Saturday, October 29, 2011

me, my future, and God

Over the past week, I've been enthralled with Matthew 6:30-34 in the Message Bible.

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you
to relax, to not be so preoccupied with gettingso you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

My parents got me a Nook for my birthday (what a huge blessing that has been while on bedrest!) and my Message Bible has stayed on these verses every time I open it on my Nook. Different words and phrases keep sticking out to me, all having to do with how much God truly cares about me.

Today the phrase "God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the times comes." 

I'll always remember a message I heard Dennis Burke preach on Psalm 91. I walked away realizing there are a few different types of deliverance: 

1. God takes us completely up and over adversity where we don't experience it and sometimes don't even realize what we've missed. 

2. God delivers us miraculously out of the middle of adversity. 

3. God walks us through adversity. 

The last one makes me think of a phrase the Lord gave me a while ago: the miracle of perseverance. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don't have to be afraid because God is with us (Psalm 23). The miracle is in us persevering and recognizing that God is by our side and taking care of every concern and worry.

Adversity in any form stinks, but we don't need to worry. God will help us deal with whatever we face when we face it. Don't create your own adversity by worrying about something that doesn't yet exist. Let God take care of you right now and prepare you--without you even knowing it--for your future. He'll take care of both you and your future if you just let Him.

Friday, October 28, 2011

what the devil really wants

One thing I've learned firsthand--and secondhand as I've watched other people--is that the devil is out to get our faith. If he can change our beliefs or get us to back off what we believe, he's won.

Adversity is how he does it. Difficult times. Unexplained things. Things that make you question the reality of who God is. When these things happen, we as humans seem to have the innate reaction to question or blame God because He's all-knowing, all-powerful, and ultimately, shouldn't He be able to stop those things?

Well, this is where it gets confusing for us as humans. Yes, I believe God can ultimately do what He wants, but for some reason, He has created the world a certain way. He created a beautiful world, gave it to Adam to manage, and Adam messed up. He ultimately handed over legal authority of this world to our enemy (and God's enemy) Satan. Satan has the legal right to do bad things on this earth, hence the corruption. God has access to the world through believers and through prayer, and through His Spirit, as He sees fit, but ultimately, we live in a corrupted world.

This is where the test of faith comes in.

When people decide to believe in God and become a Christian, Satan immediately wants to steal that Word from them. It's like the parable of the sower in Mark chapter 4. Seed was sown by the side of the road, but birds snatched it up. It's kinda like ideas about God are sown in someone's heart, but the enemy will snatch them up if at all possible. We are in a battle to keep our faith in an unseen God who is greater and mightier than anything else on earth--but works in mysterious ways and has ways that are much, much different than what we imagine them to be.

James chapter 1 tells us that our faith is what is being tried in all this adversity we face, and I think we see this same importance of faith over and over again throughout the Word.

Why does the enemy want our faith? I think the answer is in 1 John 5:4-5.

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth [or has faith] that Jesus is the Son of God?"

The ones who have faith ultimately win.

I believe our faith will pay off in multiple ways between now and the end of the world when God comes to make things right, but there will be times when faith is hard to hold because of what we see. That's when we need to remember to keep faith. The Bible is right, God is good, and He is faithful. No matter what we see, His promises are true, available to you today, and He ultimately wins in the end. I'm glad I'm on His side.

Monday, October 24, 2011

prayer

...And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

   Our Father in heaven,
   Reveal who you are.
   Set the world right;
   Do what's best— as above, so below.
   Keep us alive with three square meals.
   Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
   Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
   You're in charge!
   You can do anything you want!
   You're ablaze in beauty!
      Yes. Yes. Yes.

(Matthew 6:5-13, Message Bible)

P.S. 27 weeks today!!! January 23rd is coming closer and closer!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

God shows up despite ourselves

You know what fascinates me is the fact that God can take our humanity and show His divinity right in the middle of it.

Sometimes I think He shows Himself when we are still hurting... His getting glory doesn't always happen when our lives look amazing to everyone else. Sometimes He gets glory when we fall down, but don't stay down. Of course, He doesn't get glory in the fact that you fell or in what caused you to fall, but He does get glory when you decide to get back up and keep moving with Him.

I don't think we always have to be "spiritual" when God can use us. We don't need to have just been in His glory for 3 hours before He can been seen in our lives--and that amazes me. When our desire is to follow Him in our lives, He takes our daily living and somehow makes it His own. For example, someone could post a Scripture on facebook or some quote they heard, just because they thought it was cool, and later find out it's exactly what someone else needed to make their day. That's just one example of God using us in the middle of our humanity.

Because we are such fragile vessels, God gets more glory when we surrender to Him because He then gets the glory when we are weak, but people somehow see us as strong. Even if no one else knows it, we know that we can't be who we are without Him.

Monday, October 10, 2011

how to help a grieving friend

A church acquaintance of mine just experienced a horrible tragedy this past weekend. I don't know the family well, but I know people who do who are aching for ways to help this family.

I haven't been through a sudden tragedy like this, but I have extended family who has been, and I've lost a brother and a newborn son to death way too early, so I thought I'd share some thoughts of how you can help a grieving friend.

1. Remember. Mark your calendar now and send the grieving family a card, note, email, facebook message on the anniversary of when their loved one passed away. Just last week was the 2-year anniversary of my brother's passing, and every thought, note, and bit of love that people sent my way and to my parents helped us walk through that day and be honored and blessed that people would remember him.

2. Remember, part 2. Immediately following any death, the family is thrown in a whirlwind of people sending condolences, asking if they can help, making funeral preparations (imagine wedding preparations thrown into five days or so!), talking to family members -- not to mention processing their grief. It's after the funeral where the fact that "life goes on" hits and you have to try to cope with the reality that your loved one isn't there -- this is when family and friends are needed, just as much, if not more than before. Send a bouquet of flowers a few weeks after the funeral just to say you care and are thinking of them. (I remember cherishing the flowers sent after I lost my baby boy. They made me smile because someone remembered.) Write them a note or facebook message any time you pray for them - even 3-6 months from now - and just let them know you care.

3. Pray. So many times when I was grieving, I relied on the fact that people were praying me through this. I couldn't always form prayers because my world had been rocked so hard, so knowing that people were praying for me was such a relief and an encouragement.

4. Bring meals. This is probably most important in the first few weeks and a few weeks after the funeral. If you're a good friend, perhaps you could make them a schedule using something like foodtidings.com. Or you could ask a friend if something has already been set up. It's such a relief not having to worry about dinner when you are trying to process your loss. Even a few weeks after the funeral, you could drop off a dinner or if the grieving family is interested, you could visit for a short while. Anything to help relieve the stress is helpful. Here is a good blog post on Tips for Bringing Meals to a Grieving Friend. 

5. Let them grieve. The sadness and tears will come in unexpected ways over the next few weeks, months, and years. Sudden tragedies can especially take a while to heal from because they are unexpected. If the grieving family isn't acting like themselves or is a little snappy or down about life, keep an eye on them so they don't get stuck in depression, but also, give them a lot of grace. They don't even know all that they are processing. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I still am processing the grief of losing the people I've lost in my life.

6. Don't try to have answers. This blog states it well. Please read it - because people, especially Christians, often try to make it better by saying "God's in control" or "it'll be all right" or some other cliche. Those answers do not help. Often they just drag up a ton more questions in the grieving person. It's okay to not know what to say and just be quiet or to be honest and say, "I wish I had the right words, but I don't." Give hugs. Write notes to say you are praying for them and thinking of them. It's okay to not have the answers - we're human, and the best we can do is be there, help where needed, and listen.

There are a lot of other things you can do help a grieving friend, but hopefully this gives you a good start. It's some of what really helped me in what I have been going through. Ask God for His help and wisdom in how you can bless, encourage, and most importantly, support your friend, and He will.


John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."



forgive and forget

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness recently, partially because Pastor Mac Hammond has talked about it in his recent messages (great messages, too!) and partially because I've recognized some areas where I need to forgive.

One of the things forgiveness means that I think we often ignore or don't realize is that when you forgive, you should forget. Pastor Mac often follows that statement with statements like this: "When I say 'forget,' I don't mean that you get Holy Ghost amnesia. When you forget, it actually means that you 'put out of mind.'"

So I've contemplated that and realized that when I am offended or hurt by someone else, my tendency is to overthink why I've been hurt. I'll say, "I forgive them" and really do mean it. But then I think about it a lot. And I always have a good reason to try to decipher what I'm going through and why I feel the way I feel and it will always make sense why I need to replay in my head everything that I need to forgive that person for. The Lord doesn't want me to keep replaying their mistakes. He wants me to forgive them, and then move on.

This morning, I looked up the word "forgive" on blueletterbible.com and it gives the idea that when you forgive, you walk away from it and leave it behind you. That means not going back to it because you have to try to figure out exactly everything that offended you. Not overthinking it because it's part of your "personality" and you need to make sure that you don't miss anything. (guilty as charged!) None of that will help you forgive. It will just make you frustrated all over again.

What we really need to do when we forgive someone is forget it. Put it out of mind... over and over and over. Day in, day out.

To clarify, I'm not talking about an abusive situation where someone is taking advantage of you physically or emotionally. I'm talking about those instances that happen altogether too often among church members, family, and friends where you get offended because they don't celebrate Labor Day like you do or they looked at you the wrong way or they did something else that frustrated you. Those types of things are things that we should leave behind us.

Lord, I've messed up time and again by reasoning my way into not forgetting the things people have done for me. Please help me truly forgive and walk away from whatever frustrations come from other people in my life. In Jesus' name, Amen. Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Thursday, October 6, 2011

quick update!

Hi everyone!

I've started blog drafts and thought about writing many times over the past weeks/days, but obviously, I've been quiet on here for a while.

Just thought I'd check in and let you know that everything is going aok. :-) Baby is healthy and I'm still on bedrest so baby can stay healthy in me and not come early. Erik, my family, and friends have all been amazing as they help take care of me when I'm off my feet.

Slowly but surely I'm pulling together baby registry stuff and realizing how much stuff you need to take care of a kiddo! Yikes!

Yesterday, we celebrated my brother Brian's two year anniversary in heaven. Amazing how time flies. Erik and I visited Brody and Brian at the cemetery, and it was peaceful and beautiful. A nice bittersweet moment... we actually both thought the same thing at the same time while there: "It's still kinda surreal." And that it is. Hard to imagine that Brian went through what he went through and he's not here anymore, and that we and Brody went through what we went through. Definitely wish it could be different, but since it isn't, we do our best to keep moving on.

I'm SO grateful that I know I'll see them again in heaven. I can't imagine dealing with grief without that hope of eternity and seeing them again. (If you don't have hope of eternity, visit www.needhim.com.)

Anyway, thanks for reading my blog. I'm amazed by all the page views and hope that somehow my ramblings and life stories encourage you in your own journey.

Hugs.

Laura