Thursday, March 31, 2011

In A Word: Awe

I am in awe of a number of things weaved into this life God has given me. I am in awe of the way He has carefully crafted me to be who I am and has gifted me with amazing gifts to use for His glory. I am in awe that this is day 31 of my month long goal to blog a devotional of some type every day. Through this time God has amazed me and wowed me with the words He has given me to share. He has worked a mighty work within me in so many different ways. Hurdles have been jumped and obstacles overcome. I've discovered new things about myself and the love of writing that I've been so incredibly blessed with.

There is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and an incredible sense of awe at what has transpired these 31 days. I am reminded again and again of the verses of Psalm 139 particularly verse 14, which says, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." My heart is overflowing with gratitude and amazement at God's most gracious care of me physically, spiritually, and even emotionally. He knows me better than I know myself. The devotionals I share seldom come from anything but the daily trials I face. Only when I write about these trying times and stormy seasons does the Lord reveal to me the bigger picture and I find myself on my knees long before coming to the keys to share the message with everyone. There is always so much to learn and I am speechless in the presence of the Lord and I stand in awe of His great care and love for me and for those He reaches through me.

This is most definitely not the end of the blogs here at Forever In Him. This month long blogging event has re-ignited the passion and purpose God planted in my heart so long ago. I am in awe of the very way He led me to the NaBloPoMo web site and introduced me to a concept that motivated and pushed me to blog no matter what every day for a month. A blessing to me as much as everyone reading. I pray for God's continued direction and guidance in future writings. I pray for a peace and calm of heart and not an over anxiousness to write because writing in haste never fully communicates the intended message. I pray to wait in the presence of the Lord and to first hear from Him before proceeding in typing His message across the pages of the Internet. Again, I stand in awe as I look back and I look forward in awe knowing of the many things God has planned.

In signing off this 31st day of March, I leave with the wonderfully amazing and awe inspiring words of Psalm 139:1-18; 23-24. Also, below is a YouTube video of the song "When You Believe" performed by Chloe Agnew. You can play it here or simply click the play button below and then proceed to read the words of Psalm 139.

Psalm 139

O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
thou understandest my thought afar off.
 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
and art acquainted with all my ways.
 For there is not a word in my tongue, 
but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
and laid thine hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
 If I take the wings of the morning, 
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
 Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
and thy right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
even the night shall be light about me.
 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
but the night shineth as the day: 
the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
 For thou hast possessed my reins:
thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
marvellous are thy works; 
and that my soul knoweth right well.
 My substance was not hid from thee, 
when I was made in secret, 
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; 
and in thy book all my members were written, 
which in continuance were fashioned, 
when as yet there was none of them.
 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, 
O God! how great is the sum of them!
 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: 
when I awake, I am still with thee.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, 
and know my thoughts:
 And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In A Word: God

On Monday I blogged about the alphabet and how its 26 letters come together to form hundreds of millions of words both beautiful and sometimes hurtful. Today I want to focus on each of those letters and how they represent one of many words used to describe God. It's an exercise we used to go through at a ministry I worked with. We sometimes referred to it as the ABC's with God. Read along and then try it out during your next prayer time with God!

A - Absolute, Amazing, Awesome
B - Breath-taking, Beautiful
C - Counselor, Creative, Creator
D - Dependable, Delightful
E - Exalted, Energetic
F - Faithful, Father, Friend
G - Gracious, Glorious, God
H - Healer, Holy, most High
I - Immanuel, Infinite
J - Just, Judge
K - King, Knight, Keeper
L - Loving, Lord, Light, Life
M - Majestic, Messiah, Marvelous, Mighty
N - Never ending, Never leaving
O - Omnipotent (All powerful), Omniscient (All knowing), Omnipresent (Always present)
P - Patient, Perfect, Prince of Peace
Q - Quiet, Quick
R - Redeemer, Refuge, Rock
S - Salvation, Savior, Song
T - Trustworthy, Truth, Trinity
U - Understanding
V - Victorious, Valiant
W - Worthy, Wonderful, Wise
X - X-treme, X-cellent
Y - Yahweh
Z - Zealous

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In A Word: Debt

Debt. We all have it lurking in the corners of our life in one form or another. With tax day approaching, many of us are taking an extra long look at our financial debt. The debt may not be big or it may be overwhelming. No matter the size, debt is debt and the burden of it is taking up space in our bank account and our life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and make all of the debt and bills just go away?

Although financial debt weighs many of us down, it’s not the only debt causing sleepless nights. There’s another debt we often refer to as guilt that is pulling us down. Guilt is an emotion brought on by our own wrongful actions; actions we wish we could erase or ignore or even pay off through the system of good works. But, no matter how many good deed payments we make, the feelings of failure, inadequacy, and even hopelessness just keep piling on. Just like financial debt we wish we could make it all go away or make things right again, but we can’t.

Thankfully, hope is not lost and there is redemption through the blood of Christ. He took on the sins of the world in order to provide us with eternal debt forgiveness. Unlike debt forgiveness in the financial world, eternal debt forgiveness wipes all debt and guilt away completely, no strings attached. It’s hard to imagine all past debts and guilt wiped away, but the shedding of Christ’s blood does just that. What’s even greater is the fact that all future debt including those repeat offenses we so foolishly thought we had overcome are also wiped away. How’s that for a fresh start and a clean slate in life?

Sounds too good to be true. Forgiveness of our sins? Debt cancellation? No more guilt? For free? Well, free for us, yes, but it did cost something; it cost Christ His life. He who knew no sin, took on the sin debt and guilt of the world and He took it all the way to the cross. Jesus Christ lifted the burden from our shoulders and placed it on his own. The pain and the reality of the weight of the load He carried literally drained the life from His body. But why? Why would He do that? He could have simply said all is forgiven, but it wouldn't have been eternal. Something had to be given in exchange for complete forgiveness. Christ submitted to the will of His Father and gave himself as a sacrifice upon the cross in order to free each and every one of us from our sin and He did it because He loves us. He didn't stop there. He arose from the grave on the third day sealing the eternal forgiveness with eternal life to all who believe.
Can any of us truly comprehend a love so great?! Forgiveness of debt plus eternal life! There is forgiveness, there is life, and there is freedom in the blood of Christ!

Monday, March 28, 2011

In A Word: Alphabet

The alphabet plays a vital role in our language and of course in the writing of this article/blog. There would be no words and definitely no written words without the letters in our alphabet. Just think, 26 letters standing on their own don't look like much, but when placed in the right order they form millions of powerful and impacting words.When used for good those words can build relationships, establish strong foundations, and construct bridges of hope among many people of many different backgrounds. But, when used in a way that is not pleasing to the Father, words can destroy friendships, knock down walls of protection, and destroy the life of another.

The body of Christ, which is each and every believer, operates in a similar way as the alphabet. Standing alone, we may not look like much. Sure we may have been blessed with a gift of teaching, speaking, singing, healing, writing and so on, but on our own there's only so much we can do with those gifts. We need the gifts of other members of the body of Christ to come alongside us to make a much more powerful impact on others. As scripture points out, "The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?" (I Corinthians 12: 17 & 21) It is when we work together that we are able to fully accomplish life's purpose to the glory of God. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5).

There's nothing like bringing 26 letters together to create beautiful stories, inspiring melodies, and heart felt letters of encouragement to friends and family. Just the same, there is nothing more beautiful than watching individual believers coming together in unity for the purpose of telling others about Christ's love. The words of Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6 state it best, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In A Word: Surrender

Today wrapped up a great two day purity retreat with middle school and high school girls. One of our last individual sessions included a time to sit and write a love letter to God surrendering to Him things that we've let take over our life. Afterward, we wrote those things down on an enlarged price tag. The price tag had the following written on it: For SALE. Everything costs something. One thing costs everything. We placed the price tags in a basket symbolizing a place at the foot of the cross of Christ. This simple act reminded us that once we've given these issues over to God they are no longer in our hands. We've confessed them and surrendered them to Him and we're not to take them back.

We completed a similar exercise in surrender the previous day as well. During this exercise we were asked to take a piece of paper and draw pictures/designs symbolizing areas in our life that we are struggling with. We then cut the picture out in the shape of a cross. This was a reminder that Christ bore each of these pains, struggles and hardships on the cross. He took on our burdens and has lightened our load. When we confess and repent, He throws it out and washes us clean. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Psalm 103:12 goes on to say that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." What a weight lifted once all is surrendered!

Our final thoughts for the weekend were along these lines and continued with the reality that surrendering is not something that is a one time deal. The things surrendered are gone and removed from our hands, but that doesn't mean the temptation to allow those things to return is not there. We must continually give temptations, struggles, etc. over to Christ daily in order to remain pure and free. True surrender is learning to let go and let God. It's the understanding that Christ is now in control of what was surrendered and it is through His power alone that we are forgiven and blessed to move forward in His perfect love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In A Word: Weeds

Weeds are probably the easiest plant life to grow and maintain. They require no work at all. In fact, the more we leave them alone the more they will grow and flourish. They will take over the garden, sidewalks, yards, and anything else in their path. Some weeds take on the appearance of beautiful spring flowers popping up in purples and yellows all over the place. The Dandelions are especially hard to get rid of and yet they are the most fun to pick. Who doesn't love to pick the Dandelions when the flowers have turned to those white puffy looking spores? It's great fun to let the wind catch them and carry the spores across the yard never mind the reality that we're only increasing the Dandelion population by a million! Children especially just love to pick them and bring in big bouquets of them to go on the dining room table and of course we can't tell them no.

Weeds are a lot like sin. When we don't bother doing anything about them, they grow rampant and consume everything in their path. When we don't acknowledge sin in our life, we're letting it take control and grow through areas of our life we thought we're safe. Sin takes on many different forms and can often appear like a good thing when first encountered, but like the Dandelions, the true nature of sin will soon show itself and spread its spores in our lives multiplying troubles and problems all over the place.

Getting rid of weeds is a chore, but when we realize we can't hang on to the beautiful flowers for risk of killing all of the real flowers and plant life in our yard we understand that spraying the weed killer is our only option. One spray with powerful weed killer will do it. They'll droop, and shrivel and eventually sag down back to the ground. We must then pull them up by the root to prevent them from returning. Sin requires similar treatment. Once we realize that it's not good for us (even though it may look pretty), we are free to spray the Word of God on it and ask God's forgiveness and watch as He washes it away. Like the weed though, we must always get rid of sin at the very root of the problem. If we aren't honest with ourselves and we only get rid of part of it, it will most definitely sprout up again and will be even stronger than before. Look for the root, confess it, and ask for God's strength to pull it up and throw it out. It may be painful, but in the long run our heart will be so much cleaner and more beautiful that it will be worth the work!

Romans 7:25, "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Friday, March 25, 2011

In A Word: Reaching

I went out for a walk this evening feeling overwhelmed, tired, and wondering where the strength to get through this busy weekend would come from. Just the other day I blogged about looking to the horizon and being reminded of the verses in Psalm 121, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth" (vs 1-2). It's funny how soon we forget these words of comfort and strength when we allow feelings of anxiety and fear to enter our thoughts. In an instant we can get tied up in the tasks of life forgetting the task maker, the Creator, who has all the answers. How did God bring me back to Him? Trees.

On the final trip back home, I was walking with my head down when I heard a rustling sound above. I looked up and although nothing was there, something did catch my eye. The sun was setting and the light was touching the tops of the trees at just the right angle. For the first time, which is kind of funny, I realized that all of the trees around me were reaching upward toward the sky. In a Hallelujah, arms lifted high, the trees were reaching up and giving glory to God the Father. I was too busy looking down; instead of looking up asking God to be my strength. He is all we need, all He asks is that we come to Him for help.

Trees reach upwards to find the warmth of the sun, which provides them with all the nutrients and strength needed to grow. Everything comes form above and the same goes for us. All we need is from our Heavenly Father above who eases all fears and provides for all our needs. Matthew 6:31-32 says, "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ... For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In A Word: Technology

Several days ago I blogged about the word "humor" and shared how the youth department at my church presented the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in a humorous and captivating way. It was a great drama; one that has opened up many opportunities for me to share with others. I am excited to share that the video of the sermon is now online at (The video starts with a quick prayer for the people of Japan and then jumps into the drama.)

I was just going to post an update blog and let everyone know that the sermon was now available online, but then I realized the amazing concept we have going through online video and I decided to turn it into a new blogging opportunity. Why? Because I spent an entire blog trying my best to describe the hilarious skit put on by the youth department knowing that I could also just tell everyone to click on the link and view the entire skit online. How crazy and great is that? We attend church one Sunday and if we missed something or even missed out on the service, we can just log on to the Internet and download a full video copy of everything that went on. Many churches even offer live web casts of the service that way if we can't make it to church in person then at least we can make it via the Internet. Think about it, technology is really moving at lightning speed!

It's not just videos and live Internet broadcasts that have captured the techno world. Last Sunday my pastor shared how everything he needs has gone from filling up a briefcase to simply taking up the space of one pocket. His calendar, Bible, dictionary, computer, music player, etc. is all stored on his phone. He demonstrated how he can speak into his phone in English and have it play back in Spanish. What's that familiar phrase that's taking over the phone lines? Oh yes, "there's an app for that." It's true, there's literally an application or app for just about everything we can think of!

Technology is turning out to be a fantastic tool for ministry. Of course there's a lot of things to be careful of as with any other type of tool, but for the most part, technology is helping spread the message of God at an incredibly fast and cheaper pace. However, even with the time saving opportunities provided by technology, it's important to remember that not even it can take the place of a regular daily quiet time of prayer and meditation with the Lord.  Nothing can fill our hearts and minds more than the sweet communion with the Heavenly Father.

Technology is constantly changing, but God is absolute. We don't have to turn Him in for an upgrade, pay for a better model, or wait for Him to power down, power up, upload, download, or any of that other techno stuff. He is ready and waiting to hear from us (more so than our best friend waiting for our next text). The message He has for us is far more life changing than any text or e-mail we may receive. Why not power down and plug into the Word of God and devote some one on one time with God for a few hours. It's amazing what a difference a little non-technology time can do for the spirit!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In A Word: Clean

I walked into my apartment tonight and stepped into a room filled with a minty fresh scent. My carpets were cleaned today by the apartment complex (they do this no charge once a year). How fantastic it was to step into a clean apartment with super soft, fresh, and nearly dry clean carpet! I was so excited! The previous year when I had the carpets cleaned I ended up walking into a dining room with damp wet carpet that released little soap suds when stepped on. It was a disaster. The carpets were clean, but the clean up effort after the first clean up was ridiculous. It was different this time around. It was so incredibly refreshing to have the carpets clean, dry, and ready to put the furniture back on. It know it sounds crazy, but I love it when things are clean, polished, disinfected, and sparkling! It's a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to sit on the couch and admire the results of good hard work!

Being clean (for most of us) is a good thing and something we strive for in just about every area of our life. But if we're honest, many of us don't like the work and effort required to keep things clean and we end up taking short cuts. Obviously last year's carpet cleaner took a short cut that ended up leaving suds in my dining room. Other common shortcuts include sweeping the dust under the rug when no one is looking, wiping the crumbs from the table onto the floor, spraying air freshener on our clothes instead of washing them, and even washing off with only a damp cloth and calling it a shower when time is limited. This, however, does not get things as clean as they could or should be. Truth be told, no matter if we take shortcuts or work hours on end, we're never going to get things perfectly clean. We can shower until the hot water runs out, comes back, and runs out again and the germs won't really be completely gone. Even antibacterial soap says it can only get rid of 99.9% of germs.

As much as we like our idea of clean, there's really only one area of life in which we can truly be clean and that's because someone else is doing the cleaning. Our sin nature causes us to be covered with the filth of sin from head to toe. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." The sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary cleanses the filth away like no other. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).When we confess this truth with our mouth and believe on the Lord Jesus, we receive forgiveness of sin; salvation and eternal life in Christ (Romans 10:9). Now that's a real, genuine feeling of clean!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In A Word: Training

Today I watched a repairman from the glass company replace the front windshield of my truck. A small rock hit the windshield last week and slowly began to form a crack the size of a credit card over the weekend. It was a pain to get the windshield replaced, but thankfully it’s free in this state and after a few miscommunications the repairman showed up and switched it out for a new one. It looked as good as new once he was finished. I said as much and he jokingly replied that he had just read the instructions before coming over. Yeah right! A job like that takes a lot of precision, a steady hand, and of course training.

I realized the same goes into anything we commit ourselves to in life. We’ve each been gifted with a spiritual gift from God. Some of us write, sing, play an instrument, speak across the country, preach, pray continuously, raise children, teach and so on. No matter which strength we possess, God has equipped us and trained us to carry out the specific role in life.  For instance, no one just gets up one day, decides to teach, and then stops by the local school and starts randomly teaching a class. God first plants the desire in our heart and then directs our way through situations in life that allow us to grow in our passion for that role.

What matters to us matters to God. The enemy spends a lot of time trying to make us think that God is this almighty being that is out to get us or strike us with lightning when we’ve done wrong, but that just isn’t true. God loves us and He goes to extreme measures to show us that love. He sent His Son to die in our place so that we could have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Not only that, but when Christ left, He gave us the Holy Spirit (His Spirit) to live within us so that we would constantly have an intercessor to pray on our behalf, direct our path, and give us comfort. God provides for all our needs and that includes the training we need to walk through this life for His glory. What an honor it is to call Him Father! What a blessed people we are to be cared for in such a loving and complete way!

Monday, March 21, 2011

In A Word: Spring

Spring 2011 is officially here! I am so excited! I love Spring with its cool mornings, warm afternoons with little humidity, and its peaceful evenings and extra hour of daylight! Spring is that brief time between winter and summer that (like fall) is absolutely perfect temperature wise!

Spring is also a wonderful time to be outdoors. Walking in the mornings and afternoons gives me time to dwell on God and allow Him to bring to mind His Word for the day. Psalm 121 (my mother's favorite verses) often comes to mind with its beautiful description of God's presence and strength. Verses one and two says, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."

I remember taking horseback riding lessons as a kid in junior high. We were taught to ride with our backs straight, heads held high, and eyes looking straight ahead. On one occasion I fell from the horse and was a little shaky getting back on and trying again. My instructor reminded me to keep my head up and my eyes forward. As soon as I looked up, I caught site of the beautiful, green tree line in the distance. Spring was just getting started and the trees that were once bare, we're now bursting forth with color and life. By looking up to the hills (in this case the trees), I was reminded that my help and strength comes from the Lord and not myself. I was able to ride with confidence knowing the Lord was with me. Even to this day when I go walking, bike riding, or occasionally horseback riding, I look to the horizon for that assurance that God is with me and will provide all that I need.

Verses five and six also find their way into my thoughts often. These verses state, "The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day..." Spring brings us all out doors more, but the bright sun often drives us back inside much earlier than we wish. It is such a relief to find cool shade under a nice, lush, green tree! We can enjoy more time outdoors without getting too hot. What a beautiful blessing to know that God looks out for us in this small yet powerful way! The same is true in life. When we find ourselves under pressure and feel the burn of the demands of the day, we can seek our Father's help and find cool, refreshing relief in the shade of His presence.

The whole chapter of Psalm 121 (click on link to read) is only eight verses, but they are eight verses filled with powerful words of encouragement and comfort. It is a delight to read the loving words of the Father. Keep these verses close this spring and always and may the Lord "preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore" (Psalm 121:8).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In A Word: Encourage

We live in a world filled with things that rob us of our joy. An unkind word from a friend, rude drivers cutting us off on the road, co-workers making fun of us or putting us down, financial woes, poor health and the list goes on. It's the enemy's way of pulling our eyes and minds off the Father and leading us straight into the pit of despair.

Peter warns us to be on guard of such things. He tells us in I Peter 5:8 to "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour"  (I Peter 5:8). When we find ourselves faced with discouraging circumstances, one of the quickest ways to overcome is to be encouraged. I Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..."

Think about a time when hope seemed lost and courage and strength were all but present. How did we ever move away from such a time of self pity and depression? We most likely received a word of encouragement from a friend or family member. Someone made us laugh. Someone reminded us of all that we have accomplished in life and all that God still has in store for us. Someone took the time to sit with us, tell us that life isn't fair, but God is and we can move on in His strength. Someone took the time to encourage us.

Moses had Aaron by his side when speaking to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt. King Saul had David to soothe and encourage with the music from his harp. The disciples had Jesus and one another. When they were sent out into the world after Christ's ascension, they were sent in pairs so that they were never alone. Above all, each and everyone of us have God on our side. He is our "strength and shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me" (Psalm 28:7). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). He is our encourager!

The next time we feel ourselves coming down with a case of the blues, remember to reach out and ask for help and allow the encouraging words of God and His people to flow through. The same can be said when we see a friend facing a time of sadness and despair. We may not be able to physically remove the suffering or the cause, but we can be available to encourage and walk alongside them. Let us join together as we reach out and encourage one another! "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In A Word: Purity

In a about a week I'll be taking part in a middle and high school girl's purity retreat. I've been asked to be a group leader as well as speak to the girls during one of the evening sessions. I've been thinking over and over in my mind just what I should talk about and how I should handle questions and issues that the group might bring up during the retreat. One thing that has stuck out in my mind the most is the fact that staying pure is not limited to abstinence until marriage. Staying pure for God means staying pure in body, spirit, and mind.

Growing up, my Sunday School class used to sing a song that goes like this:

 "Oh be careful little hands what you do, 
Oh be careful little hands what you do, 
for the Father up above 
is looking down with love, 
so be careful little hands what you do."

Each verse of the song covers a different area of life in need of caution. The rest of the verses are as follows:

"Oh be careful little eyes what you see..."
"Oh be careful little ears what you hear..."
"Oh be careful little feet where you go..."
"Oh be careful little mouth what you say..."

I remember singing this song with its catchy tune and little hand motions every Sunday morning. At the time, I don't think I realized just how important this song would be years down the road. As far as I was concerned, I shouldn't hit my brother or sister (hands), I shouldn't watch grown up movies (eyes) or listen to people fighting and swearing (ears), I should stay away from bad people (feet), and I definitely should not talk back to my parents (mouth).

This simple children's song, however, carries of a lot of protection with it for the teenage years on into adulthood. If we're honest, not a day goes by (no matter our age) where we're not bombarded with all kinds of temptations that lead to nothing but death and destruction to the body. It's up to us to stand against these forces and choose to be pure for God. Remember, our "bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in us, whom we have received from God. We are not our own; we were bought at a price. Therefore we are to honor God with our bodies" (I Corinthians 6:19-20 paraphrased).

Being pure is being aware and prepared for the dangers that are constantly lurking around us. Being pure is not giving in to the temptation to click on the Internet site leading to adult content. It's learning to flip the television to another channel when we realize the "family" move we're watching isn't so family oriented. Being pure is knowing how to say no when pressured into having a sexual relationship with the significant other despite the idea that "everyone is doing it." Since when did Hollywood become everyone? Being pure is choosing the child-safe checkout line at the grocery store to avoid magazines featuring unrealistically thin men and women. There's not a quicker way to pull us down and steer us towards drastic and damaging eating habits than to be made to feel ugly and worthless by a magazine cover featuring a model that has been air brushed too many times to count. 

Honoring God with our body and treating it like the temple it is means to remain pure in every area of life. Keep the eyes focused on the presence of God in all circumstances. Tune the ears into songs of praise and the still small voice of the loving Father. Walk in the light of His path towards events and activities that are pleasing to Him. Speak the Word of Truth and fill the mouth with praise to the King. Lift hands in activities of service to others. Lift hands in praise. Lift hands into the hands of the Father. Above all, keep singing the words of the song above. They are words of warning and words of guidance; words to live by.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In A Word: If

If is such a strong word and it would seem that it has been a common word for me all week. Today in particularly had a few "what if" moments. I was out walking my dog and we came upon a baby squirrel. He must have been at least a month old. He looked strong and healthy, but definitely lost. He was crying for his mama. I didn't see any sign of a nest or his family. I wanted to help him, but I wasn't sure how. Before I could decide what to do, a friend came up and started talking. I was distracted for a moment and suddenly a cat lunged out of the bushes, grabbed the squirrel and ran off with him. I couldn't go after the cat. I couldn't stop him. The person I was talking with made the comment that "at least squirrels multiply quickly" meaning the loss wouldn't be felt in the squirrel population. I know he meant well and he was probably right, but I was devastated (obviously I have a huge heart for animals). I couldn't help thinking what if I had just picked the baby squirrel up or what if I had just kept an eye on him instead of letting him wander near those bushes. Why didn't I know the cat was there? Why couldn't I have done anything? He was right there. I could've saved him.

Later this evening, I called to talk to my mom and found out that my sister's dog is sick most likely because he ate some not so healthy treats when he was at my house. Again, I felt the load of guilt on my shoulders and the familiar "what if" question came to mind. What if I hadn't let him eat my dog's food? What if I had decided not to give him those treats? What if I would have known that he couldn't stomach my dog's food and snacks? He wanted to come and spend the day with me. Why didn't I do a better job taking care of him? What if I had just not fed him at all then he wouldn't be sick right now. And the "what if" questions went on.

You're probably thinking, good grief, get over it. Life happens and life will continue on. The squirrel was a chance encounter that couldn't be helped. Feeding the dog treats that didn't sit well with his digestive system was an accident. Learn from it and keep going. And I totally agree with that thought. It's true. I can't just sit around and contemplate the "what if" scenarios, but we all do it, don't we? Something happens in life that we feel just sick with regret or guilt and instead of picking up the pieces we stand still and think "what if."  Well, here's a "what if" that we all need to apply the next time we find ourselves wrapped in pain, agony, guilt, and everything else that goes with it.

What if we stopped and talked it over with God? What if, instead of thinking what could've been, we stop and talk to God about what was and what is. He knows us better than we know ourselves. What matters to us matters to Him and He understands the hurt and pain we feel in situations like the ones above. He also sees the whole picture and knows that even though the situation feels like a crisis, it doesn't have to turn into one. If we let Him, God will give us the comfort and understanding we need to overcome the circumstance, learn from it, and move forward. If there is a confession to be made, then we need to simply make it. Seek forgiveness and strength to move on. After all, no matter how many "what if" scenarios we come up with, we'll always be stuck with the one that was already played out. We can't change it, but we can learn from it. This blog is a testimony to just that. Am I still going to be sad about the squirrel and the dog? Probably for a while until my animal loving heart can let it go. Am I going to lose sleep over asking the "what ifs"? No. I've given it over to God. I've released it through this blog and now I'm moving on to something else. Are there any "what if" situations you need to give over to God?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In A Word: Silence

We live in a world full of noise. Air conditioners running, light bulbs buzzing, sirens blaring, automobiles roaring down the street, horns honking, radios playing, alarms sounding, and phones ringing. Don't forget all of the endless talking, babies crying, children laughing, whispering, singing, and shouting. And then there's the mental noises of self talk, anxious thoughts, and even that catchy tune that refuses to stop going through our mind over and over again. It's no wonder we find it so hard to sit still and be silent before God. Everything around us and within us is moving at a non-stop and very noisy pace. There's no silence, yet silence is exactly what the Lord asks from each of us.

In Psalm 46:10 God commands us to be still and know that He is God. It takes us taking our eyes off of ourselves and tuning our ears to God to truly hear from Him. We can try to read His Word in a quick five minutes in between getting ready for work and getting out the door, but we won't hear from Him. Our minds are too busy calculating the day's work and going over next week's schedule. Sure God is speaking, but in the middle of all that noise we end up missing His message to us.

In Psalm 62:1 David writes "My soul waits in silence for God only..." A few verses down in Psalm 62:5-6, he adds, "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken." And in Isaiah 30:15, the prophet Isaiah states, "For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 'In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.'"

Years ago one of the movie theater chains began each movie with a reminder to audiences that "Silence is Golden" in an effort to keep the noise level down throughout the movie. For once, the movie business was right. Silence is golden because it's in the silent moments that we are able to glean the precious wisdom and strength that our Heavenly Father is so anxiously ready to shower upon us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In A Word: Chosen

Red Rover. It's the classic children's game where players are divided into two teams forming two distinct lines facing one another. Players stand shoulder to shoulder either holding hands or interlocking arms together to form an unbreakable barrier. The game starts with one team chanting the rhyme of "Red rover, red rover, send (insert name here) right over." The player whose name is called leaves the line and runs directly into the line of the opposing team. The point is to break through the line/barrier. If the barrier is broken then the player returns to his/her own team bringing back an opponent as a prize. If the line is not broken, then the player must join the opponents' line. The team with the most members at the end of the game wins.

Looking back, it's obvious that the game was centered a lot around the concept of being chosen. Before the game even started team captains would be chosen. From there, team captains would commence in choosing players to join their team. Kids would often jump up and down yelling, "Me, me, pick me!" Everyone wanted to be chosen first; no one wanted to be chosen last. To be chosen first was a great honor and usually meant the player was well liked. To be chosen last was not to be chosen at all. It meant team membership by default, which was as good as being told, "We'll take you, but it's not because we want you." Once the game started, there were more opportunities to be chosen. The player called to run to the other side was usually called because the opposing team either wanted the player for their own or they knew the player wouldn't be strong enough to break through the line. It was either honor or insult. Everyone wanted to be called just as much as they didn't.

Obviously, when we're old enough to analyze the game that much then we're probably too old to play the game, but sometimes it's not up to us. Life is filled with times when all we really want is to be recognized for our strengths and not our weaknesses. We want to be chosen or as it might be called "promoted," "elected," "appointed," or "hired." We crave acceptance and understanding and when we seek it from the world's standards, we're in for disappointment. We may be chosen to run over to the other side, but we're unable to break through. We join the team (the firm, the class, the group) and before long we become just like everyone else. Nothing special. A member by default and not by choice.

That's kind of depressing, isn't it? That's what life feels like when that's all we hang on to. But there is so much more to life than that. God says we are His "chosen people, holy and dearly loved" (Colossians 3:12). God looks past our weaknesses and even what we call our strengths and sees us for who He created us to be; His beloved sons and daughters. There's no "come on over to this side and see if you can make it." He knows we can't. Apart from His strength, we can do nothing. We are the sheep in need of a shepherd and He is that shepherd; ready and able to lead us (Psalm 23, John 10).

In the New International Version of the Bible, the passage in Colossians 3 is titled "Living as Those Made Alive in Christ." God has called us into His family. We are a royal people; a people covered in sin yet washed clean by the blood of Christ. We "have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the Spirit of adoption ...we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs...and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:15-17). We have been chosen to be part of an incredible family. Let's start living like those who've been made alive in Christ!
"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts" (Colorssians 3:16-).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In A Word: Come

The word "come" may seem like a simple four letter word, but it holds a powerful punch behind it. With this word, Jesus changed the lives of twelve ordinary men. One day they were going about their business and the next they left it all behind to follow Christ. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you to fish for people" (Mark 1:17). "Come and see," and they followed him (John 1:37).

When the invitation to "come" was pronounced, a dead man was brought back to life. "Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go" (John 11:43-44).

Relief and refreshment filled those who took heed of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). And the laughter of children filled the air when Jesus announced, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Mark 10:14). 

Death lost its victory when Christ came forth from the tomb. The angel of the Lord delivered the exciting news to the women on that Easter morning declaring, "Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee" (Matthew 28:6-7).

The invitation to come is given, but it is up to the one invited to take the next step and follow. There are times in our own lives when we feel the Lord calling us to come to Him in service and commitment, but we hold back out of fear. Remember those who heeded the invitation to come and the life in Christ that followed. Confess the hesitancy and ask for the courage to step forward in faith and trust. God will be with us every step of the way. "Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men" (Psalm 66:5).

Monday, March 14, 2011

In A Word: Diet

Spring is on it's way and for some has already made an appearance. Along with spring is the arrival of swimsuits, shorts, tank tops, sandals and all of the other clothing and apparel associated with the season. Weight loss commercials and ads centered around dieting have also resurfaced across the Internet and on television. No one wants to jump into spring still carrying the extra pounds of winter. So it's no wonder that today's In A Word theme would be centered around the word diet. But it's not what we think about diets that matters, it's what we don't think that makes a world of difference.

True, most of us associate the word diet with weight loss, but how many of us realize that diet should also be associated with "habitual nourishment"? Strange, yes, especially when it's commonly thought that diet is about cutting back on food not promoting it. Yet the true meaning behind this intimidating four letter word is to promote weight loss (keyword "promote") by establishing routine and nourishing eating habits. There's no hidden message behind the word to drop 20 pounds in 20 days. There's no ulterior motive pushing people to drop weight by dropping food. There's only the promotion of healthy eating. If we want to look good this spring, we need to watch how we eat by only filling our stomachs with nourishing food on a regular basis. Eating on a schedule keeps us from getting hungry and anxiously eating everything in sight in an attempt to satisfy the stomach pains and shakes associated with hunger. This is what diet is all about and it's not just for the physical body. Diet and dieting is a great habit to form when it comes to routinely nourishing the spiritual body as well.

Feeding ourselves with routine servings of God's Word is a healthy way to nourish our souls and keep ourselves energized and ready to serve. If we were to diet on God's word with the usual idea of dieting in mind, we'd be cutting back on how much we take in every day. We would be spiritually starving ourselves and would most likely find a deep depression lurking in our minds. But with light shed on the real meaning behind diet, we understand that in order to promote and experience a healthy spiritual weight, we must commit to reading God's Word regularly. Routine feedings will help us overcome fear, worry, trials and hardships. We'll have the nourishment and the know how to stand against anything the enemy tries to send our way.

Diet and dieting is not a word to cringe at or fear, but instead a healthy reminder to promote physical and spiritual eating habits on a routine basis. When we're nourished regularly then we can serve regularly. We'll be on top of the game filled physically and spiritually by routine doses of nourishing foods.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In A Word: Humor

My pastor started off this morning's Sunday service with an introduction to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; the three men that refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar (Neb-a-cun-nez-er) and were thrown into the fiery furnace. Instead of just reading the story straight through from scripture, my pastor invited the drama team to come on stage and give a visual account while he narrated. As three teens walked on stage dressed in ancient garb, I assumed we were about to watch a serious re-enactment of the events from Daniel chapter 3. I knew something was amiss, however, when King Nebuchadnezzar marched into the sanctuary to an all too familiar Star Wars theme. (I will definitely e-mail and post the sermon's online link as soon as its posted!)

The team was absolutely hilarious in their portrayal of the story. From the King messing up the names and calling the men something along the lines of Shoe Rack, Radio Shack, and Tobacco to the fiery furnace that ended up in the Baptistry (all in good fun I assure you!), the drama team had the entire congregation's full attention! Sure, it had its pop culture thrown in here and there, but the main theme of the story was there. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to deny the living God and bow to King Nebuchadnezzar. They were thrown into the fiery furnace, but instead of burning, they were kept from harm and joined by a fourth person (the Son of God). In the end, King Nebuchadnezzar threw out the decree to bow to him and insisted that all follow the true living God.

I love it when we can throw in some humor and put a smile on the face of others. We go to church to learn and grow, but must we look so glum about it? I can assure you, this morning's church congregation was all smiles and laughter as well as all ears to the important message of God's presence in the midst of our trials and sufferings.  

Humor definitely has a place and time and when used in a meaningful way, it has quite an effect on the audience. In fact, describing this humorous re-enactment was a great way to re-tell the story to my family. My twelve year old niece was cracking up! Try to find some ways to add a little God pleasing humor into the week and see what happens. Who knows, we might just put a smile on someone's face and a word of encouragement in their heart!

This blog post is part of the Seeking Virtue Sunday Blog Hop!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In A Word: Question

My cousin went to a job interview recently and was asked the following question: "If you could have dinner with anyone (living or dead) who would it be?" Apparently this is a clever and fun way to gain personal insight into the mind of the job candidate. I asked myself the same question, wondering what the answer might reveal about me. My answers varied from authors and songwriters to missionaries and people of the Bible.

Literary writers such as Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Charles Dickens came to mind as well as contemporary writers including E.B. White, Janette Oke, Max Lucado, Andy Stanley and Sarah Young. All of these writers found their voice and learned to put their thoughts into written words for hundreds of thousands to read.

Missionaries and famous songwriters were also at the top of the list, including: William Carey, Amy Carmichael, and Gladys Aylward. They each felt the Lord calling them to serve Him not only with their lives, but also in foreign and dangerous lands they had only read about.

Singer/songwriters of old such as John Newton (Amazing Grace), Fanny Crosby (Blessed Assurance), and Mahalia Jackson (known as The Queen of Gospel) also found strength in the Lord to overcome their circumstances and give praise and thanks as they walked through life's trials.

Heroes of the faith such as King David, the twelve disciples, and the apostle Paul were very much regular every day people, yet they had a remarkable willingness to obey and be used by the Lord in great ways. They shared their faith through the success and failures they faced in life and gave all glory to God in doing so.

And then, there's my own family members that I'd like to meet or see again. Great-grandparents I never knew. My grandfather's mother whom I discovered I bear a great resemblance to. My grandma and great-grandma because I miss sharing the latest news in my life and seeing their smiles and hearing their words of congratulations as well as encouragement. They had such a wealth of knowledge in their hearts and minds and I miss gleaning gems of wisdom from each of them!

I soon realized the main reason I chose the people I did was because of the trials they faced in life and the way they overcame obstacles by putting their trust and faith in the Lord. I wanted to learn from them. This brought about a new question. Would anyone choose me as a person of interest to dine with?

I've been through trials and hardships, but has the way I've handled them and the way I've learned to lean on God been reflected to others? Have I done a good job of telling others that while my life on the outside looks great, on the inside it's falling apart and it if it were not for the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ I would be nothing. Is my life one that stands out and lights the world around me in a way that will change the lives of others? Would someone choose me as the one to sit down and talk with over dinner? Would someone choose you?