4.27.2013

He never loses.

If there is one thing I have learned through all of my years in ministry and leadership positions, it is this:  Satan is alive and well, attacking marriages and families, disheartening parents and children, and drawing lines of division in homes.  He hates Christians, and he knows he can destroy them if he gets into their homes and attacks each one where he/she is weak.  This is nothing new, of course.  He has been at this game since he deceived Eve in the garden.  I hate him!  I hate that he finds joy in this.  I hate that he thrives on destroying families who love God and want to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  I hate that he rejoices over his successes, and feels triumphant, when a marriage dissolves, parents and children oppose one another, and a church is brought to its knees because of discord and sin.  I feel very small and completely helpless in those moments, wondering how my tiny prayers can change anything.  But believe you me, I pray!!!

One reason satan finds so much success is because we do not admit our trials or expose the sin in our lives and, therefore - we are not being supported, encouraged, or covered in prayer.  Every detail does not need to be shared with the world, obviously, but confessing struggle and sin is necessary to be upheld and loved and cared for by those who want to see us walking in truth and living with joy.  Satan dwells in darkness.  He thrives in darkness.  The longer he can keep us there with him, keeping us isolated from God's people, the more he can wear us down until we are totally defeated - and without hope.  And sometimes, he even succeeds in getting us to turn our backs on the very God who is holding us in the palm of His hand, wooing us back to Him - if only we will look up.

On the other side - shame on us for not seeking to understand what is going on in the marriages, families, and lives of those we know.  How can we spend an hour talking to a friend and never ask how her marriage is?  If she is feeling confident as a mother?  How can we spend an entire evening with someone and walk away knowing nothing about their walk with the Lord or where they are struggling with sin?  The answer is simple:  Because we do not ask!

If we will humble ourselves enough to be honest about what is going on in our homes, our marriages, our hearts, and our minds

and become selfless enough to seek out the hearts of others with purpose

we can defeat the enemy quickly and efficiently.

Fighting hand-to-hand combat with the devil will rarely prove successful.  But fighting as a group? Each of us armed with the shield of faith and the sword of Scripture in our hands ... raising our voices to the Lord as we seek His power and His strength ... trusting in the One who will one day crush the heel of the enemy forever?  WE WILL FIND VICTORY!

We must pray, Christians!
We must fall prostrate on the ground begging the Lord to protect our families.
Our pastors.
Our churches.
Our marriages.
Our children.
Our faith.

We are in dark times, as Jesus told us we would be.  It is no surprise.  It will not get better.  But we can take a stand and say NO MORE!  Not my children, satan!!  Not my marriage!!  Not my church!! You are NOT going to defeat us, and you are not going to gain one more inch of ground. Because truly, when satan encroaches into the life of a Christian, he is treading on holy ground, because the Spirit of God dwells within each of us.  He is present and active in every believer.  And because He is, we can call on His might and His power to fight the lion that seeks to devour us - and find success.

Pray!
Intercede for those who are hurting.
For those who are in turmoil.
For those who are in darkness and despair, and see no way out.
Today it may be another family, but one day - it might be yours.

We cannot turn a blind eye or deaf ears to the cries of those suffering around us.  And if we think they are not crying out - or their voices seem dim - then we need to be bold and ASK.  Invest in others - seek to understand - draw truth out of their hearts - and then grab their arms, firmly holding them up, and take them to the feet of the Savior.  He is not only the gentle Shepherd who heals and restores ... He is a valiant warrior who is ALWAYS prepared for battle.

And He never loses.

4.18.2013

Go fishing!

I have shared my passion for drawing the deep waters out of people before ... how I was challenged in college to look past the mask that people wear and see what is on the inside.  It really was life changing for me!  When I flip through letters or come across an old note, I am reminded of how the Lord has used this passion to create friendships and relationships that might never have happened had I accepted what was shown to me at face value.  There is always, always, always something more than meets the eye - especially when it comes to the heart of a person.

In the past weeks I have had a few people ask me about my "list of questions."  I do not have an actual list anymore, but there are times I wish I did!  Though my mind is not usually blank when it comes to asking people about themselves, there are times I feel the need for a little push in the right direction. So, I started writing some of them down.  This is by no means exhaustive, so if you have some to share, please do!

It is amazing how many people look at me and say, "No one has ever asked me that before!"  And nine times out of ten, we end up in a long, deep discussion as they share their hurts, struggles, and need for encouragement and strengthening in the Lord.  It is a wonderful thing to be trusted with the heart of another!  It's funny ... I used to be teased mercilessly for my questions - eye rolling and groaning - you name it!  But now?  Not so much.  The amount of brothers and sisters in Christ the Lord has brought into my life through these questions that result in "mutually encouraging one another in the faith" are precious to me.  And as long as I have breath I will keep asking!  Not because it brings me pleasure, but because people need to be asked ... they need to have someone go fishing in their hearts.  And I will always be ready to cast my line into the water! 

Questions to help draw out the deep waters in the heart of another.

~ Where is the Lord leading you in Scripture right now?
~ When was the last time you shared something personal with someone?
~ What is the BEST part of being Kevin/Lisa/Arnold/Stephanie?
~ If you could ask the Lord to enhance one character quality in you, which would you choose?
~ If you could choose one item to represent your walk with the Lord, what would it be?  Explain it.
~ What is the world trying to make you conform to that you are fighting with all your might?
~ How would you create the perfect friend - what would he/she look like?
~ How do you feel most loved/appreciated?  time, gifts, words of affirmation, affection, acts of service
~ When do you feel most secure?
~ What is your favorite attribute of God?  Why?
~ Which apostle is your favorite?
~ Who do you identify with more - the God of the Old Testament or the Jesus of the New?
~ What character quality do you most cherish in a friend?
~ What three things would others say are your best qualities?
~ Which part of heaven do you most long to see?
~ When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage someone?
~ How has the Lord been encouraging your heart?
~ What is your greatest fear?
~ Which biographies have you read?  
~ Who inspires you most in your walk with the Lord?
~ What was the best quality/standard your parents ever instilled in you?
~ What are your children enjoying most about you right now?
~ Which character trait would you would pay money to have more of?
~ What is the Lord making painfully clear in your life right now … something you would rather not address, but know you are disobedient if you do not?
~ How often are you quiet and still before the Lord?
~ What is something you want to be remembered before after you die?
~ What verse/passage is convicting you right now?
~ If You could ask God to change one of your weaknesses, which would you choose?
~ Are you vulnerable and transparent with people?  If not why?  If so - how?
~ What is your greatest passion right now?
~ What book of the Bible have you always avoided reading?  Why?
~ How have you seen God changing the way that you see yourself? 
~ What are you struggling with?  
~ How can I pray for you specifically?  
~ What can you praise the Lord for today?

And, of course, there are the fun, light-hearted, silly ones for the times you just need to get the ball rolling!

what ice cream flavor could you eat every day for the rest of your life?
which super power would you like to have for a day?
what country would you most like to visit?
favorite season of the year - why?
stomach, side, or back sleeper?
feet in the covers or out?
favorite restaurant?
best childhood memory?
and on it goes!

Go ahead!  Take these for a spin and enjoy watching the responses you get from people.  Remember - everyone likes to feel appreciated and valued, and when you ask a meaningful question about them, YOU will be the one making them feel that way!

4.15.2013

Wanting Him MORE.

Oh, the beauty and joy of a few quiet moments!  After a weekend of fun-filled activities with nephews and pastor's kids ~ and celebrating my sister-in-law's birthday this afternoon ~ my fingers are itching to write!  So much happened during the weekend, and after missing six weeks of church due to family illnesses, being able to worship and listen to the preaching of God's Word with my brothers and sisters in Christ was like a cool, refreshing breeze on a hot, humid day.  I came home feeling energized and inspired with 300 thoughts rushing through my brain  - and so excited to write about them all!  My body, however, screamed No More! so I reluctantly surrendered, curled up on my bed to watch Anne of Green Gables, and promptly fell asleep right after Anne dyed her hair green.  A full, deep night's sleep ... thank You, Lord!

It will take me several posts to record all that I want to share, so I am going to start with the one that was the most exciting and encouraging.

The youth leaders were up with sixth graders yesterday, preparing them for their transition into junior high, so we had a guest speaker.  He is a dear friend to me and Dennis, so it was extra special to sit under his teaching and hear the words the Lord had given him for our students.  The title of his talk was "One Thing."  He used passages that I have read and heard a hundred times, but this was the first time I had ever seen them all tied together - focusing on the same two words: One Thing.

One thing have I asked of the Lordthat I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.  Psalm 27
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.  
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
... that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. 
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3

Do you see it?  I LOVED this lesson and was so excited about it because it totally confirms the passion the Lord has been strengthening in my own heart - time with the Lord.  In His Word.  Talking to Him.  Sitting at His feet - and listening.

The Psalm 27 passage is the most specific.  David says there is one thing He seeks after, and that is to be in the presence of the Lord.  There are dozens of things, good things, we can request of the Lord, but being in His presence is the BEST of the good!

Look at the words:
Dwell
Gaze
Inquire

David's desire is to be physically present with the Lord.  No more "you are in heaven and I am on earth," but together, in one place.  The most perfect place.

He wants to look at the Lord.  Full in the face.  When all the cloudiness and distortion has been removed, and He can see God as He is, in the fullness of His majesty.  Can you even begin to imagine such a thing?  I can barely wrap my mind around it!

He wants to talk to the Lord.  Ask questions.  Hear Him speak.  Voice to voice.  I have always thought that God sounds something like James Earl Jones ... a deep, resonating, soothing voice of strength and gentleness ... and I cannot wait for the day I hear it with my own ears!  Imagine hearing the actual voice of God - saying your name!!!

It is a wonderful thought, isn't it?  Imagining ourselves in the splendor of heaven, looking into the face of God and hearing Him speak to us while a glorious hum surrounds us as angels sing?  Wow. But here is the thing - we do not have to wait for heaven to be in the Lord's presence.  We do not have to wait to talk to Him.  Immanuel - our God is WITH us.  We have direct access to the throne of heaven right here on earth.  Right now.  Do you believe that?  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, keeping us from the Father.  Jesus Christ died, and it was through His suffering and death on the cross that we gained access to a holy God, even while we live in these sinful, human shells roaming the earth until our appointed day comes.  God gave us the gift of HIMSELF when He sent His Son ... we can't miss this truth!  He.is.here.  He is with us.  He dwells within the believer.

Heaven?  Heaven is what every Christian longs for because it is where everything will be revealed. The God we love here - the God we obey - the God we talk to - the God we read about in Scripture - the God we trust - the God we worship in song ... THIS is the God who will show us Himself in full glory, as He is, and it is in front of this God that we fall on our faces crying out, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!  And everything will make sense.

But until that day, we have a job to do right here.  The Lord has asked us to meditate on His Word day and night, and to pray without ceasing.  We have His presence, and we have His ear.  The only thing missing from the Christian while on earth, is gazing at the beautiful face of our God.  He does not suggest it - He does not encourage it - He demands it.  Meditate on my word.  Seek my face continually.  Be holy as I am holy.  Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.  If you love Me, you will obey Me.

Is this the one thing you seek?  To dwell in the presence of the Lord?  Is it your first priority?  Before children, before exercise, before work?  If not, why?  We can all make excuses about how hard it is to be in the Word, how it is one of our greatest struggles, and how easy it is not to do it ... but the truth is, we make time for the things we WANT to make time for.  So if we do not have a desire to seek the Lord first and make Him our first priority, our prayer, in great desperation, needs to be, "Why, Lord? Why don't I want YOU like I want other things?"  And then - let Him work in us.  As long as it takes, as painful as it might have to be, to strip away all of the idols, all of the excuses, and all of the things that keep us from wanting Him more than we want anything, or anyone else.

Lord, Thank You for this message!  Thank you for Your Word!  Thank You for making Scripture so powerful, effective, comforting, encouraging ... and using it to expose the truth that often reveals a heart seeking more of self rather than more of You.  I WANT this one thing, Lord!  I want to want You more than anything else ... including my own way.  I fail often, and sometimes I even enjoy my sin, but Lord, it IS my desire to follow you and give you my everything ... even though I know my everything may cost a lot.  Teach me to trust You more.  Help me love You more.  Make me WANT You more.  

One thing have I asked of the Lordthat I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in His temple.

4.09.2013

Where are we looking?

I heard this story some time ago, and have had in sitting in the post queue ever since.  I open it, read it, find encouragement (and sometimes conviction), and then close it again.  I am not sure why, because when something grabs me I usually share it right away.  The Lord does this to me often, so I am learning not to question His timing - but to trust Him in it.

Our pastor shared this story when preaching about trusting God, and having a proper perspective on what He does in our lives.  Even when the days are dark, and the trials are long.  Our circumstances may not change, but our attitudes certainly can!

Matthew Henry, a minister in the 1700's, was robbed.  That same evening he penned these words in his diary:

Let me be thankful,

1)  I was never robbed before.
2)  Because although they took my wallet, they didn’t take my life.
3)  Because although they took my all – it wasn’t much.
4)  Because it was I who was robbed and not somebody else.

If that is not an example of proper perspective, I am not sure what is!

The one that really grips me is the last one ... it was I who was robbed and not someone else.  How often do we make that statement in our lives?

* I am thankful we are the ones struggling with a financial burden and not the young family in our church.
* I am thankful my children were diagnosed with learning issues, and not the children of the single mother.
* I am thankful that I am hindered by fatigue and illness, because I am still alive!
* I am grateful for these personal attacks and trials, because I can bear them better than the new Christian who is not yet fully anchored in Christ.

Matthew Henry was robbed.  Mugged, if you will.  This is a scary and serious thing!  Instead of whining about it, or telling everyone he knew, looking for attention and coddling, he privately sat down before the Lord and gave thanks.

HE GAVE THANKS!!!

I love this story because it is so completely counter cultural.  When something negative happens - finances, health, jobs, children, church struggles, relational issues - the usual responses are stress, fear, anger, complaining, blame, despondency, discontentment, or bitterness.  When was the last time you heard someone say, "Praise God!  I lost my job!  That means someone else kept theirs and will be able to provide for their family without worry."?

Is it normal to respond with fear and worry when something bad happens?  Yes.  It is a human response.  But as God's children, we are called to respond differently - in spirit and in truth.  We are called to keep our eyes fixed on things above.  To trust Him for our daily bread.  To lay our burdens at His feet, and let Him lead us.  We are not supposed to respond as the world does.  We stand in awe of people like Jim Elliot and Corrie ten Boom and wonder if we could ever respond the way they did when presented with horrible circumstances.  Jim Elliot was willing to die at the end of a spear for the sake of the Gospel - and he never wavered - even though he knew his wife and daughter would be left without him.  Corrie looked into the eyes of the Nazi guard who had beaten her sister, who later died in the camps, and said, "I forgive you."

Why?

Because they had a heavenly perspective.  A Christ-centered perspective.  They understood that the Lord's ways were not theirs, and His thoughts were not their own.  They did not lean on their own understanding.  They knew the answer to the question Is anything too difficult for the Lord? No!  Nothing is too difficult for Him!

They trusted their God.
They saw Him work.
Their faith grew.
And they never doubted Him again.

Isn't that what we should all be striving after?  A proper perspective on who our God is, and what He can do?  Knowing that in any and every situation, no matter how deplorable it may be, He IS God?  He is our rock.  Our stronghold.  And it is through our trials that He perfects us.

Perspective.

Where are our eyes fixed?  On our circumstances, or on our God?  If they are in the right place, we will never be paralyzed by worry or fear, because we know Who holds us close, Who carries us, and Who is doing everything for our growth and maturity - in Him.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

4.08.2013

Quote.


"Let your children have this conviction in their hearts, 'If there are but two real Christians in the world, my father is one, and my mother is the other.'" ~ J. A. James

4.07.2013

Who we are in Christ.

The young adult women and I just enjoyed one of the best studies together - "Who I am in Christ."

We read Scripture, we hear a thousand sermons, we sing countless songs of praise ... and yet, we do not know who we are ... our position ... our promises ... and our rights as children of God.  And because we do not know them, we believe the lies satan whispers in our ears, and we have nothing to fight back with.

We have to know who our God is!  We have to know how He works!  And we have to know the POWER we have as His children.

There are only two reasons a Christian cannot thwart the attacks of satan - the very one who prowls about seeking to devour and destroy us.  1) Ignorance of what God says in His Word, and/or 2) We do not believe His promises based on our "feelings" at the moment.

Feelings do.not.matter!  We do not need to "feel" God to believe He will do what He says He will do. We do not need signs and confirmation or 'peace' to be obedient.  We either believe God is who He says He is - or we don't.  GOD's TRUTH is God's TRUTH.  Regardless of how we feel.  We do not have to understand it, or even like it, but we must trust, in full surrender, the God of creation.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  And hasn't He proven Himself faithful over and over again?  In your life.  In mine?  God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?  Numbers 23:19  We have to know this God!

And once we know Him, we can finally understand how He sees us.  We can claim His promises.  We can rest in the security He offers His children.
We
can
TRUST.

We must learn, identify, and understand who we are in Christ.  We must see ourselves in the light of God's Word - not the image the world has created for us.  We need to claim out loud, "I am who God says I am, regardless of how I feel about myself.  Regardless of what others tell me I am, or am not.  Nothing, and no one, can change the absolute TRUTH of God's Word!"

But to get to this point, you have to dig in the Word, search the Scriptures, and find out first hand what God says ... who He says YOU are.  And then - believe Him.

I challenge you to spend the next week reading through this great list of God's truths and promises about His children.  If you have given your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, you are HIS, forever.  And all of these promises are true - and even better - they are YOURS!

I AM GOD’S…
· possession Genesis 17:8/ 1Cor 6:20
· child John 1:12
· workmanship Ephesians 2:10
· friend James 2:23
· co-laborer 1 Timothy 5:18
· witness Acts 1:8
· soldier 2 Timothy 2:3
· chosen Ephesians 1:4
· beloved Romans 1:7/ 2 Thess 2:13
· precious jewel Malachi 3:17

I HAVE BEEN…
· redeemed by the blood Rev 5:9
· set free from sin /condemnation Rom 8:1-2
· chosen before foundation of world Eph 1:4
· washed in the blood of the Lamb Rev 1:5
· given a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7
· given the Holy Spirit 2 Cor 1:22
· adopted into God’s family Romans 8:15
· given great and precious promises 2 Pet 1:4
· given access to God Ephesians 3:12

I AM…
· complete in him Colossians 2:10
· free forever from sin’s power Romans 6:14
· loved eternally 1 Peter 1:5
· eternally kept in the palm of his hand Jn 10:29
· kept from falling Jude 1:24
· one with the Lord 1 Cor 6:17
· seated in heavenly places Eph 1:3
· light in the darkness Matthew 5:14
· his sheep Ps 23 / Psalms 100:3/ John 10:14
· a citizen of heaven 1 Peter 2:11
· hidden with Christ in God Psalms 32:7
· protected from the evil one 1 John 5:18
· secure in Christ Jn 10:28-29
· covered by blood of Jesus Rev 12:11, 1 Pet 1:19
· sheltered under his wing Psalms 91:4

I HAVE…
· access to the Father Romans 5:2
· a home in heaven waiting for me John 14:1-2
· a living hope 1 Peter 1:3
· an anchor to my soul Hebrews 6:19
· a hope that is sure and steadfast Heb 6:19
· the mind of Christ 1 Cor 2:16
· peace with God Romans 5:1

I CAN…
· do all things through Christ Phil 4:13
· find mercy and grace to help Heb 4:16
· come boldly to the throne of grace Heb 4:16
· pray always and everywhere Luke 21:36
· defeat (overcome) the enemy Rev 12:11

I CANNOT…
· be separated from God’s love Rom 8:35-39
· be moved Psalms 16:8
· be taken out of my Father’s hand John 10:29
· be condemned 1 Cor 11:32

4.03.2013

Scripture tells us why!

We can make all of the excuses we want.  We can try to minimize our disobedience.  We can try to dismiss the mandates of God.

But honestly?  There is absolutely no excuse that will be heard or accepted by the Father when He asks us, "Did you keep My command to meditate on My Word every day?"

Do we really think we will be able to look Him square in the eye and offer the excuses we give to one another when asked if we are faithfully in the Word every day?  I envision a scene that looks more like a child trying to talk his way out of getting in trouble after getting caught red-handed.  Downcast eyes.  Toes making circles in the dirt.  Hands sweaty and shaking.  A lump in the throat.  And a very red face as we try to utter our pathetic excuses to a holy, all-knowing, and just God who gave us a clear command that we did not carry out.

There will be no excuse that is valid, accepted, or reasonable.  He gave us the command because He knows we NEED His Word.  It is the only place where we can find Him.  Understand Him.  Know His promises.

God's Word is all sufficient - the answer for everything.

Reading the Bible is not an option for the believer - it is imperative.

I am embarrassed to admit how many novels and books (even Christian works) I have spent hours reading - while my Bible sat on the shelf untouched.  And then - I heard a mature, older, and very wise woman share that she does not read any books except the Bible.  At first I thought she was being uppity and self-righteous until she confessed:  I love reading.  But I get so caught up in the book that I forget my God and give no time to reading His Word.  I have no balance.  So now, I only read Scripture - and my problem is solved.

Ouch.  I was convicted the second she finished speaking, but it took me almost an entire decade until I followed that conviction.  And now - I regret every single second.  It took far too long for me to understand, and see the benefit, of being in God's word ... learning about Him ... understanding His character ... claiming His truth ... trusting His promises ... and then seeing the fruit that grows in a life that is fully committed to living on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  How much I missed!

I have asked the Lord over and over to give me an insatiable desire for His Word.  That He would make me hunger for it.  That I would not be able to end my day without holding it in my hand and reading His words.  I want to be so familiar with it, and so comfortable with it, that I can use it in any conversation - any situation.  Without thinking.  I have watched preachers with such a level of confidence in the Word, and I always sat in awe - wanting to be like them - wondering how they could know so many Scriptures.  And then the Lord showed me - it is not about memorizing as if cramming for a test.  It is the continual, repetitive process of seeing the words, hearing the words, and thinking about the words over and over and over again that brings confidence, familiarity and yes, affection for His Word.  THAT is what I crave.  And that is what I ask for almost every day:  "Give me an insatiable desire for Your Word - and give me the strength to obey it."

I love these verses because it is Scripture telling us why Scripture is important!  God's Word commanding us to read His Word.  How awesome is that?!?

We must be obedient.
And with obedience comes blessing.
And a promise.
If we meditate on the Word of God both day and night, we will be like a tree planted by streams of water ... producing fruit ... our leaves will not wither ... and we will prosper.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.  John 8:31,32

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Joshua 1:8

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  Acts 20:32

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent me.  John 14:23,24

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  II Timothy 3:16,17

For the word of God is living and activesharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on His law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1

4.02.2013

Christ Alone.

Life has been good lately.

I have faithfully been in the Word, with the Lord taking me to the exact Scriptures I need, even when I had no idea I did!  I have been encouraged and uplifted through the Psalms and full of praises for the Lord - all day long.  My love for His Word, and my dependency upon it, grows stronger every day.  It has been my life prayer: "Lord, give me an insatiable hunger for Your Word!"  And He is showing Himself faithful - as He always does.

My time with the young adult women has been refining, and wonderful, and pushing me to be faithful in my own walk so I can be prepared for them ... to pray, to answer questions, to comfort and encourage.  They are an absolute blessing to me!  Just being in their presence - with their energy and passion and excitement for life ~ it is rejuvenating to say the least!

After a very rough beginning to our year, Dennis and I are on the same page, working together, praying as a couple for wisdom with our children, enjoying our time together, and talking about everything under the sun.  As we approach our 20th year of marriage, we look back and see how very far the Lord has brought us through these years, and are both humbled by, and grateful for, His faithfulness to us.  

While we have hit a dark storm in homeschooling and the structure of The Eastman Academy this past month, the Lord is using it to show us where we need to change, delete, add, and overall rethink how we do things.  WHY we do things.  "Begin with the end in mind" is our family motto.  So right now we are applying this to homeschooling ... what are the goals we have for our children?  What do we want them to have accomplished the day we hand them their diplomas?  We have already walked through this in great detail, but we have not revisited it lately, and we both feel we have lost our focus, loosened our grip - and it is time to gain it all back.  It has been the hardest month of homeschooling ever in my eight years, but it has also produced the most growth, and shown me how much I need my husband to partner in this with me.  I can no longer do it on my own.  And praise the Lord - he is willing!  

I have actually been able to meet with a couple of friends, or enjoy long chats on the phone, (this is a rare thing in this season of life) and three of our families are coming into town for a visit this month.  Everyone in our family is healthy at the same time. (can it be so?!?)  And, well, life is good.

And satan is not pleased.  He hates it when my mind is steadfast and focused on the Lord.  He hates when I am in the Word preparing to share with young women.  He hates it when I am patient and attentive to my family and their needs.  He hates when I praise God, serve others, pray for my enemies, and fight my flesh.  When the enemy is not happy, he ATTACKS.

And his arrows have been flying at my back with great rapidity and force these past two days.

Every hour that passed made my burden feel greater.  My thoughts of praise turned to apathy.  I felt neglected and abandoned.  Frustrated.  Out of control.  Weak.  Sad.  Overwhelmed.  And I could not find the root of it all so I could rip it out and destroy it.

Until ... a friend responded to an e-mail I had sent to check in on her and asked me how I was doing.  I was going to ignore it.  Actually, I did ignore it for an entire day.  But when I finally hit 'reply' and started typing, the words flowed, the emotion showed itself, and the root of the problem was exposed.

I was leaning on my own understanding.

My confidence was strengthened while studying the Word for bible study.  My confidence was strengthened as I met with different women and was able to encourage them.  My marriage was strong.  My children want to be with me.  My friends were eager to have time with me.  I felt strong - confident - in control.  In myself, rather than in Christ.

So instead of relying on the Lord for every ounce of wisdom, seeking His strength for every trial, and remembering that I am have absolutely nothing to offer on my own merit - because every good thing is from above, I was doing exactly what He says NOT to do.

Trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6

Confidence in MYSELF?  Are you kidding?!?!  I don't care if I read my Bible 22 times a day, pray for four hours, faithfully disciple my children every day, serve my husband with passion and joy, minister to 12 women each afternoon, and live at peace with everyone I know.  I am never, ever EVER to boast in my own strength.  I am a sinner.  I am going to battle with my flesh until the day the Lord calls me to glory.  I will fail.  Say the wrong thing.  Miss opportunities.  Offend.  Hurt.  Misunderstand.  I will never have the right to claim my own wisdom or strength as the source of anything I do.

And if I am foolish enough to THINK I am so wise, intelligent, or insightful, I will be in sin because the Lord states clearly in his Word that He hates arrogance and pride.  
"God OPPOSES the proud, and gives grace to the humble." James 4:6
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 11:2  
"A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor."  Proverbs 29:23  
"The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." Proverbs 16:5

I was acknowledging the Lord ... as the Creator, the omnipotent One, faithful, steadfast and immovable, forgiving, wise, powerful, patient ... but where I failed?  I was not acknowledging Him as the SOURCE of everything I have and - everything I do.  Whether it is holding my tongue when my children do something foolish, or offering the needed word in the life of another ... nothing worthy of His praise is done because of me, or through me.  It is only because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me that I am able to accomplish anything worthy of His praise.

Confidence is a good thing.  God gave us intelligence and allows us to use it to serve others in a plethora of ways.  But the enemy can very quickly, and usually very quietly, turn confidence into arrogance and pride, letting us rejoice in our own strength, rather than boasting in the Lord's.

The mystery has been solved!  The despondency of my heart and mind was the Lord at work within me ... pulling me out of my self-confidence ... reminding me that I need to rely on Him for every thought, action, and word, regardless of how capable I may feel ... because HE is the one who began a good work in me, and HE is the one who will continue that work until I am complete. And this completion will not happen until the day I see Him face to face.

So for now?  And every day I have breath ... I must trust solely in my God.  My confidence must be in Him.  As one of my favorite songs says, "In every victory, let it be said of me, my source of strength, my source of hope, is CHRIST ALONE."

Quote.

“I choose gentleness... Nothing is won by force. 
I choose to be gentle. 
If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. 
If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. 
If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”
Max Lucado