Friday, December 6, 2013

Cure for Death

Psalm 40:9-10
I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You know.
10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.

Can you read those words out loud and be proclaiming the truth?

That's a tough one.  Myself included.

I did study this passage extensively, as I do with each passage I write about.  But it isn't any of the commentaries or even the original Hebrew that taught me much this time around.  This time, it was the gut feeling that I needed to learn what the passage was telling me.  Plain and simple.  There is no reading between the lines here.  There is not a Hebrew translation that makes it different, even in a small way.  This passage has much to teach as it appears in modern day English, without needing someone to explain it.

I think we cannot miss the importance of these words as applied to our own lives.  We cannot and should not contain or hide any of what God is or what He has done for us.  It is too big of a story, too much of a headline, too life-changing to not share!  

I have been selling It Works! products for a few months now.  In our training they are constantly reminding us that we have a product that changes lives! It usually goes something like this: From weight loss, to health issues, to getting out of debt - It Works! changes lives every day in SO many big ways!  That simple fact alone, the fact that these products change lives, is what should make me face my fears and tell everyone I know or meet about these products. My life is SO much better off because of these products, don't I want the rest of the world to know that too?  Don't let your fear get in the way of changing someone else's life for the better.

I listen to these thoughts and I instantly start thinking of Christ and my salvation.  That is THE biggest life-change there is.  I was lost, now I am found!  I was dead, now I am alive!  Why do I not tell every single person I see about this amazing truth??  Why am I afraid of what people will think?  Is my reputation worth more than their eternal salvation?  Absolutely not!  

I once read a quote from the British criminal Charlie Peace, when speaking with a chaplain I believe, that has really stuck with me: "Sir, I do not share your faith.  But if I did - if I believe what you really say you believed - then even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to cost, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees, and think the pain worthwhile, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!"

If you had the cure for cancer would you share it?  Would you talk about it constantly and tell everyone you know?  

Or would you hide it?  

That's a no-brainer right?  Our God, our salvation, is SO much more than a cure for cancer!  He loves us SO much, He has given us a cure for death (in a manner of speaking...)!!

I should be pulling strangers off the street to tell them about this amazing God and everything He has done for us.  But the hard truth is that I don't even talk to the people I work with about it or even some of my close friends and family.  Why?  Because I'm too afraid of what they might think, too afraid of how they might respond....

Today I am making a vow to be more open about the life-changing news that I have to share.  I'm probably not going to go evangelize on the streets, but I'm going to take baby steps and reach out to those that are hurting, to those that are lost.  I have something that can change all of that, something that can change the world!

Why, then, do I keep it so quiet???

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Wise Woman

I try to read one chapter of Proverbs a day - since there are 31 chapters, it is easy to read through the whole book in a month and just start over again at the beginning of next month.  And it only takes a couple of minutes since they are so short.  But those short chapters contain a vast amount of wisdom.  My dad, a pastor, said the other day, that he is amazed at how he learns something new every time he reads through Proverbs even though he has been doing it for years.  If you aren't doing this already, I highly recommend it - I promise you, you will learn something.

Anyways, I explained all of this, because today's Proverb hit me like a slap in the face.  So much so, that I set aside my daily study and instead studied the 1st verse of Proverbs 14. 

Proverbs 14:1 - The wise woman builds her house, / But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

I read that a couple of times and asked myself the obvious question: Am I building my house up or am I tearing it down?

The answer? Depends on the day. 

I'm not okay with that answer.  Justin and I are currently attending two couples classes together, yep, you heard right, not one, but two!  :)  And I am participating in a woman's study.  That's 3 times a week that I hear about what my role is, how I can do better, and how I'm doing well already.  It gets me thinking an awful lot, and maybe that is why this verse jumped off of the page, danced in front of me, and then proceeded to slap me in the face saying, "Here's your wake up call!"  

Everything I'm learning boils down to this - am I building my house up or am I tearing it down?

When I wrote out my thoughts, I made a couple of lists:

Tearing down = nagging, whining, yelling, sulking, lying, cheating, avoiding

Building up = encouraging, thanking, loving, complimenting, supporting

These lists are, by no means, exhaustive, but they are a beginning.  If I were to evaluate all of my actions in a day, put each action in the "tearing down" or "building up" list - which would be longer?  Would most days in the week have a longer "tearing down" list?  Or am I constantly building, adding a brick here and some mortar there??

I want my "building up" list to be the longest list always, ever day.  I want my house to be on a firm foundation, put together with love, and made to last.  But that means I need to make some changes.  I might have to start out small but if I can put one brick up instead of taking one down in a day - I'm on the right track!  No one said she built her house quickly, it says she builds her house - meaning it is a constant process!  Slow and stead wins the race.  Slow to anger that is...  ;)

So who's with me?  Here's to less nagging, less whining, more encouraging, and more loving.  Let's go get our yellow hard hats and get to building!  :D

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Gospel of Prosperity

I work in the midst of a very rich community.  As "The Help," I get access to a lot of things I never would have imagined.  My favorite perk is going to the pool at the golf club where the annual membership is more than twice my salary.  There were days this summer when I gazed around the pool and became irritated by the waste, the gaudiness, the snobbery, etc., that comes along with the lifestyle of the rich.  I'm not saying they are all the same (by any means) but there is a stereotype that holds true.  And if I wasn't irritated, I was usually jealous.  I was jealous of the fact that these people could afford to just not bother with making lunch and go over to the pool instead.  I was jealous of the designer swim suits and clothes I saw.  I was jealous of the cars in the parking lot, of the houses I drive by to get there.  And what really irritates me, no, angers, me? A good portion of these people aren't even good people!  They have lied, cheated, gossiped, and slandered to get to where they are.  They treat me poorly because I'm "The Help" or they simply act like I'm not even there, they talk behind each other's backs, they're not grateful, and so on and so forth.  It frustrates me that they have "it all" while I'm the one working hard and trying to live a morally upright life while barely being able to afford a small house (which is still a lot for some, I know).

But God's word bring a new light to my irrational thinking:

Psalm 37:1-5
1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

It doesn't seem fair does it?  The "wicked" thrive while I work extremely hard to succeed.  But God has so much more for us than the gorgeous homes and sports cars of the wealthy.  He reminds us here that we should not fret (or be angry) because of evildoers, nor are we to be envious of them for they will wither away (Strong's H2734).  But those first couple of verses (1-2) do not mean "'Do not envy the wicked man's prosperity, nor wish it were yours, but solace yourself with the assurance of his speedy ruin.'  What is said is far nobler than that.  It is, 'Do not let the prosperity of unworthy men shake your faith in God's government, nor fling you into an unwholesome heat, for God will sweep away the anomaly in due time'" (Expositor's).  God does not define prosperity the same way that we do.  Money and worldly success do not equal prosperity in God's book.  In fact, if you have received the gift of Christ, you are one of the most prosperous people in the entire world!  I may not have a penny to my name but I am far richer than the agnostic pool-side high-school girl who drove her Lamborghini to the pool so she could soak up a tan in her Ralph Lauren bikini. (**Just a can be prosperous both in the world and in Christ, I am simply speaking in generalities in order to satisfy my point).

The problem is that worldly prosperity is pretty easy to see.  It isn't like I have to look hard to notice the houses I drive by are 3 or 4 times the size of the one I might be buying.  And I don't have to use a magnifying glass to see the BMW emblem on the cars in the parking lot.  Because of blatant worldly prosperity, we tend to overlook the beautiful characteristics of Godly prosperity.  When we give God what He asks of us, when we strive to succeed in His eyes, He has promised us SO much in return!

In these verses alone (3-5) He has promised to take care of us physically, spiritually, and intellectually!  He has covered the basis of humanity - head, heart, and hands.


We are intellectual beings.  As Rene Descartes put it, "I think therefore I am."  We process all of the information around us and a lot of times our finite minds cannot handle what all of that information entails.  Right now we are in the midst of putting together an offer for a house.  There is a lot of change going on right now and we have a lot to figure out.  My brain starts to take over and I'm instantly in panic mode - how will we ever do this?  What if it doesn't work out?  What if something happens?  What if we can't afford it 6 months from now?  What if, what if, what if....  But I have to remember to commit these plans to God and trust Him with the outcome, as vs. 5 states.

And what will He do in return?  He will do it.  The Holman Christan Standard Bible puts it this way, "Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act."  He knows what is best for us and if we commit our ways and plans to Him, trusting Him completely, He will guide us toward the best possible outcome.  The word 'commit' is translated from the Hebrew word galal meaning "to roll, roll away, roll down, roll together" (Strong's H1556).  Now I don't know about you, but that doesn't really make sense to me.  What does 'commit' have to do with 'rolling'?  Clarke seems to think that this is a metaphor taken from the camel.  You see, the camel, since it is so tall, has to lie down so that his load may be rolled upon him.  If we are committing our ways, our thoughts, our plans, to the Lord, we are rolling them off of ourselves and onto Him!  He will carry our load!!  I love this imagery!  And if I had not dug deeper, I would have missed it completely (see more on this subject here).  He is literally taking our worries and racing thoughts onto His own shoulders and caring for us intellectually so that we don't get burnt out or overwhelmed!


As Henry puts it, "The instructions here given are very plain; much need not be said for the exposition of them, but there is a great deal to be done for the reducing of them to practice, and there they will look best."  Vs. 4 is a well known verse, Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  Okay, simple enough right?  But what does delighting myself in the Lord look like?  How do I put these simple instructions into practice?  Well, "we must not only depend on God, but solace ourselves in Him" (Henry). defines 'solace' as "something that gives comfort, consolation, or relief."  We must turn to God at all times, He must be our source of joy!  We must "expect all...happiness from Him, and seek it in Him" (Clarke).  When we are in our most joyous moments - on your wedding day, at the birth of a child, with the purchase of a new home, etc., we must attribute those moments to Him!  And when we are at our lowest, when the world insists on kicking you while your down, we must look to God as a source of joy - we always have a reason to be thankful and full of joy.  If we do these things, He will grant us the desires of our heart.  In other words, He will nurture us spiritually. 


As noted before, worldly prosperity is not the same as Godly prosperity,  "He does not say, 'So shalt thou get preferment, dwell in a palace, and be feasted.'  This is not necessary; a man's life consists not in the abundance of these things" (Henry). Vs. 3 may not seem like it is referring to our physical state at first, but upon closer examination, and using the context of the other verses, it most definitely makes sense.  The text reads, Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Now, I'm going to include what the commentaries have concluded and let you read that again, "Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land I have given you and feed upon security."  

The first adjustment I made here is the underlying understanding that they are to dwell in the land the Lord has given them!  The Israelites, how ever many hundreds of years ago, would have understood this without having to have the added clarification.  They knew the land they were in was the land He had literally given them!  We may not have traveled through a desert for 40 years, crossed through the Red Sea, or marched around the walls of Jericho - but God has still given us the land we have today!  I think we miss that sometimes.  We forget that everything is His, He has merely given it to us for a time (this is why we tithe, after all, it belongs to Him in the first place).  

I then changed "cultivate faithfulness" to "feed upon security." To understand this, we have to examine the Hebrew.  'Cultivate' is translated from the Hebrew word ra'ah meaning "to pasture, tend, graze, feed" (Strong's H7462).  This is yet another beautiful image that we miss when just simply reading the text.  This one word implies that we are sheep and God is our shepherd!  "God Himself is a shepherd, a feeder, to all those that trust in Him" and do good (Henry).  Some commentaries leave the translation at that - we are to feed upon His faithfulness.  But, in context with the other verses, I, along with Adam Clarke believe that 'faithfulness' here should be 'security.'  The Hebrew word is 'emuwnah meaning "firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness" and could very well be translated either way.

The point of the matter being - God will provide a sense of physical security for those that trust Him and do good!  We are His sheep and He is our shepherd.  I love the nurturing and protection that this image brings to mind.  He is so good.

There you have it.  God will take care of our head, heart, and hands, our intellectual, spiritual, and physical well being!  With Him, we are the most prosperous people in the world.  We don't need fancy cars or giant mansions.  Who wants to clean those anyways!?!  ;)  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Annoying Glass Doors

Have you ever walked into a screen door or even a glass door?  I have.  Well, I tend to walk into walls and poles as well, and those are pretty visible, so I'm not sure I'm the best example.  haha.

Anyways, the point of the matter is this - sometimes there is a barrier we cannot see between where we are and where we want to be.  Even though what is waiting on the other side is good and is ours for the taking, we just can't figure out why we can't access them.  Instead, even though it's painful, we continue to walk into the glass door again and again.

Psalm 36:10-11
10 O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.

There are a few things that God has given to us, as His children.  Lovingkindness is translated from the Hebrew word checed meaning "goodness, kindness, faithfulness" (Strong's H2617).  All of those things belong to us, He freely gives them!  Right along with His righteousness!  As God's church we have access to all of that and more!

Only two things stand in our way:
  1. Our own pride
  2. The wickedness of others   
Pride is something I definitely struggle with.  I tend to think I can do it all, I don't even need God to help me.  Hubby and I had to laugh when I got sick a couple weeks ago.  We had just moved, I was still commuting an hour to my old job while trying to kick start my new business, we were trying to find a house, and so much more.  I told him that I was pretty sure God was reminding me that I wasn't super woman.  I ended up stuck in bed for 2 whole days and the rest of the week I couldn't do much without overexerting myself.  I literally wasn't able to do much let alone do it all. defines 'pride' as "a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

You see, when I accomplish something, I give myself the credit because it makes me feel important.  But that isn't what should be happening - God should be getting all the glory!  How often does pride get in the way of God?  He provides the thoughts for the sermon, He provides the choice of music for this Sunday, He provides the courage you need to stand up and speak, etc.  But how often do we give Him the credit? 

Unfortunately, "...pride is Satan's specialty.  It is the characteristic that most aptly describes him.  Pride is the issue that had him expelled from heaven.  It is still one of Satan's most successful tools...The most effective means the enemy has to keep believers from being full of the Spirit is to keep us full of ourselves...It is the enemy of genuine ministry" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).  When our own pride gets in the way, we no longer have access to His goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, or lovingkindness.  Our pride becomes the glass door we repeatedly walk into.

For some, pride is a solid oak door keeping them from ever reaching out to God in the first place, they refuse to see what is on the other side: "My heart mourns because some dear friends are too prideful to believe something greater than themselves controls their destiny" (Colin Creel, Perspectives).

The other glass door that comes between us and all the wonderful things God has to offer is the wickedness of others.  Okay, hear me out for a second, I am not saying that it is someone else's fault that you are not receiving the goodness of God.  It is still you that creates the glass door.  Wickedness is all around us.  It isn't difficult to find.  The wickedness of others runs rampant in our nation, our state, our hometown, our very streets, even in our church.  That wickedness becomes your problem, becomes my problem, when we choose to cave to temptation.  The moment I decide to participate in gossip, the moment when you start thinking about how much prettier that scantily clad woman is than your wife, the moment I choose to accept the bribe being offered - those are the exact moments when we run face first into the closed glass door.  

That choice to fall to temptation or to pride is what separates us from God.  Running into it again and again isn't going to do a thing.  We could try with all our might to run through it but it remains.  The only thing we can do to get through it is to reopen the door.  And that means we have to put forth effort.  We must repent of our sin, whether it be pride or gossip or adultery, turn away from it and turn back to God.  The door will then be open and we will, again, have access to His goodness, His faithfulness, His lovingkindness and righteousness, and so, so, much more!   

What glass door are you constantly running into?  Put forth the effort and open it today!  Don't wait - His goodness is waiting for you on the other side!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Black Ice and Snowmen

This is a little bit old school.  I remember listening to this as a child and not completely understanding.  As an adult, I get it.  You don't need to listen to the whole song (or rant maybe...) to get my point.  The chorus simply states, "We need God in America again...the only hope for our country is Him." 

Psalms 36:1-2
1 Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes. 
2 For it flatters him in his own eyes
Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.

When I first read those verses, these were the thoughts I wrote down: "No fear of God?  That is exactly what is wrong with our country."  It struck me further as I wrote down quote after quote from the commentaries - "...while he goes on in sin, he thinks he does wisely and well for himself, and either does not see or will not own the evil and danger of his wicked; he calls evil good and good evil" (Henry).  That's our country, right!?!  

But as I continued my study, as I wrote my concluding thoughts - God convicted me and I realized the harsh reality - No fear of God?  That is exactly what is wrong with me.

Yep, you heard that right.  I don't fear God...or at least I don't fear Him enough.   

Sin is that patch of black ice you don't see coming.  You step on it and slip...but instead of being able to get right back up you fumble around a bit, slip again, and eventually end up snow balling down the hill.  Eventually you stand back up and you no longer recognize the snow as snow - you're a snowman (or a sinner) and you don't even see it!  Your eyes, the windows to your soul, are dark like coal.  And your nose has grown to the size of a carrot from the lies you've told yourself and others that you are doing "right" and "good."  

Once we have sinned, we justify it to make it seem right.  We didn't actually sin.  It might seem like it but the circumstances say otherwise.  

Getting drunk is fine - I'm not hurting anyone.  And besides, it brings out the real me, which is what God wants right?  For me to be authentic?

It's alright that we live together.  At least we're committed to one another.  And I have to know if I'm going to be able to live with him/her the rest of my life before I say "I do."  God wouldn't want me to say those words and not mean them.

Divorce is the norm these days.  We both deserve to be happy.  God wants us to be happy.  It wasn't fair to the kids for us to be fighting all of the time.

It was only a silly little lie.  It doesn't matter.  No one will get hurt.  And everybody loves a good story.  After all, Jesus told stories all the time!

It's okay to look at other women.  I only looked through the window, I didn't open the door!  God created women to be beautiful and I'm just admiring His creation.

I could go on and on.  We all know someone who justifies their sin, let's be honest, we've all done it!  And once the justification starts, it is extremely hard to stop.  As noted before, there is quite the snowball effect.

But why do we think justifying our sin makes it okay?  Because instead of putting God before us, we put Him on the back burner - out of sight, out of mind.  We choose to pretend He doesn't care.  We don't fear Him.   

If I truly feared God, I would still be kind to the person who just cut me off in traffic and nearly wrecked my car.  I wouldn't yell or wave my hand or scowl (and I certainly wouldn't shout a string of expletives or show them my middle finger).  If I truly feared God, I wouldn't treat my husband or family with disrespect...even when I've had one of the worst days of my life.  If I truly feared God I wouldn't speak poorly of anyone.  

If you remember, I started this post out by talking about how our country as a whole needs to fear God.  But if we as individuals, as so-called Christians, do not fear God, how is our nation ever supposed to do the same?

If we want to see a change in our nation, it has to start with us!  Don't put God on the back-burner.  There ARE consequences for our actions, whether we choose to believe so or not.  God should be at the forefront of our lives so that we love Him and fear Him and serve Him with our all.  I challenge you today to truly fear God.  Don't step on the black ice we know as sin or you'll end up a snowman with coal for eyes and a carrot nose.  Yes, we need God in America again, but we need God in us again.  I need God in me again.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Troubles Come...

When troubles come...
  • I tend to travel a roller-coaster of emotions.  I either start with tears or anger (depends on what kind of trouble), then I go screaming down the hill to denial, screeching around the curve to fear, then slowly back around to tears or anger.  And sometimes I'll find a nice straight stretch of peace.
  • My husband grows a beard.  hehe.  But seriously, I can always tell when he is stressed or depressed, because he tends to not shave as much.  Troubles come and he will curl up into a ball of stress or sit on the couch in a heap of depression.  Occasionally, those troubles erupt like a volcano in a rush of red hot anger.
The point of this whole comparison is that everyone faces trouble a little bit differently.  We've all faced some sort of trouble, trial, or tribulation (however you want to phrase it), and we probably all handle it a little bit differently.  Today, we'll look into how God handles our troubles and what our responsibility is in the face of trouble.

Psalm 34:17-18

17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

When troubles come...

Notice I said 'when' and not 'if.'  Troubles will come.  Unfortunately, "There is this junk theology floating around out there that point to difficulties as evidence that you must not be following Jesus.  The biblical reality is that when people say yes to following Jesus, they are agreeing to carry a cross, and that will be painful at times" (Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan).  Becoming a Christian does not mean, under any circumstances, that all of our problems are going to go away and we'll only have fields of daisies and blue skies from here on out.  In fact, if that were the case, Christianity wouldn't really be much of a choice would it?  If our lives were that perfect, wouldn't everyone want to 'sign-up'?  And well...taking away a choice means taking away free will.  And I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a robot...even if I did end up with an awesome accent like Arnold Schwartzeneger (insert laugh here).  Choosing Christ means that...

When troubles come....
 ...The Lord will hear (vs. 17a).  His word says so!  Multiple times.  If you don't believe me or need reassurance, go check it out for yourself.  There is so much comfort in the fact that "God never misses a single tear of the oppressed.  He sees our suffering and knows the depth of our need..." (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).

...The Lord will deliver (vs. 17b).  It even says out of all of their troubles!  I have to tell you, if I read that without really digging in, it bothers me!  On the surface it does sound like we won't have any troubles because God will deliver us from all of them.  In fact, the Hebrew word can also be translated as "rescue," "save," or "snatch away" (Strong's H5337).  All of those images bring to mind the idea that I won't have to deal with my troubles.  But deliverance doesn't always mean we will be 'snatched away.'  His deliverance means that He "intends to give us what we need, not what we think we want" (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).  He can see the whole picture, while we are focused on the tiny space in the corner.  It important to "never forget that God is far more interested in our getting to know the Deliverer than simply being delivered" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).  Sometimes it takes a storm for us to learn who He really is.  Charles Spurgeon puts it this way: "I write this with all reverence: God Himself cannot deliver a person who is not in trouble.  Therefore, it is to some advantage to be in distress, because God can then deliver you.  Even Jesus Christ, the Healer of me, cannot heal a person who is not sick.  Therefore, sickness is not an adversity for us, but rather an advantageous opportunity for Christ to heal us.  The point is, my reader, your adversity may prove your advantage by offering occasion for the display of divine grace" (Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare).

...The Lord will be near (vs. 18a).  We never have to go it alone.  Yes, we may face troubles, but no matter what, He will be there with us!  We always, always, always have a hand to hold on to!  He will surely "save [us] from sinking under [our] burdens" (Henry).

When troubles come...

We have a responsibility as wellFirst and foremost, in order to be heard, we must cry out (vs. 17a).  But our crying out must be directed towards Him, "...He anguishes yet He waits...until the tears that have fallen on dry ground or upon the shoulders of others equally frail are poured instead before His throne.  He waits - not until the oppressed cry out - but until we cry out to Him.  Only then will we know the One and Only who redeems us" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).

Vs. 18 notes that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.  Our hearts are involved.  In order for the Lord to be near, for Him to hear us and deliver us, our hearts must be broken.  But they may not imply what first comes to mind.  Within the word 'broken', "the hammer is necessarily implied; in breaking to pieces the ore first and the plating out the metal when it has been separated from the ore" (Clarke).  Our hearts must go through a process so that they are "subdued and made obedient to God's will and submissive to His providence" (Wesley).  The Lord cannot help us if we have not submitted to His will, He cannot be near if we have not made our hearts available and open to His presence!

Our spirits are much the same (vs. 18b). 'Crushed' holds the same idea of the hammer.  Our spirits must be "truly humbled under the hand of God, and the sense of their sins" (Wesley).  We must realize that we cannot help ourselves, in any sense of the word.  We must grab onto the fullness of the Holy Spirit!  God alone is our refuge, our help, our deliverance!  So, "Why does God allow us to spend so much of life in the heat of battle?  Because He never meant for us to sip His Spirit like a proper cup of tea.  He meant for us to hold our sweating heads over the fountain and lap up His life with unquenchable thirst" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word). 

When troubles come...

And they will.  Hold onto the promises of God, cry out to Him, and be aware of the condition of your heart and Spirit.  Time, after time, His word guides us in the way that we should go.  It is so hard to remember when life knocks us down, to turn to His Word.  But His Word is the first place we should run.  This is just one instance of so many that will lead us on the right path.  It may be straight and narrow, but it is there...and His word is our map!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Through the Storm

I hate cancer.  I hate that some women can't have biological children.  I hate that some parents have to live life without ever knowing what their children would have grown up to be.  I hate that some parents abuse their children.  I hate poverty.  I hate terrorism.  I hate war.  I hate that we live in an imperfect world.

Sometimes it is so very hard to see God and His goodness.  Sometimes the imperfections of this world leave me in tears and asking, "Why?"  And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  Job questioned God, so did David, and many others.  I don't think the things of this world are supposed to make sense - or else we wouldn't long for another world, a better world, a heavenly world...

But you know what, even when I can't see God through the mess of imperfections, He is there, watching!  He sees me.  And He sees you.  He sees all of us.

Psalm 33:13-15
13 The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men;
14 From His dwelling place He looks out
On all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 He who fashions the hearts of them all,
He who understands all their works.

In the middle of summer, I always do my best to wear sunscreen (I read an article about sun damage that scared me enough to pay attention).  But have you ever gone outside without sunscreen when it was super overcast, completely grey, no blue sky to be seen, because you shouldn't need it right?  But then at the end of the day, you come home looking like a sun-dried tomato.  Even when we can't see it, even when the sky is so black and stormy that we barely believe it exists, the sun is still there.

I struggle sometimes when bad things happen.  Not because they happen but because sometimes I just can't see the good that comes from the situation.  Romans 8:28 tells us that God causes all things to work together for the good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.  So when I can't see the good, I get really frustrated.  But even though I can't see it, even when I don't believe it is there, the Good is still there.  God is still there.  He is working behind the scenes to bring good, I just might not be able to see it. 

He sees it all.  And I truly believe that He loves us so much that when bad things inevitable happen in our lives, He wants and longs to bring good out of it.  So He does.  I don't believe for a second He could sit back and watch all the bad happen and not do a thing about it.  That isn't my God.  My God is active and loving, caring and strong.  And He is always there.  Even when I can't see Him through the storm. 

Bri Sherman

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Sorrows and Joy

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Psalm 32:10-11
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

This doesn't say that those who trust in the Lord won't have sorrows, it simply says that lovingkindness shall surround them - meaning that we will still...have...sorrows.  As Christians, we do come across suffering and sorrow, it is inevitable in a world infested with sin.  'Lovingkindness' is translated from the Hebrew word checed meaning "goodness, kindness, faithfulness" (Strong's H2617).  When we face sorrows, we will be surrounded by everything that God is.  If that isn't reason enough to rejoice I don't know what is!  We never, ever have to go it alone.  In our darkest moments and deepest valleys, He is there every step of the way!  

When I attend funerals of friends and family members, though I am sad, a part of me is rejoicing because I know where they are now.  My grandpa passed about 6 months ago and I remember sitting in his room the night before, holding his hand - I could just picture him easily walking next to Christ, remembering every good thing - two things he struggled with at the end.  I don't know how people handle death or tragedy without the hope of Christ, without that surrounding of lovingkindness.  I may not always understand what is going on, but I will always have the comfort and joy of God's goodness, kindness, and faithfulness holding me close to Him.

Most of the commentaries referred to our gladness and rejoicing as happiness.  I don't know that 'happy' is a word I would use when discussing sorrow.  It is too easily affiliated with being the opposite of sadness or sorrow.  'Happy' doesn't resonate well with me.  I keep returning to 'joyful,' though part of me still doesn't think that it satisfies, I think joy comes from a different place than happiness.  Joy comes from somewhere deep inside while 'happy' is just a surface emotion.  I think it is entirely possible to be sad and joyful at the same time, as noted with my grandpa's passing above.

Now that I have thoroughly discussed the fact that we do still have sorrows and struggles but that it is still more than possible to have joy, there are three more things I would like to discuss: how sorrows can lead to joy, the foundation of joy, and infectious joy. 

Let's look back on those that don't have the hope of Christ.  Their sorrows can be devastatingly overwhelming.  Sorrows can do one of two things: drive people further away from God or drive them closer to Him.  It is up to the individual which path they take.  My grandpa was one who was driven towards God in the midst of tragedy and I only learned of this after his passing.  Him and my grandmother lost a baby sometime after my mom was born.  It was then that my grandma noticed a change in him, his faith started to become real.  And then later, when my mom was nine years old, my uncle and my grandma were severely electrocuted.  Mom shared with us while discussing funeral arrangements with the pastor, that she remembers him crying out to God in the middle of the night while they were still in the hospital that he needed Him and couldn't do this alone.  Tragedy drove him towards God instead of away, like it does with many people.  And once your are driven towards God, you will receive His comfort and joy in the face of impossible situations.  You see, "They who are at first driven are afterwards drawn, and taught to know no delight so great as that of coming and keeping near God" (Expositor's).

But that is the key, we must keep near God!  You see, "man was made for [joy], but his [joy] must be founded on holiness: and holiness, as it comes from God, must be retained by continual union with Him" (Clarke).  In order to be joyful in the midst of sorrow we must be in communion with God.  It is the foundation of our joy and peace!  That doesn't mean just attending church every Sunday, that means we need to be in a living, breathing relationship with God.  We have to spend more than one day a week with Him, we have to study His word so we know what He has to say, we have to talk with Him (pray).  It's simple give and take; if we want to take from God, we have to give as well!  And by 'give' I mean our lives, we have to give Him our lives.  I believe that this is why David noted just exactly who should be glad and rejoice - those who trust in the Lord, are righteous, and upright in heart.

When we give Him our lives and we face tragedy, we are guaranteed His lovingkindness, His goodness, His love.  The arms that hold the universe will hold us in the midst of our troubles - isn't that amazing!?!  It makes me want to shout for joy as David noted in vs. 11.  And that joy should overflow like rivers in a rainy season.  Matthew Henry notes that when David says to shout for joy he is saying, "Let them be so transported with this holy joy as not to be able to contain themselves; and let them affect others with it, that they also may see that a life of communion with God is the most pleasant and comfortable life we can live in this world."  If you are joyful in the midst of sorrow, people will notice.  Just tell them where that joy comes from!  Let it overflow!

I stand back sometimes and just revel in all God does for us.  Even the little things.  I swear one time He helped me open a salsa jar (don't laugh...I mean it).  ;)  He is something else isn't He?  I just want to shout for joy and let the whole world know!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Military Coupon Donations

Did you know that you can send coupons to military bases for the families there?  Even if they are expired!  Because my brother is in the military, I am always looking for ways to help out.  So I am ALL over this!  Especially since we get a ton of coupons in the mail each week and I barely use any.

I'm asking all of YOU to join me!  You can either adopt your own base at the Overseas Coupon Program  OR you can send them to the base I have adopted in the name of the blog so that we can all do this together!

Of course, I adopted the base where my brother is stationed, Yakota Air Force Base in Japan.  I highly doubt that he will ever use a coupon in his life but since that base is close to my heart, it is what I chose.  ;)  Besides, I know he is friends with a few couples stationed over there and maybe they will get some use out of them!

If you would like to send your coupons to Yakota, here are the details:
  • Send as often as you like
  • Send as much or as little as you like (there is no minimum or maximum)
  • Do not send coupons older than 2 months expired on the date of shipment.  They can be used for up to 6 months after expiration but remember that volunteers have to process them, they have to be sent out to be used, and then the families have to sort through them.  It can definitely take some time. 
  • Separate coupons according to "food items" and "non-food items."
  • Along with your return address, please include "Learning to Be 31"  - this is the 'organization' I listed when adopting the base and it helps to keep track of the 'donations' and charity.
The address is:

Bldg 570 Yokota AB
APO AP 96328-6290 

(It is regular postage since it is an APO)

If you would rather me do the separating and sending, just send the coupons my way.  Send me a private message (see the 'Contact Me' tab at the top of the blog) and I will gladly give you my address.

I'm so excited for this simple opportunity to help out!  I hope you are too!

Bri Sherman

Independent Distributor, It Works! Global™

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