Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We Are Not Alone

Isn't it amazing how we can be surrounded by people, but sometimes because of life's circumstances we can feel completely alone?  Maybe it is because we are going through something that is so different from what our friends have experienced that we just don't feel like anyone understands what you are going through.  Sometimes, it is also our own perceptions and we've actually alienated ourselves.  Then there are those times when maybe you have truly been betrayed or forgotten.  No matter what, there is one truth that we can always cling to when we are feeling alienated or alone: God knows exactly our thoughts and feelings and He is with us.  This week, I have been focusing on Psalms that reflect praise because of God's greatness.  Today, I want to look at one of my favorite psalms which reminds us of the fact that God knows us like no one else and He is always with us.  Please use the link and read Psalm 139.

This is one of my favorite chapters in the book of Psalms because it has such intimate and beautiful thoughts in it.  First, we are told that God knows everything about us and He knows our every thought.  In fact, He knows what we are to say before the words are even formed on our tongues.  Isn't that amazing!  I also love how we are reminded in this psalm that it is God who created us.  But it is so much more intimate than creating humans and allowing nature to take its course.  When I read through this chapter it reminds us that each of us are a purposeful and personal creation of God.  Terms like knit and woven together are used and we are told that God had His plans for us before we were even born.  I love that!

In this chapter we are also reminded that not only are we individually created by God and not only does He know our every thought; we are told that He is always with us.  In fact, even if we try to escape Him, we cannot.  That is incredible.  We can go into the greatest depths of depression climb to the greatest heights of joy and He is with us the entire time!  We can physically go anywhere in this world and He is with us.  No matter how isolated we feel; we are not alone.

How are you feeling today?  Do you believe that God is with you?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

King of Glory

Today, as I watched the news I noticed that there were reports about William and Kate and the fact that they are doing fine with their baby.  The world has pretty much been obsessed with the couple and their little baby.  I think for many countries that do not have royalty, it almost feels like a fairy tale to have kings, queens, princes, and princesses.  I'm sure if you asked anyone in a royal family, they would be very quick to explain it is not a fairy tale.  Then, of course, there were more stories on the morning news about the backlash from Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMA's.  In fact, we don't have to watch TV or listen to the media for too long before we hear about some crazy story about someone famous.  Wouldn't it be interesting if we became more obsessed with famous people doing good rather than the way they destroy their lives.  There are plenty of famous people who use their influence to accomplish a lot of good in this world, yet it gets so little press.  I wonder if this perspective and desire to hear the controversial makes it hard for us to focus on the good.  This morning I am looking at another Psalm written by David where he reminds us that our focus should be on God's glory and decrees.  As I am spending time looking at psalms that show us why we praise and worship God, please use the link and read Psalm 19.

In this psalm, David writes how God's creation reveals His glory and majesty.  He writes that their testimony of God's goodness and glory is declared throughout the earth even though they have no vocabulary or voice.  They are the evidence of God's existence.  He then points us to the good things of God in His commands and decrees.  In fact, we are told that they are more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.  This is because these decrees keep us focused on God and the good things He planned for us.  Rather than focusing on the mistakes we make and all our faults, we focus on the good things of God and strive to accomplish what He wants for us.

Do you see the difference in perspective?  Instead of focusing on famous people and all their faults and mistakes, we are actually to be spending that time in praise to God for His perfect plan.  We are to be focusing on the good things of God and His greatness.  After all, that is what all of nature does!  When our focus is right, we can do what the rest of creation does - reveal God's glory.

Is your focus on the good things of God?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why We Praise

Last week, our church challenged us to consider how we have experienced love, joy, peace, faith, and hope as a result of our relationship with Jesus.  It didn't take me too long to think about it because my relationship with Jesus has given me so much hope.  I have a hope because when Jesus sacrificed Himself and rose again defeating death, He chose to share that victory with anyone who believes.  This victory means that no matter what is happening in my life; I know that there is something so much bigger and better than myself for eternity and I get to be a part of that!  When I think of that it amazes me beyond what words can express.

Here is a simple thought but can remind us to praise God: God is big.  The thought is simple, but the reality is so complex because God is bigger than our human understanding can grasp.  But as we attempt to put our minds around God's greatness, we cannot help but praise Him for it.  This week, as I look at the book of Psalm, I want to spend time looking at some of the Psalms that draw our attention to the importance of praising God.  The Psalm that I am looking at today is Psalm 8, which brings our attention to the greatness of God.  Please use the link and read Psalm 8.

This is such an amazing Psalm because it starts out reminding us that God is so great that His name is majestic!  In fact, we are told that His name is majestic throughout the earth.  We are told that He is so great that the praise of children establish a stronghold against His enemy.  Think on that for a moment.  The praise of the young and small will establish a stronghold!  Isn't that amazing?  We are reminded that when we look to the sky, the stars are a reminder of His glory.  To be reminded that we are so small in comparison to the universe that our great God created, we begin to wonder how it is that He even notices us.  The above picture is the incredible sunset I saw last night (the camera didn't do it justice) and reminded me of God's artistry.  We are reminded of how ridiculous it is that God would bend down and intervene in our lives - even the smallest part of our lives.  But He does do it, and He is pleased to do it.  If that idea doesn't bring you to praise God, I honestly don't know what will.  God is great, and God is good!

Does this Psalm remind you why we praise God?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Can the Youth Serve God?

A few weeks ago, I was completely humbled by my daughter, my twelve year old daughter.  It wasn't because she pointed out an inconsistent behavior or challenged my authority.  No, it was even more humbling than that because it was something she did that I didn't know she could do.  She did something that showed that she had more determination in her than I realized.  My little twelve year old daughter taught music; and she did it very well!  While we were at the Choma Academy of Music in Zambia, she taught recorder and oboe.  Her first teaching assignment was to teach recorder to approximately twenty children, and she did it!  By the end of the morning those students were playing a few songs.  Then, her next teaching assignment was to teach recorder to three teenage boys that were about twice her size, and once again she did it!  She also taught oboe to a boy who was graduating from Secondary School and to an adult teacher at another music academy in Livingstone.  I also have to give a quick shout-out to my 14 and 16 year old boys who also taught several students while we were there!  When all was said and done, she taught more than I did and she was successful at it!  It was very humbling and it reminded us all that God doesn't discriminate according to age, He really isn't concerned with how old or young we are.  If we are willing, He will use us.

Yesterday, I looked at Moses and how he had a few new starts in his life; even when he was older.  I looked at no matter how many years were behind us, God can use us.  But, let's consider youth and the reality that many of us have very little life experience.  Can God use the young?  Absolutely!  God wants all of us to serve Him, no matter our age.  Let's consider David, another author of several psalms.  In fact, he was the most prolific author in the book of Psalms.  David didn't consider his youth as something to stop him from serving God.  He first served God by faithfully taking care of his father's sheep.  He even protected them from a bear and a lion.  He then slayed a giant when no one else in Israel would do it.  He understood that his age and size didn't determine whether or not he could defeat such a great enemy; he knew that with God all things are possible.  David then was anointed king of Israel but still waited several years before that was fulfilled.  In fact, he served in the court of Saul as a warrior and as a musician to soothe Saul's troubled spirit.  He never considered his age as a stumbling block to do what God called him to do.

As we look at the book of Psalms, consider the fact that David knew that his abilities didn't have anything to do with his age; he knew it had everything to do with God.  We will see this reality reflected many times over in his writings as he acknowledges that God was the greatest desire in his heart.  We will see that the reason that David had such confidence in God was because he totally loved and believed his Creator.  David had some difficult times with Saul wanting to kill him and even had a son who wanted to kill him.  David sinned against God by having an affair with a married woman.  But when all was said and done, he was repentant and believed that God was his provider and protector.  His undying faith in God is what sustained him and gave him the ability to accomplish so many things, even when he was so young.

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."  1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

Are you letting your youth get in the way of serving God?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Is It Time To Start Something New?

When I graduated from college and was in my early twenties, I remember feeling like I was at the starting line of life.  I felt like there was just so much living to do, a career to build, a family to start, and so much more.  When my oldest was born, I remember thinking of how much time I had with him and excited (and scared) my husband and I felt that we had this wonderful little boy to build into.  When my youngest was born, I temporarily let go of my career so I could stay home with my three kiddos who were ages three and under.  In that time, I felt like my life was on hold; however, I now look back and see how God was using that time to give me experiences that would help me later.  In my thirties I found myself dabbling with a few short-term music therapy experiences, I was a manager at a early childhood play and music center, I became a school secretary, and then I began working at my church as a ministry assistant.  Now, here I am in my early forties and I kind of feel like I felt in my early twenties: I'm just at the starting line!  This is because through all the experiences I've had, I've realized that God is always ready to introduce something new in our lives.  Age really doesn't matter when we are talking about God; if He says that He is starting something new in our lives He will.

This week, I've started a new study in the book of Psalms and I am spending some time this week to explore the authors of the different psalms.  Today, I want to consider Moses' life.  Moses wrote one psalm (Psalm 90) and in it we see the wisdom of someone who has lived many years.  Moses was a man who experienced a couple of new beginnings.  As an infant, he was born to a Hebrew slave in Egypt.  The Egyptians decided that the Hebrews' population was exploding and thought that the best way to contain their growth was to kill their toddler and infant boys.  Moses' mother hid him and eventually had to let him go.  Moses ended up in the care of Pharaoh's daughter and was raised in the royal family.  When he was in his early adult life, he had to flee Egypt because he killed an Egyptian for mistreating the Hebrew slaves.

Moses found himself starting life again in Midian.  There, he found his wife and spent many years living under his father-in-law's household who was the priest of Midian.  After many years, God called Moses to go and lead the slaves out of Egypt and that is how Moses spent the rest of his life.  He served God by leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and then as their leader as they wandered the wilderness for forty years.  Thinking of Moses' life, makes Psalm 90 have a different ring to it - especially the first verse.  "Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!" (NLT).  Just that declaration coming from a man such as Moses who had lived through some very big life changes and different living conditions has a whole different sound, doesn't it?  Moses was one who had lived in a palace and then in the home of a priest and then in the wilderness.  He is the one who wrote the book of Genesis and understood the wandering of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And the statement that he made was the reality that God is our home.

When I think of that, it reminds me all the more that with God, our life is always just starting.  Each day is new with new experiences to learn from and a fresh start.  When we have the perspective that God is our home, that keeps us ready for the new things God has for us.  It reminds us that our home isn't about where we live; it is about our God, who should be our life.

Where is your home?  Are you ready to start something new?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Get To Know the Author

In the last few months, I've gained some new readers to my blog and I want to make sure I welcome you!  I am so glad you have found your way over here and I want you to know that I pray for you every morning!  I pray that God speaks to your heart and He reveals to you what you need to know each day.  Some of you have been following this blog for a while and you probably have gotten used to my "voice" and may have even gotten to the point where you recognize some of my idiosyncrasies.  Knowing that, thank you for sticking with me as I ramble and probably don't make sense at times.  But the advantage you have is that I have also given you little snippets of my life, so you have kind of gotten to know me and that has helped you to have a better understanding of the applications I make.  And then there are those of you who know me personally and still choose to read my blog (which truly humbles me, by the way).  You have the greatest advantage because you fully know and understand some of the things I share about myself (and often witness those events) and it gives you a more intimate understanding of the point I am making.

Right now, I want to take the time to let some of you get to know me a little better!  I am a women in my early 40's and I have three children (two boys and a girl).  My two sons are in high school and my daughter is in middle school.  Personally, I think my kiddos are awesome and after going on our trip to Zambia as a family God has developed a huge respect for them in my heart.  My husband is the Children's Pastor at my church and I am the ministry assistant for the Community Life and Family Ministry departments.  Family Ministry is pretty self explanatory and Community Life is the department that oversees what we call Community Groups (small groups).  Up until eight months ago, I also worked in the Outreach Ministry.  I have a huge passion for both outreach and community groups and my love for family often intersects with both.  I used to be a music therapist and I left my career when my youngest was born, but the cool thing is that God continues to use those skills I developed as a music therapist in ministry.  My husband and I have been married for 20 years and I am absolutely crazy about him!  Okay, that is enough rambling about me for now!

We will never get to know the writers of the book of Psalms on a personal and intimate level because they are no longer here; however, for many of the writers we can look in the Old Testament to learn their stories.  In fact, in some cases, we are given very intimate details and even understand what the person was thinking and feeling.  Just like the more you get to know me, the more you will understand where I am coming from; I believe that the more we get to know the authors of Psalms the more we will understand what the author was saying.  So, here is a list of the authors of the book of Psalms and the number of Psalms they wrote:

David - 73
Asaph - 12
Sons of Korah - 9
Solomon - 2
Heman (with the sons of Korah) - 1
Ethan - 1
Moses - 1
Anonymous - 51

Over the next two days, I want to just take a look at some of these authors so we can better understand where they are coming from when we read their psalms.

One thing we can know for sure is that God knows us best of all.  No matter how well we understand each other, no one knows us the way God does.  "O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me."  Psalm 139:1 (NLT)  He knows everything about us and still loves us!  That is amazing.

Since God knows you so well, how much time have you spent getting to know Him?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Book of Amazing History

As I begin to approach Psalms as my next study, I want to do some research this week to organize my thoughts and help us to read through the book with our minds placed on the setting and events of the day.  Today, I want to look a little at the history of the Psalms and when they were written.  I think this is important because it helps keep the Psalms in context so when we are reading them we can look at them through the eyes of the people who were hearing them for the first time.

And that brings me to my first point.  The Psalms were written as songs.  Each chapter in the book of Psalms is a different Psalm, or song.  These songs were not like the music we hear today on the radio because they were written during ancient times.  These songs were written as heart-felt cries to God with a spirit of worship, praise, despair, and at times even confusion.  These were sung by the author and sometimes by a congregation.  Some of the Psalms are very short and you could see how they would be quick and easy to learn and other Psalms were very long and even tell more of a story.  While the songs do not necessarily tell us an entire story, we hear pieces of history in them to remind us of God's greatness and miracles.  Other times, we do not hear a story in them; however, we can see how they match up with the events happening in the moment they were written.  Some of David's Psalms are a perfect example of him writing while fleeing from an enemy.

As I looked up the time span of the book of Psalms, I found out that they span from approximately 1440 BC and 586 BC.  This is from the time of Moses to the time of the Babylonian captivity.  That is a huge time span, but it all still falls within what we would consider "ancient."  When looking at the history of Israel, you would find out that so much happened within those many years.  Israel went from being freed from slavery (time of Moses) to having judges rule them, to having kings rule, to dividing the kingdom between Judah and Israel, to having both kingdoms fall into captivity.  In a sense, the time span of the book of Psalms sees the nation of Israel come full circle.

Even though we see a full circle of freedom from slavery to falling back into captivity, we also see in the Psalms that God still had an amazing plan of salvation.  Some of the Psalms prophetically speak of the Messiah to come and that this cycle of captivity was not the end of the story for Israel or the world.  God has a better plan for all of us.  Understanding some of the history we find in the Old Testament helps us understand the praise and cries for help that we find in the Psalms.  We cannot cover all the history of Israel in one post or even in one series; however, we can get a quick overview.  And this overview can help us better understand the amazing plan of redemption.

David wrote a beautiful thought for us to meditate on in Psalm 16:11 (NLT):  "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever."  The Psalms help point us continually to God even when things don't make sense.  What we should strive for is expressed so beautifully in this verse - the joy of God's presence and the pleasures of living with Him forever.  The hope we have of those two things as a result of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection are the very things that can sustain us through the ups and downs of life.

What does this verse say to you?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Studying Psalms!

I am so excited to let you know that I am now starting a new study this week!  I am studying the book of Psalms; however, my plan is not to go through the entire book.  I am going through the book of Psalms and looking at the different themes we find in the book and looking at some Psalms that are in those themes.  I cannot even imagine how long of a study it would make to look at each and every Psalm on this blog!  Psalm 119 would be a study in and of itself!  

I felt led to go through Psalms late last week as I struggled to focus after going to Zambia.  I think this is because we experienced so much while we were in Zambia and I have so much to sort through.  We were saddened by the injustices we saw in poverty; we were amazed at God's work in people's lives; we rejoiced in seeing the joy that learning music brought to the students at the music academy; we were reminded of God's great creation in seeing Victoria Falls and many animals we do not have in the United States; we learned to rely on God's strength when we didn't have any of our own strength left.  I didn't have one thing that I could just focus on and that is when God put Psalms on my heart.  All those feelings are right there in Psalms and I want to explore how we can feel all those things with God as our focus.

This week, I plan to do an overview of Psalms and look at the history and any other information I may be able to find on the book.  Next week, I plan to dig in a take a look thematically at the book of Psalms.  I am excited to get started and as usual, I'm also nervous to tackle such a big topic(s).  I hope you stick around and join me and even extend the study on your own.  Let's pray that we all open our hearts to what God wants us to learn about Him and ourselves through the book of Psalms.
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.  Psalm 1 (NLT) 
What beautiful promises given to those who care to learn God's ways!  While you read through these verses, list the promises that God gives to those who take the time to learn and meditate on what pleases Him.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Glory That Outweighs Everything!

It is so easy to get bogged down as we're living life, isn't it?  The little things can pile up and eventually feel huge, and the big things just seem overwhelming!  As I finish up this "Unprepared" study, I can't think of how far God has taken me in such a short amount of time.  I've mentioned all along that one of the reasons I was doing the study was because God was preparing me for something I felt completely unprepared to do.  That is the way with God, He always calls us to something new that we feel unready or inexperienced with.  But, with that feeling of inexperience we have a lot of worries and problems that spring up.  That's okay, because there are great promises in the Bible that we can hang on to when we are overwhelmed.  Please use the link and read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Oh, what words of hope these verses speak to me!  In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:17 gave me great hope during some difficult years in my life.  Notice the first thing that is said in verse 16: "That is why we never give up."  Why don't we give up?  In the verses preceding verse 16, Paul writes about the great hope we have in Christ and how God gets all the glory.  So, we don't give up.  Verse 17 reminds us that in the scope of all eternity, the troubles we are experiencing are small.  Is Paul minimizing our troubles?  Not at all!  Remember that this was written by one who was in prison for his faith.  This is the man who had been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and more and he wrote that our present trials are small.  He is reminding us that the work God is doing in us is so much greater than the troubles we are facing.  This is because God's work is eternal - it is forever.

Then Paul tells us how we keep the perspective of what we are going through today.  Verse 18 tells us to focus on the eternal rather than the external.  The troubles we face today are the things we can see right now, but the eternal are the things that we cannot see.  The eternal is where our hope is staked and where our faith is planted.  The present trials you are facing whether big or small are used by God to work a much bigger and eternal good in you.  We are promised in verse 16 that our spirits are being renewed each day!

Overwhelmed?  Trust in God's work in you.

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Live For the Lord

When we are serving at church or in our community, we can serve with the mindset that we are serving the Lord.  Of course, there are times that we can get frustrated when we are serving, but that is when we tell ourselves we are serving God and we ask God for patience.  It is good to serve God in church or in our community because we grow in our faith as we serve.  We begin to see there is a much bigger picture that we are a part of and we can have joy in knowing that God allows us and wants us to serve in this bigger picture.  But, what about the rest of the time?  We most certainly do not serve at church every waking moment!  What about all the hours throughout the rest of the day when we are at work or at home with our families?  Are we supposed to be serving during those times as well?  We are given a perspective on the way we are to live in Romans; please use the link and read Romans 14:8.

Romans 14 warns against looking down on one another over the fine details about what we eat or if we put aside one day as holy.  In fact, the writer is clear that those are not the details that make it or break it and we are to be very careful not to judge others according to how they live.  Overall, that is the Lord's job to determine whether or not we are sinning, we are humans and we do not need to worry about the way other people are living their lives.  So, when the writer wrote out Romans 14:8, we see that if we keep our focus on the fact that each and every moment of our day is for God, we are honoring God.

If we live or die it is for God.  If we remember that reality throughout our day, we will make choices that honor God.  We will not be worrying about how others are living, we will be focusing on our day to day living and make sure that we are living in a way that shows God's work in our lives.  In fact, living in this way will actually make us more sensitive to other believers and live in a way that will not cause them to stumble.  So, if someone has a conviction about whether or not we should eat a certain food, then we need to respect that and not cause them to stumble in that conviction even if we do not agree with them.  Because if we do something that we feel is a sin, then we have sinned and if our actions has caused another believer to go against their convictions we have caused them to sin.

Living for the Lord isn't about how much we serve at church or serve in the community, although that is a part of living for the Lord.  Living for the Lord is about each and every decision we make and choosing to lift up other believers rather than condemn them.  It is about our daily living and choices.  Living in this way will help us to remain prepared for what God calls us to do.

Are you living each moment as if you are living for the Lord?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How To Finish?

Since coming home last Tuesday afternoon, I've been sorting through our trip to Zambia.  Admittedly, this has made it difficult to sort through how God wanted me to finish my "Unprepared" study.  One of the reasons that God had me going through this study was to prepare me for the mission trip.  He was preparing my heart and instilling His truths so that when I left the comfort of home I would be ready.  And now the trip is done, so how do I finish the study?  I've had many people ask me what God did in me on the trip and I have to honestly say that there is still just too much to sort through to answer such a huge question.  He did things in my heart as a wife, as a parent, as a team leader, and of course as an individual.  I really have to take time to sift through all those variables, and I know that as time goes on, God will be using this trip to continue to do His good work in me.

And that brings me back to today and struggling to know what to write!  Of course, before sitting down at the computer I spent time in prayer.  The thing with prayer is sometimes I hear God very clearly directing me to what He wants me to do and other times I feel like I'm unloading and the lesson from God will come later.  I'm sure all of you can relate.  So, as I prayed, I felt no direction except that I needed to sit down and focus and write.  That was okay, because I know that God would give me what I needed when the time was right.  I sat down at the computer and loaded up and saw the verse of the day:  Ephesians 2:10.  This is the verse that has been the inspiration to my "Unprepared" study!  "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV).

This is one of my life verses - this is a verse that provides so much truth and hope in what it means to follow Christ.  All the verses before Ephesians 2:10 map out the reality that it isn't by anything we have done, but it is by God's amazing grace that we are saved.  It is His unending love for us that has given us the gift of life - new life.  And the end result is the fact that we are God's masterpiece; we are the ones that God points to in order to show His grace and kindness for generations to come!  We are His standing stones; living stones that proclaim His glory and love.  We are to do good works.  Not just any works that we think would be nice; God prepared in advance the good works we are to do.  Think on that for a moment.  Each and every time you are serving Him with joy in your heart, it is because God created you to do it!

So, I guess the reason why I have no idea how to finish this study is because it is never really finished.  The good works don't end with one action.  The needs in this world will always be here.  There will always be people that need a touch by God through us.  The work will never be done until this world ends.  And God wants us to be a part of this incredible work; I think that is what amazes me the most.  And the most amazing thing of all - we will always feel an element of being unprepared because when we can admit that feeling, that is when God does an amazing work in us.

Never shirk from that unprepared feeling; embrace it and turn to God who is the One who can and will empower you to do what He planned for you so long ago.  You are His masterpiece.  He knows the good works He planned for you so long ago.

What is God calling you to do?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Prayers for the Sick

About a week before leaving for Zambia, I was telling a friend about how God healed my son's infection.  I told her how I was planning to take him to the doctor (again) because the antibiotic didn't seem to be working, in fact the infection looked as though it had spread.  I explained that as I was praying that morning, God told me to lay hands on him.  So, I had the entire family lay hands on him and we prayed for him.  By the end of that day, the infection started to show signs of healing.  I mentioned to my friend that God probably wanted the kids to see Him work in order to prepare them for the trip.  But, what she said to me caught me off guard.

"God wanted you to experience that because you will be praying for something similar in Zambia.  I am picturing you praying for a young African boy."

Well, I wondered about that and what the circumstance would be.  I wondered if I would realize it when it was being fulfilled.  Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit some children in their homes.  We met a little boy who seemed shy and then we were told by his aunt that he probably wasn't answering us because he had difficulty hearing.  He often had pus coming out of his ear and it was ruining his hearing.  The pills that they were given for him didn't seem to work.  The family was living in poverty and couldn't afford to keep taking him to the doctor.  When it came time to leave we prayed over the boy and the rest of the household.  I was specifically asked to pray.  As soon as I was asked to pray, I knew that this was the boy God said I would be praying over.

I will probably never find out, but I believe God healed him.  I believe this because God told me I would be praying for him a week and half before I ever met him.  I understand the skeptics out there because there are a lot of little African boys in Zambia; however, he was the only little boy I prayed over on the trip.  And he is the only person on the trip that I specifically prayed for healing.

"Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord."  James 5:14 (NLT).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Prayers of Hope

"I am here because someone is supporting me to be here."

Meet my new friend, J___.  J is a boy whose dad passed away and is now living in an orphanage because his mother could no longer support him.  He told me this himself and my heart was breaking so much inside as he formed the words.  But that wasn't the story that he wanted to define him.  He knows he has more to give the world and more potential to accomplish other things.

I met J at the Livingstone branch of the Choma Academy of Music.  It was our last afternoon at this particular academy and a bunch of children were just dropped off.  We were told that they were from a local children's home.  When J found me, I had no other students so we got to spend a little time alone.  He had only been playing the flute for seven weeks; however, he was already playing some music by ear.  I didn't have a lot of time to spend with him because our day was almost done, so a I gave him a few pointers and taught him how to play two octaves of the C Major scale.  That's right, after only seven weeks, he could play two octaves of a scale!  But then he wanted to show me what he could do and play a few songs by ear.  He wanted to show me that he was trying to learn how to harmonize on the flute by ear.  Such a sweet, hard working boy!

Thanks to a partnership with another organization, J is able to attend the Livingstone Branch of the Choma Academy of Music.  As we talked, he told me how much joy he has when he plays the flute and how much being at the academy means to him.  He also explained to me how his flute teacher has already arranged a few performance opportunities for him at a nice hotel.  God is using music to reach J's life and He used music to touch my heart and pray for J.


No matter how you want to look at it, we all have someone supporting us.  Whether or not we are aware of it, there is someone out there lifting us up in prayer.  I had many people support our family financially and in prayer for this trip.  There were people praying for me to meet people just like J so I can pray for him.  You see, in a sense, there is more than just an organizational partnership happening for him to attend the school.  Because God connected us, there is a network of prayer being offered up to heaven on his behalf.  Prayers were being offered before we even knew we were praying for J.  How awesome is that!?

"Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere."  Ephesians 6:18 (NLT).

Who are you praying for?  Will you join me in praying for J?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back Home

If you follow my blog regularly, you would have known that I had been preparing for a mission trip to Zambia this summer.  My husband and I had the opportunity to lead a team to Zambia and take our entire family.  So many of you had been praying for us as we prepared and while we were in the country of Zambia.  I am so happy to report that it was an amazing trip and we have made many new friends that we hope to see again some day.  We arrived home yesterday and had our first night back home.

I will provide you some updates of our trip over the next few weeks, but for today I would like to give you some things that I know I will be thinking about for months to come.  First of all, even though this is the second time I have been in Zambia, I was still amazed at the great faith of so many people I came in contact.  Their faith is what sustains so many people living such difficult day to day hardships.  I was also extremely humbled by how hard the teachers and children at the music academy worked at learning their instruments.  Their dedication to learning was so powerful and I had the opportunity to teach flute to a student who had only been playing for 6 months, yet he played as if he had been playing for about three years!

God overwhelmed me by showing me how He extravagantly loves the people we were working with; how extravagantly He loves everyone.  This is a truth I have always known; however, He allowed me to feel His love for the people with whom we rubbed shoulders.  I was also overwhelmed by the unnecessary injustices we humans create and how God just wants us to care enough to do something about it.  He has given each one of us skills and passions and wants us to use those skills and passions to serve others.  This is what the body of Christ is about - this is the purpose of the church.

Thank you for your many prayers - coming home I know that the prayers of our friends and family is what gave us exactly what we needed to do our job!  I will sign off today with Tonga words for God bless you:  Leza amuleleke.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dirty Floors and Bathroom Sinks - Repost

Why is it that whenever the toilet overflows it is after I have cleaned the bathroom and mopped the floor in there?  It doesn't happen every time, but when the toilet chooses to hemorrhage onto the bathroom floor, it always seems to target the moment the floor is clean.  How about that sink in the bathroom?  As soon as I have the faucet shining beautifully, someone comes in and brushes their teeth and spits on the faucet!  Or they leave a big clump of toothpaste in the sink.  Ugh!  Housework never really ends.  No matter what, there will always be more laundry and dirty dishes in the sink and there will always be more dirt on the floor.  Sometimes I feel like our spiritual life is like that, too.  Just when we have cleaned up an area in our life with God's help, more junk comes to the surface.  But that is okay because that is how we grow closer to Him and depend on Him.

Depending on God is the answer because no matter how much we clean, we just can't seem to get it clean enough.  There is nothing we can say or do in our own abilities that will clean up our sin; we have to depend on God's grace through faith.  Please look at Galatians 3:9-14, and see what happens when we depend on our ability to follow the law rather than depend on grace.  When we depend on following the law for righteousness and salvation, we are cursed instead.  It is through Jesus's sacrifice that we can be made right with God and saved from the curse; it has nothing to do with what we can do better.  Please look up Philippians 3:8-11.  It is through faith in Christ that we can experience righteousness.  "For God's way of making us right with Himself depends on faith."

This doesn't mean that we can just go on living life the way we want to live it; after studying 2 Peter this summer it is clear that it is important to continue to grow in order to keep from falling into the enemy's traps.  But, isn't it good to know that we don't have to concentrate on our own ability to clean up our lives?  Isn't good to know that God loves us so much that He allowed for a New Covenant to make a way for us?  2 Corinthians 3:6 says, "He has enabled us to ministers of His new covenant.  This covenant is not of written laws, but of the Spirit.  The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life."  Oh, to know that we have life!

Are you depending on your own abilities, or are you depending on God to give you life?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Praying the Armor of God - Repost

I enjoy reading fantasy fiction and watching fantasy movies.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Lord of the Rings and how the movies were able to capture so much of what was written in the books.  My favorite scene in the Fellowship of the Rings is in the Mines of Moria and Gandolf is fighting a large, evil creature trying to destroy them.  As they cross a stone bridge, Gandolf stays behind and plants his sword into the bridge and yells at the creature that he will not pass the bridge.  At that moment the bridge crumbles and the creature falls.  There is so much more to that scene; however, I enjoy the power that is conveyed in the scene and the battle between good and evil.  Even though we cannot see the enemy we are battling, it is very real and we have the power and strength of God to fight.  Please look up Ephesians 6:10-18.

I do not think the fact that Paul added the emphasis of prayer after writing about the armor of God in Ephesians.  I believe that prayer is a key piece to how we fight our battles - we pray over ourselves and other believers using the armor of God.  I have begun the practice of praying through the armor of God over the last couple of months, and I would encourage you to do the same.  It serves not only as a reminder to me as I start my day of the fact that I have God's protection and strength but it also seems to prepare me for whatever I am facing.  As I am praying, I spend a little time praying that God will help me wear this armor successfully and pray through each piece:

Belt of Truth:  I ask God that I am able to discern what I am exposed to throughout the day whether it is God's truth or if it is untruth.  I ask that I am able to discern the lies of the enemy so I do not listen to them and can stand firm in God's truth.  I ask that God gives me strength to speak the truth.

Breastplate of Righteousness:  I thank God for allowing me to wear the body armor of righteousness.  I pray that I will respond to my circumstances in the way that Christ has called me to live.  I praise God for the fact that in Christ there is no condemnation and that I do not have to listen to the lies of the enemy that try to heap guilt and shame on me to prevent me from doing what God has called me to do.

Shoes of Peace:  I ask God to help me within my circumstances to have His peace.  I know that because of Christ I have the hope of eternal life with Him and that is the most important thing to focus on.  I ask for peace to remind me the perspective of eternity.  I also ask that God give me peace to share my story and the hope in Christ to those who need to hear it.

Shield of Faith:  I ask God to help me be effective in using the shield of faith.  I ask that when I face a situation that seems overwhelming that I remember that I have the Most High God who loves, cares for, and protects me.  I ask God to help me remember all the ways He has provided for me and for my friends so that I can lift up the shield with confidence knowing that God wants good things for me.  I also ask that God continue to stretch and grow my faith.

Helmet of Salvation:  I ask God that He continue to weed out all the things in my life that are not consistent with what He wants in my life.  I ask God to give me the strength and ability to live the way that a child of the King should live.  I ask God to help mend my thought processes that do not honor Him and that I would only think on things that please Him.  I thank Him for the beautiful gift of salvation that He has extended to us through Christ.

Sword of the Spirit:  I ask God that He help me use His Word effectively.  I ask that as situations arise throughout the day that I am able to use the Word to help me resist the enemy.  I ask that He bring to my mind the scriptures that I have read, studied, and memorized to be able to resist temptation and any other weapon that the enemy has used against me.

Depending on my circumstances that I may be facing, I have also found that I pray specifically for help with those circumstances in relation to the armor of God.  I feel that these nine weeks has helped strengthen and deepen my prayer life.  Our enemy seems scary; however, we have been given a tremendous armor to wear and use and God is so much stronger than anything we face.  God has given us a heritage that we can claim, please turn to Isaiah 54:16-17.  No weapon against us will prevail and God will silence our accusers.  We are His children and His servants and He loves us!  When we pray in the mighty and powerful name of Jesus we are using an authority that is above everything.

Put on your armor and pray, for God is with you mighty warrior!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tamarisk Tree - Repost

No matter what we think, we leave an impression on the people we are around.  That impression will be either positive or negative whether or not we are trying to leave a positive or negative impression.  One thing that I think would be a safe thing to assume is that unless we are purposefully leaving a positive impression we run the risk of leaving a negative impression.  I say this because it takes purpose to live life in a way that pleases and honors God and it is living that lifestyle that helps leave an impression that is positive and will draw people to God.  Don't get me wrong, even with living a life full of integrity and humility we will find people who will view as their enemy, but many others will see the difference Christ makes in us.  Today, as I continue through the book of Genesis, I am looking at another meeting of Abraham and Abimelech; please turn to Genesis 21:22-34.

The first thing that caught my attention was Abimelech's need for a covenant from Abraham that he would never deceive him.  This reminded me of Abraham's original deception when he told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister.  While that was a true statement, it was a deception because he failed to tell Abimelech that Sarah was his wife.  God save Abimelech from sinning and kept him from sleeping with Sarah.  So, you can see why Abimelech would want assurance from Abraham that he wouldn't deceive him.  The other thing was the reality that Abimelech recognized that God's hand was on Abraham and he seemed to understand that an enemy of Abraham would be an enemy of God. 

But what caught my attention even more in these verses was the fact that Abraham planted a tamarisk tree by the well of Beersheba.  This is an interesting tree or shrub that is native to Africa and the Near East.  In the United States, we can find it in the Southwest; however, it was brought there as an ornamental tree and has spread in the wild.  As you can see from the picture, it is a tree that produces branches of delicate flowers and is quite beautiful in bloom.  Many people in the Southwest find it annoying because it is a tree that not only requires a salty soil, but it adds salt to the soil which makes it harder for other plants native to the area to grow.  It adds salt to the soil!  What an interesting tree for Abraham to plant after swearing an oath with Abimelech.

Think about the words Jesus said in Matthew 5:13 (NLT), "You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless."  We are the salt of the earth!  Maybe I'm stretching things here, but how neat is it that Abraham would plant a tree that adds salt to the soil after swearing an oath of integrity?  When we live out our lives with integrity and living out the nature of Christ, we add salt to this world.  Salt is an important preservative and flavoring, and we even need it in our bodies!  So, when Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth we need to consider seriously what that means.  Without the truth of Christ in this world, what would happen?  The world cannot produce it's own salt, it is only through the hope of Christ that the world can have salt.  And the amazing thing about God's plan is that He chose us to be the ones to add the salt in this lost world.  In a sense, God has planted us like the tamarisk tree to salt the soil around us.  No matter where we are, there are lost people that God wants to sprinkle with salt.

Are you adding salt to the soil around you?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Knitted Together - Repost

I like to crochet, but I have no idea how to knit.  I enjoy crocheting because it can be so relaxing, while at the same time I am making something that me or my family can use.  Even though I haven't learned how to knit, I can create items on a knitting loom.  I have enjoyed teaching my kiddos how to use a knitting loom.  By using the loom, they have made hats for themselves and to donate.  Knitted and crocheted works has a small downside; I'm sure you have experienced the pain of what happens when a thread is pulled in a sweater and creates a hole.  When that happens, you quickly learn that every stitch on a knitted or crocheted item is dependent on all the other stitches.  If one stitch is compromised, all the other stitches surrounding it will also be compromised and will eventually cause the whole thing to fray.  Unity in the body of Christ is similar.  Please read Ephesians 4:13-16.

I first want to remind you that verse 13 is referring to the fact that God will continue to gift the church with leaders until we all come to a place of unity that measures up to Christ's standard.  We are told that once we achieve this unity and maturity, we will not be tossed by every wave and influenced by false teaching.  I find this interesting because this is not achieved maturity alone, but it also requires unity.  When we are experiencing a unity in Christ, it becomes a protection for us as well.  I wonder if that is because such a unity requires accountability with one another and that accountability will keep us in line with God's truth. 

Instead of being tossed and turned by the wind and waves, we will speak the truth in love.  The next thing we will experience is that we will grow more like Christ.  The Greek brings out interesting dynamics in this verse because the word, pas is used to tell who will grow more like Christ.  It is a word that means all or every, but it is used in two different ways.  It can be used to mean literally all or everything (everyone), but it can also be used to mean in a collective sort of way.  For example it can mean that it is a collection of some of all types (ie. Jews, Gentiles...").  If you remember, Paul wrote of the unprecedented unity that the Jews and Gentiles have in Christ - but not every Jew and Gentile participated in this unity.  To me, this is kind of like saying that each individual in the collection of the body will come more and more like Christ.  Basically, it is when we are speaking the truth in love with one another and using accountability, we will as individuals grow closer to God as we grow closer to God as a whole.

Verse 16 tells us that the whole body is fitted together for the benefit of each other.  This is where the knitting comes in.  The phrase that is translated as "be fit together" uses the Greek word, symbibaz┼Ź.  This word is multi-faceted in its definitions.  One of the definitions is to unite or knit together (see footnote 1).  This gives such a wonderful word picture as the verse continues to say, "As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."  The health of the whole body relies on each and every part (or stitch).  Just as each stitch in knitting and crocheting is reliant on all the other stitches, the body of Christ needs each part to do its own special work.  God created us unique to everyone else for a purpose.  He has given each of us a unique work in the body of Christ!  The rest of the body is dependent on each one of us to do our special work.  It really is awesome the way God put us together in this unique body of Christ!

Are you doing your special work in the body?