Our biggest "event" of 2007 was the birth of Abigail Grace on March 19th, but we had so many other wonderful memories of this year. Here is a review of the year in pictures.
Bless you all, and may 2008 be a treasure of hope, love, and joy, filled with Christ Jesus.
Our biggest "event" of 2007 was the birth of Abigail Grace on March 19th, but we had so many other wonderful memories of this year. Here is a review of the year in pictures.
Well, this has been an exciting year! Our biggest news this year has been the birth of Abigail Grace on March 19th. As Ashley says, “Abigail is a little slice of heaven!” She has been such a blessing. The kids have loved playing with her and the girls have fast become expert diaper changers and bottle makers. It is hard to believe all the changes a baby goes through in a year. Abigail has two bottom teeth, is crawling around like crazy, says “da-da” and “ma-ma”, gives us “raspberries,” usually during the sermon on Sunday, snuggles and gives lots of hugs and kisses. She is very busy and we have nicknamed her “Grabby Abby!”
Andrew loves middle school, and is doing great. He enjoys his friends and is active with Scouts, confirmation, and vocal at school. Ashley loves 3rd grade. She loved singing at her school concert, is an avid reader, and loves to draw and write. The highlight of her year has been receiving her 3rd grade bible at church. Aly is having fun in 1st grade. She has developed quite a sense of humor. Andrew and Aaron are funny clowns, but Aly has a dry sense of humor. When Brian and I were kissing in the kitchen, Aly rolled her eyes, saying, “He-lloooo! Still in the room!” Both girls are also playing soccer. Aaron is a character. He is still a little entertainer, singing and dancing, showing us his muscles and his karate moves (don’t know where he “got” that- he has never taken karate!). His favorite movie was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!”
Brian and I are doing well, too. We gave up tent camping this summer for an air-conditioned cabin with a bathroom. I told Brian he may never get me back in a tent! We enjoyed a great baseball season with our Cubbies and looking forward to next year! I began speaking again in October at women’s retreat in Naperville. I continue to write devotions on my blog. What a blessing it has been to meet many women over this past year, sharing the love of Jesus with
Merry Christmas and a blessed 2008! May He bless you richly in this New Year! And, may the “God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The Berta Family
The other day Andrew was pondering the words of Jesus as he was enjoying some soup on a cold winter afternoon. He has been listening to the New Testament on CD and must have been “chewing” on what he had heard.
“Mom, Jesus said that we shouldn’t store up our treasures here on earth. It’s like this soup. It is sooooooo yummy and good. I love it. It’s like my treasure. But, it will disappear. I’m going to eat it and it will be gone. Like, all of our treasures here on earth will disappear. We need to store up treasures in heaven. Like, faith, Mom. Faith won’t disappear. We need to store up faith.”
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-21
This Christmas season, remember Jesus’ words. Be careful about running around looking for treasure to store up here on earth (or presents that will be thrown away by next Christmas!) Instead, focus on the REAL treasure of Christmas- Jesus Christ our Lord, the Savior of the world, Immanuel, God with us.
Father God, help me to remember this Truth! Lord, you are my treasure. Help me this Christmas season to remember that you are my treasure and my source of strength. Father, remind me, in your gentle way that the things of this world will disappear and they are not eternal. Help me to keep my eyes on the eternal and my heart on what is truly important. In Christ Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
As we begin to jump into the Christmas season, and all of the activities that surround it, I am again reminded to keep grounded on what Christmas is all about- the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the busyness, the things on all of our “to-do” lists, the shopping and entertaining…
As I catch my breath, and remind myself to slow down, God again uses “Mary and Martha” to teach me these lessons.One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Both sisters loved Jesus, and He would often come to visit them. Now Martha, the older sister, had a servant heart, but could get caught up in all of the details and become distracted by her many tasks. One day Jesus came to visit the women. Martha was preparing a meal for them while her sister, Mary, the Bible tells us, sat at the feet of Jesus. Well, as Martha was busy with all of the preparations, she allows her heart to go from serving joyfully and selflessly to getting angry that she is doing all the work alone.
As I read the story, I can picture Martha clanging the dishes, hoping to get Mary’s attention, banging the cupboard doors, and sighing loudly- you know, the “huhhhs”- expecting Mary to hear and get the hint! And, why do I think this? Probably because this is MY typical behavior when I am feeling sorry for myself in these situations!Well, Martha finally blows, and she storms in the room where Jesus and Mary are sitting, and whines, “Lord! Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Boy, do I hear my own whining voice in this story, especially at this time of year. “Lord! Don’t You care that I am doing all of the work by myself? You know? The cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the decorating, the baking… Make Brian help me!”But, Jesus is not concerned with the fancy dinner, the decorations, the fluff. He tells Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. But, only one thing is needed and Mary has chosen what is better and it won’t be taken from her.” You see, sitting at the feet of the Savior, drawing near to Him, listening to Him, being still and knowing Him- that is what is important and it won’t be taken from you. It is the “one thing” our stressed, tired spirits need! It is the “one thing” that I NEED!This Christmas, we can get caught up in shopping for the gifts, stringing the lights, decorating the tree, singing the songs, attending the parties, the details and distractions.
But, my prayer for you is that this Christmas, you will experience THE gift- the Bright and Morning Star, the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, our Hope, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, your Burden Bearer, Our Strength, and Our Salvation, Immanuel- God With Us. My gift to all of you is the message that He loves you, you are His Beloved, and that He wants to fill you with all joy and peace, both now, at Christmas time and for the rest of your life!
“May the God of all endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with ONE heart and ONE mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Christmas, this New Year, and forever, “May He bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine down upon you. May he be gracious to you and give you peace.” Amen!
Reading from the Gospels this morning, God led me to Scriptures on healing.
I have been praying for Charlie who has received an incredible healing recently. The past couple of weeks have been so hard for him and his family. Charlie has heart problems. After having an angioplasty, he suffered a stroke. Somehow he drove himself to the hospital (I am sure there were angels surrounding that car!). The doctors did not give the family hope. He was on blood thinners because of the critical condition of his arteries. The doctors said he had to be taken off of them immediately or he would suffer another stroke. The heart doctor said if they took him off the blood thinners, he would suffer a heart attack, probably killing him. The family had to make the decision of what to do. We began praying! These were prayers that resembled childbirth- crying out for a life. (Thank you all who were praying!) We knew despite what the doctors were saying, "With God, all things are possible!" Thankfully, Charlie survived being taken off of the blood thinners and we were praising God for sparing his life. Then, the next test came as Charlie's insurance was ending. Being self-employed, he was on Cobra which was going to end within days. Here he was, not able to walk, blind in one eye, facing the possibility of having to go home without any care. Again, we hit our knees, crying out for God's mercy and favor and help. Again, when doctors said it was impossible, and all "looked" hopeless, God did the impossible, (and hours of paperwork later), Charlie was able to stay in the hospital. He is recovering when doctors did not give hope that he would live!
But, the enemy is right there trying to turn victory into defeat. Charlie is suffering from depression, especially about the medical bills beginning to mount up and the possibility of paying them, feeling desperate. In a short week, praise has turned to fear. The devil is right there to steal our victory. He wants us to question and doubt and ultimately give up. He wants to steal our joy and our faith. He wants to turn our gladness to mourning........ He tries to make us doubt our miracles, question God, question our faith........ Charlie, please don't give up! Please keep your eyes on Jesus! Please continue to believe.
So many times when we see God work, when we have experienced His presence, when we experience His miracles, we walk through a trial of faith. Will we believe what we have just seen of God? We will continue to be steadfast in our faith? I am reminded of the "Transfiguration" when Peter, James, and John had their "mountain top experience." They saw Jesus in His glory! We would think their faith would be soaring! But, it is in the next chapter that they are not able drive out a demon from a boy and Jesus rebukes them for having "little faith." We don't live on the mountain top. And, we walk through the valleys. Please pray for Charlie as he continues to heal and recover. Pray especially for his faith and trust in the Great Physician. Pray that he is filled with joy, despite his circumstances. Pray that in this time as he recovers, he will fall head over heals in love with Jesus Christ.
So, as I was reading about Jesus' healings, asking God to really teach me and show me about this, He led me to the healing of Bartimaeus. This story can be found in Matthew 20, Luke 18, and Mark 10. I figured this story has to be pretty important if it is in the Gospels three times. Father, give us deep insight into Your Word today. Open our eyes to see what You want to reveal to us. Give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Bartimaeus was a blind beggar who sat outside of Jericho. Jericho- where his ancestors had experienced great miracles! Jericho- where the walls came crumbling down by the power of God's hands and the Israelites were able to defeat their enemies. Growing up, I am sure Bartimaeus had heard these stories of Jericho's walls crashing down and how great his God was and is. He knew God was powerful and able. So, when he hears Jesus is coming through town, he knows he has his chance to be healed.
As I was studying these passages, and other ones on people being healed, a few things jumped out at me about this one. First, the people following Jesus are telling Bart to be quiet when he calls out for Jesus. They don't seem to care about him being healed. This is so different from several others where FRIENDS bring someone in need of healing to Jesus. In Mark 8 another man receives healing from blindness, but his friends bring him to Jesus. But, the people in this passage don't seem to think Jesus will heal Bart. Maybe they had seen Bart so often by the side of the road, they didn't think much about him. (hmmmmmm, how many times do I see someone in need, but just pass by because I've seen him/her so often?) Maybe they didn't think Bart was worthy enough to be healed. (am I ever judgemental- questioning if a person should receive God's mercy?????) Anyway, Bart "shouts out all the more," crying for Jesus' mercy. This is why I love reading the Gospels- we get a window into the heart of Jesus. He is so loving, so merciful, so compassionate. He heals the needy, cries with Mary and Martha when Lazarus dies, touches the repulsive......... He is LOVE.
Jesus stops walking. Even though he had somewhere to go (to Jerusalem to die by the way!), he takes the time to stop. In Matthew, it says he has compassion for Bart. In Mark, Jesus, asks, "what do you want me to do?" Think about that for a moment....... You know that Jesus KNOWS what Bart wants him to do. So, why does he have Bart tell him? Because there are power in our words, my friend! Sometimes it is not enough to believe in our hearts, minds, but we need to speak it out in our words! Jesus heals him, and says, "your faith has healed you." Jesus does not always say those words when He heals. So, when He does, I take special note of it. No matter what this man had lived through, no matter the obstacles, no matter the crowds shushing him and rebuking him, he was going to look to Jesus! He was going to call out to Him! Bart had called these words, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Wow! He calls Jesus "Son of David", believing He is the Messiah, and crying out for His mercy. What is Jesus' response? First, He encourages the man's faith by having him speak what he wants Jesus to do, then He heals him!
Now, what I really love about this story is that Bart FOLLOWS Jesus. Not all of the healed do that! Some go back to their homes, to their families, praising God. But, Bart follows Jesus. Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die on the cross. I wonder if the man witnessed all of the incredible events of the next week? In Luke's account, the man follows Jesus, praising Him, and all the people saw it, also praising God. Our miracles can cause others to praise and follow Jesus!
"...I will make you (Jesus) to be a covenant for the people and a light to the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."- Isaiah 42:6-7
Father God, bless Your Name! Praise You! You teach us so much in Your Word! Lord, help me to be compassionate to others needing healing. I don't want to ever rebuke anyone for seeking Your mercy! Lord, forgive me for times I have been judgemental to others. Lord, I want to be filled with faith and belief, crying out for Your healing. Let me always confess with my words Who You are and what You can do! Help me always to remember to praise You and follow You and lead others to You! In Jesus' Name we pray! Amen!
Wow! Has God ever done a major construction project on your heart- ripping out all of the old, "yucky" stuff in order to replace it with more of Him? Has He had to do a major cleaning or purification process in your heart? Well, I have just gone through one! In the two weeks, God has asked me to major work in my heart.
One of my daily prayers is, "Lord, get my heart right. Search me and know me and show me what needs to change!" Like David, I cry out, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." But, boy, oh boy, does it hurt when He gets your heart "right."
Do you ever notice, though, that until you obey completely there is an unrest in your spirit, a lack of peace? That was what I feeling..........
It began when God called me to talk to a dear friend about living in bondage to sin. She was caught up in a very destructive sin that has an impact on her future and her children's future. I did not want to "confront" her. For anyone who knows me- I can not "do" confrontation. I do not like to "debate" as some people do! I do NOT like "lively arguments." I run from confrontations and do anything to keep the peace. But, when God calls you to do something, you can't run from Him (Jonah, case in point!). So, for a couple of days, as my stomach did flip flops when I thought about the possibility of talking to her, I was miserable. (Disobedience is miserable!) But, God is so good! We had a wonderful conversation, God gave me the words to say, full of grace, love, and mercy. He had prepared her heart and she was ready to hear the words. After our conversation, I was praising God! He is glorious! She knew that I truly was an authentic friend who loved her enough to speak up and speak Truth to her.
The next week........God again spoke to my heart with a friendship. I am a stay at home mom who sometimes gets busy with the daily tasks of taking care of a husband, a home and five children that I forget to take time to nourish friendships. Sometimes friends will invite me to do things, like go to the park with the kids or visit their home, but I will decline because of my to do list. Well, God laid a friend on my heart, and I completely cleared my schedule so that I could spend some time with her. When I was with her, she confessed she was caught in a sin- a "biggie". She had an attitude that I couldn't relate because I am "a good Christian." She knew that I had SINFUL past, but didn't think for a moment that I still struggle with it. So, God led me to share my sin with her, baring my soul and confessing all the ugliness I hide! (See "Authenticity" post) It was not to glorify sin, or to laugh it off, but to let her know that I have to have Jesus in my life EVERYDAY!
And, then, a few days ago........ One of the sins I shared with my friend was that I struggled with jealousy. Again, the lack of peace, knowing that He was calling me to confess these feelings to this woman, asking for forgiveness. At first, I thought God was asking me to do something crazy! I knew I had this "problem", and had asked God to help me in this area a few months ago. I continually compared myself to her, felt inadequate to her, and jealous in some areas. The first thing God told me to do was begin praying for her. So, I prayed for her everyday, asking God to bless her- even in the areas I was jealous of her! At first, I didn't "mean" what I was praying, and only prayed out of obedience. I would say, "By faith, God, I am praying!" And, I continued to ask Him to get MY heart right. Pretty soon, I genuinely felt the things I prayed and my heart was filled with an overflowing love for her. God is good! One day I got a card in the mail FROM HER telling me that she appreciated me and what a blessing I am! I felt great about it and thought that was over. I NEVER thought God would ask me to confess it to her!!!!!!!! I knew there was no avoiding it, that I could not ignore God's leading- I had to obey. And, when I began writing to her, I was really surprised at all that poured out from my heart. I was completely honest with her (even though it was very humbling to admit that I could be so "shallow"!) I did NOT want to admit to anyone that I could have these evil feelings in my heart! But, praise God, He works all things together for good and He is sovereign! She wrote back immediately praising God! She had been having a hard time lately and just knowing that someone had been praying for her blessed her tremendously. She was touched by my honesty and forgave me and was thankful that I shared all of it with her. And, now we both feel a wonderful love for one another (as it should be in the Body of Christ!). So, as usual, God knows best!
The "under construction" process can be hard sometimes- a little uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It can be humbling. But, afterwards there is such joy and peace!
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and your weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."- Hebrews 12:11-12
Father God, I love You! I praise You! I thank You for Your wisdom! Thank You that You will not allow any "yucky" stuff to pollute our hearts. I am reminded that You say, "Above all else to guard our hearts because they are the wellspring of life!" Thank You that my heart is so important to You and the condition of it! Thank You that You remove those things that I might not think are very important- but You know. Lord, help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ with a special love. Help me to be an authentic friend, honest with my shortcomings and failures, but also speaking Truth in love to my Beloved friends in Christ. Help me to recognize sin in my own heart and confess. Help me to confess to others, even when it is hard. I know I can only do these things by Your power and Your grace. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
OK, my head is officially SPINNING!!!!!!!
Father God, I thank You that You have given us the wonderful Counselor- the Holy Spirit- to guide us and lead us in all Truth. Father, I pray for a Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know You better. Lord, open the eyes of my heart and give me deep revelation into Your Word today.
Last week I heard a message that used a bit of the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). The message itself was on WORSHIP, and used this parable to illustrate a principle. The parable Jesus taught was that the wheat and the tares grow together and when the harvesters come, they separate the wheat from the tares. Wheat and tares look exactly the same. So, how will the harvesters know them apart? She taught that when wheat has fruit and is ready for harvest, it BOWS DOWN. Its head is heavy, and it bows low. Thus, the harvesters could tell the difference because the tares stood straight up (proud). The wheat was the ones that were bowing. This really spoke to me! (I don’t know anything about wheat or harvesting, so I am taking that “on faith” to be true!). Lord, I want to be humble before You! I don't want to be full of pride (or an ounce of pride!). I want to have a POSTURE of humble worship!
Soooooo, I had a desire to study this parable in length……..that is why my head is SPINNING!
For the past week I have been “researching” this parable, first by reading my three translations- NIV, NLT, and the Amplified. Then, I decided to go online to see what others had to say. Oh, boy! Information overload! I have been reading and rereading!
There are even several blogs NAMED “wheat and tares.” I have read essays, sermons, articles all pointing out different aspects of the parable, and their opinions. One blog used it to warn the “Religious Right” to stay out of politics, separation of church and state, blah, blah, blah, while another essay came to the conclusion that the “tares” were TV. I came to the conclusion that we can use the Scriptures to support our own “agenda,” even when there are two opposite view points! We can “twist” God’s Word around, trying to make IT support what we want to say, instead of asking God to SPEAK TO US through the Word.
So, Father, I pray that You would forgive us from using Your precious Word to “back up” our own political, social, ideological ideas. I want to come to Your Word, with an open and humble heart, asking You to teach me, God. Forgive me for the times I have used Your Word inappropriately. I want to be filled with Your Word. Your Word is LIFE! It is precious and alive. It is part of who You are! Jesus is named the Word. It is one way You speak to us. How You teach us. It is Your love letter to us. You tell us that “all Scripture is God-breathed”. Continue to teach me in Your Word, Lord! Give me discernment when reading/listening to teachers of the Word. Thank You for the Holy Spirit that leads me and guides me in all learning. Thank You that I live in a country that I can freely go to Your Word and check for myself what You say! I love You, Lord! I love You Lord! In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.
I think I will stay off the Internet when reading His Word and stay in my prayer closet!
Blessings to you all!
Grace and peace to you all in abundance! I wanted to let everyone know of mi friend, Jill's new blog. Her address is :
Jill's passion is helping women live a balanced life. Please take a few minutes to stop bi and welcome her to the wonderful world of blogging!!!
Blessings to you all!
I recently wrote a post about approaching God with thanksgiving and counting our blessings. Please see http://tracyberta.blogspot.com/2007/11/thanksgiving.html. God is working in my spirit about this attitude of gratitude and entering His gates with thanksgiving.
It is always so interesting to ask our children what they are thankful for. Sometimes you may think they will answer by naming their toys or possessions. Usually, though, the first thing kids name is their family or parents. Aaron, only four years old, named his family, friends, God, trees, his buddy Zach (which is different from his list of friends because Zach is his imaginary friend), and toys only after I prompted him. We were talking about this on the way to preschool, and as I pondered it on the way home, I wondered how we, as adults sometimes get sidetracked about our blessings. How we lose the simplicity of faith. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)
When counting our blessings, would we name our “toys” first? Should there be relationships we are thankful for, but can’t name because we have let that relationship go? Friends or family that we need to forgive or ask forgiveness from to repair that relationship? Or is there someone we need to spend time with more, nurturing that relationship? Would trees even be on our thanksgiving list?
Lord, although I want to grow in my faith, becoming mature (Hebrew, James); I want to remain simple and humble. I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to appreciate your blessings of sunrise, trees, a child’s smile… I don’t want to be sidetracked by things of the world, that distract me from You.
Lord, may we always be thankful first for You, our family and friends, relationships, then all of the wonderful blessings You have given us! I love You, Jesus!
I have been reading some of my original posts and found this gem. Touched me again....
Last night I wasn’t feeling well. In fact, our whole family is fighting off a “bug.” So, with homework finished early and supper done, we left the dishes in the sink and all got under some blankets to “snuggle buggle” and watch a movie. Lying there next to Ashley, my precious 8yr old, she looked up at me and said, “You are so beautiful, Mama.” She outlined my features and continued, “More beautiful than Miley (aka “Hannaha Montana”) or Mary Jane (Parker from Spiderman).” Now this surprised me, because I had not a stitch of make-up on and my hair was pulled back into a ponytail. (Not exactly “movie star” material!) I hugged her closer and giggled and we continued watching the movie.
But, as I was out walking this morning, God brought back that moment to my memory. What made me so beautiful to my little girl? It wasn’t the make-up or the hair or a gorgeous outfit. One of the verses I purpose in my heart to “live out” is 1Peter 3:3-4. It is my hearts’ cry that “my beauty should not come from outward adornment….Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a GENTLE and QUIET spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Gentle….a fruit of the spirit. How I long that I am gentle. That my talk is gentle (a gentle answer turns away wrath). Other words for gentle are calm, kind, and tender. I always want to be tender to my family. And, “quiet.” I look at quiet as resting in God, trusting Him. A quiet spirit…….a humble spirit…..
How I long to reflect these things. But, I feared that I had “exploded” with my children too many times for them to see me as gentle. I feared that I had said too many unkind words to be this gentle spirit. I have nagged too much… Complained too often… I feared that I had “exasperated” (Ephesians 6:4) my children too many times to be “beautiful” in God’s sight and their sight. I have a vision of what I so long to be……
But, through the sweet, gentle, kind words of my little girl, God reminded me that I am indeed beautiful in His sight. And, what a joy to a mother’s heart that her daughter would look past the physical beauty that the world espouses, traces the features of mama’s face, and calls her “beautiful.”
Father, may this be a gentle reminder to all of us that true beauty comes from a spirit who loves, follows, and trusts You. There is nothing more beautiful than a reflection of Your glorious Light. Help us, as women, Lord, to be secure and comfortable in who You have created us to be. Father, we praise You and love You. Glory to God in the highest! In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
I love the song, "Indescribable" bt Chris Tomlin. It is amazing! One of the verses proclaims God's amazing creation, "from the colors of fall...." We went on a hike a few weeks ago and as I look at the pictures, I can't help but sing this song to an amazing, indescribable God!
From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaimingIndescribable, uncontainable
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go?
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow?
Who imagined the sun and gives source to it's light,
Yet conceals it to brings us the coolness of night?
None can fathomIndescribable, uncontainable
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaimYou are amazing God
You are amazing God
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by nameYou are amazing God
All powerful, untameable
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same
You are amazing GodYou are amazing God
I love God’s Word! It refreshes my soul! God’s Word is amazing because no matter how many times you reread parts of it, it is never boring! There are a few books that I have loved so much that I have read and reread them. But, most books I would lose interest in if I read them over and over. But, not so with God’s Word! I was reading through some Psalms this morning- psalms I have read several times. But, even though some of the verses have been read so much I have memorized them, I never tire of them. Why???? It is because God’s Word is ALIVE! It speaks to me! I may have read a scripture hundreds of times, but I read it anew and it speaks something new to my soul! It is life. It fills my soul with life.
I was reading Psalm 18 this morning. It is such an encouraging psalm, especially when we are going through tough times. This psalm talks about our “enemies.” It is funny because one time I had been reading this psalm and thought, “Boy, I am so glad I don’t have any enemies.” I had been thinking in human terms. “Everyone likes me. I am nice to everyone around me. I don’t have any enemies.” But, God corrected me immediately!!!!!!!! He reminded me that I have an enemy to my soul that is out to kill, steal, and destroy everything good in my life. I do have an enemy- Satan! And, as I read this psalm this morning, I realized that we have many enemies- fear, doubt, disbelief, depression…. So, as you read this, ask the Holy Spirit what are your enemies and be encouraged that God fights all of our enemies for us!
Verses 1-3:“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my Rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” Thank You, God! Thank You that when I call out to You, You are ready to save! Thank You for being my refuge, my shield, my deliverer!
4: “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me;” Have you ever felt entangled, overwhelmed? Have the problems of life ever felt like they were suffocating, strangling you? ..…… “the snares of death confronted me.” Ever been confronted by the problems of life?
6: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. (May I always turn to You, Lord in my distress!) From His temple He heard my voice (God hears our voice, no matter what we think or what the enemy tries to tell us- God hears us!!!!) my cry came before Him, into His ears.” Our voices are in His ears. “He is attentive to our needs.”
Now watch what happens in the next few verses- the earth trembles and quakes. The mountains shake and tremble because of God’s anger. “Smoke rises from His nostrils; consuming fire came from His mouth.” God gets mad when someone is beating us up! Think about this in terms of a parent. If someone were beating up our child, some big bully hurting her, wouldn’t we come running to the rescue with smoke coming from our nostrils???? I love verse 10, “He soared on the wings of the wind.” I can’t help but remember this verse every time the wind blows through my hair! “The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.” Whew! He shouts a battle cry on my behalf! “He is mighty to save!”
Verse 16, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.” Have the waters ever felt like they were drowning you? He reaches down from heaven and draws you out! “He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.” No matter how big the bully is, how powerful, how strong, God is bigger! They may be too strong for us, but NOT for God! “They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. (“If God be for me, who dare be against me???”) He brought me out into a spacious place (ever felt like the walls were closing in- God brings us into a SPACIOUS place, where we can move, where we can breathe….) He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Nothing that I did- just because the Lord delights in me! “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take delight in you.”
Listen to verse 28, “You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Have you ever felt darkness all around you? God turns it into light!
….verse 32, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” I get my strength for the battle from God and God alone! “You armed with strength for battle; You made my adversaries bow at my feet. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, (and listen to this!!) and I destroyed my foes." Whew! God gives US victory!
Let’s finish with praising Him,
“The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!”
Father God, thank You for always fighting my battles for me! And, You are so precious, You give the victory to me! I am the over comer, more than a conqueror IN CHRIST! Thank You, God that You are my Rock, my Stronghold, my Redeemer, my Strength, my Savior! Glory to God in the Highest! Hallelujah! In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen!
“I am afraid I will fail. I feel like a failure.”
Those words crushed me. I felt so sad when my friend said them. You see, Satan had her trapped, deceiving her. She was afraid to trust God, turn over her life to Him, and walk in obedience. She was afraid that if she did, the outcome of her situation would brand her “FAILURE.” Oh, how I hate the enemy!
But, when we walk in obedience to God, we are NEVER marked a failure. In fact, that is NEVER how God sees us, even when we make mistakes. One time, I had goofed up BIG TIME with our checkbook. I had made a mathematical error and we were overdrawn, like I said, BIG TIME! I just kept writing checks, even though there wasn’t money to cover them (I thought there was). Then, there was a bank fee for every bad check, so the whole kept getting bigger. I was so afraid to go to Brian (my husband) and tell him what I had done. (Like he wasn’t going to find out???) I was scared. I was so afraid of his reaction. And, I was afraid of what we were going to do financially. I felt so stupid. I felt like a failure. My stomach was sick. I cried and cried. But, I had to tell my husband when he returned from work that day. And, I dreaded that!!!!!!!! I spent the day in prayer asking God to help me, to be strong, to be honest…
But, when I told Brian, he wasn’t angry with me. He forgave me immediately. And, I will never forget his reaction. He put his arms around me, told me that everything was going to be OK. He said it was a setback for us, but that we would get through it, and that we just needed to “fix” it. He told me that he wasn’t mad at me and that he loved me. Whew! That was the Holy Spirit working through him! The weight of the world lifted off my shoulders! I felt such a release, such a peace. Now, the circumstances didn’t evaporate- we still had to deal with them! In fact, although Brian was so merciful, he told me we still had to deal with the problem, and that meant that I had to go into the bank, talk with a banker, and get our checkbook straightened out. Uhhhh!!!! Again, I had to deal with the temptation of feeling like a failure, an “idiot” (that was the word in my head!). But, that condemnation was NOT coming from God! Again, I went to the prayer closet, asking God to help me. God reminded me that I had been forgiven, but that I couldn’t just “forget about it.” I had to deal with my situation, walk in obedience. Well, I took a deep breath, and went into the bank. I remember that the banker was so nice. He helped me find the error and even reversed the bank fees!!!! (Mercy!) I felt so much better taking care of it. (There were several meals of hot dogs and mac and cheese, but we got “back on our feet” again in a couple of weeks!)
But, here is the thing, the enemy wants to keep us down- defeated, feeling like a failure, feeling like an idiot. Sometimes, instead of looking to God and walking in obedience, we live in fear, not trusting God that His way is perfect (even though there may be a few meals of mac and cheese, so to speak!). Obedience may not mean “painless,” but there is such joy and PEACE in obedience!
Our God loves us so much. He is NOT standing over our shoulder saying, “You’re an idiot, a failure!” He is not condemning us! (There is NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus- Romans 8:1) But, He says, (like Brian did in my situation!) “We need to fix this.” He is not going to allow us to continue going down the wrong path! What if I would have just kept spending money that wasn’t in our account????? He loves us so much. He does not want us to be miserable!!! Jesus came so that we may have ABUNDANT life! (John 10:10) His way is so much better. He’s not going to let us continue to go down that wrong path BECAUSE He loves, because He wants His best for us. It’s not because He thinks I am a failure, but because His heart breaks when my heart breaks. He wants me to live the best life possible- His life. So…….. I need to trust Him. I need to lay aside all of my foolish excuses for not obeying. I need to surrender to His will and to His ways. (Romans 12:1- offer my body as a living sacrifice!) NOT BECAUSE GOD IS A “MEANIE” (as Aaron, 4, will sometimes say!) It is because God is rich in mercy and love, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Praise You, God! Hallelujah!!!!
Father God, I praise You! You are glorious! You are perfect! You are good. Thank You for Your mercy and love. Thank You that You have good plans for me. Thank You that You see the end from the beginning and You know all things. Even when I can’t see the way, You know. Lord, I purpose in my heart to trust You. I purpose to obey You, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Praise You, God! Praise You! In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen!
Good morning, all!
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your love for all the saints (and fellow bloggers!). I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother (sisters!) have refreshed the hearts of saints.” Amen!
Some of you may be familiar with the “Pumpkin Gospel.” It is an awesome way to carve pumpkins with your kids to share the Gospel. We have been doing this tradition in our family for about 5 or 6 years after I learned it at a Hearts at Home conference. We did it at our church with the Wednesday night program and Sunday School as a way to think about God at Halloween. For the actual presentation with Bible verses, there are a couple of sites I have seen it on this year: http://www.ginaconroy.com/ginablog/wordpress/ and on the Proverbs 31 site(Sharon Jaynes). If you google it, here is another great site for a step by step:
Anyway, we did it with our family last night. We always carve one pumpkin with a cross instead of a face. OK, here is the really cool thing! All of the kids carved a jack-o-lantern (so we had four faces) and I carved the cross. When we finished each one, we put it out on the porch. We noticed it was pretty windy. I finished my cross first, and as each child finished his/her face (with Dad’s help!), we set it outside. Well, when Ashley was finished with hers, we went out to find that all of the jack-o-lanterns EXCEPT for the cross had blown out! We relit and watched them go out. You can imagine what a great lesson it turned out to be- God’s Light never goes out, His Light shines in the darkness…. Praise God! He is so good! What a cool thing!
Well, it is the 31st of the month, so I turn to Proverbs 31 for my prayer and devotion.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” O, God, make me such a wife!
“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” The Amplified says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of honest gain or need of dishonest spoil.” Lord, I pray Brian would always have full confidence in me, because I put my trust in You. May I NEVER be like Job’s wife who said, “Just curse God and die.” May I always bless my husband and be a blessing to him.
“She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” And the Amplified, “She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her.” May I never be like that nagging wife in Proverbs, dripping, dripping, dripping, criticizing, quarrelling! May I always be a comfort to Brian!
“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food (the Amplified says “Spiritual food”) and portions for her servant girls.” May I always have a servant heart for my family! Help me God to joyfully serve them, taking good care of them. May I always provide spiritual food for my family! Help me to nourish them in You!
“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” The Amplified, “She considers a new field before she buys it (expanding prudently and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming other duties); with her savings of time and strength she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.” Lord, may I never neglect the duties you have given me by adding more! Help me to be wise when “expanding!” Give me wisdom when considering “one more thing!” I want to be faithful “in the little things!”
“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” Help me God to not be lazy! Thank You that You give me the strength to do the things You’ve called me to do! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
“She sees her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” The Amplified, “She girds herself (Tracy gird yourself!) with strength- spiritual, mental and physical fitness for her God-given task- and makes her arms strong and firm. She tastes and sees that her gain from work (with and for God) is good; her lamp goes not out, but it burns on continually through the night (of trouble, privation, sorrow, warning away fear, doubt, and distrust.)" Whew! Lord, may my lamp of faith never go out! May it burn through the troubles, sorrow, trials of life!
“In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” May I always be compassionate, Lord. May I always be generous- not just with my money, but with my time, my friendship, my love….
“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” I am reminded of Isaiah, “He keeps in perfect peace whose mind is staid on Thee, because he trusts in You.” Lord, may I always trust You. I also think of Rahab and how she saved her family by putting the scarlet cord in her window. Lord, may I save my family by trusting in You, pointing them to You.
“She makes coverings for her bed, she is clothed in fine linen and purple. He husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders in the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” God, may I always be a blessing to all around me- my family, my husband, my community!
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come (Amp. …knowing that she and her family are in readiness for it!)" Hallelujah! May I always be clothed with Your strength and dignity, Lord!
“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Lord, may I always speak with Godly wisdom! You say You give wisdom to anyone who asks and that You give it generously (James). Lord, pour out Your wisdom on me and may I always speak with faithful instruction! May I be an encourager! May “life” be on my tongue!
“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Lord, may I always watch over my family. Again, help me to not be lazy or idle. I think of in Timothy when Paul warns against idleness. He says it leads to gossip! Help me to stay focused on what You are calling me to, God!
“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Oh, that I would be such a blessing!!!!!
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Oh, how I long to be that “quiet and gentle spirit” of 1Peter! I want my “beauty” to come from the light of Christ shining so brightly from within!
“Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Oh, to You, Lord be the glory! I know I am nothing without You! May others see You when they look at me! That is the c of my heart! Glory to God, all glory to God!
When I finished yesterday's blog, I went up to the shower to get ready for church. I love to pray in the shower. I had written about the "merchants" from Psalm 107 and was praying about what I had written/read/pondered on. I began to pray, "Lord, I want to walk in what I just wrote. I want to be humble, not rebellious. Lord, I want to submit to Your will and be obedient....." Along those lines.... When I stopped myself. Yikes! What had I just prayed?????? (See previous blogs "Will I Walk in It- Parts 1 and 2). Hadn't I just gone through this same thing several days ago? If I pray to "walk in it," God will give me opportunities to walk in it, and that might hurt! It may be uncomfortable, and I don't want discomfort- I want gentle, easy..... Obedience may be painful. God may ask me to do something that I don't want to do, or to stop doing something I like doing. (I know- I am very immature! I get mad at myself at times! Bear with me, though, as God doesn't leave me here)
God spoke to my heart, "Stop. Those are lies from the enemy!" You, see, Satan wants us to believe that obedience to God will hurt. Think about the garden!!!!! Adam and Eve had paradise. They were walking with God (literally!) and had everything they could desire. But, God had required their obedience. He said, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die." Like my friend said once, God did not want them to even have the knowledge of evil. As parents, we tell them "no" to things for their safety. Sometimes we don't go in to "details." Think of child molestors. I don't want my children to even have the knowledge of the depths of evil. I don't want them to even know how (and the details) these people could hurt them. I tell them not to talk to strangers- in person, on the internet, on the phone, because I do not want them to ever experience this evil. God did not want His precious children to have the knowldege of evil, to "know all the details," so He told them not to eat it.
Here we go, the enemy right here deceived them into thinking obedience "would hurt," that obedience wasn't good. He tells them if they eat it, "their eyes will be opened and they will be like God." Eve thought her way was better than God's way. We sometimes believe that when we obey, it may not be good for us, it may "hurt." I think, "Well, if I obey, it may be against my desires. I may have to "give up" my desires." Oh God, if my desires are against Yours, change my desires!!!!!!!! That is where I get "stuck" sometimes. You see, God is good. His desires for me are perfect. Maybe even my desires are good, but they are not God's best for me. He calls me into obedience because He loves me. He wants the best for me. His ways, His plans are perfect. The enemy tries to deceive me into having the attitude, "God is holding back on you. He just doesn't want you to have this. If you obey Him, you'll have to give up the desires of your heart...."
Replace the lies with Truth!
God loves me! (John 3:16, Zephaniah 3:17,)
I am precious to Him! (Isaiah 43:4)
He gives me the desires of my heart! (Psalm 37:4)
He has good plans for me! (Jeremiah 29:11)
There is joy in obedience (all of Paul's letters in the New Testament!)
Father God, I praise You! I love You! You are so good! Thank You for loving me so much. Thank You that Your ways are perfect and Your plans are good. Please forgive my attitude of thinking that obedience might be painful. You are a good God. You are not "holding back on me," but at times protecting me, at times giving me something better than what I want. Lord, help me to always trust You. I do want to walk in humility, not rebellion. I want to walk in obedience. Lord, if my desires don't line up with yours in an area, then change my desires! Make my desires Your desires. I love You, Lord! In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
Blessings to you all this fine Monday morning!
As I study Psalm 107, I am amazed that I have read and reread this Psalm so many times without really pondering it as I have these last few days. There is so much God says through just this one chapter of His Word alone! Isn’t God’s Word so wonderful? It truly is so much more precious than silver or gold. It is Life and refreshment to the soul! Father, I pray you would give me deep insight into your precious Word today!
The next section of this Psalm shows the praise of another group of people- merchants. “Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.” The Amplified says that they were traveling to do business. Now, there is nothing wrong with doing business, but it seems that this group of men had become proud. I wonder if their pursuit of money had led them to thinking of themselves “more highly than they ought.” They hit some “rough waters” (ever hit rough waters in life?) and “in their peril their courage melted away.” Again, I like the Amplified bible, “These see the works of the LORD and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises up the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. Those aboard mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the deeps: their courage melts away because of their plight. They reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man and are at their wit’s end (all their wisdom has come to nothing).” A couple of things stood out to me. First, God brought the storm (He commands and raises up the stormy wind). And, no matter how wise we THINK we are, God has a way of humbling us! They see the “works of His hands” and “His wonders in the deep.” It His awesomeness, His majesty, His creation, His glory that opens our eyes! Remember Isaiah when He sees God in His glory? He cries, “Woe is me! I am undone!” We see how AWESOME God is and how puny we are in contrast! This passage also reminds me of the first chapter of Romans when Paul tells us that no man has excuse to deny God because God is seen all through His awesome creation. I love that their courage “melted away.”
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.” God is so kind! He brings us out of our distress! “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.” Isn’t God so good? Not only does He calm the storm, but He guides them to their location! He helps them to get where they want to go.
“Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people and praise Him in the council of elders.”
Praise You, God! You are awesome! You are glorious! You are full of mercy and grace and boundless love! Thank You, God, that You do not allow me to search for other things, like the merchants, filled with pride and relying on my own wisdom. Thank You, God that You bring the storm that humbles me, but more importantly, that You calm the storm when I have repented, and then, oh God, that You bring me to my desired destination. How precious You are. How perfect. Holy. Praise You, God. Praise You.
Continuing with Psalm 107.....
The next group of people praising God were “fools.” Not that the they are silly, or even so much that they are unwise, but that they are rebellious toward God. Verse 17 says, “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.” Again, I am reminded of Proverbs, especially chapters 1-10, which compares wisdom to foolishness, or rebellion against God. Proverbs 1:7- “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Listen to what God speaks to us in verses 1:23, 24- “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you, (Don’t you want God to pour out His heart to you?????) and made my thoughts known to you. (I want God to make His thoughts known to me!!!) But the fool “ignores God’s advice and does not accept God’s rebuke.” The following chapters declare all of the blessings (long life, riches and honor, peace, good reputation before God and man, confidence, just to name a few!) of following wisdom and not rebelling against God. “Trust in God, but don’t lean upon your own understanding (fool), then God will direct your steps. Do not be wise in your own eyes, shun evil, and this will bring health to your body.”
This brings me back to Psalm 107 because the foolish (or rebellious people) in these verses are sick due to their sin. “They loathed all food (Amplified says “ill”) and drew near the gates of death." Now, not all people who are sick are so because they have sinned or because of their rebellion. But, the people in this psalm are! Their sin has made them deathly ill. And, I can relate- I have made myself sick- upset stomach, headache, feeling “down”, feeling of complete unrest because of my stubbornness and resisting obedience to something God has laid on my heart. (Psalm 38- “because of my sin…I am bowed down, going around mourning all day… there is no health in my body.”) Unforgiveness is such a poisonous sin to our bodies in particular. I have a close friend who was betrayed horribly. She suffered serious colon problems. God had been telling her to forgive this person, but she refused. It was when she did forgive that she experienced immediate healing! (Again, we live in a fallen world where there is sickness and disease. NOT ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK ARE SO BECAUSE OF THEIR REBELLION!)
“THEN they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.” God is so good, so forgiving, so faithful, pure love and mercy! “He sent forth His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.” I love the Amplified bible so much better here. It uses PRESENT TENSE instead of past tense, “He RESCUES, He SENDS forth His word…” That does so much more for me! He is still doing it today!!!! He still rescues, He still sends forth His Word. And, instead of “grave” the Amplified says, “He rescues them from the pit (ever been in a pit??????) and destruction." How self-destructive I can be at times, but hallelujah- God rescues me!!!!!
And, this is precious! Look at how He rescues us- “He sends forth His Word and heals them.” Who is the “Word?” John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Word! God sends forth Jesus to heal us! And, as we look at Jesus all through the New Testament, He walks among the people, healing them, rescuing them from the pit and destruction. Glory!
Watch their reaction. “Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” When we experience healing from the Lord, we react with songs of joy! When Jesus reaches into that pit of destruction and scoops us out, healing us, forgiving us, we are filled with joy. God comforts all who mourn, bestows on them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)
Thank you Lord for loving me so much! Your love won’t allow me to remain in a pit of despair. Your love won’t allow me to remain in sin, sin that spreads disease through my body. Thank you for the forgiveness that is given to me through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Thank you, Father that you sent forth the Word, Jesus, to rescue me from my own destruction! I do proclaim your works with songs of joy! Hallelujah! Praise God! Help me Lord to always be humble before you. I do NOT want to be a rebellious fool. Search my heart, O God, and show me any rebellion that may be there. Thank you, Father. Thank you, Jesus for your blood that covers every sin and cleanses me from all unrighteousness. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen!
Wanted to share all of my latest "finds" with you! I have been visiting several blogs the past week and have been so blessed!!!!!!!!!! Praise God! Isn't it amazing that something used for so much evil (the Internet) God can redeem for good? How encouraging to find so many other Christians in love with Him, seeking Him, and sharing their faith journeys?
Check these out if when you have time:
SpeakingThruMe (this is my good friend Leigh Gray's blog- she got me into bloggin'!)
diamond in the rough (Laurie's heart is amazing!)
1 Amazing Adventure (Susan's blog is very inspirational!)
scraps of glory (beautiful blog, very inspirational!)
Simple Life in Christ (Eddie's blog is great! He is "living it out" in Australia!)
Sprout of a Mustard Seed (Lisa has a great sense of humor!)
The Higher Call (Melissa challenges readers to go deeper in Christ- AMEN!)
cup of joy (great personal stories, nice pictures)
angels with a purpose (this blog is like a work of art- very beautiful!)
Bless you as you continue to grow in the Lord! I pray you will be blessed, as I was, by these sisters and brother in Christ!
Yesterday I began looking at Psalm 107, seeing it with fresh eyes. What incredible encouragement these scriptures give! It begins like many other psalms, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, His love endures forever..." And then the psalm goes through different groups of people and WHY they are giving thanks. Each group goes through some trial/tribulation. And, as I ponder this, I think about the times in my life when I have experienced trials, and when God brings me through, how much more "LOUD" my praise is!
The first group are wanderers. "Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. " Wow! Have you ever been "wandering?" This reminds me of restless times of my life when I have wandered- wandered from activity to activity, trying to fill the loneliness of my soul, not realizing that it can only be quenched by His amazing love! Unsettled..... Restless...... Homeless- unable to find a place to call home. I am reminded of the verses from Hosea where God leads us into the wilderness IN ORDER TO SPEAK TENDERLY to us. Sometimes we are only ready to listen to Him in the wilderness- away from the hustle and bustle (and cell phones and commitments...) of "city life".
They were "hungry and thirsty." So many other verses come to mind here! "My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63) Our spirits long for God. We thirst after Him! (That is why my blog is named "Thirsty for Him!) Jesus tells the woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks this water (earthly water) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Jesus, give me that water! And, Jesus also told us, "Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts after righteousness, for he shall be filled." Hallelujah! God allows us to hunger and thirst so that He can fill us! He allows us to wander so that He can give us a home.
WATCH WHAT COMES NEXT!
"THEN they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to city where they could settle." There's that pesky little "then" again! You see, I need the "then." If I weren't thirsty, I couldn't be filled by Him. If I hadn't wandered, He couldn't have given me the perfect home in Him. (What's that verse? Is it psalms? It was good that I was afflicted.....) Thank You, God that You lead me by a straight way. (Proverbs 3:5- "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not upon your own understanding- that was written just for me!-Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight.") And, then thank You, Lord that You settle me. You fill me with the peace that passes all understanding. You "quiet me with Your love." You satisfy the longings of my soul, easing my restlessness, grounding me, sustaining me, stabilizing me, settling me. Thank You, God!
"Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things."
Father God, praise You! Thank You! Thank You for Your UNFAILING love! Your love never fails! Thank You for the wonderful deeds You have done in my life! Thank You that You alone truly satisfy me and that You fill me with GOOD THINGS. You are so patient. You draw me back "home" each time I wander away from Your love. Why do I do that? Forgive me, Father, for the times I have turned to other things to satisfy me- food, praise of man, activities..... Thank You for the blood of Jesus Christ which covers all my sin and cleanses me from all unrighteousness. Lord, I pray for my sisters. I lift up all other Believers who are wandering, bring them back to the source of satisfaction, to the Living Water. Lord, I lift up the lost- oh, how they need You. Father, draw them to Yourself. Shine Your Light in their hearts. How we can go through life wandering, thirsting, looking to the world to fill us... Thank You for Jesus. Thank You, Jesus. You are precious. I love You. In Your sweet Name, Name above all names, I pray. Amen.
Have you ever been reading the Word when something you have read before suddenly jumps out at you, God shines His light on it, and you gain a much deeper understanding of it? As I was reading Psalm 107 this morning, it was like I was reading it for the first time (even though it was underlined and starred already!)
Father, I pray for deep insight into the Word today. I pray You would fill me with a Spirit of wisdom and understanding. I pray that You would open the eyes of my heart.
Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
The whole psalm is a praise and thanksgiving psalm. But, it has sections of praise of different people, for different reasons. Verse 2 continues, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say this- those He redeemed from the hand of the foe…” As I continue to read the psalm, the foe or enemy can be either my own flesh, my own attitude and wrong motives, or the enemy of our soul, Satan. He can deceive us and lead us into areas of bondage.
The passage that I want to begin with is actually the second group of people in the psalm, but as I read it, it pierced my heart because I saw myself in this group, and so many other Christians. Verses 10-16: “Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So He subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”
Wow! There is so much packed in just this passage! Let’s look at verse 10. How many of us have experienced “darkness” and “deepest gloom?” Others words that come to mind: despair, desperation…. How many times have I felt a “sadness” over me, sometimes not even sure why I was feeling that way? The next verse can explain it, “…for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.”
Whew! I wonder how many times I have rebelled against God’s Word, thinking I should do something, but that it wasn’t what I WANTED to do at that time. Or, I have seen something in the Word, been convicted by His Holy Spirit, and just don’t want to give it up!!!!! Have I “despised the counsel of the Most High?” I was thinking of Proverbs. All through it, the writer of Proverbs will offer two ways- the way of the wise and the way of the fool- the way of good or the way of the rebellious. I thought of Proverbs 1-30-31, “…since they hated knowledge and did not CHOOSE to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes…” Oh, Lord, how many times have I gone my own way, eating the fruit of it????? And, how many times has this led me straight into bondage- “suffering in iron chains?”
Now, look at the next verse- “So HE subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help.” The amplified says, “He bowed down their hearts…” Sometimes in my own rebellious stubbornness, God has to bow down my heart. One of my favorite verses in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans for hope and a future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” But, do you know that God says that right before sending them in to captivity???? They had been following after idols and He wants to draw them back to His heart.
“…and there was no one to help.” Boy, does that strike a chord! Sometimes, in my stubbornness, I look to everything else in the world BUT God for help. Sometimes I will try to call every one of my friends on the phone, but God will make sure no one is home!!
Now watch this! The next verse says, “THEN they cried to the LORD in their trouble…” I know sometimes it takes me to be in trouble to THEN cry out to the Lord! It is only the trouble that finally breaks my rebellious heart! “And He saved them from their distress. AND LISTEN- He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.” Hallelujah! God doesn’t leave us in our darkness! He saves us from it! He sets us free! Listen to verse 16, “…for He breaks down the gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Have you ever had bars of iron??? Thank God He has cut through the bars of iron around my stubborn heart! Praise Him!
In Luke 1:79, Zechariah prophesies about the coming of Jesus, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people…. by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” And in Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” God's desire is to free us! He does not want us to be captives!
“Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”
Lord, I praise you! I thank you, God, that you don’t allow my heart to be rebellious. Thank you that “bow down my heart.” But, most of all, Lord, thank you that break down the gates I have put around my own heart, thank you for cutting through the bars of iron- the deception of the enemy, the desires of my flesh. Awesome God! Glorious God! Hallelujah! Praise you, God! In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen!
freedom from darkness
Picking up from last night.........
When I walked in yesterday to find my children fighting, Andrew teasing his sisters, and the chores not finished, Monster Mom came out, and I "blew up" at the kids. Even though in my heart, I want to be a "quiet and gentle" spirit, I reacted in anger. Even though I have the fruit of the Spirit of self-control, I did not control my emotions. I was NOT "slow to speak, slow to get angry, and quick to listen" (James). But, thank You, Most Gracious God, You are quick to listen, slow to get angry, and full of compassion and forgiveness! Within a few minutes, the Holy Spirit convicted me through my son, Andrew (while I was "ranting"!). I immediately repented and told my kids that I was sorry. When I was praying about this in the quiet, God reminded me of my earlier prayer in the car (you remembered, didn't you???).
I had told God that I wanted to be "a light shining for Him" no matter what the circumstances- flat tires or fighting kids. Well, He answered my prayer and gave me the opportunity to be that light! Did you see "Even Almighty?" In that movie, "God" (otherwise known as Morgan Freeman), was talking to the mom in the movie about prayer. He said if you prayed to have patience, then, He wasn't going to zap you, and "boom", you now have patience. He would give you opportunities to develop patience, opportunities to "be patient." If you were praying to be kind, He would give you opportunities to demonstrate kindness. You know, you have probably heard the joke, "Be careful what you pray for!"
Well........... I had prayed to be a light (and I NAMED two specific circumstances!) no matter what. Here's the good news- no, the GREAT news! Even though I slipped up with my kids, God WILL GIVE ME MORE OPPORTUNITIES! That means that I will have the chance to be a light shining in the darkness when the kids are fighting, or when the dog gets in the garbage, or when someone cuts me off in traffic, or when the check-out girl is rude to me, or when someone is short-tempered with me. The truth is, it is easy to be Christ-like when everything is going great, but the real "walkin' in out" comes when times are not so easy. Am I going to walk out my Christian beliefs no matter what? Or when the goin' gets tough, am I going to act like "everybody else?" You see, I am different from the "world." I have the Spirit of the Most High God living inside of me! I have the POWER of the Holy Spirit WITHIN me! I HAVE THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT ALREADY- LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS, FAITHFULNESS, GOODNESS, AND SELF-CONTROL! (Galatians 6:22) My challenge is to "keep in step with the Spirit," to die to my flesh, and cry out to God to help me in the difficult circumstances. (Romans 6, 7, 8) You see, Tracy is NOT strong enough, "good" enough, patient enough..... But, the Holy Spirit is! I am a new creation! The old has gone and the new has come! I DO NOT HAVE to react the "old way" anymore! I have a choice. (Ephesians 4) Am I going let my emotions and my flesh rule over me, or am I going to depend on my God, rest in His power, and walk in who I am in Christ? I have the same power living in me as raised Jesus Christ from the dead!!!!! THAT IS POWER!!!!! (Ephesians 1 & 2)
I do not have a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, sound mind, and self-control. (2Timothy 1:7) So, God, I cry out to You! I ask that You help me in those circumstances! Thank You for the Holy Spirit who whispers in my ear, encouraging me, guiding me, pointing out the way. Thank You, God, that You are patient! Praise You, Jesus!
The bible passages that came to mind while I was writing this are from James. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance MUST FINISH ITS WORK so that you may be MATURE AND COMPLETE, not lacking anything." I want to be mature in my faith! I know that the only way to be "mature and complete" is to walk out my faith through trials. Am I going to walk the walk, not just "talk the talk?"
Father, I praise You! I love You, Lord! Thank You for Your infinite Wisdom! Thank You that You know how to best grow my faith, how to refine it. I thank You for Your forgiveness. I love You, Lord. May I walk in Your Truth today! In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen!
Oh boy! What a day! We had an awesome looooonnnnngggg weekend- the kids had Friday and Monday off of school, so we had lots of fun being together.
Today though, at Chuck E. Cheese's we went out to the car to find the tire FLAT as a pancake. And, as usual, Tracy can never do things simply, so I also had three extra children along with my own five. When I called Brian for help, he was so busy at work that he told me to call him back in about 20 minutes (he was in the middle of a review)! Well, I had our guests picked up by their big brother and my kids went home with a neighbor who was also at Chuck E. Cheese. That left me alone with just Abby, who happened to be sleeping. So, I thanked God for few extra minutes to be able to pray (and possibly read the Word, depending on how long it took Brian to get there).
So, I settled in and began to pray. I was praying that I would be a light shining for Him, no matter what the circumstances are (like flat tires and things like Andrew teasing his little brother and sisters- exact words!) Before I had much time to pray anything else, my knight in shining armor rode up to change the tire. The plan was to use "Fix-A-Flat" to pump up the tire to drive it ACROSS THE STREET to Sear's to be fixed. Well, the tire was off the rim, so.......... Brian was not able to change it to the spare until after work, I have Bible Study on Monday nights, so now what will I do????(Notice my first opportunity to be a light- the tire was NOT fixed the way I expected. Now, I was without a car. What would my reaction be?) Well, both Brian and I were very calm. He drove me and Abigail home- not much more to do for the moment.
Well, opportunity #2 came along as soon as I opened the door! The kids were supposed to be finishing up their chores (folding some laundry and sweeping the floor). I was hoping it would all be done then we could "snuggle" together, take a nap, and rest the rest of the day (ever been to Chuck E. Cheese??????????). But, when I walked in, the kids had been fighting, Andrew had been teasing, and the chores were NOT finished!
I wish I could say I had a peaceful reaction. I wish I had been a quiet and gentle spirit!!!! NOT!
Praise God that He is a God of second chances and I know I will get yet another opportunity to react in the Spirit and NOT the flesh.
Remember my prayer? More on that later.........
To be continued..................
As I was writing this morning, I thought about one of my favorite talks, "Don't Waste Your Life". (I speak at women's events) I thought I would post an excerpt. It's long!!!
From "Don't Waste Your Life!"
What else does God want from MY life?”
Ladies, our God is jealous God. He is jealous for you. He doesn’t want to share you with ANYTHING else. He wants all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. God wants us to CHOOSE Him, to look to Him.
God wants the 1st place position in our hearts and lives.
God gives us this choice. He is always the gentleman and doesn’t force our devotion, but asks us to choose, as in Joshua 24:15: “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with ALL faithfulness. (Not partial, not some, but ALL faithfulness) Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped and serve the Lord. But, if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” God gives us this choice- are we going to live for Him or for ourselves? Are we going to serve God with all faithfulness or will we serve other gods? Are we going to let idols creep into that 1st place position in our hearts?
Now, you may be wondering, “Tracy, what do you mean? We don’t bow down to little golden statues. We don’t serve any other gods today- not in the 21 century! That was Old Testament stuff! What is an idol?”
But, an idol is simply anything we place in that 1st place position over God. It’s what we give our passion, our time, our SELVES to FIRST. What have we made first priority in our lives and hearts? John tells us, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols- from everything and anything that would take 1st place in your life.”
Lisa Bevere says, “An idol is what we give our strength TO or draw our strength from. She says God will always shake away those idols because He wants us to get our life from Him, not the things that will always disappoint.”
Idols can be things like money, or material possessions, shopping, exercise, our outward appearance, food, alcohol, admiration of friends, praise of man, work, TV, or even other relationships. Now you may be confused because you have to work and you really like chocolate! I told you I have a wonderful husband that I am head over heals about, and four beautiful children whom I love and I am passionate about speaking and I spend a lot of time scrapbooking at times. Are these idols? These things are not wrong or evil in or of themselves! It’s when we make them a priority over our relationship with God, when we start loving them above loving God. I love my kids, but I love my God even more! What gets you out of bed in the morning? What keeps you going through the day? What are your thoughts on throughout the day? What do find yourself thinking about and talking about? You see, I am first grounded in a relationship with my Savior- head over heals in love with Him FIRST, and then, He spills so much love into my heart that it overflows into all these areas of my life.
Unfortunately, it has not always been so. I consider myself an idol expert because I have bowed down to idols in my life, and they have created areas of bondage I have had to overcome. For me, it started in childhood. Like many women, I had a very dysfunctional family and my childhood was painful. As a young child, I turned to food for comfort, and it became my “safe place.” I used food to escape the pain I was experiencing. As you can imagine, I became an overweight child. Well, the summer before my eighth grade I stopped eating, and began walking everywhere I went. That summer, my weight melted off, and I found something new to fill my emptiness- the attention and praise I received after losing all of that weight. I soon relied on exercise to stay skinny, and I found two new idols- exercise, and the attention I could get with my outward appearance. That continued through high school and college. My personal worth was directly related to my outward experience. In college, I found a new passion- working hard and achieving tremendous success. This continued after college when I became a teacher. I was what you would describe as a workaholic. I needed to be the best, to be perfect. I continually compared myself to everyone around me, and I always had this competitive spirit within me, striving to be better than everyone else- to be the best. As you can imagine, I had set up such strongholds in my life! Of course, at the time, I didn’t think there was anything wrong. I would have considered myself a Christian- I went to church. But, I wasn’t feeding on God. I was feeding on these wordly pursuits, jumping from one to another. I was finding my self worth in these things, and never quite measuring up.
Well, when God moved us to Cedar Rapids, He had some major work to do. Has anyone else ever had some major work to do with God? He was going to deal with all of things, setting me free of all of these strongholds. But, oh, did we have to go through the wilderness. Was it painful! I didn’t even know I had to get rid of all these idols until God began opening my eyes.
When we moved to Cedar Rapids, I jumped right in, joining every possible club, organization, and playgroup. I was pregnant with Ashley, and Andrew was 2 years old. We were constantly on the go! We participated in every possible activity available. I will never forget one morning, I was trying to take Andrew to a playgroup, and he was just a crying and a crying. He said, “Mommy, can’t we just stay home today?” I was trying to keep busy with all of activities, but I was still so lonely.
After Ashley was born, I could not take off the pregnancy weight, I was feeling very depressed. I heard about a bible study that helped you lose weight, so I began facilitating it in my home. Wow! Did God open my eyes. This study taught me about idols, strongholds, and areas of bondage. God set me free by filling my up with HIM. I learned that needed to seek a relationship with Jesus, instead of filling my heart with all of these other wordly pursuits. So, over the past 7 years, God has continually revealed when I was turning to idols, and then helped me work through the process of being set free from them.
Jesus teaches us in Mat. 6:24 that “no one can serve 2 masters.” It is impossible. Jesus says, “You will either hate the one or love the other. You will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” You cannot serve both God and work. You cannot serve both God and food. You cannot serve both God and the praise of man. You cannot serve both God and shopping. You cannot serve both God and anger. You cannot serve both God and activities.
It is impossible to have two 1st priorities in our lives. We’ll always have a #1 and everything else will follow. Our 1st priority is whatever we give ourselves, our time and our passion to FIRST. Is there anything that is pushing God out of 1st place in your life and heart?
So, what does God want from our lives? God wants our wholehearted devotion, and He wants our whole life.
Father God, we love You! May You always take FIRST place in our hearts, minds, and time!