Thursday, December 20, 2007

Updates

Sorry we are so bad at posting new blogs. I just posted a bunch of pictures on our website (you can click on it from the side bar). We will post some more soon of pictures from the live Nativity that our family did last Saturday and again this coming Saturday. Samuel was the cutest Shepherd ever! Speaking of Samuel, he is at my side right now, determined to read EVERY Community Chest card and Chance card form the Monopoly game. He actually can read most of the words. I am just impressed that he can endure a whole game of Monopoly on his own. Sometimes, he wants to quit (especially when he loses, which is every time), but we don't let him, and he continues to want to play with his brothers. He's learning good math skills as well, as he counts his money, which makes me feel better since we gave them the month of December off from school. Can you call it school if they are reading and doing math and learning all about the real estate world? : ) It just makes me feel better to think that. We decided that things were getting a bit crazy around here, so we thought a break would be good for all of us, and work on some character issues and have some fun together.

After our vacation to NC (we leave Christmas Day), we will come back and hit the ground running again. It has been a good month for reflecting - especially my trip to NY last week. I SO needed that and the Lord opened my eyes to see some things that I needed to see. I will also post pictures from that trip as well. I have to wait for Dave to put them on the computer because I don't know how to do that part. : )

Blessings to you all and pray you have a Merry Christmas! May Christ be truly honored in your lives this Holiday season...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Giving Thanks

We just returned home from Dave's parents in North Carolina. I don't know what it is, but every time we go there, we just have a great time - and we pretty much just relax. Dave's parents are so great, and after hearing some thanksgiving stories of my friends and family, I am SO thankful for my in-laws. We can't wait to go back on Christmas day to see the rest of the family. Our boys are looking forward to it almost as much as we are. : )

We began a couple of new traditions this year for Thanksgiving, and prayerfully will do similar things for all the holidays. We seem to get so caught up in the preparations FOR the holiday that we often skip the PURPOSE of the holiday. We really want to make memories for our kids to truly embrace the meaning of WHY we celebrate these holidays. We got a few ides from the FamilyLife website. We purchased the Thanksgiving book by Barbara Rainey that explains the whole story of the pilgrims and read it to the boys over the course of a few days (I think I was sleeping in elementary school when we learned all that, because other than the pilgrim's coming over on the Mayflower, I did not know a whole lot. And while Dave was reading, I was the only one asking questions) : ) One thing we did was had the boys trace their hand on a piece of paper and Dave made a turkey out of it. Then we wrote 5 things (one on each finger) we were thankful for, for each person that would be around the table. The boys colored them and then we matted them and had them laminated for place mats (I will put pictures on our website soon). It was a great exercise and helps us to appreciate even those we don't know so well. Another thing we did, was we all wrote 5 things we were thankful for on an index card before dinner. We had 5 kernels of corn on each plate (a reminder of the daily rations that the pilgrim's had to live on) and as we passed a basket each person would drop a kernel of corn and say one thing they were thankful for. The basket went around 5 times. It was great to hear 65 different things of gratitude. I loved hearing my boys being thankful for Jesus.

At this time, I am thankful for so many things. One thing is in response to the last post. God has really been stretching us in the area of finances, and we have learned to live on less rations as well. Not nearly where the pilgrims were, so that made me extremely grateful as we read their story. Our boys have been aware of the struggle because there has been many times we had to say no to things because we could not spend the money. I think this has been the best thing for all of us - I think it has really developed a attitude of gratitude in all of us. I will explain: The Friday before we left for NC, we received a very large paycheck. It was enough to pay back the 2 weeks we were behind and pay the all the bills for the week. There was extra money as well. Oh the temptation to want to go out and celebrate. But instead, we thought it wise to fund the envelopes for the rest of our bills for the month, which we were able to do. What a blessing that was! While we were away, Dave received another paycheck,and since our bills were already paid for the month, we decided to put money in an envelope for Christmas.

Our plans for Christmas this year is to go to the Children's Home on Christmas morning and spend the day with the 7 children in the Foster home. Ever since we began the tradition of either going to South America for Christmas to the give Christmas to the kids, or just sending them gifts, we all (my whole extended family) want to somehow keep up with that type of tradition. My sister is organizing it and got a list of things that the home needs. The other night, I told my boys that we had set a certain amount of money aside for Christmas for them. I asked them if they wanted us to buy them gifts or use it for the kids in the home. Without giving it one thought, they said, "Give it to the kids, we don't need anything." I thought that was awesome, but didn't know if they were just trying to say the right thing. So I said, "Let's just say that mommy and daddy were going to buy you a Wii (the video game system they really want) for Christmas, would you still make the same decision?" David and Jonathan both said that although that makes it harder, they felt in their heart, that we should give it to the kids. I could not have felt prouder of them. In spite of our sin and selfishness, God continues to work in the hearts of our boys and it humbles me. I WOULD NOT have made that choice if I were them. And I take no credit for the decision they made.

So we decided to go shopping yesterday for some items on the list and the boys helped pick out the stuff. We were looking for a good family movie to buy for the home, and we came across the shelf of Christmas movies. I picked up a Dennis The Mennis Christmas movie and said, "Oh that looks cute." Jonathan said, "Mommy we didn't come here to shop for us" (something I had said to Samuel several times already). David replied, "Jonathan, mommy can buy us a movie if she wants to." In which Jonathan said, "We don't need it, we have enough stuff." So needless to say, I put it back.

You know, sometimes I feel so inadequate as a parent and wonder if I am really pleasing God with the raising of my children. Sometimes, particularly with David, I feel so out of my league with how to teach and train him. I am still trying to figure out what "Surrender" really means in the area of parenting. Sometimes I feel like Job when his friends had a lot of opinions about why he was suffering, only I actually believe them. It is a difficult battle to simply trust God with your life, instead of trying to control it. I used to be so prideful before I had children. I thought I had all the answers. Now I feel like I don't have any, and it is often overwhelming. I know the Lord had pierced my heart in this area, and I still have so much to learn. I can feel the battle within. My flesh still wants to fight against what I believe the Lord is trying to teach me. I still want to control because somehow I still feel it is a reflection of me. I think God is more concerned about HIS reflection. I think too many times in the past I have made myself believe that the things I did and the choices I made was to reflect Christ when ultimately I just wanted to look good to others. God knows as well as I do, that my prideful thoughts and actions do not reflect Him in any way, as much as I may want to convince myself that they do. As long as I can hold it together on the outside, that will reflect God. I know better. That is what God has been teaching me. It is my heart He wants. And if my outward appearance looks foolish for awhile, while He gives me a heart transplant, over time, the outside will come.

I think journaling this story of my kids has helped me to see that this is just one example of what God can do when I surrender to Him. He was working when I wasn't even aware. All the worrying that I do about my parenting is so futile. I guess I thought of surrender as doing nothing. But it is not doing nothing. It is keeping a vibrant, active relationship with Jesus, and watching for when His Spirit moves in me and THEN act on it. So often I move before He does. It goes against my personality to sit back and do nothing. But I am still learning. I want nothing more than for my boys to know and love the Lord with all their heart, and the only good parent that can teach them that is God. I am the vessel He chose to use to teach them, so my job is to listen to what He tells me to do. If I am not actively seeking Him and listening, I will miss it and be found guilty of complacency and laziness. If you have a personality like mine, you understand. If you have a tendency toward complacency, you will accuse me of being too hard on myself. And I am often guilty of that. However, I feel the Lord is wanting to lift that burden off of me by asking me to simply seek His face and listen...

There is much gratitude in my heart today for the Lord and His tender mercy toward me. I am so unworthy of His love and grace. I have so far to go and I am thankful for His love and that He accepts me as I am, but loves me too much to keep me that way. His standards are high, but He never intended for me to meet them in my own strength.

I pray that I will never settle for anything less than holiness, and that I seek His face moment by moment and that the Holy Spirit will guide me through the center of God's perfect will for my life.

To the one who is able to keep me from falling......



Friday, November 2, 2007

God is good!

I know that title sounds so churchy - something someone would say when things go the way they want them to. But how about when things don't go the way we want them to? It is not as easy to say that God is good. Why is it so hard to see and know and feel God's goodness when we are hurting?

So many times in the past, I found myself praying so much harder in times of need. Deep down in my heart, I really did want to know God, but at that moment I was more desperate for His answers than simply just to know Him. It was a difficult transition from praying for God to move on my behalf, to just simply knowing Him. It's easier said than done, when you have a sick child, or you were thrown into a situation that you have no clue how to handle, or you have bills to pay and the money is not there. God has given us a greater revelation of Himself through all these difficult times. The message we continued to hear was how we needed to surrender ourselves to Him. HOW to surrender was the question. How do you lay your burdens at the foot of the cross and leave them there - without the temptation to pick them back up again?

I say all that background to get to this point. When it came to finances (with Dave working on commission most of his 11 years at Cornerstone), we have been desperate at times, but at worst, we MAYBE went a week or two without a paycheck. During that 11 years, Dave left Cornerstone to start his own business. This year was probably the most difficult financially (as we went $14,000.00 into debt), yet Spiritually, it was the best of our married years. God taught us so much that year, but interestingly, being a good steward wasn't one of them. When I say being a good steward, I do not mean just living within our means, but seeing everything that we own as belonging to God. We said it all belonged to God, but lived as if it belonged to us. It wasn't until now, that we are truly understanding that it all belongs to God.

Over the past few months, as paychecks have been slim to none, we have questioned God's provision. I began to wonder if God supplies all our needs, than what was the reason we did not have enough money to pay our bills. We prayed for provision, but did not see it coming in. Not once did we think God was not doing His part, but questioned what WE may have been doing wrong. God is a keeper of His Word, and if He says He will provide, then He will.

A few months ago I decided to look back at our past 6 months of paychecks. I realized that had we been living as tightly as we were for the past couple of months, we actually would be pretty close to on target to pay all our bills. This made us realize that only God knows what things we need to prepare for (like an economy crash), and we cannot live like it belongs to us. I don't know about others, but we don't usually prepare for a crisis.

A few weeks ago, as I was having my time with the Lord one morning, I began to pray that the Lord would provide a paycheck that week. (At that point we had gone 5 out of 7 weeks without one). It seemed that my desperateness for a paycheck was not what it was in the past, even though times were more desperate now. The reason why is because we felt God was refining our hearts SO much in this area, that I feared that getting a paycheck would send us back into our old ways. I wanted this mindset to stick. I know this may sound strange to some, but God had so much more to teach us. I remember just crying before the Lord that day, with joy, because I felt for the first time of ever coming before the Lord with any kind of desperateness, that my desire to KNOW HIM, was greater than my desire to receive something FROM Him. I felt a peace in my heart, as God reminded me of the story of Jeremiah and how He is the re-builder of ancient ruins. God put my heart to rest, that although we may struggle a little more in the area of finances, and maybe even go more into debt, that in His perfect timing He will repay it all back.

There was a time in my life I would never have wanted to share any of this (Pride). But I wanted to share this story on the other side of a miracle. After God works it all out, it is so much easier to share the story. But today, God is still God, and we KNOW He will provide. Not in the way we thought, but the lessons learned will be worth the wait. When we were financially stable, we missed so much of a hurting, dying world. We were so selfish with how we spent our money. We helped others and gave whenever we saw a need, but never did we sacrifice ourselves in order to give. God has truly humbled us during this time - especially through those who DO sacrifice to give. As we began raising support for full time ministry, we have seen so many things concerning finances. Many people are struggling financially more than ever due to the economy, yet we can see sacrifice on the part of so many.

There is so much more on this topic, but for sake of time I will end with this sweet story:

We have a precious, 78 year old woman, living in a trailer, on Social Security on our support team. She is my mentor and friend. She has been a constant source of love and encouragement in my life and honors God with how she lives her life. A few months ago, she sent us a check in the mail, saying she would pledge a certain amount monthly as long as she could afford to do it. Every month may be different, but she would try to send something. We noticed the past two months that she was sending multiple checks, and this month we received three. Knowing how little she has, I called her today to make she she understood what was going on. She had no idea this happened. She said she just writes a check every time she gets an envelope in the mail. She did not realize an envelope is immediately mailed once a check is received. At first she was concerned because she thought a check may bounce because she does not have that kind of money. Once she realized her checkbook was fine and nothing had bounced she said, "You know sweetheart, every time I write a check, I say, 'Lord, I wish I could give them so much more', and so God went ahead and did it for me."

I am so humbled by this precious woman of God, who financially had nothing her whole life and raised two children on her own who grew to know and love the Lord. As she lives the last years of her life she will never regret not having nice things, or think of all the vacations she could have gone on. God has truly provided every thing she has needed and the legacy of faith she leaves to so many, not just her own children, is something you cannot place a dollar on.

I pray I never lose sight of the reality that God has so much more to offer just by knowing Him, than any amount of money, friends, family or health. Knowing Him is truly the greatest blessing I can have. There is no greater joy than having a revelation of who God is and what He wants to show me in my life. It has been so fun to watch Him work in my husband and my boys as well.

Back in June, I posted this poem by Beth Moore. Rather than going back and finding it again, I pasted it here, because I think it so so appropriate for the topic. It just encourages me to keep trusting.





The Life I Planned

Has someone seen the life I planned?
It seems it's been replaced
I've looked in every corner
It's lost without a trace

I've found one I don't recognize
Things missing that were dear
Promises I'd hope to keep
And dreams I'd dreamed aren't here

Faces I had planned to see
Hands I planned to hold
Now absent in the pictures
Not the way I told.

Has someone seen the life I planned?
Did it get thrown away?
God took my hand from searching
Then I heard Him say

"Child, your ears have never heard
Your eyes have never seen
Eternal plans I have for you
Are more than you can dream."

"You long to walk by sight
But I'm teaching eyes to see.
I know what I am doing
'Til then, you must believe."

He's done so much, I felt ashamed
To know He heard my moans
To think I'd trade in all he's done
For plans made on my own.

I wept over His faithfulness
And how He'd proved Himself
How He'd gone beyond my dreams
And said to Him myself,

"No, my ears have never heard
My eyes have never seen
Eternal plans you have for me
And more than I could dream."

"Yes, I long to walk by sight
But you're teaching eyes to see
You know what you are doing
'Til then, I must believe."

I felt His great compassion
Mercy unrestrained
He let me mourn my losses
And showed to me my gains

I offered Him my future
And released to Him my past
I traded in my dreams
For a plan He said would last.

I get no glimpse ahead
No certainties at all
Except the presence of the One
Who will never let me fall.

Are you also searching
For a life you planned yourself?
Have you looked in every corner?
Have you checked on every shelf?

Child, your ears have never heard
Your eyes have never seen
Eternal plans I have for you
And more than you can dream.

Perhaps you long to walk by faith
But He's teaching eyes to see
He knows what He is doing
Child, step out and believe.


"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what
God has prepared for those who love Him."
1 Corinthians 2:9








Sunday, October 7, 2007

Our New Website

We have finally set up our website. There is still much work to be done, but it is up. You can go to it at www.cooke.ministryhome.org . We will add a link to the side bar as well.

I am sorry I have not posted anything new in awhile (there was a request) : ) I will have to say that we have been learning much through this process but for me, some of it is so personal it literally is painful at times. In a good way, but almost embarrassing. God continues to refine my heart and I see sin that I have never seen before. Sometimes I want to look at others and say, "But God what about them?" I feel JUST LIKE MY BOYS WHEN I DO THAT. They are constantly pointing the finger at one of their brothers when they get caught arguing with each other. I will say this: This battle that I am going through spiritually is learning how to love others. And not just be kind to them or even to overlook offenses ( I'm getting really good at that) : ) But to love like Jesus loves; To see people the way Jesus sees them. Jesus loves unconditionally and when He was offended and spit upon and beaten, He loved. Enough to die for them. He had compassion and went out of His way to love. He had mercy. He had NO pride. Love is not selfish and I am learning that. I will end there and share more about that in the future. Dave has been saying forever, that he wants to post something but he is SO busy with work and raising support, he doesn't have much time. I'll get him to post something soon though.

If you are a regular visitor (or even a new visitor), we love to read your comments. It always encourages us to hear from you.

Blessings to you all.....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Challenged to LIVE IT!

I have been wanting to post something about my trip to see my friend in Illinois, and life just seems to fly by so fast. That whole trip went by TOO fast. I already want to plan the next one, but I don't think it will happen until after we move. : (

On the way home from the conference (we had a 6 hour drive), my friend asked me what was the one thing I took away from the conference. Ya know, I can say the conference was absolutely awesome and we had a great time, but not one thing that was said really stuck out to me. That is not usual for me. Some really great things were said, and I took lots of notes, but typically I will have at least one thing I feel challenged about, and I really didn't.

I had several convictions during the conference but really none were about what the speakers said. As I sat there to think about my friends question, the answer came to me about what I was going to take home with me. I will have to backtrack though.....

When we arrived at the conference center in Nashville, it was exactly 7:00pm, the time the conference started so we were hurrying to get in. On our way in, we saw a homeless man with a white Styrofoam cup asking for money. We stopped and my friend put some money in his cup (she always has the cash) : ) We talked to him for a couple of minutes and then he asked us if we would pray for him. We asked him his name and said of course we would. He said, "No, will you pray for me right now?" So we bowed and prayed for him right there. During the prayer, he kept saying "Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus." We shared a few more words and then went inside. As we entered the building, I just felt like a hypocrite. Here we are going into this "Christian" conference and ignoring this man on the street. We didn't even ask him if he knew Jesus. My friend asked if I wanted to go back out and I said yes. So we went and found Bill. My friend did ask Bill if he knew Jesus and he said, "Yes, I walked faithfully with the Lord for 6 years." When we asked him what happened he just responded, "I made some bad choices." This man sat and quoted scripture to us, AND encouraged US. We got to encourage him as well, and he felt so blessed and thanked us for taking the time to stop and listen.

Another thing that happened during the conference was at lunch time. After walking the streets of Nashville for 30 minutes trying to find a place to eat lunch (with 20,000 other women), we decided to just back to the conference center to eat there. We ended up waiting on line for an hour and a half! It wasn't the waiting that got me frustrated, it was the lady behind me that was complaining about others cutting the line while she continued to push her way in front of us; And it was the man behind the counter who obviously didn't have any respect for OUR time as he took HIS time taking TEN minutes to get ONE dish of nachos! Granted, this frustration was all inside, and people would not have known it.

The last incident I will mention, is a couple of hours later I received a very discouraging phone call that really got me down. We have received some opposition about being in ministry, but this one person in particular has just hit me hard. It bothered me that my joy was robbed, and I had to refocus myself.

Now there really is something in common with these three scenarios. I didn't really think of it until my friend asked me what I was going to take home from the conference. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned this recurring theme of events that continues to happen in my life lately and that God is definitely up to teaching me something. Well, these situations just add to it. The bottom line is that God is refining my heart. I cannot tell you how many times I think I am justified by my actions and God asks me about the attitude of my heart.

In a nutshell this is what I told my friend. "I don't think God wants to fill me with any more knowledge of Him until I can live out the knowledge I already have. I am challenged to LIVE church not just play church. I think in essence that is what we are doing when we pass a homeless guy on the street and walk proudly into a women's conference, raise your hands in worship to the Lord, and then quickly get aggravated with a girl because she is trying to cut the line. And I allowed Satan to steal my joy with a phone call, because I care too much about myself and not about bringing glory to God."

Ultimately I DO want to bring glory to God, and I am thankful that God is teaching me how prideful I am. Over the past few months, He continues to whisper in my ear, "You are so prideful." I argue a little, because I am trying to understand why I do not have ANY rights to be upset over these situations, especially the one regarding the phone call. This is a particularly difficult area for me NOT to hold onto my rights because it is SO hurtful. I feel God has humbled me so much already and one day I just heard Him say, "You are are on your knees, but I want you on your face." I just sat and cried, because I knew exactly what He meant and I saw how I was trying to hold onto those rights, and He only wants me to be free to worship and trust Him, regardless of those hurts. But the difficulty in all this for me, is that I am not just required to overlook this offense, but God is calling me to love. This relationship will not go away, and every time a dagger is thrown, I have to hold up my shield of faith, deflect it, and turn around and love! If I am honest, I will say this is not easy. But I DO see the blessing of being free to love those who hurt you. My friend asked me how we choose to be broken. My answer in my limited knowledge is we don't. We learn to be broken. God chooses the circumstances to break us. We can then choose to recognize the area of sin and repent, or we can ignore it.

As I have been on this process of sowing to the Spirit and keeping short accounts with God, I have felt the Spirit flow through my life like never before. A friend asked me the other night how I define joy. Again, in my limited knowledge, it is being able to have hope in God because you know He is in control. Even in the midst of hardship and tears flowing, joy is being able to lift my hands in worship because of who HE is, not because of what my circumstance is. I am experiencing joy in that way like I never have before. It is because God is refining my heart~to look like His. And His heart is so perfect, so it is a painful process to be called on so many accounts. I am just in awe of how determined He is to make my heart look like His. And He has always wanted that for me, I was just not willing to fully surrender ALL my rights to Him. It is so not worth sacrificing the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, so I can get to a conference on time, or be sure I keep my place in line, or to be determined to not let myself be hurt by another.

So that is what I take home from the conference. No matter where I am, I am required to LIVE the Christian life, not just play it or talk about it. I am challenged to take what I know and LIVE it! To take God's Word more seriously; To love the unlovely; to overlook the offense; to forgive whether someone deserves to be forgiven or not; to give grace!

I will close with this song that is running through my mind: Change my heart O God, make it ever true; Change my heart O God, may I be like you...

Friday, September 7, 2007

On Vacation

I am currently in Illinois visiting my friend (Toknowhim). I am by myself so I am getting lots of work done (I brought stuff to work on while she is a t work.

It is funny, but when my friend moved to Illinois over 3 years ago she met a lady at her church who had an older son with Asperger's Syndrome, which is what my son has. I had contacted her about 3 years ago and she has been a wonderful mentor to me. It's neat how you can connect so easily to a perfect stranger when you have so much in common.

Well, last night I had an opportunity to meet with her and once again, she was a great source of encouragement to me. I am so grateful for her and the blessing she has been to me. She is walking a path that I am currently on, but she is way ahead of me. It is such a blessing to have her to share the things she is currently learning and to share the mistakes to avoid. Thank you Becky, for the godly example that you set before me!

Today, my friend and I leave to go to Nashville, TN (A 6 hour drive) to go to a women's conference. We are so excited. We get to see Beth Moore, Priscilla Shire, and Kay Arthur. Worship will be led by Travis Cotrell and Anthony Evans. It doesn't get much better than that. Great speakers, great worship, and a great friend. I am grateful for this opportunity to get away as life has been very busy for us. It has been good to get some work done too, that I have not had a chance to do.

I am sure my friend will post something about our trip when she gets back, and probably have some pictures too. You can go check out her blog from the side bar (Toknowhim). If you go there now, you can read a post that I wrote about her while she was at work, titled, "A teasured Friend".

~Blessings,
Christina

Monday, September 3, 2007

Joy In The Journey

Can I just start out by saying that GOD IS GOOD!?!? That may not be a surprise to anyone reading this, but my heart rejoices in Him today even through hurt and disappointment. The past few weeks have brought on some very discouraging circumstances. This process that we are going through is THE most difficult time we have had as a family, yet because of where are hearts are at with the Lord, it does not feel as overwhelming as the less trying times in the past. I hope that makes sense. As God turns up the fire in the refining process, we are are learning to withstand the heat. We have so much hope because of all the ways we have seen Him work through our lives in the past. There has not been a difficult time that we have experienced in the past that has brought on so much joy. Disappointments as well, but because the Lord is teaching us HOW to deal with disappointment, He is turning them to joy.

Several things have happened in the last couple of weeks that caused a friend of mine to say, "Christina, I think God is trying to teach you something here." The same type of frustrating thing happened 3 times in a week. Then 2 weeks later, a few other events happened that were tough and we once again had to learn to keep our focus on Christ and not be tempted to take Him off the throne. Which I regret to say that I think I was sitting on the throne for about a week before I realized it. God has been teaching us an amazing lesson of how our sin keeps us from walking in fellowship with Him and hearing His voice in our lives. Like in the previous posts, I talked about how our focus needs to be on Him and sowing to the Spirit instead of trying harder. God has made it so clear to me that instead of trying harder, so I can have the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, that I need to break down that brick wall of sin that keeps the Spirit from working. So the past couple of months, as a family, we have been learning to confess our sin to each other rather than justify our attitudes and disappointments. This is so humbling, and it brings so much freedom to our hearts once we've gotten to the place where we can truly put Christ on the throne. God is teaching me how I cannot just SAY I want Him on the throne, when my heart is not in the right place. He is showing me that my heart is what needs to be pure, not my actions ~ and THAT is what is going to release the Spirit's power in my life.

We are making it a priority to learn from every frustration and disappointment that comes our way. It seems God is purging our hearts from so much pride and self reliance. The other night, for the first time as a couple, we literally got on our knees and prayed for about an hour together. We did this because we have come to a place where we realize how desperate we are to be intimate with the Lord, lest we accidentally go down a path He has not called us to go down. We realized in the past couple of weeks that our faith has been weak, and we have not been trusting God enough. If we trust Him to guide our path, then we had better be on our knees asking Him to show us that path. Then when HE reveals the path, we can walk in faith and confidence. We will make many mistakes along our way, and probably travel down the wrong path more times than we'd like to admit, but when these disappointments and frustrations come, we need to see that as the Lord opposing our path, and showing us a different one. Some of these disappointments have happened when we were on the right path (because God's intention was for us to learn through them), but when we allow the disappointments to keep us down, we have learned nothing. We are learning that God is so much more in control than we ever gave Him credit for.

I will end with a couple of really neat miracles that the Lord has done through our son David. When we first started this journey, David was very angry and could not believe God could change his heart about moving to Arkansas. I believe there is an earlier post about his feelings about all of it. And the reason I posted those things is because we were so confident we were walking down the path God has called us, that we knew God would eventually change David's heart. We just didn't know if that would be on the front end of moving or the back end. But either way, we knew that God would not call us down a path that my son could not handle.

Last week, I spoke to someone on the phone that expressed some concerns she had heard from others about our move (about how this would affect David). When I got off the phone I asked David, "David, there are some people that are concerned about you in this move to Arkansas. What do you think about that?" He said, "Oh mommy, I think it is wonderful that you and daddy are going to work for FamilyLife. You are going to help other people in their marriages and families." (I smiled) and continued, "Yes, but how will that affect YOU?" He said, "Mommy, if God has called us to go than we HAVE to go!" (I smiled again) and continued, "Yes, But how does that make YOU FEEL?" He said, "Mommy, at first I was angry, but God has changed my heart. I was worried that I would not have friends, and God has already provided friends." I am so proud of my son that he is adopting the legacy of faith that we so desperately want all our children to have ~ a faith that prayerfully someday will surpass ours.

This morning, I was talking to my dad about some things that David overheard. It was concerning our support. When I got off the phone, David realized by the conversation what we were talking about. Without going into details, we have to backtrack our percentage (for now) about 20%. Now that's a bummer! Before today, we were 45% funded. Now we are 25%. David said, "Mommy, how faithful are you that we are supposed to do this?" I said, "100%." He said, "Than you can handle more of a loss than that!" Oh how I pray that some adults can have as much faith as this precious 12 year old boy! Man, has he stretched mine!

So even in the midst of yet more disappointments, we praise a holy God who is in control and gives us great joy as we put all our trust in Him.

~To the one who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine......

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Missing The Mark - Part 2

I have received permission from my friend to disclose any personal information she has shared with me. I will give you a little background of the conversations we were having, before I post the e-mail. Over the years we have discussed our struggles with people pleasing, trying to "Obey God" in our own strength, insecurity, judging others, etc. etc. The list can go on. We share everything. Often times we say, if anyone knew this stuff about us, they would think we were awful. We often times confess the motives of our hearts as to why we do the things we do - if we are even aware of those motives. We challenge each other to dig deeper into our hearts to search the things that God sees, and not just what WE WANT to see. The bible says in Jeremiah 17:9

"The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?"

So we have come to a place where we understand that we would be foolish if we thought we knew the motives behind our actions. The Bible is pretty clear here that the heart is deceitful and beyond cure. We understand that ONLY God understands the heart, so we fully trust that HE and only HE will reveal our sin to us - not others view of sin. We will use God's Word as the standard for revealing our sin and not others standards. We know this to be true and yet we still struggle with comparing ourselves to others (whether in a good way OR a bad way). That is a whole other journey the Lord has taken me on and has revealed many scriptures that have pierced my heart, but I do not want to stray too far off the topic of this post.

One particular day my friend called me to confess a sin she felt toward a friend. She confessed of her jealousy over something her friend was blessed with that she could not have. She confessed of the evil thoughts that she had toward her friend. She asked me why I thought it is so easy for our minds to go so astray and think such evil thoughts. I can tell this was really bothering her. Several days prior to this conversation, I had been thinking a lot about sin and my wheels were turning. I was really seeking and praying for God to shed His light on the truth of all this. The next morning I woke up with a flood of thoughts, and when that happens, I know it is God and typically I will journal those thoughts. I do not have anything worthy of writing unless I feel the Lord pressing something on my heart. My journals pretty much consist of writings of when I am extremely frustrated about something, or it is something the Lord had revealed to me - otherwise I feel I have nothing in me. So this particular morning, since the revelation had to do with my friends question, I decided to turn my journal entry into an e-mail to her and then print it out and staple it in my journal. This is the e-mail/journal entry from

April 18, 2007:


"The Lord has brought me to a new level of realization of my sin this morning (and I know it is only the tip of the iceberg). After thinking a little about what sin is and talking a little about it with (friends) last night, my mind was really challenged. I asked (friend) what he thought the definition of sin was, and he said he heard it once said, "Anything that falls short of the holiness of God". That's exactly what I was thinking. SO then if that is our definition, why do we categorize sin the way we do? Just like you felt yesterday about the evil thoughts you had about your friend, and how you were beating yourself up over it. Why do we beat ourselves up over that, but not about witnessing to someone when given the opportunity, or not praying, or reading the Bible, or maybe even just missing an opportunity to serve someone.

I checked out the definition of sin this morning in the Greek. Do you know what it is? It says, "Missing the mark (and so not share in the prize)." You know what that means? It means ANYTHING short of perfection is sin.

I had this awareness of my sin and it brought me to tears while I was praying. I just saw the pride of my past (and my present), to think that I'm not as sinful as I am.

I was thinking about your situation that we talked about yesterday with your friend and why we feel the guilt over stuff like that, and this is what came to mind: Satan wants us to feel guilt over those types of sins because he wants us to BELIEVE we are acting holy when we are not having those thoughts - when in actuality, there is NO part of the day that we are holy, not even if we are in church with our hands lifted high and singing in awe of God - we still miss the mark even then. I talked to Dave about it this morning and his first thought was that we're not ALWAYS sinning, like those times when we are worshiping, but I disagreed. I asked him if at that time of worship, is he loving the Lord with ALL his heart (and that love means loving others as well - love is patient, kind, not self-seeking, not boastful, keeps no record of wrong, etc.). In our flesh, even in those times when we are worshiping and serving, our hearts are still not holy, therefore we have missed the mark, and are sinful.

This verse came to mind:

Romans 12:3

"For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

This verse came to mind months ago, and I knew there was so much more to it than I was seeing. Today, those words jump off the page to me. I see how I have thought more highly of myself than I ought. In relation to the situations like we talked about yesterday (wanting bad things for others), ,we think of ourselves too highly when we think THAT is more sinful than anything else we do. We say sin is sin to God, but we live and feel and act differently. If we had an understanding that just standing there doing nothing (even without any thoughts in our mind) is sinful, because at that moment we still fall short of the glory (holiness) of God.

Check out the surrounding verses:

Romans 12:2-5
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

God has given us a measure of grace (exactly what that means I do not know, but I understand in part), and I realized once again that it is only His Spirit that reveals truth. When our minds are transformed into the likeness of Christ, and not our opinions, then we will be able to understand God's will. When we understand God's will and His grace, we will not think of ourselves so highly, and understand the sinful flesh we are in. In accordance to the faith that we have at this moment, we need to sow into the Spirit and learn more. This just confirms to me how much we need to just press into God, and stop trying so hard to attain some level of holiness. We will never reach it. God brought to mind the verse in Galatians that says, "It is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20). It was brought home a little more today than usual. It showed me how much of ME tries to live out this walk instead of Christ through me. When I recognize HOW sinful I am, I realize no matter how much effort I put forth, I will always fall short. So there is only one solution - and it is not to feel guilt - but to recognize that that is why Christ died, and if I just humble myself before Him, and sow into the Spirit, He will work through me - I cannot attain holiness in my own effort. This verse just came to mind:

Galatians 3:2-5

2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

I feel so humbled today - and yet I just know based on past experiences how prideful I actually still am. : ) God is so good, and I am grateful for His Word!"

Well, that ended my e-mail to my friend. As I re-type all those words again, I feel yet humbled some more, and I say again, I know I have so far to go. I want to explain, that although I know it is Christ THROUGH me that completes the work He has called me to do, I began to wonder WHY I felt the conviction to perform so much. I would read the Word and feel convicted that I was NOT living up to holiness, but felt powerless to perform the Lord's commands. The Lord reminded me once again of His precious Word.

Galatians 3:24

24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

I realized that God's laws are good, and He meant for us to follow them, but He never meant for them to put guilt on us. He never meant for us to perform them in our own strength. He gave them to us to show us HOW far we fall short, so we can see how desperate we need to be for His power to work through us to complete them. Trusting in God does not mean ignoring our sin, nor does it mean to strive harder. It means to submit to His authority and confess every area where we fall short and desperately desire the power that He so graciously gives to every one who accepts Him as Savior and Lord. When I have fallen short of God's glory, I realize that I need His power in me. When others fall short, it is that same power that THEY need. We are so foolish when we judge others for their lack of performance, or judge ourselves for OUR lacking; as if there was anything in our own power that will get us to reach the holiness of God.

My failures are so clearly before me, and as I sit at the throne of grace, I know God in His infinite wisdom and perfect timing, will empower me to perform every task He has called me to do - but He will not empower me until I humble myself and confess my sin. When we see ourselves in light of a holy God, we will not see others sin as the log, but our own. Then, and only then, can we truly see others the way Christ sees them, and love others the way Christ loves them. I am making a habit of confessing every known sin and making a choice to take myself off the throne of my heart, and place Christ back in His rightful place.

I desperately desire to know God and His will for my life, so I will do what His Word says, and seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness. I continue to pray that the Lord will reveal the thoughts and attitudes of my heart, and I know it would be in my best interest to confess and repent and not try to act like I have it all together. I am SO far from having it all together. This is such an incredible journey and I am eternally grateful for every thing the Lord has allowed to come into my path to teach me who He really is.

~~Trusting that He is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do~~



Monday, August 20, 2007

Missing the Mark - Part 1

“God is doing an indescribable work in my heart. When I look back, this revival in my life actually began 19 months ago, sped up last fall and then went into overdrive at the beginning of this year. I have been a Christian for 34 years and yet this is by far the most intense season of grace I have ever encountered. It feels more like a born again experience than when I was saved at the age of ten. That is the reason I have decided to get rebaptized in the Jordan River tomorrow. I’m sure I will eventually write more details sometime in the future but part of the work God is doing is revealing my sin of self-suffiency and self-protection. I have lived much of my life attempting to gain as much knowledge as possible, so I would make the right choices, in order to stay in control, so I could protect myself from getting hurt. In essence, I have desired to be my own god, rather than trust God with my wounded heart. Now, nobody would have seen this on the outside. I didn’t even recognize it in myself until recently.”

"I am learning so much about the freedom to really enter into the rest of God by grace rather than striving to earn God’s love and approval through the law. "


I copied this from Lisa Welchel's (you know....Blair from the facts of life) journal. I know you were thinking......"you have been a Christian for 34 years???????" I know I am only 33. And I suppose you knew that I was not getting baptized in the Jordan River tomorrow. : ) So as you can see, I did not write that.....however, it captured so much of what I have been feeling, and I too have felt that God is stripping me of my old way of thinking and transforming my mind. It is amazing how much more sinful I see myself now, than I did when I was not so close to God.

I was looking back in my journal to find an e-mail that was sent to my friend about this very topic. I had woken up one morning to a new level of realization of my sin, and I felt overwhelmed by it, and e-mailed my friend to share it with her. I will not share the e-mail, but one thing that I shared with her, was that I looked up the definition of sin, and it really pierced my heart. It is "missing the mark (and so not share in the prize)". You know what that means? It means ANYTHING short of perfection is sin. I continued to tell her how I had this awareness of my sin and it brought me to tears while I was praying. I just saw the pride of my past (and my present), to think that I am not as sinful as I am.

I wish I could share the whole e-mail with you but I cannot betray a friend's confidence. If she gives me permission than I will. I would love to write more, but I will wait to see if I have permission to share more. If I do not, than I will try to make the rest make sense.

....Trusting the Lord to complete the work He has started in me...

~~Christina



Friday, August 10, 2007

Answer to a friends comment

My friend "Toknowhim" commented on the "Worship - part 2" post, to explain about the mountain top analogy the Lord gave me awhile ago. It is difficult for me to post JUST this analogy without giving the details of how I got to that point, but I will try. : ) Several years ago, when I really began my intimate journey with the Lord, He began to reveal himself to me in a way that overwhelmed me - in a good way. In the past I was very critical and had very high expectations, not only for others, but myself as well. I thought it was good to have those expectations. I felt I had discernment and could see clear into certain situations. The very first scripture that I can remember the Lord waking me up to (back in 1999) was Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Now back in my legalistic state, I obsessed over HOW I was conforming. If God could just reveal it to me, I would change. Well, it wasn't that easy. He began to take me on a journey that truly renewed the way I think. A journey that revealed the sin in my heart that resulted in sin, as opposed to just working on the sin. You see, if I just stopped the sin on the outside, my heart would not have changed. (Oh I am SO tempted to go off that topic and explain that - my journals have years of stuff on that alone). OK, back on track - so one of the first bible verses that I read that literally jumped off the page to me were in Romans 11. The whole chapter really, but I will highlight verse 6 "If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches." I cannot explain what happened in my heart that day - I was amazed that the Word of God came alive to me and showed me how the root is my heart and the branches are my works. See, I was so focused on my works, but I needed to be focused on my heart. OK, so now I understood this concept in my head, but it took years to transfer to my heart. I also had much opposition to face from leaders, teachers and friends who felt I was not being biblical for focusing so much on the love relationship and not on obedience. It was so fresh and new to me but I was CONFIDENT of what God showed me. SO I think because I was being opposed by others, and seeing clearly that they were not getting it either, there was a spiritual pride that came over me. I had no clue at that time of how far I needed to go, I just knew I was not in the right place.

So as time went on over the years, the Lord would of course humble me, and then reveal Himself again-in a new way. I often felt so alone on this journey because I felt like no one understood me. I actually remember one day thinking to myself, "life is pretty good right now, I feel like I have things pretty much together" Oh, I had so much to learn. Of course the process was always the same - I felt pride with every new revelation, and then the Lord continued to humble me. One day in my quiet time, I had a very specific vision so to speak of two people . I felt SO burdened and thought, "God, if you are teaching me to love others and not see their flaws, and not be critical, then why are you allowing me to see this?" His answer was so clear AND overwhelming. He revealed how He Had indeed given me a gift of discernment, but what He intended for good, I abused. What God intended was for me to pray for others and share truth in a loving way, but I used the knowledge as judgement. It took me so many years to work through this process. One big obstacle I had, was I had so much false doctrine in my head that had to be purified by the truth of God's Word. I still could not let go of the whole works salvation - I still put so much attention on performance instead of the heart.

So I had a season of my life where I felt like the Lord clearly told me that I needed to take a step back from ALL ministry and that we were going to go on a "humbling" journey. Of course at the beginning of all that I wanted God to just tell me the areas I was being prideful in, but He had to SHOW me; He had to TEACH me. Oh, it is so painful - but what a genuine love I have for Him and others.

During this whole humbling process, I began to see that the closer I grew to Christ, the further I had to go to be like Him. I thought as I was growing, I saw myself getting closer, but when God humbled me I saw how much further I had to go. He is so gracious, and I love that He is sovereign, and His ways are perfect. I can trust in that now - without so many questions.

So to the mountain top analogy. During this process, my eyes began to open and the Lord gave me a picture of myself on the top of a mountain (during those sweet times when He revealed Himself to me), but He didn't forget to remind me that that was clearly NOT the top! He now allows me to enjoy the mountain top experience, but with great humility, I know that in His sovereign time, He will show me the top. Back in March 2006, this is a part of my journal entry:

"I can't even express the freedom I feel in my heart. I feel like I've climbed a mile high mountain and endured the pain and suffering to get to the top and what a thrill it is to get there. BUT my pride has been broken TOO many times to know this is NOT the top. But God lets me feel like it is and lets me enjoy the moment and I only see below, but in due time, I will look up again, and His mighty hand will sweep across and move those clouds that were in my view and allow me to once again see that I am CLEARLY not at the top."

I am confident that during this journey I have hurt others with my pride. I wish I could personally repent to each one, if I only knew who each one was. Often times it is difficult to let go of past hurts, and I would not want to be responsible for someones broken fellowship with God because of my sin. I pray if that is the case with anyone, that the Lord will put it on their hearts to tell me. I will readily repent. There are some, that as I type, that I already know I have hurt that I need to go to.

God is so good, and worthy of the hardships we have to go through to truly bring Him glory with our purified lives. I know we will not be sanctified until heaven, but I pray I remember to keep short accounts of sin - repent each moment I sin - and bring Him glory in my journey.

Praising Jesus for His loving kindness, grace, and forgiveness........

Monday, August 6, 2007

First Support Goal Trip

As something to look forward to, we told our boys that when we hit certain goals in our support, we would do something fun as a family. This past weekend, we celebrated our first goal. We took a family trip to my brothers home in Alabama. The boys had SO much fun. They all got to ride jet skis, go tubing, and go 4 wheeling through trails in the woods. We even played Hide and Go Seek on 4 wheelers! It was SO fun! There were two mishaps over the weekend. My 2 year old niece got second degree burns on her foot by stepping on a VERY hot piece of metal in front of the fire place. She did not skip a beat though. She was so good and happy even though her little feet were all bandaged up. The second thing was that David was SO excited that he learned how to ride a 4 wheeler ALL BY HIMSELF, so I followed him on another quad around the lake. He did great! He wanted to go again, so I asked my sister Gina if she could follow him this time. As I went in the house to wash my hands, and I look out the window and I just said, "UH- OH" You have to keep in mind that my mom was worried about EVERYTHING and EVERY safety issue you can imagine. She obsessed over life jackets, and helmets, and you name it, she worried about it. So my sister Nicole asks if this is an "Emergency UH-OH" and I look at my mom and she is looking right at me so I shake my head no and then quickly YES - I think this is tragic! I looked out the window and I see David IN THE LAKE. It actually was quite funny. I don't know how he managed it, but he drove the quad right into the lake. We came in and told my mom that I guess she would make a new rule that you not only had to wear helmets on the quads, but life jackets as well! : )


Samuel, me & Jonathan. When I was riding just me & Samuel, he
looked back several times with great excitement and said, "Mommy this
feels like a DREEEEAAAM! But it's not, right mommy?"

Jonathan learned to ride the Jet Ski by himself. He was SO excited.
He just gave us a big grin every time he passed.

Dave, David, Samuel, & My niece Toni-Leigh

My brother-in-law Ron gave everyone tube rides. That was SO fun!

Samuel

David

Jonathan

My sweet sisters, Nicole & Maria, my niece Stephanie, My niece
Adrianna and her dog Hunter. Jonathan up front, my nephew
Anthony to the right and my niece Toni-Leigh on the jet ski.

Jonathan riding the quad ALL BY HIMSELF.
Thankfully he stayed out of the lake. : )



We have our next goal trip planned, we just don't know when we will reach that goal. This gives the boys something to look forward to. I think they are each excited in their own way about what the Lord is doing, and I know they are blessed with every new supporter. It is such a joy to share with them how God's people are so faithful. We can see their faith grow right along side ours. David actually told me some things the other day that he was LOOKING FORWARD TO about our move. The presence of God is so apparent in this whole process, we just rejoice with every passing day. God is so good and we are thankful for this time away with our family. It was much needed!




True Worship - part 2

My mind has been spinning in so many directions the last couple of weeks, that I don't know where to begin. Even more since the last "True worship" post. So I will just add to the last one and go from there.

I had asked for you to read those statements from John Piper and think about what thoughts came to mind when reading those particular verses, because when I read them, I definitely had a reaction. Years ago, I felt I was falling very short from living the joyful, abundant life that God had promised in His Word. I did not feel like I was living much different from the rest of the world. I knew I should be obedient, and I tried so hard to obey the commands I knew. One very evident command for believers is what we call "The great Commission." This command is to go and make disciples of all nations. Yet it is the command that is most neglected among believers. I became very involved with the evangelism program at our church, but something in my heart was not right. I felt I was acting out of a sense of "duty" as opposed to joy. The Lord brought to mind an analogy of a salesperson. If I were a salesperson selling a particular product, how effective would I be if I did not believe in the product I was selling? By no means am I (or was God) comparing a relationship with Jesus to any product, but the point was that I was not experiencing Jesus in a way that made me excited to share Him. When Dave goes out to sell kitchens, he MUST believe in the product he is selling. There have been lots of ups and downs in his job, and I have frequently asked him how he stays motivated to sell during those frustrating times. His answer is always the same, "Because I believe that Cornerstone is the best cabinet company out there. I believe they will do the best job." I asked him how he would do it if he didn't believe that. He simply said he couldn't. So I ask myself the same question. What is motivating me to share Jesus? Is He not worth sharing? I knew He was, but in my heart, I obviously did not feel that way.

At that time several years ago, I was not enjoying God's Word either. I would read things like, "Your love is better than life" and yet I did not feel that. The bible says God's Word is LIVING and ACTIVE, yet I was not experiencing that. What I WAS experiencing was a conviction that I was not living up to His word. I love how Paul says that Jesus came to fulfill the law, but we are not exempt from it. He asks the question, "So what was the purpose of the law?" It was to lead us to Christ. (Gal. 3) The law shows us our inadequacy. Having the law shows us how we fall short of the holiness of God. My problem was that I tried to obey the law, instead of the power of the Holy Spirit in me to obey the law. I just didn't know how to access that power, even though I knew that power was in me. The bible says, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you". (Acts 1:8) I knew I had asked Jesus into my heart, but I felt powerless to obey His commands.

I will add more at another time, but I will end with this: Those quotes from John Piper really stirred my soul. Maybe some Christians will read that and think it is extreme, or they think they cannot love God that way. Or they feel that intimacy with Christ is not supposed to be that real. Oh how I ache for those believers who miss the abundant life that God has promised for each of us. God has revealed Himself to me so much over the past several years that I have been accused of being over zealous. And at times I have been - not that you can really be too zealous for God, but it was more of a zealousness for the truth. I was on a mission to have a relationship that I knew God promised in His Word, yet I did not see it being lived out around me. So I think that zealousness came out in a way that was critical of the believer, because I knew people weren't getting it. I wasn't getting it either. As my eyes opened to the truth, I thought I WAS getting it. Unfortunately, every time I had this so called mountain top experience, God would move the clouds away from my eyes and show me where the mountain top really was. I am learning to enjoy those so called mountain top experiences, but still knowing that I have SO far to go.

When I read God's Word now, I truly love it. I can honestly say His love is better than life. I feel affection for Him in my heart, even on the bad days. What a process it has been to get to that point, and yet I truly see how far I have to go. That love I have for Him now, has nothing to do with maturity on my part, or any thing I have done, but just learning to trust and believe Him for who He says He is, and surrendering my will to Him. Next post, I will talk about that word "Surrender." What a process that continues to be.....

Pursue His heart. He promises that if you seek Him with all your heart, you WILL find Him.....

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why I love Jesus

In the blogging world, I guess you get "Tagged" to post certain things on your blog. I have been "Tagged" To tell 5 reasons why I love Jesus. ONLY 5!?! I can do that - easy!

1. I love Jesus because He gave His life for me, so I can be forgiven. Lately, as I have grown closer to Him, my sin is so much more clear (like Isaiah when he was in God's presence and saw himself in all his sin). So as my sin is before me, and I repent, I am continually reminded of His grace and mercy!

2. It is because of Jesus' death on the cross that I can have the power of the Holy Spirit in me. Without His daily guidance, moment by moment guidance, I would be directionless and purposeless.

3. I love Jesus because He really does meet my every need! When I think I need something other than Him, He is always faithful to show me where I get my satisfaction-It truly IS in Christ alone!

4. I love Jesus because I can trust Him. I love that I do not have to fear anything in life because He promises to be with me - He promises to never leave me nor forsake me - and He promises to complete the work He started in me. WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO TRUST HIM?

5. I love Jesus because HE IS! He IS everything I need Him to be. He is my strength, He is my healer; He is my comforter, He is my provider; He is my shelter, He is my joy. His love is better than life! He is my all in all!

WOW! That was fun! I do not have any blogging friends besides the one who "tagged" me. So I will ask those of you who check this site, to post 5 things that you love about Jesus in the comment section. They can be brief. I would love to read them, and I think you will not regret doing it!

May Jesus be all you need today and every day!!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Real Worship

Of course, it has been some time since my last post. It's not because nothing is going on, but the opposite. I feel I don't know where to begin. My mind has been spinning with good things over the past 2 weeks, I don't know if I will be able to put it all into words. God has revealed so much to me over the years in pieces, and so much of those pieces are coming together like a puzzle and I'm beginning to see a beautiful picture. I can't quite make it out yet, but I can see it's coming together. So rather than write a book in a blog entry, I'll continue to add pieces of the puzzle (hopefully at least weekly).

I'll start with some things that will get your mind thinking - like mine did after reading this for the first time. Several years ago, I read a book called "Desiring God", by John Piper. This book is jam packed with some deep stuff - it took me over a year to read it because it was so deep I had to read most sentences twice. Some of you are not surprised by that. : ) I read things like:
"God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him," and "The presence of God's Spirit in your life takes away the frustrated soul-thirst and turns you into a fountain where others can find life", and "Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship", and I love this one, "Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. For God surely is more glorified when we delight in His magnificence than when we are so unmoved by it we scarcely feel anything, and only wish we could." Ok, I thought I would stop there, but there are so many more.... How about this: "The great hindrance to worship is not that we are a pleasure seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures"

What are your your thoughts when you read these statements? What are your thoughts when you read these scriptures?

Psalm 63:1-3

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.


Psalm 73:25-26

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

I will end with this story taken from the book, and then I will comment on the next post.

"If God's reality is displayed to us in His Word or His world, and we do not then feel in our heart any grief or longing or hope or fear or awe or joy or gratitude or confidence, then we may dutifully sing and pray and recite and gesture as much as we like, but it will not be real worship. We cannot honor God if our heart is far from Him.

Worship is a way of reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. This cannot be done by mere acts of duty. It can be done only when spontaneous affections arise in the heart.

Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary. Mine is December 21. Suppose on that day I bring home a dozen long-stemmed roses for Noel. When she meets me at the door, I hold out the roses, and she says, "Oh, Johnny, they're beautiful, thank you," and gives me a big hug. Then suppose I hold up my hand and say matter-of-factly, "Don't mention it; it's my duty."

What happens? Is not the exercise of duty a noble thing? Do we not honor those we dutifully serve? Not much. Not if there's no heart in it. Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms. If I am not moved by a spontaneous affection for her as a person, the roses do not honor her. In fact they belittle her. They are a very thin covering for the fact that she does not have the worth or beauty in my eyes to kindle affection. All I can muster is a calculated expression of marital duty.

Here is the way Edward John Carnell put it:

Suppose a husband asks his wife if he must kiss her goodnight. Her answer is, "You must, but not that kind of a must." What she means is this: "Unless a spontaneous affection for my person motivates you, your overtures are stripped of all moral value.

The fact is, many of us have failed to see that duty toward God can never be restricted to outward action. Yes, we must worship Him. "But not that kind of must." What kind then? The kind C.S. Lewis described to Sheldon Vanauken: "It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can."

The real duty of worship is not the outward duty to say or do the liturgy. It is the inward duty, the command - "Delight yourself in the Lord!" (Psalm 37:4) "Be glad in the Lord and rejoice!" (Psalm 32:11)

The reason this is the real duty of worship is that this honors God, while the empty performance of ritual does not. If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, "Why do you do this?" the answer that honors her most is, "Because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you."

"It's my duty" is a dishonor to her.

"It's my joy" is an honor.

There it is! How shall we honor God in worship? By saying, "It's my duty"? Or by saying, "It's my joy"?

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. Now we see that the mirror that catches the rays of His radiance and reflects them back in worship is the joyful heart. Another way of saying this is to say

The Chief end of man is to glorify God

BY

enjoying Him forever"






Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Arkansas or Bust!

Here is a picture of us in some T-shirts that Dave's sister sent us. We got a package in the mail one day, and when I opened it, I just smiled. : ) How cute is that! I wanted to take a picture so Laura (Dave's sister) could see us in them. I wanted to take A picture, but we took a bunch. The sad part is, after all those pictures, we end up posting the first. It was a sunny humid day in Florida, and every picture came sunny or foggy. : ) This first one was the only one you could really see. Of course David and Samuel are not exactly how I want them them to look, but I thought it actually captures my kids in all their glory. Samuel will be a big goof ball any chance he gets and David is showing you how much he loves and values taking time out of his agenda to take a picture. : ) Jonathan, of course just goes along for the ride.....

Friday, June 22, 2007

He Knows What He is Doing

I have a friend who views my blog almost daily to see if I have posted anything new. She said she was tired of seeing "Let's just learn stuff". : ) Her blog is fun and has new posts almost daily (you can click on it from the side bar~~Toknowhimjesus), mine however doesn't seem to have the same feel as hers. It originally started so others can track our journey, and I can only write so much about being busy and wishing for some down time. : ) But I will say that we are learning SO much in the process. I guess that is all part of the journey.

Maybe I can keep up a little more with things that God is teaching us. There is so much, I don't know if I can put it all into words. One thing that can happen is it is easy to get stuck in a routine - any routine - whether a busy one or a slow one. It's easy to go about your day and feel like you've missed God. I know He's always there, but I can often miss the moment by moment fellowship. If I don't choose to stop and pray or focus on Him, I will miss Him. In the past couple of days, I have felt somewhat disconnected. I was so desperate the other day for some quality time with God, I had to literally go into my closet, shut the door and pray. I was feeling a bit discouraged about some things that were completely out of my control. It is easy to get discouraged - even if you ARE praying and in the Word! I was doubting some things and I confessed them to the Lord. I also confessed to the Lord that my biggest fear is missing His will - that somehow I am blinded from the truth because of pride or selfishness. I can specifically confess some sin that I know the Lord has revealed to me, but often times don't know how to surrender that sin.

It may seem simple, but I'm not talking about outward sins, I'm talking about heart sin. Things that you don't just give up, but things that require the Holy Spirit to do through you. I confess those sins and want the Lord to give me freedom QUICKLY. I so need His power to complete the work He has required of me. During my prayer time, God prompted me to find a book from my all time favorite Bible Study teacher Beth Moore. In her book, "Things Pondered", she wrote a poem that I knew God wanted me to read. After reading the poem, I was so encouraged to know that God in His perfect timing, will reveal His plan to me if I keep that fellowship with Him.

When I don't see things happening, I wonder what God is up to (or not up to) : ) For example, I can be going through the same situation as a friend and I can see things turn around quickly for them and wonder why the process always seems so long for me. I realize that God is not half as interested in making things easy for me, as He is to be glorified BY me. The difficulty in the process changes our hearts. I have seen that time and time again. I would not take back ANY of those hard lessons if I had to give back my sight. The poem will explain it better:

The Life I Planned

Has someone seen the life I planned?
It seems it's been replaced
I've looked in every corner
It's lost without a trace

I've found one I don't recognize
Things missing that were dear
Promises I'd hope to keep
And dreams I'd dreamed aren't here

Faces I had planned to see
Hands I planned to hold
Now absent in the pictures
Not the way I told.

Has someone seen the life I planned?
Did it get thrown away?
God took my hand from searching
Then I heard Him say

"Child, your ears have never heard
Your eyes have never seen
Eternal plans I have for you
Are more than you can dream."

"You long to walk by sight
But I'm teaching eyes to see.
I know what I am doing
'Til then, you must believe."

He's done so much, I felt ashamed
To know He heard my moans
To think I'd trade in all he's done
For plans made on my own.

I wept over His faithfulness
And how He'd proved Himself
How He'd gone beyond my dreams
And said to Him myself,

"No, my ears have never heard
My eyes have never seen
Eternal plans you have for me
And more than I could dream."

"Yes, I long to walk by sight
But you're teaching eyes to see
You know what you are doing
'Til then, I must believe."

I felt His great compassion
Mercy unrestrained
He let me mourn my losses
And showed to me my gains

I offered Him my future
And released to Him my past
I traded in my dreams
For a plan He said would last.

I get no glimpse ahead
No certainties at all
Except the presence of the One
Who will never let me fall.

Are you also searching
For a life you planned yourself?
Have you looked in every corner?
Have you checked on every shelf?

Child, your ears have never heard
Your eyes have never seen
Eternal plans I have for you
And more than you can dream.

Perhaps you long to walk by faith
But He's teaching eyes to see
He knows what He is doing
Child, step out and believe.


"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what
God has prepared for those who love Him."

1 Corinthians 2:9


Do you ever feel like you always live your life out on a limb? I often times do. but I heard it once said, that that is where the fruit is!

Oh Lord, thank you for teaching my eyes to see! You know what you are doing. Until then, I will believe!