Thursday, January 31, 2013

Everyone to Know: Bethany Dillon

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream"

by David Platt

I just began reading this one last night, and it's off to a great start. :)
Details soon!

Genesis 4:7 & 8:21

4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.

8:21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

Along with my concerns in battling the Enemy, I am obviously concerned with battling sin. I love my Heavenly Father more than anything.  Sin clearly breaks His heart.  I desire to avoid doing that out of my love for Him, so I find it frustrating and discouraging that I am still so guilty of it.  I mean, I know we're all sinners, but to me it kind of sucks to know that while I aim to bring Him joy(which I hope I do), I still continue to sin.  I know that we will all live and die sinners because redemption and salvation are God's masterpiece.

I really like these two verses.  They are both encouraging because God clearly tells us that we will battle sin ("it desires to have you") all the days of our lives.   4:7 (God speaking to Cain) is interesting because it kind of speaks to me that God knows our hearts, and knows when we are attempting to do right, but also causes me to think that if we do not do right, sin is waiting to grab tight to us and take us in a downward spiral.  While we are bound to sin even when doing what is "right", if our hearts are always set on doing what is right (pleasing Him), then it would be much more difficult for sin to grab a hold of us.  The only thing I'm curious about is the "mastering" of it.  Is it possible to master sin?  If God commands that we must do that, then I must believe that it is within reach.  He kind of gets me pumped by saying this. :)

8:21 (God speaking after the flood)  It is encouraging to see that God so early and blatantly recognizes that every inclination of our hearts is evil from childhood.  I  know you may be saying,. "why encouraging?".  To me, it is encouraging because even from the very beginning we as people were screwed up, sinners, and God definitely calls us all out, but is careful to let us know that mastering sin is possible, and that we in fact "must master it".  Encouraging. :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

1 Kings 11:1-6

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

So last week I was listening to a sermon at One Harbor on this scripture.  It was particularly discussing idols and how our love of idols can ultimately lead us to worship things other than our Heavenly Father.  This is exactly what Solomon did with his wives.  The scariest part to me about the entire thing is that God can totally warn you against these specific idols, and either we can fail to hear Him altogether, or hear Him and still choose to go against His word.  

The pastor used an analogy that I believe will stick with me for quite a while, and one that I wanted to share with you guys...The love and involvement with idols is very much like trying to quench a thirst with saltwater.  God is the only one who can truly quench our thirst.  Once we begin to drink this saltwater, we find it difficult to stop and indeed drink more and more.  What eventually happens if we continue to drink saltwater?  We die.  The same will be true with idols.

"Captivating": Blog 2

So I finished up "Captivating" tonight. I will still say what I said before, buy the book. It is awesome.

"A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest, trusting God because she has come to know Him to be worthy of her trust.  She exudes a sense of calm, a sense of rest, and invites those around her to rest as well.  She speaks comfort; she knows that we live in a world at war, that we have a vicious enemy, and our journey is through a broken world.  But she also knows that because of God all is well, that all will be well."

Ahh, I love it!  Ladies, we trust Him don't we?  We believe that all is well because of Him.  If we believe these things, then why do we have reputations for being so crazy?  I'm thinking it may be because we forget to totally rest in Him.  We try to carry burdens that are not necessary.  I am beginning to see the constant battle between resting in ourselves and resting in Him.  I think we'll be better if we rest in Him. :) Just saying...

One of the parts of the book that really tickled me was the part where Matthew 7:6 is referenced.  "Do not throw your pearls to pigs."  Now, I know this means to be careful not to "give something precious to someone who, at best, cannot recognize its beauty, or at worst, will trample on it", but I specifically feel like God speaks to His daughters like an awesome father by saying "hey, don't waste your precious gifts on guys who don't recognize their significance".  I love it.  Thank you, Father.  Amen.

So the struggles with the Enemy have really been on my mind and heart lately. It's a scary thing.  I think it's good to recognize this war, but then I also wonder, if I spend too much time dwelling on it am I allowing the Enemy to succeed?  Also, I sometimes look back on previous times in my life where the Enemy was quite clearly succeeding and feel this tremendous amount of shame.  The following quote brought me a lot of comfort, "God allows spiritual warfare and uses it in our lives for our good.  It is how we learn to grow in exercising our God-given spiritual authority as women."This is awesome, and indeed so true.  I have definitely grown in my spiritual authority, so instead I should be rejoicing in the growth. :)

Lastly, probably my favorite quote in the book, "Security is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of Jesus.". This is just plain awesome for its obviousness. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Captivating": Blog 1

I have no idea where to begin. Buy this book.  John and Stasi Eldredge are awesome and I can't wait to read more of their work.  

I honestly started out kind of slow in the book.  I've been spending a lot of time in the Word, and definitely want to continue to do that.  To me, the book starts out pretty warm & fuzzy which is great, and makes me as a woman feel awesome.  Obviously it starts out just covering the surface of what they later dive in to.  I am only about halfway through, so I also don't want to speak too soon.

It is awesome to be reminded that we as women are created to reflect God's beautiful, captivating image.  We all desire to be captivating to everyone around us. This is exactly what God's desire is as well, to captivate us.  It makes me feel so special to be chosen and created as a beautiful representation of Christ. :)  I am in awe when reflecting on it.  Just as we wish to be pursued, He wishes to be pursued.

A common misconception or quite frankly a lie from Satan is that we women are too much of one thing or not enough of another.  We are convinced by society that we either lack something necessary or possess something undesirable.  We don't just fear failing at what we do, but instead something much more serious--failing at who we are.  Our very core, our heart, is under attack.  Satan knows that is where to strike.  God says to guard our heart, because it is the wellspring of life. It is so scary to see and feel how negatively our surroundings and even we, ourselves make attempts to tear at the heart.

Ladies--the most important thing to know is that we ALL have a beauty to unveil.  This is true because we ALL bear the image of God. This is not something we conjure up, but instead is an essence given to us at our creation.  :)  So please, take a sigh of relief, Beautiful.

"we've come to see that the only thing more tragic than the things that happened to us is what we have done with them"

This quote is the beginning of when "Captivating" really hit home for me.  John and Stasi go on to address how we somehow feel that the bad things that happen in our lives are our fault. Don't get me wrong.  I definitely made bad decisions that I knew would steer me away from my Heavenly Father and I am by no means proud of it, but He has recently been working to soothe my heart and let me know that the guilt and pain I feel in my heart is certainly not all my fault, and that I by no means should feel like I ever deserved to feel so horrible.

The above quote builds me up and tears me down at the same time because it gives me hope that I have more control than I initially thought, but unfortunately it is exactly what I'm doing with some of life's previous heartbreaking experiences.  It is something I am well aware of and pray for on a daily basis.  The Eldredge's definitely address how we experience hurt and choose to lock it away in a place in our heart and not permit anyone (not even God) to go there. This is what I have done, and it has provided temporary relief just as the authors say it will.  Unfortunately, it keeps that part of my heart from loving in the way that God intended it to.  Not only that, but it keeps me from fully trusting and definitely doesn't allow me to be my complete self.  Some things are extremely painful to address so we cover them up in an effort to not feel and to move forward.  This is what I have done with what happened to me, and I knew it just as clear as day as I held back the tears while reading in Barnes & Noble.  Jesus desperately wants to hold your hand and walk with you to the deepest darkest corners of your heart. He wants to heal us completely.  It has been hard and painful, but something I know I desperately need...something I know I want because my Father wants it for me.

Ladies, the book is good.

A Bomb Diggity Relaxing Weekend

So I was blessed to have a 4 day weekend with the holidays. It was awesome.  Friday I slept in, went to the gym, did some things around the apartment, got a haircut and just lounged while catching up with the best girly friend.  It was so nice. :)  Saturday, I did just about the same, but ventured to Barnes & Noble just to get out and have a change of scenery.  I love Barnes & Noble.  I usually leave with my to-read list much longer than when I walked in.  I probably haven't ventured out with a book to just sit and read for hours by myself since I was in college. It was super. I will be doing this regularly.  As you know, I'm reading "Captivating",  and I promise to blog about it soon.  I just need to get my thoughts together. Perhaps tonight. :)

Nomnomnomnom. Best sandwich ever.
I was there for quite a while, so I decided to order some dinner at Starbucks.  This definitely resulted in me having a sandwich that rocked my world.  I was so excited I took a picture.  I love food. This was their Turkey Cranberry Pesto sandwich I believe?  I will try to pay more attention next time.  Anyway, I loved it. Check it out.  This was my relaxing evening.  Oh yeah, and then my roomie, me and another friend ventured out to grab drinks and appetizers at a nearby restaurant.  It was super awesome to actually be social.  I ate my weight in nachos, and we got some free, amazing cheesecake. All in all, a good night.

Best Taco Bell item ever.

Sunday, I paid in the gym for eating my weight in nachos. haha Then, I went to my awesome church. GREAT news!...They're growing so large that soon we will go to 2 services!  This is awesome news, solely because God is awesome! :) Service was great. I caught you guys up to speed here.  Then, I packed my bags and home to the parents'! But first, Mom and I met in town to enjoy some Taco Bell. I also love Taco Bell, especially Chalupas! :)

Best team ever.
Then, I went home in time to watch both play off games of course!  I am a HUGE Baltimore Ravens fan! :) And yes, we are playing in the SUPER BOWL.  I am beyond excited.  However, I pray that myself along with the team continues to remember that the Lord Himself is responsible for their success.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of it all.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the game with my amazing parents and Beau, my sweet Dachshund. He too is a Ravens fan.  

Monday,  I supported our nation's economy with some retail therapy.  This was awesome as always.  I was only bummed I didn't see my best friend who was home as well this weekend. :( However, we are working it out.  :)  I hope all of you had an amazing weekend as well!

Monday, January 21, 2013

John 15:7-17, 1 John 2:4-6, Matthew 26:42

John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

1 John 2 :4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Matthew 26 :42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 

So this week in church  we reflected more on John 15 and its abundance of awesomeness.  1 John and Matthew were looked at for support in the message.  We focused mainly on trust in the vine.  

We are called to stay in the move with Jesus.  To me, this idea of moving with Him is super.  Again, finding our identity in Him because who we are is defined by who Jesus is.

Verse 7 tells us to "ask" or pray and it will be done for us.  However, what we need to remember is abiding in Him presupposes that we want what He wants.  Abiding in Jesus is the only way to bring life to prayer.  We are dependent on Him. Therefore, we should pray for His will.  

It is important to trust Him, to trust that His plan is better than ours.  He knows what we want more than we do.  We can never move past where He is because He is the life.  This scripture is awesome because is explains that abiding is not just about obedience, but instead begins with asking, with prayer.  

When we ask and don't get, our disappointment is more about ourselves than about Him.  This is selfishness.  The most disappointing things to look at are ourselves and other people. We must look to Him for His greatness in all situations.  We must trust Him more than we trust ourselves. Do our lives reflect that?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I Need You to Love Me: BarlowGirl

Friday, January 18, 2013

My FIRST Community Group! John 15:1-6 Revisited

So the church I go to now has community groups, small groups that meet throughout the week to discuss the scripture that was touched on during worship service.  This is awesome, and to me, a vital way to stay focused and encouraged in the Spirit throughout the week.  I think it's also an excellent opportunity for God to speak through us to one another.

One interesting fact that you probably should know about me...I've been going to church alone, yes alone...for about the past year.  I by no means wish to go alone. I love people.  However, after college I somehow found myself in a place and situation where the only way I would be able to go was if I went by myself.  Growing up, I always pitied the people that sat alone in church.  I felt bad that they had no one with whom to share the experience.  At first I wasn't going at all, and really struggled because I knew I had such a desire for it in my heart. However, for a period of time I was successful at filling myself with excuses to not be brave enough to venture out to a new church full of unfamiliar faces, and not just do that, but do it alone.  I would listen to sermons from my old church online, take notes, read my bible, but it wasn't the same as going to a place of worship on Sunday morning.  I stalked out churches in the area online, prayed about it, but wasn't making much progress in my search.  You know when you hear people say, "I didn't find _____.  _____ found me."?  The same is true with the church I am now beginning to call "home".  As I went to check my mail in the apartment complex in which I was currently living, I came across a flyer in my mailbox.  Just as with any other mass produced flyer, there were several of them in the nearby trash can.  I wasn't sure why it caught my eye, but I know now that it was indeed God who had found this church for me. My prayer had been answered.  That Sunday, I gathered up enough courage to venture the very few short miles to the middle school auditorium where this still very young church was meeting.  From the people to the Word, the music to the sermon, it was everything I had prayed for.  Thank you, God! :)

While I had definitely fallen in love, I was not in attendance every Sunday.  I am just now beginning to regularly stay in the area on weekends.  Up until recently, I often used weekends to venture home to visit my family and attend church with them.  

Just a few weeks ago, my church was able to move into its very first own building.  God is so good!  I have been attending more regularly, and with that God had been putting on my heart the need to grow once again and make an effort to get involved in a community group.  Again, I was faced with the fear of venturing into a more intimate setting alone.  Although I had spoken to countless friendly faces in passing, I hadn't developed a strong relationship with anyone at the church. This was definitely my fault.  I would attend service and then pretty much leave as soon as everyone began to make efforts to enjoy fellowship.  Sad, I know, but for me I guess this was baby steps.

So, finally this week, I took that next step! I attended a community group, and it could not have been better!  Everyone was super awesome and welcoming! :) The craziest part about it was that a girl I know showed up!  This is crazy because I still basically know no one where I live except for my roommate.  This girl actually works with my roommate and has been to my apartment a couple of times. Obviously, we were both shocked! She is unable to attend regularly because of a crazy work schedule, so that's why we hadn't seen one another.  Anddd, we had ice cream at this gathering. cream.

The bible study/discussion was awesome.  I like that it's called community group instead of bible study because there shouldn't have to be a specific time to study the Bible, but instead the Bible should be studied, discussed and referenced frequently through community. I love it.  :)  Just as I do during worship service, I feel God working through this small group and it is truly tremendous.  

We covered John 15: 1-6 in this group.  We talked about what is means to remain in the vine, to abide in Him.  We also asked ourselves if it was possible to bear bad fruit in addition to good fruit.  I do not believe this is possible.  However, I do believe it is possible to trick ourselves into thinking that we are bearing fruit, when really we are not.  We are able to tell if we are abiding in Him by whether or not we do work for Him or for ourselves, just as an attached branch works for the vine.  We are clearly able to tell  if we are working for Him or for ourselves by our tendency to be frustrated or burnt out.  If we are burnt out, we are working for ourselves.  

Jeremiah 39:16-18

16 “Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city—words concerning disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. 17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. 18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.’”

The Lord is so awesome, isn't He?!  Here, He is speaking to Jeremiah right before Israel is invaded by the Babylonians.   Through a lot of Isaiah and Jeremiah I enjoy getting to know my God and His personality, but oftentimes I struggle with discovering how some of this scripture applies to my life today.  As I grow in the Spirit I am amazed more and more by how the Father reveals to me exactly how it applies.  I am so thankful for that! :)

To me, these verses directly apply to anything we have in our lives that the Lord has put on our hearts as not being the best thing for us, or things that will prevent us from growing closer to Him.  These may be people, things, activities, whatever.  If He has asked us to do something to follow Him (just as He asked Israel repeatedly), we really should not disregard those requests.  If He has made it clear to us in any way that something we are following is not part of His will for us, He will indeed bring disaster to it instead of prosperity...and that's exactly what He did with Israel.

However, if we follow Him and make decisions to let go of the things that He asks us to, we will prosper.  It's actually the only true way to prosper.  Jeremiah chose to follow the Lord, and for that he was rescued.  He trusted in the Lord, so he was saved.  Listening to, hearing and following God's voice will lead us to where we need to be.  I know a lot of times we can find change to be quite scary.  We can get so caught up in what we have the ability to see and touch, that we forget to walk by faith instead of by sight.  I know it's a crazy concept, but regardless of what you see(your world could be crumbling around you), if you have the faith that God will lead you to prosperity, don't waste another second attempting to rebuild the crumbling out of your own ability if you feel the Lord is leading you in a completely different direction. He is the only one who has the ability to truly save us, and the only way he's going to do that is if we truly trust Him enough to follow in absolute faith

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Find You On My Knees: Kari Jobe

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


by John and Stasi Eldredge

I'm really excited about this read, and look forward to sharing my thoughts through it with you!  This book specifically targets a woman's heart and God's purpose in creating her.  "Wild at Heart" by the same author is written to focus on the heart of a man.  I may read this as well in an effort to discover what guys really do think along with God's plan for them.  Stay tuned, y'all!

Jeremiah 33:9 & 11

Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’

11 “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good;  his love endures forever.”

Verse 9 is specifically referencing the restoration that God plans to bestow upon Israel and Judah.  Obviously, these promises are super legit and I love reading about the discipline and forgiveness of our Father because it helps me to know Him better.  Although I know this is a reference to a certain group of people at a certain time, I could not help but feel how there is a parallel between the restored city and how we as Christians are restored when we accept Christ into our hearts...and even repeatedly every time we are renewed by Him which to me seems almost continuous (praise God).  

I feel as though we indeed should bring Him "renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth" by proclaiming to all the amazing things He does for us.  In addition, we should remain in awe and "tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace" He provides for us.  To me, the love and forgiveness of our Savior is so tremendous that we should never cease to be in awe or to tremble at the abundance that He provides for us.  It is truly amazing.

Verse 11 is awesome, and I feel as though it is packed with meaning.  Obviously, the Lord is good and definitely deserves our thanks, but it's the "his love endures forever" part that really gets me.  I have spent the last couple of days pondering on earthly relationships.  Regardless of how much we love one another or claim to be able to endure, there are indeed limits to that endurance.  For instance, if a person you love so much does something that absolutely devastates you, you may be able to endure that pain, forgive (through God because I feel that's the only way you can actually feel and learn what exactly forgiveness is), and move on in life with that person by your side.  However, regardless of how badly we want to fool ourselves into thinking that endurance is infinite because of how much we love someone, there are limitations to that endurance.  That doesn't make us bad, or even weak.  It simply makes us human, and shows us another beautiful characteristic of Christ.

God is the only one whose love endures forever.  He shows us this through His willingness to always love and forgive us endlessly, never taking into account how many times we have hurt Him.  My heart bursts with joy at His amazing-ness.


1 Timothy 5:18

 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

The Spirit presented this verse to me this morning in the most precious of ways. :) So, God has blessed me with the most awesome of bosses, who, although is awesome for many reasons, is definitely most awesome for his relationship with Christ.  His faith shines through in so much of his work and is truly an inspiration to me, especially considering the fact that we definitely do not work in the most spiritual of places.  I find every opportunity to discuss how Christ is working in our lives to be an absolute blessing and make the attempt to relish each of those discussions.  It is awesome to feel the encouragement of the Spirit through conversation.

This morning  as we were catching each other up on our walks with Christ, my boss was briefing me on his readings through The Word.  He was particularly struck by this verse and found the need to share. His excitement in being encouraged by it was very awesome.  Following mention of it, we discussed a bit about what we thought God was saying.

It is common knowledge among society that we work hard in order to reap benefits (usually money) particularly for ourselves and our families.  Being blessed, the boss and I have stable jobs with an income, while nothing to brag about, that definitely provides everything we need, plus enough to enjoy plenty of life's luxuries.  Often Christians who are blessed abundantly might struggle with the the question of, "Is it a sin to enjoy all of these luxuries?" or "Is this lifestyle I'm living glorying to God or to myself?".  Heck, I know I enjoy plenty of things in this life that I don't by any means need.  Is that wrong?  I think the boss and I both have felt this sense of guilt or question in our hearts.

Here, God is clearly saying not to withhold from whom is indeed laboring, and that someone who works deserves his wages.  Please note however that to muzzle an ox would be to prevent it from eating any of the grain it treads upon.  It says nothing about eating all of the grain, or even enough grain to get fat off of.  I believe the same is true with how God wishes for us to handle the abundance with which we have been blessed.

While He wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, He also wants us to do it in a way that is healthy for us (an ox not getting too fat).  To overindulge would be extremely unhealthy for us not only physically, but most important, spiritually.  Overindulging stunts our growth and helps to draw an invisible boundary between us and the Spirit.

This leads us to the question of "Okay, how much is too much?".  While that is a great question the only one who can truly answer that is Christ Himself, and I do believe He has plans for us on an individual level regarding indulgence.  Just as I have discussed the desire of God to be involved in our struggles, I believe He has the same desire to be consulted on His plans for us to handle our abundance, or His abundance that He places in our possession for however long He wishes for us to possess it.  Again, this all circles back to our need for complete trust in Him, which in turn will cause us to listen and to follow His guidance.  

God is the only one who knows what is best for us. It is impossible to determine that for ourselves without consulting Him.  That is how we are designed.  I believe there can be times when He knows sacrificing something is the healthiest option for us, while other times we may hear Him say, "go ahead, indulge, it's okay, this is my blessing for you".  As long as we are following His guidance, we need not fear this issue, but again, make the main concern the pursuit of Him, for He will never mislead us. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jeremiah 29:11-13 & 31:16

29 11 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 hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

31 16 This is what the Lord says:“Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,”declares the Lord

While reading in Jeremiah tonight, these few verses particularly stuck out to me.  As a young adult, I am spending a lot of time seeking God's plans for my life.  It is comforting to know that He has plans, and that they are indeed awesome.  

I love the choice of the word "prosper" which  causes me to look forward to continuous growth in Him.  Often as we grow, we feel pain in some way or another.  The fact that the Lord states that He has plans to prosper and not to harm us is tremendous to me because it helps me to find comfort in even the "growing pains" of following Christ's plans.  If we are seeking Him, everything we experience, from the greatest blessings to the most serious pains, are all part of His plan to prosper us, not to harm us.  I hope this helps some of you to reflect on some of the pains of following Him in a joyful manner.  I know it did for me.

Part of His plan is for us to call to Him, come to Him and pray to Him.  He has a desire to know us, to listen and hear us.  How often do you find yourself seeking someone who really desires to know you and care for your innermost thoughts and feelings?  We each already have that in Him.  How beautiful!  Goodness, we are blessed.  

He promises his availability and our ability to find Him as long as we seek Him with all of our hearts.  He has the desire for our entire heart because He cares that much for His creation.  He wants all of us, every part, parts we are proud of and parts we are ashamed of, because He loves us entirely. Again, beautiful.  As a girl, it is so magnificent to me to be wanted and desired entirely, not just for certain parts of my being.

The verse from Jeremiah 31 is so beautiful, and I'm not sure why I felt the need to tie it back to 29, but God put it on my heart.  Please bear with me as I try to put some reasoning with it.   

In following God's plans for our lives we will indeed face trials, trials which will sometimes produce weeping and tears...quite frequently if you are anything like me.  The command to restrain our voice from weeping and our eyes from tears is just more proof that Christ loves us and wants to soothe our sorrows.  I picture a father drying the tears of his child as he tries to calm the hysterical toddler.  God wants to do the same for us.  He knows that even in following Him and doing His work we will sometimes cry, and he wants us to know that regardless of how difficult this work may be, if we do it with all of our hearts we will indeed receive the reward He has promised us.  This brings me great comfort and joy. I hope it can do the same for you.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Still Believe: Jeremy Camp

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
1 stick butter, melted 

4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 (8 ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (3 ounce) packages strawberry gelatin
2 cups boiling water
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries  

1 Preheat oven to 450°F.
2 Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 4 tablespoons brown sugar; mix well and press mixture into bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish.
3 Bake 8-10 minutes, until set; set aside to cool.
4 In a large mixing bowl cream together cream cheese and white sugar.
5 Fold in whipped topping.
6 Spread mixture onto cooled crust.
7 Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.
8 Stir in frozen strawberries and allow to set briefly.
9 When mixture is about the consistency of egg whites, pour and spread over cream cheese layer.
10 Refrigerate until set.

John 15: 1-6

15“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

So in church today we started a mini series entitled "Abide", which is all about abiding in Christ and allowing Him to live through us.   Initially, I was bit bummed because I have recently spent some time in John 15, and I enjoy when sermons kind of take me in a new, unfamiliar direction in the Word.  Man, was I wrong.  This message was amazing from beginning to end.  It caused me to took at these verses in an entirely new and exciting way.

Let's start with the obvious:  You are either a branch connected or disconnected to the vine.  Branches not connected to the vine wither and die.  Get connected.

Jesus is the one true vine.  God, the Father, is the gardenerGod is actively involved in the growth of His garden.  Jesus is the source of life that God planted in this world to show us the life that He intended for us to have.  To have life, we must have a relationship with Jesus.

I thought it was really important to note that John 15 begins with Jesus and the Father before we are  ever mentioned

It all goes back to identity.  Do we find identity as being the branch, or as being part of the vine?  Branches do not get to pick what type of fruit they bear, but instead, branches are grown by the vine to produce a fruit that the vine has already determined and planned to produce. 

He prunes us out of love, just as a father disciplines out of love in Hebrews 12:6-7.  We must trust that we are pruned to enable us to grow into something much more beautiful.

When you look at a fruitful tree, the branches don't get the credit, but instead the gardener.  God gets all of the credit for any fruit we, the branches, are ever able to produce.   The perfect, planned fruit can only be produced if we look directly to the vine. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nahum 1:7

The LORD is good,
a refuge in times of trouble,
He cares for those who trust in him.

This verse is awesome for a ton of reasons.  It causes me to reflect on my lack of ability to take refuge in Him in every time of trouble. I think we are particularly good at seeking refuge in Him when our troubles reach a certain magnitude.  However, the truth is that God wants to be involved in the everyday struggles of our lives, not just the big things.  We often carry so much confidence in ourselves that we have to remember that we always need Him.  (I feel this may be a reason for why He has us endure more difficult remind us of His strength and our need for it, and our ability to find comfort in the need to fully rely of Him.)  This is beautiful.

Also, He cares for us, in a way that only He can.  We need that care, and can only receive it from Him.  Without it, we are helpless, regardless of how much care we receive from others.  It is important to remember that in order to live the life He has planned for us.  In order for Him to be able to care for us, we must place our absolute and complete trust in Him.