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Friday, November 22, 2013

When Having an Attitude of Gratitude is Hard

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, I've been thinking a lot about gratitude and having a heart of thankfulness. My head knows that the best way to counteract a selfish attitude and a discontented spirit is to be thankful, but often times my heart has a hard time expressing a grateful attitude.

Honestly, it's been a hard year or two. With the ups and downs that have come the last couple of years, a big part of me has wanted to have a pity party, sulk and complain about how my life could be better. Of course I know that I should choose to put on a grateful attitude but sometimes I just don't want to. So, what do you do if having an attitude of gratitude is just too hard?

Well, many of my favorite theologians and bloggers tell me I should keep a thankful journal. And, while I think that's a great idea and I do try to sit and write down all the things I'm thankful for; often times I write down the things that I know God has blessed me with but it seems to be just words on a page. My heart still isn't changed. I don't feel more content or less selfish.

Others tell me to think about how bad others have it and then I won't be so discontented with my own life. "You know, there's always someone else who has it worse off than you.", is a statement I often hear. While true, that thought doesn't just magically make me feel better. Actually, if I do put that method into practice and I start thinking about others who have it worse than me; I don't feel better about my own circumstances, I just get more depressed at how hard life really is not just for me but for others around me.

What I do know is that the Bible consistently commands us to have a heart of praise and thanksgiving.

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods." Psalm 95:2-3

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Okay, so God obviously commands His children to be thankful. So, what do we do when being thankful does not come easy to us?

1. Ask for the Holy Spirit's help.
I, on my own accord, cannot muster up a thankful and grateful attitude. I NEED help! My heart is naturally bent towards selfishness, discontentedness and ungratefulness. The only way my heart will change is with the help of the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can give me an attitude of gratitude. And, He stands ready and willing to change me if only I am willing to accept His help.

2. Look to Jesus

As I said before, I have trouble with the whole method of looking at others who have things worse than me in order to make myself more thankful for my own circumstances. But, there is one person whose life, ministry and suffering I can look to in order to stir up an attitude of thanksgiving in my heart- Jesus. His entire life and ministry was dedicated to saving and freeing sinners like me. He suffered and died for me (and for you if you are His child). His suffering was not because of His own sin or because of some horrible chance or because He needed to go through all of it to get closer to God. No! He was perfect, His death was a part of the Father's perfect plan and He was one with God from the beginning of time, you can't get any closer than that. No, He suffered and died a horrible death FOR ME. Now, that makes me thankful!

"...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

He'll Love Us To The End

At my mom's group this morning we read John 13. I've probably read this chapter no less than 100 times. I love the story of Jesus, the King of Kings, kneeling to serve His disciples by washing their feet. But, I saw this story with fresh eyes this morning. I think every time I've read the story; I've completely skipped the second part of verse 1.

"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." John 1:1 (ESV, emphasis mine)

"He loved them to the end." Wow! Sit with those words for a few minutes. Jesus loved his disciples, his children, us to the end. He loves me, with all my faults, failures, sins, to the very end. His love is relentless.

As with most moments when I'm struck by a passage, I immediately start singing a hymn or song that connects me with the scripture. I love music. I can't sing or play a musical instrument; but music still speaks to the depth of my soul. So, when I read and pondered John 13 this morning; my heart began to sing the old hymn "The Love of Christ is Rich and Free." If you don't know the song, my favorite version is done by Sandra McCracken.

The words to the song are amazing!

The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.

His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.
Chorus: Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.
Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.
He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.
(Repeat chorus)
At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.
For as long as Christ lives (that's FOREVER), He will love me. Nothing I do can change that, nothing. He loves his own until endless day. I love that the hymn writer calls Jesus the Surety. His love is sure, it is sound and it is eternal.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Refiner's Fire

One of my favorite art forms is blown glass. When we lived in New England for a few years, one of my favorite things to do was to go to one of the many glass blowing studios in Vermont or New Hampshire and watch the glass blowers work. I was fascinated by the process. The glass is melted multiple times in different types of furnaces to about 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, once the glass is completely melted, the work of molding the glass begins. Before the glass can be turned into beautiful art it has to get incredibly hot to the point of being molten. Without the fire of the furnace, the artist would not be able to do their work.

At the time I never thought about the spiritual parallels between the process of glass blowing and the sanctification process we all go through as Christians. I was in my 20s at the time and honestly I'd been through some small fires in my life but the "furnace" hadn't really been turned up yet. The past couple of years God has shown me through some really hard times that in order to do His beautiful work in me; He was going to have to allow the heat to be turned up a little in the furnace of my life.

The Refiner's fire is a common theme in scripture.

You have wearied the LORD with your words. "How have we wearied him?" you ask. By saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them" or "Where is the God of justice?" "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty. "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." Malachi 2:17-3:16 (NIV, emphasis mine)

It's interesting that the fire is described as a refiner's fire, not an incinerator's fire or a forest fire for example. A forest fire destroys everything in its path. The incinerator's fire completely destroys an object. A refiner's fire does not destroy or consume; it purifies. Just like the goal of the glass blower's furnace isn't to destroy the glass, but to melt it; the fires God allows us to enter into don't consume us but instead refine and purify us. 

This theme is also discussed in the New Testament.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7 (ESV)

Life is hard. We are "grieved by various trials" and Peter says the goal of these trials is to test the authenticity of our faith. We say we believe in God. We say we trust Him. We say that we give Him all control. But, do we really? When the fire starts to burn how authenticate is our faith? How real is it? Do we just believe in God or do we BELIEVE He is who He says He is? Peter also says something that brings me so much hope- our faith that has been tested and found genuine is precious. The glass blower's furnace turns melted glass into beautiful art and our Refiner's fire purifies us and makes us more precious than silver or gold.

For you, O God, have tested us;
    you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
    you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12 (ESV)


Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
(Refiner's Fire, Brian Doerksen)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to It

I love fall! I love back to school, college football, cooler weather and new beginnings. This really is my favorite season. I think I was as giddy as my daughter for the start of the new school year. All this got me thinking about how our God is the God of new beginnings.

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness."

But God's new beginnings don't just restart in the fall or with the New Year. God's mercies are renewed EVERY MORNING. No matter what happened the day before, when we wake up, God gives us another chance. Every morning His compassions, His mercies and His faithfulness greet us as we start our days. 

I'm actually amazed by every phrase of those verses. Verse 22 says, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed...". All of our sins and all of our shortcomings that accompany us day in and day out should cause us to be consumed by the wrath and judgment of God. He is holy and we are not. But, instead of being consumed by His wrath, He engulfs us with His great love. Wow!

And His love never fails, it never gives up on us. We can sin day in and day out, we can fail him often, but He never gives up on us. When we run to Him, He opens His arms every morning, over and over and over again so we can be forgiven and given a new start. 

Great is His faithfulness!    

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Shield

As most of you know, our 3 month old son had to have skull surgery on July 1. It was a very scary week and we are so glad to have it behind us. Everyone asks how he's doing and the answer is beautifully. He recovered so fast and I am so grateful. I am also thankful to all who prayed for him and for us.

During that long, hard week in the hospital I was reminded often of the picture in scripture that the Lord is our shield. The definition of a shield is a broad piece of metal or another suitable material, held by straps or a handle attached on one side, used as a protection against blows. As a mother, hearing that your tiny infant will need major surgery definitely qualifies as a "blow". But, the Bible says that God is our shield, one who protects us against blows. That doesn't mean we won't be hit necessarily but I believe it does mean as His child we are protected from the full weight of the blow.

Over and over in Psalms David describes God as his shield.

"But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." Psalm 3:3

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Psalm 18:2

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him." Psalm 28:7

I love Psalm 3:3. Not only is God my protector but He is also the lifter of my head. When we are blindsided by a harsh blow, God not only cushions the blow; He lifts our head up so that we can carry on and ultimately glorify Him in spite of our circumstances.

The past year and half has been a hard year in the Peet household, but I can honestly say with King David that, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts..." I don't know what "blows" you've been hit with lately but my prayer for you is that you would know that God wants to be your shield and your deliverer.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed..." 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Our Untamable God

Last Sunday at church we sang "Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin. I don't know how many times I've sung that song but I know it well. It's a great song about how God is so big and so awesome that our human vocabulary fails to describe Him adequately. Like I said, I've sung the song hundreds of times but this time I was struck for the first time by the word "untamable". I've been pondering it all week.

I've done a lot of studies on the attributes of God. I've read scripture after scripture about how God is patient, omniscient, all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, etc. But, I don't think I've ever studied the fact that our God is untamable. What does that even mean?

"'No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him; who then is he that can stand against Me? Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.' 'I am angry at you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.'" Job 41:10-11; Job 42:7

In verses 10 and 11, God is referring to a sea creature that He'd created. The leviathan must have been a creature that was around at the time of Job but no longer exists, but we still get the point. This sea creature was fierce. God makes it clear that this creature could not be tamed. So, if such is true about an animal God created, how much more true is it of God Himself.

In 42:7, God is angry at the three friends who have come to "comfort" Job in his time of suffering by trying to explain why they believe he is suffering. They were very confident that all of the horrible stuff that was happening to Job was happening because he had sinned against God. In their minds, God would never allow the level of suffering Job was enduring if he was innocent. God was angry at the limitation they'd put on His sovereignty.

God goes on to say that Job had a better understanding of God and His ways. Job believed that God was testing him through his suffering, but that God was also going to bring about His good purpose in every circumstance he faced. God gets no pleasure in our pain but He often uses it to speak to our hearts and draw us closer to Him. This time as I read Job I was struck by the fact that God is good but He won't be tamed.

One of my favorite books is "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe". And, one of my favorite lines in the book comes when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan to the children.“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  

Now, that's the God I want to worship and serve. My God isn't safe but He is good.

Monday, June 3, 2013

We All Need THE Doctor

Medicine and doctor visits have been on the brain in our household lately. With a new baby, there are lots of visits, shots, insurance phone calls and the like that take place on a daily basis it feels like. On top of that, we are looking at some specialist visits and possibly surgery for our little one in the future. As a mom, I am grateful to God for the day in age we live in with modern medicine and the city that we live in where we can get such good care.

Along with all this medical talk, Mark 2:17 has been popping up everywhere I turn.

"And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

Jesus was in the habit of hanging out with tax collectors and other sinner types. The religious leaders of the day didn't take too kindly to Jesus' associations. Why would this man who claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah, hang out with sinners? Jesus challenged their thinking by making an analogy. Do well people need to see a doctor? No, only those who are sick need a doctor. Then he goes on to say that he did not come to call the righteous but sinners. Jesus calls sin a sickness. And, we ALL have the disease and we ALL need the doctor.

It's easy for me to read these verses and say, "Yup, there are so many people who need the doctor. You know, murderers and adulterers and drug addicts and child abusers. But, me, I'm a pretty good person. I follow all the 'rules', I go to church, I read my Bible and I pray. I don't really need the doctor." But, truth is we ALL need the doctor. Yes, even me. :)

Not only did I need Jesus on the day he saved me and brought me into his kingdom, but I need him daily to save me from myself. I need him to save me from my pride, my selfishness, and a thousand other sins that keep me from living the life God has called me to on this earth.

Daily I need to call on the doctor to make me well. He's the only one with the cure.

Lord, I need You, oh I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Yes where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

(from "Lord, I Need You" by Chris Tomlin)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Coming Out of the Fog

I just realized it has been exactly 2 months since I last posted. Wow, I can't believe how much has changed in just 2 short months. On April 3, we had baby #2. Finally, 7 weeks later I feel like I'm starting to walk out of the newborn "fog".

At the risk of offending many of you that probably love the newborn stage, it is not my favorite. Sleep deprivation, constant feedings and endless crying are just not my idea of a good time. :) But, now that we have a good schedule going and he's sleeping so much better; I can look back and see what God has been trying to teach me through my last baby, things I don't think I learned with my first.

1. Self-denial:

I know this is something I should have learned with my first but I think I ignored the lesson. With one child, you can still figure out how to make things about yourself and still make time for you. That becomes increasingly difficult with each child you have. There is no longer much time in the day for mommy and that's okay. I'm constantly reminded that these early years are short and will soon be over. Right now my job is to (mostly) deny self and take care of my husband and little ones.

The Christian walk is all about self-denial. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Not only am I called to self-denial as a mom but in order to follow Jesus; I have to give up myself daily. This isn't just a calling for moms; it's for all Christians. If I want to follow Jesus, I have to give up my selfish desires, my needs, my pride and seek what Jesus desires and follow the path he's laid out for me.

2. Pray without ceasing:

As a mom of two small children, the times where I can actually sit down with a cup of coffee, my Bible, my journal and my undivided thoughts are few and far between. Thankfully with new technology, I always have scriptures at my finger tips and can feed on God's Word in small increments throughout the day, but hours of endless study of the Word is currently not within my grasp. But, I can pray. 6-8 times a day/night I get to spend 20 minutes or so feeding my son and that time forces me to be quiet and stationary. I could spend the time surfing the web on my phone (which I find myself doing all too often) or I can approach God's throne and intercede on behalf of my family and friends.

I miss the days where I can have hours to myself to study and read and meditate. I remember thinking that my walk is totally going to suffer because I no longer have that precious time. But, God has shown me that being a mom doesn't mean my walk with Him has to suffer. He gives me time if I would only use it wisely.

Jeremiah 29:13-14 are verses that God has led me to focus on this summer.

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

God knows where I am and what's on my plate. He also knows my heart and wants all of it. He wants me to seek Him with all of my heart, even at 2:30 in the morning in a rocking chair. If I seek Him in those moments, I will find Him.

3. I am not sufficient:

But, He is!

"Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God..." 2 Corinthians 3:5

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's All About Perspective

This past week has just been one of "those" weeks at our house. You know one of those weeks where nothing seems to go right, nothing terrible, just a bunch of little annoyances that add up to a really stressful week. Even though nothing devastating happened, it was hard not to have a pity party and let all the little distractions get me down.

Then, today at church, we celebrated Palm Sunday. As a side note, I'm so thankful our church celebrates this Sunday because it's one of my favorites on the church calendar. Anyways, as we were waving our branches and worshipping the King of Kings it hit me that today marks the hardest week in the life of Jesus. While the week begins with his triumphal entry, it quickly moves towards his death. As each day of that Passover week passed, the tension in Jerusalem concerning him mounted.

Jesus starts the week being hailed as the King of Kings and by the time Friday rolls around he will be betrayed by one of his followers, deserted by the rest, sentenced to death on a cross and worst of all separated from his Father in heaven.

Okay, so maybe my week wasn't so bad. Yeah, my family was sick and my washing machine broke and the appliance store royally screwed up my order of a new machine, but Jesus suffered and died for the sins of every person who has ever lived or who will ever live. Wow, talk about gaining a little perspective.

Don't get me wrong, I know that God was with me and my family this week. I could see His hand in so many ways and I am thankful that he cares about all the mundane details of my life. But, I am also so thankful for His Word and the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit reminding me that as hard as life seems to me; I will never suffer as Jesus suffered for his children.

My prayer this Holy Week is that I would keep my eyes on Jesus, "the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let Light Shine in the Darkness

Today is a beautiful day in Atlanta, GA. After what seems like endless days of rain and dreariness, the sun has made an appearance and it is glorious. The minute we got home from church, I had to open up all the shutters and let the sunlight stream in; my soul had been missing it. After laying my daughter down for her nap and opening all of the shutters, I sat down and started to enjoy reading a book in the sunshine. But, when I sat down and looked up at the sun streaming in, instead of enjoying the beauty, all I could see was the dust, dirt and cobwebs that the sunlight was revealing. Because of all the days of darkness, I had not realized how dirty my house had gotten.

I decided I had two choices; I could either close all the shutters back up and ignore the dirt or I could get up, do a little cleaning and then continue to actually enjoy the beautiful afternoon. The first choice seemed by far the easiest and least painful choice, but I was determined not to let a little dust and a few cobwebs keep me from enjoying the beauty of the sun. So, I got up and started cleaning.

As I started dusting and sweeping God began to speak to me. This predicament I'd found myself in had a spiritual equivalent. God's Son came into this world to shine light into the darkness, not just to expose the darkness in our world but also the darkness in our own souls. Here's what the gospel of John says about Jesus,

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5 (ESV)

In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul says, "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

As we allow Christ deeper and deeper into our hearts, his light shines into the darkness and sometimes it's not pretty. His light reveals all the yucky, nasty dirt that is hiding in the deepest corners of our soul. And, we have two options; we can either shut out the light and go along our merry way because frankly that's easier. Or, we can allow His light to expose the dirt and with His help dust out the cobwebs that are clogging the deepest parts of us so that we can more fully enjoy basking in his light. Paul says that the Light gives us the knowledge of the glory of God. The more we allow His light to shine in our hearts, the more cleaning we will have to do but also the more joy we will have as we bask in the light of His glory. 

After I spent a few minutes cleaning up some of the exposed dirt in my house; I was able to rest and more fully enjoy the warmth of the sun. Oh how I pray it would be the same in my daily walk with Jesus.

"You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light." 2 Samuel 22:29

"He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light." Job 33:28

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Be Strong and Courageous!

One of my favorite chapters in the Old Testament is Joshua 1. Moses has just passed away and Joshua has been given by God the task of leading the Israelites into the Promise Land. Can you imagine how he felt? He must have been excited, they all must have been. This is something they've been waiting to see accomplished for generations, since the land was promised to Abraham all those years ago. But, he was also full of anxiety, fear and trepidation as he faced the unknown. He was to lead an entire nation into a land that was already occupied by the enemies of God. This was no easy task and Joshua knew it. He had to have felt this way or God wouldn't have told him multiple times throughout the chapter, "Be strong and courageous!" Not only does He tell him that several times but he also admonishes him to not be frightened or dismayed.

God doesn't just tell Joshua to suck it up, don't be afraid and get some courage. He tells him you don't have to be afraid and you can be strong and courageous because, "I will not leave you or forsake you." (Joshua 1:5b)

God often calls us to big and scary things. He often lets us see glimpses of what's in store and what's ahead can seem frightening. But, if you are a child of God He has given you "a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

How do we tap into this spirit of power that Paul talks about? How can we face the challenging tasks of life with strength and courage? Psalm 31:24 says, "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!" there's a catch. Yes, God is with us always and He give us the power to be strong and courageous for the big tasks of life. But, in order to experience His constant presence and be sustained by His power and strength in order to be courageous, we have to "wait for the Lord." God tells Joshua in 1:7-8, "Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

So, our ability to be successful in facing the challenges of life is directly related to our time spent meditating on and obeying His Word. Psalm 1:1-3 says:

"Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers."

So, what challenges are you facing this day, week, month or year? Are you excited, afraid or timid? God wants you to know, as He wanted Joshua to know, that He will never leave you or forsake you. He wants to empower you to be strong and courageous for the task He has set before you. Will you go to Him, be as a tree planted by streams of water, meditating on His Word knowing that the source of all strength and courage comes from Him?

 "...fear not, for I am with you;
  be not dismayed, for I am your God;
 I will strengthen you, I will help you,
  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ask and You Shall Receive

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"
(Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

I have always loved that passage. I love the concept that God is my Father and that He desires to give good gifts to His children. But, at the same time, those precious words of Jesus can be very perplexing. Many people see this passage and assume it means that Jesus will give us all that we ask of Him. And when we don't get what we expect, we are left confused and often distraught. We may think we've done something wrong or that God doesn't really love us or that we don't know how to ask properly. But the question isn't "Does God really give us good things?" rather "What is His 'good'?"

Paul says in Roman 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

Once again we see that God works all things together for the good of His children. But the question still remains, "What is His good?"

For me, I often dwell on my idea of what would be good for me or my family or my friends and when things don't turn out as I think they should; I despair. But, the Bible is clear that God promises good things to His children and that if we ask, we shall receive. So how do we reconcile it all?

Let's look again at Romans 8. Back in verse 26 and 27, Paul says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

Wow, that passage always blows me away! The Spirit of God is constantly interceding on our behalf, even when we don't know what we should pray for or if we have difficulty finding the words to pray. But the key phrase in those two verses is "according to the will of God."

The more I've prayed and sought God, the more He's helped me not only to pray for His will but also realize that His will for me (or others I pray for) or His "good" for me doesn't always look like the picture I have in my head of "good".

But, His good is always best. He sees the big picture of my life. He knows what needs to happen daily to direct me to His ultimate good plan for me. And the more I pray, seeking His will, and asking for good things keeping in mind that His ways are best, the more I'm able to see God answer my prayers in amazing ways. And often times I'm able to see clearly how His "good" really is the best.

"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." (1 John 5:14 ESV)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Impossible Made Possible

My Bible study this morning took me on an amazing path through scripture. This path lead me to several verses that display God as the God who makes the impossible, possible.

In Genesis 18, God shows up to Abraham in the form of 3 men. He explains to Abraham, once again, the promise He had made previously to give Abraham and Sarah a son even in their old age. Sarah overhears this conversation and goes back to her tent and laughs. God, being the all-knowing God that He is, knows Sarah's thoughts and even knows she laughed although she was not with them. God proceeds to say, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14 ESV) I love God's rhetorical question to Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?"

In Mark 10:24-27, Jesus explains to the disciples how hard it is for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples are amazed at this teaching and they say to him in verse 26, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus replies, "With man it is impossible but not with God. For all things are possible with God."

In Luke 1:36-38, we see the angel Gabriel speak very similar words to Mary. He explains to Mary that her cousin Elizabeth would soon have a baby even though she was too old to bear a child. He finishes by saying, "For nothing will be impossible with God." The best part is Mary's response in verse 28, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

So, all of this begs the question- Do I, do you believe that God makes the impossible, possible? I'm not talking about a head knowledge that God is all-powerful and can do all things. Most people would say that, even Satan would say that God is all-powerful. But, do we BELIEVE it? Do we behave as if we believe it? Do we pray big prayers, knowing that NOTHING is impossible for God?

May I be like Abraham and Mary who took God at His Word and truly believed that He is the God of the impossible!

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 in Review

Since my last post was about the upcoming year, I thought my next post should be about the lessons learned in 2012. God has taught me so much in the past year but I'll try to give you the short list.

1. His Ways Are Not My Ways

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)

Wow, have I learned this lesson the hard way this year. I have also "kicked against the goads" in the process. Admitting that the ways I thought my life should be were not God's plans for me was a difficult realization to come to over the past few months. I started 2012 as a working mom and finished the year as a stay at home mom. As much as I love our daughter, I loved my job as well. 13 years ago God called me into the ministry and I have loved almost every minute of it. When He took me out of it; I was devastated. But, God has also taught me that just because a "pause" in our life comes about doesn't mean that God's calling has been suspended completely. I know that God has a plan for my life and my ministry; I don't know what it is and as hard as it is to be patient I need to remember that God does things in His time, in His way and for His glory. Resting in that promise during this time of waiting is so much easier than kicking against it.

2. Motherhood is a High Calling

As much as I would like to say that I believed that statement before the past few months, deep down inside I know I didn't really believe it at a heart level. And, I'll admit it's still a struggle for me to believe it some days. When you are wiping noses (and other places) and cooking and making lunches and disciplining and doing the 10th load of laundry and answering "why?" for the 500th time; it's hard to remember that as a mom you're not performing a menial day job, you are fulfilling God's calling. As moms, we get to minister and lead the next generation while they are still young and under our influence. What an amazing calling! I still have so much to learn in this area but I am excited to see how God is going to teach me as we add another blessing to our family this spring.

"Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done." (Psalm 78:1-4)

3. Grief is a Difficult Path

Up until this past year, I've pretty much spent 32 years of my life not having to learn this lesson. And then it all hit like a lead balloon. Between my husband losing his father and me losing my stepfather unexpectedly (not to mention the grief experienced as I transitioned out of the work world), it's been a hard road for our family this year. Not only have we both had to go through the grief process separately and as a couple; we've also had to explain death and heaven and the loss of two grandfathers to our almost 3 year old daughter. But, I've also learned that no matter how deep the pit we are in; God is always there to comfort us and to bring us up out of it. He also uses these periods of grief and experiences of His comfort to prepare us to be a comfort for others. My prayer is that I will take that calling seriously.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4 ESV)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)

All for His glory! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year, New Me?

Happy 2013!

For a long time I didn't make New Year's resolutions. I honestly thought they were silly. If I needed to make a change in my life, why wouldn't I do it at any point in the year? And, who really keeps them anyways?

Then, last year, God revealed to me that He is the God of new beginnings and He has ordered our calendars and the events in our lives for a reason. He also convicted me that I am not perfect yet and there are new things every year that I can change in my heart that could help me draw closer to Him and make me more useful for the Kingdom.

He also led me to Philippians 3:13-14.

"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

The goal of the Christian walk is to continually forget what is behind us and strain forward for what lies ahead. We are called to press on, to change and to become more like Christ. Every New Year, we have the opportunity to reflect on the past and prepare for what lies ahead.

As I contemplate 2013, I've put my resolutions in categories based on the arenas of life where God has placed me. For instance, how can I become a better Christ-follower, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend and kingdom worker?

So, in the spirit of honesty and openness (and with the hope that someone will hold me accountable), here goes:

My 2013 Resolutions:

1. Plan to wake-up before Myla everyday to spend focused time in the Word and in prayer. Stop doing this haphazardly based on how my day is going, whether she naps, etc.

2. Read a little less fiction and a little more non-fiction based in scripture.

3. Help to manage our household finances better by learning a program like Quickbooks and stop doing our finances by hand.

4. Stay healthy for my family by getting back into 5K shape by the fall.

5. Learn how to crochet. (This one's just for fun.)

6. Be more intentional in my relationships with family members, neighbors, etc. Step outside my comfort zone a little more.

7. Pray and ask God to show me over the next year ways I can serve in His kingdom once the newborn stage is over with Baby #2.

May everything we do in 2013 be for His Glory!