Showing posts with label Bible Study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible Study. Show all posts

Shouts And Whispers



9:32 AM.  Some spunky spider threaded a silvery strand from the porch railing to the chair last night, and I'm sitting here looking at it as I try to figure out what I exactly want to write today. The wind is picking up, and I keep watching the thread in the sunlight, thinking surely it will break in the gusts.  But it hasn't.  Spider silk is strong stuff.

I didn't start this trying to draw an analogy here, but its kind of like the country right now isn't it?  Some days the events in the news are so crazy, it feels like the entire American civilization is hanging by a thread.  Maybe one day the last gust of wind, the last crazy event, will break it.  I hope our traditions and values, the things we used to all unite around as nation, will be like that thread, strong enough to string our country together amidst all this chaos, but if not...well, it's a good thing that we believers in Christ don't have to place our hope in men, isn't it?

I'd like to insert something I wrote on Instagram a couple weeks ago, for posterity or for any of you who don't follow me over there.  This is the bottom line to me:

I had some things I wanted to share this week, but all that is on hold for now, as Instagram was dominated yesterday by black squares. I don’t like getting involved in these things online, but this morning all my thoughts and feelings and discouragements coalesced and clarified. So against my initial instinct to swear off social media and just pray and cocoon with my kids (which still might be what I end up doing), I have a few things to say..First, to those putting your hope in social media campaigns, or conversations, or human organizations, or a political party, or violence, to spur on whatever change you think needs to happen, I think you will be disappointed..I like how someone else (@stopandconsider on Instagram) put it: “The spiritual oppression that all men are under is sin, and from that all the physical vestiges of oppression find their power. The only way that is changed is by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for sinful men to reconcile them to God.”.
The solution to ALL our sin, the sins hidden inside us as well as the sins of murder and theft and racism that dominate the news, is CHRIST, crucified to pay the penalty of death that WE deserved. He is risen to conquer death, heal our souls, and give us victory over that sin..
HE is the One who sets us free, changes hard hearts, and brings peace to our sinful souls and broken world. If you don’t know that peace and reconciliation with God - I pray, I beg you, to seek and find that Truth...And one more thing - if we as Christians are trying to participate in this conversation on racism, rule of law, etc, and we leave out the Gospel, I’m sorry but we are doing it wrong. I’ve been personally convicted of this. What eternal good are we doing if we aren’t taking care to point others to Christ through this tragic situation? What lasting change can be made if we don’t preach the Gospel of Christ, which has the true power to change hearts and save eternal souls?.
It’s time to turn our eyes back to Him, our only true Hope amidst the chaos.

The events of the last few weeks have kind of been the last gust of wind for me, to turn my eyes back to what really matters.  These verses in 2 Timothy have been swirling in my brain through the turmoil our nation is facing - reminding me that this is my duty, this is my call:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching...But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2,5

Paul was writing this to Timothy, who was a young pastor.  But when I read those verses to apply them personally, I am reminded to keep my mind on the gospel, and my energy focused on my kids. There are so many voices shouting on social media right now, it's hard to hear anyone, and the limitations of trying to speak the truth online become ever more apparent...but I can preach the Word to my kids.  I can be faithful in my efforts to convince, exhort, rebuke, and train them.  I can show them how to be watchful in all things by showing them what God's Word says about what is happening in the world, I can present examples of how to endure afflictions while giving thanks to God, I can do the work of an evangelist by pointing them to Jesus's atoning work on the cross always.  This is I can fulfill my ministry, the most important one, which has always been to shine the light of Christ in my home to my children, to write the Truth on their hearts.




(A couple photos from my birthday fishing trip last weekend.)

So maybe that's why I have been quiet on social media and my blog lately, because I have been mulling over how I can do better at this.  How I can lead their hearts to Jesus, pray for them better, train them in righteousness, and prepare them to stand firm amidst the persecution they will no doubt face someday.  

I feel more urgency for this than I used to.  I don't want to waste too much time shouting into the noise on social media, when my greatest impact will be whispering truth into the hearts of my children.

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Anyway, I meant for this to be a light, catch-up post, but I guess I needed to get that off my chest first.  You all know I like to have fun, and sharing it all on here is part of the fun for me, so those posts are coming too!  Thanks for hanging around while I sorted through my thoughts over the last month.

And oh yeah, it's summer.  The sun is shining on my legs, and I can practically feel the Vitamin D being manufactured, boosting my mood.  The birds chirp from the trees all around, the table umbrella is spinning as the breeze picks up, and I hear some shouting from inside the house that I should probably go attend to.  Before I close my laptop, I look up again, and that silvery thread connecting the chair and the railing is still dancing in the wind.


Certainty

(This week last year, we were visiting New Orleans. Is it cheating to recycle those photos for this post?)

Walking to the mailbox has become something of a lifeline over the last weeks.   Though I am so blessed to be able to say that our day-to-day life has not changed much through this virus situation, it is still difficult on all of us to be stuck at home.  So we are making a tradition of fresh air and mud on our shoes, as we trudge on the dirt roads of our neighborhood for the post.

The other day, as we were walking, my oldest stopped in his tracks.  "Did you hear that, Mom?  I think it was a robin."

And we all stopped and looked around, and from the eave of our neighbor's house we saw a swooping movement, a flash of orange-ish red.  

"It is, it's a robin!  That means it's spring!" my boy cried, and somehow seeing that little bird did my heart good.  The world may have ground to a halt, but spring is still coming.






I've been thinking alot in the last few weeks, about the juxtaposition of some things going on unchanged, as other things cease entirely.  I may not be afraid of physically suffering, but the frustration and disappointment and uncertainty of these days is still stressful.  I'm remembering that these feelings qualify as the cares I need to cast upon Him.  He cares for those things too.  And in the midst uncertainty, I look at spring flowers pushing their way through the dirt, and I remember all the things of which I can be certain.  

I am certain that even if this world burns to the ground, this is not my real home.  

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20

I am certain that we are all sinners, but Jesus took the punishment we deserve for our sin by dying in our place on the cross.  

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

I am certain that Jesus has risen and conquered over death, and that if we turn to Him in repentance and faith, He will save us - and He will hold us in the palm of His hand, and no one and nothing can snatch us out of it.  

"For if you confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9 
"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28

I am certain that we are going to have trouble in this world, and we can see some of that trouble clearly now.  But I know that He has overcome the world.

"In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." John 16:33 
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

I am certain that one day He's coming back, and He'll wipe away all our tears.  He will give believers the crown of righteousness that we cannot earn, but that Jesus bought for us on the cross.  

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4 
"Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8

And in the meantime, I know that God is our ever-present refuge, upon whom we can cast all our cares.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psalm 46:1-2 
"Cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5: 
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31


That last verse feels poignant at this moment.  I'm sitting here, typing this now, listening to the birds making nests in the eaves outside my window.  Tiny peeps, flashes of shadow against the screen.  And I remember that not even one of them falls to the ground without God seeing.  And He cares for us more than the sparrows.

This is our comfort, our help in trouble, our peace with God - bought by the precious blood of Jesus. Today is Good Friday, and we remember His death to pay the price for our sins, the penalty we owed.  On Sunday we will celebrate, because no matter what is going on in the outside world, He is risen.  His is the victory.  And He has us in His hands forever when we trust in Him.  What peace and joy there is in that, even if we have to celebrate stuck at home this year.

If you don't know that peace, I pray that through all this you will find it.  And if you do know Christ, I pray that you'll also remember with me that we can turn our eyes to Jesus, rest in His peace, celebrate His resurrection well, and take this chance to share the truth of the gospel of Christ with a world that is full of fear.

Happy Resurrection Day in advance, friends!

"He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:6

What I Hope To Accomplish In 2020



Over the past week I've been seriously thinking over how I want to handle goals in 2020, and I think I need a way to more frequently check in with myself on my goals.

Last year I made very specific, measurable goals that I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2019.  Specific and measurable is good, right?  Except that I was thinking too far in advance, and my goals, though measurable, were still too big.  My end goals became a little overwhelming to me, and when they started to seem unattainable, I just gave up.

This year I decided to make overarching goals for the year, but I'm going to try to make "little step" goals for each month (or two) that will move toward those overarching goals.  Does that make sense?  I'm hoping to write a post each month about how I did and share it on the blog for some accountability as well - if I write about it, I'm more likely to feel like I can't give up on it!



I decided on four categories this year, spiritual, marriage and motherhood, social, and financial.  I did not include health and blog categories as I did last year, mainly for simplicity's sake.  It's easier to focus more intently on less categories.  I also feel like I don't do too shabby at keeping up on this blog and my health anyway, so I'm skipping making goals in those areas for this year.


Spiritual

Overall Goals: Memorize Hebrews, and spend more time in prayer each day.

Little Steps:  Memorize Hebrews chapter 5, and start a prayer page in my journal.

There isn't much to explain here.  If I want to actually memorize Hebrews this year, I need to just buckle down and do it.  Last year I spent alot of time reviewing and solidifying verses, but this year I want to focus on the initial effort of getting them into my head.  I may not know them as well as I'd like, but once they are in there tentatively, it's easier to solidify them later.

I also have a Bible study bullet journal, which I use only irregularly when something stands out to me in my quiet time. I'd like to make it a more useful tool for my prayer time.  So over the next month I need to figure out a way to set it up to track the things I want to pray for.

Marriage And Motherhood

Overall Goals:  Be a happier and more thankful wife and mother.

Little Step:  Start the day with hugging each kid, and greet Derek immediately with a hug when he gets home.  

This goal makes me sound a little pathetic, but between getting the kids up and dressed, making beds, doing my own hair and makeup, making breakfast, getting started on school...sometimes I forget to take a minute to look into each of their sweet faces, and give them a hug and "good morning" before all the craziness starts.  I'd like to change that.  For Derek, he usually gets home right about the time when my nerves are frayed from all the chaos of the day.  I don't always greet him properly either, so that needs to change as well.


Social

Overall Goals:  Spend less time on social media, and spend more time investing in and encouraging my real-life friends (including family).

Little Steps:  Clean out my friend list on Facebook, and send some snail mail.

I'm cheating a little with this one, because I actually already cleaned out my Facebook friends list, and I am hoping to write more about that process next week.  Stay tuned for that!  My other goal is to send out some good old-fashioned snail mail.  I used to be pretty good at letter-writing, but I probably only send out one letter a year now.  I'd like to write at least one longer letter to one of my dear long-distance friends, and at least one short note of encouragement to someone.  I think it's a pity how much snail mail has declined, because I know the joy of receiving something in the mail that isn't an advertisement or a bill.


Financial

Overall Goals: Save $1000.

Little Steps:  Save $100 in February.

That's fairly straightforward, isn't it?  I have a secret project in the works that I need some money to accomplish, so I need to really buckle down and save a little more successfully this year.  Last year I saved only about half my goal, so if I can catch myself up to where I originally wanted to be at the end of 2020, so much the better!

Reading

Overall Goal: Read more books that I own but haven't read.

Little Steps: Participate in the Read Your Bookshelf project!

This one is more just for fun, but I also do have a ridiculous amount of books which I haven't read.  Chantel at An Intentional Life created this fun themed challenge to get us reading our unread books, and I'm going to try to participate each month!  In January I have to read a book with a color in its title (I'm gong to read "The White Cottage Mystery" or "Greenglass House"), and February is supposed to be a book that is also a movie (I want to read "The Princess Bride"!).



There we go!  My goals for 2020, and my little steps for the month of February.  I'm giving myself the extra two weeks in January as freebies, to help me get into the swing of things.  The plan is to check in with myself at the end of February and report how I'm doing on the blog (you guys are basically my accountability group, ha!).

What is your main goal for 2020?

Bible Verses To Write In Your Christmas Cards (+ Printable!)



I think this might be the latest I've ever gone without sending my Christmas cards.

I am very fond of Christmas cards.  December is the only time of year when my mailbox (I almost said "inbox" - sheesh) is flooded with happy mail, and it cheers me up every time I receive a new card to open.  I like thinking that by sending out our cards, I can give a little bit of that cheer to people I care about too.

This year I am trying to personalize our cards a bit more.  I love photo cards, and usually that's the route I go with our Christmas cards, but I also realize that it's not as personal.  It's a printed card and photo, and unless someone leaves room to write on the photo card, everyone gets the same one.

I had a bunch of old-school Christmas cards lying around and decided to use them this year.  I'm going to tuck our photo inside with a handwritten note.  I can't guarantee that the notes are all going to be particularly meaningful, but they'l be written in my own hand, and I think that's something.

Another thing I love about Christmas cards is that they can also be a chance to encourage other believers by pointing them back to Christ during this hectic Christmas season.  It is so easy for the true meaning of why we are celebrating Christmas as believers to be lost in all the festivities.  Handwriting my cards gives me a chance to give a little Christian encouragement.  These are a few of the verses that I think are wonderful to tuck inside your Christmas card.



"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince Of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:1 (ESV)

"And the angel said to them 'Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'" Luke 2:10-11 (ESV)

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." Luke 1:46b-47 (ESV)

"...And they will call His name Immanuel, which means 'God With Us'." Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, that we may know Him who is true...He is the true God and eternal life." 1 John 5:20 (ESV)

"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him." 1 John 4:9

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)



These verses are wonderful ones to write or type on your Christmas cards and newsletters, but I've also been working on something else...




A couple years ago I opened an Etsy shop to sell Bible verse card printable for labor and for new moms, but I have been really wanting to make a printable set with Bible verses for the Christmas season.  Something that can be tucked into a Christmas card as a little extra, something that can be attached to a present as a tag, something that will point back to Jesus.  Cards that can be used as a bookmark, or used as a tool to memorize Scripture around the Christmas season.









I finally made these Christmas Bible verse cards this year, and I'm really happy with how it turned out!  I used an app to create some watercolor "winter woodland" illustrations - each card has a unique watercolor image on it, along with a Bible verse.

These come in a full size set, which are 4.5 inches wide, and a smaller set with are 2.75 inches wide.  I think the large set would be a nice addition to a Christmas present, and the mini set are perfect for tags, bookmarks, or tucking inside a Christmas card!

You can buy these sets of eight printable Bible verse cards in my Etsy shop for $3!




Happy Christmas, friends!

I hope these little cards will be an encouragement to you to look to Christ for your Christmas joy this season!


Printable Bible Verse Cards For Christmas!  Perfect for Christmas cards, tags, or bookmarks!

Printable Bible Verse Cards For Christmas!  Perfect for Christmas cards, tags, or bookmarks!

Printable Bible Verse Cards For Christmas!  Perfect for Christmas cards, tags, or bookmarks!




Currently... | November 2019


Wearing: These new duck boots that I ordered here.  At first I felt a little clunky in them.  But I know they will be great for ice and snow this winter, so I kept them and they've been growing on me!



Drinking: Coffee with a splash of half-and-half.  Derek and I made a no-fancy-coffee pact for the month of November, and I'm trying my hardest to stick to it.  It is embarrassing how much I can spend in one month on just coffee!

Picking: Rock for behind the new wood stove that Derek is installing this week.  Our old house had a wood stove, and I loved that thing.  It added a coziness to the living room and was a life-saver when the power would go out.  I could even cook on it!  We decided we wanted one in our new house too, but I had a terrible time picking out the rock for it.  Our old wood stove had this really pretty grayish natural rock behind it, with lichen even growing on the rock, and it was so pretty.  But real rock is expensive, and fake rock doesn't grow lichen.  I made a decision though, and Derek took the week off to get the rock up!  It's going to look good I think.



Reading: Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz. The subtitle is "tracing the heart of the gospel from Christ to the Reformation", and it looks really fascinating!  I just started it.



Preparing: For the girls' birthday party this Saturday.  I have struggled for a long time on how to handle birthday parties with five kids.  Five individual parties each year was out of the question, but I also didn't want them to never have a birthday party during their growing up years.  I still don't know exactly what my plan is, but this year I decided we'd do one combined party for the girls, and one for the boys in the spring.  The girls requested a "princess tea party" birthday.  I just ordered candy canes so I can hot glue the curved part onto plastic cups - you know, to make little "tea cups".  I'm fancy like that.  Hey, you would be shocked how hard and expensive it is to find a basic teacup these days, so I had to improvise!

Feeling: Like I need next week off after all this party prep.  But moms don't get vacation time.

Trying: To be more consistent in my Bible reading.  I typically wake up before the kids each morning to read, which works great when I can make it happen.  However, I'm finding that other days the kids pull me in a million directions right after I wake up, which leads me to sometimes forget.  I've been feeling especially spiritually weary lately, and I know it's because I haven't had enough consistency in my daily quiet time.  This week I've been settling the kids with their breakfast and sneaking away while they eat, and that seems to be working better!

Following: Speaking of Bible reading, I started this Bible reading plan in earnest, and I am loving it.  It's been a while since I tried to read the Bible within a certain time frame. At first I was a little intimidated by the sheer volume of reading each day.  Now that I'm into it though, I am loving reading bigger chunks of Scripture at a time.  Going in-depth with one section is important and meaningful, but I'm at a stage in life where increasing the quantity of Bible reading is more doable.  The name is fitting, "keeping the feast".  I feel that way right now when I finish reading for the day, like I've had a feast.

Sporting: A new hair color!  I tried to edit this photo to make the color the most accurate. It's basically a little darker and richer than my natural color, and on my previous honey-highlights, it has a red-maroon tint.  Last winter I went with straight-up burgundy hair, so this is a subtler version of that.  I'm told it will fade out really well, and I'm liking it alot!



Wondering: If you've noticed that my blogroll in the sidebar has expanded a bit?  I found a few new blogs lately that I'm enjoying!

Considering: A social media break.  I took a Facebook break for the month of December last year, and it was so lovely.  This year I'm considering taking a break from Instagram too!  Just trying to figure out logistics of how to still share blog posts and still get Christmas photos printed into books easily (since I normally use Chatbooks connected with my Instagram).  Question: how do you typically read this blog?  Do you come to new posts through social media, or do you use a blog reader, or just type in the url when you want to read new posts?  I'll put a poll below.



Listening: To Christmas music.  Yes, I am.

Watching:  Derek and I recently re-started watching The Middle from the beginning.  We were watching Blue Bloods for a while, but we needed a break from drama.  In general we are more comedy-type people, and we relate to the Hecks!  Maybe you have to be from a certain type of family to appreciate that show, because the only people I know who have loved it as much as we do are other members of my family...but we all find it hilarious.

What have you all been up to?

Linking up here.




The One Thing Your Church Needs To Get Right




(The steeple from my childhood church, in case you were wondering.  It was the best church photo I had.)

Let's do a little evaluating exercise, shall we?

I've mentioned a couple of times briefly that Derek and I have had some church upheaval to deal with over the last six months or so.  I won't get into details here, but we decided in light of everything that we needed to take a step back and evaluate our church situation a little bit, and seek where the Lord may have us go.  So we've been trying some of the churches in our area.

This is the second time we have gone through this process in the last few years, so between Derek and me, we have checked out over a hundred churches, either online or in person.  I wish I could say it's been an encouraging process, but on the contrary, it's been incredibly discouraging to me.  The most discouraging part hasn't involved service styles or anything to do with the people in these churches.  So many have been friendly and welcoming.  I've been more discouraged than anything by the content of some of the sermons.

One illustration we heard at a church-that-shall-not-be-named particularly bothered me, maybe because it is an example of everything that I've been discouraged about in our church hunt.  I'm tipping my hand here, but see if you can understand my point after you read the sermon illustration below.  I understand that every illustration is imperfect and falls apart when you try to take it too far, but I was particularly concerned with this one.

This is roughly what was said in one of the sermons we heard.

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"Let's imagine that a man gets called into his boss's office one day.  His boss tells him that he needs to sell a million dollars worth of product.  He needs to do it in six months, or he'll lose his job.

The man works to sell the company's product.  Six months later, he gets called into the boss's office again.  He sits down, and his boss looks at him.  The man sweats a little bit in nervousness.  He doesn't think he did well enough.   He is fearful that he'll have to go home tonight and tell his wife that he's out of work.

His boss announces that he only sold $7 worth of product in the last six months.

The man hangs his head.  He knows he's going to lose his job.  He didn't do enough.

But his boss looks at him, and tells him that no, he didn't sell enough.  But because he cares about him so much, he's going to give him another six months to sell the million dollars."

"That," this pastor announced proudly, "is grace."


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Okay.

The only problem is, that is not the Gospel.

I'm going to give that pastor the benefit of a doubt and assume he was merely trying to explain the general concept of grace rather than a Gospel illustration, but I'm using it as an example because the illustration was representative of alot of the teaching we've heard lately.  Let's just be clear:

The Gospel is not that God gives us grace to do better.

The Gospel is not that Jesus is our example.  He is, but He's so much more than just that.

The Gospel is not even about God changing lives.  That is the result of the Gospel, but it's not the Gospel.

The Gospel starts with understanding that we have a sin problem.  Not "messiness", not "mistakes", not "brokenness".  A pervasive, indwelling sin problem that we can never make up for because we are always piling on more sins.

No, nobody is perfect. And that's the problem, because we are talking about a perfect, holy God, full of goodness and light.  And we have sinned against Him (Psalm 51:4).  We have broken His laws.  God must punish sin, or He would not be perfectly just nor good.  We have earned for ourselves death and eternal punishment in Hell (Romans 6:23).  With every disobedience.  With every grumbling or unclean thought. With every "white lie".

That is not a message that some pastors want to focus on these days.  That is not a feel-good message.  That is bad, bad news.  It might even be offensive, because we all have a tendency to think we aren't "that bad" (guilty here).  But even that attitude is the sin of pride!  Even our good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  We're in trouble.

You have to understand the bad news to understand the good news.

God, out of the richness of His loving-kindness, didn't leave us in our sin and death.  He sent His Son, Jesus, who was fully man and fully God, and He was perfect.  He did everything we couldn't, lived a life without sinning even once.  Then because He was perfectly righteous, He took the punishment we had earned upon Himself.  He died in our place.  Then He rose from the dead, conquering our sin and death itself.  He took our sin upon Himself, suffered the wrath against sin that we deserved, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When we recognize who we are, and who Christ is and what He has done, the only thing we need to do is to repent.  We need to turn from our sin and turn to Christ with faith that He will save us.  With faith that He has done everything required for our salvation if we will just turn and trust in Him.

We don't have to be a "better person" to earn His favor.  We don't have to "clean up our lives" to earn forgiveness. We don't have to strive to do things "God's way" in hopes that we've done enough to make up for our wrongs.  We can do nothing to deserve His mercy, we can't make up for our wrongs. But Christ did.  

 "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior," 

Titus 3:4-6

And when we understand that and turn to Christ, God takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh.  We will respond in loving obedience, because when we understand Jesus died to save us from the punishment of our sin, we will start to hate our sin.  We want to turn our back on it and turn to Jesus because He already saved us from that.  And He enables us to now live for Him (2 Cor. 5:15) through the Holy Spirit working in us, sanctifying us.



---

So if we were going to take that illustration at the top of this post and make it represent the Gospel more truly, it would be something like this.

Your boss comes to you one day and says you have to sell a million dollars in six months or you will lose your job. Worse, you have been embezzling from the company for years, so you have to pay that money back before you can start earning the million dollars.  The total is astronomical.  You will never be able to earn it back.  You are in trouble.

In six months your boss sits down to look at your accounts.  He looks at the papers, and then looks up at you.  You are sweating.  You've done nothing that has decreased what you owe.  You know you deserve to lose your job and be thrown in prison for what you've done.

But he looks at you with eyes filled with compassion.  And he smiles.

He leans forward and tells you he knows what you've done.  He knows what you owe, and that you can never do enough to repay it, no matter how many years he might give you.  But he cares for you like his own child.  You have fallen incredibly short, but His son sold enough to cover everything you owe.  He has credited what his son has earned to your account, and he won't be pressing charges against you for the embezzlement because his son has paid your fine.

You don't have to do anything.  Your debt is payed, your way has been earned.  You can keep your job forever. 

That is mercy.  That is grace.

That is the Gospel.


---

If you have not trusted in Jesus for your eternal salvation, I urge you, please be reconciled to God.  Trust in the One who has done everything necessary to give you eternal life.  Turn away from your sin and turn to Him.

And if you are a believer already, please get this right. And get yourself in a church that gets this right. 

It does little good for church pews to be filled each week, it does little good to hear superficially inspiring sermons, if the message doesn't point us back to Christ and what He has done to save us.  The pure, beautiful truth of what Christ has done for us that we couldn't do for ourselves. Understanding and believing this truth is what brings about actual life change, through God's grace.

I have seen the "gospel" taught wrongly so many times in the past few months, and I don't think I even realized how much of a burden that discouragement was putting on me until a few weeks ago, when we finally sat again in a church that preached everything I just tried to explain above.

I sat there in the pew with tears rolling down my cheeks.  It was such a relief to me, even as someone who is already a believer, after months of "do better" sermons, to hear again from the pulpit the beautiful truth of the Gospel preached clearly.  To marvel again at what Jesus did for me.

We believers still need to hear the Gospel too.






When Wiping Faces Doesn't Feel Satisfying



Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil.  Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children.  And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us.  Yes, establish the work of our hands.

  Psalm 90:14-17


There are days, as a Christian woman and as a stay at home mom, when it’s hard to keep perspective.  No one is very excited to hear what you are doing day in and day out, and to be honest, it’s not exciting to tell it.  I wipe little faces.  I make meals to fill little bellies. I listen to long stories, agonize through sounding out words, correct attitudes that have gone askew.  I try to mold little hearts, but often feel as if I’m making a mess of it, more like a child forming mudpies than a sculptor forming a work of art.

We all love instant gratification, immediate results, the fruits of our social media-saturated culture. We like to look at our work each day and point. “See what I’ve done! See what I’ve grown!” 

Motherhood is not like that. There is no instant progress, and the dopamine hits are few and far between. 

I read in some book once (maybe Teaching From Rest?) about how in medieval times, when the gothic cathedrals were being built, it took several generations to bring them to completion.  So some may have worked on a cathedral their entire lives, and they were lucky if they saw the end product.

I think often the work that will really last, the stuff that will really matter, is not like building a social media platform. It is like building a cathedral.

This passage in Psalms stopped me in my tracks today, because it is the cry of my heart on those days when it is hard to keep perspective. It is everything I want my life to be, everything I want for my children.

Satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!  I want my children know the kindness of His mercy early, so they may follow Christ all their days. When the days are long and feel fruitless, I want to rest and rejoice and be glad in the salvation He bought for me too.

Let Your work appear to your servants, and Your glory to their children.  I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, to open my eyes to see the work God is doing here, even in the mundane.  I want to teach my children to do the same, so they will know the glory of the One who made them.

Establish the work of our hands for us.  Remember that there are things that will last for a moment, and things that will last forever.  

Money will be spent.  Things will wear out.  Beauty fades.  Fame is fleeting, and social media kingdoms crash to the ground every day.  Some of these things we need to a certain extent, and some things we don't, but all these temporary things are ultimately meaningless by themselves.  If we put our satisfaction in these things, one day we will wake up and realize we wasted our lives.

But there are things that last forever.  There are souls to invest in, from the woman who needs a kind word at the store, to the friend who needs encouragement, to the children giggling down the hall who need to know Jesus.  There is the work we do for Christ.  Even something as simple as wiping chocolate off the little face of an eternal soul, when done to bring more glory to Jesus, is significant.  

Wiping little faces, filling little bellies, showing patience through frustrations, all the while speaking of the mercy and kindness and glory of our King.  Speaking of what He has done to save them if they will just turn to Him in repentance and faith.  So our children (and others) will know it.  So they will know Him. 



That's the work that is worthy of establishing, friends.  That's a cathedral.  And you may not see what this day to day, mundane faithfulness is building, but God does.

Yes, Lord, establish the work of our hands.


Stuff I Like | April 2019



It's May 1st!  It snowed yesterday, and there is frost dusting my porch as I write this, but I can hear the birds chirping from the tree just outside my window, and golden rays are busy melting the ice.  So  it's a typical start to the month.  May there be more golden rays, more rain and dew, and less snow this month!

On to what I enjoyed in the month of April.


Bible.is App.  

Derek randomly decided to search for audio bibles one day, and he found this great app!  You can get the ESV version of the Bible for free to listen to through the app.  But my favorite part is that they have a normal reading and a dramatic reading.  The dramatic reading has music in the background, and the actor does different voices.  It's so fun to listen to!  Different sections of the text are linked to well-done videos too.  It's just cool!


Skylar's Scent Club

(The link is a referral link that is supposed to give you 25% off? And then I get a credit if you decide to try it.)

I have a tiny weakness for subscription boxes, and in April I decided to try Skylar's Scent Club.  Skylar is a company that makes perfume that is supposedly more natural and less "toxic", which is nice...but to be honest, I just signed up because I like things that smell good.  Each month they send a rollerball with a  limited-time scent.  In April they sent one called Magic Bloom, and it was so fresh and happy-smelling.  May is going to be Vintage Rose.  I may be checking my mailbox daily until it arrives.


Spearmint Oil For Laundry. 

Speaking of things that smell good - that is also the reason I have a little essential oils stash in my cabinet.  I just don't buy alot of the claims made about essential oils, but I do know that I like nice-smelling things, so I use them for some things around the house.  In April I felt like I had a ridiculous amount of laundry, but the process was made just a tiny bit more fun by putting a few drops of spearmint oil on a dryer ball.  Each time the dryer is running my laundry room smells like a pack of gum.

It's the little things.

This is where I buy oils. (Another referral link here that is supposed to give us both a $10 discount.)  And I feel great about the company, thank you very much my oil-selling friends.  You know I still love you guys!


The New Little Women Movie.

Last year they came out with a modern movie version of Little Women.  After a very long wait in the library hold line, I finally watched it yesterday, and it is so cute. I loved it!  It stays true to the characters, and doesn't "dirty up" the story at all with modern nonsense.  It's basically the same as the old movie, but set in the present day.  It was very well done!  I honestly don't even know how it got a PG-13 rating.  Aside from a scene with some teen drinking and making out, it was pretty clean.  I'll definitely watch it with my girls when they are older.



A New Swimsuit.  

Guys, you don't understand, this has been a months long process.  After having Georgie, I knew my old swimsuits were just not going to cut it anymore.  I bought a new top last summer to tide me over, but it was time to hunt down something new and more flattering.

I've been eyeing swimsuits all winter, I ordered a couple items that I ended up returning.  I finally found these bottoms a few months ago that were a little higher waisted, so they smooth out my tummy lumps nicely.  I've been on the lookout for a top to match, and finally ordered this one.

It's a winner!  I've found it!

I may order another pair of the swim bottoms just for a different look, but I finally found something that makes me feel pretty good about visiting the pool this summer.  Victory!  A picture of the swimsuit on me is in my Instagram stories today if you want to see (I'm not sure I wanted a permanent record of that on my blog, haha!).


None Like Him by Jen Wilkin.

I'm late to the party on this one.  I've been listening to this audiobook about God's attributes after my Bible time in the morning, and it is very good.  I usually end up taking a full page of notes on each chapter, and she gives Bible verses for further study of each attribute.  Highly recommend!


Spring Flowers.

In late April, I finally found some flowering trees!





Spring is officially here now.

What new discoveries did you make in April?

How To Be Opinionated In A Good Way



"I think Callie is smart, and has alot of good things to say, it's just hard to get it out of her!"

A friend told me this last week, referencing another conversation she had with our mutual friend.  I smiled and laughed, and thought it was a sweet thing of her to say, but I've been mulling it over since then.

Why is it hard to get "it" out of me?  And is that a good or bad thing?

---

I am a rather opinionated person.  I don't think it's bad to be an opinionated person - having an opinion means you have thought a topic through.  If someone doesn't have an opinion on something, they may have reached a neutral position, but I think more often they haven't researched the information enough or haven't thought through an issue.  When you do those two things thoroughly, you usually do form some sort of opinion.

But I think there is a difference between being opinionated in a good way, and being opinionated in a bad way.  When someone is opinionated in a bad way, they will give their opinions too much, anytime, anywhere.  When someone is opinionated in a good way, they know when and where is the right time to express their opinion.  The difference between them is a matter of wisdom.

This is something I'm constantly trying to work on, to be discerning about when something must be said, and when to stay quiet.  It's tricky business, but these are some things I usually try to keep in mind.

Also note, I'm mainly talking about conversations between believers in Christ about secondary issues.  Conversations with unbelievers would ideally be ultimately directed on pointing them to Christ, not arguing secondary issues like politics, parenting methods, educational choices, etc.  And it's never a bad time to tell someone the truth of the Gospel of Christ!



When To Speak

When Someone Asks Your Opinion

If someone is asking, they presumably really want to know.  I think it's still important to express any disagreement in a tactful and kind way, but if someone is asking, that's an obvious green light.

When Someone Needs Encouragement

There are times when we all get bogged down in how we think we should be doing things, or how we think things should be.  There are times when we want to do something that might seem crazy.  There are times when we get caught up in our own heads and start to think things are worse than they are.  There are times when we are trapped in a bad pattern, and don't know how to get out of it.  It takes some insight to be able to recognize these things in another person, and wisdom to know when it's the right time to speak.  But when you see that someone needs encouragement - to change something, to act, to be courageous, to be wise, to fight despair, to turn away from some sin - it might be time to speak up, risk stepping on some toes, and give that encouragement.

When Someone Is Saying Something That Is Contrary To Scripture

If you are speaking to a fellow believer in Christ, and something is said that does not line up with Scripture, I think it is a good thing to (gently) point that out.  As believers, we are meant to be discerning and sharpen each other in this way (Proverbs 27:17) - it's part of being the body of Christ. Of course to do this properly you need to know your Bible!

When You Trust The Person To Know Your Intentions And Appreciate A Friendly Discussion

For me, this category most often involves my immediate family and family of origin.  I know they are going to think the best of me, and that our relationship will survive, and even be stronger, after a lively discussion.  I do also give encouragement or my opinion about important matters to others, but my closest family and friends are the ones who get my opinion and input about smaller matters, because I can trust that they won't think the worst of me if we disagree about something small.

When Someone Is Giving Harmful Advice

There are times when someone is saying something that could potentially lead others into some sort of harm, and if that is the case I think it's in order to speak up.

When To Stay Silent

When You Think Someone NEEDS Your Advice

If you are thinking that a friend or family member needs to hear your advice on something, I'd proceed with caution.  The Bible warns us about trying to take a splinter out of our brother's eye when we have a log in our own (Matthew 7:3-5).  We need to make sure we are not acting out of pride or self-righteousness, but truly and lovingly considering the other person as better than ourselves and looking after their best interests (Philippians 2:3-5).

When You Know You Would Be Speaking From A Desire To Show Off

I do this.  Sometimes I insert my opinion when it's not really needed because I want to show that I also have some knowledge on the subject.  I've gotten better at recognizing this pride in my heart and keeping my thoughts to myself when speaking up would mainly be from a desire to show something off.  No one wants to listen to a know-it-all anyway!  It is not glorious to seek one's own glory (Proverbs 25:27).  I struggle with this when it comes to sharing my opinions, but this could apply to conversations about possessions, experiences, your appearance, even your own good deeds - if there is even a little part of you that is saying something just to try to look good, rethink that comment.

When It Is A Difference Of Opinion That Is Not Of Eternal Importance

There are some things that are just not worth dividing over, because in light of eternity, they will mean nothing.  For the record, I do think alot of things that are common discussions DO have some eternal implications, and deserve some careful thought and discussion!  But things like breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, essential oils, eating organic, wearing makeup or not, etc. - not so much.  Those are just my pet examples, but use some discernment before you enter a discussion.  If it's not something God is going to specifically ask you about when you reach Heaven - probably not that important. 2 Timothy 2:23-26 warns us against foolish and ignorant disputes.

When You Would Be Speaking From Anger And Frustration

If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated about a topic, and you aren't sure you can discuss it in a calm, kind way, it's probably best to stay quiet.   Send a well-thought out (and kind) letter later if it's a topic that is really important.

When You See That Someone Is Being Stubbornly Foolish

There are foolish people out there, and when someone is being stubbornly foolish, don't even bother discussing topics with those people.  Proverbs warns us that we might look like a fool when we answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4), which is almost unavoidable with people who are stubbornly being foolish, so I usually just stay away from those discussions.



And of course we should always make sure all these conversations are seasoned with grace and humility,  and realizing that Christians are allowed to have different opinions about issues that are not specifically addressed in Scripture.

I tend to think the wisest position is often to remain quiet (Proverbs 17:28 - probably why my friend thought I was "smart" ha!), so that's where I most often default, but the comment from my friend makes me rethink that a bit.  Because maybe sometimes people want my opinion.  I think I could probably benefit from remembering my own guidelines for situations when it's alright to speak up.  We aren't meant to get into fruitless discussions as fellow believers, but we are meant to sharpen each other on the things that matter and encourage one another.  I can't do that if I remain silent too often.

Of course, it might be hard to get my thoughts out of me in person, but you all are privy to my innermost thoughts and opinions on this blog all the time!  But this is my space, so I assume if you are here, you actually want to know.

What did I miss?  Any other rules of thumb you consider when deciding whether to insert your opinion or not?




Stuff I Like | January 2019



I'm going to try something new here on the blog and share different things I'm liking or loving each month.  I always enjoy reading these kinds of posts myself, and I'm hoping to put together my own once a month as part of my blog goals this year.  We'll see how it goes!

The Book With No Pictures - My kids are finally old enough to find this book completely hilarious, and what makes them happy makes me happy.  Also check out the book I'm Just No Good At Rhyming.  Derek and I have laughed our way through the title poem, but the kids were cracking up at "The Sweetest Lullaby Ever" and "Hey Kids! Get Your Parents To Read This Poem!"  You have to have a goofy side to your personality to make any of these work!

Wild Thing podcast - You all know I live in the mountains, and supposedly people have sighted Bigfoot in our area.  I think there was even an episode of Finding Bigfoot filmed here.  There is a local Bigfoot club.  I know people who believe Bigfoot is a real thing.  I'm not convinced it's not a real thing.  After visiting Washington last year and seeing how much wilderness is out there, I can see how something might be able to hide in those woods.  Anyway, if you have even a little part of you that is interested in learning more about Bigfoot, Wild Thing is a fun podcast to check out!  It's an investigative podcast about...you guessed it...Bigfoot.

You probably could skip episode 2 since it's all about evolutionary theories (which I don't agree with), and watch out for one inappropriate part in episode 8 that you'll have to skip past - but also, my town is mentioned in that episode, ha!  Told you, Bigfoot is big here (no pun intended, but it's funny right?).

These two articles - Weirdly, in the last month two completely unrelated friends have brought up the same question: "What happens to people who never get an opportunity to hear the gospel?"  I've been frustrated with myself for not being as concise and clear as I wish I could be during these recent discussions, because the Bible is clear on what happens to people who never hear about Jesus.  It's a hard question and perhaps a hard answer, but "there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-13). It is only through Christ that we are saved. These two articles solidly answer this question biblically, and say everything I was trying to say to my friends, only better.  Definitely worth a read if you've ever ran into (or wondered about) this question.  What Happens To Those Who Have Never Heard About Jesus?  Can A Person Be Saved Through General Revelation?  

Also a quick note: I think if someone in a remote tribe (for example) is truly seeking after God, that is a work He has begun in their heart, and He will get the Gospel to them.  It's important to remember that God is infinitely more compassionate and just than we are, and everything He does is good and right. You have to start with that understanding or this question can never be answered satisfactorily.

Little Letters Linkup - I've been thinking alot about old-fashioned blogging this month, not just what happened to old fashioned blogging, but whether and how it can make a comeback.  As far as I can tell, there are precious few old-school linkups still going, which is a pity - I used to find so many other blogs to read through a good linkup.  They used to be very social things, where you wouldn't just drop your link and run, but you'd take time to look around and make connections with other bloggers.  Well, recently I came across this "Little Letters" linkup.  Guys, I think we should participate!  Sharing mini-letters to random things in your life - old-fashioned blogging used to be all about this sort of post, and I want to support it.  So keep an eye out for my little letters post in the next few days, and write one too if you want!

The Big Words Of The Bible Cards - Still loving these cards, which you can read more about here.

Snow - We had several snow days in January, and I am loving the snow so much!  It's supposed to snow again today, and I couldn't be happier.  It's pretty, and it's moisture.  If we don't get snow, then there is a much higher likelihood of wildfires in the summer.  So bring on the white stuff!




Did you find any new stuff you like in January?

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