Friday, December 30, 2011

Was 2011 a Success?

I've been pondering 2011 a lot these last couple weeks. And as I sit down to write this blog, there are just under 37 hours left in the year.

Last New Year's Eve all five members of my family sat down and wrote out a letter to the Lord- a list of our hopes and prayers, of our goals for 2011. Tomorrow sometime we will open them and see if and how things were answered. I suppose in a way we could use it to evaluate whether or not we consider 2011 to have been a successful year.

Honestly, I have forgotten a lot of the things I wrote in my letter. I do remember three goals. I wanted to lose 75 lbs, the term "epic failure" doesn't begin to express how bad I dropped the ball on that one. Another goal was to journal to the Lord every day. I didn't make it. I started out strong, but it didn't last, but I did fill two journals full of prayers and conversations, and am into my third. It's not a failure, it's just not the success I was hoping for. My third goal was to read through my entire Bible this year. I'm very excited about the fact that that goal will be accomplished by tomorrow evening. I've never done it before, but this year I will have (in Jesus' name.) One thing I didn't dare to hope I also accomplished, I wrote my first book in 2011. It's not much more than a stack of papers right now, but the potential for God's purpose is there. I know He was with me in the process.

Last New Year's Eve at a church service I was given a Bible verse, just as I was practically every year for almost two decades. It was Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. And I'm going to be honest, I wasn't thrilled, the only one I liked less was when I got Psalm 23:4 a few years before (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...) But as always, even with Psalm 23:4, I saw the Lord was in fact speaking into the year ahead.

My reaction was eyes rolling and a heavy sigh of "not again!" My family laughed that once again I got one of THOSE scriptures. I was focused on the afflictions when the Lord was all about the deliverance, but I just could not know. I tried to rebuke the verse, but it was just a couple weeks into the New Year when Victoria came home with a Bible card she'd earned at school. She was reading it to me from the back seat of the van on the way home. "And the Bible verse is Psalm 34:19, Mommy, do you know it?" she asked. I told her I did, and I asked her if I could keep the card.

My prayer for the year of 2011 was a prayer for "jubilee." I was praying for freedom from financial debt, but the Lord answered it in His own way- truly a better way, that I could not have foreseen. I'll keep praying for freedom from financial debt, but I am grateful for better kinds of freedom, like freedom to hope again.

I lost my voice over the Christmas season this year. Funny thing about induced silence, it makes you a better listener. I was disappointed not to be able to sing Christmas carols with my church family. As I stood silently though, the Lord reminded me how often I get distracted by the sound of my own voice. I lose its purpose, giving honor to the Lord, when I become too consumed with how I sound. It's not just true in signing in church, it's true in life. I need to beware of becoming so consumed with "appearances" that I lose track of what the heart is supposed to be behind them. God was able to move my heart when I couldn't move my lips. It's a fact I am continuing to ponder.

This picture represents the best parts of 2011 for me (not counting people.)



My mom bought me the "Unlocking the Bible" series and my Kindle for Christmas 2010. I used the reading plan in the back of "Unlocking" and read through the books as they corresponded and it was life changing. My Kindle became a constant companion, and as a formerly avid reader, the e-reader re-Kindle-d my passion. I read probably two dozen books (after the prior year of not finishing two) and two of them I would consider life-changing: Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chloe and A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards (read that one in just the last two days.)

The 100 Verse Challenge was birthed our of the 100 Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart, we started it in September and I've memorized 30 verses already - awesome. I had the privilege of facilitating not one, but two bible studies this year. Who could foresee the irony of "Becoming a Woman of Freedom"? And the transtion represented in "Duty of Delight" has been an ongoing theme this year for me. The women I shared these studies with have established themselves firmly in my heart.

My journals represent a year of finally fully striving after the right thing in my life, a closer walk with the Lord. My new church, and particularly the "Hole in the Gospel" series we went through has has an impact on my life I could never have foreseen. And my Max Lucado Bible has been a gift, and my best companion in 2011.

This New Year's Eve I won't be pulling a card with a scripture like I have all these years before. So I asked the Lord to show me what the scripture was for me to hold to. After I asked I opeened my Bible to check out what reading was coming up in my plan, and the book of Habakkuk stood out to me. The next morning at church my pastor shared a verse from it.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

Habakkuk 2:3


When I asked the Lord for my scripture, I prayed He would help me be sure. I have been asking Him questions of "when?" and "how long?" all throughout this year. Some He has answered, some I stillwait and wonder. When my pastor read this verse the next morning, he read it, and he said, emphatically, "wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it..." I knew the Lord was helping me be sure. And just to confirm it, a mom at Victoria's birthday party brought it up again later that day. I feel confident this is the verse I am to hold to in 2012.

I am waiting with hope and expectation, confident not in the answer, but in the One who answers. Because I have learned in 2011, even if it isn't the answer I might imgine, the Lord's way is alwas the best.

For the first time in a very long time, I can say with all honesty that I feel like I am in a very different place spiritually than I was a year ago. And in all honesty, that makes 2011 an absolute success. I look forward to what 2012 will bring.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

100 Verses- Week 16

Merry Christmas!!!


Hey all! Jake here. Mama's up to her elbows in prime rib right now so I'm gonna give you this week's verse aaaaaaaand here it is!!!





Enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulnes endures through all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5

Sunday, December 18, 2011

100 Verses - Week 15 - Easter

Christmas is just a week away. We are about to head into one of the busiest weeks of the year. If you are like me, there is still shopping for gifts to be done, packages will need to be wrapped. I have a special meal to plan, and all the shopping and preparation to do as well. I am grateful that the calendar is somewhat open, the kids' Christmas program is behind us, and our church Growth Groups are on a break, so evenings are open, but there is still much to be done. And of course we want to spend time together enjoying family, and most of all remembering the Reason for the Season, celebrating Jesus.

For those of you participating in our 100 Verse Challenge, you'll be relieved to know that we only have one verse this week. So in the midst of the busyness, the Challenge might be a little easier, only one verse to meditate on and commit to memory.

When I got up this morning and turned to the new chapter in 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart to see what verse we would be learning, I was kind of excited to see the verse we're learning could actually be considered an Easter verse. Why would I be excited about an Easter verse in the week leading up to Christmas, you might ask? The answer is simple, because without Easter, Christmas doesn't really mean much at all.

Without Easter the Christmas story is just a tale about a young woman giving birth in a difficult situation. If it were not for Easter, the Angels would have had nothing to proclaim, the shepherds would not have been drawn to the stable and the wise men would have had no reason to come and worship. Without Easter, Christmas isn't anything special at all.

Easter is the reason the Baby was born. Easter is the reason Jesus came. He came to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins, and on Easter morning when He rose again, Christmas became a day that mattered more than anyone could have fully realized as the Baby was laid in the manger that night. We never would have realized the Gift we were all given that night from the Father of Lights.

Here is our verse for memorizing this week:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3


One thing it does not look like I will be getting to do this week is sing. I woke up yesterday morning with almost no voice, and now it's pretty much gone. A good hoarse whisper is about the best I've got. This morning at church I listened as Christmas carols were sung. They sang my favorite, "Joy to the World."

I would like to leave you with one final thought with the words to this beautiful song:

Joy to the world
the Lord has come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room.


Think about our verse this week, and take heed to the invitation in this song. Prepare your heart to receive the Gift your Heavenly Father gave you on Christmas- a Savior who came to save your soul by giving His life as a sacrifice for you, and conquering death that you might have eternal life. Jesus is indeed the Reason for the season, and if you know that, then your Christmas will surely be Joy-filled, for you have much to celebrate!



Merry CHRISTmas!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

100 Verses - Week 14 - Ungraspable Grace

We have arrived at the 14th week of our Challenge. Our two verses from 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart this week are again consecutive and from what could arguably be the most significant chapter in all of the Old Testament, dare I say the whole Bible. They were prophetic when written, but for us a beautiful account of the Truth of our salvation today.

Robert J. Morgan shares his own insights in the book for our final two verses in the section titled "Assurance: Inner Peace and Security," but this week I want to share my own thoughts about the passage we'll be memorizing this week:

But He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6


I get emotional as I read this passage. I struggle to even put into words the way it touches my heart in the deepest and darkest places. This truth is so amazing... it's Amazing Grace, really. The imbalance that I see here. I can't fully express it. Let me break it down in the way I read it.

Our transgressions...
Our iniquities...
We all went astray...
We all have turned our own way...

He was pierced...
Crushed....
Punishment was on Him...
His wounds...
The LORD punished Him...


For our peace...
We are healed...


Why? It's a question that can never be answered, because it's a love we cannot comprehend. No matter how much we love, our love has limits. You see it everywhere, estranged children, divorced couples, broken friendships. Our love is limited. We can reach a point of pain where we choose to walk away. Jesus never did. And the pain we have inflicted upon Him, is more than we can even fathom.

I love the Lord, and I honestly think about Him constantly. I have said many times, if He was still walking around here on earth, I would be His stalker. But I fail Him every day: an unkind word, a selfish attitude, a sinful thought. The things I did before I knew Him? Sinful beyond words. But every one of those sins, were wounds He bore so He could forgive me. And still I fail. And still He loves. To me, the reality of His grace cannot be grasped, but I am so thankful it can be received.

As the holidays approach, I need to remind myself that this is what Christmas is really all about. Celebrating my Savior, who loves me more than I can fathom. And the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all. So the truth is, He died to forgive all, and yet so many celebrate CHRISTmas without even knowing the gift He died to give them as well. So I encourage you, as you work on your verses this week, not only ponder the wonder of the gift you've already been given, but consider passing that gift along to some that don't and perhaps they can unwrap the Geatest Gift ever this CHRISTmas season.




PS DON'T FORGET TO RSVP TO THE 2ND LEG THAT BEGINS ON JANUARY 1, 2012!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lamentation

Lamentation

Tomorrow seems to loom and say,
"I have no intention of going your way."

"My purpose is not in what you plan,
You can't direct me, only a fool thinks she can."

My heart's discouraged because I cannot see,
What in the world is planned for me.

I seem to fail, no matter how I strive,
To keep my diligence and determination alive.

What must God think when He can see,
All the hurt and anger that reside in me?

Feelings are not friends, can't trust what they say,
For me I often find, they just get in the way.

I don't feel like praying, of calling out to God,
Today my faith feels like nothing more than a facade.

Questioning so many, who call themselves my "friends,"
Actions speak louder than what the word pretends.

Then I have to wonder, is that the voice of dark oppression?
I honestly cannot say, that is a true confession.

When the feelings come, I want not to lift my head,
I'd honestly rather wallow and be swallowed up instead.

This the walk of a Christian? Surely it ought not be.
But this is how it happens, when my focus is only me.

Lord, forgive me for this bent, that draws my eyes away.
How I long for a steadfast focus that would never remotely stray.

My heart is troubled, which You said not to let it be,
"Believe in God," You said, "Believe also in Me."

I believe, I believe, I believe the Truth and not the lie.
My faith must rise, and my heart and feelings it must defy.

I pray the prayer of the prophet, "Lord, help my unbelief,"
For when my eyes are fixed on You, then I'll find relief.

Thank You God that you remember, I am alone but dust;
But You, my faithful Father, are deserving of my trust.

Help me not to falter, but to find my strength in You.
Lifter of my head, lift my eyes toward what is true.

Forgiven, not forsaken, chosen and set apart,
Written on Your hand, kept lovingly in Your heart.

Thank you for Your patience, and a friendship that is real,
Not defined by my circumstance, or by what I feel.

I'm longing for the peace of Your presence, in it's where I want to be,
For there I can exchange this hurt for joy, and in You I'll be free.

By Diana DePriest
© December 7, 2011


"Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.
John 14:1-3

Sunday, December 4, 2011

100 Verses - Week 13

Week 13. This week we continue in our portion titled "Assurance: Inner Peace and Security." It's the time of year when the word "Peace" is easily and frequently found. It's on tiny ornaments on the Christmas tree, it's on the stamps of Christmas cards, it's on the cover of the Christmas cards inside those envelopes, "Peace, peace, peace." The word is everywhere, but the sense of it can be very difficult to find.

As people look to the traditions of holidays, and they spy a shortage in their bank account for the "disposable income" for gifts, many of us don't feel a lot of peace. Spend twenty minutes at Wal-Mart or a mall, and you'll be hard pressed to find peace pushing through the intensity and chaos of the Christmas shoppers, that's assuming you get past the peace-stealing process of parking the car. The world proclaims peace, but it doesn't offer much, not even at Christmas. Which is why our first verse this week is so beautiful to me.

Verse 1:

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.
John 14:27


What a beautiful truth. The peace Christ has for us is not temporary or easily affected the way the peace of the world is. It is deep and abiding. Robert J. Morgan encourages us to remember this verse and in times are hard to close your eyes and hear Jesus Himself whisper it to your heart. His peace is precious, and it is His gift to you.

The second verse from 100 Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart this week is one of my all time favorites! It's one I have recited to myself and prayed over others a thousand times. Have you ever looked at something to hard that everything else around it sort of distorts and fades from your view? That's what this verse makes me think of.

You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You,
for it is trusting in You.

Isaiah 26:3


The version I have memorized says "the mind that is fixed on You." When our minds are fixed, focused on the Lord, it overpowers whatever other "stuff" is trying to demand our focus. It makes the appearance of the Lord so keen, that we cannot see anything else, and no worry, fear or anxious thought can draw away our eyes from the Truth.

Every year at Christmas we pull out our stocking hangers. It's five letters, they spell out "P-E-A-C-E." Last year, my husband Neal suggested that we not put them away with all the other Christmas decorations after the holidays. So we didn't. And for the entire year "Peace" has stood on our mantle. I think it's an appropriate metaphor for the Christian life. Jesus may be "the Reason for the Season," but for us, He is celebrated in our home every day, 365 days a year. And because of that, His peace, His true peace is ours every day.



To the 100 Verse Challenge participants, thank you! Thank you for being here and learning God's word with us so faithfully. Be sure to RSVP to the Second Leg of the Challenge that starts on January 1st. I hope this Challenge has been as much of a blessing to you as it has been to me!

If you're new here, or just finally deciding you want to participate you can catch the last couple weeks of the Challenge by RSVP'ing here. (But that link will only get you through the next few weeks, RSVP to the 2nd leg as well.) Or just join the "100 Verses in a Year Group" on Facebook.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do Discipline

Discipline isn't discipline when there is no restoration, it's punishment. And punishment isn't a godly example in any way shape or form.

This holds true whether you are disciplining as a parent, a pastor or a boss. If you never restore the one you have "disciplined" then you have completely missed the point of the discipline in the first place, and in all likelihood done far more harm than good.

If the one who is under the discipline walks away feeling condemned rather than convicted then you have to take a hard look at the process, more so than the person. It is the one who is in the position of authority over another who has the greater responsibility, not the one who needs the discipline. In reality, so often as leaders (parents, pastors, teachers, bosses) the reason for necessary discipline can in many ways be traced back to a lack of instruction. As the same authority who is responsible for the instruction as the discipline, we need to take a hard look at what we can do to correct what caused the fault/ failure/ sin in the first place.

The key to good discipline is love. And it isn't evaluated by how the one who doing the discipline INTENDS it, the love is defined by the one who receives it. Now granted this isn't a foolproof litmus test, some people don't receive correction well. The Bible describes those kind of people as "fools," but again, that would indicate a greater burden would fall to the one who is wise, the one who's job it is to correct, and to discipline.

A fool spurns a parent’s discipline,
but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

Proverbs 15:5


I believe this passage refers not only to actual physical parents, but spiritual parents as well (pastors, elders, teachers).

The origin of discipline is in the Lord, more specifically, in the LOVE of the Lord.

My son, do not despise the chastening (discipline) of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens
(disciplines),
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

Hebrews 12:5-6

But discipline always, always, ALWAYS should come with RESTORATION. I think of when Peter "sinned" against Jesus in his denial of Christ. It's an account in in the 21st chapter in the Book of John, and sincerely, for many reasons, it is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, including what I see in restoration. Three times Peter denied knowing Christ. It's an interesting dichotomy here of Christ's prophecy of it, could it have been a warning? If it was, it was one that Peter blazed right past. (I love that Peter, he gives me hope!) But either way, Peter committed the sin, and three times he denied Christ.

Peter's discipline was the natural consequence of the guilt and pain of committing the sin. (Sometimes, natural consequences, a parent's disappointment, seeing the pain one has inflicted IS sufficient discipline, other times a harsher consequence must be added on-- whole other blog post.) The reality is, Peter sinned THREE times, THREE denials of knowing Christ. And when Jesus came to the side of the sea and called out to Peter on the boat, I can't begin to imagine Pete's joy, because he saw standing there on the side of the sea, a second chance, of that I am certain. Old Pete put on his coat and dove right in to swim after it.

Next comes, to me, one of the most tender scenes in all the Bible. As Jesus sits down and has a conversation with Peter. I think there was more discipline here, because he asked Peter hard questions about whether or not Peter truly loved Him, and poor Peter felt the weight of his failure, but for the restoration of his failures, Jesus told him THREE times, to get back to doing what Christ had called him to in the first place, “Feed My lambs.” “Tend My sheep.” “Feed My sheep."

Oh glorious God, I could bawl my eyes out right here reading it! That is true restoration, restoring one to be able to serve and walk out his or her faith in the Lord! How many wounded walk away never to find their place in the family again because someone has not disciplined properly, and instead they have added to the list of the bitter and wounded, those hurt "by the church." The heart of God is not in the discipline, it is in the restoration! And that alone is the sole purpose of the discipline in the first place!!

We have to grab hold of this people. This is Truth, and as parents, pastors, leaders, teachers, we need to remember the power and responsibility to discipline another should be worn as a weighty burden, not lorded over others, but carried with fear and trembling. And if we are EVER called to do it, we have not done it properly unless we have completed the process with restoration.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Galatians 6:1-3


The heard of God is always in the redemption, and the redemption is found only in the restoration. Praise be to the God who restores and redeems, let us each seek to be like Him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Suffer an Awakening

We've been at our new church home for eleven Sundays now. Honestly, we couldn't be happier. All change has its challenges, but God has had His hand in our transitioning.

We've been slowly getting plugged in, meeting new people, making new friends. We've joined a home group, Jake has been attending youth group, Ethan and Victoria have started Awana. We took the membership class (and signed on the dotted line) and even participated in a couple of outreach fundraisers, and even attended a really fun concert with one of the pastors and several members of our church.

We haven't plugged in yet to serve, Neal's not playing drums yet, Jake hasn't stepped up to get involved with children's ministry, I haven't even found a place where I fee like I might belong, but all of us still feel a part. My younger kids have actually started serving, and I have been reminded about the Lord's encouragement that what they need as we're raising them is different than the things that were best for Jake.

It's starting to feel like home, and all of us feel really grateful to be there. But for the past few weeks, I have been feeling something else, something new, and painful.

As a church, we are currently going through a series based on the book "The Hole in the Gospel" written by World Vision CEO Richard Stearns. It's a powerful and thought provoking book that talks about where our "personal gospel" is missing the mark, and the way each of us as individuals is missing the heart of God, specifically in what the book of James calls "pure religion."

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James 1:27

The pain I've been feeling, is the slow realization that my personal religion has not, at least for sometime, been either pure or undefiled. These last few Sundays as my family and I drive away from our church, I have sensed such a heavy pain and ache in my chest. It's almost as though I can feel the weight pulling my proverbial heart from my core.

It's a funny thing this ache though. As much as it hurts, it's a good thing. It reminds me of the way I have felt when my arm feels when I've laid on it wrong at night and I wake to a numbness in it. When I shift and move and the circulation is restored, it begins to tingle, and to ache. It's because where life has been held back, the blood begins to flow, and feeling is restored, but before it's "well" and feels healthy again, it has to suffer the discomfort of awakening.

I feel like my heart has been suffering an awakening. Where it has been asleep, and the blood of Christ has not been flowing, life is slowly returning. When the flow of blood is fully restored, so will its strength be.

I want my heart to feel the full flow of the blood of Christ, so that it may wash clean my "personal religion," and make it both pure and undefiled, but the process is painful. Even admitting that this pain is a reality is hard. It's not as though I was backslidden or in rebellion, I was just missing the mark. Which in reality is how sin is defined.

I have been challenged to pray for the Lord to break my heart for what breaks His, and I think this crushing pain I feel is exactly that. He is breaking my heart. But I am grateful for the pain, because it is a sign of life, renewed life, I pray.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

100 Verses - Week 12

It's a holiday weekend, don't you know. And I'm not going to lie, I am BEHIND! That's part of the Walk of Faith, really, sometimes you're running and sometimes you're stumbling. I'm not stumbling in the "being left behind sense," but I am a little focused in other areas this week, like family time and getting my home in order. I've been working my tail off to get my house clean (yes, it was that much work) and to get back on track with my coupon clipping and what not with grocery shopping (today I spent $121, saved $129... I'd like a better margin, but it's a start.) So the truth is, I haven't even read the chapters for this week's verses in 100 Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart, and I have no clue what Robert J. Morgan has to say about them. But I have said all along how you don't even have to have the book to participate in the Challenge, so this week I am going to start out experiencing a little of that for myself. I don't even have the scripture up on the board yet!!

In all honesty we struggled practicing the verses together this past week as well. My little kids were off school for the whole week and we lost our regular practice time, so we will be doing some review this week, and I am already thinking ahead about how I will handle Christmas Break differently. It's obviously going to be an issue.

The good news is this weeks verses are linked to last week's verses, so there's an opportunity to learn them together still. Before I give you this week's verses, let me remind you that you need to RSVP to the 2nd leg if you want to continue with us in the New Year. The current leg of the Challenge ends on New Year's Eve. Click HERE to RSVP to continue in the 2nd leg of the Challenge. Hope you will continue with us! (Of course you can also just continue here on the blog as well.)

OK enough stalling, here on this week's verses:

Verse 1:

If I go away and prepare a place for you,I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.
John 14:3


Verse 2:

Jesus told him, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6


Hope you're Thanksgiving was awesome, I'm thankful for all of you who support the blog and are joining us here in the Challenge!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

100 Verses - Week 11

Going to keep it short and sweet this week (relatively speaking, it's still me after all, haha.)
We're at week 11, and this week's verses are rolled into another "double shot" - two consecutive verses in a single passage. I'll give you a sneak peak and tell you the first verse from next week is the 3rd consecutive verses, to complete a whole passage, in case you want to work ahead. We're in the gospel of John again, and still in the portion of Robert J. Morgan's section entitled: "Assurance - Inner Peace and Security."

Just as a reminder, you don't need the book 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart that our Challenge is based on, but if you're looking for a good book, I would highly recommend this one. It's got some great insights into the verses and explains the reasons behind his choices. So, put it on your wish list. But to participate, you need to pop over here to the blog or onto the Challenge Page on Facebook to RSVP, and every Sunday around 6 PM PST, you can find out the new verses for the coming week. It's not too late to join, we still have 42 weeks (including this one) and some 80+ verses to memorize.

This week my kids and I were reviewing the verses we've been learning so far and it was exciting to see how much has stuck. I was especially proud of my daughter, she was nailing alomost every one! So, you're here, why not join in? What could you possibly regret?

Here is our passage (2 verses) for this week:

Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.
In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.

John 14:1-2

Morgan points out that the context of these verses are important. Let not your heart be troubled... These were not empty words shared in simple times. The Lord told them this just after informing them He would be leaving them. This is a passage of scripture to hold on to "in the most troubling times of life." Morgan encourages us with these words I want to pass on to you: "...it's able to reassure us, too, in life's deepest valleys,darkest days, and strangest twists and turns.We trust in God and in God's Son!"

That, I believe is an encouraging word, and a Word to be thankful for! So as we enter into Thanksgiving week, remember these words, and know whatever you may be facing, God is for you.

By the way, we will soon be entering into the 2nd leg of our Challenge which requires a new RSVP for the second leg. It won't automatically transfer, so click on over HERE and sign back up for part 2, or join is for the first time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Convicted to Remember

Someone challenged me more than year ago to write a novel during the NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - Challenge. At the time I was dismissive, but I kept the idea filed away in my mind. This summer I remembered the challenge and decided to jump in with both feet.

I knew from the beginning what story I wanted to tell. All fiction is rooted in some truth. The story I wanted to share was part of my own testimony, part of the testimony of someone I love, but mostly parts of many stories I have known and heard. (For more on my personal Testimony, click: HERE.)

When I came to Christ, I came broken, destroyed even. Abortion had left a huge scar on my heart and my soul. In reality, God was gracious to me. I suffered that pain for only a few years, compared to women who God later brought into my life who suffered much longer, decades even, I was extremely fortunate. But God did not grant me that grace without a purpose.

For many years I had an online ministry to other women who suffered from post-abortion syndrome. It is like a form of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and it is much more common than one might think, or want to acknowledge. I was fortunate to be placed in the lives of hundreds of women through the anonymity of the internet in the early 90s. I had a ministry called Saving Grace Ministries, and we ran a group called PAWSE - Post Abortion Women, Support & Encouragement. Through this group God helped me to help dozens of women reach out for help in their own churches and communities. I had a front line view of the devastation abortion causes among women, and had the privilege of helping them find healing and wholeness in Christ the way I did, through other supportive women, and most of all through Christ's love and His Word.

In the late 90s I had the privilege to serve in a national ministry called Healing Hearts and was trained to lead a Bible study very much like the one I went through that led me to a recommitted life to Christ, and the healing and wholeness that can only be found in Him. I had the privilege also of facilitating one session of that study, and helping 5 other women find healing in Christ.

I knew the truth, and I did what I could to make an impact for Christ and help women find hope and redemption the way I had. But in 2001 I both adopted and gave birth to a baby in the same year. Two babies born (not quite) ten months apart had a huge impact on my world. The fact that my son's adoption was a nightmare did not help matters at all. For the next three and a half years till we finalized his adoption, it was all I could to to be a wife and mom and juggle life at home. I'm not making excuses, life is seasonal, and God is gracious, but in the process of working on this novel, I have realized how much I have forgotten.

In the 90s when I came to Christ, taking a stand against abortion was fashionable. The fact is, the last 10 or more years in the church, that's no longer the case. Abortion is the issue Christians may vote against, or even make a moral statement against, but fewer and fewer are actually doing anything to take a stand against. The frightening thing about that is that statistically, nothing has changed, the abortion situation is getting no better. The fact is, statistically speaking, in the ten minutes it takes you to read this blog, 23 babies will have been aborted, that's if you imagine abortion happening every minute of every day of the year. Over 2 unborn babies a minute, and not only is their life destroyed, the life of their mother is impacted as well.

As research I watched a 9 week ultrasound on YouTube. That's how far along I was when I had my abortion. Go to YouTube for yourself and see, watch a video from any first trimester ultrasound. These babies are aborted in droves. For every 3 children born in the US, 1 is aborted. As a mother of 3 living children, the irony of that is not lost on me.

The Lord has convicted me greatly these past few months, and especially the past few weeks as I have been writing my novel, that as Christians, we cannot turn a blind eye to the devastation of abortion. The fact is that statistically the percentages are exactly the same both in and out of the church. We need to take a stand for the unborn, but we also need to reach out to the hurting women who are siting in the pews of our churches feeling shame and fearing judgment. And I will tell you, it is not that the church is bringing the shame on women. As a woman who has had an abortion, I can tell you in all honesty, God has created in us an awareness of how unnatural it is to destroy life. Shame comes from the act, not its observation. But it is not God's will that these women continue in pain and shame, it is His will to bring the freedom and wholeness that can only be found in Christ.

Please take a moment to watch this video:



I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live...
Deuteronomy 30:19

Sunday, November 13, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 10!

Amazing! We've made it to week 10! Double digits seem like a bit of a milestone to me, and I would like to congratulate anyone who is still here and still working at the challenge. If you're on track and have memorized all the verses up to now, you are on either your 19th & 20th verses, or your 20th & 21st if you included the "bonus verse" that completed the Roman Road. Either way that's quite an accomplishment! And even if you have only learned some of them, that's still something to be proud of. If by chance you have just stumbled upon us, I encourage you, we have a lot more road before us than we do road behind. We are still going to learn around another 80 verses between now and the end of the Challenge. If you would like to join in, you can click here to RSVP on Facebook for the rest of the first leg of the Challenge, or you can subscribe to the blog on the upper left hand corner of the page.

I don't know about you, but we found Week 9 to be a little difficult around here. The passage from last week was a bit of a tongue twister. We were still working on it even this morning. I'm happy to report that our verses for this week look a little less difficult, and so I'm hoping we'll get both passages down pat by the end of this week.

Interestingly enough, the two verses Robert J. Morgan chose for this week are just a couple verses in the bible before the ones we studied last week. Like last week, our two verses are consecutive and forming a single passage. The math therefore is 1+1=1, so before it gets confusing, it is technically TWO verses, but they are written, and best memorized, together as one passage.

In his book 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart, Morgan lists this weeks verses as the first two under the section he has labeled, "ASSURANCE: Inner Peace and Security." He tells a story abot how when he was in college an older classmate told him to memorize these scriptures. His encouragement to Morgan was that as long as he knew these verses, he would never doubt his salvation. Morgan shares how through the years he has referred back to them many times.

So here we go, ready? Week 10's verses:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life,
and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life.
The one who doesn't have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:11-12

Morgan points out that it is important to note what is NOT in this passage, he says, "there is no maybe, if, might or hope so..." It is a done deal, "irrevocably accomplished," and this is a promise to hold on to.

God has done it, and if you have accepted Christ, you have received with Him life, and life eternal. Because He lives, you live too! What a thrilling truth to hold to!




Links:

Leg one of our Challenge on Facebook (September 11-December 31)to RSVP Click Here

Leg two of our Challenge begins January 1, 2012, to RSVP Click Here

And finally, if you'd like more info on the book that we are basing our Challenge on and its author, you can Click Here. The book is also available on Amazon, Click Here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Famine

"Go hungry, so children don't have to." That was the challenge brought before our church. Honestly I was excited to be a part of a body that was coming together in sacrifice and determination to meet an immediate need for starving children. I'd never received that kind of invitation before. Of course I have heard requests for fundraising, been solicited to donate or help out people in need, but this was different. This was the first time I felt like I was given an invitation to truly participate, and get a (very small)glimpse into their need.

Neal and I are World Vision sponsors. We sponsor two different children, a boy, Jose, who lives in the Dominican Republic, and a girl, Rahel Juju who lives in Tanzania. Each of them are the same ages as Ethan and Victoria respectively. We do help these children, our support makes their world different, and World Vision is an amazing organization. At our church our pastor is currently doing a series on the book "A Hole in Our Gospel," which is written by the president of World Vision, Richard Stearns. But the fact is, I don't even see my payment go to World Vision. It's an automatic payment that it withdrawn monthly from our bank account, it's just a part of our budget, and I don't even give it much more consideration than being aware of it when I balance our checking account. It by no means diminishes what the money does for those children, but I am realizing it has diminished what it does in my heart.

It was only for 24 hours. Eat an early dinner on Thursday night and a late dinner on Friday, and honestly it was only two meals we were asking to say "no" to. The goal was to take whatever money you would have spent on eating out or groceries and donate it to feed children in the Philippines instead.

I was excited because for the first time in 20 years Neal wanted to participate in a fast. I was so excited when I looked over in church a couple weeks ago and saw him check the box. The truth is, the things we've been hearing on Sunday mornings lately have been stirring both our hearts. We're coming to realize that maybe our faith hasn't been all it could be. Maybe in the "circle" of our lives, we were a little more center than either Christ or others, and that is, in essence, the HOLE in our gospel.

We decided to participate as a family. Giving up food isn't easy. Headaches, crankiness, but we were being asked to catch a glimpse, a tiny little glimpse of what millions experience daily. I couldn't have my 9 and 10 year old go to school without food. The reality is, I don't think the school would allow them to go the whole day without. I have on more than one occasion been charged for a $6 "emergency meal" because my kids forgot their lunches on the counter at home. So the children's breakfast and lunch were going to be rice and a little but of canned tuna. It was the closest I could come up with to be the equivalent of what the kids in feeding centers are finding to be a blessing and a bounty. I was hoping to create a little gratitude in the heart of my kids. As for their part in the challenge, the children's ministry was participating in a canned food drive for local families who are battling their own form of famine and need.

There were two things that really stuck with me about the day yesterday. The first was late Thursday night when I was preparing the bowls of rice for my kids. As I tried to find a balance of not giving them "too much" to diminish the insight for them, I thought about what it must be like for the mother finds herself wondering how to find enough. Here I was trying to figure out how not to give my kids too much. I can't imagine what it must be like trying figure out how to make something from nothing.

The second thing that really struck me was how hard it was to avoid food. Jacob came to work with Neal and I that day, and the thing I was most aware of was how much food there was to say no too. There was popcorn and chips to choose from on top of the refrigerator, a salad and yogurt inside of it. There was a box of Gingerbread Men in my desk drawer that I joked about them mocking me all day. It was hard to avoid food. I can't even begin to comprehend what it is to live in so much lack like the children we were trying to help.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit the revelation I was having. I'm not a cold-hearted or insensitive person. I DO care, that's why we are World Vision Sponsors, but my compassion lacked awareness. I'm excited to be a part of a place where I'm not allowed to be blinded to the needs of others any longer. There is pain in opening eyes to a light that it has been shaded from for many years, but it is better to see. Because only when we see can we make a difference. I feel like yesterday, my and my family's eyes were opened a little further to the truth of the needs of the world around us. I just pray I keep them open.

We when we gathered to break fast with communion last night, all of us were challenged to pray a prayer, "Break my heart, with what breaks Yours, Lord." I am praying that prayer now, and I hope it makes me a better tool in the hands of God to touch the world for Jesus. A small group of people raised enough money in a single day with a modicum of sacrifice to feed 185 children for a month! Why wouldn't we want to do that more?? We have the power to change the world, in Jesus' name!

The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 29:7



*** Want to help feed a starving child? Check out crosspointechurch.tv where you can click on "give" and designate to "Manna" or consider sponsoring a child at worldvision.org***

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fat

Have you ever eaten so much that you made yourself sick? Have you had the kind of meal that you ate so far beyond your capacity that it incapacitated you? Maybe a Thanksgiving dinner? Or a potluck? You've stuffed yourself full and you know you should stop but you don't? Have you ever made it your lifestyle? To the point that every time you step on the scale you've found the numbers going up a pound or two?

Physically, I think we've all done at least the meal. Some people like me can relate to fighting to overcome the bad habits of the lifestyle. Fat people live and eat differently than "naturally" thin people. For the thin, food is fuel, a stop in the road. For the fat, food is a destination, a place to get to. Whether you are fat or thin in body, you are one of these types of people in your head. You may have the will to overcome it, you may counter it as best you can with exercise and movement or by limiting what you take in, but if you are "fat-minded" food is still a destination and not a pit stop, and that means there is a problem, to be specific, a sin problem.

The food itself isn't the evil (truly thin people do not find themselves consumed with the count of every calorie, carb or fat gram.) The "evil" lies in the control that the food holds over us. It's the hidden spiritual issue that needs to be overcome, and probably why God listed "gluttony" as one of the seven deadly sins. I don't think He was expressing a concern about diabetes or high cholesterol, I think he was addressing "heart disease," and I don't just mean physically.

The tightening in my waistline has made me very aware of the physical ramifications of that kind of the fat-minded person's lifestyle, but only recently have I seen the depths of living that way spiritually. And I know I'm not the only one. Spiritually speaking it isn't "food" that makes us fat, but like the overeaten meal on Thanksgiving Day, it's the overabundance that incapacitates us. I think of Jesus' interaction with the rich young ruler in the gospel of Luke chapter 18:

18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”[a]
21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”
22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.


I think this young man was spiritually "fat." He had stuffed himself so full, that he couldn't even move. He wanted to follow Jesus, but his overabundance of "satisfaction" kept him from being able to get off the couch.

I think when we get spiritually "fat" we lay aside our commission to become "fishers of men" and turn ourselves into keepers of an aquarium. Forgive the multitude of metaphors here, but we become so satisfied with what's on our own table, and in our own bellies, that we become completely oblivious to the starving just outside our door. And when I say starving, I refer both to those starving physically and those starving spiritually.

I don't think it's intentional, but I think it is the risk we run here in the American church with our abundance; and the "heart disease" that comes from spiritual gluttony is a huge issue we need to overcome. We sit and thank God for our bounty, but our memory of what it was to be hungry (physically and spiritually speaking) is so completely faded, that we don't really appreciate what we have. And instead of being satisfied with "enough," we overindulge, and even suffer a consequence for it with a stagnation that is easily ignored if you find yourself surrounded by other "fat-minded" people.

It's then that we become "aquarium keepers" rather than the "fishers of men" we were called to be. We get focused on wrong things. First off, we forget that what we "have" isn't really ours, and was never intended to lull us into a place of complacenncy. We get to thinking of ourselves as owners rather than stewards. Like in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), what God has given to us was intended to be multiplied. Not for the purpose of us having more, but for the purpose of furthering of His kingdom.

There is a need to become "spiritually thin." In Hebrews 12:1 the Bible tells us "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us I think God is calling us to thin out, and cease to overindulge. We need to remember what it is to be spiritually hungry.

I know I have a habit of not allowing myself to find physical hunger, but only recently have I begun to realize how much I have been too "satisfied" spiritually for too long. One of the most obvious ways to realize you are "fat" is to be surrounded by thin people. Never am I more aware of my thick waistline than when I am standing next to a thin friend for a photograph. Likewise, what I am finding, is that when you enter into a place of "spiritually thin" people, it magnifies your awareness of being spiritually fat as well.

God has brought me into a place where I am suddenly surrounded by the spiritually thin (and interestingly enough, many of them seem pretty fit and thin physically as well) and all I can think is how much I want to get to that place. I want to get to the place where I am focused on fishing men, looking outside the confines of my aquarium.

I want to find my way back to physically thin, but never have I realized the need to get there spiritually as well. I want to touch the world for Christ, and point people to the cross. There's a world starvig out there, and it's time to get off the couch and do something about it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 9

Super excited to still be here in week 9 learning the Word of God with those of you who are joining in with me. I look forward to Sunday each week finding out what the new verses of focus will be. I have a spiral notebook of index cards that I write my verses out in each week. I try to keep it with me regularly. When I'm driving it's in my center console so I can practice it with my kids. It's always part of our morning routine on the way to school. I also take it in and place it on my desk when I am work every day. It's an excellent way for me to practice the verses continually. This week as I was flipping through pages, it was exciting to realize that I've hidden these verses in my heart. I may not be able to memorize every single one verbatim, chapter and verse, but it's close. It was also fun when I was doing some reading along with my Bible reading that several verses in the commentary were familiar to me because of this Challenge. I hope everyone else participating is enjoying the experience as much as I am.


This week in 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart we are going to be memorizing and meditating on the last 2 verses in the section titled "Listening: The Word of God and Prayer." As has been the case on occasion in previous weeks, this week's two verses are consecutive, and so they will be written out as a single passage. If it's easier for you, feel free to break them up as the two individual verses, but be aware that they do go hand in hand. So here's our passage (2 verses) for this week:

Now this is the confidence we have before Him:
whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
And if we know that He hears whatever we ask,
we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

1 John 5:14-15


I think it's important to point out a particular phrase in this week's passage, ...according to His will. So often these days I hear a preaching of what has been come to known as the "Prosperity Gospel;" it is the name it and claim mentality of a lot of Christians. "Speak it as it is so," which I personally find to be a set up for disappointment in believers and a stumbling block for blaming God when people don't get the answers they to their prayers that they hope for. But it's clear from this passage that a huge prerequisite to God hearing and answering our prayers is that they are lined up with God's will.

Robert J. Morgan talks in the 100 Verses book about the importance of realizing that every prayer should in addendum speak a silent "if it be Your will." It is good to understand that our own perspective is limited, and therefore we should be willing and active in our efforts to defer to the leadership of the Father who knows exactly what the right answer is for our prayers, as Morgan puts it because "His perfect,providential oversight makes no mistakes and always results in the best for His children." Isn't that an exciting revelation??

Thursday, November 3, 2011

HIStory

November is National Novel Writing Month, and after the bidding of a girlfriend who encouraged me to participate in the event last year, I finally decided that this was the year to give it a shot. The goal is simple, you're supposed to write 50,000 words in 30 days. All totaled I think it will come out to about 125 pages if you hit the 50,000 mark. The goal is really no more complicated than that. No one is judging your work or editing your spelling and grammar, it's just about getting writers to write. You don't even have to finish the book in the 30 days, as long as 50,000 words are written, you have succeeded at the challenge.

It's not much past noon on day 3 for me, and I am going strong. I have hit the 10,000 word mark (10,455 to be specific) and am six chapters in to a novel of Christian fiction. There are moments where I wonder if the sense of accomplishment will be enough for me, or if I'll have regret of having written a work of fiction that other than a few close friends no one may ever read. If course there are lofty dreams of becoming the next Karen Kingsbury (accomplished Christian novelist) that waft through the corners of my imagination as well.

It's an interesting process writing a story. I think it has been said that all fiction has some roots of truth in it, and I can certainly trace lines between the story and characters I am creating with people and experiences in and around my own life, but the more I write, the more I find the story and the people in it taking on a life of their own. It's exciting. Just as in reading a good book, when I have a hard time putting it down and can't wait to get back to it, I find the same true in writing a story, one I can only hope will be found "good" upon it's completion.

One thing I did find interesting though was the importance of creating a mental history for my characters. As I write about who these people are in the moment of the story, I find myself having to reflect in my imagination on who they were before and where they'd come from. I actually had to finally sit down and write out a timeline and mark the milestones of the lives of my characters: places they had been, things that happened to them, ages they were in times of crisis or victory. I had to give consideration to how the people's paths has crossed in their history, and how their relationships in their pasts effected their interaction in the present day.

It made me think about how true that was in the real world for us as well. Who we are and where we are in life today has a lot to do with where we've been and what we come from.

I can't help but wonder if that isn't why in the Bible God is often reminding us to "remember" and to "tell."

Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,

O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Psalm 105:1-6


Have you ever shared your testimony with someone? A lot of people are intimidated at the thought of telling their stories, the stories about the things God has done in their lives, or even the promises He has spoken into their hearts. Even when they have seen prayers answered or dreams fulfilled, often many hold back from sharing it with others. Why? Fear perhaps? Intimidation? But I encourage you, step outside of your comfort zone.

Our testimony is the history of our lives, but if we will remember and tell, our "history" can become HIS-Story. And when our story is used as His story, telling of from where we have come, and our experiences along that path, we can bring both benefit to others and glory to God. Your life is a Truth that cannot be denied as God has written the gospel both on our hearts and demonstrated to those around us through our lives.

An added bonus I have experienced personally in the telling of my own testimony is the increase in my own faith. When I think upon the things God has gone has done in my life up to this day, and as I speak of His goodness to me, it is a powerful reminder of how and why I can trust Him with the story that still remains unwritten. For as a follower of Christ, I know God has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11), and a future planned also for my good and His glory.

As I continue writing me novel in the coming months, I can only hope to have the inspiration to write a story that will both entertain and encourage. But as I look forward into my own real life, I can look with confidence, knowing that the Author of my life will write the story of a lifetime, His Story, so long as I remain surrendered to Him.

I look forward to how my novel will unfold, but I can hardly begin to express the anticipation that rises up inside of me as I think of the promise and potential of my life tale that lies ahead following Jesus, a truly never ending story.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 8

One of the things I love about the Lord is his timing. If you want to know the truth, I sincerely see the Lord as the Great Orchestrator. He is the God of the details, and if you could get a peek into His "Day Planner" I am confident we would be blown away by the way He manages everything. I know lots of people believe coincidences, but I'm not one of them. I do believe in God-incidences, and when I read the perfect passage or devotional or hear just the right song at the perfect time that I need to hear it's message, I give God credit, and I find myself in awe of His timing and organization.

So although it's not one of the life-changing God-incidences this week for me, I did get a kick out of the fact that in the reading plan I am using to read through my bible in a year, I started the book of Hebrews this morning, and both of our verses for this week are key verses from the book of Hebrews. When I get to chapter four this week I will take greater note of the context and content, because after all, when Robert J. Morgan picked the 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart, both of these verses make the Top 20. (#s 15 & 16 to be exact.)

The two verses this week may actually make out 100 Verse Challenge feel challenging. Though I suspect both will be at least somewhat familiar to many believers. Morgan suggests the importance of reading our first verse in context. He recommends backing up and reading Hebrews 3:7-4:12, encouraging us to take particular notice of the references to rest in this passage. The verse itself is important because it is God's Word about God's Word. His break down of the verse is summed up nicely in a quote by A.T. Pierson, which says: The Word of Christ proves itself to be the Word of God by its living energy and it's penetrating power.

Verse 1:

For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12


Our second verse comes just a few scriptures later in the 4th chapter of Hebrews. It's a verse about prayer. Morgan recommends we walk through it with the 5 W's. Remember the 5 W's in school when you were working on reading comprehension? Who, what, where, why and when. Let's look at the verse and then walk briefly through the questions to break down the verse.

Verse 2:

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.
Hebrews 4:16


The break down: Who? "Let us..." What? Prayer is approaching God, ...let us approach... Where? ...the throne of grace... Why? ...so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us... And finally, When? ...at the proper time.

"At the proper time," in our modern language we might use the term "in the nick of time." It's full circle here, God's timing is perfect. Whether it be in the moment of need, or the need of escape for temptation, a timely word or encouragement, God's timing is in fact perfect. I'm telling you, I'd give anything for a glimpse at His day planner, and even more for His gift for planning it. At least I can say I am happy to benefit from it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

God, In My Pocket

I can hardly believe that the month of October is almost over. 2011 has gone by so quickly. In some ways it feels as though it has gone in a blink of an eye, but as I sit and look over the challenges and changes we have faced, things that happened only months ago feel like years.

I started 2011 with two goals: I wanted to read through my entire Bible in a year; and I wanted to journal to the Lord every day. 2010 was such a difficult year for me spiritually, and in some ways a defining one, because never were my faith and character more challenged than during that year. It was just over a year ago now when I had my "come to Jesus" moment and realized I had to decide who I was and what I believed. And in the end, I knew I had to seek the Lord with a renewed passion and purpose. I didn't wait till the New Year to do that, but I knew I had to enter 2011 with a resolve.

The Bible reading has remained solidly consistent. I know it has to be Holy Spirit powered, because honestly, like a fast or an oath, certain things don't get accomplished through sheer willpower, not in the spiritual realm of things anyway. It hasn't always been easy though, and often I have had to try to break the tendency towards my reading becoming just a check on my "to do" list. I have to stop and remind myself often that the Word IS God. It's not just reading, it's relational. And when it becomes just reading, it isn't being done right. (But some books of the Bible, quite honestly, are just harder than others.)

The journaling commitment has not held up as well as the reading. When I write in my journal, it's not your typical diary style keeping, it's not even writing with an awareness that God is somehow peeking over my shoulder. I guess the best thing I could compare it to would be taking two tin cans and tying them by the string, making a makeshift telephone like we did as kids. I think it's a good metaphor because although as I write to God, and I try to listen to hear what He says in return, the message doesn't always come across clearly. And likewise I often find myself struggling to speak my own heart clearly. Someday when I am dead and gone and my children find my journals they will find the deepest and darkest places of their mother, pride to humility, hope to pain, anger to love, all poured out. And because it is deep, and intimate, there are times when I don't have the strength or desire to go there with the Lord. And so I don't. I break my promise, and I stay away, those are often the days I struggle most with my reading being a check mark.

I did a great study over the summer, "Becoming a Woman of Freedom." It many ways I think that title was prophetic, though I didn't realize it when I started it. I don't think the prophecy has come to full fruition, but leaps and bounds have been accomplished. I'm doing another study now, called "Duty or Delight," and without intention, it has turned out to be the perfect continuation of the summer study. God has continued to stretch and grow, stripping and healing, refining and redirecting. But the process of growth can be painful.

I remember when my middle son was little and he would cry at night with pain in his legs. The growing pains he suffered hindered his rest. I've been mindful of the fact that spiritually speaking, "growing pains" don't rob you of rest, but they do weary you at times. Only in God's hand can you find the underlying peace in a storm, and rest in weariness. And that is very much how I have been feeling this past year, and in particular the past couple months. There has been a lot of change and a lot of loss, and sometimes I feel extremely lonely in it, except for the fact that God, Himself, feels very near.

I came across a verse in the current "Duty or Delight" study that has really become an anchor for this season. Isaiah 30:15 says, This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."

The Lord is speaking to the nation of Israel in the midst of (one of their) rebellion(s) against Him.

"...but you would have none of it."


That was me, not much more than a year ago. I was going to do things my own way without counting the cost. I was silencing the Lord's voice, and His Spirit's conviction. I thought I knew better, and then I came to my senses. And so I look at this verse and I see, I don't want to be that person. I want to be the one who believes what God has said here:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."


Repentance has been ongoing, rest is a reality from the Lord, I am grateful to say, I do know He is trustworthy, and I do trust. BUT... Quiet isn't always easy for me. But I am working on it. I am finding something about the moment- the moment where instead of moving and speaking, even barreling ahead that I just stop, quiet: God is in that moment, and just like He promised, strength is found there too.

In our study this week we were advised to write on a stone one of the characteristics of God that really spoke to us. Because of what I was learning about the truth of this scripture, the best attribute I could come up with was "Present," so I wrote that on one side and the scripture reference on the other. As I have at times carried this stone with me, it has more than once been a reminder to me to stop and be quiet before the Lord. Moving and feeling the weight of the stone in my pocket, God has established again his truth in my heart, and revealed Himself there and with me, in the moment, very present, very real, very much my God. When the stone has not been there, even it's absence has been the reminder to stop in the struggles and find my strength in quietness before Him, wherever I am.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

Sunday, October 23, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 7

In the commentary regarding this week's verses, Robert J. Morgan shares some seriously disturbing statistics about the future of evangelical Christianity. His numbers include an expectation that by the year 2050 Southern Baptists expect there denomination to have been reduced by 1/2 if current trends continue. And by the same year, Anglicans in England expect a reduction of 90%! NINETY percent!

Morgan goes on to tell us, in 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart that the most alarming statistics are regarding teenagers and young adults. It seems that young people are leaving the church and their faith in masses after graduating high school. As the mom of a senior in high school, I find these statistics terrifying.

Morgan goes on to share the importance of modeling real and vibrant faith to our children. They need to see us living what we preach, and we need to model a love for God's Word that will hopefully inspire the same in our children, and counter the risk to them of becoming another fallen away statistic. Watching my own son struggle with life these last few months, I have never been more aware how real the risk is.

The Bible promises us in the Book of Isaiah that God's Word never returns void to Him, but always accomplishes God's purpose. It is surely God's purpose to anchor our children in their faith and in the Truth. It is the utmost importance, therefore, just as we care for and feed our children's physical bodies, we must also feed their spirits to strengthen them with the Bread of Life. And that is the exhortation of this weeks verses:

These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7


I want to encourage those of you participating in the Challenge, we are on the right path for doing this! Continue to learn and meditate on God's Word, speak it, and also speak of it. Press on in this Challenge, and involve your children, physical and spiritual in nature. Let's continue the efforts to equip ourselves and those around us to do something to counter the downward trend of Christianity.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feelings

I'm not a fan of feelings. I have them, I know they are God-given (and I am certain with good purpose) but I don't like the expression of them. If I let them out it is more natural for me to let out the harsher feelings than the tender ones. I can't stand to let anyone to see me cry, and I don't like to cry for that matter. Fact is when tears make their way out it is usually out of frustration or anger, rarely out of sadness.

Compassion for me is something I think more in my mind than I feel in my heart. The older I get, the more I find that to be the case, even the days of getting choked up at heart string pulling movies is past. I am more comfortable in my head than I am in my heart. I would rather rationalize than feel. I would rather plot out than tear up.

I don't like feelings, but I do have them. And I cannot stand to feel at the mercy of them.

Today I do not feel good.

I don't mean in the physical sense, if only that were the case. A nap and a bowl of warm soup often rectifies that kind of feeling. But the struggle I have today isn't in my body, it's in my heart, and my mind keeps trying to rise up and bring clarity to my feelings, but it keeps getting shoved back, and when my feelings get in control like that, it's never a good thing.

Today my feelings want very much to take control, and the truth is there is a part of me that wants me to let them, come what may... but feelings can be dangerous.

Today I feel walking away

from people

from relationships

from commitments.

Today I feel like people I count as friends really aren't,

like friendships are one-sided,

like I am disregarded,

distrusted,

just plain dis'd.

Today I feel like I am insignificant,

like nothing I do has ever had any lasting impact,

like I am completely replaceable,

like my life doesn't count.

I'm not writing this because I want anyone to feel sorry for me, or so good-intentioned people will try to boost my ego, or so that those who maybe actually have contributed to my feelings can try to rectify, justify or solidify the feelings. The truth is, right now I don't feel like giving a rat about it anyway.

I told you, feelings are dangerous, and the way I feel right now, I feel like being rash and making big sweeping cuts and moves in my life even if it means leaving a wake of "bodies" behind me. That is how I honestly feel.

It makes me wonder if this is what James referred to in the Bible as being double-minded. Because when my brain takes a back seat to my heart, I certainly feel "unstable in all my ways." And yet, even in acknowledging that struggle within, part of me feels like not caring and just being rash, making moves, living with consequences.

It's how I feel.

Maybe that's why God tells the double minded to resist the devil, because these fighting feelings want to usurp the authority in my life that should belong to the Holy Spirit of God. It is the opposite of the self-control that the Bible says is a fruit of the Spirit. These feelings, corruptible as they are. resist the wisdom that God offers, even advises the double minded to ask for.

"Be sober minded" the Bible says, but right now my mind is on a contact high of whatever my feelings are focused on. And the battle to wake up and walk right wages within me.

By the grace of God, the mind eventually rises up, remembers the Word of Truth that it has hidden in the heart of itself. But right now that eventual grace seems distant, because right now I would rather silence the wisdom and succumb to how I feel.

It makes me feel like I ought to step back, reign myself in and let the storm of emotions pass, however long that might require. So maybe not all feelings are bad after all.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
James 4:7-9

Sunday, October 16, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 6

I'm super excited about this week's verses. I know the Challenge started off pretty easy, and for us at least with a lot of fervor. By week 4 the Challenge actually felt, well, challenging, and when week 5 was a light week and an opportunity to catch up, it also kind of felt like a week to slack off. I got the verse from week 5 down, but really not until yesterday. And then today I sat and read our verses for the new week, and the timing of them feels perfect. The perfect scriptures to remind me, and hopefully all of you exactly why we are doing this!

I'm excited about this week's TWO scriptures. Consider them confident "atta boy's" or "atta girl's" - there is GREAT purpose in why we are pursuing God's Word and hiding it in our hearts. So here we go, are you ready for the good news about learning and memorizing the Good News?

First scripture:

This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Joshua 1:8

I love this passage- clear instruction, 3 parts; with a promise, doubled It's simple, and yet so very profound.

Robert J. Morgan clarifies this verse for us in his book "100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart":

The Instruction:

(1) Don't let the word depart from your mouth: Speak it, read it, repeat it, hear it.

(2) Meditate on it day and night. Morgan tells us the original Hebrew word used here came from the word for "to mutter," imagine yourself continually speaking the Word of God to yourself and establishing it into your own heart.

(3) And after you have done these things, observe it. More simply said, OBEY. (OK, I realize it's not always that simple, but you get my drift.)

The Promise:

I'm excited because the promise in this verse is two fold: Prosperity and success. Now, I am by no means a "name it and claim it" Christian. But I do believe that in God's view point, if we put into practice His word, have it in our hearts and are obeying it, then surely we will be prosperous and successful in His kingdom.


Our next scripture for week 6 is one of my favorites. I love all of Psalm 119, God's Word about God's Word. Verse 11 is one I like to remind myself and my children of often. It's a simple truth that when put into practice, has a profound effect.

Second verse:

I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. Psalm 119:11

This verse is an example of what I like to refer to as "kingdom math," the if/then passages of scripture. It's like simple mathematics, the basics of faith. 1 + 1 = 2 scripture. And the math here is simple, if you increase the Word you decrease the sin. The more of the Word you have, the less room there is for the corruptible.

Morgan shares a great D.L. Moody quote at the end of his expounding on Psalm 119:11 that is a great way to end this week's blog post: "Sin will keep us from the Bible, or the Bible will keep us from sin." Maybe this could be consider kingdom economics, but whatever way you might like to label it, in the end, the message is clear, if you're participating with us on this Challenge and learning these verses, your on your way to fulfilling the premises to some wonderful promises! And if you're new here, it's not too late to join! Click on The Challenge to RSVP now.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 5

We are at week 5! And by the end of it, we will have completed the first ten percent of our ultimate goal. I think that is very exciting! I'm proud of my hubby and kids for their efforts, and I am excited about building my own arsenal of scripture. I know arsenal might be a funny choice of word, but let's face it, the scripture is our offensive weapon for taking ground from the enemy. What an awesome truth! It really is a perfect weapon, and why wouldn't it be? Look who the "Designer" is!

This week we are learning the first of the verses in the section of Robert J. Morgan's book 100 Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart that is titled "Listening: The Word of God and Prayer."

The "address" of the single scripture we are learning this week is familiar, but the street is different. But Morgan points out many similarities between John 3:16 that we learned during week two, and 2 Timothy 3:16 that we will be working on this week:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness."

I'd just like to note a couple of the similarities between the two verses that Morgan draws, John 3:16 referring to our Savior and 2 Timothy 3:16 referring to the Scripture.

- The two, Savior And Scripture comprise the two greatest gifts ever bestowed upon mankind.

- Both Savior and Scripture are referred to as "The Word."

- Both are "utterly unique," Jesus was like no other man, and the Bible is like no other book.

- And as the Savior was without sin, so the Scriptures are without error (Holy Spirit inspired.)

There are more, and there are deeper insights as well as a list of "3:16's" in the Bible that are significant, which is why I highly recommend the book that goes along with our Challenge. But I would remind you it is not required to participate. If you haven't signed up it really isn't too late. Even if you can't catch up, we still have 90% of our challenge ahead. (91 if you count this week!)

There is only one verse this week and I highly recommend if you are behind at all from the previous weeks verses, it would be a great time to devote a little effort to getting caught up. I personally get more and more excited each day as I continue to hide more of the Word in my heat. It's kind of exciting to thin I have already learned the "Fantastic Four" and the "Roman Road" so far in just about a month's time.

I am listing our previous verses below for those who do need to either catch up or who want to see where we have been so far on our Challenge.

Beginnings: The Bible's Fantastic Four:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1

"The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 CSB (Holman Christian Standard Version)

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 CSB


The Roman Road: The Plan of Salvation

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Romans 5:8

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10


And our "bonus verse" that completes the Roman Road but isn't "technically" one of the 100:

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13

If you are like me and can look at most of what we have done so far and know if you can't necessarily quote every word verbatim, but at least know the principles and truth have been hidden in your heart, be excited! Or even better if you can quote them, aren't you thrilled at the strength your "arsenal" has gained? I am proud of every one of you who is here with me even giving it a tribe! Let's keep up the good work and get busy working on our new verse for this week!