all.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Resolution!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Well, we have some news this morning. :-) But first, a little history.

Back last fall, Andy was told time and again by his boss that things were looking bleak within the company, and that a lay-off was impending. Andy loved his job, but grabbed the bull by the horns and did what he had to do to support his family. He went job hunting, and when a seemingly attractive offer came along, he took it. So in October, when the rest of his company was laid off, he went on to a new job. It was bittersweet for him because he loved his job and his employer, but he needed to support his family, and he looked forward to the challenge of the new job. But two days into that new job, he realized that all he had been promised in the interview was a load of hooey. Still, it was a job and better than unemployment, so he worked hard. He learned several skills that were new to him, and at the same time, began sending out more resumes.

Over the last several months, he has truly come to loathe his job. There are many factors why, and while it would have been so easy, any number of times, for him to just walk away, he diligently got up each morning and headed off to work. Yet, every time he would question God as to why he was working for this terrible company, not a few hours later, someone would give Andy an opportunity to discuss his faith. He's had several in fact, he's had opportunity to be a witness several times over, and has also been able to encourage former church attenders to give it another shot. In the face of adversity, he found a purpose for his job, but still... it wasn't giving him joy to go to work every day.

Then, two days ago, he received a phone call from his former boss. The company that he loved, that he hated saying goodbye to was looking at a brighter future, and was he happy where he was? Or would he be interested in coming back. That one phone call has changed our complete outlook. He loved his job with that company, and in a few weeks, he'll be able to go back to work there. God truly does answer prayer.

You know how as you're going through a trial you wonder what the purpose is, and why you had to go through it? And then when you finally make it through you can look back and see the purpose and see the reasons. God has taken care of us every step of the way, we just didn't always see it. As Andy's former company laid of person after person, he was able to find employment elsewhere. We would have never survived on unemployment for six months- which is what it would have been. God provided the job that Andy needed to support his family, when he needed it. And while at this company Andy has learned a whole new set of job skills that will benefit him in the future. As well, and more importantly, he was able to sow a whole field of seeds for God. He had provision, he had a purpose. And now, he has a bright outlook. We're so looking forward to the days ahead. Yes, we're looking forward with earnest to the raise in income this will provide, but we're also looking forward to the improved mood around the house. Andy will once again enjoy getting up in the morning and heading off to work.

In all things, God works for the good of those who believe him. We just need to trust and hold to that, and now we can thank Him with earnest for the times to come, and for the provision of the past.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Like A Kid In A Candy Store

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:3-11

I was reading these verses in 2 Peter today, and I was struck by several different things. There were a couple of verses in particular that jumped out at me. I'm going to start with verse 4 today, because that one spoke right to my core, particularly that last part

"Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

One of the issues that I struggle with, and have always struggled with is controlling my spending. I am absolutely terrible at overspending the money that we have, and not saving for a rainy day. I always find myself with the best intentions, and then I lose my focus. I remember last year at this time struggling on the unemployment that Andy was receiving, and looking forward to his return to work. And once he returned to work, we found ourselves in the position of being eager to spend, spend, spend. And not only did we spend all we had, we spent beyond, using credit to ensure our comfort. And as always, we look back and all we can think about is how stupid that was and how it is completely our fault that we are back in this position of owing a small fortune and having our credit score shrinking instead of improving.

This year, of course I have a renewed sense of responsibility. Once Andy's earning what he should again, I have plans to be responsible. To tithe, save, pay bills, and then take care of some basic needs. Yet in the back of my mind I worry about the temptation to go overboard and dig us into a deeper hole. I get so angry at myself for repeating the same awful behavior over and over even though I know better. But look at verse 4. It says that through God's promises, I don't have to repeat that behavior. I don't have to be tempted to spend, and even better, I don't have to worry about being tempted. Because God promised to help me escape my evil desires. It doesn't even say there that he'll help me to resist temptation. It says, right there in my Bible that I can escape the evil desires altogether. I'm going to hold God to that promise. I am praying in earnest for that promise to come to fruition.

I also wanted to talk about the beginning of verse 10 this morning.

"Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager"

When someone becomes saved for the first time they have an eagerness about them. They are so excited to be a part of God's Family, and they feel his presence in their lives that they hadn't felt before. They're exuberant, sharing God's love with everyone they come across. Yet after awhile, that exuberance fades. Christianity becomes complacent and not as exciting. Why? I even see this within the church. We get so involved in routine. We find a way to do something that seems to work well, so we stick with it and forget that God is constantly evolving. Sunday mornings become more about going through the motions and moving seamlessly from one item to the next. It's almost boring. We need to remember that eagerness, that sense of wonder that happens when someone meets Christ for the first time, and our every day should be that way. We should be thrilled to jump out of bed in the morning, because God made a new day for us to enjoy. Every Sunday should be full of joy because we have an opportunity to come together as a family and worship God together. There are people in other countries who don't have that freedom or opportunity. And we need to remember that and be thankful that we have such and opportunity.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Loving The Little Ones

"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." Deuteronomy 7:9

God loves us. Each and every one of us is loved by a faithful God. He loves us, and he wants us to follow his example and love others as He does. We've been doing this series at church on loving people better, and it's been interesting to look at the different facets of relationships through someone else's eyes. This morning though, my focus is on the little ones in my life. This morning my precious daughter is lying upstairs in her bed with a fever. She hates being sick, but even worse, she's missing school, and she loves school. I spent a great deal of time last night praying for her and simply loving her. I don't spend enough time with her these days, it seems.

Yesterday my little niece was discovered to have diabetes. I just started crying when I thought of that little girl having to spend the rest of her life poking her fingers and monitoring her blood sugar. She's just such a delicate little girl in the first place.

And God loves both of these little girls even more than I do! My heart practically bursts when I hold my daughter and wipe her forehead with a cool cloth. To think that God loves her even more... it's difficult to comprehend. But at the same time... I would give my life for my children. In a heartbeat. And Jesus actually did that for us. He did that for us as adults, who certainly don't deserve it.

And I will leave it at that this morning. I'm going to spend a little extra time praying for my girls this morning, and praying that Zander avoids this bug as well.

Monday, March 10, 2008


"How blessed are the people who are so situated;
How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!" Psalm 144:15

I'm having a hard time coming up with the right things to say this morning. I've composed a few things in my mind and then I go to type it up and it just doesn't sound right, and my head starts singing instead. Have you ever done that? Have you ever gone to church and gotten a song so wrapped around your heart that all you can do is sing it for a few days? One of the new songs that our worship team is learning is like that for me. It is so joyous and full of energy that all I have to do is think of one line of it and I picture multitudes of people just singing to God and jumping for joy- it's so energizing to just think of the song. And I don't even know all the words yet! Imagine if I did! "How Awesome Is The Lord Most High!"

Suffice it to say, last night Andy and I were just completely blessed. Completely, in more ways than one. First, we were blessed by the mere company of our small group. It's always wonderful to have them in our home every week, but this week we really needed it. I had been kind of in a foul mood all day, and the longer we sat and talked and discussed our faith, the better and brighter my mood became. And as we shared some of our fears and concerns last night, our friends spoke words of encouragement that truly were from the Lord. There was no doubt that God that was present at our group last night. We had a wonderful meal as well, most of which was provided by different group members, and for some reason, last night's turkey dinner was even better than normal. It simply couldn't have gotten better last night, and then it did, and we were blessed with a gift that not only came from the heart, it went straight to the heart.

So I'm a little overwhelmed this morning. God is truly amazing to put such wonderful people into our lives. It's as if a breath of fresh air has blown through our home. It's a new day, and the foul attitude that has been here for the past few weeks is simply gone. (With any lock, and by the grace of God, that fresh air will carry over to the outside and melt some snow!) And while I was sad when the alarm went off this morning, today is a new day! And I'm looking forward to the day ahead. So I'll leave you this morning with a portion of a Psalm from David. It's a Psalm full of joy and full of a reminder of all that God has done. It's a wonderful reminder that He can do ANYTHING and he will do ANYTHING.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent

3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.

4 He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.

6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.

7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;

8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.

9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.

11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

12 The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.

13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:

15 wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.

16 The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.

17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.

18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys.

19 The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.

20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.

21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.

22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.

23 Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures." Psalm 104:1-24

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Slow Down

"You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath." Psalm 39:5

Life is so rushed sometimes. Life is rushed a lot of the times for some people. Our life seems to go in spurts. We have weeks where we have nothing going on, and then weeks where every day is packed, and all we can do is keep going forward. While we're busy rushing around, getting our children to this or that, and taking care of other obligations, and then on top of that there's laundry and housework to be done, we can get frantic. We can lose our focus on each other and on God, and I suspect that can be the demise of many a marriage or family. In this day of constantly being busy, it can be so important to set aside time to spend with people.

I talk a lot about setting aside time to spend with God. That's almost easier to me sometimes. It's easy for me to wake in the morning and give the first few minutes of my day to God. The whole family is waking and getting ready for their day, and we all kind of do that on our own. But actually setting aside time to spend with my husband doesn't get a daily priority. Or setting aside time to just spend with Abigail, who spends the day at school. Never mind all of us doing something together...yet that's something that we really need to make sure we are doing. Just us. Not us as a family going to Abigail's dance things, or us as a family going to one of Andy's things, or us as a family going to church together. We need to consciously set aside time to do something all together, like playing a game or going for a walk.

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

In the same way, we've made it a priority to schedule in time with our Christian family as well. We have set aside every Sunday evening to spend with our friends in Christ to discuss His word and life in general. We've made that a priority, because if we didn't, we would always be saying to our friends, "we should get together sometime" or we would pull out or calendars and simply not find a day. It's important to take the time to slow down and relax and spend it encouraging each other in our walks. If we didn't have our friends to help us out when times are low, we would spend so much time in despair and worry. Instead, God has given us these wonderful people to help encourage and offer support.

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4

We are a social creature, God made us that way. It's so important to take the time and focus on that. To slow down and take a break from all the business and the running around to truly appreciate and support each other- both within and outside of our families.

Friday, March 07, 2008


"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Could you say this? Could I say this? Would we want to say this I guess. Would we really want to look at God and say "go ahead, take a peek." I don't know about that. With this verse it's like David is completely opening himself up, making himself vulnerable and available, and he has no fear about what God could find hidden underneath that skin.

I'd be afraid to be embarrassed about what would be found in there. I could just see the conversation. " No wait, I'm not really that selfish." Or "No, honest, I like to do that."

This verse today just really makes me think. If we opened ourselves up completely to God, would we like what he found there? And if not, then don't you think that's something to work on? Something to pray on? Maybe that vulnerable feeling is what keeps people from really getting to know God, from really falling on their knees and telling him to have his way in their life. It's a reluctance, part fear from what will be found there, and part embarrassment.

But the good part is that God still loves us. He wants this from us, but he also knows that it's not going to happen overnight. He will help us to get rid of the offensive yuck and lead us in the way of the everlasting- that is how he works. Our God is a graceful and merciful God, and he doesn't care about what he'll find in there. He wants us to be free of those evils that plague us. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed or afraid, for God loves us unconditionally and by letting Him in completely, those things will be whisked away and we will be made right again.

Wow. That's great news and a wonderful encouragement.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

An Interesting Thought On Responsibility

"The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."

3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD." Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah is an interesting example of responsibility. He is the perfect example of taking God's responsibility onto ourselves, and forgetting our own responsibilities. There are things that we as people can or cannot change- and it's the things that we can change that we are responsible for, and it's the things that we cannot change that God's responsible for. This is an interesting thing to think on.

I guess I'm thinking in terms of the church as a whole on this one. How many times to we concern ourselves on a church matter. How many times do we think that things at church should be a different way, or we think there needs to be change. Or conversely, we think we don't need change. Don't you think that all of those things that we busy ourselves with are things that we should leave in God's hands? Instead of focusing on the big picture, and on the church as a whole, we should focus on our tasks at hand. Are we a Sunday School teacher? We should focus on teaching those little people about God's love. Are we a maintenance person? We should focus on keeping God's building in working order. Are we involved in the finances? We should be doing everything we can to make sure that we are spending God's money in the way which honors him the most.

I guess it's just so easy sometimes to look at the big picture and become frustrated with this, that, or the other thing. What we need to remember is that God is in control. God is responsible, and we need to relax and trust God with that responsibility and turn our eyes to our own responsibilities. By taking on God's responsibilities as our own, we're taking time away from the responsibilities that are actually ours to take care of.

"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Servant's Heart

"Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45

I love what my Bible says to me this morning. It says that being a spiritual leader is not so much what you do as what you are. What is at the core of your being, your heart, is what makes you a spiritual leader. You can be in a position of leadership, but if your heart is not in it, you are not really a leader are you? Being a Christian leader isn't about power or taking charge of people, instead it's about serving. It's about humbling yourself as a servant to your fellow man and to your God. The person who serves from his heart is a true spiritual leader.

So how does one check their heart? Look in Galations 5:22-23, the fruit of the spirit.

"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."

It is these things, these characters and traits which we are to practice constantly. And not just when we are in public or being watched by neighbors. Do you take the fruit of the spirit to heart and practice them behind closed doors? Does the fruit of the spirit take center stage when with your family? A true servant of God will serve as a leader to their family. When someone constantly practices these traits of Christianity, they will become a natural leader to those around them, they are an example to follow.

If you would like to know more about the Fruit Of The Spirit, check out these posts I've done on the very subject.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Back On Track

"As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him." 2 Samuel 22:31

I've been off for a few weeks here. I've just been finding it hard to get myself motivated in the morning. And then I'll read something in the Bible- anything, and while I'm reading it, I'm not really reading it and processing it. Then it comes time to sit down and blog the Bible and not much wants to come out. I've got to get myself re-focused I guess, because I've thought more than once about just not blogging anymore. And since I KNOW this is how I keep myself reading the Bible every day, I also know that this idea to stop blogging is not from God.

So I am going to persevere. As tempting as the idea is to me right now to just put up a little short post about taking some time off, I'm not going to do it. Instead, I'm picking up one of my Study Bibles and doing a study every day. Today's little nugget of study is a perfect suggestion for helping get back on track. It mentions that every household has a "busy center". A spot in the house where everyone walks past or drops off stuff. It's in that spot that you should have some Bible verses. If it's a table or desk you could actually have a Bible open with a passage marked for quick reading. In our case, the fridge is a busy center. So I think I'm going to start taking individual verses and writing them out and putting on the fridge for everyone to see and read. Only by allowing the Bible into our homes and lives do we really allow it to influence our lives.

May God keep me strong and keep the enemy away, because he's certainly been knocking lately. Thank God for His Word to turn to to keep me motivated.

Monday, March 03, 2008

It Just Is

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

God doesn't think like we do. His time is not measured like ours, and his ways are nothing like ours. Those things are difficult to comprehend to me. I like to read a good fantasy book, and the ones that do a good job of creating a whole new world are my favorites. Sometimes, that's how I think God is. It's like the best fantasy novel out there, only no one has read it yet, no one can comprehend exactly how that novel is going to be, because it's going to be the best ever. Eternity is going to be amazing, and only God can know how it's going to be.

That's why, sometimes when we're asking God for direction, or waiting on His voice to guide us, we don't understand that He's waiting for the prefect time. There is a perfect time for what He has in store for us, it's just sometimes difficult to trust that, and trust in His timing. Our time here on earth is not the same as God's timing. We can watch the calendar change, and see deadlines come and go, but God has no deadlines. He doesn't have the same calendar telling him it's time to take action. Patience is a virtue, as is trust in God. His way truly is perfect, and we will do our best to trust in the path that He will lay before us.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

It's Not About Stuff!

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

So why do I continuously have to keep telling myself that! I swear, we go through a period of time every once in a while where we have very little money, and can't buy anything extra. We're in that time right now, and there are some days where all I can think about is what we're going to do when we finally have a little extra money on hand. I have a mental checklist of things I want to buy when I can- why do I do that? Because at the same time, we are reminded each and every day of God's grace and provision. He ALWAYS comes through, and I know that.

I wish I knew what it was. I wish I knew how to just turn off that switch that tells me I want stuff. Much of the things I think about buying are practical- some are fun, but I just need to stop dwelling on not having the finances and living in the now. I need to work harder at being content with where we are and with what we have. We have so much- God has blessed us so much, and I really, really need to remember that. Today is the first day of a new month. While I can look forward to the wonderful days ahead, I pray that God will help me to live in the now, to enjoy each and every day for what it is, and to be grateful and thankful for all that he has given us.