Posted in Devotion, Life

Mute or Reflective?

Hmm. I haven’t been here in a while. It’s not that I haven’t had blog worthy moments. Maybe the reason involves summer laziness or wedding distractions, but there’s also a part of me that has just felt the need to be quiet for a while.

I was reading in James the other week, and while James always holds a huge throat punch the latter part of the first chapter highlighted itself. The author writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21 ESV).

My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes. I say things before thinking; I speak in order to fit in. Sometimes I say the wrong thing, and other times I say something in the wrong way. The part about listening and speaking apply heavily in my spiritual and relational parts of life. The anger part, though, didn’t ever feel as applicable because I am generally not an outwardly angry person. This time, though, the addendum to the third point, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”, stuck out. Anger doesn’t have to be manifested outwardly to be anger. I have an inward bubbling anger when I do get angry. I’m more likely to cold shoulder someone and think mean things about them than say something to their face. I might sometimes speak ill behind their back, which goes back to the slow to speak part, but God showed me that the cold shoulder and mean thoughts were just as unpleasing. They didn’t produce the righteousness of God within me. If I was busy angrily seething over my hurt or frustration, I wasn’t seeking the face of God.

So the solution? Thankfully James also throws us a bone occasionally. Immediately after punching us with the truth of what anger doesn’t do, he tells us to put it away and receive the word of God. That saves our souls. Now literally, Jesus does the saving of our souls, but our actions of seeking Him rather than seeking anger bring us closer to Him.

While I’ve been quiet on here lately, I’ve been learning about this and other things. Maybe I’ll share them in time, or maybe the lesson is that some lessons are to be shown in my life rather than in my words.

In other news, I’m excited for the start of this school year. It’s one week away from teacher meeting week. While I still can’t get into my classroom, I have been scouring the internet and making resources and preparing my mind for the return of my lovelies. Here’s to a good school year!

Cheers!

Posted in Devotion

God’s Faithfulness

In the book of Joshua, over and over God reminds the people not to fear, and then he completely obliterates their enemies.

God is powerful, and he’s faithful to his promises.

God has promised modern Christians that he’s with them and coming again (Matthew 28:20; John 14:3). He says he works all things for his good (Romans 8:28). He also says he can do far more than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

There are situations I continually pray about: a friend who needs healing, family members who need to return to a relationship with God, students who are too angry to see God’s love, my future and relationship, and the list goes on.

Sometimes it feels as if God doesn’t hear or remains silent because I see nothing happening, but I have to remember his promises and his faithfulness. God is still working just like he did in the book of Joshua.

Posted in Devotion

Seeing Through God’s Lens

I want to see the world through God’s eyes and with the Bible as my point of reference. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about seeing other people with God’s eyes, but lately I’ve been impressed upon to open my eyes a bit more and see everything and do everything through the lens of the Bible. As a Christian, God calls me to act, think, and speak differently. Everything I do must reflect God appropriately. That means that wherever I go, whomever I come in contact with, and whatever social or career roles I serve become a means for sharing the Gospel message.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Why is this necessary for a Christian? Why can’t I simply go to church on Sunday, maybe serve in some kind of ministry, and read my Bible in the morning? The answer is found in that verse: be transformed. To transform is to change entirely. The kind of change God wants from me is the kind of change that requires me to think about everything from a Biblical standpoint. When I read, I should ponder if the text supports or disagrees with what I know about the Bible. When I speak to people, I should try to be a loving example of Christ. When I pick out clothes, I should remember that God always sees what I wear. When I teach, I must remember that everything I say or do is being filtered by the young minds in front of me as truth; I want to be sure I’m speaking and acting in God’s truth.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 5:45

In order to do this, I must study the Bible and spend time with God in order to discern how his truth guides me. Without God, I am nothing but a feeble attempt at being good. With God, I can be a light that shines brighter than the closest star. I want all parts of my life to reflect God. That means I must examine my heart and ask God to make me clean and pure in thought, deed, and word.

Posted in Music

My Own Pocketful Of Sunshine

I don’t think Natasha Bedingfield meant her song “Pocketful of Sunshine” to be a song of praise to God, but I’m going to take it that way anyway.

The song begins by saying “I’ve got a pocket, a pocketful of sunshine”, and the overall message of the song is that one can escape her sorrows and stress by going to a hidden place. Well, I’ve got a pocketful of sunshine in my soul as well because I have a relationship with God. That hiding place she talks about? Well several Psalms talk about God being our hiding place.

You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

She says “I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine”. Oh yes! I do have a love from God and I know that nothing can take that love away from me. It’s a love that I still haven’t fully comprehended, but just to give you glimpse, it involved a completely innocent man dying because God knew I wouldn’t be able to have a relationship with him otherwise. This love surpasses anything I can do wrong or right, and it is completely free to me. It causes me to sing, dance, and smile. It urges me to love others just a bit more because I am so so thankful for the love God has given me.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 35-39)

Bedingfield’s claim is that “you’re never gonna break me, sticks and stones are never gonna shake me”. As a Christian, I know that to be true because God has armed with a full armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6). With that kind of armor, mere sticks and stones don’t stand a chance. With God, I am stronger than any army.

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

To her enemies, she proclaims “wish that you could but you ain’t gonna own me, do anything you can to control me”. That’s what I yell at the Devil. When the devil tempts me and tries to control my mind or actions, I can rebuke him with scripture just like Jesus did in the garden. Because of God’s reign in my life, the Devil has no place in my life. God is bigger than the Devil.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

The bridge to the song says “There’s a place that I go that nobody knows, Where the rivers flow and I call it home, and there’s no more lies and the darkness is light and nobody cries; There’s only butterflies”. My place that I go? Into the arms of God. I can hide in his words and his comfort. In that place there are rivers of life (John 7:38), no lies (Numbers 23:19), and the darkness is made into light (John 8:12). There may not be butterflies, but the fact that Jesus is there is greater than anything. The presence of God is truly somewhere I can call home.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

As I walked home this afternoon listening to this song, the line “the sun is on my side, I smile up to the sky, I know I’ll be alright” caught my ear (and led to this post). I’ll take a little liberty here and replace the word “sun” with “Son” referring to Jesus. That Son is on my side, so on rough days or good days I can look up toward heaven and know it will be alright because God has a great plan that ultimately ends in my eternity with him in heaven. Praise God!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

So if you see me walking with my earbuds in bobbing along with a smile on my face, I just might be thinking about how I have a pocketful of sunshine. For me, this will be a song of worship.

Posted in Life

Church

In the past month, I’ve been in four different churches because of various circumstances such as flooding and travelling. All of them are teaching the Bible, and there are people in each one who are genuinely seeking God. None of them, though, leave me feeling completely content with how I imagine the perfect church to be. The music is too slow or too loud; the lights are too bright or the building too cold; the people are too old or the crowd is too large; the drive is too far or I don’t want to go alone. These are just a few of the complaints that run through my head as I leave a service.

I know being plugged in to one church is what I desire, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Lately it seems as if there’s always something better somewhere else. That’s not normal for me, so I started praying. After some heart-searching, these are the answers that God gave to me. Maybe these thoughts will help someone else in a similar circumstance.

What I need to remember is two-fold. First church is not about all of the frills, which I’m honest is where most of my complaints lie. The most important part of church is God. God can speak with old hymns, new rock, bright lights, a yelling preacher, a long sermon, or a quick devotion. God is not bound by any circumstances. The only thing that binds me from hearing his words is myself.

Secondly, all of these churches are run by people. Granted, I think all of the churches I’ve been at lately are led by people seeking God. Still though, I find myself wanting certain circumstances to worship. Rather than looking for perfection in the man-made aspects of church, I should look for perfection in the God-driven aspects of church. My focus should be on praising God and leaning toward him rather than examining the layout of service.

Lastly, even with all of the imperfections I can find in churches, I still find church to be very important to my faith in God. Yes, all of the answers I need for my relationship with God are found in the Bible and through time with Him, but God made us for fellowship. When Jesus left the Earth, he left a group of believers and told them to stick together. God didn’t design me to navigate this world alone. He intends for me, and others, to meet together regularly to worship Him and study his Word. While I can, and should, worship and study all week long, there’s just something special about gathering with other believers no matter which building I do it in. I have no answers about what the perfect church service or atmosphere looks like, probably because it doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter where I end up on Sunday, my one focus should be to worship God and learn more about Him.

Posted in Devotion

Chocolate Box

Forrest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get”. That’s true to some extent in that we can’t predict our own life. Most of the time we also don’t know what’s going to happen in life either. Life is often like eating bites of chocolate: sometimes we get the really good pieces with the whipped chocolate truffle, but other times we get the nutty chocolate or the piece with the half dried cherry.

Sometimes though, we get a box of chocolates that has the label on the inside of the box. To me, in the metaphor of life, that’s the guidebook God has given us, aka The Bible. If we read the Bible and have conversation with God, our next steps will be clear. What happens though is that we get so excited about the chocolate that God has to offer that we forget to consult the guidebook for our next steps. Then we end up eating that rotten piece of chocolate with all of the nuts.

Other times maybe our chocolate pieces are out of order, and we end up with a piece that isn’t what we expected. That doesn’t mean the guidebook misled us; it simply means that we have to trust God even more for grace to deal with unknown situations.

My encouragement to you and to myself is to take time daily to spend time reading the guidebook for life and talking to the author of the guidebook.

Posted in Monologues from the Manger

Monologues from the Manger: Mary

I am Mary, and many years back my life changed dramatically. You’ve probably heard my name and seen my picture in the manger scenes, but I want to take a moment to share something that even I still don’t understand.

When I was young, I was engaged to Joseph. One night an angel came to me and called me favored. This confused and frightened me because I’ve always been one to blend into my surroundings. The angel told me I had found favor with God, and that I had been chosen to give birth to his son. My initial reaction was, “woah, show down there angel! I’m engaged, but I haven’t broken any rules with Joseph. God surely knows this, so how am I about to have a baby?” 

The angel had an answer for that: the Holy Spirit would provide that. He also informed me that my cousin Elizabeth would have a baby soon as well. The only was I could think to respond was to submit to the plan God was enacting. 

Later, I visited my cousin Elizabeth and sure enough, she was pregnant. All I could think was “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). God was doing something magnificent, and I just felt humbled to be part of it.
My baby’s birth was even dramatic and God-led. We had to go to Bethlehem for the census. Traveling that distance while pregnant wasn’t easy, but Joseph was so good to me. There also wasn’t room in any inns, but we found a warm barn. That night I gave birth to my son, God’s son, Jesus. 

At first I thought our lives would be quiet after such a humble birth place, but it wasn’t long before we had visitors. Shepherds visited and they sang. Supposedly they’d been visited by an angel as well. Later my son would be called a lamb as well as a shepherd, so I guess it’s fitting that shepherds were his first visitors.

Later we had some wisemen visit. They had followed a star all the way to our house. God was spreading the word far and wide. These wisemen worshipped Jesus as they would a king because they recognized his power even while he was a child. If only others would worship him like these first visitors. 

I still can’t fathom why God chose me, but I’m glad he did. As you ponder my story with me, remember how eloquently God orchestrated his son’s arrival on Earth and for the purpose of allowing us all to know God more closely. Please take time to get to know my son, Jesus.