Surrender

I’m doing a study in Genesis and am digging in to Genesis 4, Cain and Abel this week. I was brought to some supporting verses that opened my heart up wide to see the meta-narrative, the gospel, in a way that filled me with gratitude. I can be so filled with pride, I need to be reminded that God is always the one who provides. He created it, He gave it, He produces it, He is the reason I have any good thing and can do any good work. He wants my heart to be clean of pride so that it will produce worship and surrender to Him.

As I was reading Deuteronomy 26:1-11 God asks for the first fruits of the harvest, not because He needed anything but because He wanted their hearts. They were given the new land as an inheritance of their freedom, they were to settle there, possess it, and work the land. The harvest that was produced was a reminder of what they had been given and where they had come from. No longer slaves in Egypt, but free in the land of milk and honey. The Lord gave them their freedom, and this land. Their heart response should be gratitude, giving back of those first fruits was an act of gratitude and praise. He didn’t want the harvest, He wanted their hearts. If He had their hearts then their response would be thanksgiving and offering up what God had given them. They would not have thought He was taking something from them, or keeping the good for himself (as was Adam’s and Eve’s response when they ate of the first fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and wanted it for themselves, and as we sometimes behave when we are faced with the choice of obedience).

When reading Exodus 13:2-12, God asks for the same first offspring of the livestock as well, as they also belong to the Lord. They were to consecrate it, prepare it, dedicate it, set it apart to be treated holy, it was to be pure and clean. Just as Christ was given as the holy and clean sacrifice for our sins.  What beautiful pictures of all that God does for us!

He provides the sacrifice and offerings, because we cannot do that for ourselves. If our heart posture is right then we see this and will willingly give up ANYTHING the Lord asks us to. Just as Abraham did. God is gracious and loving. He is our provider and sanctifier. He knows what we need to cleanse our hearts of any idols other than Him and He gives us all that we need to be sanctified, purified, set apart, clean and holy. He gave us Jesus. The first fruit. The first born Son. The perfect unblemished fruit of the womb. The ram in the thicket. The innocent lamb. The one who died on the altar of Grace for our sins. The only one who could fulfill what all the other sacrifices and offerings of the law could not. He was freely given to us so that we could offer back to God our hearts filled with the love of the Savior. Our lives set apart as we have died to self, and now live in Christ. Our desires transformed to not just giving something to God but giving back to Him what He has already given to us; holy and righteous love and adoration, praise and thanksgiving, and the first of our everything. The first of our time, our thoughts, our desires, our love and our life. These verses so clearly showed me there is no sacrifice He wants or needs from me. He just wants my heart, and my life, whole-heartedly living in obedience to Him.  A life surrendered, not just a life sacrificed.

I love the Holy Spirit’s work to illuminate Jesus in all of this. The more I read the Bible, the more I see Jesus. To see the meta-narrative played out. To read these verses and have my heart sing out, “Jesus”!

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

That is why I NEED to be in His Word. A podcast doesn’t do this. A guided meditation doesn’t do this. A song doesn’t do this. A sermon doesn’t do this. On their own these other mediums don’t pour into my soul like the Bible as a whole does. I love listening to sermons and great teachings. I love lifting up my voice in praise with a good worship song. I love reading a book on Christian living that explains parts of the the Bible. I love hearing a podcast and conversations that others are having about the Christian life, but if I’m not careful, I can let those voices be louder than the Word of God. I can let those voices occupy my time more than the words that were breathed into the Holy scriptures. That has to be what I consume daily so that just like today, I can see Jesus. I can learn the goodness of the Lord over and over again, because we are little Israelites who forget! When I am in God’s Word, and read of His great love that is on EVERY page, and let my eyes read to and fro as the pages come to life with the redemptive plan that saved my life, and I get to read it first hand, over and over again, it just transforms me in a way that a podcast cannot.

So as Lent is upon us, I want to remember it’s not about my will power, MY sacrifice, or the thing I am giving up if I choose to participate in the Lenten practice. It is about what HE provided, what He gave me, and my need to remember that and desire more of Him. I am not giving up anything. I am only giving back what is His, my time and attention and surrender and what I get in return is a heightened awareness of all that is His that He has given me so I can desire and seek more and more of Him.

We are only asked to give what He has given, His best, for our good. We aren’t giving up or missing out, we are participating in the best that God has for us. Obedience. That is always for our good!

 

 

 

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Seasons

Behold, children are a gift from the Lord…

This past year has been an adjustment. Three children. One of them being a two year old, and all of them being girls. Then there’s me, another girl, with crazy “42 year old mama who just gave birth” hormones who doesn’t sleep…it’s been an adjustment. It has been super fun seeing my oldest flourish in school, conquer fears left over from the tornado, and work hard to learn baton twirling. My two year old has found her voice with an ever increasing cute vocabulary and finally lets us comfort her when she has a boo boo. (all the feels!) Our newest addition is full of smiles and nose scrunches and learning to play with her sisters has just been the BEST. Yet it has taken me a year to accept the adjustment in my day. The shifting of priorities and time and tasks that I used to do but now take three times as long or don’t happen at all.

This past year I just kept thinking “When are you going to get it together??!! When are you going to get a good routine down and have a day that runs smoothly? When are you going to consistently…do anything?” I have been beating myself up thinking about the season in my life about 3 years ago when I was in God’s Word for hours a day. Where I had a beautifully highlighted prayer journal that I kept up with and prayed through regularly. I wrote almost daily and had wonderful study time cross-referencing, looking up commentaries, and loving all I was learning about God. That time, back three years ago, I call it my sweet spot. I vividly remember being able to spend an hour outside on my deck in the beautiful weather and pray, journal, read God’s Word, and just really enjoy the fruits of all of those spiritual disciplines in place for long amounts of time. My writing flourished, my time with friends was rich in conversation and not interrupted very much. Since my third child, I found myself thinking back to those few years and shaming myself for not having those hours of study now. Longing for that space where my mind was fresh and I was able to complete thoughts, where my pen or keyboard was vigorously writing about all I was learning, and where my time with friends included pretty brunches in my home or coffee dates at an actual restaurant or play dates where minimal supervision was needed. But it was just a season.

Even though our weather seasons repeat themselves, spring, summer, fall, winter; our seasons of life don’t. They are a progression. That season three years ago is not coming back. And it shouldn’t! I am in a new season now. This is not only a season in my life here on earth, it is a season of my eternity. There is no death ahead of me! Physically maybe, but Christ conquered death for me!

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of the righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwell in you. Romans 8:10-11

Each day of this life is just a tiny, minute season of the eternity that is ahead. Even that isn’t what humbles me the most. The most humbling aspect is that this is just a season of my life but God existed before my time on earth even began. Not only that, He existed before Earth began. And to really blow my mind,  He existed before even time began. (Psalm 90:2). Yet He has designed us to experience life in seasons as Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, so I need to honor that and not wish for what was in the past or pine away for what may be in the future. He has something to teach me and grow me in each season.

This week the Lord woke me up from that dream of three years ago and reminded me that He doesn’t advise us to long for what is behind us but He tells us to press on to what lies ahead. There was a sweet spot back then but there was also sin that needed to be dealt with that He has brought me to repentance about. I don’t want to go back there if I have already come through it. I have been looking back in a rear view mirror at a piece of land I wanted to get back to. But it seemed to be getting further and further away. That is because it needs to! That land I was longing for is a land without two of my other children. It is not a place for me anymore. That destination I thought was the ideal I should be attaining (one hour of disciplined study and prayer) was what He had for me back then. It is not what He has for me now. During that season He honed in me a love of digging in, studying, writing, and communing with Him in a way that was the grace I needed for THAT season. In this season He is training me in dependence on Him. He is training me to not only love what I am learning about Him but to love HIM more. A training that wouldn’t happen if I was still back in that beautiful spot on my deck. I am learning dependence on Him in the trenches of a messy living room with loud, precious, growing girls. He is teaching me that He is giving me the grace I need in this season of fighting my flesh that manifests in an angry mouth. I will never get back to that place in my rear view mirror and I am glad! It was an amazing time of spiritual growth and learning what intimacy with the Lord means, but so is this one. My sanctification is a progression, moving forward, moving towards something that is ahead of me, not behind me (Philippians 3:12-14).

I am learning about rest, the kind that has nothing to do with sleep. I am learning to be diligent to seek Him, commune with Him, read His Word, pray to Him, without it being striving for an amount of time or the place I once was. If I strive for what was it will only result in spinning my wheels, not rest. I also am very mindful to NEVER view my children as something that has interrupted one my spiritual disciplines or any other plan I have for the day. They are my plan, they are what God has called me to do, they are part of my sanctification and I want my day to be weaved with prayer and talking to Jesus and speaking His Word with and in front of my children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). I am learning this y’all. He shows me daily. I am so thankful for the women in my life He has given me that are in this season with me. I am also thankful for those that are a little ahead of me and remind me of how quickly it passes. I am also thankful for the young women not quite there yet who I can encourage and remind when their time comes.

The other lesson the Lord pressed on my mind was that He never leaves me. He wasn’t only present in my “sweet spot” on the deck. The Holy Spirit is in me (John 14:16-17). God’s Word is alive and active in my mind as I have ingested it (Hebrews 4:12). What a sweet gift God did give me back then to help me be prepared now for when I wouldn’t have as much time. I can pray anywhere and at anytime. I can pray right when someone asks me to instead of writing it down in my journal which inevitably in this season I will forget to do. I can read the Bible with my children and if that is all that I do in a day and don’t get the “alone” time then that is enough and okay. I can respond to the prompting of the Lord when He does give me time to write. I have also been convicted lately to get back to those first gifts He called me to, sending words of encouragement through a blog or email or card. I waste time on my phone because it is more accessible than a pen and paper. But if it is something the Lord has called me to do, putting down my phone if it’s not used for encouragement is worth it.

I don’t get to see my friends as much, as the logistics of that are just more difficult now. My home is a safe space for my two year old. Anywhere else is not. And by “safe space” I mean she will tear yo house up. So I just try to keep her in mine, not yours. So that has made me so thankful for being able to stay in touch with others through phone calls and texts and this nifty little thing called Voxer, because let’s face it, phone conversation aren’t happening with the “sweet” noises in the background when mom is on the phone. All this is to say, I SEE YOU FRIENDS! I’m in it with you mama. I haven’t forgotten you even if I haven’t been over in awhile.

My point. This season. I am told to cherish it. I do. I am told it will go by so fast. I know.  I am told to not fret or worry or do all the things we do in the middle of all the things we are in. I am learning. God is so good to give me these amazing children. He is so good to use them to show me ALL the ways I need Jesus everyday because I fail and mess up. He is so good to give me a chance EVERY day to grow in my trust. I say that I trust, and then a new season comes to test me and refine me to an even deeper level of trust. I am looking at this season now as THE very best season ever. Because it is. It is the one I am in. It is my sweet spot. Tomorrow will be too.

My bible study looks like this now. Little eyes peeping at me and little toes resting beside me. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Lamp

My favorite part about the Olympic games is the running of the torch. From person to person, from country to country, from hand to hand passing off the torch until the last runner climbs the stairs and lights the infamous lamp for all to see. As I was reading a story in 2 Kings around the time of the Winter Olympics I was struck by that imagery. The story is unfolding of Athaliah, who was basically trying to kill all the royal bloodline, her own family, so that she could rule. It seems unfathomable and savage, yet  looks like she is getting close to destroying the line that was promised to David to always be in place.

But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.” 1 Kings 11:36.

The lamp looked like it was going to go out. But God doesn’t fail on His promises. And even when it looks like the end, or that an impossible task is ahead, He accomplishes all He sets out to do. In this case, to provide a Messiah from the line of David. God used Jehosheba, in her obedience, to accomplish His promise. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. So he was hidden with her in the house of the LORD six years, while Athaliah was reigning over the land. Now in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of hundreds of the Carites and of the guard, and brought them to him in the house of the LORD. Then he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and showed them the king’s son.

Then he brought the king’s son out and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony; and they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, ” Long live the king!” When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people in the house of the LORD. She looked and behold, the king was standing by the pillar, according to the custom, with the captains and the trumpeters beside the king; and all the people of the land rejoiced and blew trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” And Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains of hundreds who were appointed over the army and said to them, “Bring her out between the ranks, and whoever follows her put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the LORD.” So they seized her, and when she arrived at the horses’ entrance of the king’s house, she was put to death there. Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they would be the LORD’S people, also between the king and the people. All the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces thoroughly, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD. He took the captains of hundreds and the Carites and the guards and all the people of the land; and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, and came by the way of the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings. So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword at the king’s house. Jehoash was seven years old when he became king.”2 Kings‬ 11:1-4, 12-21‬ ‬‬‬‬

Wow. What a piece of history!! Because Jehosheba, the captains, guards, and priests were all obedient, the king was preserved, the promise was fulfilled, and the plans of an evil force were thwarted. This attempt to completely destroy the house of David was an attack on “God’s redemptive plan – a plan that centered in the Messiah, which the Davidic covenant promised.” (McArthur Study Bible) The attack was planned and calculated but no attack on God can ever stop His plans and fulfilment of His promies. 

This is such an encouragement to me. Not only that God’s plans are always played out in full but that WE get to be a part of it. Like those Olympic runners passing the torch from person to person with the same goal in sight, we too can be used to carry the light of Christ from generation to generation, no matter what obstacles or plans seem to want to derail us. But it is not by our power or control. The pressure is off. The burden does not fall on us! “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of host.” Zechariah 4:6. I think so many times in the Bible God physcially saves His people from desparate situations and places they are in (Daniel, Joseph, Rahab, Lot,  and on an on and on) to remind us of His power to spiritually save people. Are you in an unequally yoked marriage? It’s not beyond God’s power. There is no level of darkness or unbelief that is too strong for the God who saves. Do you have a child living in blatent sin who is blinded by the lies of the world?  There is no lie or path of destruction that is too strong to stop the God who saves. Are you stuck in a sin pattern that you desperately want to be free from? There is no part of your flesh or disobedience that is too powerful for God’s cleansing and correcting. Are you stuck in a place of despair, depression, or lost all hope? There is no feeling or emotion too strong to repel the God who saves!!

The Davidic covenant was not stopped by the wicked plans of an evil force.  I am a mama who desperately wants my children to have a saving faith relationship with their Father. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John‬ 1:4‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ This story in 2 Kings encourages me. The enemy wants to come after them, he wants to annihilate them, he wants to tear them out of my hands, but I believe that they are God’s children and He has a firmer grip and a stronger promise than any evil can overcome.

We are planted in jobs, neighborhoods, homes, communities, churches, that have people surrounding us that can be the next person to pick up the torch of the gospel after we have faithfully shared. We can’t control the outcome, we can’t change their hearts or open their eyes, we can’t MAKE them saved but we can be obedient and let God work and fulfill His kingdom promises just as He saved Jehoash. And He tells us to! “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “’how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” Romans 10:14-15.  We may never know in such a dramatic way as Jehoash’s story when and how someone is saved. But that is not the point. The growing and saving is the Lord’s work. The sharing and walking is ours. “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” Ephesians 5:8.

The Olympic flame is a beautiful symbol of unity and humanity. Oh but isn’t the light of Christ carried through the gospel message from generation to generation, from nation to nation, a much BIGGER symbol of unity because it is for everyone!!  God loves you, no matter your race, your economic statues, your physical appearance, your gender, your IQ, or any other qualifying factor that would make you a chosen candidate, You don’t have to come to Him clean. You don’t have to come to Him pretending to have it all together. You are chosen simply because there is a love greater than any other. You are chosen simply because you have a Father who set in to motion a gospel message that saved us from ourselves.  “O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Psalm 80:19

I am so thankful for those that came before me, the very first Christians, and the ones saved right before me; those saved today and those saved tomorrow. I am thankful that Jesus Christ promised us a Helper as He was spurring on the disciples for their life of service and evangelism. I am thankful that the Light of Jesus Christ can NEVER be put out! It will shine in the darkest places and it will shine for eternity.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Vessel

I’m broken y’all. We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks. I was home with the girls when a tornado hit the house, trees fell in, and fear gripped me. Meanwhile my husband was driving in it and got stuck on the road when a tree fell in front of him and behind him. Since then we’ve lived in a hotel and now an apartment. Our house was broken into during this and I discovered it when I was by myself getting some items I needed from the house. It has rained so parts of ceilings are starting to get soggy and fall in. My husband is having surgery on his foot today which was scheduled before all of this happened. My oldest is struggling with all the change that is happening around her with the moves and lack of routine. I’m a few days away from my last trimester of pregnancy. But these are all just circumstances. These circumstances aren’t what makes me broken. It’s my sinful nature, it’s my idols I put before the Lord, it’s my pride and my tongue. We are ALL broken compared to our perfect, Holy, righteous, Father. But the good news?! Jesus Christ made a way!! And because of that I have a redeemer who uses all of this for my good. He is with me, carries me through it, strengthens me, never leaves me, draws me in when I push away, uses the body of Christ to minister to me and love me well, and most importantly (because there were too many “me’s” in that sentence) He points others to HIM during crisis, HIS glory shines, HIS power is on display, HIS love abounds, and HIS attributes are magnified.

On October 9th a dear friend sent me an email. She said she couldn’t sleep and had me on her mind along with several verses about fear. I told her I don’t have any noticeable fear issues that I was aware of but that the Lord must know something I don’t, so I will hold those verses close. On Monday the 23rd, I met that fear. Once the tree fell on the house and partly through the hallway bathroom and door (the hallway we were sitting in) I experienced an adrenaline and fear like never before. I grabbed the girls and ran downstairs to the crawl space under the stairs and prayed. Sophie and I took turns praying and crying. In that dark small space I met that fear. Not knowing where my husband was I met that fear. A few nights later, paralyzed with realizing how little I could protect my children and the outcome of their lives I met that fear. The first time I went back to the house I was triggered by the smell of pine which was the overpowering smell when the tree fell in. Smelling it again as I pulled up to the house, I met that fear. The Lord knew this would bring out a fear in me I didn’t know I had. He knew I would wrestle with control and anxiety and lack of trust. Can you see His love???

“’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Two weeks prior to the storm He sent me the antidote, His perfect Word that renews my mind and comforts and washes fear away and replaces it with truth. He sent me specific verses that would bring much comfort, and would be something to cling to when I couldn’t think clearly or see beyond the fear. He used a friend to deliver it that He knew would be faithful to obey and send the email.  Do you see His love??

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

That amount of love He has for me is greater than any storm. That amount of love is greater than any fear. That amount of love He showed me through a dear friend foreshadowed how His love and grace and mercy would carry us through this as He uses the hands and feet (and backs!) of others. I am a broken vessel, He is a magnificent light that shines through the trials, shines through the fears, shines through the brokenness, and shines through my sinful, pride filled heart as he prunes me and refines me, and upholds me during these moments that seem “hard” to the world but bring MUCH glory to Him.

My husband and I have checked in with each other often to remind each other of the positives throughout this. I’m so thankful for his positive attitude that compliments the truth I know. Some of those positives are….

We are all safe! No damage to his truck. Our insurance has been phenomenal. We were able to get into a hotel the first night and had power when so many didn’t for several days. Our clothes and most items in our home weren’t damaged, just the structure itself and items in the bathrooms. When its all said and done we will have a nicer home than before. We are in a first floor apartment which will make it easier for Boone while he recoveres from foot surgery, no stairs! We are closer to his work which will make it easier for me to drive him to work. We are in a convenient part of town. When we were robbed we weren’t there. We were still able to go on a trip for Sophie’s birthday which we had planned before this happened and it was perfect timing, we needed the break. I have a church family who has loved us so well. We have neighbors and friends that have helped and my parents being here and retired has made such a difference as they have helped with the girls so much. It has made us realize how much less we can live with and how much “stuff” we have that we don’t need. We have a big enough space that even if the baby comes before we get back in the house, we have plenty of room where we are now. I know there are many more positives that I am forgetting, but it just illustrates that even through logistics of life change that accompany a trial, good and positive circumstances can be orchestrated that make life a little easier. I’m so thankful my husband has been on board with pointing those out and reminding me of them.

It brings tears to my eyes thinking of the people that have surrounded us with love, tangible love. His hands and feet have babysat for us while we packed up the house to get things in the hotel and then again to the apartment. His hands and feet on several occasions have brought people to our cold, dark house to pack boxes, move furniture, load trucks, and just be there in a place I didn’t want to be alone in. His hands and feet have brought us hot, healthy meals, delivered groceries to our apartment, sent us gift cards, made us yummy healthy snacks while in the hotel, given us boxes and other essentials, and I’m sure many more things I am forgetting.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”” Galatians‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

His hands and feet have loved my children well and made sure Sophie got to celebrate her birthday several different times and get her mind off what is happening around her. We have been called, texted, emailed, checked on, and prayed for by many. People who are going through their own trials, people who have their own burdens have brought our family before the Lord and petitioned on our behalf. His love is never ending. I am humbled by it and can say that it helps me believe and proclaim “It is well with my soul”. His love is what saved my soul and His love is what heals my soul.

The peace I have, the peace He gives, isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling of perfection in the world. It isn’t blinders that shield us from pain and trial. It’s not a peace that can be replicated through any other means. It is a reconciling, of who we were and who we now are! It is a peace that mediates and brings us to our Creator whole and clean. It is a peace that gives us a firm, never changing, solid foundation to stand on when the world is crumbling and cracking around us. It is a peace that anchors us deep when the waves are over our head and the trials are overwhelming, yet we KNOW we are not going anywhere because we are His!!!! I pray you know that peace. I pray that word is more than a flashback to the 70’s and a logo on a yoga mat. I pray you truly know the Prince of Peace who brings the greatest love you will ever know!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Seven Days

Seven is a special number in the Bible and it is a special number for me now as well. Seven is the number of days from the time I shared my abortion story here, until the time God created a new life in my womb. I didn’t initially realize the timing. We were kind of in shock from the surprise at first, not thinking we COULD get pregnant naturally again. It wasn’t on my radar at all. After the shock wore off and I had to start figuring out with the nurses when I conceived, I realized it was seven days after sharing Christ’s story of redemption in my life. Wow. Do you doubt His love? Do you doubt His power? Do you doubt He forgives it all when He says “It is finished”. Please don’t doubt. Please listen and see that the Lord is good. Look around you, believe that He carried His cross and bore your sins so you don’t have to carry yours. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬. ‭

My story isn’t about gifts and rewards though. It’s not about if you do “this” He’ll bless you with “that”. It’s about believing and having faith in your Savior and letting your eyes be open to the abundant joy that can be yours no matter your circumstances. It’s about praying and asking God to give you the perspective to see His restoration and handiwork in your life and trusting it even if you can’t see it. It’s about opening your heart and mind to His Word and let it change you as you get to know your Savior and King.

Some say this is a blessing, a reward for obedience in sharing my abortion story. This child is not a reward for ME to receive, it’s for GOD to receive glory. This child is His, for His purposes and already she is shining His bright light of grace and mercy! She is showing His power to overcome what doctors say, she is showing His power of redemption. She is in the same wound that was filled with scars, now that womb is filled with his sovereign grace. Oh praise His name!

We didn’t think we could have children after our first born six year ago. It took years to conceive with our first child. Due to my reproductive organs being a bit of a mess, only one ovary after a cyst removal, endometriosis and scar tissue, we were told it probably wouldn’t happen again. And we were fine with that because adoption had been placed on our hearts. We were able to adopt our sweet MK 18 months ago and were on the path to grow our family that way again. But God…

I was on a form of birth control I thought I was only on to relieve painful monthly symptoms that affected me and my ability to function well at work (back then) and home. I didn’t think it was actually for birth control since I didn’t think I could get pregnant. It was recommended by my midwife after my first born. Then last year a friend of mine told me to research what I was on and once I did I came to the conviction I should stop. Also my husband realized his moral beliefs were changing in some areas and he agreed I should no longer be on that form of birth control. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs‬ ‭21:1‬. I was off the birth control for months and dealing with the issues it was preventing but I was settled and okay with the inconvenience and not working now made it easier. I was moved in a very strong way to finally post my story publically. The first time I had written about the “A” word. Once it was public God did amazing things through those words and I was experiencing another layer of freedom from shame and I was seeing those words were for so many others to see His love and power! Do you see??? Do you see how God was lining this all up. Preparing the way for Him to blow me away with His plan.  “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬. Seven days later the two lines that mean “pregnant” showed up again. After being nauseas and exhausted for a while I thought I would take a test just to set my mind at ease. Three tests later we decided to finally believe I was pregnant. And shock set in. For about a month. Once the shock and nausea wore off I was able to clearly experience and praise what God had done. Seventeen years ago I was in shock too but this time I saw it as a way to magnify the name of Jesus, to praise His name and give him Glory. This time I see this precious baby as a gift, a fearfully and wonderfully made creation, perfected by her Creator. This time I see the task given to me as being her mom as a privilege, a serious commitment, a joy, and something I know God will use to grow me and sanctify me. This time I see her as a sweet addition to our family. Our oldest is beside herself with excitement. She loves talking to my belly and wants to know all things maternity and baby. She was gifted uniquely to be an amazing big sister as she already is so loving and helpful and nurturing and kind with MK. Now she will be a big sis to two girls and she takes her role very seriously.

The number seven is associated with completion, fulfilment and perfection in the Scriptires. As I see this special number of days, resulting in the conception of my daughter, after sharing the healing Christ did in my life after a history with abortion, I do see the completion of letting go of my shame, the fulfillment of His promise of healing and cleansing from my past sin, and the perfection of His creation in my womb.

Will you celebrate this life with me?! Will you celebrate the glory of God and the magnitude of His love as He has displayed it in my life and yours? Will you celebrate with me and praise His name for what He is showing others through the story of redemption He continues to write? Will you trust Him with your life, and turn over those worries and anxieties to Him? Not everyone’s story will turn out like mine as far as circumstances. Not every post-abortive woman will bear children again. Not every mom who has been told she can’t have children will conceive again. But if you put your faith and trust in Christ you will have the same promise fulfilled as me, and that is the promise of eternal life and salvation with Christ, the promise of a redeemed life, of abundant joy that only comes through putting ALL of your hope in your anchor and rock, Jesus Christ. He is our joy and as long as you have Him your joy may be made full! “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John‬ ‭15:11‬

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” Hebrews‬ ‭6:17-19‬ 

 

Garland of Grace

“Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her. “She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.”Proverbs‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬

During my HOUR of uninterrupted quiet time at a retreat I went to recently, (what a gift to a mom of two littles!),  I found myself in front of the verse above. I couldn’t get away from it and continued to search it more and more. As a mom, as a wife, as a human being, doesn’t that sound enticing?? This garland of grace.

God gives us a garland of grace which is His wisdom. Wisdom found when we fill our hearts with His Word.

He gives grace to answer the hard questions. He gives grace to get up when we fail. He gives us grace to teach, instruct, and encourage our children and those around us we influence.

His garland of grace gives me wisdom in those moments when I’m not sure what to do when navigating parenting with my husband who is not a believer. Our world views are different. That can make it tricky BUT not impossible when parenting. So how does that work? It works by God’s grace. It works by seeking God’s wisdom. It works by being convicted from His Word and repenting when I totally let my pride and selfishness take over. It works by filling my head and heart with the Word of God, which became flesh, and revealed to us the magnificence and glory of our Creator. I can breath in the breath of life with each verse I read, with each truth I believe, and with each step forward in my faith as I trust Him and act on it. The “what would Jesus do” bracelets don’t quite get to the heart of what I need in those moment. Instead of what would Jesus do I need to remind myself who Jesus is. The way. The truth. The life. My redeemer who made a way for me to go to God and beg Him for understanding. His crown of thorns enabled, produced, secured, and guaranteed my garland of grace.

What ever it is you are struggling with, and can we admit, we are ALL struggling with something. Whatever it is… are you a single mom, do you not have a spiritual leader in your home, do you have a child who has turned away, do you have a difficult relationship to navigate, are you not sure how to disciple another women? Whatever it is, hold on to the garland of grace we are given as we look to His Word for our answer. Our answer isn’t a 3 step process, it isn’t a checklist, it isn’t bullet points on a page, it isn’t a detailed outline of how to exactly handle every situation. Our answer is searching the active and alive Word of God to seek His wisdom, His person, His nature, His characteristics, His grace, His mercy, His truths, so that the Holy Spirit can move in our hearts to CHANGE US in those moments when it’s hard. To GROW US in those moments when we hit a wall. To ENCOURAGE US when we feel we don’t have the strength to do this. This garland of grace is walking with God, washing our hearts and our minds in His Word, in such a way that our decisions we make are aligned with His will of humble service. This wisdom we are to be searching for like gold, we will find those nuggets and they’ll stay with us so in those moments when we don’t know what to do this garland of grace will help us. What we have discovered in His Word, what we have meditated on in our hearts, what we have let change us and shape us and mold us, that is what is going to help. Not just an article on “10 ways to be a better Mom…”. Not a checklist of do’s and don’ts. It’s knowing what to do because it is the Lord’s will.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”Proverbs‬ ‭4:18‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Just as we are continually being sanctified, this wisdom grows in us until we will be FULLY glorified, in the presence of and worshipping our Savior. As He leads us on this path of righteousness and we search and live out His Word, it becomes more and more of who we are and how our heart responds to those around us.

That’s the kind of wisdom I want and that’s the kind of wisdom I need. Proverbs tells us that when we treat her like a treasure, when we treat her like a precision gift, we will receive her. The death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins is what enables us to go anywhere near this. We are able to be in God’s presence, we are able to hold His Word, to read it and to understand it and to see His love for us and have our love for him grow. That crown of thorns allowed for this to happen and that crown of thorns has led to us to be able to wear this sweet beautiful, powerful, helpful, needed, life changing, garland of grace given by His wisdom.

Christ gives His bride this crown of beauty to wear, as our lives bear fruit of the gospel, and as we live out His story through our testimonies and our sanctification.

“My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”Proverbs‬ ‭2:1-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Proverbs 2 tells us to receive it, treasure it, be attentive, cry for it, seek it, search for it, and we WILL discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God for the Lord gives wisdom.

Father we are crying out to you asking us to open up your Word in a mighty way. Help us to see in each moment of our day how we can be your humble servant, how we can pursue wisdom and righteousness by dying to ourselves and letting your wisdom and love take hold of each situation we face. Let us never take for granted how the cross enabled us to receive this garland of grace so that we can follow you, lay our lives down at your feet, and live out our salvation in such a way that is worthy of the calling you have set before us. Your grace is the only way we can do that. Help us to recall your Word, to receive and believe your love and mercy, and to walk in obedience throughout our day. Lord help us to keep our perspective and our gaze on you, not on us, not on our inconveniences, not on our story but on YOUR story and YOUR work and YOUR plan and YOUR sovereignty that we can trust. Help us to receive it, treasure it, be attentive to it, cry for it, seek it and search for it. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN.

The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding. “Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her.”Proverbs‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Lifted Up

I had many preconceived notions before I began reading and studying the Old Testament. Ideas and opinions I had heard from others. That it was the difficult and hard to understand section of the Bible. That is was for more historical knowledge. That it had parts of it that were okay to skim right over (lists of names, lists of places, the non-“spiritual” stuff). That this is the part of the Bible where it is okay to pull out a motivational verse even if you don’t understand the  surrounding content. I’ve had several conversations with people the past few years where they have said they feel this is the section where God is “mean”, this is the part of the Bible that theologians need to study but not everyone has to. All of these false and deceptive influences on my mind kept me from the Old Testament. Until God showed me that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬)‬‬.

All scripture. So with this conviction to read and dig into the Old Testament I began a slow and eye opening journey into God’s Word that is yielding an overwhelming understanding of God’s love for me. I’ve heard some say the New Testament is where we read the gospel and as long as you get that and understand the gospel and the work of Jesus, then you are good. Yet without the Old Testament we can’t see the fuel behind this great act of sacrifice. The gospel fire blazes in the New Testament, it spreads like wildfire but the fuel behind it is God’s immense, never-ending, relentless, love and pursuit of His people. The Old Testament shows us from the first word that Christ was there! In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and we know from John that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John‬ ‭1:1-3‬)‬‬. The Old Testament shows us God’s plan to save us from the moment sin entered our flesh and our hearts. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis‬ ‭3:15‬ ‬‬) Christ fulfilled this victory over Satan. As I read the Old Testament I see so much of the gospel story. More and more examples and glimpses of the gospel emerge. God is preparing His people and our hearts as we read it for the coming fulfillment of it all! I was reminded in a Bible study this month of one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament that showed us the coming of Christ as our Savior.

“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”(Numbers‬ ‭21:4-9‬)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When I first read this I remember crying. I was “getting” it finally. God was showing me the beautiful plan and story He was sharing with us in the Old Testament. Since the fall of man, we have been bitten by the fangs of sin, dripping with the venomous promise of comfort, fun, ease, and exaltation of self. This has made us slaves to pride and ego, making humility and trust foreign and unattainable, as the Israelites in this passage displayed. The bitten flesh leaves us with holes filling up with the poison of the world. But God made a way. Any part of us that is sick, ill, lacking or diseased (all of our heart!) can only be healed by the clean, pure, righteous blood of Christ. His blood replaces the poison running through our veins. His blood which was spilled when He was lifted high on the cross is the antidote to the lies and deception and lust and pride our flesh cries out for. We WANT the bite. We want to taste the rancid poison disguised in sweet treats and temporary fulfillment of our desires. Just like the Israelites in this passage though, God brings us to the point of repentance, admitting our sin, kneeling before the Lord asking for the way… The answer… Look to the Savior. When you see Him you will live. It’s that simple. We don’t have to write a dissertation on the cross. We look to Him and follow Him. We don’t have to memorize the Old Testament law. We trust Christ to fulfill it. We don’t have to strive and try our way into the grace of God. He gave us Christ. The free gift we are to simply trust as our Savior. Trust Him to get us out of the pit of sin laden serpents biting at our heels, tempting us to look away and trust our own desires and the world’s answers. Christ defeated our sin when He was lifted up on the cross!! We can be tempted but not slaves to it. We can be disobedient but not condemned when we know Christ as our Savior and God WILL complete the work He started in us. He will show us our sin, bring us to repentance, and lift our eyes back up to the one lifted up for us as we await His return and our eternity with Him.

The Old Testament has been a sweet time with my God. I am doing other Bible studies but when I get back to where I left off in the Old Testament Word I am always excited to see what I am going to learn about my Father. It has created an excitement in me, an anticipation. All of God’s Word should do that for us and it can! No matter where you are reading, it is the living Word of God!! If you ask Him, He will show you His splendor, His power, His place of safety, His character, His will, His wisdom and His love that is big enough for all the world, and intimate enough for you to personally know it. Let our mind and heart be filled with the whole of God’s Word so we can “let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statues and to keep His commandments…” (1Kings 8:61).

Hope

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

I continue to see ways God is leading me and “making my paths straight” as I discern how to live as a Christian with my unbelieving husband and how to raise our daughter with different beliefs guiding us. It truly has been amazing seeing prayers being answered and seeing the truth of God’s Word unfold before my very eyes. It helps me to BELIEVE and grow my trust because God is showing me how His Word is always the answer. That prayer is always the way when I am lost in the middle of a struggle or temptation. That Jesus Christ is not just my example but my Savior and always where my gaze should be as the Holy Spirit sanctifies my heart through this perfect Word of God.

A lot I said there in theory, now let me share with you specifics because this is so good and I pray it helps you see God working in your own life, every day with every thing He IS working. I often times hear people say “that’s a God thing” or after a specific “good” blessing I’ll hear “God is working”. Those are true but God is ALWAYS working. Not getting what you thought you wanted is God working. Being in the middle of a heart wrenching trial is God working. Yes, the blessings and sweet times are God working also but I believe He is always working because He is sovereign and He is omnipresent and so He can’t be separated out of the events of our lives in any way.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans‬ ‭11:36‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

Our hope is in Christ, who never changes and never goes away. So no matter the circumstance we are always in the middle of a blessing because God is always with us. He is always working it out for our good, we just might not see it yet in our terms and our limited viewpoint.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” Romans‬ ‭8:28-29‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬

Okay, back to specifics. I have continually prayed for God to grow my desire for Him through His Word. That He would help me to understand and grow in love and knowledge. The fruit of that being so I would get to know my God and love Him more but also that when asked by my husband I would be able to articulate the gospel and the surrounding narrative of the Old Testament. ‭

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”1 Peter‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God has delivered and given me an appetite for the Old Testament starting last year and I LOVE seeing Jesus Christ all throughout the Old Testament and the immense love God has for us. Recently my husband thought it would be fun to give me a quiz that came up on his Facebook about Biblical knowledge. He wanted to see what I know. It was so fun! He read all 40 questions to me and as I was answering each one, a lot pertaining to the Old Testament, I was realizing this sweet gift. My husband was surprised at what I knew. He said “wow, you really know this stuff”. Now the point of that isn’t head knowledge, please don’t look at it that way, the point is that my husband was seeing that my belief and faith comes from my own belief not what someone else told me. He thinks most Christians only believe what they are told by their parents or what others tell them. He was seeing that I have read the Bible, studied it, and found great value and truth in it that helps reinforce my belief and my relationship with my Savior because it is THE Word of God. That is an answered prayer. My husband is an atheist yet he spent 30+ minutes asking questions from this quiz, reading parts of God’s Word in the questions, hearing the answers and learning things he didn’t know, and it was his idea (actually God’s idea!). Sometimes I don’t know when and how and how much to speak to my husband about the Bible and my relationship with God. This time it was handed to me on a silver platter. God continues to deliver moments like this.

Another time when this happened was during a struggle; this was a hard one. Our daughter was being disobedient in an area that we are just stuck in, bedtime. It seemed we were over this hurdle and now it is back. Praise God it is! Because in this struggle one particular night I was coming undone. I had to walk away and tears were flowing. My husband came in and sat down and closed the door so it was just the two of us. We began a conversation discussing how to handle her and discipline her. I just wanted to be on the same page and really wanted my husband to tell me what to do. In the middle of our conversation I said “Fathers (or mothers in my case) do not provoke your children to anger”. Then I just kept saying more “ train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”. I said a few more “be anxious for nothing…” I was opening my mouth and God’s Word was coming out. My husband said, “that sounds like pretty good advice, where are you getting those from?” I told him the Bible. He asked which men wrote those and I told him Solomon wrote Proverbs 22:6 and I am in the middle of reading 1 Samuel and started talking to him about what I was learning about Solomon and his wisdom. Since we were talking about discipline he started asking where in the Bible it says parents should “hit” their kids. I talked about the passages about the “rod” and others. This led to him asking me about “stoning” and isn’t that what the Old Testament was full of. Now here is where it gets good…I was able to talk to him about the Old Testament law and the purpose of it to show us that we can’t obey and that Christ came to fulfill perfectly the law for us since we cannot. He took every “stoning” or other punishment we deserved for the sins and disobedience we displayed. Now two years ago I would not have been able to speak to my husband about the correlations of the Old Testament and the New Testament but this night I was able to. I was able to speak with conviction because God has shown me as I have studied His Word. Also in speaking this to Boone it spoke to my heart as well. When I said the words “We can’t obey, it isn’t possible for our flesh to perfectly obey” Boone’s eyebrow raised and he got an “I told you so” look on his face. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew. YES! I need to remember this in the middle of Sophie struggling with her obedience. Why do I forget that??!! It was just so cool to have my husband there with me in that moment, as he was able to see something God was doing in my own heart to minister to me in that moment which was delivered by a conversation with my husband about Old Testament law. God is making a way for my husband to see what I need from God’s Word to help me in those moments when I am tempted to be anxious. I just can’t tell you how thankful I am for my daughter’s tantrum now!!!!! I pray I remember in every hard and uncomfortable moment that God is working. I may not always see the fruit of it as quickly as I did that night but that shouldn’t change my belief that it is all working together for my good.

One of the biggest struggles in an unequally yoked marriage is not being able to share with your spouse THE most important thing in your life. The excitement of understanding and studying God’s Word, the sanctification of your heart, the personal and life giving relationship with Jesus Christ, the HOPE and PEACE that surpasses ALL comprehension, and not being able to know they are your brother or sister in Christ. But all of that being said, can you see how God is giving me and showing me that the limitation in this is mine. He doesn’t put limits on my marriage. He made a way for my husband to talk with me about God’s Word. He made a way for me to speak to my husband about how God is working in my heart. He made it possible for us to use scripture when discussing a parenting issue with our daughter. Praise God that He is so much greater than I, that He is sovereign and in control, that He is continuing to turn my marriage into a miracle, a fruit bearing testament to the TRUTH and POWER of God’s Word. Christ died for this. He died so that I would come alive through Him. He died so that I could abide in Him and He in me so that there would be fruit that would GLORIFY GOD. I think about His death on the cross for my sin in that moment with my daughter. My anger and frustration and anxiousness rising. But then He rose from that death, from that grave, so that I could be made new and no longer a slave to that sin. All of this happening with my husband by my side, not separate from me.

My husband doesn’t believe Jesus did that powerful work. He doesn’t believe God exists. He doesn’t believe God’s Word is true and perfect and infallible. My hope isn’t in my husband’s belief. My hope is in Jesus Christ who made a way for me to have these moments, these gifts from God. My hope is in eternity where I will be surrounded by God’s glory in a way that eclipes the glimpses of it I get to see in my marriage and makes them pale in comparison. My hope is in a God who loves me and will and has done EVERYTHING for my good. All of this lets me rest. God knows the desire of my heart, because it is His desire as well, that my husband would be saved. My marriage is a reminder to me that NOTHING is impossible and God will work and do things I can’t even imagine or see coming to bring about His perfect will and His purposes.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Let us REJOICE in everything and always be in a posture of thanksgiving for the joy we have in knowing Him, our Abba Father. The Lord is near! In whatever you are in the middle of He is there. His Word is there to teach you and train you and encourage you in the difficult moments and so that others can hear of this hope you have!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Nourishment

A friend sent me an email about the 8 Days of God Speaking event from godspeaking.com and asked if I wanted to do it. I didn’t sign up when she sent it but I remembered today, the first day of it, and signed up. Which resulted in an email I got around dinner time with the first passages. It is designed to be broken up into a morning reading and an evening reading but since I signed up late I listened to the whole 60 minute reading of Genesis 1-15. The timing was perfect. I decided I would listen as I started to make dinner for SG and I, since Boone was working late. We had a gathering at our house yesterday and have lots of leftover hamburgers so that was the plan for dinner (along with cheese dip and leftover cupcakes…). As I’m listening to the reading of God’s Word, I heard seven words that took me to my knees in repentance.  The seven words are “The serpent deceived me and I ate”  Genesis 3:13. Tears filled my eyes and those seven words kept playing over and over in my head.

Earlier this morning, after feeling the affects of my health, and weight, and tiredness I prayed for God to take this burden. I cannot do this in my own strength but the power of Christ lives in me and I knew God could give me the perspective I need and the willingness to obey and the discipline to do it. None of these things I can achieve on my own. I have tried and strived but this morning I needed to give this 100% over to God. He has been bringing me to this place for a while, I make a good effort and then something trips me up. A few days missed of exercise turns into a few weeks. One splurge meal turns into a sugar addiction gone wild. This morning I prayed those words that Paul understood as well about our sin nature. Our flesh. “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Romans‬ ‭7:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬. And more importantly Christ understood this and warned his disciples and gave them these words of great wisdom “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Matthew‬ ‭26:41‬ ‭NASB‬‬. The key in this verse to me is the praying. There is so much that happens in consistent, humble, fervent prayer. Praise, thankfulness, answers, and fellowship with God is what happens. I have not been putting on the full armor of God and it is affecting me in this area of my food idol.

So all that to say, when I heard the words “the serpent deceived me and I ate”, it just reached my core and was an answer to my prayer.  Satan, the enemy, wants to deceive me and my flesh wants to listen. The enemy wants me overweight, he wants me tired, he wants me cranky, he wants me moody, he wants me weighed down, he wants my body run down,  which are all things that eating incorrectly and not exercising makes me feel. After a good couple of years of running consistently, eating well and feeling GREAT, I have come to a place where I am in the worst health I’ve ever been. The enemy wants me to give up and give in and say “I can’t stop, I can’t put it down, I can’t resist, it’s in my house, I am too weak.” God’s truth repels all those lies. Satan wants me to be in the world, he wants me to indulge my eyes, my wallet and my mouth in the things of this world. The sugary indulgences that make me sick, the fatted idol that I carry in my gut, the poison that tastes good for a moment. He wants this so I will doubt, so I will be ineffective, so I will not be energized to use the gifts God has given me. He wants this as a foothold to get to me. What does God want? “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

“If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.”1 Timothy‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB.‬‬
I AM a new creature, in Christ. God HAS raised me from my death in sin, to life in His righteousness. I CAN be nourished on His Words and the faith of the truth of the gospel and that IS enough. I was deceived and I ate, but God heard my prayer and prepared my heart to hear His Word. That reminded me that He knew back when Eve first sinned and ate the forbidden fruit that she was going to do it and He already had a plan in place that led to Christ, redemption, and salvation. He knows my struggles and He made a way. He is knocking my idols down one by one. Food is up to bat. He wants me to be free from striving and to believe that what He has for me, what Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection is enough. When I compare that to a donut, it is just insane!! But He knows and there is no condemnation, there is only a hand reaching down to me, there is only love, there is only a way that leads to Him as I put on my armor that I already have and put on the strength that I already have in Him.

I love how God delivered this to me, through an email and an invitation from a friend to listen to 8 days of God’s Word being read. I know she didn’t know about my prayer this morning what it would lead me to on the very first day but God’s Word and the Holy Spirit has no limits, no boundaries, and reaches us exactly when and exactly how we need it. And she does know that. My God is more powerful than Satan, His truth is more powerful than the enemy’s lies. Christ overcame. It has already happened. The Holy Spirit brings that power to overcome in us. Praise God!

Lord Jesus, I pray in Your powerful name that the spirit of striving would be broken off every one of us. We declare we are free of all striving, set free by the blood of Jesus, and made and kept free by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Holy Spirit, we give You permission to overwhelm us with Your presence and remind us anytime we begin to strive that we have nothing to prove or gain as we already have everything in our identity and inheritance in Jesus Christ. Thank You, Abba Father, that we belong to You. That we are in Christ and He is in You. In the name of Jesus, amen! -Dineen Miller. (spirituallyunequalmarriage.com).

A friend prayed this prayer on her blog last week and I read it today for the first time. It was so fitting, because I don’t want this to be about striving. I just want it to be about yielding to what I already have in Christ and who I am because of Him. Nothing to prove or gain. Oh what an amazing Father we have! Thank you God for your goodness and message of mercy and grace and truth you rain down on me as I look into your Word and cry out your name.

-FYI, I had a salad for dinner 🙂

 

My God

I’ve been studying the Old Testament for a while now. I am making my way through slowly. As I am progressing chronologically, something is happening.  I am learning more and more the point of WHY I am drawn to His Word; because I am getting to know Him. As I am reading and studying a shift is happening. There is less “oh wow, that is similar to my situation”, or “I see how I can apply that to my life” and there is now more of this– “Wow, that is MY God. Praise YOU, what a ______God I serve!” There are so many attributes and characteristics of God we can fill in the blank with. THAT is what I can apply to my life. THAT is what cultivates a trust and a faith which produces joy and peace.  I can see my sin in David’s choices, yes. I can see my sin in the Israelite’s continued idolatry, yes. But I can see Christ’s redemption of my sin and I can see God’s plan of forgiveness of my sin through this study of the Old Testament that points only to a loving and merciful God.

Several sets of verses in 2 Samuel have really struck me this week and sunk into me and shown me who He is. The first one is this-

 “and after that God was moved by prayer for the land.” 2 Samuel‬ ‭21:14‬b

and again in the last verse of 2 Samuel “David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the LORD was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.” 2 Samuel‬ ‭24:25‬.

God is moved by our prayers. Read that slowly. We know this. We know we are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  But do we know to the point of urgency? I was overwhelmed by this fact because I read it on the same day that I kept getting messages and emails from people about their loved ones who are lost, unbelievers turning their back to God. It is more than I can bear at times, thinking of those I love who aren’t saved (in my own home, my husband doesn’t believe in God) and then now having a growing list from friends who have family members they want prayer for that are lost. There is a whole world of people we don’t even know who aren’t saved. This should move us to tears. It is more than we can bear, but it is not too much for Christ to bear. This should move us to our knees, on our face, crying out to God for these souls. In all of this though we can be comforted. Even if we don’t understand how it all works and even if we don’t know the answer to our prayers. We can be comforted because we know who we are praying to! We can be comforted because God is moved by prayer for the land. That is my God. I trust.

In Chapter 24 we come to the census and the second set of verses I learned from.  David commands Joab to take a census.

“…Go, number Israel and Judah.” The king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Go about now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and register the people, that I may know the number of the people.” 2 Samuel‬ ‭24:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

Once David got his magic number, he was convicted of what he had done. A census isn’t sin, but his motive was. His sin of pride and disbelief. Assurance that his mighty army was there in case he needed them, assurance of the great empire he had amassed, assured that he was secure and had an army to rely on. He was relying on “man” power, not God. Quickly though, you can see David realized his error and repented.

“Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”” 2 Samuel‬ ‭24:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

I can learn from this in many ways. What do I “count” in my life to help me feel secure. For some it is money, for some it is knowledge, for others it can be how many friends they have, how well your kids are doing, etc…Or I can see this scenario and praise God that He can quickly bring us to repentance as He did David when we are walking closely with Him. The stronger my relationship is, the greater my humility before the Lord, the quicker and more abundantly I see my sin and can repent from it. That is God’s mercy! Yet, that still isn’t my favorite part of this census lesson. My favorite part is that when given a choice by God, of the consequence David would suffer for His census sin, David chose the one that would come directly from the hand of the Lord, not man.

“Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” 2 Samuel‬ ‭24:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

WHY did David choose that?? Because he knew His God. He knew his God was more merciful than man. So I can know that I can go to Him with anything, repent, and I am already forgiven, my sin removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  He lavishes me with mercy, even in my consequences. THAT is my God. I trust.

I’ve heard and listened to teaching about studying God’s Word more comprehensively and less like a “seek and find” book.  It is so true. I know this concept and the more I do it and practice it the more I can get it from my head to my heart. The Old Testament, especially to a new believer, can seem overwhelming, daunting, not applicable, confusing, but oh friends, it doesn’t have to be!! “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NASB‬‬. ALL scripture. Not just red letters, not just New Testament, ALL scripture. If you ask God to open your eyes and your heart to His Word, He will. Believe me He will. The only way I have any desire to commit to reading His Word, understanding it, getting to know Him through it, is because I begged Him to show me. I still have to do that. It is not a chore, it is not a checklist, it doesn’t make your salvation more secure, it shouldn’t produce guilt or pride. It is about getting to know the God who sacrificed everything for you.

Please Lord, help me thirst for You!

He WILL answer you and He will continue to show you and you will see new things everyday. Whether you have been reading the Bible for 40 years or 4 days, He will show you and grow you as you see Him more and more. I am fairly new to studying His Word, and I am so excited for the next day I have, God willing, to do it again. Get in there, just start. Go slowly, not just searching for how it can be applied to you or a specific situation (which there are times it can!) but read it to get to know your God. THAT will change you, THAT can be applied everyday, THAT can assure you when times are hard, THAT can help you persevere. Let Him overwhelm you with the truths of who He is. Let Him draw you in to the amazing relationship He wants with you as you take one more step towards Him. As you get to know your God you will see His love, His plan, His Son, His sacrifice, His redemption, and His glory!