Monday, March 4, 2013

One Final Thought

Just to let you know, I have now added a subscribe via email button to my new website, so if you are receiving this message in your inbox, you can continue receiving my updates in the same way! Just head on over to and click the link on the sidebar! While you're there, check out my latest posts, updated about me, and brand new photos page! Thanks again for subscribing, reading, and supporting! Now go join the emilyhat family!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I've Moved!

In case you have not heard, my blog has moved to a brand new home:

There, you will be able to access all of my old posts, as well as all new posts. Similarly, you will find some content such as my photos, podcasts, and a few upcoming projects that aren't available yet.

Thank you so much for coming here and following my posts, and I urge you to visit, add it to your blog roll, google reader, etc. Again I say thank you for all of the encouragement you have given me!

See you at the new website!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Relationship Gauge

Do you want to have a relationship with God? More than that, do you want to have a close, meaningful relationship with God? If you do, there are some things you need to do. You see, like any relationship, a good one doesn't just happen. A lot of people say 'relationships take work', but that isn't true. A crummy, no good relationship doesn't take a lot of a work. A relationship that is one-sided doesn't take a lot of work on one person's side of the coin. But a good relationship, ah yes. Good relationships take work. And so, to have a good relationship with God (and not just a One-sided one), you must work at it. Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us exactly what we need to do in order to dwell with God on His holy hill.
"LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change, he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved." Psalm 15
First, we should note that this psalm is describing someone who is already in the relationship with God, and so in New Testament speak we mean that this person has been baptized and is enjoying a covenant relationship with God. But like all relationships, things can fall apart. This list provides a checklist of sorts, things to make sure we do (or don't do) to keep ourselves close to God.

Now, what do all of these things mean? Let's quickly look at just a few.

"He who walks uprightly" - Hold on, it's about to get technical in here. The word literally means "complete, perfect, full" or "without blemish". This is a person who doesn't walk in sin, but instead walks in a way that is perfect, blameless. In 1 John 1:7, we see that Jesus' blood will cleanse us if we walk in the light, thus making us perfect and blameless before God. If we will confess the sins we do commit (v. 9), we will be forgiven. Thus, to walk uprightly means to stay away from sin, but when we do sin, we confess that sin to our heavenly Father, who craves that intimacy with us and is faithful to forgive us to ensure that our relationship stays close.

"He speaks the truth in his heart" - Basically, this means you are who you say you are. You don't live a hypocritical life, or put on some sort of front. We know that God sees our hearts (since He formed our innermost parts!), and He can see if we mean the things that we say and do. He knows if our faith is genuine. He knows if we went to worship Him because we love Him, or if we simply went because people would look down on us if we didn't. If your heart doesn't reveal that truth that you proclaim, your relationship with God isn't real.

"He does not backbite with his tongue" - Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." If the words that we speak aren't kind, our heart isn't loving. If our heart isn't loving, how much contact have we had with the God of love? You see, God is love, and when we approach His throne in prayer, we ought the leave the throne room changed. Our hearts ought to be more loving, more forgiving, gentler and kinder. Because of the love and mercy God above has extended to our lowly existence, we should graciously love and forgive those around us. But if we backbite and tear down and destroy, we aren't behaving like God, nor are we behaving like we are in a relationship with Him.

"In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD" - Question: what do your friends say about you? Are your best friends Christians? Are your role models Christians?  Are the people you talk about the most Christians? You see, if we live our lives praising and admiring those who are evil and wicked, are we living a life that is in a close relationship with the perfect and sinless God of heaven? 2 John 10-11 tell us that we are not to greet those who abide in false teachings and trespasses, because if we support them, we are sharing in their evil deeds. What do the people in our lives say about us? That we honor and uphold truth, or that we condone wickedness? If you want to be close to God, you must resist anything and everything and everyone that has the Devil's fingerprints all over it.

While we could talk about every single phrase within this psalm, we won't for time's sake. Instead, let's focus one final thought on the last line of the psalm:

"he who does these things shall never be moved". You see, when my relationship with God starts to slip, starts to suffer, guess whose fault it is? Well it isn't God's. God never moves. He is always watching for and anticipating our return, just like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). He is always there, ready to receive us when we draw near to Him (James 4:8). That means that when our relationship starts to drift, it is my fault. I am the one who moves. And yet, if I will do all of the things that Psalm 15 mentions--if I will keep myself from sin, and walk uprightly in the light of Christ--I will not be moved. I will not wander away from God. Because as long as I am trying my best, God will keep me there, in the hollow of His hand.

How blessed we are to have a Father who is so merciful and forgiving and welcoming. How blessed we are to have a Father who is always ready to keep our relationship alive, even when we abandon Him for days, weeks, and years.

If your relationship with God is suffering, move back to Him. Draw near to Him again. Do your best to implement Psalm 15 in your life. Keep yourself from backbiting, from hypocrisy, and from hurting others. Keep yourself on the righteous path, confessing your shortcomings to the forgiving Father. Whatever sin stands in your way (and it is always sin that separates us), remove it. Cling to God again; He will not resist. He never resists.

Thanks be to God that He loves us enough to welcome us back into the fold every single time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

God Forgets

God is all-knowing. God doesn't forget things. He knows everything--from before the world was formed all the way into eternity. God knows all things. That's one attribute that makes Him God, and we love that about Him.

We love that He knows when we're hurting (1 Pet. 5:7). We love that He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt. 10:30). We love that we can go to Him, night or day, and that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6). We love, maybe most of all, that He knows exactly what we need before we even ask (Matt. 6:8).

God doesn't forget about us, the lowly created, not even for a second. He is always there, always watching, always caring and guiding and loving and protecting.

And yet Jeremiah 31:34 says this:
"For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." 
While God knows created and thus knows all things, He chooses not to remember our sins. All we have to do is submit to His terms (repentance + baptism) and confess our sins (1 John 1:9), and He remembers our sins no more.

Why?! Why does the God of the universe, Who knows all things and sees all things and created all things, choose to forget anything?!
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God loves you. Yes, He created all things. Yes, He holds the entire universe in His hands. Yes, He knows the plans He has for you & the entire world. But, first and foremost, He loves you. That is why He chooses to remember your sins no more. Isn't that beautiful?! We have been given such a wonderful gift! Not only that God would give His only Son to die, but that He would love us enough to forget our iniquities. To wipe them clean. To remove them from our charge.

Thanks be to God! We are so unworthy. We are sinful and dirty and rough around the edges. But God loves us. So much that He sent Jesus. We are all so incredibly blessed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Daily Recitation

Recently, while reading through Psalms, I discovered a beautiful verse that I'd somehow overlooked previously. Today, I want to share with you a verse of a psalm that I hope to implement into my daily meditation and prayer in hopes that you will join me.

In July of 2011, I married the man of my dreams. That evening, Robert and I stood before a crowd of people and vowed to honor, cherish, and love each other until death parts us. Would our relationship be what it needed to be if we did not implement those vows into our daily lives? Of course not! Saying something one time doesn't make it stick; instead, we must daily admonish each other and daily proclaim our love and devotion to one another. That's what makes our relationship close.

In the same way, it is so fitting for us to renew, day by day, our commitment to our Lord and Maker. That is why I love this verse, because it does just that.
"I will love You, O LORD, My Strength." Psalm 18:1
How simple and easy. No frills, no fuss; just a pledge of love and devotion from the created to the mighty Creator.

Join me, won't you, in making this verse a part of your daily life. It isn't enough to be baptized once for the remission of our sins and then never proclaim to our God that we love Him! Instead, we must daily tell our Strength that we adore Him. Much like a marriage relationship would suffer if 'I love you's' weren't spoken, so our relationship with our God will suffer should we not purposefully communicate our love to Him.

It is so easy to get caught up in asking God for what we need. It is so easy to beg God to heal the sick and and keep us safe. It is so easy to beg for forgiveness and focus on ourselves. Purpose, today and every day, to dedicate at least a few moments of your day to recite these words, and tell your God how much you love Him. And don't only tell Him you do, promise you will always. Promise to stay committed. Promise to stay true.

Promise that you will love Him, today and forevermore.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cut to the Heart

The phrase 'cut to the heart' is one that I can empathize with. You see, there have been multiple times in my life that I have been cut to the heart. Once, on a Sunday morning in late July, I was cut to the heart, realizing I was living in sin. And so, I decided on that day to put on my Lord and Savior in baptism. Just a few simple words from a sermon, and my little heart was changed.

You see, words are powerful. Words can cut to the deepest parts of who we are and change how we think, how we act. Sometimes, that's a good thing. Other times, not so much.

For instance, in Acts 2, Peter delivers the first gospel sermon, and boy is it a good one! He goes back to the Old Testament and proves to the Jews who are listening that the Jesus they murdered was the One who was promised all those years ago. In verse 37 we read,
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?"
From those bold words Peter proclaimed, these men were cut to the heart, realizing they had to make a change. Their hearts were pricked into submission. What a beautiful, powerful thing words can do!

Sadly, the same is not true later in the book of Acts. Stephen, a deacon and proclaimer of the message of Christ, is delivering a sermon similar to Peter's to another Jewish audience. He tells them that they murdered Jesus. He tells them that their forefathers had murdered the prophets. He spoke boldly these very true, very moving words, yet in verse 54 we read,
"When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth."
These men shut their ears to the words of Stephen, literally. Verse 57 says they stopped their ears and ran toward him to stone him. Ultimately, they were successful in killing Stephen, most notably known as the first Christian martyr.

But wait, weren't these sermons similar? Weren't Peter's and Stephen's words nearly identical? Doesn't the Bible record that both groups of listeners were cut to the heart? What was the difference?

The difference is in the heart that's cut.

You see, our hearts show who we really are. When your heart is cut, pricked, it shows what kind of person you are. Either you are pricked with guilt and anguish, knowing you need to change, or you are pricked with anger and resentment. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16,
"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life."
How is it that the same fragrance can smell like death to some and life to others? It's all about the heart.

You see, I don't believe that those men to whom Stephen was speaking were incapable of feeling guilt. I don't believe they were incapable of repentance. Why, then, did the words provoke such a rage within them? Because their hearts didn't want to change. Their hearts didn't want to be different. They were scared of that change, angry that they needed to change, and ultimately took that hurt and insecurity out on a man of God.

When the gospel is preached in any given setting, people are going to respond different to the same, powerful words. On Mars Hill, Paul spoke the same words to a crowd of people, and yet the Bible records for us that some mocked, some said they would hear him again, and some believed (Acts 17:32-34). Again, it all comes down to heart.

What does your heart say? When the powerful words of Jesus are given to you, what is your response? Do you examine yourself and seek out ways to change to be more like Him? Do you repent of your evil ways and vow to return to them no more? Or do you resent the fact that someone wants you to chance? Do you hear that sermon and think of how it applies to others? Do you, quite simply, respond more like the men in Acts 2, or the men in Acts 7?

It is my prayer that I will always have a heart like the men in Acts 2. You see, I will always struggle with sin. I will always commit sin. I will never, ever, be free from the temptations of the devil--not until I die. That is why I pray to always be cut to the yielding heart. I pray that I will always seek out ways to better serve my risen Lord.

How is your heart today? I pray that it is willing and yielding. But if not, if your heart has been hardened by sin and by hurt, I pray that it will be changed, so that one day you will be able to.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Leading Ladies: Abigail

One of my favorite women from the Old Testament is Abigail. She is the picture of grace, virtue, and beauty. Her story is intriguing, gripping, and shocking. Mostly, though, I love Abigail because she makes me question everything about myself. Could I be the person she was? Do I have the character to react the way she did? Let's examine her life a little closer today and see just how much we can learn from this Old Testament woman.

The text in which we find Abigail is 1 Samuel 25. In verse 3 we find out that she is married to a man named Nabal, and he's not exactly a great person. Short-tempered, rude, and disrespectful are just a few of his less-than-desirable traits, and yet it is to such a person that the altogether lovely Abigail is married. In verse 13 we see that Abigail's entire family is about to be wiped off the face of the planet because of her husband's blatant disrespect and pride. Alas, by verse 33, Abigail's quick thinking, poise, and smooth-talking have won over the heart of David and have saved her entire family! Well, except Nabal, who would die sooner rather than later. Still! Abigail saves the day! Hooray!

So what, exactly, can we learn from this super woman?

1: Abigail is the definition of prepared. As a pretty new player in the game of housewifery, I can attest that being ready at any given moment to feed more people than just me and my husband is a difficult things. Some days, just being able to find the time to feed us seems like a huge undertaking. And yet, in verse 18, the text tells us Abigail 'made haste' and 'took' 200 loaves of bread, 200 cakes of figs, and five sheep 'already dressed'. What's the significance? Oh, she had all of that on hand!

We know from 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to be ready always to give an answer and defend the Word of God and the hope that is in us. It is vital that we, as children of God, have knowledge of His word 'on hand' already. We shouldn't wait until someone asks us a Bible question or until we run into a certain temptation that we find the time to see what the Bible has to say about it. Instead, we should give ourselves over to study constantly, so that whenever a trial or question comes our way, we are ready to 'make haste' as Abigail did! Who knows but what our preparation may save us from some scheme the Devil has ready for us.

2: Abigail is the definition of a peacemaker. What is the reason that David is coming after her family? Is it not because her husband flew off at the mouth and disrespected the future king? But in verse 24 Abigail says, "On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be!". You read that right! She took the blame for something that most certainly was not her fault.

Romans 12:18 tells us to live peaceably, as much as depends on us, with all men. Sometimes, that means taking the blame for something that isn't your fault. Sometimes, that means placing your pride aside and seeking forgiveness when someone else is to blame. While Abigail could have sat back and waited for something to happen, because after all it wasn't her fault, she was instead proactive. She made peace, even for something that wasn't her fault. I know that I can learn from this woman of God. How easy it is to sit back and wait for things to "play out" because we have been wronged and thus don't want to make the first move toward peace. Yet, Abigail reminds us that sometimes, being a peacemaker (and we are all commanded to be) means apologizing for something that isn't your fault.

3: Abigail is the definition of persuasive. As soon as Abigail dismounts from her donkey, she falls on her face and begins an epic speech. Throughout her spill, David says nothing. Instead, this lowly woman has a commanding presence, with words (and beauty) that halt a warrior in his tracks.

Perhaps verse 35 says it all, when David says, "See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person." Truly Abigail was a woman with a great sense of persuasiveness. As children of God, we ought not try to persuade people to follow Christ with false pretenses. We must not ever try to conform the Gospel message to fit the needs and relevancy of the culture. Instead, we must show our world, with powerful and persuasive words, the relevancy of the Gospel! Peter is a great example, declaring on the day of Pentecost, "This Jesus, whom you crucified (Acts 2:36)." How could you not be moved by such passion and zeal? How could you not be persuaded to follow after this One who died for you?

No doubt Abigail was as persuasive as she was because her and her family's lives depended on it. We must persuade those around us to follow the Gospel as if our life depends on it. Because in all reality, their eternal life does!

There are so many great lessons we can learn from this powerful woman of God. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that Abigail, because of her faithfulness, was chosen to be David's wife after Nabal died.  Likewise, if we are faithful, and will die to our old self and our covenant with sin, we will be called the bride of Christ (as members of His church - Eph. 5).