Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Beginnings

I love the week between Christmas and New Year's. I mean, absolutely, positively, LOVE it. It's a week I usually spend cleaning (yeah, I love cleaning, it's weird, you can say it), getting a last few things done, and of course spending time with my family and friends. It's a time of dreaming, planning new goals for the year ahead, and just taking time to realize how far I've come over the past twelve months.

Basically, I love the new start. All the times I failed over the past year are about to be shoved behind me as a brand new year breaks forth. A new year to go places, meet new people, to set new goals and reach them, a chance to try again on the goals I missed the year before.

A new year to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ. To become more like Him. To know Him better, to learn to trust Him more as He works in my life to bring me to where He wants me to be.

You may have heard about a book in the Bible called Lamentations. It's not preached from a lot, and I haven't heard many devotionals about it. Basically, the prophet Jeremiah wrote it during one of the toughest times in Israel's history. Babylon was decimating the kingdom, Jerusalem was top on the hit list, and the people were in misery.

But even then, they were able to make a comeback. Jeremiah writes: "Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him!'" (Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV). 

We don't have to wait for a brand new year to make a fresh start. God's mercy and grace towards us are new every morning. No matter what you may be going through, what choices you've made, God can bring you back from it. God can help you start anew, any day, any time. 



Father, thank You for always giving us another chance. Help us in 2015 to grow closer to You and to serve You better. Mold us after Your image. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gifts

Today found me very not in the Christmas spirit.

Usually, I'm a last minute shopper. There's two reasons for this. First, I usually forget I have shopping to do until a few days before (don't ask me how, I don't know why I can remember random stuff like how many tablespoons equal a cup* but I forget all about getting presents for Christmas). Second, I spend a long time actually picking out what to give someone.

Needless to say, this combination means I'm usually grabbing gifts two days before Christmas.

This year, though, I finished my shopping a week ago Monday. I went to the mall yesterday, but it was just to hang out with a friend (and there was one more thing I was thinking about getting for my mom). All I had to do was wait for the rest of the presents to arrive in the mail...

Until today.

All of my gifts came by Monday except one. I wasn't too worried, because that one said it'd be delivered by today. Sure, it'd be a bit of an inconvienience, seeing as I'd have to rush wrap it tonight, but not a big deal...

Except for it didn't come.

Puzzled, I went to track it online, and see what happened...

Due to being damaged, it won't be delivered.

I have to reorder it.

And it was found to be damaged yesterday around 2 pm, and yet I hadn't received a single email about it.

Needless to say, I wasn't happy.

For a few minutes, I was in downright Grinch mode. How dare they not deliver my parcel? How dare they not email me so I could try to run out and get it while I still had time? They ruined Christmas!!!

Then I realized...why am I so upset? So what if it gets here in January instead? Because Christmas isn't about this...

 
It's about this...






We get so stressed this time of year, so worked up over whether our presents arrive, all the traffic we have to battle, that "idiot" who messed up our macchiato when we're already running late because we overslept after the Christmas party... But really, none of that stuff is what Christmas is truly about.

It's about a Baby.

It's about God taking on a mantle of flesh so He could lift us up out of our miry pools of sin.

It's about a King giving up a throne in order to invite us into His Kingdom.

It's about an all-powerful Master wrapping Himself in the weak body of a servant so He could break our chains.

These little gifts we pass around to each other are nice, but are nothing in light of that. They'll fade away some day.

But this Gift is Eternal. He is the Beginning and the End.

I'll be reordering the present, and it won't be coming in time for Christmas. I'll be giving it another day.

But God's Precious Gift is always available. Jesus offers salvation, peace, and joy any time. There's no need to wait for it.


*16, if you were wondering.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Liar

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them." 
~ Hebrews 13:7-9 NKJV



 
I recently watched a documentary about three people who escaped from cults.

Yeah, I can be a nerd, but that's another story.

These people, a young man and two women, had horrible things done to them, all in the name of "truth."

They were abused, raped, convinced to mistreat their family members, persuaded to abandon their families...

All because of a horrible lie.



Today, we’re too quick to trust.

You’ve probably seen and heard the liars on T.V., those men and women who convince people that Jesus is some sort of magic genie ready to grant wishes, that the way of the cross is like skipping through a field loaded with daisies and buttercups. That there's no such need for repentance, but merely for you to turn from your "self-reliance." That whatever sinful urgings you have are to be embraced, because God "made" you the way you are. I think these people forgot that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV).

(Rabbit trail, but if you want to know why it annoys me to no end when someone says, "Oh, I know so-and-so's heart, they mean well," read that verse again).

We’ve only to read Acts to see what wolves those people are. I could be wrong, but I don't think Peter, Paul, and Silas felt like this whole Christianity thing was a buttercup stroll.

But we fall for it, time and time again. We fall for the lies, the deception, because instead of checking to make sure it can stand up with what God’s infallible Word says, we grasp at them like the pretty little baubles they are.

But Satan rarely comes at us obviously.

Instead he likes to package his deceptions in bright paper and glitter. He knows we fall easier for pretty little lies than blatant ones.

I could be wrong, but I think one of the reasons God tells us through the author of Hebrews that Jesus is the same always is to warn us against these liars.

If you hear someone talking about something, and it doesn't line up with what the Bible says about God, then you know they're lying.

If you hear someone saying that there is another authority greater than God and His Word, you know they are the messenger of Satan.

Run far away from these people.

Don't let them deceive you with their lies.

Don't listen to them.

Their pretty little baubles will be their destruction.

Instead, look for the people in your life who follow God's Word.

Look for the people who look to what the Bible says, and follow the instructions.

Let these people be your guides. But, as I mentioned before, make sure you check them against the authority of the Scripture as well. Even Christians whose hearts are set to do God's Will make mistakes (i.e. King David, he made some huge ones).

In short, the Only One you should ever trust completely is God. You can be confident He'll never lie to you.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Empty

Sometimes, you feel as if you've got nothing more to give.

I stared at the screen for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out something, anything to write about.

Sometimes it's easy to write something. Sometimes I get an idea that practically writes itself.

And sometimes I have to drag the idea out, inch by painful inch.

All-in-all, it's not easy a good chunk of the time.

A lot of things aren't easy.

Being a Christian isn't easy. Taking a stand for what God has taught you, taking a stand against what you know in your heart and from God's Holy Word is wrong, is not easy. Serving God with your all by completing your assignments or grading papers when you rather go eat chocolate chip cookies and watch reruns of Once Upon a Time is not easy.

And sometimes (at least I do), we feel completely drained from it.

Like we can't go on.

Like we have no idea what comes next.

What step we should take...what project needs to be finished...how to finish that project...how to care for our kids, fur babies or otherwise.

We have a lot of demands swarming around us, seeking our attention, demanding an answer.

And we don't have one.

I think that's the time we need to let it all go.

Forget it all for fifteen minutes, or however long you need, and delve into God's Word.

Pray.

Seek His Face.

Seek His guidance.

We get lost, confused, empty, when we don't regularly make sure we're filled with Him.

And He never told us we had to do this whole thing called life alone.

In fact, He wants us to seek Him.

I may struggle, I may feel drained, I may not have the answers, but I do know the One Who does.

And I know my soul is replenished when it's His strength I'm trusting.

If you feel empty, don't wait. Fill up in His Word. Proverbs, Philippians, and 2 Timothy are all great places to start.


Monday, December 1, 2014

My way!

So last week, you may have noticed that I posted on Tuesday instead of my usual Monday. I didn't forget, but I had what I feel was a reasonable excuse.

I was sick.

Like about to throw up sick.

I woke up in the morning feeling absolutely terrible. I didn't call out of work, because usually when I feel sick in the morning it disappears within an hour or so.

But this time it didn't.

It actually got to the point where I had to step out a minute at work to try to avoid losing the few crackers I'd eaten that day.

So when I finally got home, nauseated and my brain trying to get out of my skull, I pretty much just went to bed.

Monday definitely didn't go my way. And considering I suffered residual symptoms a lot of last week, it wasn't a week of awesomeness for me.

It stunk. I had so many plans...

Sometimes, though, God lets our plans get spoiled because He has better ones. He allows things to happen so He can turn it around for His glory, so no one can say without looking totally deranged that He didn't have control of the situation.

The problem is, though, we can't see that ahead of time. He doesn't exactly send us a text saying; "Hey, saw you had this week booked. Guess what, I got something else in mind. Better clear it."

And because we don't know what's going on, it's a lot easier for us just to run around like crazy little kids making a fuss over things.

Because we don't trust God to work it out, we riot, destroying property and hurting people because things don't go our way.* We steal, choosing rather to make God look like a joke to unbelievers rather than trust Him to provide for us. We do all kinds of horrible and unspeakable things, just because we didn't get the results we wanted.

Doesn't God know our plans are spoiled? Doesn't God know when injustices occur? Isn't He able to judge and repay to those who deserve it? To take care of us at all times?

And yet we see people who claim to be saved by God's grace acting as abominably as those who deny Him altogether.

Galatians 6:7-8 tell us, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (NKJV).

We are going to pay for our foolish behavior. Granted, it will not be the hellfire that the unsaved will receive. But what if our foolishness causes a loved one to think Christianity's a joke? What if our childish behavior causes people to think God can't possibly be real if those who claim Him behave in such a manner?

Instead of throwing hissy fits and acting like spoiled children, let's see instead if we can  learn from it when things don't go the way we wanted them to, or even the way we think they morally should have. Like I learned at least two lessons from feeling so ill last week:

1. All the things I wanted to get done weren't as important as just spending time with my family and taking care of myself.

2. Never eat Chinese food without making sure it has no MSG in it.

*If you live in the U.S.A., you probably have a pretty good idea of what situation I'm thinking about right now. I chose not to name it though because I don't want this to become political. Instead I want this to be about what's really important: trusting God no matter what the situation, no matter whether we've judged justice has been served or not. After all, "...'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19b, NKJV).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Please remember

It's almost Thanksgiving here in the U.S.A., and while I don't want to do some cheesy post to tie in with it (I think giving thanks is something we should talk about all year long), I did just want to say that I'm thankful for all of you.

I'm thankful that you take the time to read my musings.

I'm thankful that you ask questions.

I'm thankful when you point out something you disagree with (let's face it, I'm no where near perfect).

Some of you I know personally. Some of you I don't know very well. Some of you are my closest friends. Some of you I've never met.

But if we had a few minutes, where we could sit and talk together, before we left, there's a few things I'd want you to know. That I pray you realize through the craziness of the season ahead of us, and all year long.

So as we rush into Thanksgiving, and into Christmas, please...remember...

You are a beautiful woman.

Your worth isn't in what you wear. What you look like. What clothing size you are.

Your worth is in Christ.

He loves you with an everlasting love.

The world has taught us that if we don't meet a certain standard, we are worthless.

But you are priceless in God's eyes.

Why would He send His Son to pay the price for our sins otherwise?

During this time of year, you're going to feel busy, rushed, like you can never get it all done.

But He gives you rest, He gives you strength, you can do all things through Him.

The world is full of liars, Satan's messengers who will try to tear you down and make you feel as if no one can love you.

Don't believe them.

Believe God.

You've messed up. You'll mess up some more. But God loves you no matter what.

Again, your worth isn't based on what you've done, or what you can do, or what you've failed to do.

It's based only in Christ.

Monday, November 17, 2014

"They're dead."

Okay, let's talk about another Disney movie!

As I've mentioned before, I love Disney movies. I don't care that technically I'm an adult (although I know some people who would argue whether reaching a certain age makes you an adult or not). I plan on watching Disney movies until I'm ninety, and probably beyond that.

So another movie I really love is Mulan (by the way, this is one of the few Disney movies where the good guys get most of the awesome lines). I just think it's so funny. Mushu is probably the best character (well, okay, little cricket dude Cri-Kee is pretty awesome too).

And I adore Mulan's grandmother.

Although she's not in it much, Grandmother Fa adds so much to the movie. Without her and Mushu, it'd be pretty dull. In fact, she gets to say most of my favorite lines (yay Grandma!).

One such line is from the scene where Grandmother Fa and Mulan's mother, Fa Li, are waiting for Mulan to arrive in town to get ready to meet the matchmaker.

Fa Li, pacing anxiously waiting for her wayward daughter, bemoans not praying to her ancestors for luck.

And then Grandmother Fa comes in with the awesome zing line: "How lucky can they be? They're dead."

Isn't that the truth?

People put their trust in things which are dead.

Buddha is dead.

Confucius is dead.

Muhammad is dead.

Moses is dead.

But Jesus Christ is alive.

All the world religions* (at least that I know of) involve trusting in the words of a dead man (or woman).

But we don't put our hope, our trust, our future, in some guy who lived and died eons ago. Our hope is in a Man Who not only lived a perfect, unblemished life, but also came back to life to be our Advocate at the Father's right hand.

Our trust for life is in Jesus.

Our trust for forgiveness is in Jesus.

Our trust for a healed relationship is in Jesus.

Don't trust dead people. Trust the One Who actually came back, Who put something besides hot air behind His words.

Trust Jesus.


*From what I understand of them, even Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy (and their sister religions) trust more in Mary and the saints than Jesus. Again, they trust in something or someone other than Jesus, something or someone without any power to save them that is long gone / dead. Only trust in the Lord Jesus leads to salvation, trust in anything or anyone else is idolatry and useless.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Closed doors?

So in my family, we're kind of softies for cats.

Over the years, we've had tons of cats, mainly strays which have come to our door.

And now we've adopted another. 

This is Tito.

He lives in our basement. One night a while ago, when I was home alone, he came to the top of the steps and sat there crying to go outside. I wouldn't let him out though, no matter how much he cried. I know, I'm so cruel...

But the truth is, he has no front claws.

Front claws, in case you don't know, are a cat's front line of defense (which is why I think it's terribly cruel to de-claw them, but that's another story). Without those claws, it's really hard for cats to defend themselves should they need to. And where I live, dogs sometimes roam free, and there are other animals Tito could tousle with. Not to mention that people don't see as well at night, and could be sleepy, and the house is near the road...

So the truth is, I'm just protecting him. But he doesn't understand that. To him, I'm being cruel. He wants to go outside, to have fun doing whatever cats find so interesting out there, but I'm keeping him locked in the basement like some wicked witch. He doesn't understand, and he doesn't see the danger I'm trying to protect him from.

You know, that's kind of how it is with us and God sometimes.

God loves us so much, He tries to protect us. He can see the danger, but we can't. Sometimes we want things sooooooooooooooooooooo badly, we fight and fight and fight for them. But God closes the door. Sometimes, He has to slam it shut right before we sneak through, practically getting our fingers pinched. And then we whine, and moan, and beg God to let us through. And when He doesn't, when He bars the door, refusing to let us through, we think He's cruel, that maybe He doesn't really love us, that maybe it's all a lie, that maybe He doesn't really exist....

Because we don't see the danger. We don't see the car crash, the broken heart, the ruined health. We don't see the danger God is trying to protect us from. Instead, we see the bars He sets across the door as bars to keep us in prison, to keep us miserable. When really, the bars keep us safe, keep the evil out, protect us.

When you feel stuck, like doors keep slamming in your face, it could be that it's just not time yet. But it could also be that God's protecting you from something, that if you go down that path, it would lead to disaster.

Keep praying. Keep seeking His will. And remember, if the doors keep closing, maybe it's time to change direction.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Loving ourselves?

So I have many interests (it's easy to fascinate me, to be honest those sparkly sun catcher things kind of fascinate me). One of those interests is health and wellness. I read a couple newsletters on the subject, and lately I've seen a lot of articles on loving ourselves more.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like this has become an ever increasing focus of the health movement. Loving ourselves. Putting ourselves first to better help others. Doing what we want to do.

But I wonder if that is really our problem.

When John the Baptist's disciples came to him, concerned over the ministry Jesus was doing because it was leading people away from John, he replied that was the way it was supposed to be (John 3:25-36). He told them that, through this ministry "He must increase, but I must decrease," (John 3:30, NKJV).

I may be taking this a little out of context here, but I think this verse applies to our lives as well. Jesus has given each of us a ministry, to work for His glory with our lives. As we work for His glory, to show people that He is the Way to forgiveness, redemption, and happiness, shouldn't we think less about ourselves, and more about Him?

Shouldn't we focus less on our wants, and more on His? Less on our desires, and more on His? Less on our plans, and more on His?

I am definitely not saying we should hate ourselves, or even dislike ourselves (after all, God created us, I'm pretty sure He wants us to appreciate His creation). I don't think there is anything wrong with loving yourself and taking care of yourself, even pampering yourself when the occasion is right. But I wonder if the reason why we're seeing a plethora of advice on loving ourselves, why it seems to be getting harder to love ourselves, is because we have our main focus all wrong?

What if, instead of focusing on loving ourselves more, we focus on loving God more? What if, instead of focusing on doing what we want, we focused on doing what He wants?

Maybe we have a hard time loving ourselves because we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves, increasing ourselves, when it should be the other way around.

Maybe, if we decreased, and allowed God to increase in our lives, we'd find it's not an issue. After all, if we're focused on God, we'll have very little time to worry about ourselves.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy Halloween?



Growing up, I always wanted to go trick-or-treating (hey, free candy’s hard to pass up). But my parents, being the God-fearing, God-serving people they are, never took us. 

Finally, though, after much asking, one year they did let us go…to our own house. Seriously. My brother, sister, and I went out our back door, and walked around to the front to ring the door bell and get candy thrown into pillowcases by our own parents.

Yeah. One of those childhood cringe moments. Made even more cringe-worthy by my “awesome” ghost costume of a pink blanket thrown over my head while I wore a nightgown. One of many for me, but that’s another story.

And although it stunk then, not being able to go and do something which seemed so fun… I’m really grateful they didn’t let us.

Because then I started thinking.

Halloween’s origins are disputed. Some say it started out as a Roman Catholic holiday. Others say it’s leftover from the old Celtic holiday of Sanhaim. But despite the origins, the emphasis is pretty much the same.

Halloween celebrates death.

Lighting candles for the dead…praying for the dead…putting offerings of food on graves…this is what  Halloween was birthed on.

Even trick-or-treating is thought to be based on a practice of exchanging food for praying for souls in purgatory.

Why are we celebrating death? God has made us alive again through our Savior Jesus Christ. All the dead who accepted His sacrifice aren’t dead: they’re alive.

Jesus Himself declares that death isn’t the end. In one of His many showdowns with the Sadducees, He says how, even in the times of the Old Testament, those who knew the truth realized there is a life beyond death:

“But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive. (Luke 20:37-38, NIV)

Let’s leave the celebration of death to those who have no hope, who reject their Only Hope. Instead, let’s celebrate life. Both what we have to serve Him now, and what we’ll have to praise Him in eternity.

Much better than some bag of candy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't get it?



“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

There’s a whole lot of things I don’t get.

Like math. I’m pretty good at it, but when it comes to stuff like sine, cosine, and tangent, my mind just shuts down like a stubborn child (for some reason, even the creepy little rhyme “Oscar had a hold on Arthur” or whatever it was didn’t exactly make it any easier).

I also don’t get why my grandmother died of colon cancer when I was thirteen.

Or why some of my friends suffer with health issues when they try so desperately to eat right and take care of themselves.

Or why I couldn’t have some of the opportunities I so desperately wanted.

Or why…

Or why…

The good thing is, we don’t need to.

God’s plans are so much better than our own.

And even though He closes one door that we wanted to run through, He always opens another that will lead us down an even better path.

The thing is, we’ve got to take it on faith.

Think of it kind of like a GPS. We type in the address, and we trust that it’ll get us where we need to go (well, some of us have had better luck than others with those things, but that’s another story).

And when we’re driving along, we don’t get every single little step on that screen we’re following. We just get one step at a time.

And if you’re not willing to follow the GPS because you think you know a better way…well I know from experience that isn’t always such a good idea.

God has preprogrammed the GPS. He knows exactly where He wants us to get to. But we need to be willing to follow Him. We need to trust that He knows better than we do, even when it seems totally flying-pigs insane.

Because if we follow His guidance, we’ll get to exactly where He wants us to be. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Don't believe me



“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” ~ Acts 17:10-11 NKJV

Any of you who know me personally probably think I’m a person who can be trusted, who knows what she’s talking about. But I’ll warn you right now, don’t believe a word I say.

Without checking it against what God says first, of course.

I think we can learn a thing or two from those people in Berea. They listened eagerly to Paul and Silas, but instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other, they actually took the time and went back to the Scriptures to make sure those guys were getting it right.

Because, let’s face it, we’re all human.

We all make mistakes.

It’s too easy to just let pastors and teachers and other people tell us what the Bible says, instead of actually checking it out ourselves. Some of those people distort God’s Word on purpose to deceive us. But others get it wrong because, like the rest of us, they don’t know it all. No one does except for God. And while the big slips might be obvious (after all, it’s in the Ten Commandments not to lie), other times someone in their sermon or presentation or blog post could make a mistake that’s a lot harder to catch, unless we check what they’re saying against God’s Word.

But don’t take my word on this. Grab your Bible and check it out for yourself; see if I’m right. After all, I know how many times I’ve messed up. And even though I try to be extremely careful, I’m bound to get something wrong (I sure don’t understand everything, and I hope I’m not deluded enough to think it’s impossible for me to mess up).

By the way, if you do find something I got wrong, let me know.