Why I Believe: Psalm 11

Growing up we went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Summers were spent looking forward to church camp and mission trips. I remember my parents reading their Bible’s, having their own quiet time and praying with us through all the difficult decisions and situations of life. I am so thankful that I was introduced to Jesus at a young age. For me, life was easy growing up. I wanted for nothing and I cannot recall any real struggles that kept me down. It wasn’t until I was off on my own that I began to wrestle with the place Jesus had in my life. Even though I grew up knowing Jesus there was still the moment that I had to choose it for myself.  I honestly thought that life with Jesus was supposed to be easy and pain free and bad things were not supposed to happen if I loved Jesus and followed Him. I have since learned that this is not true. There hasn’t been one defining moment, but instead millions of little moments that have brought me to the feet of Jesus…at the end of me. I always end up on my knees falling into the grace and mercy of Jesus. I believe that God loves me and sent His son to die for me and my faith is always deepening as I continue in this imperfect world. There is opportunity to draw close to Him and to pull away. The beauty is that I get to choose. I have chosen both in my  life and the times I have chosen to draw close to Jesus are hands down the best moments. It’s the trials and difficulties in this life that are my refining moments. They are my opportunity to see God. I look back and see my immaturity and wonder how God could even look at me, but he does look at me (and you) as a father looks at their child with love and grace. Always drawing me in and never pushing me away. It’s a daily decision to live for Christ instead of trying to keep up with this world but it is one that is full of peace and joy that cannot be found elsewhere.

In Psalm 11 David was in a dangerous situation where he was forced to flee for his safety.  He says in Psalm 11:1 “I trust in the Lord for protection”, while everyone was telling him to flee to the mountains for safety and run away. David did not let his fear stand in the way of the situation. Instead he let his faith override his fear. Our hope in times of trial can only come from knowing that God is in control of every moment….even the terrifying ones.

I have to remind myself daily that God is in control and it is my choice to choose to trust Him. I am not perfect and everyday I am learning. But He is always faithful to reveal Himself in any situation that I give back to Him. He is bigger than my fear! And as I raise children in an uncertain world I am encouraged by the example of my parents.  I pray that our lives would be a reflection of the love and grace given to us by our Heavenly Father.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

 

 

 

Keep Reading

I’m 47 years old and I have yet to read through the entire Bible. I profess to know God, love Him and follow Him yet I’ve always relied heavily on what I’ve learned from church, books, or pastors with their comedic wit to lure me to the foot of Christ.  Thanks to Bj and his Bible journal invitation I have read more than I ever have in the past 2 years. I admit that it’s hard to read sometimes. It’s old and can be overwhelming. There are really boring parts with names I cannot begin to pronounce and I often find myself rereading portions because I fell asleep a few verses back. In this world of immediate gratification I have snatched up a psalm here and there or a familiar gospel to fulfill my daily reading while avoiding others. Those are the easy reads of the Bible. But if we take bits and pieces of the Bible we miss out on the real power and love of God and Jesus our Savior. It takes time, dedication, and desire to read the the Bible in its entirety, but I have noticed that when I take the time to read a little everyday (and not skip the hard parts) the time is sweet and rewarding. It really does come alive and it becomes a part of my daily thoughts. All the pieces start to fit together and they all point to Jesus.
I found a new appreciation for the book of Chronicles. It is a record of all the kings and whether or not they followed God and how that effected their lives and the people they lead. If you want to read of kings and kingdoms and gruesome wars this is it. My favorite king, of course, was David who followed God so imperfectly. He messed up so many times, but still came back to God. And God still used him in spite of his mistakes.  In 1 Chronicles God gave instructions to David on how to build the temple. SPECIFIC instructions. Then God proceeded to tell David that his son Solomon would be the one to actually build the temple. I wonder if that was hard for David to give up some of that control. To pass on what God told him for the next generation to carry out. Maybe he had a moment of wondering if he had raised Solomon well enough to complete such an important task. As parents I think we can all relate to this. As kids we can relate as well. Carrying out a legacy of faith can be daunting and overwhelming – what if I screw up or fail? How will I move forward? Davids words to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:20 are words of wisdom and encouragement for the future.
1 Chronicles 28:20 “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you”.
We have much ahead of us as Christians in our world today. Don’t be discouraged by the size of the task…….God will be with us. We do not move through this world alone. Let’s continue to spur each other on in our faith and consistently spend time with our Almighty Father.
Happy New Year!!
Shelly

The Magnificat

Today’s reading is from Luke 1:46-56 

We are 9 days until Christmas and getting closer to celebrating the birth of Jesus. The story of Mary in Luke is so fascinating. After Mary heard from the Angel that she would be the mother of the Messiah she went to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. I imagine she was looking for some comfort and reassurance after all the angel had told her. Growing up in the Jewish faith she knew that the Messiah was promised to them and she was waiting along with everyone else. Did she ever consider that she would be the one chosen? She had two major shocks with the angel’s message. First, that she would become pregnant while maintaining her innocence and secondly that God would choose her to help usher the Messiah into the world. I have often wondered how she so easily accepted this seemingly impossible scenario. I think it was because the Angel was magnificent and she was Jewish. She knew there was the promise of a Messiah  and she was  a direct descendant of David. She knew that only a woman from the line of David could give birth to the Messiah. While shocked that He had chosen her, she was not surprised that God was fulfilling the promise. The doubting would come after the angel left. For me, it would be the second I lay my head on my pillow at night. That’s when the thoughts and the doubts and the fears start to race. But God, in all his beautiful plan already had things in motion for Mary to be reassured. When Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and entered the house there was no question that God was fulfilling his promise through her. The reassurance and confirmation that Elizabeth gave elicited Mary’s response to God that we read in Luke 1:46-56. Mary was overwhelmed and full of thankfulness. Her response is famously known as the Magnificat prayer – or her hymn of praise.  

Luke 1:46-56 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever”.

Mary was humble and had a servant’s heart. She was special because she was chosen by God to help bring Jesus into the world, but she was an ordinary person. That’s who God uses, ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things in His Name. And when you know Him, you can recognize when He’s using you. All the glory goes to Him because we are so very aware that without Him none of it possible.

As you celebrate the coming of Christmas think of Mary’s response to God asking her to do something that seemed impossible. She said yes, trusted Him, and thanked Him. It wasn’t an easy road for her, but when God gives so much confirmation there is peace. The peace that surpasses understanding. 

Peace to you,

Shelly

 

The Stars

Are you a star gazer? I can recall a few grade school field trips to the planetarium on ISU’s campus.  We would sit in the dark and stare up at the big domed ceiling depicting the starry sky and all of its wonder. It fell short of the real thing but  I learned how to identify the big and the little dipper. Honestly, I probably slept through the rest, but I do know that there are stars upon stars upon stars. Most we will never see in our lifetime. The best star gazing is done without the intrusion of city lights and somewhere in the great wide open. On a boat in the middle of a lake, from the top of a mountain, or in the middle of an open field. The stars are always a great reminder of how small I am and how big the universe is. Only God knows how many there are and where He placed them.

Genesis 15:1-6 describes a star gazing moment between God and Abram (later to be named Abraham).  God chose Abram and promised to make him into a great nation, but Abram struggled with the details and the execution of God’s plan. He voiced his concerns to God and his concerns seemed quite valid from our human perspective. He was promised to be the father of many nations but had yet to produce any offspring. He and his wife Sarai were getting older and the opportunity to have children was decreasing by the day.  He was worried and questioning. God listened and offered encouragement.  God first said to him in Genesis 15:1, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward”. Picture God putting his arm around Abram’s shoulders and gently walking him outside to look at the stars. He says to Abram, “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be”. There were no city lights obstructing their view and the stars had to have been magnificent against a black sky. Too many to count. This star gazing moment was God’s response to Abrams questioning. It’s as if He said “You have no idea what I have planned but it is beyond anything you can imagine! It’s not going to happen the way anyone expects. Trust me!” God always chooses the most unlikely people to reveal his purpose. Abram did not have the benefit of the Bible to read for reassurance that God was the real deal. He came from the land of Ur where they worshipped many gods, but he left that place because God spoke to him and told him to do it. God had protected him because of his obedience. Abram believed him once again, and because of his faith he was determined to be righteous. Abram and Sarai did have children. Their children had children, and their children had children which became the lineage that led to the birth of Jesus.  The Old Testament is always pointing us to  Jesus.

Have you ever thought of yourself as one of those stars that Abram and God looked at? God knew you then and knows you now. During this Advent season, as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus our savior, step outside and do some star gazing. Remember Abram and how his faith set into motion God’s plan for mankind. He made what seemed impossible, possible. To save the world in the form of a baby, the savior….Jesus. He is our hope!

Galatians 3:29 “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

 

 

Preparing for You

Every year we go to Florida. We have spent every Christmas and every Spring Break with my family for as long a I can remember. Our group has grown by marriage and babies over the last 25 years and we currently boast a whopping 18 members. There are so many memories.  In the early days we would walk through the doors with dirty, tired babies. Gabo and Papa would whisk them off for a bath while we sat and ate the food they had waiting for us. We would spend the first days thawing by the pool from our Illinois winter while they cared for those babies and gave us a break from the diapering, napping, and feeding. We could leave our troubles behind for a few days and relax.  It’s one of those places that my kids talk about often. They talk about the sounds that come from the kitchen in the morning. Muffled voices and the clanking of coffee cups. It makes them smile to know everyone is together. Sometimes they stop and say, “it smells like the condo” or “it smells like the beach” and they close their eyes and go to a happy place in their mind.

Over the years, the dynamics have changed with older kids but there is the one constant that remains – my parents preparation for us. They head down to Florida after Thanksgiving and they get ready for us to come to them. My Dad is always planning boat trips or special time with the kids while my mom is cleaning, planning special dinners, and preparing for Christmas. They make it so easy for us to show up and relax because they have taken care of all the details. We pack very little and know that there is shampoo and soap ready for us. My kids even know where Papa keeps his extra toothbrushes when we arrive without any. The bedrooms are immaculate, the sheets are crisp and clean, and the bathrooms are sparkly and fresh. We arrive tired and cold and are met with sunshine and open arms. Our troubles fade for about 10-14 days.

After returning home refreshed, our life quickly returns to “normal”. School, sports, work, church. Looking back on our time with my parents, I always marvel at the way they prepare for us. They spend so much time thinking of us and getting things ready because they want us to be with them. They love us. What an amazing feeling – to be loved and cared for! I realize this is just a glimpse of how God prepares for us. Out of His love for us, He has prepared a place for us, with Him, in eternity. If I get excited about fresh sheets and clean bathrooms, I cannot begin to imagine the things God has prepared in eternity for me.  In John 14, Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure. He is encouraging them not to despair, because He is preparing a place for them. There is a place for each of us and He promises to come back for us.

John 14:1 “Don’t be troubled. You trust in God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there”.

We have hope beyond the things of this world!

Shelly

 

Miracles

Today’s reading is John 2. In this chapter Jesus performs his first public miracle. This is the miracle that set in motion the rest of his life and catapulted him into his ministry as Jesus our savior.

It was a wedding. In those times wedding celebrations were more than just a day. The betrothal or “engagement” was for a year or more. During that time the groom would prepare everything for his bride. His preparations were confirmation that he was able to adequately provide and care for her once they were officially married. The wedding itself would last about a week with celebration after celebration. Wine was a very important part of this celebration. It stood for joy and happiness. The groom would be humiliated, ashamed and embarrassed if the wine ran out because it would indicate he was unable to sufficiently provide for his wife. Mary, Jesus mother, noticed that the wine had gone dry at this wedding. She may have been nervous or worried for the groom. So she went to Jesus with the problem. Joseph had passed away by this time so it was natural for her to go to her oldest son for help.  Mary says in John 2:3 “They have no more wine”. Jesus response in John 2:4 was “how does that concern you and me? My time has not yet come”. This response does not seem like the respectful words we would expect from Jesus to his mother, but keep in mind that he was 30 years old and on the brink of his ministry. His thoughts were not on the wine, but on what will happen after he changes the water to wine. People will notice and start to talk. There will be no turning back. Jesus was becoming focused on who He is and and what was next. Mary simply tells the people who are working the party to “Do whatever he tells you”. She knows who Jesus is. Remember the virgin birth? She has known all her life that he was special. So Jesus tells them to fill the jars with water and then dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies. They followed his instructions and the water was turned to wine and the party kept going and there was much joy and happiness! They couldn’t believe that the groom saved the best wine for last.

Jesus turned the grooms humiliation into a miracle. He brought joy where there was embarrassment and shame. The wine symbolizes joy and Jesus was the source. The things in this world that bring us joy will eventually go stale.  Only Jesus can provide real and lasting joy in our lives. He replaces the cheap wine we are used to for the best wine imaginable. Can you imagine what the wine Jesus made tasted like? He provides for everything.

Remember what Mary said to the workers, “Do whatever he asks you to do”. Obedience to Jesus will bring us into His joy. What is the cheap wine in your life? Are you doing what Jesus asks you to do?  I usually know what I need to do, but am slow to do it.  I am looking forward to the miracles that continue to happen in our world today. While 2020 has not been ideal, there is still great joy to be experienced while walking with Jesus.

Joy to you today!

 

 

Thoughts

I love listening to Podcasts. Motivational speakers are my podcast of choice, especially when I’m struggling to get off the couch and get busy. After listening to them I am energetic and motivated to get moving and conquer my day…….at least for 10 minutes or so. And then what do I do? I listen to another podcast until I have binged an entire day of motivational speakers only to realize I have been a listener and not a doer!! Even though I feel like I was an active participant I am no different than before I listened.  There is no permanent life change. That can only come through Jesus. He is the only way I have been able to combat my thoughts. I struggle with worry and feeling “not good enough”. It is only when I go to Jesus that I am able to take my thoughts captive to Him.  The enemy wants me stuck in my house listening to other people share their “recipe for life” instead of me being in the world using my God given gifts and talents.

The battle for our thoughts is real. When my thoughts are left “unattended” I find myself anxious, nervous, fretting, and cowering. Motivational speakers talk a lot about changing your thoughts and your actions to make you a happier and more productive person but to what end? For more income? For more power? None of that will last and it is never fully achieved. There is always more money to be had, a better house to live in, a newer this or that. But when I change my thoughts to reflect how God sees me,  an amazing thing that happens………peace. The absence of worry and fretting. No more chasing or keep up because we know and trust the one who holds our future. This is great news! We don’t have to keep thinking the things that keep us stuck. We can choose different. And the result is peace in the midst of trial and difficulty. It truly is a peace that surpasses all understanding. The difficulty and struggles of life will not go away, but I choose to trust Jesus in all of it. He will never leave me or forsake me.

My choice to follow Jesus always results in peace. And that is my testimony to the world. Jesus has made the difference in my life…. He is the best motivational speaker I know and he loves you and me. The following verses are ones I go to when my mind is starting to believe the lies the world is telling me and I find myself anxious and out of step with who I am in Christ. Today, choose to allow God to change your thoughts to reflect your true identity in Him.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Philippians 4:6-9 “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of GOD which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is JUST, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is COMMENDABLE – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise – DWELL ON THESE THINGS. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of PEACE will be with you.”

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2Timothy 2:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self- discipline”.

Praying peace for you today. And please say a prayer for our teachers as they bring students back for in person learning. My prayer is that they would feel the peace that surpasses understanding in the midst of trying times. God is giving us some amazing stories to tell! Miracles in the midst of madness!!

The voice of the Lord

Psalm 29:3 The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.

In October 1999, I went on a sailing trip off the Florida Keys with my Dad, brother, and sister in law. I was not much of a sailor but my dad and brother were the ones in charge and Jennifer and I enjoyed the sunshine. It was definitely a fun adventure and I was blissfully unaware of the storm that was about to hit. Turned out that our trip was cut short due to hurricane Irene and we had to evacuate early. That hurricane produced 109mph winds and caused $800 million dollars in damages. We escaped the weather just in time and returned home unscathed. I don’t remember being afraid or concerned, we just got out of there and came home. Thankfully we were not stranded and we didn’t try to “wait it out”. My memories from the trip were sailing close to the coast because the waves were huge (thank you Irene), deep sea fishing, and taking Jennifer’s amazing catch to a local restaurant to have them cook it up for us. It was a fun trip! Great memories.

The reality of the trip, as I look back, is overwhelming. Jennifer had recently been in a car accident that she was still recovering from, BJ was also recovering in her accident, I was escaping from my lonely life in Indianapolis, and my dear Dad saw all of this happening in our lives and was willing to take us on a sailing trip. We all had our own storms happening in the midst of Irene. These memories came to mind because of this verse in Psalm 29:3. The Lord echoes above the sea, the God of Glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty sea. God was speaking over our lives in the midst of that storm and that time in our lives. He kept us safe and brought us home.

Twenty years have passed and I am able to look back and see all that God has done since then.  We have weathered those storms because of a powerful God. The power of a hurricane with its strong winds that cause enormous waves and turmoil on the waters are no match for God. He thunders and echoes above the sea. He can even tame the storms on the water as he did in Matthew 8:26,And Jesus answered , “why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”. Then he stood up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm. The disciples just sat there in awe. “Who is this?” they asked themselves. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” The voice of the Lord calmed the seas.

The voice of God has the power to rebuke the waves and storms in our lives, whatever they may be. He is the creator of all. As you approach your day today, what things would you like to have Jesus stand up and rebuke with His voice? There is no limit to what we can ask in His name and trust that He will do. I trust that the storms that are coming are covered with His mighty voice in your life.

Shelly

Glorious Sword

Deuteronomy 33:29 Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.

Today’s name of Jesus is “glorious sword“. Swords are primarily a symbol of warfare used to kill and destroy. This brings pictures of gladiator fights and bloody wars from Braveheart to Ben Hur. If I have ever used a sword it was made out of foam and my kids were involved.  There is no one in this world that I would use a sword against. I am a peaceful person and never want to hurt anyone…especially with a sword! So barbaric!

But 1 Peter 5:8 reminds me that there is an adversary and an enemy that seeks to destroy me. “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” I am defenseless against this enemy without the glorious sword of Jesus. This sword is more powerful than any physical sword. The sword of the spirit is the word of God. When thoughts of worthlessness are creeping in…..wield His glorious sword! When tempted to give in or give up….wield His Glorious sword! When the darkness starts to crowd out the light….wield His Glorious sword and trust that you are victorious through Jesus. There is power in our proclaiming His name and allowing his glorious sword to fight for us.

Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Dear Heavenly Father~I pray that we would have faith to wield your Glorious Sword in the midst of our daily lives. Help us to battle against the lies of this world with the truth of your word. Thank you for fighting for us and giving us victory. Amen

The Spirit of Life

Romans 8:1-2 So there is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Do you know the feeling of “walking on egg shells” around someone? It is a horrible feeling. It is being overly careful in dealing with a person or situation because they get angry or offended very easily. With these people, there is no room for a discussion, everything is under scrutiny, it is suffocating and full of fear.  There is no learning process or helpful guidance.  It is condemning and lacking in freedom. Maybe you have had a boss like this, a former teacher or neighbor, or even a parent.

This verse in Romans 8:1-2 is the exact opposite of that feeling! With Jesus, there is NO condemnation or walking on egg shells, but rather FREEDOM in love. In this verse the word “law” also means “principle” or “fundamental truth”.  Jesus Christ has set us free from the “principle” or “truth” of death and replaced it with the Spirit of life by taking our sin and putting it to death on the cross with Him. It was our sin that he carried away so that we would not be condemned to death but would share in eternity with Him. When we live with the spirit of life which is Jesus, it does not mean that we suddenly live a perfect life. It means we are set free from sin and death and there is no guilty verdict on our heads. Jesus sees us as clean and without sin, regardless of what we have done in the past and will do in the future. God wants the life of Jesus to be manifested in and through our lives. And the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is how this happens. It’s working inside our lives to reveal Christ. Our job is to recognize, believe, and participate in the process. Our part is a process…..Jesus’ part is done! We will always have a sin problem, but He is working through the spirit to move sin out so we can continue to mature and grow in our relationship with Him. We do not have to be perfect to have the spirit of life in us. He was perfect for us!

There is no “walking on egg shells” with Jesus. When we have accepted Him as Savior of our lives, there is no fear or condemnation. We are deeply loved, accepted and allowed to grow and mature in our faith. Are you living a life that reflects the freedom that comes from the spirit of life through Jesus or does your life reflect the spirit of death that comes from the world? In the midst of all that is going on in our world, we can live a life that is grounded in the Spirit of life – Jesus. I pray that you will find this freedom today.