Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Have No Knowledge of God: Relationships

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1, 2 ESV)

Once again, my thoughts are running away with me. Last week kicked off Spring Semester for the bachelor's degree program in which I am enrolled. Getting accustomed to the new courses, syllabi, and deadlines has my mind swirling. I am afraid of missing something.

Secondly, I am asking prayer for a loved one on a mission team that is getting ready to head out and spread the gospel, soon! If you would not mind adding this request to your prayer list, God will know about whom you are speaking. Thank you so much!

And, I am trying to keep my heart fixed on only God and not the things of this world. They can be SO distracting. Sometimes, it is a tad tricky to be in the world and not let it swallow me up. With that said, I feel I still need to be aware of my surroundings so as not to get self absorbed in my day to day that I neglect the body of Christ which is iron sharpening iron.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)
It is a challenging balancing act in which souls are on the line.

Further, I find myself struggling with discontentment regarding my current status. Not so much that of being student, substitute teacher, etc. Rather, in that I miss my family, friends that have moved away, the good ol' days of youth group, etc. Maybe it is because I am in transition and there is a lot going on that has me feeling a longing for some kind of stability. Not to mention, I missed bible study the other night and that really irked me. It was my own fault...which makes it that much worse!

More often than not, these days, I find myself petitioning God for a "partner in crime". I have been "alone", if you will, (not to be confused with "lonely") for a long time ("long" being somewhere between ten and 20 years). And, I suppose "alone" is a relative term because I most certainly have not been without company. Nine times out of ten, someone is usually with me. So, what exactly do I mean? (Cue music.)

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name.
And they're always glad you came.
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same.
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
("Where Everybody Knows Your Name" by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo)

Just joking. I would like to have more relationships in which parties are equally yoked. I guess I feel I have one too many "unequally yoked relationship" at the present and I'm tired...it's exhausting. I only have myself to blame and my prayer is for a little more balance.

Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:33, 34 ESV)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Be Careful For What You Wish: Spiritual Warfare

Windmills in the ocean!
I love God's word. I adore fellowshipping. And, I wish being a pastor was my calling...but it is not. When I was a child...in high school, I believe it was, I thought I was going to be a minister. I wanted, with all my heart, for that to be my path. I now know and understand it never was nor will it ever be mine. I am, of course, okay with that.

Be Careful For What You Wish

I recall very clearly I prayed with every ounce of my being that one day I would be a fighter for God. I admired the archangels, like Michael and Gabriel, and asked God if I may fight for Him. Of course humans are humans and angels are angels and humans never become angels...I comprehend that. But I wanted to raise some heck--- or rather battle some hell--- for the Lord. And, I will tell you what...that is EXACTLY what I got! Without knowing me personally, it would take a while for me to explain and even then I do not feel my words would be adequate. So, I will sum it up in two words: spiritual warfare.

Pastor Mark Driscoll did a series on the topic which I am going to revisit. (I have embedded it below. I also wanted to post an excerpt from Wayne Grudem's SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY but I can't find my book right now.)









(Photo Information: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=811200)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

You Are Strong, and the Word of God Abides in You, And You Have Overcome the Evil One

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

When I was quiet (over the past four or five months), there was mostly peace. Once I started to move toward God, again, the strife was nearly immediate. That is not a coincidence. But, the bottom line is, I love God more. So, conflict is what it is going to be and that warfare can kiss my butt! I will have strength in Christ! The rival will be defeated.

Once again I am suiting up in the full armor of God. I am loved, protected, and for whom provided. I do not need (nor want) wickedness or hatred in my vapor of a life. Further, any selfish individual is not going to have my best interest in mind, rather only him/herself. So, I cannot expect any sort of compassion, empathy, or understanding. Only a self indulgent, evil nature. Against which the armor should protect me.

but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:5-6. ESV.)

John Piper stated the following,
So the words of Jesus are the words of God, and they impart eternal life. And third they produce faith and holiness because they conquer the devil. We have a supernatural adversary, the devil. He hates us. He hates our marriages. He hates our children. He hates our church. And he hates God. In ourselves, we are not as strong as he is. That is why John says that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). The world has no defense against the devil. None.

But listen to what John says of the young Christians in 1 John: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14). Do you see the connection? “The word of God abides in you, and you have overcome [conquered!] the evil one.” The devil cannot stand against the indwelling word of God.
(By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

See? I will have victory in Christ! Not in my own strength or on my own...but certainly in the armor, in the vine, with an all powerful God in my corner. Bring it on! I've been training...mentally...physically...and I am ready.

I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I'll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours
("The Stand" by Hillsong)

(Photo Information: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/341226)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Your Word is a Light to My Path

A beautiful song sung in church by an amazing lady. That is one of my fondest memories. The wife of our youth pastor stood before the congregation one Sunday and sang, "Thy Word" by Amy Grant. It might have been the first time I had ever heard the song and I was captivated. The words caused my heart to desire that which she was describing.
When I feel afraid,
And think I've lost my way.
Still, You're there right beside me.
Nothing will I fear
As long as You are near;
Please be near me to the end....

I will not forget
Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering.
Jesus be my guide,
And hold me to Your side,
And I will love you to the end.
(Thy Word lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.)

If only I had held onto that from that day until now! (Sidebar: This next bit is probably going to sound like a rant--- and maybe it is to some degree--- but please, bear with me.) When I was younger (late teens/ early twenties), I was so clueless to how the world operates. I trusted everyone and everything. Maybe I even falsely believed that I was smarter and/or wiser than I actually was. And, this continued until I was somewhere around 30 years old. But in those 10-15 years, I made numerous bad choices! Horrendous! Infact, I am embarrassed--- no, mortified--- people knew me then!

The worst part, though, is I disobeyed God from age 20 to 29. I did not do things "by the book" nor was I in His word, everyday. I did what I wanted to do. And, boy did I mess things up, royally! I compare it to Abraham's wife Sarah not listening to what she had been told and coming up with her own bright idea to suggest Abraham have a child with her handmaiden. (The scriptures do not mention anything about Abraham disagreeing with that, saying, "No!", or stating it was not according to the law, etc.) Nor did I come across anyone who shot down my brilliant ideas...though I REALLY wish I had! In a nutshell, Sarah's foolishness was catastrophic! And, I do not feel I am too far behind her.

Every so often the question, "If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?" floats around on the Internet and/or social media sites. Man, oh man, would I give myself an ear full! The bottom line, however, would be to NEVER, EVER do anything that does not line up with God's word! EVER! It brings nothing but heart break, heartache, difficulty, strife, stress, trouble, drama, disarray, hatred, etc. And, I would have to be the one to tell me that because I would not listen to anyone else. I would say, "Well, I know me and I will not let that happen!" But, here's the kicker, there are multiple variables involved in any given situation. Just because I might be devoted to a certain outcome does not mean everyone (or everything else) will be, likewise. So, there is little peace. But God who sees all and knows all has what is best orchestrated for me. All the more reason to be still, follow His word, and do things according to His will rather than my own!

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.... Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."... "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. (John 14:15-17, 21, 23, 24 ESV)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We Are Treated As Having Nothing, Yet Possessing Everything

I saw this on a social network and thought to myself, "He taught me how to fly!"

In my darkest days, I felt I was falling. I was certain of it, at first. I could not sleep at night, I felt sick to my stomach, I had terrible anxiety, I believed I was being slandered... it was, as a friend described it, the desert! But as time went by, I realized God was setting me free, giving me strength, blessing me abundantly, and in essence "teaching me to fly"! It was beautiful, breathtaking, and indescribable. The lessons, His sovereignty, and provisions were (and continue to be) immeasurable!

We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:3-10 ESV)
"Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26 ESV)

I had to stay "by the book" (His word). As long as I did that, I had faith I was doing the right thing. You see, sometimes we find ourselves in a labyrinth or vast forest dense with fog. It is truly difficult to find one's way. But, as a sister in Christ once recommended, I had to go above the thick haze or (as I would put it) use God's word as a map to guide me. At times, the "right thing to say or do" seems hidden like an elusive object. The answer is not always easy to see or find. There are times we are blinded or stumbling around as that around us is out of focus and we must use our sense of touch to lead us out of and away from the darkness. Wickedness is exceptionally tricky...like a spider web designed to catch prey.

John Piper states,
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in [not instead of, but in!] all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39) (By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

Yes, I say, "God is good...ALL the time!". His faithfulness, mercy, and grace are unwavering.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Keep Moving Forward: From This Day On

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.  - Walt Disney

I think the events of this past week hit a little too close to home for me. I feel a tad discombobulated and I am missing Sweet Pea like crazy! I cannot wait to live closer... SOON!

When it comes to the day to day, I feel there are three important things for me to keep in mind. #1. Do all to the glory of God, #2. Do everything by the book! (And by "book", I mean God's word, of course.) #3. Keep moving forward. I cannot let anyone or anything derail me or cause me to lose sight of those key points.

David Mathis of Desiring God Ministries states,
In Jesus, we can turn from the past and dream into the future, and say with Haggai, as he does three times, in 2:15–19, “From this day onward . . .” For the Christian, any today can mark a new era. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7; Hebrews 3:7, 15). With the crucified and risen Lord on his throne as the king of the universe, and his Spirit alive and on the move, any today can signal a new tomorrow when pursued in faith.And for God’s pleasure and glory, the beginning of a new year is just as good a day as any to make the faith-filled resolve, From this day onward. (By David Mathis. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you." (Haggai 2:15-19 ESV)

Friday, January 10, 2014

He Will Exult Over You With Loud Singing

On November 25, 2013, I joined a friend of mine in re-entering the world of theater. That spurred me on to once again attend voice lessons...which I started Thursday night!

Skeptically, I began with scales and technique exercises. Hesitantly, I practiced my first song in over 15 years. (That is not to say I do not give concerts in my car, frequently... I do! Just ask my entourage.) But to "for real" sing in front of anyone, that is a card I play close to my chest. I second guess myself often and have very low self confidence in areas that are either more challenging for me, not practiced enough, or new. Admittedly, I am a perfectionist and demand everything I do to be...well, exactly the way I want it.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16, 17 ESV)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
(Psalm 100:1, 2 ESV)

When asked, "What do you want to get out of your [voice] lessons?" I replied with, "To be able to do musicals and maybe sing in church." My only sibling is a member of the "praise and worship team" at church. Likewise, a friend of mine (with whom I grew up) is a beautiful singer and a part of that very same choral group. Going through college, the first time, I was enrolled at a university with a top notch performing arts department. There I was being trained to be a "triple threat"...to excel in dance, singing, and acting. I have to be honest, I feel my singing is the weakest out of the three, for me. But, as a wife, mother, and full time student (again), my time is limited for extra curricular activities. Yet, that door is open and getting back to my "roots" is exciting and perhaps much needed.

The Lord your God is in your midst
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

I wonder what God's voice sounds like! Have you ever thought about it?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Missing

I suppose people reconcile things in various ways. It seems overcast, today. Is that because I now know someone is missing or is the weather just off? I woke up 15 minutes later than usual thinking the rays of sunlight would be radiant, streaming through the windows. It was still dark in my room.

Monday, has passed away and with it a young light has faded. The strangers around me do not notice but I do. The thought brings tears to my eyes and I search for an answer to two of my questions, "How do I feel and why?" There is sadness for the ones left behind and absence that has been created. There is an annoyance that an individual who made the world a better place is gone yet there are those who are harmful, hateful, and wicked who remain. Why take the good and leave the bad?

Do I sound heartless?

There was hopefulness and prayer for a full recovery. That did not happen. Rather, there was pain and suffering. Some good days, others not so good. There was a love professed yet, did not get to develop to full maturity (including marriage, etc.). There was prom and being crowed "queen", a graduation only months away, and numerous days in the hospital.

I am trying to work through this. Be glad you are not around me, I guess. So far I have been called "cold fish", "distant", and "jerky". I just need a little time to myself to sort through my questions...the same ones I have after each death. Forgive me.

What is important in this world, in this vapor of a life?
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 ESV)

Interesting enough, bible study this past Friday covered Ecclesiastes 1-2 (All is Vanity, The Vanity of Wisdom, The Vanity of Self-Indulgence, The Vanity of Living Wisely, and The Vanity of Toil). But, the answer to which I cling is found in Isaiah 43:1-7.
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.

I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,

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

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Keeping My Eye On the Ball: Spiritual Warfare

Last night I returned to bible study (after about a five year absence) and it felt like "home". I have not been going, not because I have not wanted to go. (Is that too many negatives in one sentence?) Rather, for a few different reasons. The most recent (spanning about two years), is I am waiting on something. I have been standing still, afraid (in a sense) to move (or "rock the boat")...maintaining a holding pattern. All the while desiring what I once had --- participating in church activities more days than not. I love to fellowship! It is one of my most favorite things to do. But, when I was the most involved in my church a portion of my life suffered greatly (because of spiritual warfare). Not because God is not good. He is good, ALL the time. (And I think I qualify in being able to say that! I have experienced some pretty intense heartache.)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

I feel a nudging. God is stirring my heart and that is my cue, I believe, that my stalling is over. It is time to go back to bible study (in this case). And, to be completely honest (with you and with myself), I wept. The tears came out of joy (for re-engaging with "the church" (the body of Christ)) and out of a hesitancy, a fear (if you will), of what is going to happen once I start moving, again, in the direction in which God calls me. I cannot help but wonder, "What is the warfare going to be like this time?"

Yet, that right there is where the sin kicks into motion. For me, it is in the "what if's". It is in the conflict within myself. Not in going back to bible study, instead in what I will do when faced with the inevitable outcome. A person cannot attend church or bible study and not respond, grow, change. God's word NEVER, ever returns void. The best way I explain it (or reconcile it to myself) is #1. Darkness hates the light. #2. I have been "laying low" for the last couple of years, keeping my light "under a bushel" or dimmer than usual. (It seemed like the right thing to do at the time...like David in hiding from Saul.) #3. It's time, once again, to "let it shine"! #4. Darkness hates the light.

I have an all powerful God in my corner. I know that! It's just, I was enjoying "peace time". However, I guess it is time to suit up, again.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:12, 13 ESV)

Where There's a Praying Mother, There's Always Hope by Tony Reinke

Where There's a Praying Mother, There's Always Hope
by Tony Reinke

Mark 7:26,

". . . Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter."

J. C. Ryle comments,

The woman who came to our Lord, in the history now before us, must doubtless have been in deep affliction. She saw a beloved child possessed by an unclean spirit. She saw her in a condition in which no teaching could reach the mind, and no medicine could heal the body — a condition only one degree better than death itself. She hears of Jesus, and beseeches him to “cast forth the devil out of her daughter.” She prays for one who could not pray for herself, and never rests till her prayer is granted.

By prayer she obtains the cure which no human means could obtain. Through the prayer of the mother, the daughter is healed. On her own behalf that daughter did not speak a word; but her mother spoke for her to the Lord, and did not speak in vain. Hopeless and desperate as her case appeared, she had a praying mother, and where there is a praying mother there is always hope.

By Tony Reinke. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A New Adventure in the New Year

New beginnings can be difficult, scary, unnerving, intimidating, and uncertain. I feel it takes a strong person to not only talk about change, but to do it! Endings, whether being that of a life, relationship, or season are many times sad in nature. I guess there is a mourning of what will whole heartedly be missed.

Yesterday morning, I heard from the Second Born (who will from this point forward be referred to as The Army Kid). Basic training bound, out in the world, off on a new adventure. I could not help but think, "How exciting! Starting a new chapter, in a new place, to begin the new year!" I am not quite sure the Army Kid is as stoked, having never been away from family and friends before. But, hubs and I are hopeful this will be a good match for the Army Kid, full of great opportunities and success!

With the Army Kid off and running and the College Kid rerouted and plugging along, I feel I can now turn my attention mainly to the young'uns still living at home. What sort of lessons do I want them to have in their arsenal when it is their turn to leave the nest?

During my studies last semester, in World Geography, I was taught Christianity makes up a vast (if not one of the largest) percentages of faiths in each "realm". Being I am a follower of Christ, this was music to my ears and encouragement to me toward the field of missionary work. My father has been on many mission trips (and is still interested in doing more), I would love to start attending some, and I want to bring the Little Chef and Little Leaguer with me!

And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15 ESV)

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