4.29.2013

Pastor Saeed - Update And A Challenge

Saturday night he was heavy on my heart. Heavy. If you know me well then you know that this doesn't happen super often. It's not an everyday occurrence that I have a strong desire to pray for someone that simply won't go away.

But it happened Saturday night.
And Sunday night I read this.

Saeed Abedini. Brother in the Lord, prisoner in chains.

My nights have been filled with heartfelt, tear filled prayers. My days are filled with silent prayers and constant thoughts of him. I think of how he's doing, physically and spiritually, and what he's praying for right now. I also think of my other brothers and sisters in the Lord and how they often are not thought of, prayed for, or remembered as they should be.

We must change this.

So, I have a challenge for you. Please pray for one (or two or three...) persecuted Christians every day this week. Pray for Pastor Saeed and his family and his persecutors that they may come to know the Lord. Pray for strength and healing and his release. Pray for his family.

God bless you all.

"Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." 2 Timothy 3:12

4.25.2013

Are You A Follower?

Imagine this.

You've been friends with this person for YEARS. People even call y'all inseparable. You know each other so well you can finish each others sentences.You think you know everything about them.

But one day your friend is walking around town and you stop to say hey and then you get a funny look from them. They smile politely and keep going. You catch up and try to chat but they still keep brushing you off. Finally, you ask what the deal is and their response is:

"I don't know you."

You think it's a joke. Maybe a late April Fool's trick. But no. They're serious.

According to Matthew 7:23 something like this (this is just an example) will happen to many people who say they're Christians. They'll get to Heaven, see Jesus and ask Him why they aren't in Heaven and He'll tell them, "I never knew you."

Even now those words shake me to the core. I know I'm saved by faith alone in and through Christ alone. That's not what gets me. What gets to me is how easy it is to fall away from Him. To be enticed by sin and to completely stray, possibly never coming back to the Father. That's scary.

I read a blog post the other day from a young woman who talked about how God rocked her heart by showing her that she's been doing all the right "Christian things", but she hasn't really been seeking His heart- who He is.

I was instantly convicted. Have I not also gotten caught up in the outward appearance while neglecting to seek Him and who He is? Have I not taken on the role of a Pharisee at some point in my life? Have I not learned to say the right things while believing the wrong ones?

Sorry if this is too real for you. It's what He's doing in my heart right now.

I want to be His true follower. Following His leading wherever, whenever, whatever. Trusting and obeying Him. This is not to earn my salvation (legalism) this is to follow Him because I love Him.

Are you a follower of Christ Jesus? What keeps you from following Him? Will you let it go today?

"From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” - Matthew 4:17

4.22.2013

Grace In The Boston Bombings - Monday Reflections

It can be hard to search for grace in the Boston bombings. It's hard not to be so upset by what we've seen that we get angry at God for allowing it. But His tender hand of mercy was there. Despite the two suspects attempts at paralyzing a city, God was there. And is using many people to remind us of the things that truly matter. Here are some things that I saw God's grace in...

  • The police caught the second suspect.
  • Though many were injured and their lives will be forever changed, only 4 people died and God is using the story of their lives to wake people up to His presence.
  • Answers are slowly coming.
  • The little boy that died reminded us all of peace and now he's resting in perfect peace with our Father.
  • The effort of the police was phenomenal and in their quick acts they were able to catch the suspects in a very small amount of time (tell me you don't see grace in that!).
  • People were drawn to help others who were hurt (selfless love) instead of simply running to protect themselves. (I might add that the acts of people like this courageous man have caused me to question how selflessly I'm loving right now. Amazing.)
Those are just a few things. I'm sure there are countless other things to be thankful for. I want to add that I am in no way saying we should "get over it" and move on, forgetting everything that has happened. There are many people wounded physically and mentally and emotionally and they will need months to heal from this. And God allows that. We must continue to pray for them. We also must see His presence in this.

God does not leave His people. He pursues us. He is with us now. Thank You, Lord, for that.

What are some ways you saw grace after the Boston terrorist attacks?

4.20.2013

Humble Orthodoxy - Book Review

 
I never knew 61 pages could be so good and powerful until I read through this book.

Joshua Harris gives a good, swift kick with, 'Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down'. 
 
With lines like,
"The error and sin of others never give me license to ignore the Word of God. Even when people in our culture are sinning, slandering, and tearing down truth, I have no excuse for ignoring God's commands."
 
and
 
"Orthodoxy shouldn't be a club to attack someone else. It should be a double-edged sword that starts by piercing our hearts, laying them bare before God so that we can say, "Forgive us, Lord."
 
He definitely has a very well thought out, very much needed message for today's Christians.
 
I can tell you that I needed this book a lot. I've gone through a "cage stage" before (read the book and you'll know what I'm talking about ;) ) and God used that time to humble me. He's shown me that while it's important to know truth, it's also important to remain humble as we seek to apply it.
 
I would encourage Christians of all ages to read this book, but not just read it. Seek to apply the wisdom God gives through it. Let's live humbly in truth with "a tear in our eyes".
 
*Note: this book was given to me for free by Waterbrook Multnomah for reviewing purposes.

4.18.2013

Seeing By Faith Or By Sight?

"We live by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7

Most Christians can quote this verse. You'll see it referenced numerous times each day. You'll find pretty pictures with this verse quoted over them on Pinterest and we'll nod our heads and say amen.

But at the end of the day, are we living by faith?

This question has been on my brain all morning long. Do we really live by faith? And how do you not live by sight when a marathon is bombed, and people are enslaved daily, and children are starving in the U.S. and out, and there are explosions in Texas, and people are dying every day, some never accepting Jesus into their hearts.

And the tears fall, the prayers rise, the hearts break.
But faith remains.

Faith that even when bombs are blown up and children are killed and people are injured, we serve a God of healing power. We serve a God who knows and CARES. Do we have such faith in God? Do we look only at this temporary world and forget about this eternal God who will rid the evils of this world once and for all?

We know that sin is here and for now we'll have to endure it, but that Christ finished its power for good and we have been redeemed by Him to live a life to the full in the Lord, but we must wait patiently for the end of evil.

I'm choosing to live by faith, not by sight. I'm learning what that means, what that looks like, and how that affects how I live now.

Lord, open our eyes. Give us eyes of faith.

4.16.2013

Worship Is A Weapon

Sometimes life can get you down.

Too many late-nights, too many emotions swallowed down, so many jobs to be done, things to be crossed off that to-do list.

You just get tired. Exhausted.

These past few days I've had a lot of struggles with my emotions (again). The other night I watched a conference that Louie Giglio was speaking at. He started speaking on some of his struggles in the past and he said, "Did you know worship is a weapon? Well, it is." (that's my paraphrase because I can't remember his exact words. ;) ) I sat there for a moment thinking about what he just said.

I decided to test it. I was tempted to become overwhelmed and so I just started singing praises to God.

It worked.

My heart was so at home worshiping my Savior. The temptations were gone before I knew it (not instantaneous, but they left nonetheless) and peace from the presence of my Lord was with me.

And so the next day the emotions came and I have to admit I completely forgot to sing praise to Him in those situations. I just let myself be overwhelmed. Then, yesterday came and I sang the praises (after the Holy Spirit reminded me) and let praise welcome His presence into my life. Today, I'm singing His praises again. The emotions are not stronger than my Savior. I welcome His work in my life by banishing praise to anything or anyone else.

I have a challenge  for you. Next time you're dealing with thoughts of lust, anger, pride, etc. or when temptations come knocking at your door, start singing praise songs to the Lord. They don't have to be a Chris Tomlin song (though they can be), they can be simple phrases of love and adoration from your heart and out of your mouth. Either way, let us give Him all the praise because He alone deserves it. Amen?

4.12.2013

Week In Photos (and a giveaway!)

So, I take pictures* pretty frequently since I got my camera last December. I figured from time to time I'd share with y'all some of the beauty and fun things the Lord has graciously allowed me to look at. Hope you enjoy! {Scroll down for the giveaway!}

These little guys were pretty nice on this day. ^_^

Painted nails make me happy.


Transforming Grace. My new favorite book.


He was fighting with his "friend". It was so funny to watch!


 
 
 
I have been blessed with a couple copies of Firsthand to giveaway so if you're interested in getting this super amazing book, leave me a comment with one of your favorite things to do in summertime (yeah, I got summer on my brain!) and your email. Giveaway ends Monday.
 
 
*All these photos are mine so please don't take them and use them without permission. Thank you.

4.11.2013

What Is Grace?

What is grace?

Grace is a holy God sending His perfect Son to a dying world to save people stuck in sin.

Grace is me, being the flawed, imperfect person I am, yet being covered by His blood.

Grace is being able to tell you that though you are flawed and imperfect and have no means whatsoever of saving yourself, God has made a way (the way) through Jesus Christ.

Grace is sitting outside and reading your favorite book because the Father provided both the outdoors and the book.

Grace is getting on your knees after a really long day and being able to thank (thank!) the God that got you through it (because He didn't have to).

Grace is being able to type these words to you now and knowing that by His grace,  whomever He wants to read it, will.

Grace is not given to us by anything good we've done and grace is not taken away from us by anything bad we've done. He gives grace as He sees fit. (Ephesians 4:7)

Grace is not something any of us can earn and grace is something we will continue to learn about and see the depth (I pray!) a little deeper each day. Thankfully, by the blood of Jesus Christ who died to save, you and I can walk in His grace today.

And so there is grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

4.08.2013

Fences Aren't Commandments

In Jerry Bridge's book, 'Transforming Grace', he talks in one of the chapters about some of the fences we have been convicted to build and not cross. For me that's not eating out a lot (so as not to allow the taste of food to again become an idol and find myself in gluttony again. And also because I don't want to ruin good workouts;) ). Another one is not listening to secular music too often (because that tends to become an idol as well).

I have a few fences that I've judged others for crossing.

I thought if someone didn't do what I did, they were in the wrong not me. I put myself in the place reserved for God and deemed myself a judge.

Be on guard against that, Christian. Fences aren't commandments. God may have told you not to do something specifically, but that doesn't mean He told your best friend not to do (or to do) the same thing.

So, as I've been convicted and my eyes have been opened I want to share with you a few of the fences that I've judged others for (wrongly!) that are in fact, completely okay as long as they're done to the glory of God.

1. When should you spend time with God? Yeah, believe it or not I used to judge people for not spending their time with God in the mornings. I thought every "good" Christian spent time with God in the morning. But as my lovely Sunday school teacher so eloquently put it, "it's not about when you do it that matters, but about whether you're doing it at a time where you can shut up long enough to hear from the Lord." Do I need to say more?

2. Should Christians listen to secular music? I've been around a few people who think if a Christian listens to secular music then he or she is not really a Christian. I disagree with that completely. What we're actually doing when we say (or think) things like that is focusing more on the actions than on the heart behind them. If your heart is set to glorifying God in all you do then you are going to seek to glorify God in all that you do. That means you're not listening to music that glorifies having sex outside of marriage or drinking and doing drugs because that doesn't please or honor God. You're going to want to listen to music that pleases the Lord.

C.S. Lewis said, "All that is not eternal is eternally useless."

So, let's stop focusing on the outward issues so much and start focusing more on the heart behind those actions. Let's stop seeking our ways so often and start seeking His.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:18

4.05.2013

Two People, One God.

There are two people.

One clings to a rope in fear, petrified of falling and dying. The other works constantly.

The working one lives in complete exhaustion all the time. Never taking a break, never stopping for a breath.

The one clinging to the rope is afraid of everything. Worry is a constant in his life. He won’t let go for fear of what may happen.

God speaks to both,
“I saved you.”

He then walks over to the one who works constantly and asks for the list of deeds that’s mentally been made over and over and over all her life.

Reluctantly, she hands it over.

Then He walks to the one living in fear and clinging to the rope and asks for him to let go. He too reluctantly clings to the rope, but finally lets go.

“I saved you. Love Me. Serve Me. Trust Me. Nothing is too hard for you, because I live in you. I will do things in your life and through your life that will scare you. Still cling to Me. Your good is in mind.”

Friend, God is asking you to let go of your imaginary rope of fear and fall into His plan for your life. Though it may be scary, it will be worth the risk. Big faith in God means big trust in His ways.

If you’re my friend who’s living it up in legalistic land I ask you to come find grace. Jesus’ blood covers ALL of you. He doesn’t save in part, but fully and completely.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:1-2

4.02.2013

Power In The Name

We live in a fast paced, never slowing down, always finding problems in the unexpected "bothers",  world.

And yet, as Christians, we know of His power. However, how many times a week do you really trust this big God you say you serve?

There is power in the Name.

It's the power that when the tears are falling you can say, "Jesus." and feel the peace He gives.

It's the power that when you don't know where to turn you look up and say, "Jesus." and know He's there.

It's the power that when anything awesome happens leaves you smiling and silently praying in the name of Jesus.

Because there is always power in the Name, we can always trust in His power.

Easter Sunday we celebrated the resurrected Savior. I sat in a pew and listened as my pastor spoke these words,

"You are closer to an unimagined power than you will ever know."

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..." - Ephesians 3:20

It's the power that we receive in Christ. His power, at work in us.

So, Christian, remember today and each day after that you have power in the Name. His power brings peace over chaos, love over hate, and truth over lies.

If you're not a Christian, I encourage you to talk with somebody who is (feel free to hit me up!). If you're tired of always being defeated in life, then turn to the One who defeated death and everything else.

When you're feeling overwhelmed speak His name. Even something like this that seems so tiny, will bring about a great change. Thank You, Lord!

4.01.2013

Firsthand - Book Review

2 months ago I started going through a season of doubt.

I've never been through one so hardcore as that one. I questioned everything. My prayers were short and filled with a lot of I don't understands, "Help me believe", "I need You", and tears.

I had gotten Firsthand* and was excited to read it, but then I never did. It sat in a stack of books and stayed there. It turned out to be God's blessing that I read it when I did because it was exactly what I needed.

Ryan and Josh spoke on doubt in your faith and how we all will go through seasons of it and that it's okay. They were so honest and open that I instantly felt that I wasn't alone and that this is something people go through all the time.

Ryan and Josh shared many stories of faith, trials, fears, and doubts. They talked about how we can take our faith from secondhand to firsthand, ditching our parents, friends, pastors, or whoever's faith, for our own in Christ.

I think one of my favorite parts of the book was when they talked about ditching your religious checklist. That's something I've personally struggled with for many years. As I worked through this part of the book, God brought me so much freedom and showed me the true meaning of grace.

This is a beautiful book filled with a lot of raw, honest questions and you're taken on a journey of seeking out the answers just as the Shook brothers sought theirs out.

If you're going through a time of doubt I want to remind you that you're not alone and that God is with you. He's strong enough to hold you through your doubts. If you're looking for not just a good read, but something that you can kind of work through, get Firsthand.

This book has instantly become one of my all time favorites. I highly recommend it.

So, are you going to be content in having a secondhand faith that is easily shaken or are you gonna step out of the boat and seek out a firsthand one?

Note: This book was given to me for free for the purpose of reviewing.

*I'll be hosting a giveaway of a couple copies of this book in a few weeks so be looking for that!