Monday, June 30, 2014

Pixar Day at the Giant's Game

Yesterday was one of those “unexpected blessings” kind of day. Hubs was given Giant’s baseball tickets so we made our way out to San Francisco to meet up with a couple friends and watch the game. The day could not have been more perfect, really. It was an unusually warm and fog free day in the city. There was another huge event also going on but it seemed the majority of attendees took B.A.R.T. (Bay Area Rapid Transit) instead of driving, so traffic on the bridge was great and parking was better than expected. We were even able to leave the game in decent time despite the nearly 42,000 fans that attended.

Like I said yesterday (and many times before), God always provides and occasionally He throws in an added “hug”.
19And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 20To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:19-20. NIV.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Will Not Yield My Glory to Another

Do you ever go through each day and wonder what God has in store for you? I mean, I know I was created to glorify Him. I guess I just feel like I am in some sort of a rut, currently. I do the same routine nearly every, single day. It is probably just my discontentment creeping into my thoughts, again. What I should focus on is how amazingly blessed I am. I have wonderful children, a roof over my head, I have never known the pains of an empty stomach…(though I have known other pains). I am a full time student (with federal financial aid). We are moving next year. And, God even gives me little things at times, like the opportunity to hike Half Dome or free tickets to theme parks, etc. I have always had clothes for my children and myself (hand me downs or new). God has provided. We want for NOTHING. So why do I feel the unchanging nature of my life (James 4:14), right now? And, why is it bothering me?

The day to day is generally routine. What do I expect? I cannot even say. I cannot put my finger on it. Could be God is stirring my heart. I have to admit, it is a little frustrating. I think I will begin each day with a prayer or utterance of thanksgiving instead of meditation on the mundane.

9For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
so as not to destroy you completely.
10See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.
(Isaiah 48:9-11. NIV.)

I will glorify God. May His will be done, always.

I have to cut this short, for now.

15But if serving the LORDseems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Like the Roar of Many Waters and Like the Sound of Mighty Peals of Thunder

Yesterday, was a bit of a crazy day on this blog. I woke to find the theme and background I have been using for years was more or less discontinued. But, isn’t that how God operates? We make our own plans and then He switches things up.
9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9. ESV.)
I was able to replace the layout however, I’m not quite content with it. And, I do not have time to mess with it further, right now. Perhaps another day.

I touched on missions and foreign travel a tad, yesterday. World Cup time reminds me of when I was in Italy circa 1994. We had visited Rome during the day and were on the bus in the evening when the city exploded with fans. They were gathered near storefront windows, which sported television sets, in droves and waved their massive Italian flags! They were cheering and united. Their comradery was electrifying! The streets were also teaming with cars full of fans going here and there displaying the flag of their nation. They shouted with animated exuberance and honked their horns enthusiastically. The energy was through the roof! It was like nothing I had ever experienced before or since.

What if all of God’s people behaved in such a way…all together…all at once? What if we called out in one voice crying hallelujah and glory to God? Not so much like a stadium filled with team supporters yelling out chants and singing battle songs. But, more like I described above, whole territories “all for one and one for all”…even if only for a moment. Maybe that is what it will be like when Jesus returns. Who knows?

6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
(Revelation 19:6-8. ESV.)

Psalm 146
1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

(Photo Information.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Missions: A Better Understanding of the World

I have been quite fortunate and blessed in that I have been able to travel quite a bit in my vapor of a life (James 4:14). I have had the privilege of experiencing different cultures and ways of doing things. Here in the United States a lot of us pay the asking price for just about everything and anything. $17.99 for a shirt, okay, here you go. $29.99 for a Panini press, got it. $2.99 for a gallon of water, sure. But in other countries, they “haggle” the prices and never, ever pay the original.

I want to start taking my younger children on missions. I, sadly, missed the opportunity with my older kiddos but maybe one day God will open that door again. It is not yet too late with my young ones and I would love for them to learn how to serve others in such a capacity whether foreign or domestic. There is plenty to do state side like building a house, together, for those that need a roof over their heads. I always wanted to take them to an orphanage or shelter to hand out blankets, shoes, clothes, jackets, or toys. And, of course, there are plenty of missions abroad. I just heard of one, this year, to Central America. That might be a good starting point. A friend of ours and her youngling go to Africa.

Being we are not leaders or medics or even well versed in the languages or cultures of other nations, we would mainly be there to lend our hands (and our hearts) for work that would benefit the people we wish to serve in the name of Jesus…along the lines of visiting widows and orphans in their affliction (James 1:27). Further, it will be a blessing to us, as well. And, it is a starting off point for us. Who knows, perhaps one day God will call us to “unreached peoples” so we may share His word with them. According to John Piper,
In any of these cases it is still true that about half of the world's 5.2 billion people live in those people groups where the church is either nonexistent or so small and weak as to need outside help in evangelizing its people. That means that about half of the world's individuals are culturally cut off from the witness of the gospel. Thus the need for cross-cultural missionaries is still extraordinarily great. That is one fact made clear in this book. The missionary task is unfinished! (By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/a-theology-for-missions

On the right sidebar of this blog is the “Unreached People of the Day” section by Joshua Project that features some of the “people groups” mentioned in the statement above.

Well, this post is actually being cut short, unfortunately. The technical difficulties I faced this morning with this blog took up all of my designated time and now I have to move on to school work. It’s not quite what I had planned but I guess that just leaves thoughts for another day. Praise be to God.

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16. ESV.)

Technical Difficulties

Looks like my blog is having technical difficulties with the background. I am working to fix the problem.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hold You Up by Shane Harper



"The world is so broken and sometimes it leaves you cold.
And at times you can't feel the fire to guide you home.
The demons will haunt you and try to steal what you know." (Shane Harper)

1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

3Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

9If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
(Psalm 91. NIV.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stay At Home Mom Verses Working Outside the Home

As I started thinking about this post regarding stay at home mothers (SAHM), I found a bunch of blog posts over at Desiring God Ministries on the topic. I knew there were some mixed feelings on the issue (SAHM verses a woman in the workforce) but enough for numerous posts? Yes, indeed.

I am a SAHM. I homeschooled my youngest children for five years. Currently, they attend a private school and I have gone back to university to get my bachelor’s degree so I may attend law school. (So, I guess I am also a full time student.) My children are getting older and I would like to be able to transition as smoothly as possible back into the workforce once they graduate (if not sooner, depending on circumstances).

I have to admit, for the most part, society does not question my decision. Though, I have run into one person who did not agree with me homeschooling my kiddos. He was pointed but not aggressive on the matter. (He was very much pro public schools.) Another time, I was involved in a group discussion when one of the other women present mentioned how she was working part-time. A man at the table replied, “Oh, so you have a real job.” And, I have been asked a few times, “So, what do you do all day long? Sit on your butt and eat bon-bons?”

Um, not quite.

I feel very fortunate and blessed I have been able to stay at home with our youngest children for this long. (I actually stopped working outside the home when our oldest children were in their early teens. I noticed a difference in their behavior when I was home verses when I was not and it was important to me to be available to them whenever/if ever they needed me.)

I feel the subject of stay at home moms covers a span of other affairs, as well. It’s not just about finances. It touches on beliefs, sacrifice, pride, identity, social standing, what is wanted now verses what is desired most (discipline), spousal support (emotionally, physically, financially), self-control and household management, serving the family verses being of assistance to the world, contentment, and the heart.

Jesus said that those who live for themselves will actually have an unfulfilling life, but those who lose for their lives for His sake will really experience life. As parents, our self-death for Christ’s sake not only produces fruit in our own hearts, but produces fruit in the hearts of our children, fruit that grows by the power of God. Let us, then, choose to joyfully give of ourselves for our children. (Christine Hoover. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-everyday-question-of-motherhood.)

The valiant woman, commonly known as the Proverbs 31 woman or the “excellent wife,” is noble. She is respectful to her husband, she is trustworthy and kind, she is brave, she takes initiative, she works hard with her hands, she works inside and outside of the home, she is wise and respected. She is generous and thoughtful. She is blessed by her children and her children blessed her.

In his commentary on Proverbs, Bruce Waltke writes, “The ideal wife in this Hebrew heroic poem . . . is diligent, ‘take charge,’ is engaged in profit-making ventures, and is also a wise teacher and philanthropist.”

Most importantly, the Valiant Woman is a woman who fears the Lord (Proverbs 31:30). And that is what God desires for us. God wants our hearts. He wants to give us a new heart and a new purpose (Ezekiel 36:26–28). When he changes us, he changes us to the core. God’s desire is that we love him with all our hearts and love our neighbor as ourselves (and I’d argue the closest neighbor to me is my husband and my children). As we rightly fear God and honor his design for femininity, the details of how that gets worked out in our homes will look differently for each woman.
(Trillia Newbell. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/femininity-june-cleaver-clair-huxtable-or-the-valiant-woman)

Did I make the right choice for my family being a SAHM and homeschooler? I am not going to lie, it has been quite a struggle. I believe it was best for our children and if I had to go back, I would definitely do it again. It has, however, been very trying. I did have a support system of other Christian women and SAHMs for most of the time (thankfully) but I also met harsh opposition within my family. There were a handful of “loved ones” who strongly opposed and it was very draining at times. I was told things like, “You are not smart enough to homeschool your children,” and called names like, "lazy". Further, I do not have very much of an income so I feel limited. But, needless to say, it was more important to me to do as I felt called rather than listen to man (Psalm 118:8). And God has ALWAYS provided!

John Piper stated the following:
What I want to honor in this message is the biblical calling on a woman’s life to weave a fabric of family life out of commitment to a husband and his calling, and commitment to her children and their training, and commitment to Christ and his glory. In other words, I want to honor the biblical calling that makes marriage, motherhood, and home-management, in the context of radical Christian discipleship, the central, core, dominant commitments of a woman’s life.

There are millions of single women, and many will stay single. There is a grace from God for that—a very special grace and for some even a calling. There are women who are single mothers and the marriage element in the calling I just described is painfully missing. Jesus Christ has a grace for that. There are women who are married and cannot, or, with their husbands, choose not, to have children. Jesus has a grace for that.

And there are mothers who weave together their mothering and their marriage and home management with part-time or full-time employment outside the home—some because they may have to (like single moms), others because they see it as part of their calling and have found creative ways to interlace schedules so as not to compromise their core commitments at home, and others, sadly, because they don’t have core commitments to supporting the husband’s calling, and pouring their lives into their children, and managing a home for the glory of Christ. They’ve simply absorbed the values of the world from television, media, friends with no biblical framework….

[What I want to honor in this message is the biblical calling on a woman’s life to weave a fabric of family life out of commitment to a husband and his calling, and commitment to her children and their training, and commitment to Christ and his glory.] This is a very high and holy and crucial calling that many of you embrace, with little understanding or encouragement from the world. You are the ones who have heard Titus 2:4-5 not as oppressive but as liberating. Paul said to Titus that the older women should “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” You have heard that calling as rich and deep and precious and high and holy and confirming your heart’s longings, and as absolutely essential for the shaping of a God-centered, Christ-exalting church and culture.
(By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/honoring-the-biblical-call-of-motherhood.)

Goodness, I could go on and on with this one. But, another day. I’ll end here. Be encouraged, ladies…SAHM or not.

(Photo Information.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Avoid Such People

Have you ever met or interacted with a narcissistic person?
1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:1-9. ESV.)
It is very difficult communicating with or working alongside one such person.

John Piper states the following:
For example, a superficial, simplistic, lopsided person might watch another person get angry at some sinful attitude he sees in a group, and draw the conclusion: This angry person is not a very compassionate person; he doesn’t have a lot empathy; he’s not able to weep with those who weep. But the instincts of a Bible-saturated person would not draw this conclusion because over the years he has been deepened and broadened in his grasp of the complexity of godliness, by running into so many strange juxtapositions….The Bible-saturated mind loves to linger long and mainly on the beauties of holiness, and the Bible-saturated mind knows that the ugliness of evil is real (in us and in the world) and we dare not be ignorant of it….And all the writers of the New Testament would agree that the “last days,” the “later times,” the “last time,” began with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus into the world….We need not and we must not let the immorality and horrors of the last days dampen our joy in Jesus. This is one of those strange, deep complexities of Christian holiness….These creeping opponents of the truth may not get spotted for what they are right away. Remember they have "an appearance of godliness." But they will be spotted. God knows those who are his. And he will protect his sheep….I am telling you, Timothy, that with this kind of evil in the world that we’ve been talking about, anyone — not just me — who takes a stand for godliness and who seeks to live out a life of positive purity and holiness and love which rescues the perishing — that person will be persecuted….It may cost you much to stand against the evil of the last days. But I promise you, by the authority of God’s word, if you stand by faith in your crucified and risen Savior you will be delivered and it will be infinitely worth it. (By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/when-a-lover-of-good-thinks-about-evil)

The narcissistic, “superficial, simplistic, lopsided person” twists things around leaving other individuals (with whom he/she interacts) quite confused. Not only that, I have also witnessed the narcissist to look upon others with disdain and say things like, “I am above them,” and “[You, he/she, they] are nothing without me.” On a limited bases, this is perhaps tolerable. However, on a frequent bases, it is nearly unbearable. John Piper breaks down the 19 examples of an “evil person” like this:
Verse 2: “For people will be
> lovers of self (narcissistic),
> lovers of money (materialistic),
> proud (loving to draw attention to their accomplishments),
> arrogant (with an inflated view of self),
> abusive (wanting to be verbally hurtful),
> disobedient to their parents (having a rebellious spirit),
> ungrateful (assuming that they have a right to the things they get),
> unholy (indifferent to the attitudes and acts that reflect the value of Jesus),
> heartless (unable to sympathize or empathize),
> unappeasable (unwilling to forgive),
> slanderous (devilishly distorting what other say and do),
> without self-control (a slave to their appetites),
> brutal (dead to all tenderness),
> not loving good (unable to see and savor moral beauty),
> treacherous (breaking promises for their own advantage),
> reckless (craving admiration for taking risks),
> swollen with conceit (blind to the ugliness of self-preoccupation and the beauty of admiring others),
> lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (finding more satisfaction in physical titillation than in the divine admiration),
> having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power (using religion for personal gain without treasuring Christ above all).” (2 Timothy 3:2–5).

Followers of Christ are called to 2 Timothy 3:10-13 which says,
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,11my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

God is just! Whenever having to deal with such an individual as described above, I know God will sort it out. No matter what! It is just a matter of time. I am His and the “evil person” is not.
18The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18. ESV.)

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Your Minds May Somehow be Led Astray From Your Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ

3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3. NIV.)

5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5. NIV.)

I, of course, have never seen Christ. But I have NO DOUBT God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) exists. He is as solid to me as, say, my own parents. I love Him above all else. Which, point in fact, one of my beloved children does not understand. I am asked, “How can you love your religion more than people?” In that statement lays the first mistake, my God is NOT my religion. He is my Heavenly Father (whom I love dearly) and my King (whom I strive to obey wholly). As my Father, He is my provider and protector. As my King, He is my Lord and protector, and as Christ, He is my Saviour. And, my hope above all others is that you know Him, too, through me.
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21. NIV.)

I love 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Galatians 2:20-21. I preach them to myself often. Although, I have to admit, this past week (and probably a good bit longer) I have allowed my thoughts to drift to the point of “wishful thinking”. Which, of course, because I am a sinner are not very Christ honoring or biblical thoughts. They are self-gratifying and ruled by my heart which cannot be fully trusted and is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Indeed, at times it is, infact.
5This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
8They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
9The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10“I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
(Jeremiah 17:5-10. NIV.)

I most certainly do NOT want to be “led astray from [my] sincere and pure devotion to Christ”! I must “take every thought captive” and limit the influence of the "god of this age" (Romans 12:2).

3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
(2 Corinthians 4:3-10. NIV.)

(Photo Information: Bing Public Domain.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

And the Lord Added to Their Number Day by Day Those Who Were Being Saved

I have definitely learned I am a social person and spending a large amount of time alone is not good, for me. The interaction with others is a wonderful diversion after which I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, recharged, joyful, peaceful, and (even at times) inspired. It’s great to chit-chat, laugh, cheer, etc. My absolute favorite, though, is fellowshipping.

When my children were younger, I spent most of my week at the church. Tuesdays and Thursdays the little ones had pre-school, Wednesdays were AWANA and a bible study with the pastor, Thursday mornings were also a ladies bible study, Sundays were worship service, and other days our group of ladies (many with multiple (3+) children) would take our crew on outings. It was not unusual to see five ladies and around 20 children frolicking about. It was exactly what I needed at the time…a support group while I was going through some of the darkest days. I do not miss that time in my vapor of a life (James 4:14) but I most certainly miss the fellowship. It never ceases to amaze me how God takes care of us and gives us what we need. I needed those ladies to help keep me sane! It was essential to my health and wellbeing that I was surrounded by a “support group”. I do not have family anywhere close by but these ladies were “the body of Christ” and my church “family”. It was wonderful. Today, we are scattered about in different cities and even various states in the U.S. (United States), but I love them still.

Then, was one of the two times I have grown the most while walking in the Spirit. I truly believe being in God’s word every day and the company we keep makes all the difference!

It’s a shame the word “fellowship” has fallen on hard times in some circles, and is dying the death of domestication and triviality. It is an electric reality in the New Testament, an indispensable ingredient in the Christian faith, and one of God’s chief means of grace in our lives.

The koinonia — the commonality, partnership, fellowship — which the first Christians shared wasn’t a common love for pizza, pop, and a nice clean evening of fun among the fellow churchified. It was their common Christ, and their common life-or-death mission together in his summons to take the faith worldwide in the face of impending persecution.

Rightly did Tolkien call his nine a “Fellowship of the Ring.” This is no chummy hobnob with apps and drinks and a game on the tube. It is an all-in, life-or-death collective venture in the face of great evil and overwhelming opposition. True fellowship is less like friends gathered to watch the Super Bowl, and more like players on the field in blood, sweat, and tears, huddled in the backfield only in preparation for the next down. True fellowship is more the invading troops side by side on the beach at Normandy, than it is the gleeful revelers in the street on V.E. Day.
(By David Mathis. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org.)

John Piper directs me to Acts when considering what “fellowship” looks like. He notes Acts 1–2, Acts 2:46, Acts 4:31, Acts 13:2, and Acts 16:25. Further, he explains his own heart so beautifully I have to echo it here. He says,
Believe me, I love fellowship. I love to be with people of like mind and heart. I love my main support group, the pastoral staff of this church, and our hours together each week. But my life is so short, and my meeting with the Lord face to face is so imminent and so real, and my desires to make a 100% return on God's investment of grace in my life are so strong, that I am just not interested in any kind of fellowship that does not help people explode with more love, more compassion, more joy, more holiness, and more zeal for God, and more boldness in witness, more power in ministry, more vision for missions. And I do not believe that this disenchantment of mine with self-contained, unfruitful, ineffective fellowship is a personal quirk. I think it's an echo in my heart—and yours—of the explosive fellowship we hear about in the book of Acts.

O, I want us all to be in small groups! I want every person in this church to know the sweet taste of camaraderie and belonging and family at-homeness and unity of spirit and oneness of mind that is the heart in New Testament, Christian fellowship—and so precious and indispensable in my life. But I want everything we do in our groups—whether we are studying Scripture, reading a book, focusing on singles issues, marriage issues, supporting a missionary, targeting the inner-city, praying for children—whatever the focus is, I pray that everything that happens in the small groups will be explosive—will produce explosives or ignite the fuse of explosives or toss explosives. I hope that the mindset of every small group is to serve an explosion of love and compassion and truth and joy and worship and power and ministry.

And the reason I feel warranted by God this morning to express this so strongly is because I see in the book of Acts that this is the kind of fellowship that carried the Christian movement from 120 disciples on the day of Pentecost to 5,000 Christians in Jerusalem alone in a matter of months, and then planted that movement all over the known world in a few short decades.
(By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.(Acts 2:46-47. ESV.)

(Photo Information.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let Him Deny Himself

I told hubs last night, “I am ready to move!” I am so tired of being in California. Sure, it’s a beautiful state and we have some great friends here (all of whom I am taking with me!) But, it’s time to move forward. My time in California has been very challenging and difficult on a whole and I am ready to move on and leave all of that behind. Change is coming and sometimes that means “cutting ties”. I get it. When we are saved by grace, a lot of times we have to stop associating with various people and we have to “die to ourselves”.
34And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34. ESV.)

I grew up in the church. I learned God’s word. I did not quite understand it on an adult level (obviously because I was a child) but I knew it. I comprehended the difference between biblical and unbiblical. As a young adult (in my early twenties) I made the conscious decision to engage in some “unbiblical” behavior. The unwise choices I made then have affected me to this day. (Moving to California was included in that.) But over the course of the last eight (8) years, God has been growing and stretching me…sometimes beyond any limit I thought possible for myself. He has brought AMAZING people in and out of my vapor of a life (James 4:14) to walk with me in the Spirit, get me back on track, and stronger than ever before.

Each season is plain as day. I can give you dates and the names of the people He used. I love and never cease to marvel at how “all things are His servants” (Psalms 119:91) regardless of if they want to be or not. My time in California and all the heartache with it was a tool God used for His purpose. One, though devastatingly painful, in which I rejoice. Being refined is NEVER pleasant but I am hopeful people can see the image of Christ that much clearer in me.

Here the requirement for saving our lives is losing our lives, which means denying ourselves, dying to ourselves, and following Jesus. Is this works? Are we working for God when we die to self? No. Letting the old proud self die is not works. It's the death of works. That's who's dying. The old sin-loving, self-exalting, God-opposing me has to die. When that old rebel dies, I don't earn anything. Nobody boasts in having to be put to death on a cross. You don't earn anything by getting crucified. This is not works, but it is change—the deepest and most profound change possible.

And the same thing goes for "following Jesus." Following Jesus is required, but it is not works. Following Jesus is no more working for Jesus than the pigeons of Elliot Park are working for me when they follow me around because I have the breadcrumbs they want.

Following Jesus would be working for our salvation if we were following him to meet his need and not for ours. But the whole point of Mark 8:34ff. is this: if you lose your life, you will save it. If you die, you live. If you forfeit, you gain.

Jesus demands that we follow him not because he needs our labor but because we need his love and fellowship and help. He's the doctor and we are the patients. This is what he said in Mark 2:17, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners." When we obey the call of Jesus to follow, we are not coming to an employer to earn wages; we are coming to a doctor to get healing. And that is not works. The gospel is not a "help wanted" sign; it's a "help available" sign. Coming to one would be works. Coming to the other is faith.

Faith means coming to Jesus to have all our needs met and to have all our longings satisfied. "I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

Once you see the essence of faith as a coming to Jesus in order to be satisfied with all that he is, then you begin to see that all these other requirements are really just different ways of describing the demand for faith.
(By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/joy-recovered.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Goodbyes Are Only for Those Who Love With Their Eyes

T-minus twelve (12) more months until we make our move to the great state of Texas. I never thought I would live in so many amazing places…Florida, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, California, and soon Texas! And, I have to say, I can’t wait! I’m sure the year is going to fly past and we have so much to do before we hit the road with our belongings in tow. It is always exciting and sad at the same time. But, I found this picture yesterday that says it all:
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.

The older I get the more I realize the importance of family. In my early twenties I moved out to California to be with a guy. I was young, naïve, reckless, impulsive, adventurous, independent, and free spirited. Things did not work out as I had planned…quite the opposite, really. But, I have learned so much about myself and God has grown and stretched me beyond belief. Isn’t that what He does, though? He has shown me to depend on Him alone and all I am called to do is have faith and He takes care of all the rest.

Jesus calls each one of us to follow him (John 15:16). All of God’s promises are yes to each one of us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). We each get to share in Christ’s inheritance (Colossians 1:12) and as members of Christ’s united body we need each other (Romans 12:5).
But we do not all have the same function (Romans 12:4). Each disciple, each individual member of the body, has a unique role. And each of us must lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him (1 Corinthians 7:17).

The question, “What is that to you?” is one you and I need to ask frequently. How God deals with other people is often of excessive concern to us, especially if their paths don’t seem to be paved with the same pain as ours.

The fallen part of our nature doesn’t look at others and glory in how each of them uniquely bears the imago dei (Genesis 1:27). It doesn’t revel in their distinctive refraction of God’s multifaceted glory. It doesn’t rejoice in the sweet providences God grants to them. It is not grateful for the blessings of their God-given strengths. It does not want to deal gently with their weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2). Full of pride and selfish ambition, our fallen nature uses others to gauge our own significance, how successful and impressive we perceive ourselves to be.
(Bloom, Jon. “Jesus Wants You to be You”. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/jesus-wants-you-to-be-you. By Jon Bloom. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

I admit it. I do look at the lives of others and feel jealousy over what they have that is lacking in my own life. Or envy their walk as opposed to my own. Jon Bloom’s message and the words of Jesus speak to my heart. I need to stop with my discontentment and be thankful for all of the blessings --- wanted or not --- God has given to me. He does not give me what I want, but rather what I need . And I needed to be refined and pruned.

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so 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. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9. ESV.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blessed is the Man Who Trusts in the LORD

I struggle with speaking poorly to myself and allowing unwholesome talk to swirl about in my thoughts.
29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29. ESV.)
Perhaps it stems from listening to negativity, or from lacking confidence in certain areas, or from second guessing myself. Regardless of the reason, I would not speak to anyone else that way, so why do it to myself?

The summer days have crept up on me. I was anticipating them but they sort of quietly lingered into being like smoke filtering about a room…soft and dainty like, not heavy and overbearing. I fear they will meander past as unvaried as they arrived. Maybe it is because I am doing the summer semester for my bachelor’s degree that I do not feel the indisputable presence of the new season.

I also cannot help to feel uneventful since Yosemite Half Dome. That hike was a BEAST! I trained for it for a month before going and we did the entire hike in one day (seven (7) hours going up, five (5) hours coming back down). But now, all is still without noise or fanfare. Just back to the routine of school work, cleaning house, taking care of my family, and working out. But, caring for my family is what is important, right?

Sometimes I feel my vapor of a life (James 4:15) and my spirit are out of sync. But I have to be careful because
9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10. ESV.)
I desire to go to seminary school (instead of law school) but I know being a pastor and/or leader is not in the cards for me. So, I am going with my second choice. Sometimes I wonder why I have those aspirations, why am I wired that way, if it is not God’s will? Why do I feel restless if my place is with my family? Why does my situation warrant a career when my calling is as a Proverbs 31/ Titus 2 wife and mother? God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) so I do not know. I do not understand at this point but I must not be anxious or uneasy. I am called to have faith and God takes care of all the rest.

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:7-8. ESV.)

(Photos: Half Dome, Yosemite)

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