Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Exciting news!

I apologize for being MIA for a while, but I return with a couple of important messages.

First, my sweet husband who is good with computers (I think one of his college majors was in Computer Science.. And, in general, he's kind of nerdy with tech stuff. Which I think is very cute and helpful!) has helped me create a website where I can include more pages than just my blog. Although, my blog is still the main focal point and my purpose for creating a site. I'm still working on a couple pages and I was waiting for it to all be ready and perfect before redirecting people to it, but I can't wait any longer especially with the new, great things i want to share with everyone!

That leads me to the second important announcement...We just had Secret Church at the Church at Brook Hills again! This time, the topic was on marriage, family, sex and the gospel. I can't wait to share all the notes and wonderful messages with you so come on over to my new blog as I try to cover the whole Secret Church by David Platt in the next week or so. I hope you're excited because I know I really was going into it and the sermon did not disappoint! God's Word never does. I really needed to hear God's perspective on these things and be shown how the gospel is meant to be reflected in all of them. what other major areas/issues in life shape and affect us as much as these? Now i'm bursting to run back and share all the good, helpful news with anyone who will listen.

If you read my Secret Church notes from April/Easter, then i'm sure you'll be just as moved by this one's message and, don't worry, I won't cram it all into one post this time! Haha. There's too much to share so i'll stretch it out over several. Thank you readers!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Be still and know that I am God ~ Psalm 46:10

When bad things happen, we're quick to get mad at God and blame him for our suffering. We want him to pull us out of our difficult circumstances and make everything all better. And sometimes He does. Other times, He allows us to suffer in order to test our faith, increase our dependency on Him, grow in spiritual maturity through the healing process, and bring Him glory. 

When tragedy strikes us, we have a choice to make right away. Will we cling to our faith, trust God, and praise Him in the midst of our suffering? Or will we blame Him, pull away from Him, and wallow in our emotions? It's in times of suffering that our faith and relationship with God is the most tested. If we were never put in the situation to choose, then God would never know where our hearts really lie with Him (read the story of Job or just verses 1:1-12).

And sometimes He allows bad things to happen because He knows that there is sin, evil and brokenness in the world. We can all relate to each other when it comes to pain and suffering. He wants to work through the bad things to reveal His goodness. He wants people to see the work of His hand in peoples' lives- Instances in which good triumphs over bad. He can use the brokenness in you to help others going through the same circumstances and lead them to Him for their healing. God is our Comforter, Healer, Sanctuary, Shelter, Helper, Advocate, Author of peace, Author and Finisher of our faith, Counselor, Maker and Father (see the names of God).

He is El-Shaddai, the God who is sufficient for all the needs of His people. He is holy, completely good, jealous for your worship, full of love, and a just Judge.

During these times, we must trust and hold fast to the truth that we've learned about Him (Psalm 103:2, Deuteronomy 6:12, 8:11). We must draw closer to him than ever before- spending time in prayer and reading His Word (for we don't live on food alone, but on every word that comes from the Lord). We must remember that everything works out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We must think positively and not dwell on the past or on negative thoughts (Philippians 3:13, 4:8). We must continue to praise Him, thank Him and bless His name despite what's going on and how we feel. 

For God is still God in the good and bad. He is still sovereign and in control of everything. He is still good and has a good plan for you. He is still bigger than our problems. We were created to know, love, worship, serve and glorify Him. So we must ask ourselves how can our situation bring glory to God in some way? Then go about doing His will instead of following our own agenda of how we would react and handle the situation (I think of Romans 12:17-19 and 1 Peter 3:9). We must continue to rejoice and lean on the fact that He is our victory and the gift of salvation is still ours. We still have something to sing about! We still have reason to worship and praise Him. He hears our cries and will raise us up again. He is still with you so don't push him away when you need him more than ever (Isaiah 41:10, Deuteronomy 31:8).

After Job's faith in God and his commitment to God's laws were tested, he declared "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord," Job 1:21. He chose to praise God even though he had lost everything, he didn't understand what was going or why, and he was hurting. Job struggled with resentment towards God just as we do in the midsts of inexplainable trials and loss (I think back to after September 11 when everyone was questioning God's existence. Many people turned their anger against God and accused him of abandoning America). For a while, Job refused to believe that his suffering would serve any purpose or teach him anything. He felt that God was treating him unfairly. Eventually, he came to see the pride that had grown in him. He was confident in his own righteousness, not in God's. 

Like Job, we must never forget our desperate need for Him and we must understand that God knows and sees more than we do. No matter how severe our circumstances are, we must never forget that God is listening and he cares about what we're going through. He sees lessons that we can learn through our suffering, the good we can do for others as a result of it, and the emptiness in us that His love can fill. He isn't surprised by what's happened, nor is he lost without a plan. He knows how things will turn out. He will make sure that justice is done and things are made right, even if it's not in the time that we want to see it done. What we can learn from Job is to always maintain our respect for and trust in God. We can also be encouraged by King David who said, "Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Yes, wait on the Lord!" Psalm 27:14.

"I'm forgiven because You were forsaken
I'm accepted, You were condemned
I'm alive and well, Your spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love, how can it be
That You my King should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it's true
And it's my joy to honor You
In all I do, I honor you.

Jesus you are my King
Yes Jesus, you are my King."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

"Blessed be Your name 
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name.

Blessed be Your name when i'm found in the desert place
Though i'm walking through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name.

Every blessing you pour out i'll turn back to praise You
When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name when the sun is shining down on me
When the world's all "as it should be"
Blessed be Your name.

Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.

Well, You give and take away
You give and take away
Yet my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Here's to losing weight and feeling great!

Today, i'm writing over on my other blog about faith inspired, Biblically-based healthy living. Check out my recent post full of great information on eating well and staying active (inspired by Lysa TerKeurst author of "Made to Crave", Tosca Reno author of "The Eat-Clean Diet" who started losing significant weight at age 40 by eating clean, and "Run Your Butt Off" by the editors of Runner's World).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where I am weak, He is strong

"For the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Matthew 26:41

Last night and this morning, i've been feeling a battle going on between my spirit and my flesh. This verse keeps coming to my mind. In context, it's referring to our temptation to sin. We are to "keep watch and pray so that we don't fall into temptation." For the Spirit in us is willing (to do what God wants) but our flesh is weak (puts up a fight and struggles to do God's will).

Although this is true and my spirit will always be at war with my body to follow God instead of my own selfish and sinful desires (just like we all experience), right now I feel the meaning of this verse in a different context.

I was lying awake in bed wondering why I can't seem to do the very things I want to do and that I feel God calling me to do. This question sounds familiar...In Romans 7:15, Paul says, "I do not understand myself. For I want to do what is right, but I do not do it. Instead, I do what I hate." My thoughts exactly. He knows how I feel!

For example, I want a healthy and fit body. If you've read my other blog about biblically-based healthy living, then you know I have a struggle with food addiction. My spirit wants to follow God's will in this area of my life. I know that it's a sin and it causes distance between me and God. It also has harmful effects on my body. I want to be victorious over this struggle, I want to honor God with my body, and I want to experience the benefits of healthy eating and exercising- having the kind of body that I feel confident and comfortable in, that my husband finds attractive, and that is a good environment for child-bearing. As I've written about before in my other blog, it's not that I don't know how to make this happen. God gives us the tools we need to do his will. He won't call us to do something then leave us hanging. I've lost weight and been healthy before. Over the years, i've learned a lot about nutrition and working out because it's a major area of interest for me. I've researched what it is I need to do in order to shed excess fat and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The problem is, I don't usually want to do it. This morning, I felt really convicted that my body is winning the battle against my spirit. I follow the promptings of my flesh way more often than not. It finally hit me, I don't want to put forth the work! 

Another example, I love to write and offer encouragement to other people. I want to help others who have been through similar experiences as me to find healing in a relationship with God. I want to share my story and write a book (actually I have 2-3 in mind). I've felt God calling me to do this since I was about 18 (that's 6 years now) but even more so since I quit my full-time job at a law firm and started staying at home. I've been blessed with a wonderful situation! I started to feel God calling me away from the path I was on for something different, something more, something that would advance His kingdom, impact others, and fulfill His purpose for my life. After about 8 months of wondering if I was crazy and waiting expectantly for God to open up the door for me to do this, I quit my job as a paralegal assistant (I was on my way to become a certified paralegal and, eventually, an attorney. It had been my career plan since I was in high school. That's why I got a degree in Political Science. Perfect prep for law school. Anyway, God's plans for us are usually very different from our own). It was a little scary and definitely not the norm for a girl from my generation. However, God worked everything out and continued to confirm for me that this was the right thing. My husband got a job with travel nursing that not only is fun and allows us to travel across the country, but also has enveloped what I was bringing in so I don't have to go back to work (yet, anyway). Basically, this is the best time for me to write and do what God's been calling me to do! I'm staying at home, taking care of our house, being a more suitable and available helper to my husband, spending more time in the Word and trying to prepare myself for motherhood in the next few years. It's been wonderful! An answer to my prayers (and my husband's) after reading "A Woman After God's Own Heart" and learning God's purpose for my life as a wife, mother, and Christ-follower. Since we arrived at our first assignment (which was about 2 1/2 months ago), i've felt God's calling to write even stronger than before. My spirit feels an urgency and passion to carry out his will and get started! But my flesh won't cooperate. Again, I think it's that I don' want to do the work..

Last example, as some of the women I know are starting to get pregnant and become mothers (and because I read a lot of other women's blogs who are moms and blog about motherhood) it's got me thinking about my future children. As Elizabeth George suggests in her book, it's wise to start preparing yourself for motherhood in advance (whether that's 9 months or 9 years of prep). I can see why that would be beneficial and I agree with her considering I worked to prepare myself for marriage 4 years before I got married (3 of those years were before I knew my husband). What kind of prep am I talking about? Well, I know you can never be completely ready for a phase in life (much of what we learn we develop by experience), but you can study parts of God's Word that relate to this subject to prepare your heart, mind, body and soul for what's to come. After all, the Bible is our greatest tool for living. God gave it to us as a helpful guide to navigate everything we encounter in life. I think of it like studying for an exam in school.  By looking at the syllabus, you know when you're about to be tested on a chapter. If you're wise and want to do a good job, you'll prepare yourself ahead of time for that test by studying. Well, I view monumental changes in life, such as marriage and parenting, as chapters that i'm going to be tested on and I want to do well! I can prepare myself for these experiences by studying God's Word and praying to him to prepare me for all the new changes, responsibilities, challenges, difficulties, ups and downs, pros and cons of the next thing i'm about to go through. I can also research other women's experiences and start praying for my future children. When I started college at the age of 19, I read "Lady in Waiting," "Authentic Beauty," "When God Writes Your Love Story," and "Passion & Purity" that Fall of my freshman year. These books started to prepare my heart and mind for marriage. I researched scriptures in the Bible that addressed marriage (such as Proverbs 31, Song of Solomon, Hebrews 13, and Ephesians 5), studied the wedding vows and covenant I would be making with my future husband and God, read other helpful books such as "First 90 Days of Marriage," "Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts," and "Love and Respect." I also started praying for my future husband. 

Well now, I feel like I need to start preparing myself in these similar ways for motherhood. God's put it on my heart to memorize and understand more scripture so that I can pass it on to my children and train them in the Word. How can I raise them to know all the stories and lessons of the Bible if I don't? How can I instill in them a love for learning his Word and spending time with God in prayer if I don't do it that often? Will we really start family worship and devotional time when kids come along if we don't do it as husband and wife now? Not to mention, i'll need to have as much of God's Word stored in my heart as I can so that when there are trials, when we're super busy and i'm overwhelmed, I have it to lean on for strength, comfort and direction. That's what I do now in marriage thanks to all my time of study beforehand (though I still learn ways to strengthen my marriage as we go). So what's the problem? I'm still not doing it! Day after day, i'm convicted to spend more time in the Word and memorize scripture (hide it in my heart (Psalm 119:11). I'd like to read the whole Bible from start to finish in chronological order to gain a better, more broad understanding of it. I'd like to have all the parables memorized. I'd like to have the wisdom of Proverbs sayings so that I can use it to teach my children. Yet, I often choose to ignore that calling by my spirit and do something else instead, even if it's something good like cleaning the house or preparing dinner. Why? Because I don't feel like doing the work.

This all comes down to wanting the benefits of God's will in my life without having to put in the hard labor and make the sacrifices it requires. As Joyce Meyer has said, "You can't be envious of what someone else has if you're not willing to put forth the same amount of effort that they did to get it." You can't be jealous of someone else's healthy physique, debt-free living, success at work, stable and happy marriage, or strong relationship with their kids if you're not willing to work hard for it like they did. She's admitted before that when she first felt God's calling to build a large, world-wide ministry and teach people God's Word, she just wanted God to make it happen. She didn't know just how much work that would take on her part, even though it was God's will for her in his grand purpose for furthering his kingdom. Nor did she feel like doing it at first. But after years of putting in the time and effort it takes to build and lead a ministry, she's experience the fruits of her labor (And isn't it wonderful that whenever we work for the Lord, we do not labor in vain?! 1 Corinthians 15:58). 

So not only has God convicted me that I need to deny my flesh and listen to the Spirit in me, but he's reminded me that the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31 was a hard worker (verses 13-27). If I want to be like her and experience the same benefits as her, then I need to be willing to put forth the effort. If I want to see God's purpose for me become a reality in all these areas of my life, then I have to meet him half way and do my part of the work. Although these things can start to feel like too much for us (and as it all starts to overwhelm me), I also feel God comforting me through 2 Corinthians 12:10. Though my flesh is weak and easily overcome by hardship, God is strong. By his grace, he provides us with the divine power we need to carry out his will and follow the Holy Spirit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

For those who have lost a loved one...

I've compiled a list of encouraging scriptures from the Bible for those who have ever lost a loved one and are struggling with grief, confusion, questions, doubts about God, their faith, and enduring emotional suffering. Some of them are from Christian authors who have written about their personal loss of a loved one and the scriptures they've leaned on over the years. Others I have found on my own in Bible study and research or leaned on myself. I apologize for the length of the list, but I hope that it's something you can come back to if and when you're having a hard day and need to hear from God. His Word truly is medicine to the soul and brings healing to our wounds.

Wait patiently on the Lord. Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. - Psalm 27:14

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find the grace to help us in our time of need. - Hebrews 4:14-16

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is my strength and portion forever. -Psalm 73:26

Trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. - Psalm 62:8

We are hard pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed by our circumstances, but not driven to despair. We are persecuted, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Give your burdens to the Lord and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. - Psalm 55:22

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.  - Isaiah 40:11

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2-4

The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength when you need it.  - Isaiah 58:11

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn Lord, and deliver me. Save me because of your unfailing love. I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer. - Psalm 6:2-9

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon high places.
- Habakkuk 3:17-19

We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

Let us keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. - Hebrews 12:2

Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father. - Colossians 1:11

Blessed are those who are poor in spirit and realize their need for him, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. - Matthew 5:3-4

For he has not despised nor scorned the suffering of the afflicted one. He has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to his cry for help. - Psalm 22:24

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for our comfort and salvation. For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort others. Then they can patiently endure the same things that we suffer. We are confident that as we share in our sufferings, we will also share in the same comfort that God gives us. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear and they will be filled with joy and gladness. - Isaiah 51:11

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a baby growing in its mother's womb, so you cannot understand the ways of God, who is the maker of all things. - Ecclesiastes 11:5

The women will dance for joy and the men- old and young- will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing. - Jeremiah 31:13

Don't let your heart be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me where I am. - John 14:1-4

I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give. So don't be afraid or troubled. - John 14:27

Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in us. 2 Corinthians 4:10

Tell God what you need and thank him for all that he has done. Then you will experience God's peace which will  guard your heart and mind as you live in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

So be truly glad because there is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold. Though your faith is more precious to God than mere gold. So when your faith in God remains strong through many trials,  it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus is revealed to the whole world. - 1 Peter 1:6-7

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again. Then, you will rejoice and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time, you won't need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your requests because you use my name. You haven't done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive and have abundant joy. - John 16:22-24

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and listen to my teachings, for I am gentle and humble in heart. You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. - Jeremiah 31:25

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. - Isaiah 40:29

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what we can see is temporary, but what we cannot see is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor and glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. And so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. - Isaiah 61:1-7

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit. - Psalm 34:18

The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety. (He gives prosperity to the poor and protects those who suffer.) - Job 5:11

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows tired or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths become weak and tired, and young men stumble and fall in exhaustion. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow tired. They will walk and not faint.- Isaiah 40:28-31

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up. Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? - Luke 18:1-7

Consider him who endured such hardship and opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. - Hebrews 12:3

Because of your great compassion, you did not abandon them in the desert. By day, the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take through the wilderness. You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not stop giving them manna from heaven for food or water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen. - Nehemiah 9:19-21

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all the good things he does for me. Who forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from death and crowns me with love, compassion and tender mercies; who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:2-5

Since ancient times no one has heard, no eye has seen any God that is like you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. - Isaiah 64:4

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming prideful and boasting, I was given a thorn in my flesh; a messenger from Satan to torment me. Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Where you are weak, my strength will become your strength." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. For when I am weak, God makes me strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

The Lord is my light and salvation. He is the stronghold of my life. Psalm 27:1

Surely God is my salvation. I will trust in him. He is my strength and my song. Isaiah 12:2

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10

But the Lord is faithful. He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and  Christ's perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. And so now I give him to the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:27-28

The Lord is a place of refuge; a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God? 
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again. From the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more. - Psalm 71:19-21

He will swallow up death forever. The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces. - Isaiah 25:8

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord who has compassion on you. - Isaiah 54:10

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love for you. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. - Lamentations 3:31-33

Attend to my words; incline your ear to what I say. Let my teachings not depart from you; keep them buried in your heart. For they are life to those that find them and health to their flesh. - Proverbs 4:20-22

I trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. -Psalm 31:7

A father to the fatherless, a protecter of widows, is God in his holy dwelling place. Psalm 68:5

The Lord watches over the foreigner. He sustains the fatherless and the widow. - Psalm 146:9

But I do not want you to be ignorant, dear brothers and sisters, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jesus, Our Intercessor

Today, I wanted to share Joyce Meyer's daily devotional with you about how Jesus fills the gap that separates us from God.

Somebody's Praying for You
by Joyce Meyer - posted September 21, 2011

"I am praying for them." John 17:9
We know that Jesus prays for us. In Luke 22:32, He says to Peter, "I have prayed especially for you." In the verse for today, He says concerning His disciples, "I am praying for them." Also in John 17, He continues and says, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me," and that means you and me (v. 20 NKJV).
What does an intercessor do? An intercessor prays for others, standing in the gap that exists between God and an individual. We all have a gap between God and ourselves. In other words, we are not as holy as He is, but Jesus is right there, standing in that gap, bringing God and me—or God and you—together so we can have fellowship with Him and He can answer our prayers. Isn't it awesome to know that as long as our hearts are right and as long as we believe in Jesus, He will intercept, make right, and take care of every imperfect thing we do? I want you to imagine Jesus standing before the throne of God on your behalf praying for you. As you do, you will be able to trust that your imperfections are taken care of through His intercession for you.
God's word for you today: Jesus is praying for you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Perfect love

When my feelings get really hurt, when someone lets me down, when my expectations are unmet, when someone acts unjust and transgresses against me...these are the moments when I see God's goodness and perfection the most. These are the times that cause me to realize my desperate need for His love. These are the events in life that really shed light for me on God's unconditional, unfailing, perfect love; His unfathomable, never-ending grace; and the awesomeness of Christ's righteousness.

As tears pour down my face, my eyes burn, my nose runs and I feel utterly overwhelmed by the imperfection of people in my life- by all people in general- and the sin in this world that causes so much pain, I realize just how perfect my Heavenly Father, my Lord and my Savior really is.

I can't possibly attain perfection despite how hard and how often I try to be perfect. The people who have betrayed, abandoned, hurt, disappointed, and sinned against me can't possibly attain perfection either. No matter how much they really love me and want to show it or do right by me, they simply can't. We are all born into sin and are prone to sin without the Holy Spirit working in and leading us. Even then, we won't be successful all the time.

That's why Jesus is so amazing! He lived the perfect life that I can't and that none of us could. He acted, spoke, served and loved the way none of us possibly can- in utter perfection. As I dwell on this mystery and awe-inspiring truth, I'm overwhelmed by relief and thankfulness for what he did. I so badly want to live the perfect life. I want to behave, speak, serve and love everyone the way God and people want me to. I so badly want people to do the same towards me. But it's okay that I don't live up to this standard for myself and it's okay that the people in my life don't reach this standard and my expectations either. Because Jesus did. He lived the life that all of us can't. Then he stood in my place and accepted the punishment that I deserve for my sin. He paid the sacrifice so that I wouldn't have to- so that they wouldn't have to- and so that we all could be reconciled to God. Now, when God looks at me he sees the righteousness of Christ. Isn't that amazing?! Now, I can receive the love and relationship with God that I so desperately need.

We all yearn to be loved. By our parents, by our husband or wife, by our children, by our friends. I've finally made the connection between my struggle to be perfect and the need to be loved. Because I didn't get the love I needed and wanted from my parents, I strived harder and harder to be perfect so that they and anyone else in my life would have no reason not to love me. I wanted to be lovable. And I think that tendency, that mindset, has made it's way into how I relate to God as well. Sometimes I struggle with being perfect and legalistic because I so badly want God to love me. I don't want him to have any reason not to. I don't want him to find any faults in me so that i'm seen as lovable.

But I don't have to. It's completely unnecessary. He loves me despite my sin and in the midst of my mess. "He loves you just as much on your worst day as on your best day" -Joyce Meyer. He knows I can't ever be perfect and completely righteous for him. He calls us to try so that he may be seen in us by others (John 13:35) and as a way for us to show our love back to him (John 14:15). But the reason God is so different from any body else and so worthy of praise and worship is because of his perfect love. While we were yet sinners (while I was and continue to sin, acting in opposition to God), God so loved the world (He loved me so much) that he sent his one and only son to die on the cross (He paid the ultimate sacrifice/highest price. He came down to earth in flesh and stood in my place) so that whoever believes in him would not be condemned and perish but be saved and have eternal life.

My need to be loved, perfectly and completely, is met by Him and Him alone.

How great you are, Sovereign God. There is no one like you. There is no one holy like you, there is no one besides you (2 Samuel 7:22). I consider everything else a loss, rubbish, compared to the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and his love (Philippians 3:8).

Have you realized your desperate need to be loved? Have you realized your desperate need for a savior, for someone to rescue you, for someone to stand in your place and take the punishment that you deserve so that you can receive God's love? Have you received the love of your Creator and Heavenly Father? It is a completely free gift from God- his grace, his mercy and his love is completely free of cost to you because it's already been paid in full (Ephesians 2:8). Nothing can separate you from it and it will never be taken away from you (Romans 8:38-39, Hebrews 13:5).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Abide in God's love

"If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have told you so that my joy may be with you and that your joy may be full." John 15:7-11

What leads to having "fullness of joy" and "peace that surpasses all understanding," even in the midst of suffering and hardship? 

  • Abiding in the love of Christ
    • Keeping God's commandments
  • Abiding in God's Word
    • Bearing fruits of the Spirit

"Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it." Luke 11:28

"Blessed are those who keep my ways." Proverbs 8:32

"Jesus replied, 'My mother and brothers are those who hear God's Word and put it into practice." Luke 8:21

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:17

"The one who looks intently into the perfect law and does not forget what they have heard but does it will be blessed in what they do." James 1:25

"Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete." John 16:24

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you are mature and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

If i'm lacking peace and joy in my life, then it must come back to me not abiding in God's love or in his Word. He is the God of Peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and Christ died for us to have life to the full (John 10:10). Peace, joy and freedom are available to us if only we would trust in God's authority and His goodness. If we follow His will for how we should live, then He will lead us beside peaceful waters (Psalm 23:2) and into the abundant life that we are promised through the death and resurrection of his Son. 

God knows that we will and do go through terribly difficult things while on this earth. Although there is sin in the world causing people to suffer, He doesn't leave us alone and hopeless to handle it all by ourselves without any help. His Word is "a lamp for our feet and a light for our path." The Bible is a powerful tool and life manual for navigating the trials we encounter. He wants us to not only get through fires, but have peace and joy even while we're in them. He promises that we won't be consumed by the fires or abandoned by him. We will be more than conquerors over sin and suffering because of Christ who lives in us and was victorious over sin and death. If we follow Christ's advice (to abide in God's love) and keep God's commands (His loving rules that offer us protection and freedom), then we will have peace and joy no matter our circumstances (Philippians 4:11). God's love and grace is sufficient, for me and for you.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Irreconcilable Differences

It's heart-breaking how high the divorce rate is, especially in this country. What's worse is seeing and hearing that the cause of divorce is often 'irreconcilable differences' or 'incompatibility.' 

The truth is, we’re all incompatible and we all have differences that are irreconcilable without God. The reason these couples resort to claiming 'irreconcilable' is because they tried to sustain their marriage and love each other without God’s help and divine intervention. 

We know that he instituted marriage and said it was good in his Word (see Genesis 2:24). But I think when we read over the scripture, we really miss the word “become” in “they will become one flesh.” So we start out as separate individuals and become one, not just through physical intimacy, but through an emotional, spiritual and mental union. This is a long and often uncomfortable process. But it can be done! And it is meant to be done in order for us to become more like Christ, to glorify God in our earthly, romantic relationship and to achieve a deeper love and joy with our companion. 

Unless physical abuse or adultery is occurring, I think divorce is taking the easy way out. It’s choosing to quit when things get hard and you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that it will take to stay together. But marriage not only involves work, it requires it (side note: we also can't live according to our feelings in everything we do. This is a human, flesh trait, not a godly trait. Our feelings will not always be in agreement with what is the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean we should follow them). The good news is, we don’t have to do that work alone. Thank goodness! because there are days it feels like you need a miracle to get through a life struggle with your spouse or to be able to like them despite their behavior. That miracle is God’s grace! He helps us reconcile our differences and become more compatible with each other so that we are unified under his leadership. Again I say, as I have many times, a marriage cannot work without God at the center of it with both husband and wife obeying His will, adopting His selfless attitude and relying on His strength. 

We could all get a divorce based on irreconcilable differences or incompatibility.  What’s less common and more special is choosing not to. Choosing instead to allow God to change us and help us love the other person. Choosing to stay together for the sake of honoring God’s will and perfect plan for marriage, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of our own long-term happiness. Choosing not to get a divorce shows other couples and the next generation that God is with us. He is real and good. Because there's no other way or explanation for a marriage to last, staying healthy and enjoyable throughout life's trials.

Perhaps if "irreconcilable differences" wasn't an option for getting a divorce, the divorce rate in America wouldn't be at 50% today (that means one in every two couples won't stay together!) More importantly, if more people handed over their marriages, desires, feelings, temptations, doubts, frustrations, questions, struggles, and relationship issues over to God and trusted him for help, then more marriages would be saved and we'd have less broken homes and broken hearts.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

There's no other name like Jesus

Man of sorrows
What a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim
Hallelujah! What a Savior

Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned he stood
Sealed my pardon with his blood
Hallelujah! What a Savior

Guilty, vile and helpless we
Spotless Lamb of God was he
Full atonement, can it be
Hallelujah! What a Savior

Lifted up was he to die
It is finished, was his cry
Now in Heaven exalted high
Hallelujah! What a Savior

When he comes, our glorious King
All his ransomed home to bring
Then anew his song we'll sing
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A letter to the girl without a father

I couldn't have written these words more beautifully or described as accurately what it feels like to live without a father (or with an absent father who chose to leave). Lauren, writing over at A Deeper Story, took my breath away and the words right out of my mouth when telling her personal story about an imperfect father-daughter relationship that led her to her heavenly, eternal, and perfect Father for a relationship that meets all of her needs and more. I hope you read it. If anything, it gives you a glimpse into my experience and heart wounds. It paints a picture of the relationship I have with my father and my Father today.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Gospel and Marriage

Currently at Brook Hills, David is leading a series on The Gospel and the Next Generation. For the first couple of weeks we learned about Biblical manhood and womanhood as well as the importance of passing the gospel on to our children and the next generation. If you click on the link you can watch or read those sermons. They were great! Last Sunday we learned about how the gospel relates to (or is in fact central to) marriage. I just wanted to share a few notes from Dr. Bart Box's sermon on biblical marriage with you.

In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul discusses the mystery of the gospel that's seen in a marriage relationship. He says that God's purpose for marriage isn't just for us to have an earthly companion (as wonderful of an aspect as that is), but the intent is for us to display the relationship between Christ and the church (his followers/ the body of believers/ God's children).

The mystery of the gospel in marriage is ultimate. It's the main purpose for our being together (to advance the gospel and bring glory to God). And it's the main thing we need in order to have a loving, lasting, biblical marriage. We want our Savior to be exalted and others to come to know him by witnessing our gospel-centered relationship.

The wife portrays the church to the world. The mark of the gospel among wives is glad submission.

The husband portrays Christ to the world. The mark of the gospel among husbands is sacrificial love.

In order for wives to be an example of the church that shows glad submission to Christ, they must submit willingly to their husbands, they must show reverence to their husbands, and their submission must be comprehensive. If our submission is to reflect the church's relationship with Christ, then it cannot be based on our husband's worthiness of our respect. No matter how he is living- whether or not he's doing "his part"- we are to show respect and yield to him out of reverence for Christ.

Likewise, in order for husbands to be an example of Christ that sacrificially loves the church, they must love their wives unconditionally (not based on her worthiness of it or deserving of it), effectively (always leading her to the gospel and pointing her to her Savior), tenderly (as they would love themselves) and sacrificially (paying a high cost or price/ denying their self for her sake). "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy."

Wives, we should not wait until our husband starts to be a better leader and loving spouse who is worthy of our respect and submission before we start showing it to him. Husbands, you should not wait until your wife starts respecting and following you before showing her love, patience, sacrifice and tenderness. 

I know this is a high, seemingly impossible calling, but it's the mystery of the gospel! Isn't it?! It's how God loves  us. He loved us so much while we were still in our transgressions (while we were his enemies still living in sin) that he sacrificed his Son for our sake. And Christ was so loving, selfless and submissive/obedient to his Father that he willingly sacrificed his life for our sake. It's the beauty of the gospel; the mystery of such a great love!

If we could love each other like this, then not only our children and the next generation but all other married couples and adults in this fallen, broken world would see the love of God that he has for his creation! 

And it is possible for us to do this! We have help from the Spirit of God living within us and we have God's grace which is our mercy when we fail and our strength when we are weak.