Wednesday, December 24

Gifts of the Magi

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." ~ Matthew 2:10
In reading the account of Christ's birth, I had never noticed (until our teacher pointed this out in Sunday's lesson) that it never says there are three wise men. All the nativity sets and movies portray it that way, perhaps because they presented three gifts, but there could have been two wise men or there could have been dozens! This is not my main point, but it opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes we (I) just read over familiar scripture without really allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us. We just assume we know what it means and what it has to say.

Anyway, in this Sunday school lesson, we talked about the gifts from Magi (however many there might have been). They gave Jesus gold, which is a gift for royalty, because he is the King of kings. They gave him frankincense, which is a gift for a deity. This was a very valuable gift, and was one of the four ingredients in the incense for the temple (see Exodus). And they gave Jesus myrrh, which was used in mummification and embalming. This represented his sacrifice. [Another new thing I learned: both frankincense and myrrh are harvested from the sap of trees.]

These were wonderful gifts, and had great meaning, but these wise men gave Jesus one other gift: worship. Jesus is God, so he doesn't need us to give him anything; He made it all in the first place! Worship was the most important of all the gifts, because it is what we were created to do.

This leads me to think, what is worship, really? It's not just the time we spend at church. In order to truly worship God, I must truly let him have control of every nook and cranny of my life. I must trust him utterly and completely. I must keep him first in my life. I must let him use me to do his will. And I must appreciate him, not just for what he does for me, but simply for who he is.

Monday, December 22


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

Too often, I seek the approval of man. It took me a long time to realize this. My great dislike of conflict? The fear I had (ok, still have) of "speaking the truth in love"? Unease about saying no to a request? Unfortunately, it's all related to caring what others think of me.

Even if these things don't bother you, perhaps you care how good your car looks, or maybe you'd be embarrassed if a neighbor dropped by unannounced and saw how messy your house is. A lady in the vet's office the other day was embarrassed that her dog wasn't behaving. And most of us parents have probably had at least one moment when we'd like to crawl in a tiny hole because of how our kids were acting in public.

Sometimes this desire for approval comes in the form of changing how you act depending upon who you're with and what they are doing. In other words, just trying to fit in. We speak about this in relation to peer pressure among teens, but it often applies to adults as well.

My point is, I think all of us have some ways, big or small, that we care too much about the approval of man. Even doing good works can fall into this category. We want that pat on the back. There is nothing wrong with getting a nice pat on the back; in fact, we're called to encourage one another, so we do need to be generous with those pats on the back and words of affirmation. But the danger lies in caring more about pleasing our fellow man than we care about pleasing God. He wants our whole heart, He desires to be Lord of every part of our lives.

Saturday, December 20

A Song in My Heart

God says, "Be still and know that I am God.
I will be praised in all the nations;
I will be praised throughout the earth."
~ Psalm 46:10
My recent readings (Max Lucado) pointed out that this is one of those verses that contains a command with a promise. The command is simply to be quiet, stop doing all the talking, and sit there with your mouth shut. The promise is that if we do this, he'll show us more about himself. We are giving him an open invitation. I think he loves this because it allows us to get to know him better, and anything that improves our relationship with God blesses us and pleases him. I like pleasing my Father, though I don't do it nearly enough! I need to be intentional about taking the time to just be still and let him show me who he is.

Once I let him show me he is God, praise will flow out of my heart and soul. My friend Mari posted this video today, and I loved it so much I had to post it, too. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, I pray that we'll consider what our hearts contain: "A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6:45)

Monday, December 15

Good News!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:8-10

Why did God choose to bring Christ's birth announce to the shepherds first? They were generally looked down upon because they didn't observe all the "rules" about obeying the sabbath (sheep don't take a day off from being sheep), or keep all the mosiac cleanliness laws (hard to do when you live among sheep). But they most likely knew the psalms, and knew that God calls himself our shepherd (Psalm 23:1). We, like sheep, tend to panic (today's economy, anyone?) and are prone to wander. The good shepherd disciplines his sheep to try to keep them on the right path, but is ready to rescue them when they get lost.

The shepherds were terrified when an angel appeared before them, just as we all tend to do whenever we're faced with something unexplainable. But the angel was bringing good news! The long-awaited Messiah had been born, right in their town, and he had come to save ALL the people! Not just some people, but all people!

Christmas is the time we remember Christ's birth. But this same sweet little baby lying in a manger is also the same Jesus who hung on the cross for my sins and yours. What better time than Christmas to get fired up about sharing this good news?

We’re called to share Christ with everyone. This means missions in far-away lands, but it also means sharing Christ with friends, family, neighbors...

This song is stuck in my head, which often means God wants it stuck in my heart. I hope it sticks in your heart, too.

(This is my church’s worship band, by the way, and I’m so thankful they use their talents to bless me & so many others every week!)

Find more inspiration at Spiritual Sundays (yes, I'm a day late!).

Wednesday, December 10


I am copying this entirely from a daily devotional my pastor writes as part of a ministry (separate from our church) called Right From the Heart, because I couldn't say this any better. You can have these 1-minute devotions sent to you by email or subscribe via a feed reader.

The Evidence of Things Not Seen
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1

We pride ourselves in being logical creatures who demand proof before believing most things. Yet, a professor can tell us that there 100 trillion stars in the sky, and we accept it without question. We accept as absolute fact that an atom has neutrons and electrons spinning around a nucleus, even though we have never seen any of them. We know that light travels 186,000 miles a second even though we've personally never measured it. And we agree that Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, and that E does, in fact, equal mc2. We accept all these things as facts without ever demanding the proof of their authenticity.

Yet so many of us will reject Jesus - risking our eternal souls even when presented with solid proof. What proof? The witness of thousands of people who saw the miracles of Jesus. Testimonies from dozens who witnessed His death, then saw Him alive after His resurrection. And what about the fulfillment of prophecies concerning Jesus? Yet even after being shown so much solid evidence, many enlightened, logical people reject Jesus as "just some myth for the gullible." In fact, the divinity of Jesus is just about the only thing people refuse to accept, even when evidence is overwhelming. Tell me, where's the logic in that?

What about you? Are you willing to accept the truth of Jesus on faith? In fact, it's the ONLY way you can accept Him. So, go ahead, take that leap of faith. Once you do, your life will be changed forever.

Tuesday, December 9

Awesome Wonder

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Sometimes God's creation takes my breath away and I marvel at the fact that the same God who is capable of creating a whole UNIVERSE also made little ol' me! Not only did he make me, but he also cares about the most intimate and seemingly trivial details of my life. Every day should leave me speechless at his wonders. Even the ordinary, mundance days. He is no less God on those days than He is on the glorious days; I just happen to be paying less attention. I love that line in the movie "The Color Purple" about God being ticked off when we just walk past the color purple and don't even notice. He didn't just make this world functional; He made it beautiful, complete with birds that sing and sunsets that glow, rivers that glisten and make lovely soothing sounds, spiders capable of weaving intricately beautiful webs...

I should pay attention to all the wonders, big and small, each and every day, and praise the God who made it all. This is the day the Lord has made. Let's all rejoice and be glad in it!

Saturday, December 6

How Deep?

"I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God's holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ's love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is." Ephesians 3:17-18
I've just started reading Max Lucado's The Great House of God and the Holy Spirit is already using him to and this book to speak to me about some truths that I need to sink in deep. This book focuses on the Lord's Prayer, but emphases how much God loves us; how he loves it when we call him Father; that he adopted us not because of what we had to offer, but because of our own need; that we are his children. One of the things I love about Max Lucado's writing is that he makes God seem so accessible. Which, of course, he is, but I tend to forget that.

The day before I started reading this book, I was reading in Ephesians, and came across the verse above. It jumped out at me, and I love it when that happens. I want what the apostle Paul is talking about here: I want my life to be built on Christ's strong love, and I pray that I—and every believer—will be able to comprehend the magnitude of God's love. Without Christ in us, I don't think that's even possible. We can't begin to understand that kind of love unless Love (with a capital L because I'm referring to God here) lives in us. Christ does live in me, but I still have a hard time seeing God as a loving father; I think I have more than a holy reverence sort of fear of God. I still have a little of the mentality that he's sitting on his big throne in heaven waiting for an excuse to zap me. I have been talking to him about this, and I know it isn't true, but sometimes knowing something and getting my heart to believe it is a different matter entirely. May you and I know how wide and how high and how long and how deep God's love for us is.

Wednesday, December 3

Salty Enough?

Here it is! My summary of the LAST chapter of my group's study, Lord, Only You Can Change Me by Kay Arthur.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5: 13-16
In one of those neat God-timing things, we studied salt and it's uses (in our homeschool lesson) the very same week I did this chapter of our study. I love it when He does that. {grin} For instance, Roman soldiers were paid in salt! And of course salt is used to preserve things, and to flavor things.

I love this point Kay makes here: the amount of salt in a recipe matters. That means that each and every one of us matters; our "saltiness changes the flavor of the world." But if salt loses it's flavor, it's not good for anything but to be trampled underfoot.

Another things salt does: makes you thirsty. If we are being salty enough, then our saltiness should be causing others to thirst--for God!

I learned a few things I'd never realized about Lot in this study. When the angels came to rescue him from Sodom before the town was destroyed, he had no influence with those around him. His sons-in-law laughed at him, the men of the town threatened to do vile things to him, and his wife only reluctantly followed him. His salt had lost it's flavor. But in 2 Peter 4-9, the Bible tells us that the Lord considered Lot a righteous man whose soul was tormented daily by all that went on in that town around him. And it tells us "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation..." So Kay asks us to consider: Are we being salty enough, or are we being corrupted? There is no middle ground.

Light. It has one purpose: to light the darkness. God is Light, and we must help others find their way through the dark to find Him. If a candle or lamp doesn't give light, what use is it? We need to be doing good works, but we must be careful to reflect all glory or honor back to God. It's like that saying I love, "Be the moon; reflect the Son."

Tuesday, December 2

Peace & Persecution

Let's see if I can sum this up more succinctly than usual. We finished our study group the week before Thanksgiving, but I am just now summarizing chapter 8 of Lord, Only You Can Change Me.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:9-10

Peace is not just the lack of war, it is living in true harmony. But we can't achieve true harmony with our fellow man until we have true harmony with God. God IS peace. I never put that together with this verse until this study: "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" Did you get that? I've always thought it meant that God made it so we could have a peaceful world, but it's saying that He sent Peace, as in the Prince of Peace! How awesome is that!?!

As for being a peacemaker, I knew that meant we ought to live in peace with one another, but I never realized the other part of this: we're required to bring the gospel of Christ to others so that they, too, may have peace with God. He died for us ALL, not just a few of us.

Then there is the sticky, icky subject of being persecuted. Of course, that's obvious in many parts of the world, where Christians risk their lives in professing belief in Christ. But we must remember that the Bible says we will ALL face persecution. Most of us will probably never face a life-or-death situation, but perhaps we'll lose friends, or be snubbed by co-workers. And the Bible tells us that ALL of us Christians will suffer, but of course, that will differ for each of us. No matter what we go through, we must remember that we are co-heirs with Christ in the wonderful things, but also in His suffering. And if handled in a Christ-like manner, our suffering may--like Christ's suffering--bring others to God through our suffering.

Tuesday, November 25

Giving Thanks

“And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17

Some things feel, to my humanly-thinking ways, more important than others. Some activities seem “holy” and others just don’t. And there are times when I have some pretty profound conversation, but there are plenty of seemingly unimportant chats. But this verse tells me that whatever I do or say should be done in the name of the Lord. Whatever. That means even when I’m taking out the garbage, or paying bills, or cleaning the shower; whether I’m fixing dinner or talking about our day– these things are ALL to be done in the name of the Lord, and I should be giving thanks the whole time!

How can I put this into practice in real life? I can find something to be thankful for even in the humblest of tasks. Taking out the garbage? That means we must have more than we need. Paying bills? Having a mortgage means having a house, and that’s sure a blessing! Plus the blessings of having electricity and telephones, and so forth. Cleaning the shower? I can be thankful for the luxury of hot running water because there’s a large portion of the world without it. Fixing dinner? We have food to eat– even multiple choices of what food to eat! Talking about our day? That means I have a family to talk to.

I could go on and on…

This should also make me more carefully consider what I’m doing and saying. If I am to do it in the name of the Lord, I ought to think twice about where I’m dragging Jesus and his name. If whatever I speak should be done in the name of the Lord, then I really better bite my tongue before saying those bitter or careless words. This all sounds like a pretty tall order, but with God’s grace, it is possible.

Monday, November 24

No Other Way

“Jesus told him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

Jesus cuts to the chase here. No hidden meanings; he lays it all on the table. HE is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no other way. There is no path to spiritual enlightenment, no kharma, no deeds good enough to get to God EXCEPT through Christ. This is very politically incorrect, very un-Oprah, but it’s exactly what Jesus is saying. You don’t get to choose the best path; Jesus is it. Period. There is no room for discussion.

I could elaborate in my own words, but this great quote from C.S. Lewis sums up everything this verse is telling me:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Saturday, November 22

God Sings

“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

There is so much to rejoice about in this verse!

The Lord is with us, here in our midst. He walks with us every moment. We are never alone, and he will never abandon us. He is a mighty warrior, fighting on our behalf. We have nothing to fear because God is on our side! And he quiets us with his love. Just as a mother soothes a fussy baby, or hugs her child to make a booboo feel better, God holds us and loves us to soothe and quiet us.

And the Lord delights in us! He is so happy to be with us that he sings. Think about that--God sings about you! Or as another translation says, he shouts for joy. Could this be why there are sunsets? Purple flowers? Bluebirds? Is this how God sings? I think so.

Friday, November 21

Which Way?

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
Psalm 32:8

Sometimes I wonder how to figure out what I’m suppose to do. Whether an important matter, or just something trivial, I have been known for most of my life as being rather indecisive. I don’t want to make a bad decision, so my tendency is to just not make a decision at all. But that is a lazy, non-committal way to be, and it isn’t at all what God wants me to do. He does want me to make decisions, but I’m not the one who has to figure it all out; He will show me what to do. And for me, that is a big weight off my shoulders.

With God in control, bad decisions are no longer an issue. If I’m following the path God directs me to follow, then my choices might not be popular, but they will be good. It’s when I don’t listen to his instruction that I get myself in trouble. I must care more about what God says than what friends or family or the world in general says. I’ve tried doing it myself, and I can tell you from personal been-there/done-that experience that “figuring it out” on my own is never, never, never the best way to go. I spent years thinking that I’d just take care of things myself; if there was anything big enough that I couldn’t handle myself, then would I let God handle it. For years, about 99% of my prayer life was spent rationalizing and explaining things to God, telling him why this must look like a bad decision to him, but that he didn’t need to worry because I had it under control. HA!

One of the many wonderful qualities of God is his patience. I remember reading about the Israelites in the desert, and all the ways they’d mess up and complain and forget all God had done for them; I’d think they were idiots, and that I wouldn’t blame God one bit if he’d just zapped them all with a big lightning bolt or let the earth swallow up every last one of them. But then I realized that I was just like them. I was stubborn and “stiff-necked”, but eventually I realized that there really is nothing small enough for me to handle well without God guiding me.

Nothing at all.

God will teach me, guide me, in everything. There is nothing too big or too small for God to handle. And he will do it while keeping his eye on me. He won’t just give me a list of instructions and then leave me to decipher it on my own. He will lead me, my hand in his, down the best paths. All I have to do is be childlike in my faith, trusting him as a small child trusts that they are safe and knows they won’t get lost, just as long as he is holding my hand.

Thursday, November 20

Merciful and Pure

My summary & thoughts on chapter 7 of our study by Kay Arthur: Lord, Only You Can Change Me.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:7-8

We've discussed previously what it means to be poor in spirit. So how do we relate to others if we are truly poor in spirit? "...with mercy, because God has been merciful to [us]." The word used in the Bible for merciful can also be translated as kindness, love, lovingkindness, unfailing love, or loyalty. Kay tells us that the New Testament word for merciful does not simply mean having pity, but being "actively compassionate." She goes onto explain the meaning of the mercy seat in the Tabernacle, but you'd do better to read that yourself. (I was very blessed by Beth Moore's study of the Tabernacle: A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place. I highly recommend it!) But the main point is realizing that the very essence of God's being is mercy, which is why He sent Christ to die on the cross. Jesus was the ultimate atonement sacrifice, and He paid the price of our sins. Since God showed us such GREAT mercy, we are called to be merciful, even to those who sin against us.

Jesus' life was a continuous example of mercy. Like with the woman caught in adultery. And even as he hung on the cross, and asked God to forgive those who had put Him there. Mercy and forgiveness are intertwined and inseparable. And in order to receive mercy, we must be merciful. (See Matthew 18:21-35) That seems hard, that showing mercy to those who have done us wrong. But God has shown us mercy, like the king who forgave a huge debt (in that previous verse I mentioned). Anything ever done to us is tiny and insignificant compared to what we did to Christ. Kay says, "What is your pain alongside His? Have you never seen what your sin did to the heart of perfect Holiness?"

"Grace is that unearned favor which saves us. Mercy is that undeserved favor which forgives us. And peace is that unsought favor which reconciles us... Mercy, remember, is not for the worthy but for the needy."

Now, what about purity? How can we be pure, when we know we're always going to be sinners? Thankfully, being pure means being cleansed. So we don't have to have a pure and unsullied past because God has cleansed us. When we are saved, God gives us a new heart and we become a new creation (Ezekiel 36:26-27 and 2 Corinthians 5:17). But we must keep our hearts cleansed. How? We keep our hearts pure by staying in the Word of God, which is like a mirror, showing us our wrong thoughts or actions, and washing us clean. That's how we renew our minds.

The Word of God is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:15) Kay asks us to consider if we are really spending enough time in the Word. There are so many people who have a genuine desire to follow Christ, but they just don't know what the Word really says. I know that was true for me, and I also realize there's still a lot I don't know about what God teaches us in The Bible, but I have learned so much in the last few years! All that new knowledge sure has made it easier to follow Christ, but it also makes me realize that I must keep on learning every day because there is no way I will ever know it all. Even if I had the entire Bible memorized, there would still be so much to learn. There are verses I have read many times and thought I understood, but then I'll re-read them and the Holy Spirit will teach me something brand new about that old, familiar verse. His Word really is alive!

The other way we keep our hearts pure is through confession. Confessing our sins " is to agree with God that what we have done is sin." But what about sins our human minds have forgotten? If we have confessed all our known sins, then God sees the intentions of our heart, so he cleanses us even from the ones we've forgotten. How wonderful! Even once we have confessed, however, sometimes it's necessary to make restitution to someone we've sinned against. Follow God's leading on that.

One more thing to keep our hearts pure:
Take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and

"Set your mind on the things above,
not on the things that are on earth."
(Colossians 3:2)

Wednesday, November 19

Nuts and Bolts

Thanks to my fabulous blog friend Kathy at Hey, Look A Chicken, I've found a new quote I love. This comes from The World as I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin by Rich Mullins. It is now on my must-read list.

...I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a presence that is more than convincing, it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. "If I be lifted up," Jesus said, "I will draw all men unto me."
St Francis of Assisi said something similar: "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." How many times do we try to shove the message of Christ down the throats of unbelievers, insisting He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, yet we don't live any differently than they do? Recognition of what Christ has done for us--and that God allowed His child to die for us--should make our every waking moment different than it was before we knew and loved Christ. I think when the Bible tells us to be "come out from them and be separate" (2 Cor. 6:17), it really means that we should be so different--in the way we live, in our marriages, in our level of compassion, and so forth--that unbelievers notice and yearn to know what, or Who, makes us the way we are. And then, after they are yearning to know, we must "...always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, November 18

Hungry and Thirsty

A deliquent post, but we'll catch up. This is my summary of chapter 6 of Lord, Only You Can Change Me.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
~ Matthew 5:6
The Sermon on the Mount probably caused quite a stir back when Jesus preached those words. This was most certainly not politically correct! It was revolutionary. He was saying that the people would be blessed--satisfied--not because of circumstances, but because of who they are down deep in their hearts.

To have this satisfaction, they needed to make righteousness a continual habit of life, rather than a one-time thing. Eating a big meal may be satisfying temporarily, but we'll get hungry again. Drinking water fills us, but not for days on end. It's the same with seeking righteousness. We must do it every day! "To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to have a deep, inner longing to please God. It is a longing that God Himself plants within our hearts to cause us to seek after Him. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire with all our being to live and walk the way God says to live and walk." (emphasis mine)

Kay goes on to tell a story about a terrible famine in China, and a man who truly knew hunger and later came to know and love Christ. I keep thinking about how spoiled most of us are. We say, "I'm starving!" but have any of us ever known real hunger? I'd venture to say that most people who have access to a computer and the internet, and the time to read blogs, are not in any danger of starving to death. There have been many times I've stood staring into the pantry, and complained that there is nothing that sounds good to eat. What a spoiled brat I am!

The Pharisees were righteous on the outside, but Jesus was telling us we must be righteous on the inside. Sometimes we may have a zeal for God, but in our zealousness, we sometimes make up our own little codes of righteousness, or a "righteousness scorecard" (as Kay calls it). Things like how short a lady may wear her skirt, or what movies we do or don't watch... but these things are part of an "artificial, man-centered standard of righteousness." The biggest danger in that is in becoming self-righteous. "Self-righteousness is living by your version of you think is required by God and then imposing that standard on others, judging their righteousness by whether or not they march to the same drumbeat as you." And that is a slippery slope!

Kay quotes John 7:37-39, which reminded me of this sermon (I learned a lot from it; I hope you'll get a chance to read it, too). She points out that the verbs in this quote mean, "Let him keep coming to Me and let him keep drinking." But it's not enough to poor on the water; we must hear the word and accept it! She encourages us to "receive what God has for you" and to meditate on this verse:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
~ Psalm 63:1-5
More verses to study: Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 27:4; Psalm 119:1-8; Psalm 101

If we are truly seeking righteousness, we will not only call Jesus "Lord", but we will honor Him as Lord and do His will.

Kay gives us a list of seven things we can do to increase our hunger and for righteousness.
  1. Beware of idols. Remember, idolatry can come in the form of a person, a thing, a hope, a dream, or an ambition. Set your mind on the things above, not the things on earth (Col. 3:1-2).
  2. Turn your eyes from the world. 1 John 2:15-16.
  3. Count all but Jesus as loss. Righteousness isn't just a matter of forsaking certain things, but of embracing the most important one: Christ. (Philippians 3:7-10)
  4. Pursue one goal. "You can become so busy, so involved in the work of the Lord, that you actually diminish your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Remember, doing is secondary in the Christian life. The primary thing is being." (Remember Martha & Mary!)
  5. Watch the company you keep. I'd like to add that this doesn't mean we can't go out into the world to minister and such, but as far as those we keep close to us, they should encourage and edify us, rather than pulling us away from the Lord.
  6. Keep coming to Him. I love this bit of a verse she quotes: "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" (See the whole verse in Isaiah 55:1-3)
  7. Receive what He gives you. Open your heart to Christ!

Monday, November 17

Gray Hairs

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4

What a glorious, lovely truth.
I’m not old yet (what age, exactly, does one become "old" anyway?), but I have more than a few gray hairs. It’s wonderful to think that the same One who knit me together in my mother’s womb, the same One who knows exactly how many hairs are on my head (including how many gray ones!), will take care of me all my days upon this earth.

Doesn’t it bring a warm, comforting feeling to know that the God who made you will continue to sustain you? When you are too tired to go on, He’ll carry you. He’ll provide absolutely everything you need. He won’t give us everything we want, but that’s only because we are like children who want nothing but candy for every meal; as parents we know that it would only make them sick and weak–and God is a much better parent than any of us!

Saturday, November 15

Prayer of Sir Frances Drake

Thank you to my cousin Jonnia for sending me this:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to
dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Thursday, November 13

Prayers for our Children

Angie at Bring the Rain came up with these, and I’m copying them to put here so they are that much easier for me to find. I’m also printing them out to keep handy (maybe on the fridge!). Her original post with these is here.

  1. When they wake up: “Let the morning bring (child’s name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You. Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul.” (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)
  2. When they are getting dressed: “Therefore, as God’s chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others. Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her). And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)
  3. While they are eating: “Teach (child’s name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength.” (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)
  4. When they go out of the house: “(Name of child), do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Adapted from Romans 12:2)
  5. While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child) clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior. Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)
  6. When they are going to bed: “The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
  7. While they are sleeping: “I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing.” (Adapted from Philippians 2:14-16)

Sunday, November 2

Humble Submission

Now onto chapter 5 of “Lord, Only You Can Change Me”…

Meekness, which is sometimes translated as “gentle”, comes from the Greek word praotes, meaning an “inward grace of the soul. ” We learn to accept God’s dealing with us as good ”…because we know we can trust God and rest in His sovereignty even though the situation itself does not seem good.” This is a decision to submit fully to God; it is not submitting just because we can’t do anything about it, but actively choosing to accept God’s ways.

Psalm 37: 1-11 reminds us not to worry or fret. And Kay points out four specific responses of “grace under fire” (meekness) in this passage:
~meekness trusts (vs 3-4)
~meekness commits to the Lord (vs. 5)
~meekness rests and waits (vs 6-8)
~meekness is confident (vs 9,11) that even bad situations be used for good in the long run.

In other words, she says, “meekness is humble submission to the will of the Father.” And she reminds us that “meekness is NOT weakness but incredible power under the control and guidance of God Himself.”

Jesus is the best example of true meekness: he did nothing outside of God’s will; he did all that pleased God; he was willing to do anything–even die–it it was God’s will.

Meekness is part of the fruit of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)Note that the fruit is just one multi-faceted fruit, not nine individual fruits.

In order to be meek, we must be willing to be teachable. This is something I pray for myself every day because I know I need it! We must be humble and willing to be led, and we must submit to God’s authority in our lives. Kay urges us to ask God to reveal to us any ways we have failed to be meek.

We must also demonstrate meekness in our dealing with others. In other words, we must be humble, realizing that we can easily fall into sin ourselves. If we need to deal with someone needing guidance or correction, we must humbly teach, but let God be the one to change their minds. Kay says, “…no matter how grievous the sin, no matter how strong the snare of Satan, we are not to correct anyone in any other way except in meekness.” If we speak through our own righteous indignation, we may actually turn that person away from God. Moses set a great example when Miriam and Aaron spoke against him; he allowed God to handle the problem instead of taking matters into his own hands.

One more big point: “Meekness is a sure cure for bitterness.” When we don’t submit fully to God and remember that He is fully in control, there is a risk of becoming bitter towards God. But if we run to Him instead of away from Him, then we have all the grace of God ready and waiting for us–and His grace is sufficient! A lesson it took me a long time to learn is that forgiving others is a choice, and if I choose to hang onto unforgiveness, it turns into a poisonous root of bitterness. “To the very depths of your heart, you must fully forgive whoever has wounded you, deceived you, or transgressed against you… Or if your complaint is against God, if you are bitter toward Him, then you need to ask Him to forgive you for your lack of meekness.” She urges us to ask God to show us any root of bitterness in our hearts that needs to be removed, and then give Him permission to remove it. It might be painful, but you will be SO blessed because of it.

Friday, October 31


Let’s see if we can catch up with our study using Kay Arthur’s “Lord, Only You Can Change Me.” This is my summary/thoughts/highlights of chapter 4. I’ll try to get chapter 5 done in the next day or two, and see if I can catch us up on chapter 7 before next Thursday (when my group will cover chapter 8).

Meekness. None of the character traits in the beatitudes come naturally, and that includes this one. Part of being meek is in knowing what it really means (it doesn’t mean being a doormat!), and especially in understanding God’s sovereignty. Kay says that meekness “accepts all of God’s ways with us as good… Meekness looks beyond circumstances–no matter how upsetting and hurtful–and bows the knee to the sovereign God.” That’s a tough one. We humans tend to like things to be going well for us; we don’t like painful or upsetting circumstances. But when Jesus instructs us to be meek, he is saying we must trust completely in God, to know that he knows best. The old TV show said, “Father Knows Best” (I love old TV shows!), and our Heavenly Father really does.

Sovereignty means God rules over all. Period. (See Danial 4:34-35) If God is completely in control, however, then what does that mean to free will? Kay address that, too: “To our finite human minds, these twin truths do seem contradictory. If we tried in our wisdom to put them together, we might blow our circuit breakers! That’s why we must always remember one overarching fact: God is incomprehensible. Because God is God, His ways, His character, and His acts are infinitely beyond our own.” I like to know the facts; I do a great amount of research before making any type of big purchase (and even the not-so-big ones like my daughter’s new bicycle). But I’ll never understand all facets of God. If I–and my tiny little brain–could fully understand everything about him, he wouldn’t be God.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are you ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

And can I just say, in regards to the above verse, WHEW! I thank God that His ways are not my ways! If He gave me the reigns over creation for just five minutes, I am quite sure I’d screw just about everything up quite thoroughly, even though I’d have good intentions.

Satan will try his best to make you question God’s goodness, or make you think that He’s too busy doing BIG importantly Godly things to be concerned about the small details of your life. But that’s just not true! God is in the big things and the small things, and he DOES CARE about every detail of your life!

Even when bad things happen–and they will–God is still in control. He sees the big picture that we cannot see or comprehend, and all things will–someday–work for good, but we may not see that happen in our lifetimes here on Earth. God is patient, compassionate, and he is patient even with the most unrepentant sinners he doesn’t want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Monday, October 27

Unity in the Church

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:1-6

Grumbling within the church can spread like a cancer throughout the body. But not only that, when we grumble within the hearing of non-believers, we can give them a bad taste of life in the church.

In this passage, we’re called to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” In other words, we must strive to be like Christ. How?

  • Humility: a healthy self-image of our own abilities and inabilities so that we know we will always fall short of perfection, and that is why we need Christ!
  • Gentleness: also translated as meekness (which we’ve been studying in our little Bible study group!). This is not weakness; it is strength under control of the Master.
  • Patience: willingness to persevere no matter what. But we must also be patient with other people.
  • Accepting one another in love: this means not feeling or acting self-righteous!
  • Diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit: unity is something that will never be attained simply by striving for unity itself. Unity is a by-product of growth in Christ, and following God’s will.

Of course, God can accomplish absolutely anything He desires; after all, he is GOD! Ephesians 3:20 tells us that he is able to do far more than we can even imagine, but he chooses to act through us. Isn’t that wonderfully amazing?!

Sunday, October 26

Joy in the midst of trials

In these times of economic difficulties, political issues, and so on, it’s easy to become pessimistic, but if we know Christ, we can keep our focus on the things that really matter.
When Paul wrote Philippians, he was in prison, yet the recurring theme of this little book of the Bible was JOY! How did Paul have such joy while doing through such a difficult time? (You can references to all of these–and more–within the 4 chapters of Philippians.)
  • Paul prayed for others
  • encouraged others
  • focused on God’s point of view
  • saw God at work in his circumstances
  • had confidence in the ultimate outcome
  • remembered that heaven is his real home
  • did not complain or argue
  • knew that everything is rubbish compared to Christ
  • rejoiced
  • didn’t worry, but prayed
  • had peace
  • learned to be content
  • had confidence in the strength God provides

In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul says “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me.” When times of trouble come, will we–like Paul–choose to follow Christ even though it meant all sorts of trials and difficulties? Or will we–like Demas–reject Christ and choose the things of this world?

Wednesday, October 22

The Debt

I just finished reading The Debt by Angela Hunt; this is now one of my new favorite contemporary fiction novels. I want to share a few brief exerpts:

“Unfortunately, even in the church love is often in short supply. Christians who forget that Jesus calls us to give up our rights to ourselves are prone to wanting their own way. And where selfishness abounds, love withers.”

“I’m learning to be extraordinary in ordinary things, to be holy in unpleasant circumstances, surrounded by confirmed sinners.This is where faith sustains me.”

"Another paragraph from Chris’s journal replays in my mind: 'The things that tempt me from following God daily aren’t sinful things,' he wrote. 'They’re good things–duty to my family, to my father’s company, to the people at my church. But if I am going to devote myself to following God, I must be willing to leave the good things behind as I seek the best thing–total submission and obedience.'”

Granted, these are probably not as profound taken out of context, but this book touched my heart. I love a good read, and I love it even more when the Holy Spirit uses a good book to speak to me.

Saturday, October 18


Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God,
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be,
And let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The reference to an Ebenezer stone comes from 1 Samuel 7:12-14, when Samuel set up a stone as a reminder that it was God who had helped them defeat the Philistines. The word Ebenezer–or Even Haazer, in Hebrew–comes from the words for “help” and “stone”, so it’s literally a “stone of help.” An Ebenezer is anything that reminds us of God’s faithfulness.

Even though I know that I have come this far only by God’s help, my heart is still prone to wander. I pray that God would bind me to himself, fetter me so I cannot stray. He sought me and saved me, and I never want to forget that.

Thursday, October 16

Studying the Beatitudes - Week 3

“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.”
~ Matthew 5:4 ~

My summary and thoughts on week three of my group Bible study using Kay Arthur’s “Lord, Only You Can Change Me”…

Seeing our own sins as God sees them will most certainly bring mourning. There is a big difference being remorseful and being repentant. Remorse is being sorry we got caught; repentance brings with it a change of heart so that we turn away from that sin. Kay calls this “worldly sorrow” vs. “godly sorrow.” A few years ago, I learned to pray that God would give me godly sorrow about my sins, so that I could see them the saw he saw them. It was a scary thing to do, and I began reluctantly. Since that time, God has opened my eyes to show me sins that I didn’t even know were sins, and so show me deeper depths of some of my past sins. (Just be careful not to let this become Satan reminding us of sins God has already forgiven us for!) Realizing the depth of our sins is a great thing to happen to us. In 2 Corinthians 7:6-13, Paul speaks of these two kind of sorrow. Kay says, “Godly sorrow causes us to run to the arms of God, weeping, confessing our sin. And He meets us in that moment, just as He has promised.” Our hearts ought to hurt in realizing how we’ve hurt God. As King David said, all our sins are really against God. Taking that to heart will really change a person’s perspective. No more rationalizing about the reasons why it wasn’t our fault, or the other person did such-and-such first… God has never sinned against us, and it is God we hurt when we sin. We hurt ourselves, too, for sin is what puts distance between ourselves and God.

What about sin within the church? Yes, we are called to love and to forgive, but we often cross the line into enabling sinners to keep on sinning when we look the other way. Kay points out that “…God cannot forgive what we will not confess. And we cannot experience His comfort as long as we walk in rebellion.” Sometimes God calls us to speak the hard truth in love in order to help another believer stay on the narrow path God has before him. Verses Kay quotes on this topic: 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18:15-20.

This week’s study taught me to pray that God would break my heart with the things that break His heart, as I mentioned a few posts ago. Do we weep about the sins of the world, or do we joke and laugh them? This makes me think of television shows, movies, etc–the things that mainstream media seem to think worthy topics for entertainment purposes. Do we laugh along with the world and think lightly of lust, adultery, and the like? Think about how heartbroken Jesus must’ve been as he walked the streets during his time in an earthly body, seeing such pain and heartache and sin all around. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried…” (Isaiah 53)

Wednesday, October 15

Day of Remembrance

Today is the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss. This includes all babies who have died because of miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or any other infant death. Please take a moment to pray for all those who have experienced through this tragedy. If you’d like to have some names to pray for specifically, Angie at Bring the Rain has literally hundreds of women who have already shared their stories over on her blog today. Or you can visit Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep for more stories from familes who have experience this kind of loss.

If you are one of those families, I hope you will find comfort in knowing that many, many people are praying for you today. And please remember that God cares so deeply that he even knows how many tears you’ve cried:

“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.”
~ Psalm 56:8 ~

Monday, October 13

Studying the Beatitudes - Week 2

This is a summary of our second week of the study our group is doing: “Lord, Only You Can Change Me” by Kay Arthur. (I’m a little behind on updating!) Much of this is just my own thoughts on the book we’re studying, and some things are paraphrased, but I’ll use quotations when specifically quoting the author.

What does it take to make us happy? I’m pretty sure you’ve either known or been the person who always has a “I’ll be happy if/when…” Fill in the blank with just about anything: …my husband/wife would change; …I get these bills paid off, …I had a better job; …I had that new house; …I lived in the country/city. The list could go on and on.

But these things are all so temporary, so prone to change! If we’re basing happiness on circumstances, it will NEVER last. The world says that happiness is a feeling, or emotion. But what the world calls happiness is really a craving for ”a sense of God’s approval”, which comes from being right with God. My thoughts go back to my sweet friend Nita, who has peace and real joy despite the most tragic of circumstances. Though she doesn’t always feel the emotion of happiness in dealing with the grief of losing a child, she does have the true inner joy in her relationship with her heavenly Father. (She has recently started her own blog, and I know her words will bless many.)

“Blessedness is found in who we are… it comes from being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, being merciful, being pure in heart, being peacemakers, and even from being persecuted.” These things aren’t qualities that we have naturally, of our own human power. Far from it! We must be poor in spirit and realize our great need for God, and realize just how flawed we truly are. Apart from God, we will never be happy. “To be poor in spirit is to abandon all pretense and to acknowledge your TOTAL dependence upon God…”

Kay’s testimony has many similarities to my own. She grew up as a Christian, but didn’t come to a real relationship with Christ until adulthood, after she realized the depth of her own sinfulness and finally surrendered to Christ and began to truly follow him. She–and I–had to become broken before we let Christ take control of our lives. I love this verse she quotes, because it echoes my own sentiments:

“…I found distress and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I beseech Thee, save my life!”
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For Thou hast rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.”
Psalm 116:3-8

Something that really spoke to me in this week’s study was what Kay Arthur said about the way we tend to evangelise. Our society tends to think more about whether or not God pleases us, rather than whether or not we please Him. I think of people in my own life who have rejected God because they do not see their own great need. Their hearts are stone. But it’s easy even for believers to fall into the trap of thinking that God’s pretty lucky to have us working for Him. ”Poverty of spirit is… a whole way of life… continually realizing that in and of yourself, you could never please God [or] meet His standards of righteousness. Only by God’s gift of His Spirit and by walking in the Spirit can you please Him.” A few great verses to contemplate in this chapter: Romans 10:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 10:17-25; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Isaiah 6:1-8.

Every one of our thoughts, words, and actions should be directed by the Holy Spirit, who is our comforter, helper, teacher, and guide. (Eph 1:13-14; John 14:16.26; John 16:13) The only real wisdom is the kind that comes from God. We’ve got to let God be in control of every part of our lives.

Thursday, October 9

Break My Heart

Sometimes a song sticks in my head just because it’s a catchy tune, but sometimes I think God puts in there, over and over, to remind me of something He’s been teaching me. The last few weeks, this song keeps popping back in my head, particularly these lines:
All those people going somewhere,
Why have I never cared?
Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
(I hope you’ll take a minute to watch the video & listen to the words.)

How many times do we just keep our heads in the sand, oblivious to the need all around us? Every day I pray that God will use me to touch someone in some way, that He’ll use me to show His love to someone. But only recently have I begun to pray that my heart would break for all the things that break God’s heart. It feels safer to live in my own little insulated cocoon, but it’s only when I allow myself to feel other’s pain that I’ll be motivated to do anything about it. It’s only then that I’ll let truly God use me any way He sees fit.

There’s a t-shirt I saw once that said, “Be the moon; reflect the Son.” In the same way that the moon, which is incapable of producing any light of it’s own, reflects the great power and light of the sun, I am incapable of anything good of my own power. I want to be the moon; I want to reflect Christ.

Tuesday, September 30

Studying the Beatitudes - Week 1

I don’t want to merely talk the talk, or only give lip service to what I believe. I want those around me to see me living and loving differently because of what and Who I believe. I want to be a “doer” of the Word…
“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” James 1:22-24
In our study of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, I hope we will listen to what the Holy Spirit is showing us and make the necessary adjustments in our lives and in our hearts. I’ll be hitting the highlights of this study we’re doing (Lord, Only You Can Change Me), some of the author’s main points, and anything that jumps out at me personally.

There is a lot to cover in our first week’s study (chapter one)! It begins by directing us to read the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7) and to let that soak in, let the Holy Spirit–our Interpreter–speak to us through God’s word. Then to re-read and note all the times “righteous” or “righteousness” is used; by doing so, we learn that the main theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the righteous lifestyle of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven. The key verse (according to our study) is Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does that mean? My interpretation of this is that even if we follow all the rules, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, our hearts may still be hard and our souls may still be polluted. Jesus said the Pharisees were like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but full of rotten things on the inside (Matthew 23:27). It’s what’s in our hearts that truly matters.

Many of us want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want to be saved from eternal damnation, but we want the “best” of what the world has to offer, too. In my own experience, I’ve lived this. I professed my belief in Christ and was baptised as a believer, but then spent more years than I care to mention doing what Jamie wanted to do. I believed in God, but the “fruit” I produced did not match up to what I claimed to believe. But true Christianity will give us the “want to”, as my pastor puts it. If our hearts have been changed by Christ, we will be willing to leave those things behind and make a total commitment to Christ: to doing whatever He says. There will be some who claim to know Jesus as Savior, but they will be like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Their “fruit” will not match up with what they claim to be.

Hypocrisy: it’s one of those buzzwords that many non-churchgoers use as the excuse to not attend church. But it’s not just those in the church who are hypocrites! A hypocrite is anyone who “wears a mask.” The word originally was used for Greek and Roman stage actors who wore exaggerated masks to show emotion. Based on that definition, are you a hypocrite? Is there ever a time you pretend to be someone you’re not? Is there ever a time you paste on a happy face so no one sees the turmoil or difficulty in your life? Do you act differently with church friends than you do with coworkers?

Though the Sermon on the Mount seems like an impossible standard, it’s not if we allow Christ to rule our lives. "I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Saturday, September 20

His Son

Today this verse took on new meaning for me:

“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

A gentleman I met in a ministry training class this morning profoundly changed the way I think of this verse. He said we often talk about the fact that God loved us enough to die for us. That is an amazingly powerful truth if we allow it to truly soak in, and don’t skim over it simply because those words are familiar to us.

But this gentlemen went on to share that just a few years ago, he lost his own son to suicide. Since then, he says he has realized that not only did God love us enough to die for us, he loved us enough to allow his Son to die for us. As a parent, I’m guessing most of us would probably say we love our children enough to die for them. But can you fathom the love it would take to allow your child to die to save someone else? That’s how much God loves us.

Thursday, September 18

Sermon on the Mount

This evening begins our new Bible study group. We’ll be using Kay Arthur’s study on character: Lord, Only You Can Change Me. Since this study is based on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, I wanted to revisit my notes from a sermon our pastor preached via video from the Sea of Galilee earlier this summer.

The Sermon on the Mount is found in the book of Matthew, chapters 5 - 7. It’s full of great teaching, but here are a few key points:
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matt 5:3) ~ Being poor in spirit means recognizing our great need for God, being truly humble.
  • Blessed are those who mourn (Matt 5:4) ~ We must mourn our own sinfulness. We must comprehend the depth of our own sin so that we recognize what a gift salvation truly is.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart (Matt 5:8) ~ Our heart must be totally devoted to God, with no divisions of loyalty.
  • salt and light (Matt 5:13-16) ~ Salt adds flavor when it it sprinkled around; if we clump together with only Christians, we are of no use. We must be a witness for Christ by letting his light shine through us.
  • extra mile living (Matt 5:41) ~ Help others, do more than is expected, even for the most difficult people.
  • love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48) ~ This is something that should make Christians stand apart from the rest of the world.
  • do not worry (Matt 6:25-34) ~ The birds are expected to work hard, but they never worry if their needs will be met. God knows what we need; when we seek him, we will have all we need.
  • a plank in your eye (Matt 7:1-5) ~ Before we judge others, we must examine our own heart.
  • a tree and its fruit (Matt 7:16-20) ~ We are known by the fruit we produce; you can not fake the fruit.

Christ is dealing with our hearts in all of this:
what we do doesn’t matter as much as why we do it.

If you want to follow along with our study, I’ll be posting about it each week.

Monday, September 15


“I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
John 6:57-58

Each morning the manna came down from heaven with the dew. The Israelites were to collect only what they needed for the day. God made the manna so that the people could not store up extra for future days; He wanted them to depend on him anew each day for their needs. It is the same for us: we can’t cram in extra time with God one day so that we can ignore Him for days or weeks afterwards.

Here’s incentive to get my lazy rear out of bed in the morning to have some time with God: Christ is our Manna. He is “the bread of life” (John 6:48). Just as the Israelites in the desert had to trust God for what they needed each day, so should we!

Saturday, September 13


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10

It is a privilege that we are a chosen people; we are all undeserving. We, as believers, are a royal priesthood: mediators between a holy God and unbelieving people, just as Aaron was for the Israelites. Jesus is our ultimate high priest. Our calling is to reconcile the people with God; we are called to proclaim the gospel of Christ!

  • We are to be holy–to have the character of God
  • Remember we are God’s possessions–we belong to Christ. (Titus 2:14)
  • We are to trust God to meet our daily needs.
    The Israelites looked at the desert and wondered what they’d eat, how they would survive. And they grumbled. (Exodus 16:2-3)
  • Never forget our salvation! (Exodus 19:4)
    In both the old and the new testament, God is always the same and his vision for his people never changes.
  • Our mission is to end up in the promised land with as many people as possible!
  • Declare his praises! Worship is practice for heaven.

Wednesday, September 10


In Sunday school, we’ve been covering some of things we as parents do to provoke our kids to anger. (Ephesians 6:1-4) If our children’s hearts become hardened towards us, we will never be able to reach and disciple them as God wants us to do. The way kids develop their perception of what God is like is based on their relationship with their parents; I don’t know about you, but that’s a very humbling and sort of scary thought that makes me much more aware of how I’m parenting!

Here are some things we must AVOID:
  1. lack of marital harmony (Gen. 2:24) ~ Husband and wife are intended to be one flesh; kids need to see this lived out in front of them.
  2. maintaining a child-centered home; the marriage relationship must come before the child relationship. (Prov 29:15b)
  3. disciplining when angry (Eph 4:26-27) ~ Anger itself is not wrong, but often the way we deliver the message does cross over into sinful behavior.
  4. scolding (Eph 4:29). Say what is necessary to “build up” our children and offer them grace, not to tear them down with our words.
  5. being inconsistent with discipline (Ecc 8:11)
  6. not admitting when you are wrong, and not asking for forgiveness from your children (James 5:16) ~ Set a great example of what you want them to do; this is not a sign of weakness, but a show of humility.
  7. constantly finding fault (Prov 19:11) ~ Look for the good, and praise it! Overlook faults whenever possible, if it’s not an issue of respect or obedience.
  8. not listening to your child, or not taking his or her side of the story seriously (Prov 18:13). The Bible says it’s foolishness to give an answer before we listen. Show your child you value him or her by hearing what they have to say, as long as they say it with respect.
  9. not taking time to “just talk” (James 1:19). If we aren’t the primary relationship in our child’s lives, someone else will be.
  10. failing to keep your promises (Matt 5:37). ~ Show them you are trustworthy.
  11. chastening in front of others (Matt 18:15). We must remember that, as believers, our relationship with our kids is eternal; we will only be their parents here on this earth, but will rejoice with them for eternity in heaven.
  12. not allowing enough freedom (Luke 12:48b). As they are given greater responsibilities, they must be given more freedom. A great analogy someone in class shared is that kids are like a metal spring: if you suddenly release the spring, it will go flying off, and there’s no telling where it will land. However, if you let off of it very gradually, by small increments, it will be right there in that same spot when you take your hand off of it.
  13. unrealistic expectations (1 Cor 13:11a). They are not yet adults, so we must not expect them to think like adults. We should also take care never to compare one child to another, whether their sibling or another child we know. God created every one of us uniquely.
  14. practicing favoritism (Luke 15:25-30). In the case of the prodigal son, the father showed favoritism, but he also explained to the older son why he did so. We aren’t shown the reaction of that son, but I hope he understood after his father took time to explain.
  15. child training with methodologies inconsistent with God’s Word (Ephesians 6:4). Any training not consistent with the Bible will exasperate our children.
  16. reacting without understanding the heart (James 1:5). We must be careful not to wound our child’s spirit; we must pray for wisdom in parenting.

    There is no list of one-size-fits-all parenting rules…
    We must have a close, intimate relationship with the Lord; only then will we know how to handle each unique situation with our children.

    Tuesday, September 9

    Fear and Faith

    God leads, obstacles stop, prayer strengthens, and faith moves.
    Christ tells us,
    “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
    Exodus, chapter 14…
    When the Egyptians pursued the Israelites, the people panicked, and fear replaced faith. Fear and faith cannot co-exist. The people forgot all about the miracles God had recently done for them. They cried to God to save them, then looked for someone to blame for the situation they were facing. They wanted to go back to the “safety” of bondage as slaves to the Egyptians, just as we sometimes return to the bondage of our past lives/sins. Moses told the people not to fear. God knows we will have times of fear, but He wants us to choose to focus on God instead of focusing on our fear. God often leads us to obstacles or trials too big for us so that we will learn to trust Him and stand firm in our faith.

    We must pray as if everything depends on God–because it does. Prayer strengthens us for what is ahead. Then in God’s timing, we must step out in faith, knowing God will take care of the enemy. Moses prayed, but then it was time to move in faith as they crossed the Red Sea.

    Unrepentant faith leads to the judgement of God. The Egyptians knew God had power, but they wanted to use God’s power for their own benefit. The fear of God is the respect and awe and thankfulness for saving us, since we know the punishment sin deserves.

    The Israelites went into the place of death and chaos (the sea), and came out to a new life. This is a foreshadowing of Christ’s death and resurrection, and symbolizes baptism.

    Monday, September 8

    Getting Better

    “When a man is getting better
    he understands more and more
    clearly the evil that is still left
    in him. When a man is getting
    worse he understands his
    own badness less and less.”
    ~ C.S. Lewis

    I’ve found this to be true in my own life. When I was sliding farther and farther away from God, it didn’t really seem to be a big deal. I rationalized everything I was doing, and it all sounded perfectly reasonable in my own mind. But once I finally came back to God, that all changed. During my time of brokenness, I knew that I’d been deluding myself, and I knew God had seen through every bit of my “logic.” Although I know I have been forgiven, I find that as I continue to mature in my walk with Christ, I come to new and greater understanding of just how bad I had been. The benefit of experiencing this Godly sorrow over my sins is that as I face the depths of the evil I have done, my gratitude to my Savior grows. I realize it was my sins that nailed Him to the cross; I understand more deeply His love for me and I have a deeper appreciation for the grace He has given me. But as I allow myself these realizations, I must be careful not to allow Satan to throw those sins back in my face, so I remind him (and myself) that those sins are in the past and God has forgiven me.
    I am eternally grateful for Christ’s redeeming love.

    Sunday, September 7

    Success God's Way

    Mostly on this blog, I’ve been just looking at and writing about particular verses, and that’s great, but I’m also going to start writing about what I’ve learned in sermons and Bible studies as well. It helps me cement it all in my brain and my heart. (And it’s neater than my scribbled sermon notes, so it’ll be easier to re-read later!)


    Success God’s way = faithfully fulfilling God’s will for your life.
    How can we achieve this kind of success?
    How can we faithfully fulfill God’s will for our lives?
    • Success begins by being a servant of the Lord. (Joshua 1:1) In this passage, Joshua has been named as the new leader of the Israelites, after Moses died. God reminds Joshua that Moses was great because he was a servant of God. Although Joshua has big shoes to fill, he would be great if he was willing first and foremost to serve the Lord. Leaders will come and go, but God is eternally in control.
    • Be clear in your mission. (Joshua 1:2-4) God clearly defined Joshua’s mission: to lead the people into the promised land. What is your life’s mission? We are all called to glorify God, to love Him, and to reach out to others in His name. Our mission must be in context of our role as part of the church, aka the body of Christ; we mustn’t get caught up in the individualistic “all about me” mentality so prevalent in our society.
    • Be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:5-6) God reassures Joshua numerous times, and urges him to be strong and courageous. He knows we will face difficulties, but He will not fail us. Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is doing what is right and having faith in spite of the fear we feel.
    • Obey the Word of God. (Joshua 1:7-8) We must know the Word of God before we can obey it. We must meditate on it, soak it in. When a sudden heavy rain comes upon land that has been drought-stricken, the land cannot absorb much of that rain, but a slow and steady rain soaks in to the parched ground. It is the same way with our hearts: we must soak in the word a little at a time on a regular (daily) basis.
    • Know that God will be with us every step of the way. (Joshua 1:9) He is bigger than any challenge we will ever face, and we CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

    If we obey God, he promises prosperity. But the definition for the Hebrew word used for prosperity means "succeeding in life’s proper endeavors through obedience to God."

    Monday, September 1

    More Than Words

    I’m not sure who to give credit to on this song, but it’s one we sing at church.
    Holy God, You alone are worthy of my praise
    Every breath I take for all my days
    Is Yours, my King

    Holy God, I will sing another song to You
    But there’s even more I want to do
    For You, my King

    I want to give You more than words

    I want to love You with my life
    I want to be a sacrifice
    You gave it all when You paid my price
    So I want to love You, love You, loveYou

    Holy God, I will not forget the love You gave
    For my sin the sacrifice was made
    By You, my King

    Holy God, with Your Spirit here inside of me
    Let Your glory shine that all may see
    You are King
    And I want to give You more than words…

    It’s easy to have good intentions, and to give lip-service to God. But do we love Him with our whole lives? Do we give him every moment of our lives? Do we get in the way so that His glory can’t be seen through us? He paid the price for my sin, and yours, and I want to give Him more than words. I want to love Him with my life.

    Sunday, August 31

    Overlooking Offense

    “A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
    it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
    ~ Proverbs 19:11

    As I grow in my relationship with Christ, I gain wisdom. As I gain wisdom, God enables me to have patience; it’s part of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). And whenever I am able to overlook an offense, it brings me glory. I would venture to say it blesses the one whose offense I am overlooking as well.

    One of the many ways we exasperate our children (Ephesians 6:4) is by nitpicking every little thing they do. Our children aren’t perfect and neither are we. If we spend more time criticizing them than praising and encouraging them, it does NOT benefit them and does not teach them anything; in fact, it often creates a root of bitterness in the heart of the child. I don’t want that for my relationship with my kids. Usually the relationship kids have with their parents determines the way they think of God. I don’t want my kids thinking that God is an impatient, perfection-expecting, impossible-to-please kind of Father. I want them to know how loving, how patient, how compassionate He is! So I am going to think on this verse often, and remind myself that there are many things that just aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things; I need to learn to “overlook” those little offenses! Children need to know they are precious in God’s sight, and in the sight of their parents.

    This applies just as well to our relationship with our spouse. We must overlook the minor things, and focus on the good. Stop focusing on the “bad” things, and seek to find and praise the good in our spouse. It blesses our spouse, AND it blesses our marriage as well.

    Saturday, August 30

    Be Holy

    “As the One who called you is holy,
    you also are to be holy in all your conduct”
    1 Peter 1:15

    God tells us to be holy, like he is holy. How do I do that!?! He knows I’m going to sin, but he wants me to keep my focus, my “eyes” on him. Being holy means being set apart, so my conduct should set me apart from those who don’t know Christ. But I am not holy due to my own goodness; I am holy because I was called by God and I answered yes.

    When I typed in “holy” in my online dictionary, here are a few of the definitions that came back:
    1. specially recognized as or declared sacred; consecrated
    2. dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion
    3. saintly; godly; pious; devout
    4. having a spiritually pure quality
    5. a place of worship; sacred place; sanctuary

    All of the above definitions can be applied to us as believers: we have been consecrated by God; we should be devoted to the service of God; we should seek to be like Christ (Godly); we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ so we should seek to remain spiritually pure; God lives in us, so we are his sanctuary. Salvation is not brought about by good works, it is only by trusting in Christ that we are saved. And being holy is not because of how spectacularly wonderful we are; being holy is completely dependent upon our relationship with Christ.

    Lord, help me be holy as you have called me to be. Let my thoughts, words, and actions reflect YOU.

    Saturday, August 23


    “If I say, “My foot is slipping,”
    Your faithful love will support me, LORD.
    When I am filled with cares
    your comfort brings me joy.”
    Psalm 94:18-19

    Who can we really rely upon? If we have at least one true friend, and/or a spouse who encourages and supports us, then we are truly blessed. But even the most loyal friend or spouse can’t be there for us every moment of every day. But the Lord can, and will. He is with us always; He never sleeps or grows tired; He will always have time for us. No one on earth can offer us the same kind of comfort we find in the Lord. He is faithful, and He cares about every aspect of our lives. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

    Friday, August 22

    Escape Route

    “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

    We all sin. Even when we’re having a really close walk with God, we’re still tempted, and sometimes it just seems like too much. But Got promises always to provide a way out of temptation. Did you catch that? God always gives us an escape route straight out of sin. Always. No exceptions.

    I think we make it harder than it has to be. We get so caught up and distracted by temptation that we miss the big red EXIT sign over the door. But it’s always there. In that bar? It’s there. In the anger that threatens to burst? It’s there. Wrapped in a set of arms you shouldn’t be? It’s there. Caught up in envy over what you don’t have? It’s still there. No matter what sin tempts you, God gives you an exit. When Jesus died on the cross, he took our sins upon himself. That freed us from the penalty of our sin, because he bore the punishment we deserved. But his death did even more than that! Christ’s death freed us from sin’s power over us. What a reason to rejoice! If you’re entangled in sin or gripped by temptation that is just too much, turn to Christ and he’ll free you. Sin did not defeat Jesus. If you’ll let him, he’ll make sure it doesn’t defeat you either.

    Monday, August 18

    Inside Out

    I love this song. Whenever I hear it, it sticks in my head for a long time, but that’s a good thing. It’s a prayer of my heart. I want the Lord to be in control of my heart and soul. I want to bring Him praise, glorify him with all my thoughts, words, and actions. I want Christ to consume me from the inside out.

    “In my heart, in my soul,
    I give you control,
    consume me from the
    inside out, Lord.
    Let justice and praise
    become my embrace
    to love you from the inside out.

    your light will shine when all else fades.
    Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame.
    And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise
    from the inside out, Lord, my soul cries out.”

    Sunday, August 17


    But the one who boasts should boast in this,
    that he understands and knows Me–
    that I am the LORD,
    showing faithful love,
    justice, and righteousness on the earth,
    for I delight in these things.
    This is the LORD’s declaration.
    ~Jeremiah 9:24

    What is worth bragging about? Wonderful skills? High intelligence? Great strength? How about an extensive education? A well-paying, prestigious job? Or maybe a beautiful family? No, the Lord says none of these are worth boasting about, and in fact, he tells us we don’t have bragging rights about any of these things.

    The only thing worth boasting about is how well we know God, how well we understand the Lord. This doesn’t mean being able to quote scripture, but truly having wisdom that only comes from an intimate relationship with him. We must know about his faithful love, his justice, and his righteousness. We must know that he delights in these things, and in our quest to know him better…
    Everything else is meaningless if Christ is not Lord of our lives.

    Thursday, August 14

    Logical Defense

    “But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.” 1 Peter 3:15

    There are so many important parts to just this one verse. I think the main point here is that I must be ready to give a defense, or explanation, for the hope that is in me. Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know this was in the Bible. I knew it was important to know Christ, but I didn’t know I was suppose to be ready to explain why I chose to trust in him. It seems that recently I’ve had several opportunities to do this, and it has helped my faith grow. God knew that, of course; giving an account of the hope we have blesses the person we are speaking to, but it blesses us as well.

    Unfortunately, many Christian seem to miss the next bit about doing this courteously and respectfully. I have seen and heard way too many who have good intentions, and really want to share the good news of Christ, but they don’t share in a humble manner, or as another version says, “with gentleness and respect.” Gentleness. We can interfere with the best of messages if we don’t deliver them with gentleness. Especially if someone is asking us, that means maybe they are ready to hear — but jumping up on our high horse won’t help them accept the message.

    Looking at this verse today, I realize there is another HUGE part here. We can’t give a proper defense or account of the hope that’s in us unless we truly do have that hope that comes only from knowing Christ. We must set Christ apart as Lord in our hearts. In other words, we have to truly make him the most important part of our lives — mind, body, and soul. He must be King of our hearts. We must make a choice to surrender our lives to him, not just once at the time of our salvation, but each and every day of our lives. Is Christ the Lord of your day today?