Just Speak

I read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 aloud, to my baby a few days ago. She refused to nap when I wanted to read the Word, but I’m kind of glad she did. Because once I read it aloud, I began to dissect it aloud, as well–lol, as though my 6-week-old would understand. Basically, Paul was saying that he didn’t come to the church at Corinth prepared with a fancy speech or message. He simply came with the Gospel Truth: Christ died for our sins.

And what was impressed upon me, was he was scared when he spoke; but he allowed God to speak through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wasn’t worried about having all the right words, because he was trusting that the Holy Spirit, in His infinite wisdom, knew precisely what He was doing.

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, to describe the wisdom of God, which we who believe in the Lord, have been given through the Holy Spirit. It’s only through the Spirit of God, that lives in us, that we can read the Word and understand the heart of the Father; because the Holy Spirit and the Father are One. An unbeliever cannot comprehend the things of God, because the Spirit of God doesn’t live within him and make things clear to him. In other words, things are hidden to the unbeliever, in the same the way the parables of Jesus–found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke–were hidden to the crowd. But remember, Jesus revealed the meanings of the parables to His closest disciples; as the Holy Spirit does with us. The Spirit gives us insight and discernment, not of this world; therefore, those of this natural world cannot judge us for acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

So, what have I gathered from these verses? That we should just open up our mouths and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be worried about sounding foolish, or not having practiced our speech; because the Spirit is going to use us and reveal the Truth to those whose hearts are ready. And we shouldn’t be discouraged by those who would judge or ridicule us for our beliefs, because they lack understanding of spiritual things.

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Tearing Down the Walls

One Sunday night, a week or so ago, during our monthly prayer service, God gave me this vision of the walls of the church crumbling. There were a couple different walls that I felt God was speaking to during this time. I’m going to attempt to unpack them below, since I feel these are for every believer.

Wall Number 1 — The Spiritual – Secular Divide

Years ago, I heard a message regarding bridging the spiritual – secular divide, and God brought it back to memory. So, what exactly does bridging the spiritual – secular divide mean?

Sometimes, as believers, we try to place God (and our faith) in this little box and take Him out a few times a week. We, in turn, keep this spiritual portion of our lives separate from the everyday, mundane, secular portion of our lives. We keep God within the confines of our churches, Bible studies, or personal prayer times; or within the boundaries of our relationships with other like-minded individuals. However, God desires to tear down these walls, and desires to permeate every aspect of our lives. And not in some weird “mystical” way that I sometimes hear used to describe the Holy Spirit, but in a meaningful, powerful, authentic manner. God desires to tear down the walls that we’ve placed in our lives; walls that we’ve built to protect ourselves, but which actually do more harm than good.

Truth be told, there should be no spiritual – secular divide! We live this one life, and have but one purpose: to glorify and make God known. If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, this goal should excite us. His Spirit should stir us to action and prompt us to share His love wherever we go.

Wall Number 2 — That Which Separates us from the World

The Word of God says that we may live in this world–physically–yet, we are to be separated from it–spiritually (John 17:14-16). However, too often we think that this means that we must completely cut ourselves off from non-believers! Instead, we stay in our bubble of like-minded individuals, never reaching out, shining our light, or speaking truth into the lives of the people God has placed in our lives.

Yes, we are to be holy and set apart for God’s purpose, and there will be things we will abstain from and places we may avoid (John 17:17, 19; 1 Peter 1:16). However, just like Paul, when he said, he became all things to all men that he might win others to faith in Christ; we should pray about what and where God is leading us to, before immediately running in the opposite direction, and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). Jesus, himself, spoke to some of the most unsavory characters, in the oddest of places! Which leads me to the last wall…

Wall Number 3 — Prejudice

Now, with racism being a hot topic in our current culture, this should come as no surprise to you; but prejudice isn’t only regarding race. Prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” (according to Google); it can be positive or negative, and can be based on race, social status, sex, political affiliations, or religion, just to name a few.

Prejudice can prevent us from having relationship with another individual because they’re different (or we think they’re different) from us. Prejudice can prevent us from reaching out to another because of our own fears, preconceived notions, or opinions.

James discouraged the early believers from showing partiality towards those who were wealthy, and snubbing those who were poor, and reminded us to love our neighbors as our self (James 2:1-9). This could go either way though, we could just as easily snub those who are wealthy, and favor those who are poor. The point remains the same; regardless of the other person’s background, we are to share God’s love and truth with them.

I think the most difficult part about this is, even when we allow God to fill our heart with grace, mercy, and compassion for people who are different from us, the same might not be said for them. Usually, they too have preconceived notions about us, and are fearful, angry, or suspicious of our motives. Yet, even so, we must remain calm and genuine, and allow God to work through us. Is it hard? Absolutely! But remember…the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is alive within us (Romans 8:11)!

Motherhood: The First 6 Months

Our little girl (our first child) turned 6 months a week or two ago. And although, I don’t want this blog to be solely about motherhood or parenthood, it is the season of life that I’m currently in. So, I just wanted to share some things I learned as a new momma.

  1. Being a parent is HARD.
  2. Being a mom is HARD.
  3. Being a stay-at-home-mom is HARD.

LOL. Talk about stating the obvious.

When I first began this post, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, but then a friend of mine posted something on her FB wall that really resonated with me. She talked about feeling isolated as a stay-at-home-mom. I understood those feelings all too well. Then, after talking with a few working moms over the weekend, I realized it was most moms–regardless of working status–that felt this way.

While I love being home with our baby girl, some days are good and others are very challenging. Some days baby girl goes down for a 2 1/2 hour nap in her crib, while other days she won’t let me put her down. Some days she wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning crying, for no apparent reason, and I’m wracking my brain to get her back to sleep; but other days she sleeps for 7 hours straight. We love our children, and love being able to stay home with them, but it can be lonely and exhausting.

I think it’s because, being a mom often means that our own needs are set aside for those of another. However, it’s far too easy to get caught up in this idea, and never put ourselves first. Which, I feel is a mistake. I love my baby girl, but sometimes I need time to myself. Whether that means asking the hubbs to watch baby while I go to the gym; do some grocery shopping; cook or clean; or take a nice, long, hot shower; I need some time unattached, if only for 30 minutes. (I’m going to be honest though, I know my husband doesn’t always understand this, and it’s frustrating; but I guess I need to just do a better job at explaining it to him.)

Perhaps that’s where our loneliness and exhaustion comes from…thinking we need to be able to do it all on our own. Maybe we think we’re a “bad mom” because we can’t do it all; or because we need some “me time.” We shouldn’t think this way. As I often tell baby girl, “Mommy can’t feed you, unless she feeds herself;” in other words, we can’t take care of another of we aren’t taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually speaking.

Instead, we need to ask for help when we need it; and as believers, it’s incredibly important for us to remain in the Word and prayer, and in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I understand that when you have a little one–or more than one–it’s sometimes difficult to just get out of the house, forget trying to get together with others. It takes a ton of planning to get everybody up and out of the house, but it can be, and should be done.

I realized this after the first few weeks of being a STAHM. So, here are some things I’ve recently begun implementing in our home…

  • Attending a Wednesday morning women’s Bible study, so I can connect with other women. (My husband attends Saturday morning with the men.)
  • Weekly library visits.
  • Monthly visits to the children’s museum.
  • We (my husband and I) have begun getting together with different couples from church each month.
  • Planning a family outing once a month.

Lastly, I mentioned this previously, in my Learning to Appreciate the Silence post, we need to be wary of our social media usage. First off, it’s a huge time sucker; you go to check one thing and by the time you know it, 30 minutes have gone by. Furthermore, it’s so easy to get caught up with things others are doing, to feel hurt or offended when we feel we’ve been forgotten or excluded. If we weren’t watching the every move of others via social media we wouldn’t even be worried about such things. Finally, it’s way too easy to go into comparison mode, thinking that others have it better than us; or that they have everything all together; or sometimes, even worse, thinking we’re better than another mom! We forget that FB, Instagram, etc. are just the “greatest hits” reel, where we usually get to see people at their best. We don’t often get to see their struggles or insecurities–and believe me, EVERY mom has them. We’re all different and just trying to do the best we can with what God has given us.

Although, it appears that I’m trying to figure this mom thing out on my own by creating schedules and getting together with others, I must reiterate the need for spending time in prayer and the Word. Ultimately, our peace and strength comes from the Lord; and try as we might, to do it all on our own, we’ll only end up exhausted, bitter, and feeling like utter failures if we don’t rest in His presence daily. So, let’s take a lesson from David, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and seek refuge in the shadow of the most high.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed and weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help]. For you have been a shelter and a refuge for me, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever! Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings! Selah ~ Psalm 61:1-4, AMP

Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

Top Priority

Last week, in bible study, we were discussing the days leading up to the day of Pentecost, in the first chapter of Acts. We talked about how God took a group of ordinary people and brought them to a new level with Him, based on their obedience, unity, and prayer.

Somewhere during the discussion, we began sharing about how sometimes it’s so difficult to set aside time to build our personal relationship with God. For many of us there were periods in our lives where we had all the time in the world to study the Word, pray, or worship. It may have been a time when we were without a job, or as we sat beside a sick or dying loved one, or when we were simply at the end of our rope and had hit rock bottom, and the only way up was to cling to the hope found in Christ. But then there are periods in our life when we are overwhelmingly busy with family, jobs, community service & outreach opportunities, church–the list seems to never end–and our relationship with the Lord takes the back burner.

However, we must remember that we need God’s presence in every season of our life, not just the most difficult. Ironically enough, just like Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, when we feel at our weakest and turn to Christ for strength, is when we are truly strong, and when we feel strongest and try to make it without Him, we’re actually at our weakest! The Israelites were notorious for forgetting the blessings and promises of God during the good times in their lives and neglecting their worship and obedience to Him; thus causing them to eventually lose those very blessings and promised land.

As is often pointed out during these types of discussions, someone brought up the fact that we can approach God in prayer during any moment of the day. This is aligning with Scripture; I mean, the Bible actually tell us to pray without ceasing, to pray continually in the Spirit, and to pray persistently and on every occasion (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). But I also like to point out that Jesus Himself, often stole away from the busy-ness of His ministry to spend alone time with His Father (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12).

The truth is, when we desire to strengthen a relationship with someone we spend quality time with them. We participate in activities together, we communicate, we make time for one another; we try to learn as much as we can about one another. Sure, we can do that surrounded by others, but is our undivided attention upon the other individual? Or are we distracted by the television, the other cars on the road, the next activity or responsibility on our to-do list? As a newly married individual, I know that with two jobs, community service & outreach activities, and church, I may see and talk with my husband every day, but I know it’s not the same thing as spending quality time with him. Because I love him and want to continually develop and strengthen our marriage we still schedule “date nights.” We schedule that time because it’s important to us and important to our marriage.

wp-image-862409418jpg.jpgLikewise, when our time and attention are pulled in multiple directions and we’re not spending the quality time we need with our heavenly Father, no matter how many things we try to do or accomplish, we’re never going to get to the place where God can really use us the way He desires to use us. It’s just like we discussed before in Blemished Sacrifices about giving God our best, our first-fruits, instead of offering Him the leftovers. If we can schedule date nights, doctor’s appointments, coffee dates with our friends, mommy-and-me play dates, time to workout in the gym, or any other activity we deem important, then we can most certainly schedule quality personal time in the Word, prayer, and worship. If we call ourselves believers and we profess that Jesus is Lord of our life and that He comes first and foremost in our lives, then this is most certainly something we can, should, and desire to do.

HOW…

Now let’s get practical and discuss how we can do this. Some people are morning people. They have no trouble getting up early in the mornings to set aside time for prayer and the Word. I’m a morning person, but I still have trouble getting up earlier than I need to; in a perfect world I would study the Word between the hours of 9-11. But obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world, and I’m at work during these hours. Since I recently took on a second job, I now keep a written schedule that helps keep me on track and helps me manage my time better so that I can accomplish all my goals, rather than having time manage me.

Let me tell you, this has been one of the best decisions ever! Try it! Spend 30 minutes of your morning planning out your day. How long does it take you to get ready? When do you eat lunch? How long do you spend commuting? When do you eat lunch? Cook dinner? Go grocery shopping? Planning out your day is a lot like creating a financial budget; you only have so many hours in a day and you want to spend each of them wisely. Ever since I’ve started this I feel like I get so much more accomplished. You never realize how much time is wasted surfing the internet, watching TV or YouTube, or playing games until you give an account for each moment of your day.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I don’t have fun or time to relax. Even with a schedule, sometimes I still find a few free moments to scroll through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And there are still days when I keep part of my schedule clear so that I don’t always feel so hurried. Lastly, I think even when we have a schedule, we still have to maintain some level of flexibility. Sometimes something just comes up. Plans have to be rearranged, or changed, altogether; but this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

Some days I choose to use my 30 minute lunch break as my time to search the Word, while other days I get to spend 45 minutes of delicious time in His presence. But it’s only because I make it a priority. If we want to spend time in His presence, we must prioritize our time; because if we don’t, all the other activities of the day will consume us, and we will have nothing left to offer Him, but our leftovers.

Lead Me, I’ll Follow

On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. DSC00059When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses. (Numbers 9:15-23, NLT)

Friday morning as I read over the above scripture I thought about how this is such a perfect picture of being at the mercy of God’s leading. The Israelites were in a position where they couldn’t move forward unless God lead the way. I thought about how difficult it must have been to set up and tear down their camp. There were millions of Israelites, by this time, and each time God said to move, they had to tear down their tents, gather their families, and the numerous animals they had with them, as well as dismantle the Tabernacle. Then when God told them to stop, they had to set everything back up; without knowing whether they would be staying a day, a week, a month, or even a year. They couldn’t see the future, they just had to trust the God who was leading them.

As I read this, I noted how difficult this must have been, especially for control freaks (like me!). Yet, Israel’s obedience to the Lord’s direction is representative of how we ought to be! How often we’re ready to move—perhaps, even with a plan that God has already revealed to us—without the go-ahead from God. We can get so caught up in making something happen, that we can become overwhelmed and frustrated when doors remain shut to us, and ready to give up before God has even prepared the way for us. (I think I’ve said this before, but God loves to place us in impossible situations, so that when He produces a miracle, He receives the credit! For more on this, check out Perfection in Weakness) Moreover, more often than not, we’re not even ready for what God has planned for us; or He’s using us right where we are and just isn’t ready to move us yet. Most of the time there are still areas of our lives that need developing or strengthening before He can lead us on to the next part of His plan.Faith is

If we could see exactly every detail of what God has planned for our future, following Him wouldn’t be considered faith! Remember, Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is remaining steadfast to our hope in Christ regardless of what we see or feel, or how hard things get. It’s about not knowing what’s going to happen, or how something will happen, but trusting that God will take care of us, even if it’s in His timing. The Bible never says things will be easy for the believer; in fact, we know that there will be difficult times (Daniel 11:35; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 21:12; 2 Timothy 3:12; Revelation 14:12). There will be (and has been) persecution, imprisonment, and even torture done to our brothers and sisters around the world. But we also know that God’s plan will not fail and there is a future of everlasting life that awaits those who allow Him to lead!

It’s one of the most difficult things, to follow Christ. To truly trust, rely on, and cling to Him, believing that He has our best interest at heart, but that’s exactly what He asks of us: that we let Him take the lead.

Lead me by Your truth and teach me,

for You are the God who saves me.

All day long I put my hope in You.

Psalm 25:5

Let Your Light Shine

Welcome back y’all! I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and have really wanted to share with you. This year is almost over and I’ve been going over my posts and realizing that when I first began this blog in 2012, I started out strong and posted very often, but this year I’ve posted very little. It’s not because there haven’t been things I wanted to share with you, but simply because things have really started to kick off this year and I’ve been pretty busy.

Believe

At the beginning of the year our church decided on the theme “Believe” for 2014, and we started out by filling out these little “Believe” cards, on which we wrote down things for with we were believing God to do in our lives this year. For me, the areas that I was praying over and believing that God would take care of involved my relationships, ministry opportunities, health, and a job. Since then, the only one that I’m still waiting for God’s hand to move in has been career wise.

I began dating someone from church back in July and have been working on strengthening my relationships with other women, as well. I got good news from my doctor a few months ago, that some cell abnormalities finally came back normal—I hugged my doctor and left the office praising God. Then the ministry opportunities began springing up! I’d been involved in the worship team, but then I decided to also help out with the children’s worship ministry, and then I was asked to teach our Young Adults class on Wednesday nights (score!). If you’ve ever read my About Me section you’ll find out that I love to teach; that’s why I began this blog to begin with! I still feel like God isn’t done with me, yet. My heart for young adults and the vision I’ve had for them include a Young Adults worship team, small group meetings outside the church, and students with such a passion for God that we’re unashamed to share the gospel with those around us and moved to be involved in outreach and services to others, which brings me to my next point.

The Great Commission

Just a few weeks ago, we began studying the book of Hebrews. This book begins by describing who Jesus Christ is (Hebrews 1:1-4):

  • The heir of all things.
  • The One through whom God made the universe.
  • The radiance of God’s glory.
  • The exact expression of God’s nature and being.
  • Sustainer of all things by His word.
  • The One who made purification for sins.
  • The One who sits at the right hand of Majesty on high.

It also talks about Jesus being greater than the angels and how important it is to obey what He commanded so that we don’t drift away; as well as the importance of Christ coming to us in human form. According to Hebrews, Christ’s purpose for dying on the cross was to destroy the Devil, give us freedom, and to reach out to us so that we would have opportunity for relationship with God (Hebrews 2:1-18).

In my personal Bible study I’ve begun the book of Revelation, of which the first three chapters describe the state of the 7 churches in Asia, which really had me thinking about the state of our churches now; and the state of the American Church, in particular, as I read Revelation 3:14:22 regarding the church at Laodicea being lukewarm.

Furthermore, in the world around me, I’ve noticed recently an excessive amount of sickness, tragedy, and death that has been pricking at my heart, basically screaming at me to share the Truth before it’s too late. But how? Do you notice that the question is not “why,” but rather, “how”? Because the why has already been answered…because of these Truths that I’ve just mentioned! Because of Who Christ is, because He suffered and died for us, because He took on the wrath of God for our sin (Hebrews 2:17; propitiation = wrath-bearing sacrifice) so that we might be reconciled—our sin debt paid for—to the Father. He loves each and every one of us—even those who have done horrible things—and wants us ALL to turn away from the things that we’ve put first in our lives to follow after Him.

So, back to my question, “how”? To be honest, I’m a much better writer than speaker. I always seem to have trouble searching for exact word I want to use, when speaking aloud. I have shared my testimony with a few young women from my church, but now I think I’d really like to share it with you all. I’ve been making some changes to this blog, and I feel that after I finally finish my testimony, I’ll be making a few more in light of my testimony. I want y’all to realize how much God loves us, how much He’s done for us, and how He’s called us to be a light in this dark and dying world. As believers we are called to be different, called to be set apart, but we are also called to love and serve those around us; and what better way to love those around us then by sharing the most important gift God has given us? I encourage you, if you have not already done so, write out your testimony and share it with those around you. In today’s world we have so many platforms in which to do this…in person, through blogs, books, videos, letters, art, song etc. How will you share your testimony? And with whom will you share it?