Monday, April 29, 2013

Do you think you're right?

What hit me today in my daily reading was a simple proverb. It really caught me off guard and made me stop and think for awhile.

It says in Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." 

It seems pretty drastic. It sure snaps me to attention.  A way that seems right and good to me can actually lead to death? Maybe physical death, maybe the death of a relationship/friendship, or spiritual death pulling me away from God. But apparently, man can be easily deceived into thinking they know best! I think of another proverb in 3:7 that says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes." If we simply do what pleases us, what seems to make the most sense, what the world thinks is okay, what our friends around us think is okay, or what our favorite talk show host thinks is right...but have not listened to what God says, we are asking for trouble!

This is a GREAT reminder to me to always seek the Lord, to look to Him and ask for his guidance and wisdom. About EVERYTHING. The big and the small things. Even when it seems like an OBVIOUS decision to make, I still want to lay it before God and ask Him about it. I am SO thankful for the Holy Spirit who lives IN me, whose job is to counsel me and lead me in the way I'm supposed to go. Psalms 32:8 is one of my favorite verses where God promises, "I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Thank JESUS! I would have made some pretty horrible decisions in my life if He left it entirely up to me!

One example I think of is my decision to move to Arkansas after college. ARKANSAS! I don't think you realize what a crazy option that was for me! I am from Chicago and my family and friends are all there. I had never really been to the South before (except for Florida), never said the word 'Arkansas' let alone considered living there, and didn't know a single person there. It's 10 hours from home, I could hardly understand what they were saying, and I imagined people being toothless, shoeless, and decked in overalls. That was definitely not the way that seemed right to me. Yet after inquiring of the Lord, I felt that was where he wanted me to move! And it was the best 6 years of my life!(And is where I met my husband!)

I don't know what plans you may have right now, what decisions are in front of you. They may be huge such as what college to attend, job to take, or person to marry. They may be small day to day decisions such as who to hang out with tonight or how to spend your money each day. But Proverbs seems to be saying that just because it SEEMS like the right thing to do, don't automatically go along with it. It may appear to be the wise choice, but the Lord says that man's wisdom is foolishness to God. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" (I Corinthians 1:25). My brilliant idea may be completely foolish to God, and his brilliant idea may seem foolish to me. But since He can see the big picture, knows everything, and wants what's best for me, I'd better listen to Him rather than myself. Besides, Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that, "The heart is deceitful above ALL THINGS, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" So that whole, "Follow your heart" saying...throw it out the window. Our hearts are deceitful, our wisdom can be foolishness, and our vision is short sighted. We really need to look UP, to the wonderful counselor and ask Him for HIS wisdom in our lives.

I hope that's a good reminder for you. I am not great at doing this! It's not easy! I like to call the shots. I like to do what I want to do without having to ask someone's permission. It is humbling to stop what I'm doing and look to God and ask for HIS will in that moment. It isn't easy, once my mind is set on something, to give it up and do something else. So when I inquire of God and he leads me in a different direction, I have to be willing to surrender my plans, my desires, my ways. UUUGH!

But realizing that my own ways can lead me so far astray makes me WANT to always always ask what God thinks before acting.

Let's look at scripture to see if this proverb has proven itself true!

In the book of Judges it says, "They (the Israelites) forgot the Lord their God who had rescued them from all their enemies." (8:34) It says, "In those days, Israel had no King and everyone did as he saw fit." (21:25)...Yikes. They are living according to what THEY think is best! What does a society look like where everyone does what is right in their own eyes? Do you think this worked out for them? The Bible says that every time they did this, their enemies overtook them and oppressed them. They were MISERABLE and many DID die because of their refusal to do what God says is right.

Another example is King Saul. He was originally anointed by God to be Israel's king, but quickly went his own way. In the end, I Chronicles 10:11 says, "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord, he did not keep the word of the Lord (and even consulted a medium for guidance), and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David, his son."

Bottom line: I need to CHECK WITH THE LORD before moving forward! I am NOT as smart as I think I am! I need godly advisers speaking into my life. I need to cover my decisions with prayer and do what GOD says is right, not relying on my own 'wisdom'. 
                       Prov 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." 

Friday, April 26, 2013

At peace

Today's bible reading was from Judges 6, and I was really blessed by it and wanted to pass it on.

     So in the Old Testament, the Israelites went through many rebellious years. In the book of Judges, there are 7 'sin cycles' that happen where God's people rebel against Him, are given into the hands of their enemies, and finally cry out to God for help. He would rescue them by raising up a deliverer, but shortly after, they would turn away from him again and the cycle would start over.
       During one of these sin cycles, the Lord gave them over to the Midianites. When they cried out to the Lord for help, God decided to rescue them using an Israelite man named Gideon. This is one of my favorite Bible stories. Gideon was considered the least in his own family, and his family was considered the weakest in their tribe. (That is the exact person God loves to use because then HE gets all the glory!)
      One day an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him that he would be the one God would use to rescue Israel from Midian. In Judges 6:22, it says that when Gideon realized it was it was an angel of God talking to him, he cried out, "Sovereign Lord, I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!"And he thinks he will die!
     This is a very common reaction by those who encounter God throughout scripture and I just want to sit in that moment for a minute. Think of what it will be like to stand face to face with the Lord God Almighty! Not just being in his presence, but looking him in the face! In that instant, we will immediately feel so unworthy, so sinful, so undone because we see his perfection and his holiness radiating from him. We will feel more exposed and sinful then we ever have before. We will instinctively bow low, shielding our face from him, trying to hide ourselves and our shame. We know that in that moment we deserve to die! No one is worthy to be in the presence of such glory! All we will see is our sinfulness.
      But I LOVE the way the Lord responds. I get goosebumps and my heart rejoices! He says, "It is alright, do not be afraid, you will not die!" And Gideon builds an alter to the Lord there and names it, 'The Lord is peace'. Gideon was used by God to bring salvation & peace to the people of Israel.
       This is SUCH a picture of the peace God extends to each of US, the offer of forgiveness and friendship shown through sending his Son! The Bible says ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). And the penalty of sin is DEATH.  We will all see God one day and know that we should SURELY DIE! We have fallen SO short of his glory. "But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 6:23. There is HOPE for those who trust in Christ! Eternal life!  "THEREFORE, since we have been justified through faith, we have PEACE WITH GOD through Jesus Christ our Lord,  through whom we have gained ACCESS by faith into this GRACE in which we now stand" (Romans 5:1-2).
        That I can now stand in God's presence COVERED by his grace, with his robe of righteousness covering my sin, that I can be UNASHAMED before him...AMAZING! God has said to me, "Do not be afraid, you will not die, Jenni!" I have been given eternal life and am at peace with God!
      There have been a few times in my life that I have felt the Lord's presence SO STRONGLY that I have felt 'undone'. One of these times was about 4 years ago when I lived in Fayetteville, Ar. I was going through a hard time and used to go to this place called the Stone Chapel to pray and worship. I was just worshiping God when I suddenly felt him beside me like never before. I instinctively bowed low, tried to get lower and lower, covering myself, ashamed, unworthy, so aware of my sin. The next moment He was lifting me higher and higher, telling me my sin and shame are gone, WANTING me to lift my head and LOOK at Him so he could tell me He loved me! It was SUCH an incredible, humble experience that I'm very thankful for, and it helps me know that I know that I know I'm forgiven and loved! Even remembering it now, I am so moved by his love for me, his desire for friendship with me and gift of forgiveness. I am SO thankful I am at peace with God and pray that each of you are too! I know I need that reminder every day to lift up my head! God wants to use me in great ways like He used Gideon to bring salvation to others!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Using our gifts

Our Tuesday night community group has recently been studying the spiritual gifts God gives to every believer,  and we talked about the specific gifts we have each been given and whether or not we are using them. This is always such a fun, encouraging topic and I love seeing how God has uniquely gifted every member of the body of Christ. When we are all using our gifts, we build each other up, sharpen each other, and help mature each other into Christ-likeness.

My number one gift has always been teaching. I LOVE studying God's word, learning about Him, reading books, doing Bible studies...I could sit for HOURS reading, journaling and listening to worship music or podcasts. It's how I best connect with the Lord. That time with God is even MORE sweet when I know I get to share what he teaches me with others. It makes me dig deeper, pay more attention, ask more questions. I find that I get in a rut and sort of just go through the motions with Him if I am not passing on what I learn to others. It's like the dead sea... water comes in but doesn't flow out and eventually everything just dies because it just sits there.

Going from 6 years in youth ministry where I had SO many opportunities to teach, to being a stay at home mom has been such a change for me. I LOVE what I get to do and wouldn't miss a day with Kennedy. But I really want to be faithful to continue using my gifts and passions for the Lord. So the past couple weeks as we have been learning about spiritual gifts, I'm asking God to help me find ways to use mine in this season of life where I'm more tied down and less available.

This last spiritual gift test that I filled out, (it's a questionnaire that helps you pin point which gifts God has given you) included the gift of writing, and I scored highly on that one. I hadn't really thought of that as spiritual gift before, but now I can see how God definitely uses writing to build up other believers and build His kingdom. And although I'd never consider myself a great writer, I LOVE to write. It is such an outlet for me. It's how I process things. I feel like I can communicate much more clearly writing than I ever could talking. If I'm honest about my gift of teaching, I'd tell you that I don't feel very confident teaching others and do not love teaching a huge group of people. I get nervous! I tell my husband all the time that I'd prefer to WRITE his talks for him; research, gather the material, and put it together if he would just present it because I get nervous speaking in front of people.

This test made me see that, even though I'm not in youth ministry, even though I don't have a lot of outlets to teach others like I used to,  I could still write about what God is teaching me and maybe God would use that to encourage another believer.  So, I'm hoping to occasionally do blog posts on what I'm learning. Yes, I know there are millions of AMAZING blogs out there. (And I actually don't even really know how to set this darn thing up, so mine definitely won't be fancy.) I have to throw my pride out the window because I don't claim to be a great writer or theologian. It may even be more for ME than for anyone else and I'm okay with that! But I'm excited to spend time with the Lord knowing I get a chance to share  some of the amazing things he shows me with others.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Toofy Smiles and Airplane rides

What are you like at 9 months?
So. Much. Fun!
Here is how I'd describe you right now.
LOUD: in a girly way. Not yelling but constantly babbling, squealing, and making sounds you haven't made before. 'B's are your favorite. You said you first word, 'baby', over and over again (although daddy hasn't heard you say it so he doesn't believe me).
PLAYFUL: You like to be chased; you play games with mommy like peek a boo and imitate sounds I make. You LOVE when I get on my hands and knees and crawl towards you and say, "I'm going to get you!" You squeal when we tickle you on our bed and you try to crawl away. On our Florida trip you loved playing in the pool, gently splashing with one hand and holding your ball in the other. You stayed in that pool for hours!
MOBILE: You crawl around SO fast and can pull up to a stand so easily. It's amazing how mobile you have gotten. You are also getting better at getting back down to the ground again after you stand up. You can even let go and stand for a few seconds without holding anything! If we are in the living room and dad goes into the kitchen, you will follow him in there like it's no big thing!
CURIOUS: You are pulling on knobs, trying to open cabinets, doors, and drawers and pulling out whatever you find. You love going through mama's purse or any bag or box you see laying around.
LOVING: You open your mouth and give slobber kisses to mommy. I'll take them! You also put your little arms around my neck and bare hug me sometimes and let me snuggle you close! You love back rubs and affection and you love being held.
We were worried about you a little after your 6 month appointment, only 13 lbs in the 5th percentile but the doctor was satisfied with your growth and you are now 16 lbs and 26.5inches.
-You fit into size 2 shoes now so you can wear your awesome turquoise Nike running shoes : ).
-All your 6-9 month clothes still fit you and size 2 diapers still fit best.
-You are no longer in your original carseat! We moved you up to the bigger Britax Turnabout carseat and it is more upright, which we thought you may like better. But you still hate being strapped in and confined and get upset for a bit (but it usually doesn't last as long as before).
-You still nurse 5 times a day, 7am, 11, 2, 4:30, and 7pm, and eat baby food 2 times a day (more and more with your hands. You are getting down that pincer grasp!).
-Your two bottom teeth have popped through! This has caused you lots of pain. You were especially fussy at night and putting you to sleep was really rough for awhile.
Time to start BRUSHING!
-Separation anxiety has also started this past month (You don't like being left alone in your room or in the church nursery or handed over to a stranger. That never bothered you before).

And SOCIAL: You really like going to the gym with mom and playing at the child center for an hour every morning (you've been going there for 3 months now).
On our Florida trip you would try to catch someone's eye and if they looked at you you would burst into a huge bashful smile and wave your little hand at them (you just learned to wave the past week and its so cute!). When you would get fussy on the plane or just in general, all it takes to change your mood is interacting with a stranger. I was hoping you would be a social butterfly like your dad is!

We had some sweet times this month!
We celebrated your first Easter at Aunt Pam and Uncle Ben's house with lots of dad's relatives.

My cousin Ann and her family visited us from Indiana for a week and you got to play with 2 year old Samuel and 9 month old Sebby.

Then you and I flew to Florida to visit your great grandma Sue! You looked so cute in your bathing suits and you loved the water! You did pretty well on all our plane rides and even slept okay in a new place!

Your hair loved the Florida humidity : )
You were pretty happy to be back home with daddy, though!

What a great month!
There was an error in this gadget