Saturday, September 15, 2012

His Raining Faithfulness

(I had to steal this photo from my friend, Heidi, who is such an amazing photographer!)

My eyes had been straining to peer through my semi-fogged windshield for over an hour. The windshield wiper blades were on maximum speed and pretty much useless to keep up with the torrential down pours I had to drive through. Using the white strips to my left, I guided my car as straight as possible and would have mini-panic attacks as other, larger vehicles would come blazing by me, splashing even more, unmanageable amounts of water onto my overworked windshield wipers. I thought to pessimistic and tired self, "Of course I  would have to drive through thunderstorms all day!" I was journeying through an open, Missouri Valley south of Sioux City, Iowa on my 12 hour drive home from spending sometime with my family that weekend. The sky stretches as far as you can see in all directions making it easy to track the movement of storms.

The rain let up enough so that I could see the morning horizon darken yet another shade of blue against the green fields with twig-like lightning strikes dancing slightly to my left. Lighter, grey-colored clouds were to my right: There was hope! The system appeared to be moving slightly ahead of me, so I even slowed-up more to allow the angry clouds to pass. With a few more spouts of rain, I was reminded of a passage of scripture that brought color back into my whitened knuckles and eased the pounding of my temples:

"Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

Is it not remarkable that the rain proclaims the faithfulness of our God? Another verse with a similar reminder of His faithfulness can be found in Joel:

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
    and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the latter rain, as before."  Joel 2:23

ESV Commentary says that "for he has given the early rain for your vindication" can be understood as "the teacher (Hb.hammoreh) for righteousness." Keep in mind this is Old Testament text! Clearly, God is revealing more than his ability to make it rain but rather, using rain to remind us of His desire to give us righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ!

 Such peace it brought to me as I drove down that long interstate highway that I know the God who opens up the sky to bring rain. Another thought that came to mind was the countless number of prayers that were being lifted due to the vast drought that had occurred along the interstate this past summer and I could not help but rejoice with the farmers that the LORD was faithful to their prayers and was bringing rains. 

"Ask rain from the Lord
    in the season of the spring rain,
from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
    and he will give them showers of rain,
    to everyone the vegetation in the field."  Zechariah 10:1

I enjoy the commentary for this passage of scripture as well because it gives more of a background on how asking for rain would indicate the faithfulness of the Israelites. Paraphrasing, they were dependent on the rain--especially the spring rains for harvest. Going back to (9:17) God promised that he would provide grain and new wine for his people. So really this passage comes out as a challenge to trust the LORD instead of the pagen gods who also claimed to provide rain. 

That image of the sky ahead of me is still fresh in mind even weeks after arriving safely home from my drive. As I write this, I can hear the constant patter of rain outside the door of our deck and cannot help but smile.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Valley of Worry

How do you react towards life's surprises? If you're anything like me, you may tend to get overwhelmed in a matter of seconds. In fact, I think its safe to say you could put your watch by me: within 10 seconds I am deep in thought, figuring out my next step; around a minute to two minutes, I am in my worry-mode. Now, anticipating or planning in its entirety is not a bad thing, but when it along with the curtail of chronic worry, it becomes a problem. I feel like worry is something that we often excuse as christians; we think that it's an outward force therefore we have no control over it. In reality, it is the opposite and it teems from the well of pride within each of us. The root of worry lies in pride and is a slap of distrust in God. Why are you worrying? More than like your response goes something like this, "Well, I just don't know what's going to happen next! Life was going this way or my day was going this way and now it has all changed and I don't know what to do." Picking that response apart we discover that (1) You do not like NOT knowing what is going on that you have a limitation on knowledge, (2) You were comfortable in a position, (3) You don't like NOT knowing what you're suppose to do NOW. Am I correct? My worry often leads me into a twister of emotions that leads to erratic states of mind and everyone who cross my path gets a variety of quietness, or tears. Are you like that? Well, do not worry (no-pun intended) there is hope in God's Word that can be applied to EVERY surprise, twist or turn that comes your way. Follow me to the first chapter in the Book of James:

Testing of Your Faith

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(J)If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire (X)when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

I have four take-aways from this passage that I hope will trigger my mind to recall the full extent of the passage:

  • Count the surprise or trial as all joy
  • Ask for wisdom in FAITH
  • Remain steadfast
  • Temptations to worry are not of God
"Joy" does not mean you have to paint on a smile when you receive difficult news, emotions in themselves are not wrong, but if they lay the foundation of fear and worry, we need to pray that God would grant us a different perspective. We need to read James 1:3 over and over, reminding ourselves of the stead and constant work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, perfecting our faith. Secondly, James says we are to seek wisdom. Notice he doesn't say, "Pray that God will relieve whatever trial you're experiencing, or that He will rescue you." I think so often my prayers center around escaping or returning back to the way things were when really, I should simply ask for wisdom in that particular situation. God, being an all-knowing God is the greatest resource we have. We can always have godly-insight from fellow believers, but He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. So within that 30-60 seconds before the worry sets-in, breathe and pray for wisdom. And ask in faith knowing that God will provide. Stand-up and put some girth behind your prayer: this is God we are talking about! Matthew 6, probably a more well-known passage on worry speaks volumes with the examples of God clothing the flowers of the fields in splendor and feeding the forsaken sparrows. If you cannot seem to muster the strength to ask for wisdom, just saturate yourself with scripture of God's faithfulness. He has scattered verses throughout the entire Bible revealing this amazing attribute of himself. Second Timothy 2:13 is the tail-end of almost a pep-rally-like passage, encouraging followers of Christ:

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

Zero in on that last portion, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself." IS THAT NOT AN AMAZING TRUTH? If God were to be unfaithful, it would be as if he was denying Himself. So get it! Get after that prayer for wisdom with the strength from His Word with knowledge that God is faithful!

Thirdly, remain steadfast or endure. Matthew 10:22 says "...and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Furthermore, James touches on steadfastness later on in the Book in Chapter 5 where he says, "Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." Remember your trial gives God a channel with which He can pour out his rich compassion and mercy upon you. Job went through a boat-load of trials, trial after trial, after trial and he remained steadfast. Again, it's not that you cannot be emotional or even frustrated with the circumstance, you're not a robot, God has given you feelings but continue to remind yourself, God will be glorified --He is faithful because He desires glory and more importantly, He deserves glory! He's the only God that can turn our filthy moments in this life into treasures. 
And finally, worry is not from God. My mom always reminds me of this: it's not from God and you're dwelling on things is not going to solve it. Thinking ahead and planning is not wrong, but devoting precious moments of your day devoted to analyzing situations and circumstances over and over and over is as if you're running on a hamster wheel, never getting anywhere. Invest that energy into prayer, spending time in the Word and in fellowship with the community of believers. Seek counsel but go to the Lord first. Ask Him to take your thoughts captive and to help you to not give into the temptation to worry.

It's tough. I know it is. I feel like this would be a thorn in my flesh that I'm constantly having to surrender on a daily basis. I go through these waves with each season in life and get frustrated along with the worry, because I know what I am not to do but still do (You know Paul's "Do-Do" chapter :) So I know that this will continue to be a part of my life, and it won't be until my faith is fully completed and perfected that I will be free, but I can rest in knowing that I am free in Christ. This sin area has been covered in His blood and His grace is sufficient. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

No Tissue Boxes in Heaven

It is so easy to become overwhelmed in day to day events. Life is full of disappointments, frustrations and unexpected turns. I think Western Christianity sometimes gives off the impression that as a Christ-follower, you will never experience pain, suffering or challenges. Knowing that you will encounter pain and suffering probably may not immediately relieve those feelings, but I was reminded this past weekend in Pastor Mark’s message on “He is making all things new.” In the message, Mark reminded us of having an eternal perspective. Passages in Revelation 21 and 22 both touch on the things we have to look forward in the New Heaven and New Earth. In Revelation 21:4, scripture tells us that 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. I sat and thought about that, and applied it to my immediate struggles and was overwhelmed: No more struggle of selfishness and timidity, no fears of the next challenge in life or what other people think, no health conditions--worn-joints or pain with exercise; no need to have to count calories or fat grams or need to fit the profile I impose upon myself with the influence of cultural standards, no autism: oh how I wish we had freedom from the condition and my heart breaks for families that are continually battling with the challenges it presents; no bills, tuition fees, exams or need to meet qualifications for jobs. There won’t be a need for a tissue box in the New Heaven and Earth. Isn’t that wonderful? No tears! No Death! Mourning, crying, pain all of these things will pass away. I know the feeling of “Well, I just want to get married first, or I just want to start a family or establish a career, THEN God can return.” I am by no means discrediting those blessings that God has granted us while on earth—but I pray you will ask for an eternal, Christ-centered perspective in those thoughts. I pray that you would write down your list of immediate struggles and apply this scripture and see why the last few words of the book of Revelation state, “Come, Lord Jesus.” So perhaps instead of us getting hung-up on our day to day challenges or trying to anticipate the next struggle in life, you will pray for endurance now and take hope in the fact that there will be no tissue boxes in heaven. If you’d like to listen to Pastor Mark’s message, I encourage you to visit the website,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Seeking to Savor Christ This Year

We are a couple weeks into the new year: how are those resolutions coming along? If you're like me, you know the areas you need to improve on but don't want to make an actual declaration of your resolution for fear you'll end up like the other 80% of Americans that fail to keep them!

Our resolutions most likely fall into one of three categories: disatisfaction with our bodies, disatisfaction with our money, and disatisfaction of organizing our time; am I correct? Everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and says, "Welp, I need to lose this and this and this, build this up etc" We look in our wallets and say, "I need to save here, invest here, quit spending here," and we pull out our planners and say, "I need to drop this activity, add this activity, go on this vacation and so on."

Christians and Non-believers alike make these resolutions which are fine and dandy but have you ever thought about going to the source of the your disatisfaction rather than just treating these symptoms with your annual resolutions? Read back over these resolutions which one and only one will truly make you satisfied with who you are? If you lose those 10 pounds, will you be satisfied? If you save $5,000-10,000 this year, will you be satisfied? If you add one more activity, club or even Bible study will you be satisfied: feel as though you've accomplished something? No, you're going to move on to your next disatisfaction in life and try to treat another "symptom" of discontentment. Christians not only deal with this in the physical, emotional and mental relam but we carry it into our spiritual lives as well. We think to ourselves, "Man, if I would just get up every morning and spend my 15 minutes in the Word, then I could really feel good about my relationship with Christ," Or "Ok, I'm going to join my 4th Bible study during the week so that I am really super Christian and I'll honor God with how many Bible studies I am in.

I so appreciate one of our teaching pastors at Fellowship Bible for addressing this topic on January 1st and for John Piper's message at the 2012 Passion Conference for bringing such a great word on Salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Our Pastor used the text from Psalm 27:4-8 which says: (provided from

Psalm 27:4-8

English Standard Version (ESV)

4 (A)One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may (B)dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon (C)the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire[a] in his temple.

5 For he will (D)hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will (E)lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my (F)head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of (G)joy;
(H)I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 (I)Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, (J)“Seek[b] my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”[c]

  1. Psalm 27:4 Or meditate
  2. Psalm 27:8 The command (seek) is addressed to more than one person
  3. Psalm 27:8 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain
Cross references:
  1. Psalm 27:4 : [Ps. 26:8; 84:1, 2]
  2. Psalm 27:4 : Ps. 23:6; 65:4; [Luke 2:37]
  3. Psalm 27:4 : Ps. 90:17
  4. Psalm 27:5 : Ps. 31:20; [Ps. 91:1; Job 5:21; Isa. 4:6]
  5. Psalm 27:5 : Ps. 40:2
  6. Psalm 27:6 : Ps. 3:3
  7. Psalm 27:6 : [Num. 10:10]
  8. Psalm 27:6 : Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
  9. Psalm 27:7 : Ps. 30:10
  10. Psalm 27:8 : Ps. 24:6; 105:4

What a wonderful piece of text, Amen? There's an aspect of us seeking the Lord with the resolve He has given to us. The Bible is clear on examples of this resolve in prayers of people such as Psalm 68:1 (earnestly seeking) or in Jeremiah 29:13 (seeking with the entire heart) and in 1 Chronicles 6:11 (seeking with an urgency). But there is also an aspect of seeking the Lord that should stem from the moment we accepted Christ: seeing and savoring Christ. John Piper addressed this in his 2012 Passion Conference message and from his book "Seeing and Savoring Christ," where he explained the dependency we must have on Christ for Salvation. We don't just "decide", but there's an element of Christ revealing Himself while we're dead in sin and raising us to life. The longings of our heart are therefore only satisfied in Christ and Christ alone. Does this mean you cannot take care of your body? Does this mean you cannot be wise with your money? No! The whole reason for addressing the core of your relationship with Christ is to recognize that HE should be the reason you take care of your body and HE's the reason you seek wisdom in handling money and your time. You should be so focused on savoring the goodness of God's grace through Christ that the fruits of the gift of the Holy Spirit teem love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control--all of which the resolutions we discussed fall under. You must also ask the LORD to provide you with the correct mindset: the renewal of your mind: the transformation that only comes from Christ. You cannot "will yourself" to Salvation: it comes ONLY by the gift from Christ's atonement. Christ is most glorified as the giver of Salvation: It's about Him being glorified not on your works to become a better person.
So I encourage you to instead of setting multiple resolutions this year: resolve to seek and savor Christ. Seek Christ through prayer: Seek God's face not and not just his hand: seek his beauty and not just his provision. Seek God through His word and savor it: meditate, ask God to grant you greater desires and longings for His Word. And allow the Fruit that comes from knowing your God cover the areas you feel need to change: your body, mind and emotions should follow the heart that is seeking God.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis this Season to be Holy'

I am participating in Beth Moore's Daniel Study. The study has 'daily homework assignments," that we complete throughout the week and then gather together to view a "session sermon," by Beth. We are recently completed Session 7 which correlates with Daniel 7 and touches on the characteristics of the Anti-Christ/Beast/Man of Lawlessness. In verse 25, of Daniel 7, we read that

" He (beast), shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times , and a half time."

Beth goes on to explain in the homework, that many scholars believe that "shall think to change the times and the law," relates to what we know as our practice of religion. She painted a picture of a time with which we were under a nasty dictator who desired to take away all religious holidays and practices. She then proceeded to ask, what would it do to you if you were not able to celebrate Christmas or Easter with the true meanings behind the commercial costumes? If we weren't able to celebrate Christmas by going to church, would you have an "underground service?" I wonder if that is what individuals are doing around the world that are already under the oppression of a nasty dictator. Would you risk going to jail to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Or perhaps the death and resurrection of Christ?

From that, I went a step further in my mind and asked, "What if the commercial aspects were no longer a part of the holidays? Would I anticipate the season as much as I do with all of the commercialism and excitement affiliated with gifts? I'm not trying to be a Scrooge in all of this, but I am trying to truly "set apart" from the world by asking these questions and gauging myself with the Truth, God's Word. I am not going to copy down the entire text from 2 Peter 3 but I will begin at verse 16 where it says, (these are Peter's 'Final Words')
"..There are some things in them (Paul) that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this before hand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

I so encourage you to read the scripture leading up to this passage because it describes a lot of the events behind the final words of Peter. Now, does it say flat out, "The Anti-Christ will take away all holidays and persecute Christians that choose to celebrate them?" Not exactly, but from we do know, He will do everything in his power to twist and mimic the One True God. In Daniel we have learned that Satan goes as far as creating his own version of the trinity: "The Dragon" (correlates to the Father), the Beast (correlates with the Son) and the False Prophet, (correlates with the Holy Spirit). So we can only assume he will attempt to turn these once beloved celebrations of our Lord Jesus Christ into holidays that are centered on him or at least distracting us from their origins.

Do I like the excitement and jolly of the time of year: you bet your boots! But I am so thankful that I was reminded to step back and ask the Lord to renew my mind a bit from the whirlwind of "Christmas-Fluff," and ask myself, would I celebrate the true meaning of this holiday without recognizing Christ? I think many of us, even Christ-followers would find it easy to just buy gifts, sit around a tree, hang up Christmas lights and call it good: especially if it meant keeping us from going to jail. Now these are just holidays, celebrating them or not doesn't mean obtaining salvation or not but they do center on the One who does give us Salvation so it would only make sense to celebrate and honor the LORD for what He has done.

My prayer is to not destroy the lyric, "Ti's the season to be jolly," but perhaps think in terms of another version, "Ti's this season to be Holy." Christ came as the light of the world, to illuminate us and bring us from the darkness of sin into light; to transform us and make us worthy of being in the presence of the Holiest of Holies. By all means you can be jolly but let the jolly be from the fact that Christ has come to make you Holy!

Post comments! Share what the Lord is teaching you in this season!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Part 3: Miss to Mrs

Part 3 of “Miss to Mrs”

Our third and final portion of this mini-series of devotionals ends with “S” as “Surrender your thoughts and emotions to God.”

When you’re planning a wedding, you have countless number of thoughts running through your mind. It is so easy for Satan or your flesh to take over and really mess with your emotions. Things that wouldn’t normally bother you all of a sudden do; areas that you are normally very patient in become incredibly difficult to wait upon and yes, I’ll say it, girls, we are very emotional in life transitions! Even if you have a wonderful relationship with your family and soon-to-be in-laws it’s easy to get hung up on their suggestions for the wedding or ideas for how things should go and you can get overwhelmed! There were so many times I wound up in tears over something so pitiful and so not worth my tears! Kory and I entered into the season of wedding planning praying that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed with it all but It was most certainly a battle to the very end! So my advice? When you feel your emotions rising, take a step back and say, “I surrender these emotions and thoughts to you God.” Don’t even allow your mind to go beyond that initial thought. Emotions are wonderful and should not by any means be disregarded, however I will say as one who can be very sensitive, they get in the way! They truly can destroy the joy of everything if you allow them to. God is above your emotions: your faith is not based upon your emotions, it’s a choice. Similarly, when things are thrown at you during the planning process, you have to approach them with a clear mind, with minimal emotions. Happy and excited feelings are great! Bridal showers, bachelorette parties, hair appointments, decorating for your new home are wonderful and should be lavished with your emotions! I remember at my Bridal shower in South Dakota, I was so overwhelmed with the love and support of my family and the church body, I started to cry during my speech and EVERYONE began to cry (45-50 women!). It was so beautiful! I loved that moment! CLING to those moments of emotions. On the other hand, I think I cried to Kory every night of the last week leading up to the Wedding. I remember it was 11 O’clock the night before I asked if Kory and I could pray together before midnight (as if we were going to turn into pumpkins! We didn’t see one another before our Ceremony). I was a mess. He was great to affirm me in all of it but I was a mess! Reality will sink in and a lot of emotions will take over. This is when you have to step back and say, “Lord, I trust you! I trust you with my emotions and ask for your will to be done on this special day!” Your worrisome mind will not make the wedding go any smoother nor the transition of being single to a wife any easier! Worrying about anything will not accomplish anything! Worrying will only make you more fatigued from your already hectic schedule, am I not correct? I am really preaching to myself because you realize that this is not just a “wedding thing,” it’s a day-to-day struggle for a majority of women: it continues well beyond the kiss at the alter!

So what does scripture say about your thoughts? I feel like David, although a very manly-man, was pretty emotional considering the Psalms he wrote! I love it because we can definitely relate to him! Here are some Psalms that ultimately our God who created emotions, wrote through the Psalmist David:

Psalm 10

1 Why, LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 13

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

Psalm 92:4-6

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
5 How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
6 Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Psalm 139:23
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Do you see the emotions in David? He isn’t necessarily ignoring them and being emotionless: he is investing his emotions into the LORD and not in his situation or people he is interacting with is he? The times that he did react with his emotions, he ended up sinning! Now is this saying you shouldn’t confront someone or a situation? Not necessarily but whatever that situation is, it shouldn’t be a response ridden with random emotions that lead to endless drama and regret. If there’s an issue ---during the wedding, after the wedding, it should be approached with emotions expressed to God first, then probably your spouse can be a sounding board and then a response to the offender/offended. Make sense? Ultimately, God needs to be the God of your emotions. He didn’t give us emotions so that we could make decisions on our own: He gave us emotions as a gift to truly experience and worship Him through our senses! When we waste our emotions on matters of this world or worry of what could happen, we are taking away from the gift that God gave us for worship. Make sense?

So there you have it: Miss to Mrs! There are many more “tips and hints” to this process but when I was practicing “r” by running one afternoon the week of the wedding, this idea came to me as one that would be worth sharing! So what does MRS stand for? Make time. Rest in Him and…..Surrender your thoughts and Emotions to Him! And…..guess what, just over 2 months into it---I AM STILL HAVING TO APPLY THEM! That’s why Miss to Mrs is not just for pre-married women, it’s for ANYONE regardless of season of life!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Miss to Mrs Part II

Continuation of the series "Miss to Mrs" Part I was on "Make Time" today's blog, "Rest in Him" and yet to come, "Surrender Your Emotions." These are three tips mostly for the "Bride to be" but can be applied to any one's situation!

Rest In Him

What is your typical sleep pattern? Do you get 8 hrs? 9 (lucky!)? The few months prior to the wedding, my sleeping pattern was horrible! I had so much going on outside of the wedding that it only added to my already sporadic sleeping pattern. Just last week, my beautiful and much more technologically savvey friend Jessica, showed me an application on her phone that tracks the depth of her sleep pattern. Picture a typical x-y axis with a line following closely to the X-axis: this meant you had a wonderful, deep sleep---the kind that you do not like waking from. Then she showed me the crazy squiggle lines one night she slept poorly: months prior to the wedding, my screens would have looked like!
It wasn't so much my concern that everything would be perfect, there was just so much to do. It doesn't help having a bit of a creative mind that doesn't want to shut off. But more often than not, it's easy to become really consumed with ideas and anxiety if and when they will become a reality. You may be experiencing lack of sleep for other reasons; school, work, family issues, tension between a friendship or a boyfriend/girlfriend, fear of future problems, finances and the like. Sadly I recall a wonderful devotion on this topic but have forgotten who wrote it. I remember the devotional said something along these lines: sleep is actually an act of worship because it's a signal that we are trusting God with tomorrow. The mentality: "I don't have to fret about tomorrow now when my body is aching for rest, I can sleep and trust that the Lord will provide." Now the Word also warns about sleeping too much, haha, but for the sake of this devotional, let's pretend we all have sleep depravity. I found a couple scripture verses that pertain to this idea of trusting the Lord as we sleep:

Proverbs 19:23
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.

Psalm 127
Unless the LORD Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
1Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.

Isn't verse 2 a wonderful verse to cling to on this subject: It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." I don't think God is hating on the "Early Bird/Late Owl" mentality here so just because you enjoy getting up in the morning or like to stay up later doesn't mean you are in vain---but in context with "eating the bread of anxious toil," can reveal that God is talking about individuals that have a tendency to fret and worry themselves to the point that they cannot sleep. Here are some more verses:

Psalm 4:8
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

And if you think about it, God used sleep as a time to speak to people throughout the entire Bible. I wonder if He thought it wouldn't scare them as easily as someone like Gabriel just walking into your home. Ha!

So although you may be having loads of fun creating things for your wedding, it's important to allow yourself to simply REST IN HIM because it's so easy to become unhealthily consumed with the wedding, the job, the greatest fear etc... And if you think of your sleeping as an act of worship, it is easier to do! Approach going to bed like walking into your church sanctuary with a beautiful worship going on. It will make your pre-wedding months so much more enjoyable!!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Clutter of Fear

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Have you ever gone through the spare bedroom of your house, a closet or the garage and really sorted through things, tossing the clutter? My dad is notorious for bringing old things “back from the dead” or the trash pile at our house because “You never can tell when you may need something.” Now my dad is probably the most creative person I know when it comes to reusing items: he can make anything out of nothing, it’s awesome. But isn’t it funny when you clear out a lot of that clutter, how much room and space you have? The room takes on a whole new look does it not? I love re-organizing space; my husband constantly shakes his head and grins at how many times I have rearranged our spare bedroom closet. We have only been married for a little over a month and I have probably cleaned it every weekend since then! I have to be transparent with you however; although I may be an impeccable organizer of space in a home, my life is cluttered. Many people struggle with specific sin “cluttering” their lives like pornography, love of money and financial advancements; mine clutter is fear.

I was sitting church last Sunday listening to the sermon on the beatitude found in Matthew 5:3 which states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” As the sermon progressed, I felt this tug on my heart in this area of fears. Being poor in Spirit, as Pastor Mark explained, deals with two components of humility and transparent. Humble in the sense that we need to be willing to admit, “We need help!” Christ did not come to this earth to tell us, “Thou shalt hold it all together!” (I wonder if Jesus/God/Holy Spirit J giggles at how we throw in “shalt’s” and “thou’s.”) No, Christ came to take that yoke upon himself and we are simply to rely upon him. I think when we boil it down, our desire to hold it all together doesn’t stem from a heart of wanting to do things right but rather hidden pride. Pride can come in all shapes and sizes. Proverbs 16:5 says, “5Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” We can all recognize arrogance and are quick to judge that individual for being so arrogant, when in reality, my little fear-fests everyday are not any better. Whether a man is boasting outwardly or inwardly he is still boasting. Fear tiptoes along this line of inward boasting: “I need to perform, I need to do well, I need to be efficient because of xyz.” Or, “If I don’t do this, I am going to look so bad, and/or have to admit that I am not who I should be.” What you should be is a humble, transparent Christ-follower that is dependent upon your God. This “should be” always haunts me throughout my day as if I am not as efficient enough, thorough enough or even funny enough, I am a failure. These thoughts of failure clutter my mind just like the spare bedroom closet containing random things we say we are going to use ‘one day!’ We hoard our fears, churning them over and over in our minds throughout our days as if thinking about them will scare you into performing better. As you look back on your day you may ask yourself, “So….what was I so afraid of in those moments? What did I even accomplish?” It’s silly! But I believe this fear-fest truly stems from a heart of non-reliance and rest in the God of REST! James 5:5-6 says

5Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? 6But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Grace, some versions use “upholds.” What a magnificent word! Do you ever feel like you need something lifted up during your day? Maybe it’s your body! You’ve exhausted yourself from the trials of the day so much that physically you’re aching of tension (cough, cough, everyday!). Not only uphold but in verse 5 it says that God yearns; He yearns jealously over the spirit he has made to dwell in us! Not a spirit of arrogance, organization-extraordinaire, nor independence from God, but a Spirit that WORSHIPS God. A Spirit that relies upon God. How awful yet wonderful to know that during my day of worry and fear that I have a God jealous over my cluttered mind; readily providing grace without me even knowing it!

So how do we change? We need clean-house: not become more organized, but clean-house on our worries. This first begins with humble acceptance of our need for God; recognize, it’s not about us! No matter how much is at stake, your worrying is making your God jealous because ‘7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline,’ as it says in 2 Timothy. So any other ‘spirit’ ---especially of fear, is counterintuitive of what God has given us: aka, WRONG! Seek power, love and self-discipline. Admit to God that you do not have the self-discipline to remove these fears from your day; that they overwhelm you driving to work or at work or at home with family. Ask for power to overcome them and the ability to love those around you. That is something that really frustrates me at the end of the day, I look back and ask myself, “How did I show recognition and love to those around me today?” Usually my answer is nowhere to be found because my day was spent slaving over my cluttered mind.

Does this all make sense? I hope so. Can you see how when you really dig-deep enough into your cluttered mind, that the clutter is not coming from poor organization but rather a prideful heart: a heart that desires an independent spirit from the God who loves you. Reject the spirit of timidity today and seek the Spirit that provides power, love and self-discipline.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miss to Mrs

Part I ( because I have too much to say!)

Well, it is hard to believe but just a few weeks ago, I married an incredible man and began the beautiful yet probably scary road to something called a marriage! And to tell you the truth, I actually feel so much better on this side of the ceremony than on the other! So often you hear of girls dreaming about the “Big Day,” myself included, but as my wedding drew closer I found myself discovering areas that were not a part of my dream. I had this idea of writing this devo just a few days before the wedding: I was trying to stop and reflect on the whole process of preparing for the wedding rather than freaking out about the last minute details that weren’t falling into place. I tried to think of acronyms to go with the term “Mrs.” The letters relate to the process of going from a single woman to a married woman while maintaining a sense of joy:
M-Make time
R-Rest in Him
S-Surrender emotions
In reality, these principles can be related to all stages of life but I found that they are most needed during this transition. Allow me to expound! Make time. Ha! You may be thinking, “Ok Joni, allow me to wave my magic wand and ‘kapoof’ TIME!” I know, I know, it isn’t that simple is it? But I don’t literally mean create more time or even really ‘cut-out’ things from your schedule but it is important to set aside time to be with the Lord, friends/family and yourself. Preparing for a marriage doesn’t involve just the wedding, it involves life-changes and you will need the Lord, you will need a community and you will need sanity! I was running when I came up with this idea for a devo: running has always served as my little piece of ‘me time.’ I love mornings (as you can tell by the time this devotional was written!) and so that is usually the time I set aside for the Lord. Probably the area that I must admit that I struggle in, is squeezing in the time for my friends and family. I am a driven individual that loves order, and progress and so it is difficult for me sometimes to just stop and enjoy a person near me. This would be the area that I failed-in prior to the wedding and it showed. When I did get to have some ‘girl time’ or ‘family time’ I was exhausted or continuously running my brain to go over the mental list I needed to accomplish. Now, I must also be realistic and say, “I planned a wedding in four months!” So of course things were tight with time being the greatest pinch, however you should never neglect making time. What does the Bible say about all this? Let’s look at a few verses relating to the topic of ‘making time.’
Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Look at the fruit that came from Jesus going off to a solitary place: He was able to have a focus on preaching in nearby villages, and to drive out demons!
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I realize that this passage is referring the church as a whole following Pentacost---but we can still apply the principle of the matter, “Fellowship is important!” Not because God wants us to have our own little social clubs and feel like we belong---but because it represents Him! He is continuously in fellowship with himself and so we are worshipping God when are meeting together, sharing our resources---like time!
Titus 1:3-5
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Ha! I am sure a few people see this verse and have an immediate response; however, I want you to read it five times first! First off, I love this passage because I think of all these little old ladies having too much wine (I know, that’s not necessarily what it’s saying---but it’s a funny picture is it not?). The point of sharing this scripture is to see the importance of older women, yes, your mom included, in teaching you how to become a wife. I realize that moms are not perfect: you may have a mom that neglected you greatly and the last thing you want is her advice on how to be a wife; or perhaps your mom passed away and you cannot go to her for advice on the matter---that’s ok! This passage opens up the door and includes “older women” they don’t have to be in a nursing home –they could even be an older sister, someone you work with or even your new mother in law—I know that may be pushing it for a few of you (mine happens to be a counselor so it works out!). Notice the importance of these older women speaking into the younger ones about loving their husbands and children, learning how to be self-controlled, and pure. “Busy at home” may or may not cause you to wince just because so many women struggle with the thought of ‘just being a stay-at-home-mom.’ When in reality, it’s a great privilege and technically, one of the woman’s greatest duties within a marriage is to prepare a home; a place of rest and settlement for all those who inhabit it (herself included---that’s why you can splurge a little on the d├ęcor, or at least that’s my reasoning! Hehe!) Being kind, and subject to their husbands: just their husbands, not other men and notice it ends with the reality that we can actually distort the true Word of God if we don’t practice these Biblical principles! Ok. I think you have the picture on “Make time.” Let’s move on to R!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Moments of Trust

(Photo of myself in my Grandpa and Grandmas in Wisconsin, happy and healthy!)

I am feeling most challenged on this topic of trust lately. I am at a bit of a crossroads in my life and so it is easy to become overwhelmed with the countless possibilities and events that will take place in the course of the day let alone the next few months. As I sat in church this past Sunday listening to a sermon on Proverbs 3:5-6, I couldn’t help but want to apply this scripture to my life: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” As our Pastor took this verse and explained key aspects to the act of trusting God, he shared several stories from his life as well as within his family of moments that trust was demonstrated either between one another or between himself and God. I began to think about my life and moments of trust. As a little baby, I experienced a time-period between the ages of 8 months to 2 years that I had several seizure episodes with the possibility of having a chronic condition. My mom retells this story every year on my birthday to remind herself and myself of God’s faithfulness in my life. She remembers standing over my crib every night watching me, afraid that I would have another episode. She often would call my grandmother (her mother), Erma, so fearful and my Grandma Erma would simply say, “Dorothy, I have prayed about it, and I really feel that she is going to be ok—I just have a sense of peace about this all.” Mom would reply, “I just don’t have that ability right now, my faith is so weak with fear.” And Grandma Erma said, “Well then, just rely on God through my prayers!” My Grandmother Erma had such faith and trust in God in those moments that she was able to act as a pillar, a tangible mediator on behalf of God---not desiring to be relied on because of her own strength, but because of her own faith and trust in a faithful God.

Lo and behold, I quit having seizures and when my brain was fully developed, I was told I wouldn't experience them anymore! Praise God! A miracle! The bittersweet part of this moment of trust in my life is that my sweet Grandma Erma passed away not too long after I was healed. I don’t remember interacting with her, but I cannot help but feel that the prayers she invested in me as a child have impacted me well beyond that trial. It is so good for us to recall these moments of trust in the past to remember that God is faithful! He is on our side! He will never leave us nor forsake us. He does not desire to give us a snake when we ask for a piece of bread.

Additionally, in the act of trusting God with either our very life or a situation within our life, we are to let go of leaning on our own understanding. This is the very center of my thorn in my side: I stubbornly rely on my own abilities, intellect and resources. Even if you recognize those gifts are from God, you still cannot rely on them! God desires for us to surrender our own understanding. In the sermon, our Pastor shared these other verses in regards to the aspect of leaning not on your own understanding:

Proverbs 11:28 “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish like a green leaf.”

Proverbs 28:26 “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

It is so easy to fall into the habit of relying on your own understanding. I will often try and anticipate what God is doing in certain situations in my life and say to myself, “Oh! I bet this is what God is doing, or perhaps this is what God is teaching me.” When in reality, this mentality is wrong! It is not wrong to attempt to discern God’s leading, but it is wrong to always try and figure things out on your own: “I got this God, I know what I need to do.” Watch out! This habit of relying on yourself is deeply rooted in our sinful nature dating back to the Garden. What did Adam and Eve eat from? The tree of Knowledge in Good and Evil. Think about that, Eve wanted to know for herself instead of simply walking with God and her husband. So often, we too “just want to know.” We pray, “God, I just want to know what is going on here! Why is my life like this? Why is it so difficult or Why can’t I just be free from this!” When in reality, God doesn’t want you to have to carry the burden that He does: it is not a burden to Him because He is God of the universe: we are merely human. The heartbeat of our God is to be loved and trusted by his children: for us to rely on Him and desire for Him. Like a father desires for his child to trust him in certain moments here on earth, so much greater does our Father desire for us to simply walk with Him in these moments of life: both in times of trial and success.

What about you? Take a moment right now, and recall just one moment of trust in your past. If you are having difficulty recalling a time, read the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis to get your mind reflecting on another’s moment of trust. You’ve experienced a moment, trust me! (Ha! No pun intended) When you recall that moment, praise God for it—even if it was years ago, praise Him for it right now. Thank Him for the countless times he has been faithful to you and your needs and then surrender whatever your facing right now as well as your understanding of it. Wait. Wait for the Lord either to respond with His overwhelming peace or deliverance in some form or fashion. Whatever the outcome, know that it is best because God’s way is always best. Our minds are so finite and can barely make-out things two feet in front of us; God sees eternity behind and before Him. Take a moment and simply trust!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trusting in Chariots

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Trust in the Name of the LORD Our God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1May the LORD(A) answer you in the day of trouble!
May(B) the name of the God of Jacob(C) protect you!
2May he send you help from(D) the sanctuary
and give you support from(E) Zion!
3May he(F) remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
4May he(G) grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5May we shout for joy over(H) your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our(I) banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
6Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with(J) the saving might of his right hand.
7Some trust in(K) chariots and some in(L) horses,
(M) but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
9O LORD, save(N) the king!
May he answer us when we call.
Cross references:
A. Psalm 20:1 : Gen 35:3
B. Psalm 20:1 : Prov 18:10
C. Psalm 20:1 : Psalm 59:1; 69:29
D. Psalm 20:2 : Psalm 73:17; 2 Chr 20:8
E. Psalm 20:2 : Psalm 128:5
F. Psalm 20:3 : Acts 10:4
G. Psalm 20:4 : Psalm 21:2
H. Psalm 20:5 : Psalm 9:14
I. Psalm 20:5 : Psalm 60:4; Song 6:4, 10
J. Psalm 20:6 : Psalm 28:8
K. Psalm 20:7 : Isa 31:1; 36:9
L. Psalm 20:7 : Prov 21:31
M. Psalm 20:7 : 1 Sam 17:45; 2 Chr 32:8
N. Psalm 20:9 : Psalm 48:2 ESV

While driving in your car, you trust that your seatbelt will keep you from being ejected if an accident were to occur. While riding a bike, you wear a helmet trusting that it will protect your head if ever you were to fall off. While baking cookies, you trust that the oven mit you put on your hand will keep it from getting burned. These are all obvious, common sense things that we trust in every day right?

Well take it a step further and think about some emotional and psychological securities you may have: do you make sure you have plenty of money sitting your bank account just in case you need to buy something? What about your job? Do you work 50+ hours in your attempts to secure your position, pleasing people while paying an outrageous mortgage with three little ones and a loving wife at home? Do you spend endless amounts of time studying and preparing for exams that it sucks the joy and life out of every day? What about spending loads of money on cosmetics to make your face look younger, and a physical trainer to help you keep your body toned and sleek? What about transitioning your kids into adults? Do you have a tendency to put ridiculous amounts of rules and regulations on them, expectations so that they grow up and transition as easily as possible, without any challenge or conflict along the way? And lastly, when you lay your head down at night on your pillow, do you fall asleep with the mentality, “I am good enough, if I were to die tonight, I would go to heaven: I pray, go to church, help out the needy every once in a while….”

When trouble arises within your life? What is your “go-to?” In Psalm 20, David writes a series of almost prayer-like phrases to the reader, encouraging them to put their trust in the LORD. During his time, people put their trust in the power of the Egyptian army: these men rode on chariots and horses and were extremely powerful. I think of the movie, "The Prince of Egypt," or maybe the "Ten Commandments," when I read this text and envision this wall of soldiers racing to the Red Sea to try and stop the Isralites from crossing. What happened to these men on chariots and horses though? The Red Sea collapsed upon them and they all died. Their chariots did not save them in moments of battle. We have plenty of battles that go on everyday that we attempt to fight with our "Modern Day Chariots."

In times of hardship, rather than relying on your health and physical capabilities, your performance at work, your creativity in organization and your ability to persuade and communicate---putting your trust in God. Rather than relying on pleasurable things like sex, alcohol, pornography, sports, romantic novels and movies----putting your trust in God. Rather than relying on giving your kids everything they need, exhausting yourself in every activity known-to-man, studying harder ..putting your trusting in God. And rather than seeking out your daily quota of good deeds for the day to fulfill your requirement to earn your salvation, putting your life in the hands of Jesus Christ---and trusting that the LORD our God will save you.
Just stop and take a few minutes meditating on Psalm 20. Maybe explore those cross-references like “L” in verse 6 leads you to Isaiah and gives more insight on these “chariots” and “horses.” There are things in life that make sense to do –wearing a helmet, a seatbelt and using oven mits –I am not saying disregard these things and just rely on the LORD to save you  But what is it that you cling to if something were to happen to your loved ones? Your job? Your body? Do you ever imagine what life would be like without those things? If you cannot imagine seeing your life without them ---you need to take a step back and have a heart-check. I am not saying neglect your kids, your job, your body, your finances---but don’t also put all of your hope, joy and peace into those things—even a life is a temporary thing. Invest in things that will last by putting your trust in the LORD and believing that HE is big enough , strong enough, loving enough and forgiving enough to save you from whatever your facing!