12.31.2016

Excellent quote on relationships ... and Christ.

When we ask a person to do for us what only Christ can do, we place a crushing and impossible burden on them, and then judge them when they fall short.
It's vital to remember that human love is a wonderful thing - you should pursue people who love you, and you should be pursued by people because you're loving. But you will only ever find life - real, heart-changing, soul-satisfying life - in a vertical relationship with one Person.
Only Christ can be your source of spiritual vitality and strength. Only Christ can save you, change you and deliver you from you. Only Christ can give your soul what it's desperately seeking.
Could it be that the disappointment you experience in your relationships is the product of unrealistic and unattainable expectations? 

Could it be that you have unwittingly put people in God's place? 
Could it be that you ask the people to do what only Christ can do for you?
There is but one Savior, and He is yours forever. You don't need to put that burden on the person next to you. 

~ Paul Tripp

12.29.2016

Excited to pray BETTER!


We finished our book study! 
It has been a great time of learning, growth through conviction, and fellowship as the four of us studied together these past months. Thank you for doing this with me, ladies! Accountability makes a difference!
I highly recommend this treasure for your personal library. We could hardly read one page without underlining half of the sentences and then declaring to one another that each chapter was the BEST chapter. Spurgeon had a gift for creating vivid word pictures and hitting the targets of human hearts dead center with biblical truth. 
This was my second time through the pages and I still feel like I need to read the book once a month for the rest of my life!

These were my favorite quotes from the final chapter.

"When we approach nearest to the throne of grace, we still fall very short of being where and what we ought to be. We often come before God in prayer unfit to pray and spoil the action in the very outset by unpreparedness of heart. At other times, we are assailed with suspicions as to the faithfulness of God, doubts as to the success of our pleas, or else some other hallowed thought pollutes the sacrifice. How hard it is to begin, continue, and end a prayer in the Spirit! 
Our consolation lies in this, that our beloved intercessor who stands before God for us, even Christ Jesus, possesses such an abundance of precious merit that He puts fragrance into our supplications and imparts a delicious odor to our prayers. He makes our intercessions to be through His merit what they could not have been without it - acceptable before the Majesty of heaven."

"In the matter of intercession, one of the most important things is the character of the person. If I live in constant sin and then say, "Our Father, which art in heaven," surely I might feel His hand closing my mouth and hear Him say, "How can you hallow My name when you constantly defile it? How can you say, 'Thy kingdom come,' when you will not submit to My rule? How dare you mutter out before me the words, 'Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,' when you rebel against My will?" Such prayers are an insult to heaven instead of sweet perfume offered before the Most High.
It is certain there is nothing that so weakens prayer as sin, and that to be a man like Elijah, who can prevail with God upon Carmel, you must walk in the Lord's ways - for if you walk contrary to Him, He will walk contrary to you."

Both of these quotes convict me deeply for I do not prepare my heart often or thoroughly enough before approaching a holy God. My thoughts stray, my focus wanes, and intentions for praise and worship fail. How thankful I am that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words. I need Him!

"The prayer that God accepts is offered to Him alone. He who presents it cares not one atom who likes it or who does not like it. He is talking with His God, pleading with the Majesty unseen. He is very careless of the criticism of others. His only desire is to please the Lord."

I LOVE this! The enemy thrives on fear and insecurity and pride in public prayer to KEEP people from praying together. When we focus on what everyone else "might" be thinking, we completely lose our focus on the Savior and the purpose of our conversation with Him. My favorite line, "His only desire is to please the Lord." Yes! Approval of men? Nope. Just GOD!

"What if I were to say that prayer is in itself essentially a doxology? It is an utterance of glory to God in His attributes. Do I ask Him to bless me? Then I adore His power, for I believe He can. Do I ask Him to bless me because of such and such a promise? Then I adore His faithfulness, for I evidently believe that He is truthful and will do as He has said.  Do I ask Him to bless me not according to my request but according to His own wisdom? The I adore His wisdom; I am evidently believing in His prudence and judgment. When I say to Him, "Not my will but Thine be done," I am adoring His sovereignty. When I confess that I deserve to suffer beneath His hand, I reverence His justice. When I acknowledge that He always does right, I adore His holiness. When I humbly say, "Nevertheless, deal graciously with me and blot out my transgressions," I am reverencing His grace. We do not wonder, therefore, that through Jesus Christ the prayers of the saints should be precious to God since they are an eminently practical homage to the Supreme."

Amen!

12.28.2016

Trusting and praising Him in the difficult moments.

Sometimes, when life is overwhelming and those you love are walking through intense trials and sadness, focusing on the Lord and remembering His power are the best way to respond to the suffering. We have no control, no power, no ability to fix anything, but we can lean hard on Him with confidence and trust knowing that His plans are perfect and His will is always accomplished. We might not understand it, or even like it, but He is God. And He is good.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name. I Chronicles 29

12.22.2016

Excellent quote.


There are rare Christians whose very presence incites others to be better Christians.
I want to be that rare Christian.
~ A. W. Tozer

12.18.2016

The gift of HOPE.

I so enjoy the privilege of worshipping the Lord with the body of Christ in different churches. It is refreshing to observe their music style, how the members interact with one another, and with guests, and listen to the Word of God preached by a pastor who protects his pulpit because he loves the Lord and respects the sanctity of Scripture.
This morning I attended church with my brother and CC, and it was a delightful time of worship.

The pastor preached from a familiar Christmas passage, Luke 2. "Hope Revealed in Humility."
Not only was Jesus born in the most humble of circumstances - poverty, a barn filled with animals, a filthy manger in which to lay His head - the first people to hear of the birth of the long-awaited Messiah were lowly shepherds. Everything about Jesus' entry into the world was wrapped in humility. And with that humility came HOPE.

I cannot possibly write out the details of the sermon, so I will insert the main points into the text and let the Holy Spirit do the rest! 
I pray someone will be encouraged as they read the details of this amazing night. 
The night a Savior was born.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 
- The gift of unceasing JOY.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
- The gift of an unwavering SAVIOR.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
- The gift of unbelievable SIGHT.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
- The gift of unceasing PEACE.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 
- The gift of unapologetic PASSION.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart
- The gift of unashamed ADORATION.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
- The gift of unceasing WORSHIP.

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty of worshipping with the body of Christ. Though we may shake hands and introduce ourselves for the first time, we are not strangers, but family. Your children, saved by grace because the cradle crashed into the Cross, Jesus claimed victory over death, and we worship together - at the feet of the Savior. All because YOU first loved US.

12.11.2016

True Success.

Have you ever known someone who pours out words of wisdom like water from a faucet? Every time you talk to her, whether a three-minute conversation in the parking lot or an entire evening of interaction, you walk away feeling edified and refreshed?
The Lord has blessed me with such a woman, and what I love most about her is that she is not aware of her own brilliance. She loves the Lord, drowns herself in His Word, and then lives her life obeying Him and loving others. No matter what you talk about, what counsel you seek, or what prayer request you offer, she responds with Scripture and phrases her thoughts in such a unique way that you cannot forget them.

I sent her a prayer request recently, and her response lingered in my thoughts for days. As usual!

Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success, not the response of others. 
Obey, and then let the Holy Spirit do His job!

I spent much of my life seeking to please people rather than pleasing God.
Fear of rejection was the motivating factor. Will she be mad? Is he disappointed? What will they think? If I tell her how I feel, she will be upset. If I say "no" she will think I'm a bad friend. And on and on it went. I spent much time, energy, effort, and emotion trying to make others happy instead of seeking the Lord and loving Him with my whole heart, mind, and strength. And it was exhausting - because it is impossible to please everyone.
We are called to love, serve, encourage, pray for, rejoice and weep with, accept, show compassion to, forgive, be at peace with, and bear with one another. But never once in Scripture are we commanded to make people "happy." We can fully obey the "one another's of Scripture" and still find people unhappy or angry with us because we didn't fulfill the commands the way they expected or desired.

Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success, not the response of others. 

She is absolutely right - because she drew this thought from Scripture.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44


When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

Learning to please God rather than man has been a long and difficult life-lesson for me. Like a mother who keeps calling her child's name and grabbing his chin to get him to pay attention, the Lord has spent too much time grabbing my chin saying, "Michelle! Stop worrying about what everyone else is thinking, or how they feel about you. Fix your eyes on My face, and obey Me. My approval, My thoughts, and My acceptance are all you need, and when you understand this, you will be content and at peace because you will see yourself through My eyes rather than the eyes of others. Look at Me, daughter. Fear Me, not man. Follow where I lead, and then - trust me to do My will, My way, and for My glory."

Oh, Lord, how thankful I am that You are a long-suffering Father because I know how often I try Your patience when I continue to look around instead of looking UP. Forgive me for spending so many years seeking the approval of man instead of seeking You. Forgive me for putting the preferences of people above Your desires for me. Forgive me for measuring my value by human standards rather than Your own. My only purpose is to glorify You, so teach me to do so without shame, with full abandon, and with an unquenchable desire to follow wherever You lead so people will see YOU when they look at me.

12.10.2016

Faithful and fulfilled PROMISES.

We are in chapter eleven of our book study on prayer. During my reading this morning, I found this gem tucked inside the pages.
I pray it will encourage anyone who is struggling with anxiety, worry, or fear, and most of all, that it will bring comfort knowing that the Lord is a rock and a refuge - a very PRESENT help in times of trouble. He never leaves us or forsakes us ... even on our darkest day.

An anxiety-filled heart keeps us from seeing anything clearly.
If we were calm, quiet, self-possessed, we should do the right thing.
That man may expect to have presence of mind who has the presence of God.
Think of that man of God who, on the morning he was to be burned, was so soundly asleep that they had to shake him to wake him. He had to get up to be burned, and yet knowing that it was to be so, he had such confidence in God that he slept sweetly.
This is the "peace of God that passes all understanding."
- C. H. Spurgeon, The Power of Prayer in a Believer's Life

Lord, use Your Word to encourage us and remind us to run to You, and You alone, when we are weary and heavy-laden. No one can give us the rest, the comfort, or the peace we crave. Nothing else will fill the gaps or heal the hurts. Only Your love, Your forgiveness, Your grace, and Your mercy will provide the peace that passes all human understanding; and make us lie down in green pastures beside still waters while Your rod and staff comfort us. Thank You, Lord, for Your promises, and for being a faithful God who fulfills each one.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. Psalm 56:3 
 
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22-23

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27  

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. 
Isaiah 26:3 

12.08.2016

What matters most.

Some time ago, the Lord provided a wise and gracious woman to counsel, encourage, correct, rebuke, and challenge me. Our conversation was both profitable and fruitful. She spoke truth with grace, listened with the intent to understand, and supported everything she said with Scripture. It was exactly what I needed - and I was grateful.
I sent her a note the next day, thanking her for investing in me, and this was her response:

I encourage you not to focus on circumstances, but to focus on being Spirit led, and confident in who you are in Christ.
Nothing should guide your thinking, your feelings, or your actions - except Christ.
He is our example.
-And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 8:2
-And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, He must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23
-I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

You are called to bear His image - not your own. So my prayer for you, my friend, is that you will bear it well.

Isn't that fanTAStic?

It's been quite some time since I reviewed my "Who I am in Christ" notes, so I pulled them out, read each one, and looked up the Scriptures that support them. What an encouragement to be reminded how God sees me!

Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word and faithful women who use it to guide their thinking, actions, and counsel. Too often I allow myself to be defined by what others want me to be, or who I think I 'should be' rather than seeing myself through Your eyes. My focus has to be on You and You alone. If I keep it there, I can give all of my thought, time, energy, and passion to what You have called me to do because I won't be distracted by what is happening around me. Forgive me for losing sight of this. Scripture paints such a clear picture of how You view us through Christ, and when I read these truths I am in awe of how good You are to a sinner like me. Remind me of these truths every day, because Your thoughts toward me are the ones that matter most.

Who I Am In Christ

I AM GOD’S… 
· possession Genesis 17:8 / 1 Corinthians 6:20
· child John 1:12
· workmanship Ephesians 2:10
· friend James 2:23 / John 15:14,15
· chosen Ephesians 1:4
· beloved Romans 1:7 / 2 Thess 2:13
· precious jewel Malachi 3:17

I HAVE BEEN… 
· redeemed by the blood Revelation 5:9
· set free from sin/condemnation Romans 8:1-2
· forgiven of all my trespasses Colossians 2:13
· given a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7
· adopted into God’s family Romans 8:15
· justified freely by His grace Romans 3:24
· given great and precious promises 2 Peter 1:4

I AM…
· complete in Him Colossians 2:10
· sanctified 1 Corinthians 6:11
· eternally kept in the palm of His hand John 10:29
· light in the darkness Matthew 5:14
· His sheep Psalm 23 / Psalm 100:3 / John 10:14
· protected from the evil one 1 John 5:18
· secure in Christ John 10:28-29
· sheltered under His wing Psalm 91:4

I HAVE…
· access to the Father Romans 5:2 / Ephesians 3:12
· 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
· peace with God Romans 5:1

I CAN…
· do all things through Christ Philippians 4:13
· find mercy and grace to help in time of need Hebrews 4:16
· come boldly to the throne of grace Hebrews 4:16
· pray always and everywhere Luke 21:36

I CANNOT…
· be separated from God’s love Romans 8:35-39
· be moved Psalm 16:8
· be taken out of my Father’s hand John 10:29
· be charged or accused Romans 8:33
· be condemned 1 Corinthians 11:32

12.07.2016

Parenting Advice.

While cleaning out my files I stumbled across somes notes taken from a Mom's Night back in 2012. The speaker was a seasoned mother who wanted to encourage and support young moms as they began their journey of raising their children in the fear of the Lord. Though I had already been a parent for 12 years, I was challenged by her entire message, and after reading the notes again tonight I am just as convicted to apply these nuggets of wisdom to my parenting now as I was then.
I hope you will find these as encouraging as I did!
  • Don't burden your children with your own ego.
  • Discipline your children with love - not your pride.
  • Train for, require, and expect first time obedience. If you do not, you are giving your children a chance to sin ... one, two, three more times. Do not cause them to stumble.
  • Do not tolerate mean teasing or picking on one another. Create a home where everyone feels safe, secure, and appreciated.
  • Discipline in private.
  • Give clear standards for behavior and the consequence for disobedience before you go somewhere with your children. A football player knows the rules before he steps on the field. Your children should know the expectations you have for them before they are put into any given setting. Behavior standards at a wedding or a dinner party are much different than those at a park. Set them up for success, not failure.
  • Do not allow whining!
  • Let your Yes be YES and your No be NO. Do not let crying, whining, or begging change your mind when you have made a decision. Children need to be as content with the word 'no' as they are with the word 'yes.'
  • Learn to say No to social events. Your child will not be less successful or inept because she did not attend 14 birthday and skate parties each month.
  • Foster the feeling that HOME is as satisfying as going out. Let your home be enough.
  • Discipline for attitudes - not mistakes.
  • BE THERE. (Deuteronomy 6:6) We cannot train our children in the ways of the Lord when we are not with our children. Your presence is what provides security, comfort, and consistency in your child's life.
  • Discipline does not always have to be harsh. Create natural consequences for sinful actions. The child leaves dirty clothes all over their floor? Take the clothes and put them in a bag. When she has no clean clothes, she will understand. She won't brush and floss her teeth? Let her pay for the filling. She will not speak to you respectfully? She does not get to have time with her friends. Your children keep arguing and fighting with one another? Have them walk around the backyard holding hands until they are kind. 
  • Overlook childish mistakes.
  • Discipline with confidence - not disgust.
  • Discipline a toddler quickly and move on with your day. Stop everything to talk to your child/teen.
  • Teenagers need as much attention and affection as a toddler. Do not miss the opportunity to pour into them! 
  • SMILE at your children. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Play. "Your smile should be the regular landscape of your child's life."
The behavior of our children is seen by everyone. Your family, your parenting, your children ... they are a living testimony of your walk with the Lord. Do not underestimate this truth! 

Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. 
Proverbs 20:11

12.06.2016

Silence really is golden - Scripture says so!

Today was interesting because I woke up without a voice!
I caught the head cold that has made itself at home here in the Eastman house for the past two weeks and went to bed with a sore throat. After a sleepless night of coughing and discomfort, I woke up to find that my mouth could not express what my mind wanted to say.
As the day wore on, I was able to accomplish voicing about three words out of ten, but by evening - nothing but a whisper.

Spending an entire day in (almost) silence made me wonder what Scripture has to say about the subject. Turns out - it says quite a bit and is almost always connected to self-control. This is not an exhaustive list, just the verses that impacted me most.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:28

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Proverbs 11:12

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God
James 1:19

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11

Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3

When words are many, sin is not absent, but whoever restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19  


I think the most interesting thing about these verses is how the Lord strings silence to wisdom.
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom is found when we speak less and listen more, then this verse needs to be my daily prayer.
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3

Convicting QUOTE.


If any occupation or amusement or association is found to hinder our communion with God or our enjoyment of spiritual things - then it must be abandoned. 
Whatever I cannot do for God's glory - must be avoided! 
~ Arthur Pink

12.03.2016

The right question.


A cheerful heart has a continual feast! Proverbs 15:15

Dennis brought these bright, beautiful flowers home for me to enjoy last week, and every time I looked at them, I felt happy. Not only do I love the color pink, I love when the color is reflected in nature - a work of God's own hands. What is it about stems and petals that can bring such joy? The first word that came to mind was CHEERFUL!

cheer·ful
adjective
- noticeably happy and optimistic
synonyms: happy, jolly, merry, bright, glad, sunny, joyful, joyous, lighthearted, in good spirits, in high spirits, sparkling, bubbly, exuberant, buoyant, ebullient, elated, gleeful
- causing happiness by its nature or appearance
synonyms: pleasant, attractive, agreeable, cheering, bright, sunny, happy, friendly, welcoming

What a terrific definition!
And a worthy pursuit.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which means it comes directly from God and fills us up when we are fully yielded to Him. If we are filled with joy on the inside, it will be evident on the outside.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful ... Proverbs 15:13

If our facial expressions, attitude, and demeanor exhibit cheerfulness and joy, it will cause others to wonder ...  "Why are you always smiling?" "What makes you so happy?" "How come you are able to find joy in difficult situations?"
And then we can smile even more broadly and answer,
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.
My heart leaps for joy
and with my song I praise Him. Psalm 28:7

Thank You, Lord, for using something as simple and beautiful as a flower to remind me that a cheerful heart can draw others to You because it is YOU who shines through the countenance of the believer. We are commanded to "always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us," and a cheerful face and a joyful spirit will be the catalyst for others to ask the question in the first place. Teach me to always choose JOY - because it reflects YOU.