Draw Near to God, He is already Near to You

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Recently I thought I had too much on my plate. I exercised my ability to say “no”, and took my day off seriously. Looking to the future: I tossed the idea of cutting down my hours at work. I wanted to work on future details of our family, make our house a home, and visit my family back home more.

None of that was the plan, for now.

In a recent turn of events I was asked to take on more of a leadership role at the Church, with more responsibility, with pay cuts and budget cuts all across the board for our church.

So. I dropped my plans and fell on my face before Jesus. He has been my Rock. I have peace. I have joy. I am brave.

I know God will make it possible for me to plan our future as a family, cook, clean, plan visits, have people over, take care of our pets, enjoy life… all while taking on this important calling. I just need to listen to His voice.

I’m ashamed to say in these times of turmoil… they are the sweetest times of worship for me.

Why can’t I seem to be this close to my Lord during the good times?

I realized today that I find the most peace and joy in the trials– not because God has changed, but because I have. Tweet this.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you {HE IS already close by}. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

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7 Steps to Becoming a Happy Person Others Wants to Be Around

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The corollary to the principle “you see more of what you notice” is “you get more of what you notice. If you catch people doing what is right and complement them for it, guess what happens? They start doing more of it. This is not manipulation; it is influence. It too is contagious!

7 Steps to Becoming a Happy Person Others Wants to Be Around.

Not to judge those outside the church

Context is very important when you read the Bible. If you don’t read your Bible regularly and pray to the God who wrote it– then it is nothing more than a book that you may contort any way you wish.

Over the course of my life I have heard many Christians say, “The Bible says you are not to associate with the immoral or wicked.” Some extreme ones even coined the term “separatist”– when I asked as a child what it meant, they said it meant “not associating with the world because Satan is everywhere, and will try to convince you not to follow Christ.”

What does the Bible actually say about this?

A verse I’ve heard misquoted a lot about “separating from the world”:

1 Corinthians 5:6-7, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Context, this passage is a letter from Paul about sexual immorality, as in incest, inside the church. People who say “I belong to God,” and then act another way.

1 Corinthians 5:6-13:

“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister {in Christ} but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Did you catch that? “not … meaning the people of this world … In that case you would have to leave this world… you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister {in Christ} but is sexually immoral ….

Christians, how have we missed this? Are we using this passage to tell ourselves we don’t have to “associate” with people we may not agree with?

I hope not.

I may not agree with the new World Vision policy, but I don’t think we are to judge those outside the church and writing nasty things about them isn’t exactly what Jesus would have done.

I’m a sinner too, and have written this out of my own shock that I used to believe every word fed to me by other people, instead of listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit of God and reading the inspired Word of God. I’m disgusted I myself have missed this for so long.

Did Jesus Christ not associate with the sexually immoral, giving them second chances upon second chances? The woman at the well, Mary Magdalene to name a few. Was King David himself not a tad immoral for seducing a married woman and then murdering her husband?

You can say “We love you, LGBT community” all day long- but if you use judgmental and harsh words {to those outside the church!} then it doesn’t carry any weight.

Love is an action word.

46 things I’ve learned from 2013

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  1. Give things time.
  2. Even when you want to- don’t burn bridges. Take the higher road.
  3. Everyone must give account of their actions someday to God.
  4. Breathe.
  5. Just because things don’t go the way you’ve planned doesn’t mean you get to skip out on your calling. It hasn’t changed, and neither has God.
  6. Write everything down. Everything.
  7. You need soul-rest. Get alone, sit and have a hot drink with Jesus.
  8. God is always a step ahead of you. Because he transcends time he’s behind you, with you, and taking care of the future.
  9. Take a bath, hippie! {no seriously… it’s therapeutic.}
  10. Don’t write people off. Even though it’s hard. If you don’t make friends with messy sinners… you’ll never have any friends.
  11. Prayer is important- but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. It’s useless if you don’t read God’s love letter- the Bible.
  12. “They can’t drive you crazy if they don’t have a key.”
  13. Life’s not controllable. As soon as you realize this the easier it gets.
  14. God’s not silent, we just don’t listen.
  15. The only person you can “fix” is you.
  16. Don’t see yourself through anyone’s eyes but Your Savior’s. Any negative voices are not from Him. He corrects, but never puts down. His yoke is easy, his burden light.
  17. God promised in this life we’d have trials, and that does mean people will not treat you well. Pray before you react. Grace will flow out of you.
  18. Grace is a gift, not a cop-out.
  19. Even the people who’ve wronged you are more similar to you than you realize. Give them grace, because you mess up, too.
  20. Take it one step at a time.
  21. Being a good critic doesn’t mean you have to be critical.
  22. Sometime try looking at your behaviors through the eyes of who you live with. It’s eye-opening.
  23. In the midst of painful times don’t forget to laugh and have a good time with your loved ones, because this life is short. Even if it hurts, laugh.
  24. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not ready to work for God. He’s given you every tool in your toolbox and equipped you already. Just look, it’s there.
  25. We’re more selfish than we even realize.
  26. Stress kills. The word of God breathes new life.
  27. Dare to ask God not for prosperity but just your daily bread. If He blesses you with more- give it all away.
  28. Everything we have is just borrowed from God anyway.
  29. Wisdom is to be sought after- but don’t ever think your ‘lil train has arrived at Saint-Wise-Station. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:8.
  30. Find the little things you enjoy, and make room for those things.
  31. Even if your job’s your calling… don’t let it become your everything because eventually it will disappoint and drain you. The only One who should be your life = Jesus.
  32. Sometimes being an adult means you just plain won’t get your way.
  33. Learn to take compliments. Just say “thank you”. It’s not prideful, it’s true!
  34. There is nothing new under the sun.
  35. You can’t take a clean house or empty sink into Heaven with you.
  36. You don’t have to prove yourself. God says you are worth dying for.
  37. Comparison is the thief of joy.
  38. You may be right, but are you righteous? {Tweet this!}
  39. In a culture that hates silence (Introverts are “diagnosed” and dead-air is avoided at all costs): dare to sit quietly. It’s prized by God.
  40. Opinions are everywhere, there is only one that matters. Don’t forget to ask Him what He thinks.
  41. Wear out your Bible. Cover to cover and over and over again. You’re going to meet the one who wrote it someday.
  42. Get a hobby. Seriously. You know who didn’t have a hobby? Kim Jong-il.
  43. Sometimes even after immense healing and progress…. tiny words still hurt your feelings, anxiety ravishes your mind, & depression can still seep through the cracks. Don’t give up. There is a war in the Spiritual realm- but we’ve read the last Chapter of the book and we know who wins.
  44. The best gift is your time. For God your Savior, but also for your loved ones.
  45. Speakers, leaders, pastors and worship pastors are just people. Don’t ever take their word for it. Read, read, read God’s word. Drink it in.
  46. For now we see through a glass dimly… but someday we will meet Him face-to-face.

Missing Out

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You know, sometimes we have been attending worship services for so long, we forget what worshiping God means.

Let’s think outside what we have assumed (that worship time means singing songs), because in that small mindset, we are missing out.

*I used to miss out. I was really cynical about worship music, and would pick and choose what I liked and didn’t like. I was missing out. I didn’t understand the purpose of corporate worship. I can’t tell you with words strong enough the change it made in my relationship with God when I started really worshiping God. I started worshiping not just when my preferences were met – but all the time. I set aside that Sunday morning corporate time as just for Him. I’m still learning this as we speak.

If we don’t get this- we have poverty of spirit- our relationship with God suffers. We miss:

1. Closeness with God. He demands our worship. It starts as early as Exodus when Moses was used by God to deliver Israel from Pharaoh’s rule, God said in His word that they worshiped in a huge party, my version said the word “a festival” of praise.

2. Joy– God says in the Bible that our joy is fulfilled through worshiping Him.

Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 63:3, “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”

3. Edifying of the believers. Edify means to instruct and improve. How can our faith in our God be nourished if we just sing songs?

Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

1 Corinthians 5:4, “So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present.”

The challenge: focus in on what it is God desires from you today. Just thank Him in any posture or any words that best fit your relationship with Him. Ask Him to cloud out distractions and ask God to speak tenderly to your heart what it is He desires out of your worship. 

You are loving, You are wise
There is nothing in my life You cannot revive
You are loving, You are wise
There is nothing too hard for our God

God, are you listening?

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I’ve been asking a lot of questions to God lately, writing them in my prayer journal.

One night before I had to lead worship, I was feeling like a piece of crap. Really. Like I couldn’t do anything right, like no one liked me, alone.

The worst part is I was listening to so many other voices that were putting Brittany down that I mistook them for God not listening. I was angry with Him. I begged and pleaded with Him, “Why don’t you speak to me like others? Why can’t I hear you? Why don’t I have what others have?” That night, I cried for a while and finally fell asleep (my husband didn’t know what to do with me). I felt rested when I awoke, but I remembered hearing whispering all night long. Almost like the Holy Spirit (or at first I mistook Him for my subconscious) was whispering all night that I am loved, and special, and cut out to do this. That I do have what it takes. I sat up and started crying and shaking because I felt the presence of God- for real.

And then, of course I was all, “Oh I’m SO SORRY God! No, like REALLY! How messed up am I? How are you even using me. You are so wonderful, and big, and strong.”

I needed major encouragement this week, especially yesterday. I’m still so out of my element in the Texas culture, and the area, the roads, the style of everything that happens here in oil country. I prayed and asked for comfort. Simple.

I kind of doubted and also forgot. I doubted myself majorly as I prepared this week. I doubted myself as I was about to lead. And I just had to say, “God, I know you made me right. I know you made me for this. I know you look upon whatever skills I do posses and think they’re beautiful. It’s just not sinking in to my heart. Please, please– help me.”

And the most wonderful thing happened. God used several different individuals throughout the day to let me know how they worshiped, what they felt, how it spoke to them. The message was cut out for me about growing where you are planted (you ever have one of those days where you’re convinced the preacher’s a prophet who God sent specifically for you?). Then the missionary’s wife seemed to have this God-connection to my spirit and she kept walking around chatting with others and then looking me in the eye and saying, “Sweetie you are great. Be braver. You have a gift. God is using you. And it will only keep getting better, He will keep using you.” I struggled that day, “God, I know I’m supposed to be here but it’s hard. How do I grow where I am planted?”

We need to understand that the Kingdom of Heaven’s work that is being done here on earth doesn’t look like the American dream where if you don’t have a slew of “successful” experiences on your resume, God can use you. God uses the weak to not only lead the strong— but to blow their expectations out of the water and to use that weak one as an example of how truly big God is.

God listens to us all the time. Don’t let your prayer life be like that person who never shuts up about themselves. Tell God some things about how great He is. Recount out loud or in writing all the things He’s done for you.

Most importantly, I’m learning to wait for His response- patiently. I/we are quick to tell God he doesn’t answer when we’re not really listening.

Ask him to do whatever it takes to wake you up to this reality. It’s scary yet awesome what His response is.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-7

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:19-21

A New Story Representing Trials

This is a blog post I did on a facebook note in 2012 but I’m re-reading this and learning so much from the “past me” today.

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A New Story Representing Trials

April 3, 2012 at 9:47am

In Genesis 6 God saw that His creation was corrupt and violent and non-repentant. So with a heavy heart he decided to destroy the earth He created. I know it’s with such a heavy heart because of who God is. He says several times in this passage the people “that had the breath of life in them”- which to me sounds like He is reminding us all that we are made in His image and that we have two choices: follow and love Him or suffer eternal separation form Him through death (which would be exactly what we wanted if we don’t love Him anyway).

I know God wanted to display his righteous image-bearers because at the very end of the story of the flood he sends a rainbow and then says, “I have set my bow in the cloud and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and earth… I will remember my covenant… and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh…. whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His OWN Image.”So how does He do it?

Not a quick word of the mouth to speak destruction into existence or a wave of the hand- he uses a mere man and his handiwork through building a boat. I think the great flood symbolizes a tide to wash away sin and begin again. It’s so sad that we constantly tell God through our actions and lack of relationship with Him that we wish to be apart from him as humans. It also symbolizes how tiny and helpless we really are without God. Do we really think that Noah’s boat (although impressive by the way God describes it in His love letter to us) would really save all those animals and his family from a great flood?

I studied about Glacial Lake Missoula from NOVA and a lot of scientists who believe the earth is millions upon millions of years old. They found these large rolling hills in the Northwest that appeared to be giant ripples (like underwater ripples at the beach) on the ground from an aerial view. So they began to study how a glacial lake could’ve exploded to cause what they call a Mega-flood. God’s flood is what I call it- but if you look at thishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9PL9ZnMy3w and cue it up to 11:30 (excuse me being a humongous dork here)- there is a computer animated version of what a mega-flood of only the Northwest would look like. Can you imagine this happening over the entire earth?

All that to say- Noah’s ark wouldn’t have just survived that because he built it well. God surrounded their family and those animals with protection. I know this because of God’s character, and because in verse 16 of chapter 7 it says “… they went in as God commanded them, and the Lord (their master) shut them in.”

Wow!

But I think Noah may have been scared. It wasn’t just 40 days and 40 nights, a little over a month- that those people were in that ark. It was an entire year. In less than 40 days, the people who had never seen rain saw earth turned into one giant ocean planet– where all the tallest mountains were covered with water and the “fountains of the great deep burst forth” v. 11 of chapter 7. It says that Noah was 600 years old, in the second month on the seventeenth day when this happened. I would have been so scared. I wonder if at times during the 150 days “the waters prevailed upon the face of the earth” how scared Noah and his family were. I mean, in a boat, moving, for 150 days with no sunshine, no ground, no earth to rest on. I’d be crazy in that boat. I’d be asking “Hey God, I know you’ve said you’ll be there, and I took this Giant leap of faith, and sent my family plummeting through the waves crashing in a wooden boat… hey… are You still there??”

My favorite verse in the whole story comes after those 150 crazy days and nights, in verse 1 of chapter 8: “But God remembered Noah…” God remembered! Almost as if to sound (in our finite minds) like God was so busy wreaking havoc upon His creation that He had to stop and “remember” those He promised to spare… but it really shows us how faithful He is to us during times of trial. Whether Noah knew it or not, his teeny little boat was not their saving grace. It says God caused a great wind to blow over the whole earth to dry up the waters. I’m thinking this wind must have also been amazing and powerful- because the ocean’s pretty windy… and I’ve never seen one just dry up. Let alone a whole ocean planet. But He’s God.

It says after those 150 days God caused the ark to rest on Mount Ararat. But before all that happened, after the 40 days and nights were up- the Bible tells us that Noah was sending out birds to test what was going on.

I’m no Bible scholar… but to me it sounds like Noah was trying to take things into his own hands because God had not spoken. How often do we do that? The raven returned, and so did the dove because they had no where to rest their foot. But the second time the dove returned with an olive branch, I think God sent that as a glimmer of hope that there was greenery growing and the waters were subsiding. But no real action is taken until God says so.

Verse 13 of chapter 8 says “In the Six hundred and first year (a whole year later!!) and in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth, and Noah removed the covering to the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month (aka; hello all you readers… it has been a LONG trial for Noah!! Sound familiar??)– the earth had dried out. (Can you imagine how deep the mud had been before- in the first month? If they tried to step out before waiting for God’s command- they’d probably have sunk in too deep.) **here’s my favorite part**– Then GOD said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you.”

God does not go back on His promises. He protects those He loves and He desires all to come to know Him and have a close relationship with Him. He doesn’t want our works or possessions (Cain), or some of our money (Annanias and Saphira)… he wants our hearts. Can you imagine the worship service that broke forth after Noah and all his family got off the ark, saw the new green buds beginning to grow, all the animals roaming around, and that beautiful rainbow in the sky? If that story doesn’t make you want to run to His arms during a time of trial, I don’t know what will. He’s truly a powerful God!