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).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Been a Year

One year ago today, this blog came into existence. Now sure, I'd been blogging long before that, and yet a transition in my blogging career was necessary. Being a preacher's wife (and just a wife in general) changes you. And so, deciding that the silliness of my old blog was just a bit immature, I moved on over here to help me in my daily devotionals and my all around knowledge/study of God's Word. Maybe you haven't been with me the entire year, and maybe you have been with me much longer than that. Either way, I thank you for being here now, and as a bonus for your effort, I am including some links from the past year for you to sift through and enjoy! 

Also, thank you for visiting my blog on its birthday. It appreciates it. Please, no presents.

Links to Love

1: The most popular post - Tough Stuff Tuesday: Beating Bitterness

2: The time I was attacked by a bat - A Bat, a Scream, and a Lesson 

3: A message to unfaithful Christians - Better Not to Have Known 

4: A message of self-worth - Tough Stuff Tuesday: Self Worth

5: Thoughts for the teens of today from a teen of yesterday - Camp Rules for Life

Check out these links, pass them along, whatever it is you need them for in your life right now. It is my prayer that these words can be of comfort or encouragement to someone who reads them. Not because I have penned them; no, but because God is the Author (of His Holy Book) and I am just a tool who tries to get the message out. Let's all be His tools in spreading His beautiful story to all of those around us.

Thanks again for sticking it out with me for a year. Exciting things are on the horizon, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Heart of Thanksgiving

I spent a portion of yesterday feeling sad. You see, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and instagramming of roses & candy that was Valentine's Day, a somber event occurred. Around 1PM, Robert led a small group of individuals in some solemn thoughts about death, as a feeble gentleman sat on the front row, mourning the loss of his wife of nearly 52 years.

52 years. Should God give us until July, Robert and I will celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. These individuals had been married 50 years longer than Robert and I have been. These individuals were married 27 years before Robert and I came into existence. They spent a lifetime devoted to each other, and even as I leaned in and whispered my condolences to this man, he looked to his wife's casket and remarked how beautiful she looked. Their love was the defining characteristic of their lives.

In the midst of the sorrow that surrounds any funeral, you cannot help but feel a sense of thankfulness. And so, today, I felt the need to express my deepest and sincerest thanks to the God of not only the universe, but of my lowly existence. In the wake of such a love-centered day, will you join me, please, in thanking our Maker for the days He has allowed us to spend with our loved ones.

My Maker and My Father, I thank You for this day.
I thank You for the countless blessings You have sent my way.
I offer up sincerest thanks for each day with my loved ones.
Especially, my Father God, for days with my sweet husband.
My greatest need You have supplied, a chance at sweet salvation.
I thank You, my Almighty God, for Christ's propitiation.
I thank You for, not only that, but every other blessing.
Innumerable ones, new each day, I can't begin to start addressing.
So thank you, Father, for this day, and every one before.
And thank you, most of all, my God, for what you have in store.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine

In case you have ever wondered some of the ins and outs of mine and Robert's relationship beginnings, I am here to give you a link to the past! In preparing to write this post, I reread all of the 'month of love' posts I had written 2 years ago, and fell in love with my wonderful husband all over again. If you're interested, they're there for your viewing pleasure. If you're not interested, the link is there so I can easily go back over and read them anytime I want to!

Now, moving back to 2013. Ok, not really.

You see, February 14, 2013 is special for many reasons. 1: It's Valentine's Day, and who doesn't love Valentine's Day when you're married to an amazing person?! 2: It's the five year anniversary of mine and Robert's first date. Let the aww-ing begin!

You see, five years ago I didn't know what I was getting into. I knew that I was nervous. I knew that it was taking me far too long to get ready to go to the same restaurant I went to every Thursday evening with the same person I always went with. I knew that I was feeling really awkward when the same waitress at the same restaurant made a big deal about it just being the two of us. And I definitely remember wanting to crawl under the table when the same group of friends we always came with showed up later that evening and caught just the two of us.

What I didn't know, though, was that this handsome boy sitting across from me would become my husband (though, I may or may not have said he would be about a week later). I didn't know that he would completely change my life and make me a better person. I didn't know that I'd actually want to move back to the small town where he grew up. And I definitely didn't know that beautiful way he'd end up loving me.

While I am completely partial, I cannot help but love mine and Robert's story--the good and the bad. Why? Because it is uniquely us. From our first date to our first kiss to our wedding day...our story is uniquely us. And though it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows, it has all been a part of God's design for two of His children, and I am forever thankful for that.

When I decided to go to Freed-Hardeman, I didn't think I'd quit the volleyball team. I didn't realize I'd be asked to start working at a TV station and ultimately decide to pursue broadcast journalism as my major. I definitely didn't realize that the boy I shameless made fun of in the Chinese restaurant would ever, ever become my best friend. And I didn't know that I'd start taking a broadcasting class and sit down beside the boy who would ask me to marry him. And yet, that's how it happened.

Five years later, I still get nervously excited about going on dates with my husband. Five years later, I am still beyond giddy to sit across from this handsome boy at restaurants. Five years later, I cannot imagine this amazing man not ever being in my life. While five years can seem like a long time in some respects, it honestly doesn't feel that long at all. Time with my Robert has flown by; especially the last year and a half. I am beyond blessed to be in a marriage covenant with such a godly, inspiring, wonderful man, and beyond blessed that he asked me out five years ago.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Go to the Source

In our teen girls Bible class on Sunday mornings, we're going through the women of the Bible and gleaning lessons from their extraordinary lives. This past week we talked about an unnamed woman, mentioned in the books of Luke and Mark and known mostly by her condition: having an incurable blood flow for 12 years.

If you've been reading for a while, you know we've covered her in our Leading Ladies series, found here. However, in studying for my class on Sunday, and even in teaching it, I found myself overwhelmed by Jesus and His healing power.

So often in our world today, people are searching. They need to be healed of some debilitating spiritual disease, and they go around (unsuccessfully) to various sources trying to find the answer, much like this unnamed woman of Scripture did (Luke 8:43). And yet, the Source of all healing and comfort and peace is available! Still, how often do those people go to the Source? How often are we, personally, leading people to the Source?

This woman of great faith knew that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus' garment, she would be healed. She didn't let her situation stop her, or the embarrassment of being unclean keep her from going to Him. She didn't talk herself out of going, deciding she could figure it out for herself. She didn't sit at home, knowing she should be seeking Him out, yet keeping herself at a distance from the Great Physician. No, she sought out the Healer and was immediately freed from the chains of her ailment.

Sin is a debilitating disease. Without Jesus's blood, we will never be healed. Yet, how often do we keep ourselves from the Source? How often to we let circumstances keep us at arms length from the Savior? How often do we talk ourselves out of going to worship or going forward when that invitation song is sung? How often do we fail to repent and change our ways, even though we know that without Jesus, we will forever remain in our sickness?

Had the woman with this issue of blood known Jesus could heal her and yet stayed home anyway, we would have called her crazy! Why would she want to remain in that condition?! And yet, the question is the same for us today.

Jesus was then and is today the only source of true healing. His blood has a cleansing power that will wipe away every sin we've ever committed. Why, then, do we keep ourselves from Him?

Every single day we must go to the Source for spiritual healing and forgiveness. And every day, we must point our sin-sick, dying world to the Great Physician, who is willing and able to free them from the terminal illness that is sin.
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mark 2:17

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Can God...

If you type in the phrase 'How can God' into Google, the drop down gives you a glimpse into what our society's heart looks like. The top three answers that Google provides are (in this order): how can God help me, how can God use me, and how can God forgive me.

Truly these are some great questions, and ones that we have probably all considered at some point. No doubt we have all been in a situation where we needed help, and we wondered how that help could be administered to us. When we are grieving over the loss of a loved one, burdened by the financial stresses in our lives, or struggling with an illness of our own, we often wonder how God can help us.

The Psalms are replete with cries of help to the God of the universe. Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you need God's help, please remember these verses:
"Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, 'The LORD be magnified!' But I am poor and needy; Yet the LORD things upon me. You are my Help and my Deliverer; do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40:16-17
While we may hurt in this present life and find ourselves in troublesome situations, our God and Father has salvation. If we will trust in Him, He will deliver. He is faithful to save!

There may be times, though, when we feel strong and confident in God's promises, and yet we feel aimless and without purpose, so we ask ourselves how God can use us.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." Should you ever question your purpose in life, or where exactly your focus should be, look only to these words of Jesus. He has given us a specific purpose: to teach others the way of salvation and bring them to Him. Each and every child of God should be out teaching other people how they can become a child of God. And if you aren't a child of God? Please read this post on how to get into the body of Christ!

Finally, the question of how can God forgive me. This is a question that I have personally asked time and time again. How is it that God can forgive all of my sins? How is it that God will remember none of my sins anymore? How is it that God won't get tired of me coming and asking for forgiveness for the same old sins? And yet, the Bible tells us that we can be confident that when we ask, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

I love the book of 1 Corinthians, and this passage may be one of the reasons why:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but your were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (6:9-11; emp mine)
Regardless of how many sins within this list you are guilty of, there is a way to overcome, and that way is by being washed in the blood of Jesus. These Corinthians had been homosexuals and thieves and drunkards and adulterers, and yet they weren't anymore. What changed? First, they quit practicing those things (repentance). Next, they were washed (baptized) clean of all of those past sins.

God can and will forgive you. How? Because He loves you so much. So much that He gave His only Son to die a cruel and painful death for you (John 3:16). How blessed we are to have such a God that will hear our cries when we need help, who will give us purpose and direction in life, and will forgive us of all of our sins so long as we confess them, turn away from them, and are washed in His Son's precious, cleansing blood.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Leading Ladies: Eve

Eve was the prototype of women. When God designed the female species, He made Eve exactly how He wanted woman to be. She was perfect. She was handcrafted by God to meet the needs of man; to be his helpmeet and companion. We know that Eve, prior to sin being entered into the world, had a perfect relationship with God and a perfect relationship with her husband. Truly, she was 'living the life'. 

And then Genesis 3 happens. Eve is tempted (and lied to) by the serpent, and she partakes of the forbidden fruit, then shares in that sin with her husband. We know the rest of the story: their eyes are opened, they hide from God, and they are banished from the garden as well as cursed and plagued with a death they weren't designed for. 

From Eve, the mother of all creation, there are some valuable lessons we can learn.

1: Sin ruins relationships

Eve's relationship with God and with Adam was perfect. And yet, the first thing that happens after partaking of the fruit: Adam and Eve are hiding from God, and are then deceptive by not offering up why they are hiding and how they know they're naked. Deceit is an ugly characteristic for a relationship, and yet after this initial sin has taken place, that is exactly the characteristic Eve implements into her relationship with God. As for Adam, he immediately blames Eve for his sin. We know that blame and resentment are divisive components of a relationship, and yet this is how this first married couple are now treating each other. All because of this newly introduced sin.

When we let sin into our hearts and relationships, it ruins them. Truly the Deceiver recognizes that strong, godly relationships are a great asset to salvation. That is why he does his best to ruin them! He tempts us with bad attitudes, harsh words, and blame. He tempts us to be deceitful and hurtful. These things ruin relationships: relationships between parents and children, relationships between friends, relationships between husband and wife, and even relationships within the body of Christ. 

Why is it that we often hurt those the closest to us? Why is it we have the worst attitudes with them? Perhaps it is because we let our guard down. We stop trying to 'impress' and 'be on our best behavior', and instead we start letting Satan creep in a little at a time. We must guard our relationships from Satan, because he is divisive and aims to tear people apart. 

2: Sin has progression.

Why is it that Eve is tempted to partake of the forbidden fruit? Had she been staying as far away from the tree as possible, would she have likely been tempted to partake? Or does it seem to you as it does me that Eve was inching closer and closer to the tree, getting as close as she could without actually involving herself in the sin. Perhaps she only wanted to look upon the fruit, or maybe even smell the fruit. Perhaps she just wanted to see what all this fruit fuss was about! Regardless, Satan gets to her because she has availed herself to such a temptation. 

Psalm 1:1 tells us, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful" The progression of sin is a very real and present threat to us! As soon as we start walking past it, we're tempted to stand right in the middle of it (though still not 'partaking'), and yet, before we realize, we're sitting down in the midst of all of the wickedness and are sharers in it. 

Satan gets to us inch by inch. He makes us believe that certain things are ok, when really they are evil and wicked, and we are just lessening them in our heads to justify our actions! For example: will Satan ever be able to make us fall into the temptation of drunkenness if we never take the first sip? Will Satan ever be able deceive us into being involved in sexual immorality if we have fled from even the appearance of such? Will Satan be able to lure us into lusting after the flesh if we will stop ourselves from going into those movies (Magic Mike?) or buying those books (50 shades of whatever?) or pinning those pictures of actors (onto an "mmmm!!" board, really?). If we will distance ourselves from the appearance of sin, we will be less likely to fall into such a temptation.

Had Eve stayed as far away from that tree as possible, would it have been as easy for Satan to bait her like he did? The same goes for us. Don't be easy bait for Satan. Stay as far away from 'the line' as possible. 

3: Women have a huge influence over the men in their lives

Was it very difficult for Eve to convince Adam to sin with her? It doesn't appear so. We know from history and even our own experiences that men tend to behave the ways they do in order to impress women. In high school and college, for example, the boys tended to dress a certain way and talk a certain way and participate in certain things to garner the attention of the females. They bathed regularly and wore cologne and dressed to the nines so that the females around them would notice. 

With great power, ladies, comes great responsibility. 

We have the ability to make or break the men in our lives. And so, if you are in the dating pool, make the boys/men around you behave a certain way. Require the guy you date to pray before the meal you share together. Require that he open doors for you. *As a side note, if the boy doesn't respect you enough to open a door for you, chances are he won't respect you enough to not touch you inappropriately or speak to you in certain ways.* We have the ability to make the men around us better, or worse, depending on what our expectations are.

Now, does that mean we should all have unrealistic expectations for the men in our lives? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we should require a degree of godliness in the men we are around. We should praise the boys in our youth group who lead singing or pray before the congregation. We should not give the time of day to the boys who cut up and text during Bible class or worship. We should praise the boys for seeking out wholesome, modest girlfriends, instead of tearing those girls down and making fun of them for dressing 'weird'. We should praise the boys for acting mature and including the smaller boys in the youth group, instead of acting put out by the immature children hanging around. 

We can make a difference in our lives and the lives of the boys/men around us if we will not settle for less than God expects. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blessings from God

There are so many day that I rush through life and forget to stop and say thank you to the One who has given me all of those gifts. Today, join me in thanking our Almighty Father for the bountiful gifts He has given us, including:

Free will -  I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I'm super competitive. And, while that can be fun and great when you're on a collegiate volleyball team or playing in the state finals in tennis, it can also be a curse if you're playing against someone who isn't really that into it. There is nothing worse than playing against someone who is letting you win. It takes all of the fun out of it. That is why I am so thankful that God designed His creation as free moral agents. We aren't robots that are forced to do His will and serve Him. Instead, we are creatures who get to choose to love Him and choose to serve Him.

Maybe you have never been in a relationship or friendship that was one-sided, but let me tell you, it is no fun. And so, while there are some who will not choose to love and serve their Maker, there are others who will, of their own free will, choose to enter into a relationship and covenant with God; one that will be enriching and beautiful. Would I enjoy being a Christian and having a relationship with God if I had to? Maybe not. But do I love being in a relationship that I choose to be in with the Almighty? Absolutely; because I recognize that this isn't a right I have. Instead, it's a gift. The created have no right to be so close to the Creator, and yet He loves each of us individually and I, for one, am so thankful that He does.

Being members of the church - Just recently I was hanging out with two of my friends and I thought to myself how amazing it was that I was a part of their spiritual family. It is so amazing to have like-minded people--people with some of the same struggles and fears and hopes and dreams--who only want to help you get to heaven. It is so uplifting and encouraging to sit around a table with 10-15 people your age who are all interested in going to heaven. It is absolutely amazing to sit under a shed with 1500 people who have all gathered together to sing praises to their God! I am so thankful that Jesus designed His church to be a family. Every single week I am encouraged by my brothers and sisters--those who live in the same town that I do and those who are spread out over thousands of miles. There are even some days that I don't think I could make it if I didn't have their advice or encouragement or support, which is exactly why the church was designed this way. I am so thankful for the foresight and mercy that was shown in creating the body of Christ. Truly God and His Son had people's feelings and emotions in mind when they made such a beautiful thing.

Prayer - If you are like me, sometimes you stand in awe of the fact that at any given moment, you can go to God in prayer. Most of the time, it is when I am in need of forgiveness or strength that I find this blessing to be so awesome. It is unfathomable that we, lowly and sinful human beings, can have a direct line to the Creator of the entire universe at any time we wish. Truly we are a blessed people, whose Maker only has their best interest in mind.

Today, I am so thankful for so many things, but for these especially. I am thankful that I get to choose to be in this relationship with God, and not only that, but that the choice is even made available to someone as sinful as I. I am thankful that, not only do I get to be in a relationship with God when I put on Christ in baptism, but I also get to be a part of a huge family whose one desire is to be in heaven when this life is over. And probably the greatest blessing of all is that we have a direct line to our Father, so that when we mess up (which for me is so often), we can beg for His forgiveness at any time, day or night.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tough Stuff Tuesday: With All Your Heart

The book of Acts is filled with conversion stories. One such story that I'm sure you're familiar with is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In the story (true account, not fable), the eunuch is in a chariot reading from the book of Isaiah, except he doesn't understand what he's reading. He asks Philip if the prophet was talking about himself or about someone else. From that point, Philip starts "preaching Jesus" to the eunuch.

What makes this account so 'famous' is that it is in this setting that eunuch offers what we often call the 'good confession'. He tells Philip, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37b). However, I think in all the years that we've studied this verse, we've overlooked a key phrase. Prior to this great moment, after hearing the gospel proclaimed, the eunuch says to Philip, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" and Philip answers him and says, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." (Acts 8:36-37a)

Recently, when re-reading this account, those four words stuck out to me in a way they never have before. You see, Philip doesn't simply say, in response to being asked if the eunuch can be baptized, "if you believe you may." Instead he says, if you believe with all your heart, you may.

So what does believing with all of your heart look like? Today, I submit to you that it looks like this:

Believing with all your heart means keeping Jesus' commandments. In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me keep My commandments". He goes on to say in verse 21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me."

We know that baptism is the act that puts us into the church (Acts 2:47). Baptism is the point that we come in contact with the blood of Jesus and are thus saved by it (Rom. 6). But, baptism isn't an end-all event. From that point, it is imperative that the now-child of God live faithfully, for it is only then that he/she will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Living faithfully means abiding by the commandments that our Savior (the one whose blood cleanses us) has established.

It is not enough to say, "I want to be saved, can I be baptized?" Instead, when deciding that we want to put on Christ in baptism, we are deciding to dedicate our lives to faithful, obedient service. Had the eunuch half-heartedly believed that Jesus was the Christ, and only wanted to be baptized as a one-time sign that he believed, I fully believe that Philip would have done some more teaching. Why? Because there is so much more to being a Christian, a disciple of the Lord, than the initial act of baptism. It is a commitment to faithfully serving the one you have chosen as Lord of your life.

James said in James 2:18-20, "But someone will say, 'you have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

It is not enough to simply believe in Jesus. Instead, we must believe with all our heart, which will produce a change in our lives. It will demand obedience to not some, but all of the commands that our Lord has given to us--even (and especially) the ones that are hard for us to adhere to.

Being a true disciple, a saved member of the Lord's body, is all about whole-hearted service. The eunuch couldn't have a half-hearted belief and be saved, and we cannot either. To the church at Laodicea, Jesus said, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16). Philip knew that Jesus didn't want half-hearted, lukewarm disciples, and that is why he told the eunuch he could become a Christian if, and only if, he was prepared for whole-hearted service to the Son of God.

So why is this a Tough Stuff Tuesday post? Because mediocre Christianity is on the rise! Part-time, half-hearted Christianity is a growing epidemic, and yet we know there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. James said that you are either a friend of God or you are an enemy (James 4:4). Think about yourself today. Have you been following Jesus with your whole heart? Because that's what it takes. If not, decide to give your entire self over to Jesus, either through baptism (if you are not a Christian) or by rededicating your entire life to One whose body you were baptized into.

Monday, January 28, 2013

An Anxiety-Ridden Society

Why are we anxious? Why do we spend our time obsessing over things that may come to be or have happened in the past that we can't change? Anxiety is a very real temptation to most people in every age group (see this list of temptations by generation courtesy of Chris Clevenger's blog). Today, let's examine why it matters, and why we really need to stop.

In my previous post on the subject, I listed a few ways that we can replace worry in our lives with something else. Today, I want to talk about why we need to stop worrying, even though it will be extremely difficult to do.

The apostle Paul wrote to the brethren at Philippi and said, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6)." Why is it that when this same apostle says "abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3)", we take that as a command and implement it into our daily lives, and yet when he says, "don't be anxious", we say 'I can't quit!'.

Previously, we have talked about complaining, and why the Bible tells us that we shouldn't: "that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Phil.2:15)." Could this not be one of the same reasons that we shouldn't worry?

Think about it this way: the Bible calls us to be set apart from the rest of the world. We are told not to be conformed (Rom. 12:1-2), but instead to be transformed by renewing our minds--by changing the way we think. Anxiety and worry are mind sins. They are things that we can do, rather frequently, without anyone else knowing about them. And yet, these things manifest themselves in other areas, such as making us physically sick, making us rant about them on Facebook, or making us talk about them constantly with others. These latter characteristics are ones that, I don't know about you, but I constantly see from people of the world. They obsess over things that are out of their control, they make themselves sick worrying over what might happen in the future (never considering God may not give them that time).

As Christians, if we stop putting our faith and trust in God Almighty and start worrying and obsessing over things in our lives, we are looking exactly like the world. And what was it that Paul said to the Philippians? That Christians are to shine as lights in the world. They are to remain blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

It makes us crooked and perverse to behave like the world. From what Scripture tells us, the crooked and perverse will not be in heaven. If you read my blog regularly, then I know you want to be in heaven. I know that you know I want to be in heaven. That is why I have to stop worrying.

Jesus commanded it in Matthew 6, saying "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on." We all know that the way we show our love for God is by doing the things that He has commanded (1 John 2:3, 5:2-3). If Jesus has commanded that we not worry, and yet we worry all the time, are we showing that we love Him? Do we love Him?

Worry is one of those sins that is hard to overcome. Just a few days ago, I got in my head that something terrible would happen to Robert and me as we journey overseas in the coming months. But you know what I had to do? I had to stop, sit down, and pray to my Father about it. If I had a concern over my safety, who else could I go to but the One who watches over me, and everyone else, constantly? And since then? Well sure, there are times when those thoughts pop in my head, but I know that God will watch over me, and that if something were to happen to me, I would get to see my Father face to face.

Often times, we worry because we lack faith in God. So that thing you're worrying about comes to fruition! Are you still God's child? Then what is there to be bothered by? If you are worried about your safety and health, are you not confident in your salvation when you pass from this life? If you are worried about your bills being paid, are you not confident in Jesus' words that God will take care of our necessities? In whatever thing it is we worry about, we need to trust God more in that situation.

This week, let us all purpose in our hearts to beat worry. It is an ever-present temptation for me, and one that I must battle every single day. And yet, I know that all things are possible in Christ, and He will help me overcome all temptation so that I can get that crown of life (Rev. 2:10).

So, before you write that post on Facebook, think about how it makes you look. Does it look like a status the rest of the world would write, or does it seem different? Does it have confidence in the Creator and trust in His timing and plans? Before we tweet those 140 characters, let us make sure that we fully trust that all things are in God's hands. Before we do anything, let us pray that God will provide for our needs and take care of our insecurities, and that He will use us as a light to this crooked and perverse generation.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brag Post!

As previously mentioned, I want to dedicate at least one post per month to my amazing husband, and today is the day!! While I have done a couple of marriage-y posts this month, I want one to be full-fledged all about my one and only! So here goes!

Robert is super unique.

Growing up, I prayed multiple times that God would just allow me to wake up on my wedding day. The dating process as I knew it was horrible and exhausting and emotional draining and all kinds of challenging. I dated a few guys in high school, and after each relationship had ended, I found myself praying again that I could just somehow wake up and it be my wedding day, and God would have picked the perfect person to be standing at the end of the aisle.

I knew that my prayer wasn't really feasible; however, I knew God listened to me. And on July 8, 2011, I got my answer--as my perfect man really was waiting there at the end of the aisle. But, instead of allowing me to skip out on all of the fun pre-married times with Robert, God's plan was for us to start dating at Freed-Hardeman and then ultimately decide to spend the rest of our lives together, starting on that fateful Friday evening. I like God's plan much better =)

All of that being said, dating was rough until I met Robert, and then his uniqueness started to shine. From the moment I met him, I knew he was unlike any other guy I'd ever known (mostly because I thought he was a professor--after all, who gets to speak two consecutive days in chapel as a sophomore?!). Really, though, the reason Robert was so unique is that he wasn't really a boy; he already had so many MAN of God qualities. He was humble, sweet, caring, and generous. He was an amazing listener, a true confidant, and an encourager that would rival Barnabas himself.

What's wonderful about Robert now, though, is that nothing has changed. He is still an amazing, humble, sweet man (who won't take credit for the great things he's done so far with TLN!). He is still the greatest encourager I have, and still the best listener (and friend) anyone could ever want.

While I hated (loathed, really) the whole dating scene, I came away with the most precious gem of all. I would not trade Robert for anything or anyone; he is truly the one who makes me whole (and better in the process). And while my plan may have been for God to somehow wake me up on my wedding day, I'm so glad that His plan was for me to meet and subsequently fall in love with this amazing man I get to call my husband.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Leading Ladies: Priscilla

If you have been keeping up with my podcasts, you know that I am fascinated with 1st century life. I love thinking about what life would have been like for those people we read about so often in our New Testaments. I especially enjoy thinking about what it would have been like for the women of the Bible, and one such lady is the topic of our discussion today.

We don't know a lot about Priscilla. She is only mentioned in a few verses, and yet we can learn so much from these few words. In keeping with our Leading Ladies theme, let's explore a few of Priscilla's characteristics that we can imitate in our own lives.

1: She picked good friends. There are only 3 verses that mention Priscilla by that name (Acts 18:2, 18, 26), and yet there are three other places in inspired scripture where she is mentioned by the name Prisca (Romans 16:3, 1 Cor. 16:19, 2 Tim. 4:19). If you're anything like me, names mean a lot to you. When someone gives you a nickname, it is special. For instance, I really don't like it when people casually call me Em. I just don't. Why? Probably because all of my life that is what my sisters have called me, and thus I reserve that nickname for people who I am close to. When my closest friends call me that, I don't mind. Total stranger, well it's a little weird! With this logic in mind, I truly believe that Priscilla and Paul had a wonderful friendship. Casual acquaintances don't generally refer to each other by nicknames, and yet Paul speaks of saluting 'Prisca' on three separate occasions.

Truly this is a characteristic we must implement. Friends make or break you, and that is just a fact of life. The times in my life that I have been the farthest from God are the times in my life when I have been the closest friends with people of the world. On the other hand, the times in my life when I have been the closest to God, those are the times when I have had great Christian influences and encouragers in my life. The Proverbial writer said, "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray" (12:26). Truly we do well when we surround ourselves with faithful Christian friends, and Priscilla was an amazing example of that.

2: She was involved in the Lord's work. I often hear people making excuses as to why they are not involved in doing the Lord's work. Priscilla does not strike me as one who would be making excuses. Instead, in Acts 18 when we find her with her husband, Aquila, she is teaching Apollos. She is not standing idly by. She is not off busying herself with the tent making. Instead, she is out with her husband doing the work of the Lord.

Maybe you are a preacher's wife like I am, or maybe you are simply the wife of a faithful Christian man (and good for you!). Sometimes it might be easy to think we're doing good works simply because our husbands are. Don't be fooled by that, though! Each and every individual Christian is required to be a servant and to spread the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). It isn't enough for your husband to go visiting or for your husband to conduct a Bible study. Get involved! In the 1st century, Priscilla was only one of many women doing the work of the Lord---we can see that from passages like Acts 8:4 which tell us that the Christians who were scattered ALL went about teaching and preaching. Still, Priscilla is a great example to us in that we should be out doing as much as we possibly can for the Lord.

3: She put God first. Maybe you are unaware, but Robert and I moved a few months ago. One thing I learned from the experience is: moving is NOT fun. Packing and unpacking and wrapping in bubble wrap and wrapping with tissue paper and unwrapping and forgetting what's in each isn't very fun. Living in a mostly packed up house for a month--not fun. Nor is it fun to get a new house full of boxes and live that way for a bit longer. It's inconvenient and difficult and....we even have all of the modern day comforts like uHauls and packaging tape and cars!!

You may be wondering if I've forgotten I'm talking about Priscilla, and I have not. I just think it's interesting that the first time we hear about Priscilla she's in Corinth making tents, then she's in Ephesus teaching Apollos, then she's in Rome risking her neck for the cause of Christ. This girl was on the move! And yet, in every instance that we hear about this 1st century family moving around, it has something to do with the gospel of Christ. Truly Aquila and Priscilla were wonderful, inspiring laborers in the Kingdom.

How often are we willing to behave like that? It is so hard for me sometimes to step out of my routine and do something I know I should do. It seems that my life gets wrapped up in an already-full schedule and I just don't make time for some of the things I need to do to spread the gospel of Christ to those around me. If I were more like Priscilla, willing to put my entire livelihood on the line and pack up and move simply because I could be a more effective servant elsewhere--I truly believe I'd conquer the sin of worldliness that way!

I need to be more like this faithful sister. I need to choose great friends to be around, involve myself in the Lord's work more, and put God ahead of my own convenience.

*For more on Priscilla, check out my podcast THIS Thursday entitled Ephesus.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Living a Blessed Life

One of my resolutions for this year is to do at least one post monthly where I list and subsequently thank God for the blessings that He has afforded me. Far too often it is easy for me to get caught up in the day to day affairs of life and not stop and realize that God is the One through whom all things were made possible. And so, today, I want to pause from the busy schedule that is life, and thank the Giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).

1: My amazing husband - Every single day I am reminded just how mindful my Heavenly Father is of me, because He has given me the most amazing husband in the entire world. Proverbs 31:10 speaks about how rare it is to find a virtuous wife, and I believe that the same could be true of a virtuous husband. Were Proverbs 31 written about a man, it would be describing my Robert. He is far too good for me, and has the heart of a true servant. If you read my Defining Moments post, you know how blessed I was that he entered my life when he did. Every moment since we got married could also be described as a defining moment, because with every day that passes he is helping to shape me into the person God wants me to be. He helps me so much, every single day, and I am so blessed by God to have him.

2: My beautiful home - This past month has been the first month where Robert and I have really been able to 'entertain' in our home (*I should add I am so thankful for this time of year, too, when things calm down!). Having people in our home is one of my favorite things, I'm pretty sure. It is so nice to be able to have a space for people to come and be a part of your life. Jesus exhorted those present when He delivered what has been dubbed the Sermon on the Mount not to worry about the externals of life, but to instead seek first the kingdom of God, and all the rest would be added to them (Mat. 6:25-34). I fully believe that God's fingerprints were everywhere in the process of buying this home. The entire process was smooth, even when we went out of town for Polishing the Pulpit for a week during the closing process. It is so amazing to have a God who is active and present in your life, and hears your prayers and takes care of you. Recently, I was watching a documentary entitled "God of Wonders" on Netflix, and it amazed me all over again how huge our universe is and how great our God is, and how amazing it is that He is mindful of us. When little things, like houses and food and clothing, are taken care of by the Almighty Creator of the universe, it humbles you and leaves you in awe of His compassion and mercy. I am so thankful to my God for the blessing of this home I have been given.

3: Diet Coke. This may seem like the most trivial and ridiculous thing in the world to be thankful for, and yet it is so much more than Diet Coke. Like my last point suggested, does it not amaze you that God made things like taste buds and colors? God has given us life and breath and eternal life, and yet He has also given us the tiny pleasures of this sinful world. And so, while I am a huge fan of Diet Coke and Nutella, it all points back to my amazing God who has been mindful enough of His creation to create things that they enjoy. To give their temporary bodies ways of experiencing pleasure and taste and smell. God designed our bodies in such a beautiful way, and I am so thankful for the care He put into creating us. And so yes, I will be thankful for Diet Coke, because no thing is too small to not thank God for; and perhaps I thank God less for the little things, and so I need to be even more mindful of thanking Him for the little 'Diet Cokes' in my life.

Today, I urge you to join me in thinking about and thanking God for the blessings in your life, both big and small. The old adage rings true, "What if tomorrow you only had the things you thanked God for today". Let us do our best to thank God for every single one of the blessings He's given us, knowing that even if we listed a new one each day, we would never scratch the surface of thanking Him for all of them in a million lifetimes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

How Will You Worship Tomorrow?

Mark's account of Jesus' crucifixion is a hard one for me to read. To me, one of the most powerful scenes in all of Jesus' 'trial' is when the soldiers place a crown of thorns on the Son of God's head and then proceed to beat Him over the head with a reed. The pain, the humiliation; it's all there. I can't ever read this passage without becoming overwhelmed by the thought of how much Jesus suffered for me.

Normally when I read this account (perhaps during communion on Sunday morning), I think about Jesus' suffering, and rightly so. But recently, something else caught me eye...something I've never really noticed before about this passage.
"Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him." (Mark 15:19)
They worshiped Him? That can't be right. Worship is sacred. Worship is something you do to someone you adore. Worship is holy. Worship is meaningful. Worship is commanded by God. These people, the ones killing and torturing Jesus, certainly they weren't participating in the same act I do every week.

Worship has been a huge topic in my mind this year. The different acts of worship, what makes something worship, how exactly you worship, when you're not worshiping, etc. Something that I don't generally spend my time dwelling on, though, is vain worship.

These soliders were down on their knees, doing the physical signs of worship, but were they truly worshipping the Lord? Of course not! They were mocking Him. And while we aren't in the same situation today (to actually be crucifying Jesus), can we not do the same thing?

Worship involves a mindset. What makes my worship holy and meaningful and precious to God is the attitude I have when I go into that sweet communion with Him (an attitude that wants to worship Him in both spirit and in truth). Sitting in a church building from 9:30 to 11:30 is not worship. Bowing our heads (sometimes) and getting our Bibles out (usually) is not worship. I can say and do all of the physical things that dress my Lord up in purple and make Him my King, but if I'm not in the mindset of worship, it's vain. By making jokes or scribbling on my bulletin, I can be the one mocking my Lord. By continually living in sin, I can be the one beating Jesus with my own reed. By perpetually denying the invitation to return to my Savior, I can be the one spitting on my Lord and the blood He shed for me.

Worship is so precious to our Father, but, without the right mindset, we aren't pleasing Him at all. If we're just going through the motions, we're making a mockery of His name-- just like the Roman soldiers did to Jesus.

Joshua told the Israelites to "choose you this day whom you will serve" (Josh. 24:15). Each week before we go to worship our Maker, let us consider those words in a different context. Let us choose, on every first day of the week, how we will worship. And let us purpose to worship with a humble, thankful, and obedient heart.

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." John 4:23

Friday, January 18, 2013


Recently, I attended a Bible class centered around the book of Colossians. As we were studying through the first chapter, verse 23 really hit home to me. I would like to briefly look at a couple of verses that I hope will challenge you (like they did me) to be a better personal evangelist.
Mark 16:15 says, "and He said to them, 'go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature'."
Colossians 1:23 says, "if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." 
What do these two verses have in common? You probably picked up on the "every creature" phrase in each one, so let's think about that in depth a bit more.

Jesus's ministry would have likely concluded on this earth around 33AD, and it is post-resurrection that He issued the above command to go and preach to every creature. The book of Colossians was likely written between 64-66AD, so approximately 31 years later. Paul said in Colossians that the gospel had been preached to every creature in heaven already. So, in 31 years, the gospel reached everyone. 

That's remarkable!!

Now sure, there were probably less people on earth during that time. And sure, people probably weren't spread out quite like they are today. But think about it: there was less transportation, no technology, and yet every creature under heaven heard the gospel and all it took was approximately 31 years.

We have been given the same command that Jesus gave to the disciples in the first century: to go into all the world and preach the gospel. We were not told exactly how to go, just to go. So, we can still go and do face to face evanglism: there really is no better way! But, we can also use technology much like The Light Network is doing, and spread the gospel via the internet. We can use television programs, radio programs, Bible correspondence courses through the mail, and various other ways. But, in whatever ways we choose, we MUST 'go' and 'preach'. 

Acts 8:4 says, "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word." It wasn't preachers and deacons and elders who went (though surely they were included in the number). Really, it was just Christians. As these Christians were scattered abroad, they taught--they were personal evangelists. In the same way, everywhere we go (overseas, cross-country, Wal-Mart) we must spread the gospel, and we must all do it. It wasn't a minority of first century Christians who spread the gospel, it was all of them! That's why they could accomplish such a great feat in 31 years. 

If every Christian on earth right now would spread the gospel of Christ, imagine how quickly we could get to the entire world! Sadly, we cannot control every Christian. You know who we can control, though? Us. We can purpose to spend 2013 spreading the gospel of Christ to everyone around us. Will you please join me in this cause? 

Jesus says it is those who love Him who keep His commandments (John 14:15). He has commanded we go. So I guess the only question left is, do we love Him?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When in Rome

In light of my most recent podcast over at The Light Network, I've had Rome on my mind a lot. It was absolutely one of my favorite places when I visited there over 4 years ago (wow, has it been that long!?), and has continued to impact me ever since. The architecture is breathtaking, the history is rich, and the gelato is amazing. Besides a really disgusting metro, I have nothing but praise for present-day Rome.

Located in the center of Rome is a place that is a country in and of itself: Vatican City. There, the hub of all things Catholic, I got to see so many beautiful structures and fascinating artifacts. At the same time, though, I saw so many things that made me sad. You see, there were dozens, maybe hundreds, of people that I saw who had dedicated their lives to serving the Pope, or serving Mary. These people had misplaced their trust and their focus, and while they were so dedicated to serving, I couldn't help but mourn for these people who weren't serving the right One.

As New Testament Christians, we must be more evangelistic. There are so many people who do not know the gospel, and who are spending their days working toward something that won't get them to heaven! Some of these people are even dedicating their lives to a false religion!

On Tuesday night, a group of young adults came over to our house for a devotional. During the course of the study, a question was raised about people who haven't heard the gospel--will they go to heaven? We know and believe what the Bible teaches, and thus we regrettably came to the conclusion that, no, they won't. In the moments that followed, all of us were pricked in our hearts to be more evangelistic, because it is a very real thing that people are dying every single minute and their final destination will be hell. If you are reading this today, please know that I did not post this as a rant against Catholicism or a pronouncement of judgment on any group -- I am SO thankful that I am not the judge! And yet, I do hope this post will make you think. Every single person that you come into contact with -- your neighbor, the people in your community, the people you see while you're on vacation -- every single person has a soul that is going one of two places. As people who know of salvation and know how others can obtain it, we must not keep that message in!!

Tomorrow, I will have a post specifically geared toward personal evangelism. Pray with me this evening that we can all do more to be evangelistic, and as the old hymn goes, "lead me to some soul today."

*Please note that you can check out all of my previous podcast episodes here. And if you know someone who is more interested in travel than the gospel, point them toward this podcast. Perhaps through their hobby/interest, we can gain their trust and point their attention toward some very pertinent points. After all, it's all about spreading the gospel message of Christ. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Defining Moments Pt. 2

From the time I was in 3rd grade and onward, every summer was an exciting one. The first week in June was always 'Freed Camp', and starting when I was in high school, mid-July meant a week tent camping in North Carolina. The first time I went on the NC camping trip, boy was I in for a surprise! Firstly, I didn't like anything that we had to eat. Chili - no. Fettucini alfredo - no. Sub sandwiches - no. I thought that I was going to be miserable the entire time! Secondly, there were no showers in the outhouse. Thankfully Mr. Tim rigged up a MacGyver-like shower that would do for a week, but for someone who'd never 'roughed' it, like I said, I was in for so many surprises.

That week taught me a lot of things-- and more than to like fettucini alfredo (and that Tuna Helper tastes better than Chicken Helper in that respect) and sub sandwiches. Since the title of this post is 'defining moments', obviously there is one instance that has stuck with me ever since.

Mr. Tim was all about teaching us life lessons. Everyone there was required to participate in devotionals, help fix dinner, and even clean up afterwards. Every single person had to pull their weight on a trip like this if it was going to work. On one such occasion, I was helping Mr. Tim with KP (kitchen patrol). Mr. Tim, Jessie (my bff growing up) and I were talking and laughing and throwing soap suds at each other and having an all-around good time. And then, I said it. I said a phrase that I had said so many times before: oh my goodness.

The moment could have passed. Mr. Tim could have turned a deaf ear toward the innocent, childish phrase. But he didn't. In that moment, he went from joking and playing around, to serious. It wasn't an 'in your face' kind of serious, but instead he stopped and he asked me what that meant.

What do you mean what does that mean?! I'd never thought about it --and who hadn't heard that phrase to know what it means! And yet, Mr. Tim probed some more. He asked me if I thought it was disrespectful. Again, I'd never thought about it; after all, I was a young, immature high schooler who frequently said before she thought. The discussion continued and I came away from that situation thinking three things:

1: You need to think before you say things.

2: You don't need to take the Lord's name in vain.

3: You can take the Lord's name in vain without even saying His name.

How many times had I said the phrase? Countless times, I'm sure. How many times had I intentionally been meaning to say, "Oh my God"? Probably zero. How terrible did I think it was to say, "Oh my God"? Pretttty terrible. And yet, I'd been using a euphemism for His name multiple times throughout the day. What was worse is that I never thought about it: I never thought about God one single time when I uttered the phrase. After all, I wasn't saying Oh My God or even lessening it with Oh my Gosh. I was saying goodness! That was different, right?

It was in that moment that I decided that I needed to hold myself to a higher standard. If I was going to be pleasing to God, I needed to respect Him. I needed to show Him that I awed Him and revered Him, and that I didn't think His name was something flippant that I could use as an exclamatory thought, especially in light of Jesus saying we would be judged by our idle (fruitless) words (Matt. 12:36).

On that very day, I got a rubber band and placed it around my wrist, then popped myself every time I said it. After a few days, my arm was SORE! I couldn't believe how many times I thoughtlessly used God's name (or a euphemism) in conversation! And yet, after about a month, the phrase was completely removed from my vocabulary.

But obviously it still had lasting effects. To this day, I cannot hear the "Oh My God" phrase without shuddering. I am constantly aware of it, even when people try to substitute God's name with euphemisms/synonyms like "gosh", "goodness" or, "word". And every time I hear the phrase? I think about Mr. Tim. I think about him looking at me and asking me if I respected God. I think about him being saddened that I, a Christian, would use such a word/phrase so flippantly. And while I know that what people think doesn't matter, it was apparent to me on that day that he was just the human representation of what God must have been thinking every time I said it.

I am so thankful to have had Mr. Tim in my life. I could probably write a novel over all of the things that he taught me, and yet I cannot think of an instance that has affected me more than this one.

Today, think about the words that you say. Think about the ways that you proclaim who you are. Are your words confirming your Christianity, or causing others to question it? We will be judged by our words, so let's all use them wisely and respectfully.

Monday, January 14, 2013

5 Marriage Builders

I have the privilege of being around some amazing couples from time to time, and they truly inspire me to be a better wife and helper for Robert. Sometimes, though, I have the misfortune of hearing one part of a couple talk bad about their spouse, and those moments really get to me. And so, while I am by no means a relationship expert or guru, I am a Christian trying to be in the most godly marriage I can, and hopefully some of these tips will encourage you in your walk with God and your spouse.

1: Never put them down. I don't care if it's to your mom or to your best friend or to a random stranger: don't put your spouse down! You have been given the opportunity to give other people a glimpse into what your spouse is like -- only use those moments for good! When you get into an argument, don't call someone else to vent. When he/she does something that you didn't like, pray about it. Never spread negativity when it comes to your spouse. We all know that there are going to be amazing moments, too, but the likelihood of you going to these same people and telling them about how wonderful your spouse is in that moment--well, it's a slim chance. And, even if you do, they have a tainted view of your spouse now from all of the negativity. Be sure you are one whom your spouse can trust (Proverbs 31:11), and be sure that you only speak kind words about them (Proverbs 31:26).

2: Keep secrets. This goes along with the trust we just mentioned. The heart of your spouse should feel safe with you, and that includes publicly and privately. The Proverb writer said, "A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter." (11:13). Your spouse should wholly trust that you aren't going to be running off and telling other people negative things about them, but they should also trust that you aren't going to share some of your private and intimate moments with other people. The bond between a husband and a wife is a special, sacred bond meant only for them. Do not tell other people about the things which should only be kept between the two of you. That doesn't only include things that center around the marriage bed, either (though it does include them!). If you and your spouse talk about something serious (or even silly!) and it is only meant for the two of you, don't spread it! Having inside jokes with your spouse can be one of the most amazing things about marriage: being able to share a glance from across the room when a certain word or phrase is mentioned can be fun and secretive and exciting! Never feel that you must share those moments with others! Keep your marriage private, and keep the secrets that your spouse needs you to keep--serious and silly included.

3: Show your spouse (and others!) you're happy in your marriage. One of my resolutions in 2013 is to dedicate at least one blog post per month to my husband. You may think that's silly and superficial, but there's method to my madness. I want Robert (as well as the rest of the world) to know that I value him and cherish him and am so proud/happy to be his. The Proverbist said, "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorry of the heart the spirit is broken." (15:13). As a wife, I have a daily opportunity to either give my husband a cheerful countenance or to break his spirit. Every spouse has that same opportunity. Whether it's something cheesy like a Facebook post or something aww-inducing like a precious blog post, show the world how much you love your spouse and how thrilled you are to be married to them--regardless of if it's been 2 years or 22.

4: Don't measure your marital bliss by your bank account. Proverbs 16:8 says, "Better is a little with righteousness than vast revenues without justice." Just one chapter earlier we read, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted calf with hatred." (15:17). How much money your husband makes shouldn't determine how happy you are in marriage. During one of our pre-marital counseling sessions, the preacher warned that most couples fight the most about money once they are married. Sadly, I've seen that develop for many people. Instead of focusing on money and things, spend time improving the quality of your marriage. Whether you have a lot or a little shouldn't add or subtract one ounce of happiness to your marriage. So you have to pinch pennies one month because there's less money! Find creative ways to do that together. Decide on cheap alternatives to your daily lives, and maybe even make a game out of it. Resolve to take monthly dates, even if there isn't money there. There are plenty of things to do that don't cost money (hello pajama party watching movies you already own!). Be sure to let your husband know that how little or much he makes isn't what makes you happy: him being yours is what does that!

5: You don't have to share everything. Let me tell you, Robert and I are sharers. From the time we became friends at Freed, sharing just came easy for us. Getting married, I thought that I had to share every single thought and intention and motive and idea I ever had. Ha!! Now listen, I don't mean that I keep things from Robert or that I purposefully don't tell him things, but here's what I mean: "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." (Prov. 29:11). You are a human being. There will be days when you are not at your best. There will be days when you are cranky and when your spouse simply cannot do anything to make you feel otherwise. On those days, do not share every thought, feeling, insecurity and frustration. If you're like me (and bless you if you are), chances are you won't even mean/feel those things the next day. DON'T SAY THEM. They will hurt for much longer than you even mean them. Keep them in. Never say anything to intentionally hurt your spouse. Note that the Proverbist did not say you cannot talk about any feelings whatsoever; instead, he says a fool vents them all. We all have those spur of the moment, fleeting feelings that no one should ever hear about. They will go away, be sure to be self-controlled enough to keep them in so you do not do unnecessary harm to your marriage.

Here's a true saying: "The grass is greener where you water it." If you want a happy marriage, build one! Happiness and contentment and joy are always within reach!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Behave Like a Roman

Being a Roman citizen and being a Christian in the first century would have proven difficult. Those who were against Christianity would make a sport of killing Christians: throwing them in the Colosseum and watching as gladiators and lions ripped them apart. Nero, renowned for being one of the most awful Roman Emperors of all time, was in power, and it is said that he lit his gardens with crosses on which hung Christians who were burning to death (The Church in History, by B.K. Kuiper, p.8.)  Of the faithful of old, the Hebrews writer tells us that some were "mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, tempted, and slain with the sword" (Heb. 11:36-37). Truly, being a Christian was a difficult thing.

And yet, I find it fascinating that it is to the Christians in Rome that Paul pens the following:
"[be] patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep...Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12: 12-15,17-18, 21)
These people were experiencing hurt and torture and grief first hand! No doubt some of them had family members who were already murdered. Perhaps some of these had already been tortured and mocked and scourged for their belief in Jesus. And yet, Paul tells them to bless the ones who are persecuting them. Don't repay evil for evil, but only do good to those who want you dead. Do you think any of these Christians would have wanted to talk all kinds of evil against Nero? Sure! Did Paul tell them to go right ahead? Of course not, because that's not what Christianity is about.

Christianity is about being like Christ, "who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:23-24)

Jesus is our perfect example, as He was to the first century Christians. When He was falsely accused and beaten and murdered without cause, He did not complain, did not rebuke, did not threaten and did not destroy. If the Son of God -- deity incarnate -- did not shut the mouths of those who were senselessly mocking and torturing Him, those Romans didn't need to either. And if these first century Christians who were being murdered and tortured and persecuted were to bless the ones who were doing it and were not to repay evil for evil, how should we act as Christians today?

There are going to be people and social groups and governments and pop stars and news reporters and celebrities and foreigners who are going to persecute Christians. They are going to belittle us and say harsh things against us and mock us and put us down. They are going to make life harder and enjoy every second of it. Jesus Himself told us that the world would hate us and persecute us (Jn 15:18-19) and Peter told us that we should count it as a blessing and glorify God (1 Pet. 4:16). Regardless of how people act toward us, we have a responsibility to behave as a behave as Christ Himself would--and we already know how that is:

Be patient in tribulation. Continue steadfastly in prayer. Bless those who persecute you. Repay no one evil for evil. Live peaceably with all men. Overcome evil with good.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Navigating the New Testament: Episode 2

As most of you know, I am currently the host for a women's only podcast on The Light Network, a network of podcasts designed to teach and admonish Christians, and better equip them for service in the Lord's kingdom. Today, the latest episode of my podcast, Navigating the New Testament, came out. You can check it out here, or you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes!

This week's episode is all about Rome and the Mamertine Prison. Tradition holds that the Apostle Paul was held in the Mamertine prison right before he was executed for being a follower and proclaimer of Christ. Were this the exact prison Paul was held, this was the place where the books of 1 & 2nd Timothy and Titus were penned.

Upon my first (and only) visit to Rome, the Mamertine Prison immediately became one of my favorite places. It was so solemn and serious--quite a different mood than the rest of our travels had been. Knowing that you were standing in the place where an apostle of the Lord had been (if not in the exact spot, definitely within the same city!) was a humbling, moving experience to say the very least. The one picture that I have from the Mamertine prison with me in it, I'm not smiling (you're welcome for not using that on the podcast!). I just didn't feel right smiling and having a good time while hanging out in a place where so many Christians were tortured and beaten and treated with such senseless hate and rudeness.

It is so easy for me to get discouraged sometimes. Sometimes, it just seems that there are people that are out to get you and make your life more difficult. Sometimes, your entire day goes amiss. In those moments, I urge all of us to think of the Apostle Paul. In the midst of what could have been the roughest time in his life (though he had quite a few to choose from -- 2 Cor. 11:24-27), Paul chose to be joyful and anticipate heaven. He didn't get down and sit in his cell and wait to die. He didn't even have a pity party! Instead, he sat in a cold, damp prison cell and wrote letters of encouragement and exhortation to young evangelists. He urged them (and consequently hundreds of thousands of other Christians) to be better and to continue in the work of the Lord.

When we are having down days, truly the Apostle Paul is an incredible example to us. Had he chosen to just give up, we wouldn't have such wonderful sentiments as these, written from his final days in prison:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17) 
"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing."(2 Tim. 4:6-8)
The book of 2nd Timothy holds such beautiful words and more encouragement than you can probably take in a single sitting; and yet, the book is so short that I urge you to go and read it in its entirety now. How blessed are we to be able to have the Word of God, preserved through the ages so that we could be encouraged, enlightened, and empowered!