Friday, January 31, 2014

Quality Seed

I remember when I learned that sometimes it is worth paying a little extra for good, quality seed.  My husband and I had moved into our home and we had some spots in our lawn that needed reseeding.  We went to the store and picked up some inexpensive seed and some top soil and filled the spots.  We faithfully watered the seed and the only thing that came up were some sporadic weeds.  That was when a friend explained that was the typical result with cheap seed.  The grass seed usually rots while the weeds grow.  I guess when you have to keep buying more seed, you really are not saving any money and you may as well buy the expensive seed.  God plants a seed in our hearts that will never rot; please use the link and read 1 Peter 1:22-25.

These verses remind us that not only has God changed us when we gave our lives over to Him, but He made us new.  We were born again as His children - created to reveal His glory to the world.  We are told in these verses that He planted a new, imperishable seed in us through His Word.  We are reminded that the only thing that will last in this world is His Word.  That is what gives us this new, eternal life.  The thing I love about this new life that we are told about in these verses is that Peter used the Greek word, aphthartos to describe our new life.  It is a word that means to be imperishable, unable to decay, immortal: of the risen dead (see footnote 1.)  I love that!  That is the same word that is used to tell us of the resurrection of Jesus in other verses!  This new seed is given to us because Jesus conquered death and is alive.

Remember this amazing power that is living in you giving you new life - a life without decay.  This is the power of the resurrection of Jesus living in us, changing us and shaping us to be the person God made us to be.  That is the quality seed God has planted in our hearts.

Praise God for this amazing work He is doing in you!

1.  BlueLetterBible: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G862&t=NIV

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Best Foundation

Something I know very little about is construction; I can barely hammer a nail into wood let alone actually build something of worth.  One thing I do know is the importance of having a good foundation.  If we choose to just put up walls and a roof without considering how solid the ground is, then we are pretty much setting up for an eventual collapse.  But if we choose solid ground and place down a dependable foundation before building the walls then we are giving the building a better chance of lasting a long time.  Jesus told a parable of one man who built his house on rock and one who built his house on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).  He likened our spiritual lives to this parable.  If we listen to Jesus' words and don't do what He says, it is as if we built a house on sand.  If we listen to His words and do what He says, it is as if we are building our house on rock.

I love that analogy because I remember as a child understanding this.  I remember learning that when we base our life on the wisdom found in the Bible and choose to follow Christ, we have given our lives the best foundation.  The other thing that is found in the parable is the fact that both homes faced a storm.  The one on sand collapsed and the one on rock stayed standing.  This is an important point - having a solid foundation based on Jesus doesn't exempt us from the storms in life.  There will be storms; there will be difficulties.  But when our lives are built on Jesus, we will not be destroyed.  In fact when we choose to follow Jesus, that is when God comes in and begins to restore our lives and builds us back up on the solid foundation.  Please see what Peter said on this in 1 Peter 5:6-11.

I hope you read this in both the NIV and NLT because they each bring out different points.  Notice a few things - the enemy wants to devour us, but God cares for us.  When we can remember there is a world full of believers who have suffered the same things we have, we are strengthened and encouraged to resist the devil.  We are told that God will strengthen and restore us and He will place us on a firm foundation.  That is a wonderful hope we have!  Jesus really is our best foundation.

Have you place all your trust in the best foundation?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New Planting

My husband and I once had a neighbor that loved his lawn.  Every day he was out doing some kind of work on his lawn and it was an incredible looking lawn!  One day we noticed his backyard grass had turned yellow and seemed that it was burnt from the fertilizer.  I have to admit, while I enjoy working in my garden, I know very little about keeping a lawn looking nice.  All I know is if that had happened to my lawn, it would have probably grown over with weeds.  But our neighbor knew what he was doing and replanted and within a few weeks he had a lush, green lawn in his backyard.  Don't ask me what he did...when I've tried to fill a few holes in our lawn and put fresh soil in and plant seed, it has never produced the results he got on his lawn.  Today, as I consider how God heals and rebuilds our lives after facing what should have destroyed us, there are some verses I came across in the book of Psalms I want you to look at.  Please use the link and read Psalm 126:4-6.

As I read these verses, I realize how I have lived the truth found in them!  I know what it is like to be hurting from something terrible.  I know what it is like to move forward with God and wondering how I will ever see anything good come from what I've faced.  But then, I also know what it is like to see the incredible harvest that God produced and the joy that fills my heart when I think of the healing only He could provide.  I also see how my faith has been strengthened by seeing how God provides exactly what I need in the moment that I need it.  It is not easy going through our hurts and giving our problems over to God.  It really does seem like we are bending over with tears planting one seed after another in a field that seems to have no end.  But trust me, when we do what God tells us to do the results are amazing.

You may be wondering how you can know what you are supposed to do in order to reap an amazing harvest and I want to remind you that if you are a follower of Jesus you have the Holy Spirit living in you.  The Holy Spirit provides His instruction that is perfect and is always what is best.  He speaks to us through the Bible and through prayer.  He speaks to us through other people.  Surround yourself with other believers and God will use them to speak His truth in your life.  When all is said and done, you will understand what God wants for your life.  In Isaiah, we are reminded that it is God who shows us the right way to do what we are to do.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 28:24-29 and see how God shows us what we are to be planting in our hearts.  He will always work with us and give us our next instruction.

Do you trust God's instruction on what you should be planting in your heart?  Do you believe that He can and will turn your tears into a harvest of joy?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cut Down

Lately, I have not been writing as consistently as I usually do.  Last week, I was battling a cold and I was finding it difficult to get moving at my usual pace in the morning and just didn't have the time to write out my thoughts on the verses I read.  I was inspired by some verses last week, and I hope the encouragement I received from those verses last week will come out today and tomorrow and I go through them again.  I was spending time last week looking at how God rebuilds our lives when we face destruction.  I want to continue on in that theme by looking at some verses that have been so encouraging to me for several years.  Please use the link and read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

At our previous home we had a few rose of Sharon bushes.  If you are familiar with the rose of Sharon, you know that they are a hardy bush.  They are not just hardy, but if you do not keep up with them they quickly become overgrown.  It was the end of summer when we had moved into our home and with getting everything ready on the inside of our home, we didn't really get a lot done on the outside.  Needless to say, by the next summer the rose of Sharon bushes were easily eight foot tall.  They had gotten so over-grown and I decided I just needed to cut them down completely to let them regrow.  As the branches began to grow, I found I was able to manage the growth and kept them from getting over-grown again.  One poor bush never fully recovered, but the rest ended up looking like the beautiful bushes they were created to be.  As I read through the verses in 2 Corinthians 4, I thought about those bushes.

There are things that just seem to knock the life out of us.  But, when we put our trust and hope in Jesus, we find how He instead protects us and helps us to grow.  2 Corinthians 4:10 (NLT) says, "Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies."  The things that can bring destruction are also the very things that God can use to make us grow.  When we remember the death that Jesus conquered, we have hope in the eternal life we have in Him.  So while death may always be trying to do its work in us, we find that we are rooted in eternal life through Jesus.  God will always work His purpose into our lives when we turn our lives over to Him.  Just like those rose of Sharon bushes I cut down, God will allow the life of Jesus to take over in our hearts and we will grow into the person God created us to be.

Do you believe that God wants you to regrow so that Jesus shines in you?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Devastation

Devastation.  What picture comes to mind when you see that word?  I see pictures from the news of areas that have been completely destroyed by a tidal wave, hurricane, earthquake, or tornado.  When I hear the word, devastation, it gives me a feeling of lost hope.  Destruction is so wide-spread that it seems impossible to clean up and rebuild.  What about a devastation that goes beyond the physical?  I'm talking about an event or events that seem to wreck havoc on your life.  Divorce, abuse, lost job, lost home, betrayal...anything that causes you to feel utterly hopeless.  This week, I am focusing on the fact that God really can make all things new and help us rebuild our lives.  In this world, your situation may have no hope at all; however, in Jesus there is always hope.  You see, He goes beyond "fixing" things, He takes the devastation and turns it into something that reveals His glory.  That is exciting!  Please use the link and read Isaiah 61:1-4.

Let me stop for a moment and let you know that I do not talk about the hope we have in Christ lightly.  I know what it is like to go through something that causes destruction in our spirit.  I know what it is like to be in a situation that feels hopeless and that the pain will never end.  But I also know what happens when we allow Jesus to do His work in those situations.  Rebuilding doesn't mean undoing what we've been through; but when we have Christ's power working in our devastation, rebuilding means turning something horrible into something beautiful.  My life is proof of God's amazing power to heal and rebuild.  He really can take any devastation and turn it into something He can use.

When we read in these verses that He will give beauty for ashes and joy for mourning - I can tell you from experience that this is true!  But there is one thing we have to remember - we have to believe God and put our hope in Him.  We have to turn the job over to Him and let Him draw up the building plans.  We have to let go of our perceived control and let Him take over.  When we can trust Him, we will see hope in hopelessness.  In Christ, there is always hope!

Can you turn your devastation over to Jesus?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rebuild

One day on my way to work I noticed that a house in my neighborhood had burned down overnight.  I felt so horrible for the owners because it appeared to be a complete devastation.  I cannot even imagine how horrible it had to be to go through such devastation.  But, over several months the house was rebuilt and looked even better than it did prior to the fire.  While the owners of the home probably lost almost everything they had in the home, it was so good to see that they were able to rebuild and refurnish the home.  It didn't happen overnight; in fact, I remember at one point wondering if the builders would ever finish the home.  I remember wondering about the celebration the owner must have had the first day they moved back in to the home.  The verses I am looking at is a promise God gave to the Israelites that when they turned back to Him they would rebuild the ancient ruins.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 61:1-4.

All last week, I focused on the fact that God renews strength to the weary who put their trust in Him.  This morning as I was thinking about the idea that we can rebuild our broken lives when we put our trust in Him, it occurred to me that this also happens because of the strength God gives us.  Rebuilding takes strength, and rebuilding our lives takes tremendous emotional strength.  I love these verses because even though they were originally written as prophecy of the rebuilding of Israel after years of captivity, Jesus also referred to these verses when He was questioned if He was truly the Messiah.  Jesus showed us that these verses were more than just a literal rebuilding of Israel; these verses were also talking about a spiritual rebuilding.  He was showing us that He was the true hope of which these verses spoke.

Rebuild.  That sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?  So many of us have faced devastation of some sort in our lives.  Broken promises, broken homes, broken hearts.  But Jesus gives a hope of rebuilding.  He gives us hope of so much better:  healing, forgiveness, renewal.  All this week I want to look at how God turns devastation into His splendor.

What needs to be rebuilt in your life?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It Is All About Him

My daughter and I downloaded an app that provides a seven minute workout and the first time we used it I was amazed at how weak I've become!  This time last year, my husband and I had been in a routine working out at the gym every morning and on Saturdays we'd been going to a class that combined yoga and Pilates.  As our kiddos have been getting busier schedules, it was getting harder and harder to get to the gym at 5:00 am because we were staying up later.  I didn't like doing side planks; however, I could do them when the yoga/Pilates class called for them.  Needless to say, it was very discouraging when I found that I could no longer do a plank.  Over time, I had built up a lot more strength than I realized and now that I lost it, I know that I have a long way to go.  Ugh!  Strength doesn't come over night; I had built it up by having a regular routine of working out.  The other thing is that we can spend a lot of time working out and building up strength, but we can lose it easily once we stop working out regularly.

All this week, I have been looking at strength and how God renews strength to the weary when they trust in Him.  But this strength goes beyond just the physical; this is a strength that carries us emotionally.  This is a strength that allows us to serve God fully and completely.  Today, I am looking at some verses that remind us why it is so important that we operate with God's strength rather than our own.  Please use the link and read 1 Peter 4:10-11.

We are told to serve with the gifts that God has given us.  But notice what verse 11 says; we are told to serve with the strength and energy God provides.  One thing that I've noticed is that I as I have improved my prayer-life and as I have spent more time reading the Bible, the more I have learned to let go of myself and serve using God's strength.  I think this is because the more I spend time with God, the more I have learned to trust Him.  Just like we need a routine to stay physically fit, we also need to spend time serving, praying, and reading the Bible.  I would just caution that it shouldn't be a "routine," it should be what sustains us.  We should recognize that we need this time with God.

The more I serve Him, the more I learn that it isn't about me; it is all about Him.  We are reminded in 1 Peter 4:11 why it is so important we do things with God's strength rather than our own.  Aside from the fact that our strength will never be enough, 1 Peter 4:11 (NLT) says, "Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ."  It isn't about us - it is all about bringing glory to God!  When we use His strength, we can point others to Him.  When we can be humble and recognize that we do not have enough strength to serve Him, we can then bring Him glory by serving with His strength.

Are you bringing glory to God by using His strength?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Strength and Song

When I am feeling drained or stressed, it is amazing how a good song can lift my spirit.  In fact, as a past music therapist I can tell you there is research showing how people have various responses to different styles of music and the most effective music to use in a music therapy session is music that the person likes.  To me, that just makes sense because I know how playing a favorite song will cheer me up and even energize me.  It becomes even more powerful when I am listening to or singing a song that I like that points me to God.  In fact singing the song elicits an even stronger reaction for me than just listening.  I'm sure you can relate.  In the music therapy world it is the difference between being a passive or an active participator with the music.  So, knowing this, imagine how excited I get when the Bible refers to music - it is speaking my language!  So, I am excited about the verses I am looking at today because they talk about music.  This week, I am focusing on how God renews our strength and how God is the source of our strength.  As I was reading this morning, I read some verses in Isaiah that I haven't read in a long time and I want to share them with you.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 12:1-3.

For the last two days, I looked at how God gives strength to the weary; specifically to those who put their hope in Him.  I want to point out the need for trust.  In order for our hope to be in Him, we need to trust and believe Him.  So, the result of our trust and hope is strength.  These verses in Isaiah 12 point us to the importance of placing our trust in Him.  When we do that we find salvation, strength, and we are filled with praise.  In fact, I believe that as we grow to trust Him more and more, the more a song of praise is in our hearts.  As that praise is in our hearts, we find our weariness fading and we experience God's strength and joy.

I mentioned earlier about being a passive or active participator in music, and our faith is the same way.  Some may view absolute trust as stepping aside and passively watching God do His thing; however, I would completely disagree.  Faith is a very active life.  It is a far more passive response in our faith to depend on ourselves and fill our life with stress.  However, it is a very active choice to trust in God and follow His direction.  Any time I have been stretched in my faith and had to completely depend on God in a new area of my life, I felt like I was actively participating in His plan.  When I quit struggling with wanting to do things myself and let God take over, I found myself filled with peace and joy and most definitely a song of praise.  This is because I got to see God work incredible things in a difficult situation.

Those who actively participate with the music therapy session will see more benefit than those who passively participate.  Don't you think our faith is the same.  When we choose to actively trust God, that is when we also get to experience His strength in a whole new way.

Are you actively participating in God's plan?  Do you trust Him?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Strength To The Weary

What does the word, weary, mean to you?  Looking it up at dictionary.com, the definition includes words such as tired or fatigued or even mentally exhausted from work.  I'm sure all of you can relate to that feeling - we've all been there at some point.  Weariness can come from anything - even things we love doing.  Perhaps you are weary because you feel your creativity sapped from you and you feel uninspired.  Perhaps you feel weary in your parenting or marriage.  Maybe you feel weary at work.  Maybe you are weary in the ministry you are involved in.  Weariness can come from both good and bad events in our lives.  But something I've been learning is that weariness sets in when we choose to trust ourselves over God.  The minute I am relying on my abilities and strength to do something; I find myself getting weary.  This week, my focus is on the fact that it is God who renews our strength and He even promises strength to the weary.  I want to look at the same verses I looked at yesterday; please use the link and read Isaiah 40:28-31.

Yesterday, I learned that the word used for strength in these verses can mean strength of humans, angels, or God.  But it also refers to the wealth or produce that comes from the soil.  Knowing that God refers to our hearts as soil and that He plants good seed in our hearts, that really brings out a whole new dimension in these verses.  This is a good reminder that it isn't us who causes the fruit that we are to produce in our lives; it is God.  The minute we try to produce the fruit on our own we become weary.  As long as we continue to trust in God's provision and strength we find our strength continually renewed.  I believe the best way to keep in line with trusting and believing God is to stay in the Bible and continually pray.  Our trust and faith in Him allows His strength to reproduce itself in our lives.  Are you feeling weary?  Can you turn that over and trust in God's provision?

Are you trusting in God or yourself?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Renewed Strength

While my family was serving on a team in Zambia, I became ill.  I was sick with a cold by my second day in the country and within a few days it had sapped all my strength and energy.  By the time we were in our last few days of the trip, I found myself having difficulty getting out of bed because I felt so horrible.  But here is the amazing thing - I was still able to do all the work that was set before me.  I would roll myself out of bed and get ready to go knowing that there was no way I could make it through the day without God giving me the strength and stamina I would need to teach.  Sure enough, I would complete my work for the day and enjoy my time with the students I was working with.  Don't get me wrong I was still sick (I even ended up on antibiotics when all was said and done), but somehow God allowed me to have the energy I needed right when I needed it.  It was so amazing to experience this God-given ability to make it through the day despite my illness!

In the Bible, God tells us that He is the one who gives strength to the tired and weary.  He is the One who gives us exactly what we need to do the tasks He places before us.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 40:28-31.  Even though I personally experienced the physical endurance I needed from God, I don't believe that these verses are only talking about a physical strength.  I believe that this refers to any type of strength we need.  The Hebrew word translated as "strength" in these verses is koach and it refers to strength of humans, angels, or God.  It also refers to the produce that comes from the soil.  Isn't that interesting?  There are other Hebrew words that could be translated as strength, yet the word that is used for strength in these verses is a word that also refers to the wealth or produce of the soil.  There are some references Jesus uses in the New Testament that show us our heart is like soil that God wants to work in.  When we give our hearts over to Him to do His work, that is when He will produce what He knows we need to do His work.

We are also told that this strength comes for those who have placed their hope in God.  When we can recognize that there is no way we can depend on ourselves and we place our hope and dependence on God, we experience God's ability to produce amazing things in us.  He produces the energy, strength and abilities to do what He called us to do.  Experiencing His ability that goes beyond our own is absolutely amazing and it is something He wants all of us to experience.

Where is your strength coming from?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Re-purposed

When my husband and I were in our first two years of our marriage, my aunt and uncle gave us some of their old furniture.  The furniture was in great shape and some of it is still in use by us (so many years later).  Some of the pieces they gave us was a couch and two chairs that they had in their family room.  The frame was still in good shape; however, the upholstery was outdated.  My father-in-law reupholsters furniture, so we picked out some new material to put on the furniture.  The material was cream colored and I pictured it to be put to use in our living room, where we would entertain company or host our small groups.  Once it was done, I saw how perfect it would be for that use!  It was no longer suitable for the family room (or TV room) where people would be eating popcorn and snacks while watching a movie and the cream colored upholstery would become stained.  This furniture now had a new purpose.  The furniture had been bought in the 1960's, so with the new upholstery on it and put to use in the 1990's, many people thought we had bought some new modern furniture.  Overall, it was the same furniture - it was just renewed and re-purposed.  God does that with us as well.  When we come to accept Christ as our Savior and choose to follow Him, we are given new life and a new purpose.  Please use the link and read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18.

We are told that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation.  That is incredible!  Physically, we are still in our bodies; however, in our spirits we are new.  These verses in particular focus on our thinking and how we view others.  We no longer should be regarding people from a human perspective, we should be viewing them as people who God deeply loves.  We should be viewing people as those who God so desperately wants to see a part of His family.  We are a new creation!  We no longer need to look at the world and judge their actions; after all, if the world doesn't know Christ, how could they possibly be empowered to live a life that honors Him?  We shouldn't be surprised and upset when the world falters in its sin.  Instead, we should view the world as part of our mission and understand how much it is hurting.  We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:18 that God gave us the ministry of bringing people to Him - not a ministry of judgement.

This new life is supposed to change our thinking and view of the world so that we will bring more people into God's kingdom.  He wants us to share the joy we have in His grace with the world.  That truly is a new way of thinking with the new life we have been given.  We are no longer focused on ourselves and comparing ourselves with everyone else.  We compare ourselves to the perfect standard Christ demonstrated for us and reach out and love others.

How are you living out your new purpose - your new life?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Infinitely More

Sometimes, I feel like I have to tell my kiddos "no" a lot.  It is not because I like to say the word, it is because they either ask for something that isn't good for them or they ask for something we cannot afford or do.  I actually hate telling them "no"; I wish I could always say "yes" to them.  But that's not what would be best for them.  Sometimes we tell them "no" because we actually have something better planned.  It could be something they wouldn't even think to ask for because they didn't think it was a possibility.  Or it could be something they never thought of.  Those moments are so fun!  It really is awesome to see their reaction when we tell them we are going to do something as a family they did not expect.  God does that with us, too.  There are things I have received from Him I never even thought to ask for, such as going to Zambia to serve at a music academy with our entire family.  Deep down I always thought it would be neat to go on a mission trip as a family, but I never asked.  And then to go on a mission trip seemingly tailor-made for our family was overwhelming!

As I continue on with my "Renew and Restore" theme for the next few weeks, I wanted to remind myself how God's work in us is truly amazing.  He does a work in our lives that is beyond anything we ever expected.  I love the way the NLT words Epehesians 3:20-21, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen."  Isn't that a wonderful reminder of the work He does in us?  His mighty power working in us is able to accomplish infinitely more than we may ask or even imagine.  Whenever I read that verse my mind goes crazy!  It is hard to think that He is doing a greater work in me than what my imagination can draw.  Whatever we think we need, God knows what we need and gives that to us.  What He knows extends far beyond what we think.

Just like we as parents want to provide so much more and better things than what our children think they need or want; God provides exactly what we need beyond our thinking.  He see a greater purpose - a bigger picture.  This is because the work He is accomplishing takes His hand - only He can do what He does in our hearts.  We just need to be willing to let go of our human desires and surrender to His perfect work.

Do you believe that God wants to accomplish more in you than you can even think to ask for?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Unprecedented

I live in Western New York in an area where the meteorologists are going crazy with news of our impending storm.  According to the weather reports, the area where I live will see wind chills of -30 degrees Fahrenheit (that would be -34 Celsius) and two to three feet of snow by Wednesday.  We'll see how much is hype and how much is really going to be that way, but everyone is preparing to be shut in by stocking up on some food.  Because of wind gusts, they are also predicting power outages as well.  Either way, a common word I have heard is "unprecedented."  Some meteorologists have gone as far to say that a weather event that is so dramatic for a lot of our country is unprecedented.  That got me thinking about that word.  Unprecedented.  That means something we've never seen or experienced before.  As I was praying before jumping in to  the Bible this morning, that word came to mind.  Unprecedented...that is most certainly the only word that can explain the work God does in us once we choose to believe and follow Him.  He does a work in our hearts that has never been seen in us before.

Over the next few weeks, I am looking how God wants to renew and restore our hearts.  The renewal happens when we choose to follow Him, restoration happens when we see ourselves slipping away and we ask Him to bring our hearts back to where we were when we first believed.  Both events are unprecedented because we cannot personally make our hearts new.  We can change our mind and learn to react in new ways; however, true heart change can only come from the one who created us.  Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT), "Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." 

Something I find interesting in these verses is that there still seems to be a choice on our part.  If we truly want to experience renewal, we have to choose to allow the Holy Spirit to do His amazing work in our hearts.  He can renew our thoughts and attitudes, but we have to give them over to Him.  Our new nature that we are given is created so we can be like God.  What do you think of that?  When He renews our hearts, He is making us to be holy and righteous.  It makes me wonder how often we walk around with our old self, forgetting that He has given us something new to put on.  Maybe that is why so many of us don't feel this amazing renewal - we haven't put on our new nature.  We have to want to put it on!

Have you put on your new self God has given you?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Restore

School has been canceled today for cold weather and two out of three kiddos are still asleep.  This means I have a bonus day to spend with my family!  But this also means a bonus day to get the things done that I really don't want to do (but I really need to do).  Either today or tomorrow I will be taking down the Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations and restore my living room to its usual state.  I really like having the tree up with all its lights; however, I have to admit that there is a wonderful feeling to having my home back to normal.  With the new year on us, I took a look yesterday at the idea of God renewing things in our lives that need a fresh perspective.  Today, I want to consider another word: restore.  What do you think of when you hear the word restore?  Restoration?

Growing up, my mom would take some time each Saturday morning watching "This Old House" on PBS.  They would spend an entire season fixing up an old house and often the owners were trying to restore the house to its original condition.  It is cool to see an old Victorian home restored to the state it was originally created to be.  This makes me think of our own spiritual lives - our walk with God.  Yesterday, I looked a little at Psalm 51:10 where the author prayed that God would renew a stable spirit in himself that is established in God.  Today I want to skip a few verses and look at Psalm 51:12 (NLT):  "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you."  What a wonderful prayer!  The author prayed for God to restore the joy of his salvation.  Once again, this gives me a picture of God taking our hearts and bringing them back to the original condition when we first learned of our salvation through Jesus.  Isn't that a beautiful thought?

For the next few weeks, I want to spend time looking at what the Bible tells us of God's ability to renew and restore our lives.  We can see what we can pray over into our lives.

What do you want to see God renew and restore in your heart?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Renew

I hope all of you had a blessed time with family and friends during the past week.  Maybe you even had a time of relaxing.  My family had a wonderful time visiting with my husband's family, which is the first time we've been able to spend Christmas with everyone for several years!  My brother-in-law enjoyed rubbing his fantasy football victory in the rest of our faces (although my family enjoyed a Packers victory over the Bears).  We had fun, but now we are home and my kiddos were sent back to school today.  Time to go back to work and get back into our regular routine.  It is a new year and so many people have made resolutions that they hope to keep throughout the year.  But there is a wonderful thought in my head: renew.  Instead of creating goals that are noble but out of reach; how about we focus on God's renewal?  Why don't we return to something good that we once did and strive to make it a regular part of our lives?  Maybe that means getting back into a routine of reading the Bible or prayer.  Maybe it means getting back in touch with your neighbors or community.  What good and healthy part of your life have you set aside and need to bring back?

I'm not going to write a ton today, but I am meditating on this verse:  "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10, NIV).  The Hebrew word translated as steadfast is "kuwn."  Kuwn means: "to be firm, be stable, be established" (see footnote 1).  When we pray this verse into our lives, we are asking God to renew a spirit that is firm, stable, and established in Him.  What a wonderful prayer to pray into our lives.  What a wonderful way to start a new year!  That is a great renewal and one that I will be praying into my life this year.

What do you want God to renew in your life?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

1. Hebrew Lexicon :: H3559 (NIV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3559&t=NIV

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reader's Choice Post of 2013 #5

This post is the fifth most read post written in 2013 and as I read through it this morning, it was a good reminder to me to always live a life of thankfulness and obedience.  Everything was created by God and everything belongs to Him.  However, we often live our lives as if they are our own.  But that isn't true!  And to be honest, the more I grow in my relationship with God, the more I see how much better it is when we recognize that this earth is not our home and our lives belong to God.  With that said, please read:

Don't Forget the Giver of Good Things

My 5th grade friend lay face down on her bed crying because she was so upset at her mom.  She was sure that her mom had just humiliated her and given me a gift that was meant for her.  She was right, the gift was originally meant for her.  They were a set of coveted stickers.  Oh, they were not just any stickers; these were special stickers.  You see, we were growing up in the days when girls collected stickers and put them in photo albums to show and trade with their friends.  Each sticker had different value - there were the plain stickers, which were the average sticker.  Then there were the scratch and sniff stickers and the scent of the sticker determined its value.  Then there were fuzzy stickers that looked cool and the puffy stickers that added dimension to the sticker collection.  The stickers that my friend was crying about were stickers that would have a high value on the sticker trading market: puffy and fuzzy!  Oh, yes!  These stickers were both puffy and fuzzy and no one else in our class had stickers like that in their collection.  My friend's mom had shown them to her as we got in the car after school, but my friend began to argue with her mom about something.  The end result was her mom giving those incredible stickers to me.  Awkward!  As I was reading through the verses I am looking at today; my mind wandered back to that ill-fated day.  Please read through Matthew 21:28-46.

Last week, I considered how there is so much to gain when we believe in Jesus, but there is also so much to lose.  These verses today show Jesus explaining what was happening to those who refused to believe.  In the first parable, we are told of two sons who were given the same instructions and one obeyed and one disobeyed.  But Jesus added a twist by showing that what they said didn't matter as much as what they did.  In the second parable, Jesus points out the fact that God had sent many prophets to Israel in order to help them give to God; however, they were rejected and killed.  But Jesus continued on with the parable by pointing out that God sent His Son who was also beaten and killed by the evil tenants.

But some of the illustrations that Jesus used was interesting because He called the farmers in the parable "tenants."  These tenants didn't want to give the owner what was due to him.  Jesus pointed out that was what was happening to Israel in its unbelief.  Their disobedience to God would eventually lead to their destruction.  Jesus pointed out that God would give the opportunity to serve Him to those who would be willing to obey.  There are a couple of things that stick out at me in these parables.

First, God values our obedience - this is what He wants from all of us.  The next is the fact that in the second parable, the evil tenants seemed to forget who the land owner was.  They seemed to think that because they lived on the land they were set and could do whatever they wanted to do.  In a sense, they were living on the land as if it were their own.  Finally, God values obedience so highly that He will reward the obedient no matter who they are.  We have an inheritance from Heaven that is greater than anything this world can give us.  But, we need to remember where the inheritance came from and continue to obey.  When we forget who gave us the inheritance of life we risk a living a life of disobedience.  But when we believe and obey, there is so much God wants to share with us!

Do you walk through life remembering who gave you life?