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Category: Life (page 1 of 2)

But first… praise!

God has a knack for blowing me away with how awesome He is!

Ok, so a couple weeks ago, I was reading the story of Jehoshaphat, which can be found in 2 Chronicles 20.

Jerusalem was surrounded by a mass of enemies – the Moabites, Ammonites and others – and the situation was looking pretty grim. It seemed like there was no way the Israelite army could win this battle. So their king, Jehoshaphat, did the most logical thing… he stood in the house of the Lord before the entire assembly of Jerusalem and declared:

“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations,
and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?
… If disaster comes upon us – sword, judgement, pestilence or famine – we will stand before this temple
and in Your presence… and cry out to You in our affliction and You will hear and save.” (vs. 6, 9)

Uhh, what? Even if they starve, are tortured or killed, they would still stand before their God, assured that He would save them? Why did the king say this?

“For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us;
nor do we know what to do,
but our eyes are upon You.” (vs. 12)

Ah, there it is.

King Jehoshaphat realized there was no way they could defeat the enemy on their own power. The only thing that could possibly save them in some way was their God – our God of today – who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and never forsakes His people or His promises (Deuteronomy 31:6).

So how did they prepare for this impossible battle?

The king’s pep talk can be found in verse 17: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them for the Lord is with you.”

Wait a minute. They won’t need to fight? How can the king be certain of this?

Ohh, just you wait. It gets better 🙂

Ok, so far we know where Jehoshaphat stood and that he was completely depending on God for this victory, but how in the world was He going to carry out this amazing rescue without losing a single Israelite?

Well, the king’s next move was to bow before the Lord and worship Him, with the Levites and others standing “to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high” (vs. 19). Then he encouraged them to “believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (vs. 20b)…

… and then appointed more singers to praise the Lord.

Hold on. More singing? Uhh, didn’t they have at least three massive armies outside their gates waiting to completely destroy them?

“Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon,
Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated…
so when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude;
and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped” (vs. 22, 24).

DSCN1805Salvation happened immediately! See? Right when they BEGAN to sing – not during, not an hour or two after, but when they first started! – God swept in and ambushed the enemy.

Yikes! I can’t even begin to imagine what it must’ve been like for the armies outside the walls. Maybe they could hear the praises and singing coming from the city and were scoffing at the people inside. Maybe they were partying and drinking, celebrating their coming victory a little early. Who knows?

All we do know is that when Judah came out of the city the next day, they saw fields filled with dead bodies, possibly the embers of multiple fires still burning and ragged tents and flags blowing in the gentle breeze.

And get this: it took them 3 days to cart away the loot from all the camps.

Three days!! Talk about abundant blessings from God 🙂

“Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front  of them,
to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies…
Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around” (vs. 27, 30).

Why do we fear? Seriously, if our God can take care of multitudes of soldiers whose end goal was to take out Judah completely, then why do we fear in today’s society? We already know where we’re going when we leave this earth and we have the assurance of God’s promises and faithfulness during our life here.

And did you catch that last part?

“God gave him rest all around”

That is the epitome of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Don’t stress about what’s coming up in life. Praise Him first. In all things, praise! And He will give you rest 🙂

(didn’t I tell you my God is pretty awesome?)

 

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Angels watching over me

After spending a lovely evening of cooking dinner, writing thank-you notes, going for a walk and watching a movie with my fiance, something completely unexpected happened.”

I had been driving on I-78 for about 10 minutes, singing along to Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted,” when I rounded a corner and an unusual movement caught my eye. Next thing I know, my little Suzuki is right on top of the big momma deer that happened to be in my lane..

THUD

… my hood crumples and she goes flying straight up into the air, right over my car and the car behind me, smacking onto the pavement on the side of the road. I manage to steer off to the side of the highway, smoke swirling out of my now-exposed engine and windshield wipers going like crazy (in my shock, I smacked everything around the steering wheel trying to find the turn signal so I could safely exit my lane, thus turning on the wipers full blast).

20141111_081131The girl who was driving behind me didn’t have a scratch on her car and she stopped to make sure I was ok. She left and the realization of what had just happened began to set in, triggering a mini freakout. I called my fiance and he dropped what he was doing to meet me (did I mention how awesome he is?). The necessary calls were then made to the police, AAA and my Dad and we had my car towed away while my wonderful fiance gave me a ride home.

In hindsight, I believe that my car was surrounded by angels that night.

I mean, what else could’ve kept that deer from coming through the windshield (causing even more damage or even critically injuring me)? It had started to roll up my car’s hood and then suddenly shot high in the air; high enough to get over 2 cars and land way off on the side of the road (out of the way of oncoming traffic).

The only explanation I have is God’s angels! The Bible states:

“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” 
Heb. 1:14
 
” For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  
In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” 
Psalm 91:11-12
 
“The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” 
Psalm 34:7

While I haven’t personally seen a healing happen before my eyes or had one of those incredible visions from God, I have had angelic experiences throughout my entire life (angels kept me quiet and occupied while Mom dealt with a fish tank disaster – I was just under a year old; there have been car crashes that could’ve ended really badly; hiding my keys on me so I would be a couple minutes late, missing the multi-vehicle accident; and more).

All I can say is that God must have something big planned for my life, someone He wants me to impact personally, something He wants me to do to further His kingdom. It’s the same for all of us! He is faithful in His promises and will never leave us nor forsake us. When he says that He will send His angels to guard us, it’s not a lie. We are surrounded by His protection day in and day out.

Trust Him. He won’t let you down.

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28: 20
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God-Dependent

“To become a [true] servant is to become radically strong spiritually”<
[Be] God-dependent rather than spouse-dependent”

During one of my mornings with God last week, reading from a book called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, these phrases popped out at me and got me thinking…

What does it mean to be “God-dependent”? How does that come through in every day life?

I know that most of us, growing up in Christian homes and churches, have been taught at a young age to put our trust in Christ, to have our happiness depend on God rather than our family or friends. To a young girl, that seems easier said than done.

My happiness depends on a God I can’t even see? How does that work? He can’t make silly faces that get me to laugh, He can’t tell me a joke or take me somewhere fun or sit for hours to just talk and catch up.

But as I got older, I began to realize what being “God-dependent” really means.

Throughout high school I got excited whenever one of the older guys happened to smile at me or when one of my friends invited me out to a girls’ night. Then college came, I got a boyfriend and felt like I was on cloud nine because I finally had someone who seemed to value me for who I was and who I enjoyed spending time with.

And what happened?

I broke my heart multiple times because those high school boys were just being nice and had no interest in me whatsoever. Most of those girls’ nights ended up being gossip-fests that I couldn’t share in because I was homeschooled and didn’t know anyone outside of church. Half of the guys in college, including my then-boyfriend, weren’t interested in a long-term relationship and eventually started to push me away.

The bottom line is that people will let you down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s just the way we are with the sin nature in our lives… and that’s why we’re encouraged to allow God to become the source of our joy and happiness.

David realized this when he wrote Psalm 28:7:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped;
therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him.”

What does he do in this verse?

David owns the truth by saying “my strength” and “my shield.”DSCN7730

By claiming that truth as his own and striving each day to place his dependence on God alone, David was able to “greatly rejoice” and “praise” the God of joy and peace!

So, how would that apply in real life?

The verse that popped in my head was Ephesians 5:21, which says:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As we start to turn our focus toward Christ and work to base our joy off of our relationship with Him, everything else will fall into place.

It’s just like Thomas says:

“If [you] are faithfully serving [your spouse] when [they’re] in a surely mood and [they’re] not exactly falling over [themselves] to show [their] appreciation, [you] still receive an inner affirmation and sense of fulfillment from God. [You] have that inner witness that tells [you] that [your] Creator is pleased with [you]…”

When we place our identity in the One who is the source of joy and happiness, it won’t matter so much what other people do to us, as long as we’re faithfully striving to serve our heavenly Father and do His will by loving on those He created…

… because He will be pleased with us.

“There is true joy when true service is offered up with a true heart”

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“Finding Me” Book Review

“I love life… My son is the most precious to me. I will give up anything to be with my son at home where I belong… Life changes from good to bad… in a blink of an eye your whole life can change, so you should live life like it’s your last days on earth because you never know when tragedy might strike… Some people don’t have a family to turn to in time of need… I can’t wait for this nightmare to end so I can wake up and be me again.”
– Finding Me (page 165)

I’m sure most people have heard about the Cleveland kidnappings and the amazing rescue that happened in May 2013; when one of the girls, after having been held captive for over a decade, managed to get the attention of a neighbor while their captor was out of the house.

“Finding Me” is an eye-witness account as told by Michelle Knight, the first girl Ariel Castro lured into his house on Aug. 21, 2002, and held captive for 11 years. Let me just say, while this book is very well-written, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Her life wasn’t easy to begin with. Knight’s family had a very small home, where the amount of relatives living with them made for cramped space and no extra beds. After being sexually abused for years by one those relatives, she finally runs away to live under an overpass for a couple of months, only to be recognized while walking around town. Her dad, after getting the call, picked her up and dragged her back home that night.

Forced to endure more sexual abuse from that same relative, Knight eventually becomes pregnant and has her son, Joey. She loses custody of him 4 years later after the abusive relative got rough with her and broke Joey’s bone when he toddled over to help her. The government stepped in and placed him in foster care, saying her living situation wasn’t safe for the child.

Struggling to gain back custody,  Knight accepts a ride from her friend’s dad, Ariel Castro, who offers to take her to one of her court meetings. They make a stop at his house first, where he tells her that she could pick out one of his puppies to take back home to her son. Bringing her upstairs to where he claimed the puppies were, Castro attacks her and ties her up, rendering her completely helpless.

Words can’t fully describe the awfulness that Knight had to endure throughout the next several years: tied up in the basement with a motorcycle helmet on her head and duct tape on her mouth to keep her from being heard, forced to do the most disgusting sexual acts for “the dude’s” pleasure, starved because he either forgot to bring her food or refused to do so, raped daily, beaten until she aborted her child when she got pregnant… 5 times.

In the book, Knight never refers to Castro by his real name once she starts talking about her kidnapping. She calls him “the dude,” which, in a way, strips him of his humanity for readers – presenting him as a monster who is driven by a desire for sex and his twisted fantasies.

Knight said that “the dude” also kidnapped Amanda Berry on April 21, 2003, and Gina DeJesus on April 2, 2004, bringing them together to complete his “family,” as he called it. All three girls had some connection to Castro’s daughter.

Throughout the book, Knight keeps mentioning how many times “the dude” told her that she was worthless, that no one was bothering to look for her because they didn’t care, that she was ugly and unloved. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would do to me, having to hear that day after day, week after week for years.

“I truly believe no one cares for me. I feel like I’m dying in here. Sometimes I feel powerless to the pain and destruction. I find myself paralyzed. I’m going out of my mind thinking about if I’ll ever get home to see my lil’ angel. I’m sitting in a prison with no windows and waiting for someone to come rescue me. I’m lying here cold, shivering, but I am still not totally broken.” – Finding Me (page 176)

Yet, there is one thing that keeps her going and gives her the strength she needs to keep going: her son, Joey.

“To My Son: You are my shining star, you are the reason I look forward to a new day. 
You’ll always be in my heart, and that’s where you’ll always stay. You light the way for me, 
the day gets hard and I think of you and how we will be together forever. 
Never apart and one day have a fresh new start with you, because you are my hope to survive.” 
– Finding Me (page 179)

Finally, after a decade of abuse, on May 6, 2013, Berry manages to get the attention of a neighbor by pushing the chain-bolted front door out as far as it would go and sticking her arm out, screaming for help.

The police came, broke down the front door and found Knight and DeJesus in the upstairs room. They were brought out to the ambulances to be checked and taken to the hospital. Castro was arrested shortly after and brought to court, where he was charged with 937 counts of kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and was later found dead in his cell on Sept. 3, 2013.

Knight says that having her freedom back is still kind of surreal. She doesn’t downplay what she went through, but she also says that she won’t let it define her:

“The horrors I survived don’t have to define me – and with God’s help I’m not going to let them. One day at a time, one breath at a time, I am choosing to move forward. After crawling my way out of a dark bedroom and into a brand new life, that’s the best gift I can give myself.” 
– Finding Me (page 240)

After being released from the hospital and getting her own apartment, Knight is
currently working to touch other people’s lives and give back to her community. She says that she wants to be a voice for the girls who are still in captivity and wants to give them and their families hope.

“When I was on my last breath in that house, God kept me alive for some reason. I believe the reason is so I can help others who have been in my situation. When I’m feeling lost, that’s the purpose I hold onto. Becoming a voice for those who can’t speak, sharing love with other people around me – that’s the only way I’ve been able to find myself again.” 
– Finding Me (page 249 )

I personally enjoyed getting a first-hand account of what happened behind those doors and, while it was really hard to read without getting teary-eyed, it brings to light how she was able to survive that dark time.

I highly recommend this well-written, well-thought-out book to those who are looking for a real, down-to-earth account that provides all the facts and an underlying message of hope, or those who, like me, enjoy reading/hearing other people’s stories, getting into their heads and discovering how they experience things, what they think and how they choose to be defined by the circumstances they find themselves in.

I mean, everyone has a story to tell.

If you want to get a copy of the book for yourself, visit Amazon.com or any other store or online site that carries it.

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To love like Christ

Your hatred is for individuals, whereas mine is for certain actions and ideas.”
Matt Walsh.

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Walsh, wrote a response to all of the hate mail that he has been receiving for voicing his opinions on some of society’s issues.
Whenever a breaking news story comes out or an issue gets heavily debated on social media sites, you can almost guarantee that Walsh will have something to say on the matter… and it’s refreshing to read a Christian viewpoint on what’s happening in the world.
He doesn’t blatantly shove the Bible in his readers’ faces or act as if he’s superior to them. He states the facts and explains why he thinks the way he does (with plenty resources to back up his viewpoint).
So, my question is, why do we, as Christians, get so much hate for voicing our opinions or not agreeing with the way society thinks?
 Some people claim that Christians are just out to condemn others for their sinful ways and to bring down judgement upon them. Still others seem to see us as cold-hearted Pharisees that follow a strict set of rules and look down upon those who don’t believe the way we do.

“They laugh hysterically when a Christian suggests that it’s possible to condemn the homosexual act without hating the homosexual person. I’ve attempted to make this
clarification so many times, and, on every occasion, I’m told that such a distinction is impossible. Hate what a person does, hate the person. It’s that simple.”
Walsh

But that’s not it at all!
As Walsh says in his post: “I hate attacks on marriage, on the family, on my faith, on liberty, on truth, on reason, on the constitution, but I don’t hate the attackers. I hate what they stand for, I hate their agenda, I hate their lies, but I do not hate the individuals.”
Why?
Because, as children of the Most High God, we are called to love one another; as God has loved us, that we also love one another. By this all will know that we are Christ’s disciples, if we have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
That’s all there is to it. Since God is love and, as the sons and daughters of God, we have the likeness of Christ, we are called to spread that love to those around us, not hate.
Yes, it is not our place to pass judgement on anyone for God “has committed all judgment to the Son… [whose] judgment is righteous, because [He] does not seek [His] own will but the will of the Father who sent [Him]” (John 5:22, 30) and sometimes it might seem as if Christians are judging others for their actions left and right (and maybe sometimes we are unintentionally).
But we’re not perfect either. As Christians, we should all be striving to follow in Christ’s footsteps and that’s what grace is all about), and in reality, we are condemning the sin and hoping to reveal the truth to those around us.
 So, in short, yes, I believe it is possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.
I mean, there is a spiritual battle going on all around us all the time. Satan is fighting to claim as many souls as he can and will do all he can to confuse and mislead those who are still stuck in their sin. He will keep leading them in endless circles, away from the Light of the One who is calling out to them in Christ’s name, offering hope and salvation.
As Walsh put it in his blog, if we were really out to get people, we wouldn’t be approaching them about the issues we see in their lives. If we “hated” them, we would just ignore it and let them sink deeper and deeper into the pit of despair until they were overcome and consumed.

But the thing is… we care. The love of Christ drives us to do all we can to save those who haven’t realized the truth.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10

“So, if you get upset at any of us, get upset at those of us who think we know the truth yet are too lazy and selfish to speak up and share it. Indeed, just because someone voices a disagreement with you doesn’t mean they hate you. Often, it means the exact opposite.”
Walsh

To read the full post that I based this off of, visit http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/05/this-person-is-planning-to-kill-me-in-order-to-teach-me-that-shouldnt-be-mean-and-hateful/2/#HvUev1Y8obubj19i.99

 

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Live Out Loud!

Walking along a city street, strolling through the mall with your friends or shopping in a farmers’ market, you’re bound to bump shoulders and be jostled by at least a dozen or more people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs. Guaranteed.DSCN1978

Some of us relish the opportunity to lose ourselves in a crowd, experiencing the excitement of navigating our way through a throng of people, diving for that open space when the moment is just right. Others dread having to deal with crowds and will attempt to plan their outings when the volume of shoppers, walkers and employees is significantly lower.

But we all interact with people at some point of our day, extroverts or introverts alike. Now, take a moment and think about the number of people you come in contact with throughout the day. How about in two days? Three? A week? A month? A year?

The numbers have increased, right?

You’re probably thinking, ok, so what? Yes, we know that dealing with crowds is just a part of life, so what’s the big deal? You just shove your way through or impatiently wait in line to check out, surfing Facebook on your smartphone as the customer in front of you pays for their items…

… but wait a minute!

How many of those people know Jesus? How many of those people have heard about the free gift of salvation that He’s holding out to them? How many of those people are headed to eternal punishment because no one reached out to them with God’s love?

Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

A couple Sundays ago, Kevin King, one of the missionaries my church supports who is based in New York City with his family, shared about what God has been doing in his life and what He has laid on his heart.

Their mission in NYC is to share the gospel with students from other countries (Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) while they’re studying here in America. As they come to know Christ as their personal Savior, King disciples and teaches them more about the Bible and how to lead their own studies.

That way, when they head back home, which is more likely than not to be located in the “10/40 window” (a section of unreached countries, tribes and people located in Japan through China, India, the Middle East and Northwestern Africa), these students can share what they’ve learned about the gospel in places where our missionaries are unable to go.

This seems to be one of the most effective ways to reach countries where Christian missionaries are not welcome. These students grew up in the villages and can easily get back into these countries, where they’ll have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned during their time in NYC and start Bible studies and churches with the people they know.

The goal of the Kings’ mission is to create relationships with the people they come into contact with on the streets, in schools, at stores, etc., spreading the love of Christ and sharing the Good News. They don’t wait for opportunities to come to them.. they intentionally seek out anyone who needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Some of us get stuck in the thinking that we’re not qualified or don’t know enough to be a good witness for Christ. What if they ask us questions we don’t know the answer to? What if what I say ends up sounding stupid or doesn’t make sense?

Yet, God still chooses to work through us to spread His Word. God can use common and ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

While talking with our congregation, King used the example of Peter and John in Acts 4:1-13. The men were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. When questioned by what power and in whose name they acted in, Peter started to testify:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: if we this day are judged for the good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vs. 8-12)

Now, you’d think the whole place would go ballistic after a claim like that, but they don’t. These leaders heard what Peter said and “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (vs. 13)

Peter and John didn’t go through seminary. They didn’t spend years studying up on the Scriptures. No. They were just stating a fact and giving an eye-witness account of what they did. And it was evident through their actions and straightforward answers that they had been with Jesus.

Another example King used included the woman at the well (John 4) and how “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did!'” (vs. 39). She just shared her story and told about what Jesus had done in her life. There wasn’t any exams she had to take or memorization of Scriptures. It was just her story and the love of Christ that was evident within her.

Also the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. After Jesus cast out his demons and the man begged to go with Him, Jesus wouldn’t let him. He said “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and begain to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him and all marveled.” (vs. 19-20) Again, this man was just sharing his story. No training. No studying. Just talking with his friends and family.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. It can be really scary to go up to someone in a public place, introduce yourself, build that 5-minute relationship and steer the conversation toward religion and what they believe. Some may turn you down directly, others may be really interested and ask a lot of questions that you may not know the full answer to.

But that’s ok. No need to freak out or worry that you don’t know the answer. This is an opportunity for you to continue the relationship after this conversation by promising them that you’ll get the answer for them at a later time. Admitting that you don’t know everything reveals that you’re still human, not some super godly person who is superior to them.

When Jesus says to go and make disciples of all the nations, He mostly meant to build relationships. Strike up those conversations. Sit with someone in the food court if they look like they could use a friend. Put your phone away and talk with people in line while you wait to check out.

We’re created to be relational and we should use that to our advantage!

Let’s work on living out loud for Jesus by building relationships and sharing what He has done for us each day, no matter how big or small 🙂

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The heavens declare the glory of God

Waking up on a Thursday morning can go two ways…

You crack open an eye at the sound of the alarm, groan, smack the “snooze” button and drift back to sleep because you know you still have two whole days to get through before the weekend officially begins. Getting out from your cocoon of blankets is the last thing you want to do.

Or

You open your eyes, taking in the soft sunshine pouring through the window. You stretch luxuriously and yawn, thinking, “The weekend is within reach! Only two more days to go!!” The smell of the coffee brewing downstairs wafts up your nose.. you let out a happy sigh; nothing can get you down today!

Normally, I’m the first option on a Thursday morning. I am not a morning person and some days it just seems extra hard to get out of bed, especially when the weekend is just out of reach.

But this past week, God gave me a pleasant surprise.

As the alarm went off, I stretched and started to hit the “snooze” button, when something caught my eye. The movement of the blankets had sent a small puff of air toward the blind, making it swing back and forth ever so slightly.

I sat up, grabbed hold of the blind, gave it a tug and, as it rolled itself up and revealed the entire window, my jaw dropped:

I stared at it for a while, in awe of the many intricate designs that were all over the bottom window pane, and then I kicked off the blankets and dove for my camera, snapping a few quick pictures while the lighting was just right.

It’s moments like these that reaffirm the fact that there is a Creator and that He delights in making beautiful things, which is evidenced in the words repeated over and over again in Genesis (1:4, 10, 14, 18, 21, 25 and 31):

“And God saw that it was good”

Everything God created, down to the last miniscule detail, was and is considered good by His standards (which is pretty awesome if you think about it. I mean, this is God we’re talking about, and if He says it’s good… well, it must be really good!).

As Creator, God enjoys making new things, perfecting each detail, and making it beautiful.
This is also seen in Matthew 6:28-30:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. 
They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon 
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, 
which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
will He not much more clothe you?”

If it pleases God to spend so much time on the designs on the petals of the flowers in the fields or the frost on the window that is here one moment and gone the next, how much more time will He spend on you… shaping, molding, breaking and strengthening you to become all that He wants you to be?

Let that sink in for a moment.

“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; 
You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; 
You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord… My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. 
All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” 
(Psalm 139:1-4, 15-16)
The next time you start feeling overwhelmed by life or that things are careening out of control, just take a look around you.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” 
(Psalm 19:1)
Look at all of creation and remember that there is a Creator who is orchestrating your life down to the last detail. He’s got everything under control and He won’t let you down. Take the time to get to know Him more and He will reveal Himself to you in ways you never expected or experienced before.
Spend time in His Word.
Spend time enjoying His creation…
… and give Him the glory!
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Chosen

The birds are chirping and the sun is shining through your curtains. You open one eye, stretch lazily and smile. It’s a brand new day and, while the blankets are still surrounding you in a cocoon of coziness, you’re excited to get out of bed and head to work.

Why?

Because you managed to land your dream job fresh out of college! You wake up each morning knowing that you’re getting paid to do what you love!

Ok, ok, so maybe you haven’t quite gotten to that point.. but can you imagine what it must be like to work in the job of your choice, doing what you love and getting paid for it?

Seriously, take a moment and think about that. Imagine having a job so perfectly suited for your abilities that you genuinely look forward to getting to work every single day… what would you be doing if you had a choice?

Each person has a unique set of skills and abilities and there are certain things that come easily to some than for others. One person can be really good at computers, while another person can hammer out a paper, grammatically correct and all, in less than an hour. Or someone can be really good at helping people to solve relationship problems while still another person is good at creating beautiful pieces of art out of pretty much anything.

Is one better than the other?

Of course not. We’re all gifted in different ways for a reason, but that doesn’t make one person better than the next.

This past week, I was reading Exodus 31 (the last part of God’s instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai), and this part stuck out to me:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, the son of Hur,
of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God,
with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts…
Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him.
Also, I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.”
(31:1-6)

Here’s what stuck out to me the first time I read this passage: God had gifted these men with the skill, ability and knowledge AND filled them with the Spirit of God to enable them to complete the task before them.

Yes, they were talented craftsmen who knew their work, but they were also selected and chosen by God to be skilled in these specific areas. They were granted divine wisdom in order to complete their assigned task.

Can you imagine what a difference it might make in your life if you knew that the God of the universe had selected you for a specific task?

Well, guess what?

He has!

In His overall plan, you are meant to play your part. You may feel insignificant at times or that your skill set is only so-so, but don’t give in to those lies! You are important and have a very significant part to play in the great picture of life!

While your dreams may seem so far-fetched that there’s no possible way for them to become a reality, or you may be stuck in a dead-end job with no forseeable way out, God does have a plan for your life… yes, you specifically… and nothing can ever get in the way of His sovereign will for you.

How do I know this?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

That’s the thing about God. When He makes a promise, He will follow through with it.

Just like He had selected and gifted Bezalel and Oholiab in Exodus to create the furniture, ornaments and utensils for the Tent of Meeting, He has also selected and gifted you with a very unique set of skills and abilities in order to complete the task laid before you.

All that’s required of you is to trust,

have faith,

and to constantly seek after Him…

in ALL things 🙂

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New Year Resolutions

It’s a new year and you know what that means… New Year’s resolutions!!!

The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on the things you wish you had done last year and resolve to achieve your goals for this coming year. I personally have never made a new year resolution, but many people will try to reshape their eating habits, others try to prioritize their lives and still others want to get in better physical shape.

But what would happen if we dared to go deeper, to make a resolution that has the potential to change your life?

I’m talking about making it a goal to pursue a closer relationship with our amazing God this year. Open up and completely surrender to His will, letting His love fill you up and overflow into the lives of those around you.
While it may not seem like much, making a point to daily seek after God with your whole heart, soul and mind will start you on a journey that’s bound to turn your world upside down!

How do I know this?

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 4:29)

“… if you seek Him, He will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9b)

“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)

It’s all throughout the Old and New Testament. When God’s people actively pursue a relationship with Him, seeking Him with their whole heart, soul and mind, He will be found by them.
God wants us to get to know Him more and longs for us to be more like the people He created us to be. The only way that can be accomplished, without Him stepping in and taking control, is by us humbling ourselves and making it a point to spend time in His Word and prayer.
Read the Bible as if you can’t get enough of it.. take notes… pray about everything… talk with brothers and sisters in Christ about what you’re reading and learning (they can offer good feedback and encouragement during the rough times).
I challenge you (and myself) to seek God first in everything you do; when you wake up, throughout the day and before you go to sleep at night. Make Him a part of your everyday life and just watch the change that is bound to happen!
Happy New Year 🙂
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Give thanks in all circumstances

Take a moment and count your blessings.

Seriously.

Get out a piece of paper, a journal, anything to write on and start making a list of the blessings you can think of.

What’s beginning to happen? You start writing down the obvious ones (I’m thankful for family, friends, that I woke up today, that I have food to enjoy, a warm house, etc.), and each of those brings to mind something else, which leads to more ideas and realizations of other blessings you had overlooked… the list gets longer and longer.
You see what I’m getting at?
There are so many different kinds of blessings that happen throughout each day. Small ones that you barely notice or take for granted and big ones that actually make you sit back and say, “Wow! That’s awesome!”
This past week, I’ve been thinking more and more about my life and what has happened up to this point.. and am still blown away by all that God has done.

1. That Christ willingly humbled Himself to live and minister among us, went to the cross, took all of our sins – past, present and future – upon Himself, paid the price we could never afford and conquered death so that we may have the free gift of eternal life!

2. That He has allowed me to grow up in a strong, Christian family with parents who love each other and are committed to our family and leading us to Christ.

3. That He granted me the money I needed in order to go to two good colleges (Northampton Community College and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) and get a bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism.

4. That He’s blessed me with an amazing group of friends at Bible study, swing dancing, game night and other places.

5. That He has always provided for my every need, no matter how big or small.

And the list goes on!

Being thankful is a huge theme in the Old and New Testaments. Some of the well-known men of God in the Bible – Moses, David and Paul – made a point to encourage others to give thanks to God for everything. Not just the big things (such as bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, giving David success over Goliath or even granting Paul the opportunity to minister to the Gentiles), but in everything.
Here’s what they have to say on the subject:

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” – 1 Chronicles 16:8

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” – Psalm 100:4

“But thanks be to God! He give us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

See what I mean? As children of the Most High God, we’re supposed to give thanks for everything each and every day.

It should be a natural reaction for us. It brings to mind the chorus from “Jury Duty,” a song by the O.C. Supertones:

“You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway…
Cuz every single moment, whether sleeping or awake is Your creation,
and what You made is good. I don’t always thank You
for the rough days and hard times in my life,
even though I should.”

Now, I’m not saying that I still don’t struggle to find something to be thankful for on the really rough days.. I’m not perfect yet.

But the more I read and study the Bible, it’s encouraging to see that these great men of God (Moses, David and Paul) had to go through their own times of struggle and doubt before they came to the point of constant thanksgiving.
So, take it day by day. Try to make a point of thanking God for one or two things right after you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night. I can guarantee it will soon become second nature and you’ll be able to live each day with a spirit of thankfulness (which is one of the fruits of the Spirit!)

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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