Monday, March 10, 2014

Blocked by a Wall of Foil

For the past week, I've been reading in Ezra. I'm not finished yet, but there is such an interesting theme screaming to me off the pages that I can't help but write about it.

Quick Summary: Cyrus King of Persia was "was stirred by the Lord" to call the exiled Israelites back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Not only did he call them back, but he ordered the people to given them anything they needed to help them accomplish this. Then everyone "whose spirit God had stirred" got up and went. When they got there it took two years to finish collecting the needed materials before they could begin to build. Once they finally got started, the other people who lived in the land tried everything they could to prevent them from building. This went on for years until there was a new king. The people wrote to this new king asking for his help to stop them from their work and he issued a decree forcing them to stop. The Israelites then had to wait until the next king was in place before being allowed to continue the rebuilding of the temple. (Italicized words are quoted from the ESV)

So God moved the heart of a unbelieving king to gather His people together. He then moved in the hearts of his people to uproot them from the place they were then living to go back to their homeland to begin rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed. They entered into a land that had been taken over by their enemies. These same people did whatever they could to hinder their work. Eventually they had to stop and wait years before they could continue.

Despite all obstacles, they pressed on.

They knew this is what God had called them to do. We know it too, because it's written right there in Scripture that their spirit was stirred by God to go and do this. Yet, they still had to spend time waiting. They still faced many obstacles. 

The stopping and starting, the constant interference, was not enough to stop them. Why?

How often do we begin to question and doubt if what God called us to do is really what God called us to do, simply because things don't seem to be progressing like they should, or we are facing many obstacles?

I guess what screams to me off the pages of Ezra is when God calls us to do something, when He stirs our spirit to do His work, this does not mean it is all going to go smoothly. It does not mean there will not be obstacles. It does not mean there won't be times of stopping and waiting. 

But what are we supposed to do in those times? 

The Israelites pressed on. They stayed ready. When God called them back to their homeland out of exile, they packed up and left immediately. They were ready. When it took years to gather the materials, they continued to collect what they could, when they could. When they began their work and the people of the land tried to stop them, they continued to work. They pressed on. When they were ordered to stop working, they stayed ready and eventually went back to their work before being given permission. They pressed on.

I can't help but ask myself, "What obstacles have I allowed to turn me away from what God has called me?" "Have I allowed a time of waiting to turn into doubt?"

These obstacles seem like huge iron fortresses that make the work we have been called to do seem impossible. But on closer inspection we find they are simply made of foil (reflecting our past fears but easily crumpled by Truth). 

God's will is always going to prevail. He may allow us to experience setbacks. This does not mean we were wrong about where He called us. 

How committed am I to His calling? Am I willing to press on, even when the walls in front of me seem impossible? Am I staying ready in times of waiting, so that when He reopens the gateway, I can continue forward?

I pray I never cease to be amazed at how God speaks through His Word. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Age is Just a Number

Lately, I've been feeling too young. Being 31, I probably shouldn't feel too young about anything, but I do. Maybe it's because a lot of women that I am close to are older than me. Maybe it's because I am usually the youngest in my seeming group of peers. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly why, I've just been feeling too young.

This has been most dominant in the area of ministry. Too young to hold certain positions, too young to be effective in this area, too young to know how to do this well. 

It's funny how these things kind of creep up on you, because until today, I didn't realize how much I was feeling this way.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in faith, in purity. Until I come devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:11-16

This was part of the passage I read today. Up to this point, I have pretty much attributed this verse to those in their teens and early twenties. Let's be honest, that's who it's most often spoken to in teaching. Today, I decided to look up some information about how old Timothy was at this point. From what has been gathered from historical information, he is probably about 26-35 yrs. old at the time Paul writes this letter to him. That's my age!

Could Timothy have been feeling the same way I am at this point? 

Here God has sent him out on mission, alone, without Paul - his mentor and guide. He's put into a position where he now has to become the teacher and mentor. Now I'm not saying I'm Timothy and that God is going to lead me to do the same things he is doing here, but wow do I relate. 

Yeah, I'm an adult and have adult responsibilities and all of that, but there's still that nagging thought at the back of my mind, "Am I ready? Am I old enough? Am I mature enough? Will others think I'm too young?" 

Now, I said I didn't realize until today how much I've been feeling this way. When I read this passage, almost immediately conversations came popping back into my mind of instances when I actually said out loud to people "I don't feel like I'm old enough to do that" or "I probably wouldn't be asked because I'm not old enough" or "I'm not sure I'm ready to handle that at my age". Then I was reminded of thoughts that I've had that weren't spoken out loud, but had stopped me from doing certain things. 

God was really speaking to me, making it loud and clear, This  passage is not just for younger people. It's for you. It's for everyone who thinks they're too young or not ready or not well respected enough. It's for everyone I call to do ministry (whatever that ministry is). It doesn't matter how old you are, because the God of eternity is the One at work. He is the one who chooses whom He will use and how. He is the one that makes a ministry effective. 

This is what happens when we lose sight of who is truly the one at work. We start to doubt. I need to regain my focus on Him who is able to do abundantly more than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Eph. 3:20), because to Him the glory will be given.

Friday, February 14, 2014

To the Love of My Life

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

I love Valentine's Day. My husband and I don't really do anything like go out, but I do try to do something special for those I love. 

Here is a little song I wrote for the love of my life. You can read it as a poem, but I've been singing it all week.

My heart was changed the day we met
It was a day I’ll never forget
You were the one chasing after me
While I was still trying be wild and free
They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder
But that is something I know nothing about
You promised you would never leave me
And you’ve never given me reason to doubt

You whisper sweet everythings in my ear
Like everlasting love and grace beyond compare
People call their loves the wind beneath their wings
But you’re the solid rock to which I cling
They say to follow your heart
And let your passion lead you
I can’t resist following your Truth

They measure love from the moon and back
You measure love with the palms of your hands
You crossed your heart and hoped to die
Just so I could be given life
They show their love with candy and flowers
They write notes about a moment in time
You pour on me your grace and mercy
And your letter has eternity defined

You forgave me, you changed me
You took my hand to be your wife
You fight for me, You died for me
Jesus, you’re the love of my life.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Real Food

Your words were found, and I ate them, 
and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
 for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.
Jeremiah 15:16

How many times have you heard someone say, "I read the Bible, but I'm just not getting anything out of it" or even "It's kind of boring"? How many times have you said it yourself? I admit these are words I have spoken, or at least thought at times. Today, I came across the above verse, looking through some verse cards I have printed out. It stopped me. Immediately, I thought about one of the books I'm reading The Quest for More by Paul Tripp. It's about living for the Big Kingdom in our everyday life. 

Isn't this where it begins? To take every moment of your every day and turn it from living in our little kingdoms where we reign, and make it mean something for the Kingdom of God, doesn't it start with the Word of God being the joy of our hearts? 

Wait, let's back up a minute. I guess we would have to say it really starts with the statement made at the end of this verse "For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts." We've been called out of our little kingdoms. We've been dethroned. Those who have been called to be followers of Christ, have been called by another name. We have been called by the name of the Lord God, because it is His Spirit which lives within us.

If that is true, then my little kingdom no longer exists. The little kingdom I call my life, my world, my time here on this earth is no longer mine. 

I can try to retain my control, my rule, but to no avail, for I have been dethroned.

This is not a bad thing, in fact, it is just the opposite. You see, I am a terrible ruler. Every decision I make is for my own gain, even those that seem to be for the benefit of others is done only to make me feel good, or to better my reputation. Not only are they made in selfishness, but made with limited knowledge about how to bring about that personal good. When I rule, I feed on my own words, intelligence, strength, feelings. And my heart mourns. It mourns because my kingdom will never be the way I want it. 

But it is not my kingdom any more. A greater King has taken over. He has even taken up residency in my castle. While, I had invited Him in, at times I wasn't sure what was really happening. He began replacing my furniture with His, first one room, then the next. I was glad He was there, yet, I didn't want to give up my reign. So, I refused to let Him into certain rooms, for fear He would take them over as well. Of course, these actions confuse the people in my little kingdom. At times, they aren't sure who is ruling. For there are many times, I am content to allow Him to make decisions and and listen to His word with anticipation. His words are filled with such love, such joy, such peace. But then, there are times when I don't want to listen. I want my kingdom back. I want to make my own decisions and listen to my own words. These times are filled with anger and bitterness and I don't like them. 

I battle with myself, because I know He is a far greater ruler than I. His words are filled to the brim with nourishment for the deepest parts of my soul. His words bring joy and peace because He speaks truth. His kingdom thrives because He keeps every promise and makes decisions knowing not just the past, but the present and future as well. I know all of this, yet, at times I ignore it and go back to thinking that my ideas, my plans, my goals have some value. 

If He is the Lord God of hosts, who has called me, how can I not be nourished by His word? How do they not bring joy and rejoicing to my heart? 

If ever I am reading the very Word of God and my heart is not captured, I must ask the question- who is ruling this kingdom? How can my every day mean anything for the Big Kingdom if His Word does not stir me? How can I possibly know how to live, if I do not listen to His Words? 

Hopefully, His Word does bring joy to your heart, and you are receiving that joy more and more each day as you sit at His feet. While I try very hard, I am not always consistent about reading my Bible. But the more I do it, the more I want to do it and the more I choose to do it. May we continue to sit at His feet and stop trying to get back on the throne. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

A "Word" of Understanding

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:12-13

Lately, I have gotten back in the habit of keeping a dictionary near when reading my Bible. I love to look up certain words and understand the context they are being used in to help me understand more clearly what exactly it is saying. After reading these two verses today, I looked up the word "work". 
There were so many definitions given, but I wrote down the ones that seemed to fit best in the context and then realized something - it seemed like each time the word "work" was used it could be replaced with a different definition given. This was exciting! I mean, honestly, if you read the passage above it may seem confusing how many times the word "work" is used (eg. "work out your own salvation", "for it is God who works in you"). You may read that and think "Well, which is it?" It's both. Let me show you what I did that made it all make so much more sense, at least to me.

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, prepare for use exerting oneself physically and mentally your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who brings to pass in you, both to will and to function according to plan or design for his good pleasure."

It all started to make so much more sense! You see, we are responsible for our obedience. This is the "work out your own salvation" part. We are to prepare ourselves for use by exerting ourselves physically and mentally (obeying). That is how we "work". 

God is the one who brings it to pass. It is God's work in us that allows us to obey. He is the author of salvation and brings to pass salvation in us.

His "work" in us is so that we have the will to obey and will function according to the His design and plan for us. A plan for His good pleasure - because He delights in us and in our obedience. 

I don't know about you, but while I had a semi-understanding of the above passage before, this just made it so much clearer and I had to share! I am so excited to have a better understanding between the connection of what God expects from us and His part that He fulfills in us. So amazing!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!

I waited to write this post until today, because I like to begin new things by looking back. Why? because I think when we stop to look back we go forward remembering what we have learned.

For me, this past year felt like one long trust fall into the arms of God.

If you go back through my old posts, you would know that my word for last year was FOCUS. I wanted to learn how to really focus on God. I'm still not sure if that was right or if trust or peace would have been a more accurate description of what God did in me throughout this last year.

From the very beginning, I knew our finances were going to be a big part of God working in me. Last January is when my husband and I began to make some significant changes regarding our finances. Mainly, being more of a team with him making the final decisions. I knew this would be hard for me, because I'm somewhat of a control freak, but I also knew I had to learn to let him lead. It started in chaos. Not that we were fighting and arguing, but that we thought we had everything all figured out and it wasn't. Of course, I should have known this would be a learning process. However, God used this to start preparing me to trust Him for what was to come later. He took care of us at that time and He has continued to do so.

Our church was beginning the process to prepare for the start of community groups. Joshua expressed he wanted us to have one in our home, and he wanted to lead it. This is so against his nature, I knew this must be God's leading, so I agreed and we began to prepare for it. God had already began working on me, teaching me to let my husband lead. This was just going to be another step in the process, but I welcomed it.

 Not too long after this, Joshua decided I needed to quit my job. We had been talking about it for awhile. Both knowing God was leading to this, but both being hesitant about actually doing it. Finally, Joshua told me I had to do it, and I knew he was right. So I quit. You cannot believe how much more well rested I have been since I did! Yeah, we're loosing out on that money, but honestly, I don't even notice because God has provided in so many ways.

One trust fall after another.

But none would impact my life as much as Nehemiah.

Just about a month and a half after quitting my job, we found out we had lost the baby I was carrying. I will not go into all the details about it now, I've written many blogs about that time that you are welcome to go back and read. What I will say, is that all those trust falls I had just done, were not without purpose. Because I KNEW that God had me in His arms and I had never known greater peace and joy than I did when I held Nehemiah in my hands and looked into his face.

I will not say the rest of my year went great, but, God held me. The peace never left. He has continued to work in my heart and life in different ways and each step, He has given me what I needed to take it.

So as a new year begins and I think about what God may have in store, I remember the peace He gives. The joy He gives no matter what is to come.

I still like to make some resolutions each year, but I'm a little more broad, as I realize whatever method I start out the year using to accomplish one of these goals may need to be a adjusted or scrapped and a new method used.

Once again, I chose verses for each member of our family to pray for them. I didn't realize until today, that the verse I chose for myself, was one that was frequently used in my blogs throughout the last year. How fitting that I keep in mind God's faithfulness throughout this new year with Phil. 4:6-7.

Here are the things I want to challenge myself to do this year:

1. Pray for others more. Really pray for others frequently and consistently. I want others to know the peace and joy that I have and to experience God's rich blessings of life, hope, and the Holy Spirit.

2. Follow through. I'm one of those people who starts projects, but then doesn't finish them. I want to challenge myself to be better at finishing the projects I start. This may include being better at deciding what projects to begin.

3. Be healthier. I want to eat healthier and exercise more. (I'm eating Reese cups as I write this.) Over the last few months I have been doing much better at eating healthier and enjoying it! I have learned for me to be successful in that area, it can't be about following a specific diet plan, but learning about making healthier choices and then making changes little by little as I am ready to do them. As far as exercising more - I'm still trying to figure out how I can do that better.

4. Be ready for whatever God wants to teach me. Often I'm too hard-headed and stubborn to accept that God is trying to get me to learn something. With all that He has taught me, I want to learn more.

This year my word will be PRAYER. I do believe last year I learned to FOCUS on God. This year, while I continue to focus on Him, I want to deepen my communication with Him. I already pray a lot, but I know I always have a lot to learn.

Have a Happy and Prayerful New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Name Like No Other

Christmas is in just two days!!! I love Christmas. For me, Christmas is not just a day. I'm sure we've heard so much about the joy of Christmas and maybe by now you're getting tired of it.

This morning, I sat in my dark living room, drinking my coffee, looking at the Christmas tree all lit up with my three year old son curled up in my lap. As I sat there cuddling with my son, my mind began to wander through all the wonderful blessings I have been given.

The ones that struck me the most were the blessings of my children. Blessings, not because they are perfect little angels, but because they bring an opportunity for me to learn grace, mercy, self-control, and a myriad of other things I fail at daily. The blessing of a wonderful husband. Our marriage has not always been easy, but a blessing that has taught me forgiveness, commitment, and what love really means. The blessing of having children and family that have gone before. A blessing that has helped me realize that God really is in control and I can fully trust in Him. The blessing of struggle. A blessing that has taught me that God keeps His promises.

In case you haven't noticed, many of the blessings I see in my life have come through the trials and storms I have endured. But the greatest blessing of all is the one that we celebrate this time of year. The gift of Jesus.

No other gift can compare to a Savior who pursued me. Nothing can compare to a God that loved me so much, He chose to open my eyes to my need for Him. He chose to open my heart to receive Him. He chose to send His Son to take my place, so I can know Him.

Nothing can compare to that.

I LOVE Christmas. Sure I like gifts, but what I love most of all is that I was given the greatest gift, a gift I can celebrate all year.

This past year has been a year of struggles and rough patches, but my soul has never known joy this great. I am so thankful God keeps His promise to continue to work in me until the day of completion.

This joy, the joy that fills my heart and soul, the joy of Christmas is Jesus.

What a powerful name! Try saying it out loud where ever you are right now. Sing it. Shout it. Can you feel the power that name carries?! If you cannot, I pray the Holy Spirit continues to work in your heart.

I love to sing songs of worship and praise and honestly cannot help but dance. But if you want to see me hands raised in the air, smile from ear to ear, voice as loud as can be, sing the name of Jesus. Speak the name of Jesus.

There is no other name that captures my heart to that extent. There is no other name that uplifts me from the depths of despair. There is no other name that brings with it the power of real JOY!

As you celebrate Christmas, remember that Jesus was not just a baby born in a manger. He is a Savior born to rescue us from the captivity of sin. He is God in human flesh, that we can trust to know our pain and our struggle. He is CHRIST who defeated the grave so that we may know life!


Don't just know His name. Know Him.