Smiling at the future :-)

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Proverbs 31:25

Today as I was reading through the last Proverb, I couldn’t help but smile when I read this. Each time I read about this woman depending on what is going on in my life, some verse stands out. Today, this was the one. Especially the second half. It says the Proverbs 31 woman smiles at the future.

Now back in Bible times, a woman had little worth or value. Women were not seen as important and had no rights in and of themselves. You remember the story of Ruth, when her husband died she was at the mercy of those who would leave grain behind in their fields for the widows and poor. Yet, here we find a woman during this same time period saying she smiles at the future. That in and of itself is striking yet because of the place of unknown the Lord has our family in, this strikes me in particular.

As I read this I had to wonder how could she say this? How could this woman smile at her future, which was unknown? I believe the reason she could smile at her future is the simple fact that she knew her future was in the hands of the Lord. This woman was a woman of God, who sought to love the Lord and serve Him. Based on this we know that she too trusted in the Lord. Therefore, she smiled at the future, though she did not know what the future held, what would happen if her husband died or if something happened to her kids. She had no clue, but she knew God was in control. She smiled at the future knowing that whatever happened it was for her good, to make her more like Jesus and was part of His plan for her life. She knew she could trust Him and that whatever happened His grace was sufficient.

This same truth applies to us today. We can smile at the future, because God is in control. We can smile at the future because God knows the plans and purposes He has for our lives and He will bring them to pass. We can smile at the future because His grace is sufficient for whatever He has. We can smile at the future because no matter what He is with us. We can smile at the future because we know what He has is better than anything we could choose. We can smile at the future because He is God.

This verse comes at a time in my life, when our families future is unknown. We believe we know what God has called us to do, but we don’t know exactly how He will bring it about or when He will bring it about. Yet, despite all of this we can smile because we do know who is in control. We can smile because we know that despite how impossible it all seems, nothing is impossible for the Lord. We can smile because we know His plans are for our good and are to make us more like Jesus. We smile at the future because we know we can trust Him.

No matter what is going on in your life, you too can smile at the future, because no matter what God is in control and you can trust Him.

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Worth it all

The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.” Mathew 13:44

What is Jesus really worth to you? What are you willing to do, give up or even go for His glory? In many countries around the world, becoming a Christian means risking your very life. It could mean being disowned by your family, loosing your job or as previously stated, it could mean years of torture or death. This is so hard for us to get our minds wrapped around here in America. Here most of us have countless copies of God‘s Word, many which collect dust upon the bookshelves. In some countries they still do not have the Bible written in their language and in many places such as China, Iran, and North Korea there are not enough copies available to those who want one. Recently I read a story of a group of pastors in China. A missionary was meeting with these men and one day he came upon them tearing up the Bible and he rushed in asking what are you doing? These men turned to him and replied that many of them did not have their own copy of God’s Word, so they were taking the Bible and tearing it apart book by book, so that each man could take a book with him when he returned to his village so he could preach it to his people. (The Insanity of God by: Nik Ripken) Amazing isn’t it, here many of us take God’s Word for granted, while in other places people are willing to die for the same Book.

In “The Insanity of God“,  I read countless stories and testimonies of Christians around the globe who were willing to risk it all and endure persecution out of their love for the Lord. You can’t help but read such testimonies and began to question your own endurance, your own committment and belief in the Lord. You read such testimonies and see the hand of the Lord moving and working in mighty ways and if your like me, you want to see that same thing in your own life.

Yet, in the above parable, we find that Jesus tells us that He is worth it all. I love the picture this parable brings to mind. Picture with me you are out in a field one day with your shovel digging. I know for some of us, this is quite hard to picture, but keep trying. So, here you are and as you are working and dumping mud, grass, and rocks into a pile, all of a sudden you strike not only gold, but you find diamond, rubies, sapphires and more. You can’t believe it and you look over you shoulder and all around you to see if anyone is watching, if anyone else has seen the hidden treasures you have found. When your sure, you are safe, you fill the hole back in, making sure it looks undisturbed and you set off for home. Once you get home, you began selling everything you own, you sale your house, your furniture, your car, everything you have. Most everyone you know thinks you are crazy or insane. Yet, you just smile and think oh if they only knew. Once you have sold everything, given up all you have, you take the money and you go and buy the field that is full of gold, diamonds and more. Why? Because you know that field is worth far more than anything you had. You know the treasures you have found far outweigh the things you once treasured.

Jesus makes it clear that this hidden treasure is the Kingdom of God. He lets us know that it is worth it all. He is worth it all. Nothing we have or hold dear compares to the riches we have in Christ. Nothing He ever ask you to give up or endure begins to compare with His kingdom and living for Him.

So, as you get this picture in your mind, you began to understand why so many Christians around the world are willing to endure, they are willing to give up everything, to go to the ends of the earth and even to die for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is worth it! He’s worth whatever He ask of you and you don’t have to fear, for He knows better than you what you need and is fully able to bless you above what you could ever ask or imagine.

I’m sure there are many who think our family is crazy, they wonder at what we are thinking. Yet, we are convinced that Jesus is worth it all. If He wants us to wait and live with my family, He’s worth the wait. If He wants us to sell our possessions to raise money to go overseas, He’s worth it. If He wants us to move to Timbuktu, He’s worth it. Nothing we have compares and it’s our desire for all to understand this truth.

Now, before you think well, they do this because they are someone special. Let me be the first to tell  you we are not. We are no different from you, just ordinary people who serve and love an extraordinary God, who is worth it all!

When it seems the Lord is sleeping….

Have you ever felt the Lord was asleep. That He didn’t care, that He was oblivious to your situation? I’m sure if we are all honest, there are times when we have all felt this way. Times when we are walking through the wilderness, times of grief, times when we pray and pray and find no answer. At such times, it feels as if the Lord must be sleeping, that He must not care.

Whenever I feel this way, I am reminded how the disciples too felt this way one time. In Mark  4:35-41 it says,

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Here in this passage we find the disciples in a boat with Jesus. They have been walking with Him and have seen Him do great miracles. As they are on their way to the other side a horrible storm overtakes them. Imagine with me being out in a fishing type boat, when a furious storm comes upon you. I’m talking hurricane winds, down pouring rain and waves that threaten to overturn your boat. Can you picture it? So, the disciples are busy probably dumping out the water that continues to pour into their boat. They are most likely readjusting the sails on the boat and doing everything in their power to get to dry land. When all of a sudden they look to the back of the boat and there they find Jesus sound asleep! Now I don’t know about you, but if I were one of the disciples I think I would have been a bit upset. Here they are working furiously to keep from being dumped into the lake and Jesus is fast asleep. So what do they do, they do what any of us would have done, they wake him up. Not only do they wake him up they ask him how can you be asleep, don’t you care that we are about to die?? At this, Jesus gets up, turns and speaks to the wind and the waves, telling them to be quiet and to be still. And guess what, they listen and immediately the wind is calm and the sea is like glass. Then he turns to the disciples and ask them why they are afraid and questions their faith. The disciples were at a loss for words and they wondered who is this Jesus?

There are numerous truths we can find from this passage that can help us when it seems the Lord is asleep. Number one, we must never forget that we are not alone, Jesus is with us. If you look back at the first of the passage you will see that they weren’t alone in the boat, Jesus was with them. No matter what storm you are going through, remember you are not alone, He is there. For He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).” Next, we must not forget who we serve. Here we see that the disciples truly didn’t understand who Jesus was. They had seen him do miracles, they had seen him heal and help others, but this time it was personal.  And though they had seen him do great things, they did not recognize that He was God. They did not believe that He could save them, they definitely did not know He could speak to the winds and the waves and that they would obey. What I have found is that when I feel like God doesn’t care, when I’m afraid because of the storm I’m in, most generally it is because I have forgotten whom I serve. I have limited His power. I think my situation must be too much for Him and neglect the fact that nothing is impossible for Him. We must not forget who we serve. He is Lord God Almighty and nothing is too difficult for Him, nor impossible. Your problem, your situation doesn’t take him by surprise and it’s not too much for Him to handle. Third, we must not give into believing lies. Not only had the disciples failed to believe who Jesus was, they also were believing lies. For when they woke Jesus up, the first thing they said was, “Don’t you care?” I have found this is a slippery slope that is entirely easy to slide into. When I have been praying and seeking the Lord’s help and yet the storm still rages on, it is so easy to base my thoughts on how I feel. My head may know the truth, but my heart says, it sure feels like He doesn’t care. It sure feels like He has forsaken us. It sure feels like we are alone. If I’m not careful and I begin to think what I feel, before long the enemy has won and the lies consume me.  Whatever you are going through, God know and He does care. You aren’t alone, He has not forsaken you. For the Scripture tells us that we are to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (I Peter 5:7).”  Finally, we must keep the faith. After calming the winds and the waves Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith. This too describes me when I believe the Lord is sleeping and doesn’t care. The reason I feel this way is because my faith is gone and in place of faith doubt has set in. This is that slippery slope I was referring too, believing lies starts small, but before long if we dwell on these untruths we will like the disciples find our faith replaced with doubt.

So, what do we do when it seems the Lord is sleeping? What do we do when we have been praying and praying and it seems the Lord doesn’t care or that our situation is too much? I have discovered when I feel this way, when I am given to despair, I must pray all the more. I must be in the Word more and more. I must repeat again and again the truths of God’s Word until it overcomes the lies and doubt. I read yesterday in Psalm 27 and this is what David says. “I would have despaired unless I had believed….(Ps. 27:13).”  You will be given to despair, you will fall into doubt and believe lies if you do not believe God for who He is and what the Scriptures say. So I encourage you and myself, when these thoughts arise, when feelings seem to be doing battle with truth, get in the Word, read it aloud, pray it again and again until the doubt are gone. The Lord never promised following Him would be easy, in fact He told us to expect hard times. So, when the storms rage and your feelings are prone to stray from the truth, remember you are not alone, your situation is not too difficult for the Lord, cast out the lies and stand on the truth and keep believing whatever it takes. You will make it to the other side just as the disciples did. Press on He does care and our God neither slumbers or sleeps!

 

Seek Him First

As the New Year has come my greatest desire for this Year it to “Know Him and make Him known.” Yet, even in the few weeks that have passed, I’m finding this not as easy as it sounds. There are so many daily needs to be met, there are so many distractions and even just good old laziness that have been obstacles to be faced. The other day I came across a verse written by David. Like many of the Psalms, this was written while on the run and in hiding, this time from his own son Absalom who wanted to be king. It says: “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 (Ps. 63:1).” (emphasis added) At first I was struck by the fact David was seeking the Lord, thinking He was seeking Him for help, for an answer, for direction. Yet, as I continued to read it again and again, I realized how wrong my assumption was. David doesn’t say he earnestly seeks help, he thirst for an answer, or longs for direction. What he says and what you find as you read further in the Psalm is that he earnestly seeks GOD, that he thirsts for the LORD, that He longs for HIM. I was both amazed and convicted.

How often do I come to God just because I need help, because I want something, desiring direction or wisdom? How often do I come to God just because I want and long for HIM. To be honest the first outnumber the second more than I”d like to admit. Now just to clarify, coming to God when you need help, because you have a need, wanting His wisdom in making a decision or looking to Him for guidance are all fine. I believe they are good and that the Scripture teaches us to do these things. However, if all we ever do is come to Him for such things and miss out on coming to Him just to draw close to Him, I’m afraid we miss out.

David understood this, Paul understood this and countless others. They knew that what was most important was knowing Him and that this was done only when they sought Him. David could have asked for countless things and he had numerous needs and problems, yet his greatest desire and longing of His heart was to know the Lord and to seek after Him.

This past week another theme verse that God has reminded me of again and again is, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you (Mathew 6:33).”  Though David had not heard this verse before, He got it and understood its truth. He believed that if he sought the Lord and the things of the Lord, then the Lord would care for everything else.

The Lord has been asking me this week again and again, what am I seeking? Am I seeking answers, solutions to problems, stuff, or am I seeking Him? Do I believe and do I trust that as I seek Him and seek to know Him, that He will take care of the rest? I am indeed a work in progress, yet I desire to seek Him, to know Him deeply, to experience His presence.

How about you? What are you seeking first?

A matter of perspective

It has just been one of those days. Days when my feelings and emotions have been greater than my faith and trust. Days when I have just wanted to crawl back in bed and forget all the problems. Days when I have questioned the Lord and not understood His ways. Easy to see, it hasn’t been the greatest of days.

During lunch break for home school, after getting the kids situated and fed, I went to spend some alone time with the Lord. And to be just plain honest, I sat and cried. I take comfort in the fact that David, Habakkuk and others too cried out to the Lord during hard times. So, as I sat and prayed the Lord brought some thoughts to mind. First I was reminded that regardless of how I feel and regardless of my circumstances He is worthy of my praise. As I began to think on Him and praise Him for who He is and His numerous blessings, though my feelings and troubles were still present,  they didn’t seem so bad.

Second the Lord brought to mind a verse from Psalms, that says, “Why are you downcast o my soul, put your hope in God (Ps. 42:5).” As I pondered this verse my fleshly response was, what hope, for right now our situation feels hopeless. Yet, the Lord was quick to rebuke such thoughts and remind me that because I know Him as my Lord and Savior I do have the greatest hope, the hope of salvation and eternal life. This past week the kids and I have been praying for the countries of South Asia, and the millions who do not know Jesus, some who have never heard. In the midst of my pity party feeling as if I have no hope, I was reminded that these are the ones and there are countless others who do not have any hope. Many of these live in difficult situations and face countless trials, yet when discouraged they don’t have God’s Word or prayer to turn to because they do not know Jesus. Then the Lord brought to mind those who have recently lost loved ones, ones whose children were killed in the school shooting. Those who have lost jobs and have no place to live, no idea of how to feed their families.

As these thoughts and truths filtered through my mind, I realized that truthfully I don’t have it so bad. Honesty, I am blessed. For the Lord in His infinite mercy has opened my eyes to His great salvation. He has saved me and called me. I am blessed. I have the ability to go to church and worship the Lord openly and without fear, I am blessed. I have God’s Word that I can read at anytime and anywhere, I am blessed. I have a godly husband who desires to serve the Lord, I am blessed. I have 3 beautiful children who are healthy, I am blessed. I have a wonderful, loving mom and dad who are more supportive than most, I am blessed. I have a roof over my head and food to eat, I am blessed.

I’m realizing that it’s really a matter of perspective. If I want to be discouraged and depressed, I can think on what I don’t have. I can gripe and complain, which is what the enemy wants. Or, I can think on what I do have and the great God I serve and can praise Him despite it all.

We are all blessed above and beyond, let’s use our mouths to praise and adore Him.

Training for godlieness

“Train yourself to be godly.For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (I Tim. 4:7-8).

I’m not sure how many of you have ever trained for a marathon or some other athletic event. Sad to say I have not. So as I read this verse the other day I decided to look into what is involved with training for a marathon. I found a web site that listed out some steps. They said the first thing you have to do is establish your plan, decide how, when and where you will train. Next, you have to invest in the right equipment, such as running shoes and clothes. Third you need to learn how to best warm up, cool down and stretch. You should then began to examine what you eat and what you should be eating. What things to fill up on that will help you and give you the energy needed for running. Finally you need to begin running, however its best to start slow and build up your endurance. Last, stay focused and remain motivated. Training takes time and doesn’t happen over night.

In this verse Paul uses a word picture of what we are to be about as Christians. He says physical training is good and we should keep our bodies in shape and take care of ourselves. Yet, he says training for godliness is much more important, for it has lasting effects in this life and the one to come. Well as you can imagine my mind went into action to seek to understand how then are we to train to be godly? As I thought on this and examined my list of what one is to do to train for a marathon, I was struck by many good similarities.

First it is always necessary to have a good plan. How am I going to do this? What should I be doing that I’m not? I have learned it is great and needed to have a desire, yet desire and the want to are not enough. You must take action, you must have a plan and then follow it. Next as with running a marathon you need the right equipment. You need a good study Bible, a journal, good books that encourage your desire, accountability with others, the encouragement of others. Third, if you are just starting out and even for us who have been working at this awhile, you have to learn what works best for you. What things in our life build us up and help us and what things do we need to get rid of. Next we must look at the things and influences we are placing before our eyes, in our minds etc. Then we must look at what should be going in and be obedient to remove the hindrances and replace these with things that encourage our growth in godliness. We then must begin the training and journal the growth the progress as we watch the Lord transform us and grow us. And just as it is vital to stay focused and remain motivated when training for a marathon, we must also stay focused on our goal and remain motivated as well. There will be days when we will see real growth and feel close to the Lord and there will be days we fail and feel He is far away. Yet, we mustn’t give up. We must endure and press on to train for godliness. It won’t happen over night, it will take time, but the Lord will be faithful to make us more like Jesus as we seek to draw near to Him and as we pursue that which the Lord desires.

As a New Year approaches I do want to get into better physical shape and would love to train for a marathon, but more so I desire to train for godliness. For me this means setting aside  time each day to study God’s Word, to meditate on what He shows me and to pray. It means reading books which inspire and challenge my walk with Him It means getting rid of worldly influences that distract my mind and to fill my mind with that which encourages my walk with the Lord. It means staying focused even on the days when I just don’t feel like reading or I don’t feel like praying. It means pressing on daily to know Him more. I challenge you to train for godliness and let me know what things help you and what things don’t. This new year may our goals be more lofty than just loosing weight , let our goal be to know Jesus more.