Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Lifestyle of Prayer

Another Bible Study wrapped up tonight after 6 weeks of talking about what it truly means to live a praying life. We discovered that 6 weeks is entirely too short, but here is a very brief overview of what we discussed. I especially enjoyed hearing from you women each week in sharing your God stories and how He is working in and through you as you seek intimacy with Jesus through a vibrant prayer life. 1. God is sovereign. He will do what He wants, when He wants, with whomever He wants. (Isaiah 31:2, Daniel 4:35; 5:21, Psalm 115:3, Job 2:10; 42:2) He will even use pagan people or nations to bring about His will in the lives of His children. (Romans 9:17-18) 2. He has chosen to use man to accomplish His will and purpose here on Earth. He has chosen to use the prayers of man to unleash the power of His Holy Spirit on the Earth. (Exodus 32/Ezekiel 22, James 5:17-18) Our prayers will not change God’s mind, but they are necessary to bring about God’s perfect will in our lives. 3. The same Holy Spirit that had a part in creating the Universe lives inside each born again believer. (Ephesians 1:13; 3:14-21, Acts 1:8) We have the choice to either “feed” the Spirit or “starve” the Spirit in our own life. (Galatians 6:8, I Thessalonians 5:19) The vast majority of Christians today never tap into this supernatural power of God in their prayer lives and so never experience the extraordinary workings of God in their daily lives. 4. Many people say that they pray and wonder why it doesn't seem God is listening. Sometimes we just don’t acknowledge that He’s working because it’s not the way we wanted Him to work. Other times however, God doesn't hear our prayers. If we are holding on to sin the Bible says God won’t hear our prayers. (Psalm 66:18) Further, He says that if we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us! (Matthew 6:15) Many of us miss out on a deeply intimate walk with the savior because we hold a grudge or can’t let go of a sin. The one prayer God always hears is the one of repentance (I John 1:9). Confess your sins often, be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to take care of sin quickly, and always forgive others readily. 5. We are told by Christ that our prayers ought to be according to His purposes and not our own concerns or desires. (John 14:14, James 4:3, Matthew 6:25-34) We accomplish this by delighting in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), abiding in Him (John 15:7), and by seeking His face (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). As we draw closer to God through Bible reading, Study, meditation, and memorization as well as through an unceasing daily prayer life, we begin to experience prayer as it was meant to be experienced…. Inspired by God, powered by the Holy Spirit, and according to the name of Jesus Christ. After we understand these truths and allow God to transform our prayer lives, then we can understand how with a tiny bit of faith we can move mountains (Matthew 17:20, I Corinthians 13:2), and how we can ask ANYTHING according to Jesus’ name and He will do it! (John 14:14) Prayer begins with getting to know God, trusting His ways, and living in obedience to Him. It results in the almighty purposes of God being played out through and among the lives of His children. I encourage you to study this further, beginning with the scriptures listed here. Allow God to lead your prayer life as you read His word. Look at everything with an eternal perspective, seeking first the Kingdom of God. Then experience Him as He transforms your life!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pick a Side

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." James 1:8 I was awakened around 4 am this morning with this verse and a string of thoughts about it on my mind. Now that I'm wide awake, I decided to get up and do a little studying and writing. So, I started by looking up James 1:8 and reading it's context. Basically, James has just started out his letter and begins by urging his readers to take joy in trials, pray for wisdom, and have unwavering faith. The entire letter is very in your face, a "truth hitting you right between the eyes" kind of message. (my favorite kind!) It seems very important that before looking at this extremely bold letter, you must decide to be all-in. I looked up the words "double-minded" and "unstable" to get a little clearer understanding. "Dipsuchos" is the greek word for "double-minded" and I found that it's derived from two words; Dis, meaning twice and psuche, meaning soul or mind. The literal meaning of this word is two-spirited, vacillating in opinion or purpose, inconstant, wavering.... double-minded. Do you know anyone like that? Have you been someone like that? (I have, it's not pretty!) Do you say one thing and do another? Claim you have faith but live apart from it? One foot in the Word with the other in the world? Trusting God in theory, but not in practice? Revelation 3:15-16 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. The word "unstable" comes from the greek "akatastatos" and also means inconstant, unsettled, unsteady. It's synonyms are "one that cannot be restrained", insubordinate, unruly. Show me a person who is wavering between the Word and the world, and I'll show you a person who is rebellious, finds conflict around every corner, manipulates relationships, justifies every action, blames everyone else for their problems, and can't control their own emotions. (This does not mean she is not emotional. I firmly believe God made our emotions and I love the fact that I am a "feeling" being. I also believe that the unstable person let's their emotions run them instead of letting God run their emotions.... but that's a study for another day). Bottom line: Pick a side! God wants "all-in" Christians, not fence riders. If you are unstable, wavering, inconstant, etc. take a second and confess that to God. Take a good look at your heart and life and make sure you're not trying to keep one foot (or even a toe) in the world or in self-serving. Staying in the mode of instability deeply hurts you and everyone who loves you, so "woman" up and make a choice. Joshua 24:15 - "Choose this day whom you will serve.... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hosea's Adulterous Wife

Last night, our ladies group started to study the book of Hosea as the beginning of a study on "Revealing the Heart of God" through Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. I love the book of Hosea and truly appreciate the questions and discussion that the ladies bring. If you missed last nights study, PLEASE take time to read this and read the first 3 chapters of Hosea and bring me your questions before jumping in next week in chapter 4. Hosea was a prophet of God to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 750-722 B.C. The first three chapters of the book are a constant parallel between the life God told Hosea to live as an illustration of the life Israel was choosing to live with her God. It's important before getting into this to note that all throughout scriptures, God uses the marriage relationship as a picture of the covenant between God and Israel and also as the picture of Christ and His church. The people of Israel kept returning to their pagan lifestyles and their false gods despite all that God had done for them. We first see God telling Hosea to take a wife of harlotry and to have children of harlotry. Gomer was likely a prostitute involved in the worship of Baal. They have three children who God names for them; Jezreel("God Scatters"), Lo-Ruhamah("No Compassion"), and Lo-Ammi("Not My People"). God was showing a live illustration to His people through the life of His prophet Hosea. Through these names He is telling Israel what is going to happen if they continue to live this life of sin. When we walk away from God there are ALWAYS consequences that affect us and others. God doesn't want us to continue in our sin, but He will not tolerate it either. At the end of chapter 1 into the first verse of chapter 2 we see that God's heart is always for restoration. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God desires that ALL would come to repentance. So we see the heart of God telling Israel his plan for restoration and in 1:11 and 2:1, we see him reverse the names of the three children. He desired for Israel to repent, turn from their gods, and stop playing the harlot against their God. Chapter two shows us that God will not let the sin of His children stay hidden. You cannot hide in your sin. Not only that, but God will take away everything if He has to in order to call you to repentance. We see also the purpose of Gomer leaving her husband again to return into adultery. Verse 5 of Chapter 2 tells us that she falsely thinks that these other men provide her with things she wasn't getting at home. Of course, we know that everything given to us is of God. We have nothing at all without His provision. Just like in a marriage, finding our needs being met by other men is adultery, so seeking any other means to meet our needs other than God is adultery against Him. God says if we continue in this, He will strip us bear and take away everything that gives us comfort and security until we have no choice but to look to Him. He does this because living in disobedience HURTS and we don't even realize it until it's too late. He would much rather "hurt" us His way so that we can be healed, then to let us go further into sin which will always destroy us. The rest of Chapter two springs back into His plan for mercy and restoration. If we choose Him and LEAVE our sin then he says he "betroth's us FOREVER". In the case of Israel He promises to be their God, to restore them, to be their husband and not just their task-master. To wrap up the relationship, chapter 3 shows us a beautiful picture of the redemption we have in Christ. To "redeem" literally means "to buy back". Hosea's bride left him and their children to go back into prostitution. She got so deep into this life of sin that she finds herself sold into slavery. The going rate to buy a slave of her status in that day would have been about 30 shekels of silver. This is significant because we see that Hosea, at the command of God, went to buy her back out of her sin and slavery. He paid 15 shekels of silver plus 1.5 homers of barley, signifying that he must have had to scrape together everything he had to get this sinful bride back to continue in their marriage! This purchase was unselfish, sacrificial, and showed complete unconditional love. Just as Christ died for us WHILE WE WERE IN SIN. (Romans 5:8) We were once living in the slavery of our own sin, dying and on our way to an eternity in hell. God desires a relationship with you and He loves you so much that even in the midst of your sin, He sent His only son to earth to die on the cross in order to pay the ultimate price for your sin. This is redemption and this is the picture God was portraying to Israel in the book of Hosea. Much like Jesus telling the adulteress woman at the well to "go and sin no more", Hosea says to his bride in 3:3 to stay here many days and do not play the harlot or have another man, and by the way, I will be faithful to you. In some ways we feel bad for Hosea, that God would require something so horrible of him just to get a point across, but it's so important for us to remember that it's not for us to know the mind of God. Look at the big picture here and never forget what God did for us through His son Jesus Christ. If you've never turned from your sin, then let Jesus become your savior today and commit to a life of obedience to God! If you choose to stay in your sin and walk farther away from God, realize the gravity of that decision. God will expose your sin and strip away the things you think give you security. He is not willing for you to die in your sin, and He will do anything possible to show you that you need Him. I asked the ladies to be conscious this week about when they find themselves turning to someone or something else for their provisions, confidences, or emotional security other than God. Then, as soon as you recognize it, confess it immediately and acknowledge God as the only source of these provisions. I think we'll find we do this a lot more often then we even realize! I know we talked about a lot more than this on Sunday night, so read Hosea chapters 1-3 and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask! If I don't know the answers, I will find them with you. :o)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Suffering in Christ

I Peter 4:12-19 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for your Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” Did you know that suffering in the life of a faithful Christian is part of God’s plan? There is a lot of “feel good Christianity” teaching going around in our culture today that tells us the complete opposite of what scripture actually reveals. If we are living a faithful Christian life and we are obedient and living in God’s will, we will suffer persecution and have trials. This isn’t sugarcoated in scripture and we shouldn’t act surprised when these things happen. Satan doesn’t want us to take a stand for the Truth of God’s Word, so he is going to attack us when we do. Peter is telling us in this passage to expect it, to partake in it, and to REJOICE in it. Why can we rejoice in the midst of suffering? Because we know that it is only temporary. Our home is in Heaven, not here on Earth and we will one day be in a place with no suffering for the rest of eternity. We can joyfully endure ridicule here on earth because it is what God uses to show Himself to the unsaved world. How you react to judgment and mis-treatment is a testimony of Jesus and what He did for us. We also need to understand that the unsaved will suffer an eternal torment in Hell if we do not speak out and share the true gospel with them. Peter also makes it very clear that not all suffering is glorifying to God. A murderer’s suffering is just, so is a thief or other evildoer. Did you notice that he lumps gossip right in there next to the evilness of murder? These things should not characterize a life of a Christian and we shouldn’t look at the suffering caused by our sin in the same way we look at persecution from living a Godly life. You may think this passage out of date or irrelevant to Christians here in America because how much do we really suffer for our faith? Well, have you paid attention in the news lately? Christians who speak out for the Truth get attacked in the media every day. Have you ever been called intolerant, a Bible-thumper, holy-roller, or worse? If not, are you speaking out for the Truth, are you sharing the gospel with the lost? Or are you sitting comfortably in your Christianity afraid to make any waves or upset anyone. God wants us to stand firm in our faith, to grow deep in His Word, and to be different in our daily walk. He promises persecution while we are on this earth, but He also promises rewards in Heaven for those who are faithful to Him. What stand do you need to take this week? Who do you need to tell about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Changed Life

Our ladies Bible Study is well underway and we are getting ready to wrap up 1 Peter very soon! We've learned quite a bit in the last few weeks and have had some great discussions. I wanted to blog after each week, but I've been so busy this has been my first opportunity to write. Sorry if it's too long but here we go.... Peter is writing to "the pilgrims of the Dispersion" which is a very important phrase to understand so that we know the context of the rest of the book. The word pilgrim (parepidemos in greek) means someone from a foreign country residing beside natives, a stranger, sojourning through a strange place. It is used to convey the idea that Christians are natives of Heaven and are foreigners on the earth living in the midst of an unsaved world. The word Dispersion (diaspora in greek) means a scattering and refers to Christians being scattered among the Gentiles. The reason all this is important is that the message of 1 Peter is a call to holiness and godly living for these Christians that were scattered among the unsaved. Peter begins by reminding us of our salvation and our future home in Heaven, urging us to remember this in joy when we go through trials because of our faith. When a Christian lives a holy life, set apart for God's will, it looks strange to the unbeliever. I have heard and seen far too many Christians blending in with the world and use the excuse that "Jesus spent his time with sinners, so I should too." This is a true statement, He did spend his time with sinners, he came for sinners of which I am one. However, He did not sit in a bar and drink with them to reach them. He met them in their homes, on the street, in the cities, and in the temple. He lived a holy life, different, set apart. He did the will of His father while ministering and witnessing to a lost world. If we are going to be a witness of the changed life that God promises through Jesus Christ, then we have to live a changed life. This does not mean you have to clean up your life to come to Christ, but if you truly come to Christ with a repentant heart He will clean it up for you. If we live just as the unsaved then what are we a witness to? I think 1 Peter 4:1-6 pretty much sums up the message of 1 Peter. "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, (meaning that sin no longer characterizes your life after salvation.... not that you will stop sinning) that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles (unsaved), when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." We will all have to give account to God one day. Has your life been changed by the blood of Christ? Are you living like it? I encourage you to read the book of 1 Peter and come join us on Sunday nights. This is just scratching the surface of the truths in this book.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My "True Woman" Experience

I am sitting in a hotel room right now, unable to attend the final session of the True Woman conference because I woke up with a locked back that will let me move only tiny bits. On this day especially I wanted to be at this conference, to be surrounded by other Christian women praising our Lord. Today is the 7th anniversary of my dad entering Glory and I just want to feel close to him today. While disappointed, I am still completely overwhelmed by what God has already shown me this weekend. I arrived at the True Woman '12 conference Thursday morning for the leadership pre-session and sat at a table of strangers. Some were fellow pastor's wives, some ladies ministry leaders, and others leaders of other ministries. As we shared around the table a little bit about ourselves and we all answered questions about our lives and ministries, I was met with the ever familiar withered look from women that I get when I share that I own a salon, homeschool my kids, and run our ladies program at our growing church of almost 300 now. I've learned never to say those things all in the same sentence, but when women ask questions and put the pieces together, that's when they get a look of disbelief. Just a quick note here, when you respond to me with a withered stare and the comment "that's just too much, how can you do all that?" I immediately feel defeated and start to question if I'm doing something wrong. All I know is that I love my husband, I love my children, and God has put in me a deep desire to see girls and women grow in their walk with the Lord, beginning with myself. He has orchestrated situations and events in my life to get me to where I am today and I am right where He wants me. So, back to the conference! The leadership speakers revived in me the call of what I'm doing. Women have so many needs that go so much deeper than her hair color. When a woman sits in my salon chair, I'm not just there to give her a great cut. I'm there to listen to her, be a friend, give her godly counsel when necessary and point her to the savior. I can't meet every need, only God can. But, I can point a woman to the Truth. I can share my life with her, pray for her and with her, and teach the Word of God which is the ONLY book to live by. As I entered the evening main conference session on Thursday I felt good about myself, about what I do for the Lord. I won't go into detail out of respect for my family, but I found out on Thursday afternoon that we have just entered a very serious point of crisis and here I am at a conference all weekend torn between staying and toughing it out or heading home. Either way, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it and I came to this weekend to get alone with God and hear from Him, so I stayed. I went on to the first session even though I wanted to stay curled up on the hotel bed talking to God about this crisis. So, there I was in the session with 8,000 other women, feeling revived and quite proud of myself for making the decision to stay. (Pride goes before a fall). After a while they get to the "prayer experience" of the night. Oh boy, I was raised Baptist and this is usually the part where I say this is too charismatic for me and slip out, but this time I stayed, and it changed me forever. Every woman usher started to get up and grab this long paper linked chain (like the ones you'd make in grade school) and began carrying this thing all around the giant arena, wrapping several times over. The thing was huge! The man leading the prayer experience shared with us that this chain was made up of individual links, and every single link had the name of someone at this conference on it as well as a prayer for each one of us. He also shared with us that for MONTHS this chain has been being created and that each one of us has been being prayed over, NOT by pastors wives, NOT by churches, NOT by the staff (although they all prayed too), but by PRISONERS in a women's prison who had been spiritually free'd through salvation and they were praying that every woman at this conference would experience God's FREEDOM! You can imagine, I lost it right there. I can't even go into the experience I felt at that moment and the next hour as the tears wouldn't stop. They showed the LIVE stream of these women who were virtually joining the conference from their prison and I know that there were women at this conference locked inside their own prison who are a thousand times more captive than these women are. That opened our prayer experience and I can't do it justice to explain in words, but He led us 8,000 women through a time of scripture fed, spirit led, worship focused prayer that changed my entire view of prayer. Not only did God pull me out of my comfort zone as I prayed about personal things with a group of about 4 other strangers, but He showed me how to seek His face in prayer. As if that experience wasn't enough, God chose to use one of these complete strangers who I don't even know her name, to meet a need in my life this weekend. I will probably never see this woman again and she probably doesn't even know the magnitude of what she did for me, but God was speaking to me. He let me know in a VERY REAL way that He is right here with me. I "know" this truth and trust completely that He will never leave me or forsake me. God has given me many experiences over the years that have developed in me the knowledge of His faithfulness, but none through the broken, raw experience of truly seeking His face in prayer like this. I know I'm a Baptist and writing this out all makes it sound so emotional, touchy-feely, and may make you uncomfortable. To that I say shame on US for living for so many years with such a cut-and-dry belief about prayer that we forget how big our God is and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. I've been struggling for weeks over how to go about teaching a Bible Study on prayer to our ladies this fall and God graciously gave me my answer this weekend. Friday was amazing too and my heart is so overflowing with truth that I am still processing it all and I am sure it will come forth as future blogs because the heart can only pour out so much in one setting. :o)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Call to Holiness

I Peter 1:13-16 says "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'." I posed two questions on Facebook this week to begin thinking about this passage. The first question was "do you agree or disagree with the statement 'the closer you get to being holy the more you realize how far you are from being holy'?" The second question was "how does the passage above affect your view of holiness, what does holiness look like, and can it be achieved on this earth?" A little bit of background is necessary to understand where Peter is coming from and where he is going with this passage. (Remember to join us beginning September 23 as we go through the rest of I Peter,II Peter, and Jude.) Peter is writing to those gentiles who had chosen to turn from their wickedness and put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He knew that they were used to living a certain way and that they needed to be taught about God's holiness and what was expected of His children. He begins by telling them to get ready! "Gird up the loins of your mind" is a reference to getting prepared for action. We cannot go into battle without being mentally prepared and physically prepared, and we cannot go into spiritual battle without also being spiritually prepared. I cannot say enough how extremely important it is to be in God's word, studying it, memorizing it, APPLYING it and OBEYING it! We have to let it sink in, shape us, and change us. Equally important is our prayer life. All throughout the gospel we see Jesus going off alone to pray, almost always right after and/or directly before a huge ordeal, including his praying in the garden right before the crucifixion. (The prayer life of Jesus is an amazing study too by the way). If Jesus (who IS God) had to spend hours at a time in prayer with God, how much more time should we be spending in prayer! We cannot fulfill the function in the next few verses if we aren't practicing getting prepared. Now we can move on to what Peter tells us in the rest of the passage. No longer are we to continue doing the things we did before salvation. Peter calls this former behavior our "ignorance" as it was the way of life before we knew Christ. Now that we have seen our need for a savior and have trusted in Christ to pay the price for our sins we are a child of God. Verse 14 calls us to a life of obedience, not one of conforming to our former way of life. We are not supposed to continue fulfilling our own lusts, we should replace that mentality with one of holiness according to the next line that says to be holy in ALL your conduct. God has called His children to a life of holiness, so it stands to reason that He would not command us to do something that isn't possible to do. True, complete holiness will only come in eternity in Heaven, but I firmly believe that we CAN achieve a life of GROWING holiness, continually getting closer and closer to the person God desires us to be. The most basic definition of holiness is to be set apart. Study scripture for even a little while and you will see that God wants His children to be different from the world. All through I Peter we are referred to as aliens, pilgrims, travelers through a strange land. We must remember that this world is NOT home for a believer. We are only here for a short time and we can either waste it by fulfilling our temporary pleasures, or we can fulfill our God given purpose and continually develop a life of holy living that is pleasing to God. Too often I hear people hide behind the truths of Grace in order to live in their sin. This is not at all what scripture teaches. A right understanding of God's grace WILL drive us to pursue a life of holiness. A false understanding....well, that's a whole other blog!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our Sure Hope

I'm working on preparations for an upcoming Bible Study that I am leading. If you go to my Facebook page and view my posts you can join in the discussion! For those of you who are attending, we are actually beginning on the fourth week of this study. So, a lot of the discussion in the next several weeks will be on the first few lessons to prepare us to jump right in to lesson 4. Here are just a few initial thoughts to begin our journey through 1&2 Peter and Jude. Peter starts out his letter introducing himself and addressing the people he is writing to. His writings were to several specific groups of Christians, but an important note is that in verse 1 he refers to them as "pilgrims" or "elect sojourners", temporary residents, Christians who are living in a land that is not their home. In my opinion, this is a fundamental truth in the Christian's life. If you are born again through Jesus Christ then your home is Heaven and we are strangers on this earth. We are here for a specific purpose until we are finally able to go home. Understanding this seemingly simple fact will go miles in our ability to survive and thrive amid tough times. Verse 3 begins to talk about the "living hope" that God has so graciously given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. This hope is not a wishful thinking kind of hope. Some people "hope" that they are going to heaven. They "hope" that they have done enough good things to outweigh the bad, or that they might make it if they give enough money or pray hard enough. This is not the hope that God speaks of. It is a "LIVING hope", a "SURE hope", a looking forward to that I know I will be in Heaven when my time on earth is over because I am trusting in the promise that Jesus Christ has covered me with his blood when I accepted Him as my savior. The passage goes on in verse 4 and 5 to tell us our SURE hope is for an eternal inheritance in heaven to those of us who are part of God's forever family. It is THIS hope that verse 6 tells us to rejoice in when we find ourselves in the midst of difficult times, trials, and griefs. Did you know that the vast majority of Americans consider themselves to be "Christians"? Do you also know that a lot of those people have no idea the truth about what a Christian truly is? Being a good, moral person will not make you a Christian. Saying the "sinners prayer" when your a kid does not necessarily mean you're a Christian. You aren't born that way, you can't go through a church ritual to become one, and you can't buy it. It is only through REPENTANCE of our sins and ACCEPTANCE of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior that you can be saved. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Romans 10:9) Now that we got that cleared up, let's finish up by looking at verses 6-7 of 1 Peter 1. "...though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith.....may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I left out the phrase in the middle for clarity, to show the thought process of why we go through trials. The middle phrase compares the trying of our faith to the refining of gold in a fire. The fire is there to remove impurities from the gold, to test it and shape it. Peter says that our faith is so much more precious than gold and when it's tested the truth (genuineness) of our faith will be made known. We endure trials now, and we maintain our sure hope and REJOICE in that Hope through our trials, knowing that one day we will be home. This is only scratching the surface of this Bible study. Can't wait to get into it!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

He Didn't Have to Be by Brad Paisley

Here is the song I spoke of in my last post.  Love it!

All Because of a Porch Swing

When my dad passed away, almost 7 years ago, I had to change my route to take the kids to school because I couldn't bear to pass by his fire station.  I would break out in sobs every time I saw a fireman or heard the blare of sirens.  For the past few years now I pass by the station almost daily, and I rarely well up when I see the firemen out and about.  But this week I was driving past and I happened to glance at the station and I saw a firefighter sitting on the front porch swing with a woman.  I have no idea who they were, but I have been flooded with emotion ever since!  I used to sit on that exact porch swing and listen to hundreds of stories about the calls he would go on, or his buddies at the club, or something funny his dogs did.  He always had a story.  And he would listen to me share every detail of whatever it was I was doing that week.  If you've heard my Chloe talk, then you know what I mean 'cause she gets it from me. :)  There we'd sit, on that old white porch swing.

I have two big regrets that I've been holding onto for 7 years.  The first is that I never voiced to him how much he meant to me.  If you didn't know us you would have never guessed that I was his step-daughter.  We didn't live like that, I have been his daughter for almost 30 years and I always will be.  I know that he loved me unconditionally, but I felt remorseful that I never told him enough how much I loved him.  The second regret is that I didn't take nearly enough pictures.  I only have a handful of photos of him with me or with my kids and each one of them is dearly treasured.  I have been so engulfed in the grief of these two things since he died that I was clouding my memories.  For whatever reason, seeing that girl on the porch swing opened up a portal to the past that allowed me to escape into dozens of precious memories.  He came to every one of my softball games in 8th grade that he was off work for.  I wasn't even any good, but he was there cheering me on!  He taught me to drive in that old beast of a station wagon; if I could drive that I could drive anything.  He took me to my dentist appointments, picked me up from school, built forts with me in the snow, taught me the game of football (made me into a Cowboy's fan), and gave me my love for Elvis and country music.  When my beloved grandmother passed away suddenly when I was 15, he was home to take the call and carry me through my grief.  He was my dad, 100%, no questions asked.  He'd take me on midnight runs to the store, help me with my homework, make drawings for book reports, take us to the lake, drop me off with my friends at the mall or the fair and pick me up any time of the night.  He never complained about it, he just did it, like he enjoyed it all!  I loved that about him.  I do remember one Christmas as an adult that I got him a CD with a country song on it that I loved to hear talking about the love for a step-dad who really wasn't a step at all.  I sat on his lap (yes, I was grown!) and we listened to it together with the family around.  I can't believe that I had forgotten that, it was so special to me!  All of these memories flooding back to me because of a porch swing.

I do have nightmares still, they have been very frequent as of late.  Each one is different, yet all the same.  There's me and my dad, and he's dying.  Always a different death, but always long and dramatic with a lot of agony and sorrow, but a lot of talking and sharing and saying goodbye.  I have felt plagued by these, often waking up feeling the full weight of new grief all over again.  But after this floodgate brought on by a simple porch swing, I count them as a gift from God.  Night after night he allows me the opportunity to say goodbye, to tell him how much he means to me and how much I'm going to miss him.  I no longer count them as nightmares, they are my healing.  After all, it's not really "good bye" that I'm saying.  It's more like, "See you real soon!"  My dad is in Heaven.  I know this, not because he was a good man (although, he was the best), not because everyone goes to Heaven (because they don't), but because, many years before God took him home, my dad chose to put his trust and hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, the ONLY Way, Truth, and Life.  And, because I am also trusting in Jesus and Him alone for my salvation, I know that I will see him again in Heaven one day.  Oh, but the pain of waiting!

AND ALL OF THIS IS BECAUSE OF A PORCH SWING!  Praise God for His giant miracles in everyday randomness!  I love this song by Mercy Me.  I have a lot of loved ones waiting for me in Heaven and I can't wait to see them all again!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

5 Musts to Avoid Anxiety and Fear

As women we are highly vulnerable to give in to anxiety and fears.  A typical day of a stay at home mom of one child consists of laundry, cooking, meal prep/shopping, caring for the thousand demands of a child, keeping the house cleaned that gets messy faster than she can clean it.  Some of her duties may include paying bills, doing lists of to-do's from her husband, handling some of the minor "fix-its" around the house, or any number of other activities.  Now add in another kid, or 2 or 10!  Now your daily tasks have multiplied in scores.  Throw in a part time or full time job and now you have to choose very carefully what your going to take care of at home and what's going to get sacrificed.  Let's face it, it's absolutely impossible for someone to do all these things without letting go in some areas.  In the midst of all of this, we have the obligation and privilege of training our children up to love the Lord, teaching them all the things they need to know for life.  We haven't even mentioned all the needs of our husbands that we have to meet.  Adding in our constant hormone changes it's not wonder at all that we are prime targets for temptations of fear and anxiety.  The purpose of this post is to share a list of ideas that I have found over the years to be very helpful to me as I try to stay close to God, balance all the areas of my life, and stay away from anxiety.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I would love for you to comment on this post to share things that have worked for you!

1.  Make daily Bible reading a priority.  It doesn't matter how you do it, just do it!  I like to skip all over the Bible and read a few books from the New Testament and then go read a few in the Old Testament.  I've seen lots of very good reading programs out there, but I get depressed when I fall off the plan for a few days and then I quit.  So for my sanity, I just read on my own and my own pace and check off the books as I read them.  When I finish all 66, I start over.  I make tons of notes in my Bible and love to see what God is doing in my life from year to year as I pass over those notes and change or add to them as I grow.

2.  Start a prayer journal.  One of the things that drags me down is when I go through phases where I just don't feel God at work.  In my head I know He's always at work around me, but when I go through trials for years and feel like I can't see daylight, I tend to give into anxiety.  By keeping prayer journals it allows me to do two things.  One, go back and see all the thousands of answers to prayer and miracles God has done in my life to remind me that I am more blessed than I deserve.  Two, I take my conceited eyes off myself and spend a lot more time in prayer for others when I journal it.  This is crucial!

3.  Deuteronomy tells us to remember the things God has done, teach them to our children, bind them on our foreheads, talk about them when we wake up and when we go to sleep, put them up on your door and in your home so you never ever forget.  I take this quite literally and I use my walls to display His word.  I use 3x5 cards with scripture on them taped to my cupboards, mirrors, walls, kids rooms, etc.  Whenever I can afford it, I purchase artwork with scripture on it so that I can do the same thing and be a little decorative with it. :)

4.  Get involved in a Bible teaching church.  If your church does not teach from the Word of God then you need to find one that does.  Then, don't just go on Sunday morning and sit in a pew once a week.  Get involved!  Go to ladies events whenever you can, get on a ministry team and serve with others, and definitely be involved in small group Bible Studies.  These are the things that will help you grow, keep you grounded, give you support and encouragement, and help keep your eyes off yourself. 

5.  Get away for some alone time on a regular basis.  When you read the gospels you will see time and time again where Jesus sneaks off to be by himself.  Sadly, the people chase after Him the way my kids do when I go into the bathroom.  Not a minute goes by that I don't get a knock at the door or little fingers underneath wiggling at me!  Jesus knew that it is imperative that we spend time alone to talk to God and just simply be with Him without distraction.  Don't let Satan make you feel guilty about this!  Your kids and husband will survive without you for a day or two.  Go to a hotel or a B&B, lock yourself in a room and just be with God.  I have yet to put this into my regular practice but I have tasted the benefits and healing that this gives and I know that it's important.

Those are just some of my most treasured practices. I would love to hear from you as to what things you do that keep you trusting God and combating fear and anxiety!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fear? Anxiety? Depression? ANSWERS? - To Sin or Not to Sin

One day I was reading in Proverbs and I came across a verse that jumped off the page at me.  It's Proverbs 12:25 and it says "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad."  There are two things that popped in my mind when I saw this verse.  The first thought I had was what it says in Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing...." The second thing I thought was "what is a 'good word'?"  I'll start with the first connection to Philippians 4:6.  God doesn't give us a choice or a strong suggestion to not be anxious.  He doesn't say, "only get anxious in stressful situations" or "don't get anxious over trivial things".  No, His words are "Be anxious for NOTHING."  The first step to my healing was understanding that anxiety is sin, plain and simple.  Notice he doesn't say we won't have stress.  If you're human, you will always be faced with stress and frustrating circumstances.  It's how we choose to handle our stress that can either lead to peace in the midst of it, or to a downward spiral to depression.  The rest of Philippians 4:6 and 7 says "...but in everything, by prayer and supplication, WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS through Christ Jesus."  When I fall into the trap of anxiety the very first thing I do is confess it as sin to God.  I share with Him how I'm feeling, what's going on, when I need and then I begin to thank Him for anything and everything I can think of to be thankful for.  This is a process that I do time and time again and I am living proof that God's word heals.  In order to experience this peace and healing, you first must have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Until you've accepted Christ as your savior you will not begin to experience His peace.  If you are a child of God, then it's imperative to stay in His word every day, to surround yourself with things that glorify God, talk to Him in prayer, and follow what He says in the Bible.  I want to be clear that I am NOT saying that if you are doing all these things you will never struggle with anxiety or that there will never be stress in your life.  As long as we live in this fallen world there will be trials and tribulations, the Bible assures us of that.  I have found in my life though that I am much more sensitive to the Spirit when I am close with God, and the deeper our relationship grows the quicker I am to repent of my anxiety and feel that deeply desired peace that I long for.  I challenge you to first make sure that you are a child of God through salvation, and then genuinely repent of your anxiety and talk to God about it.  Spend time thanking Him for everything and anything in your life, there is so much to be thankful for!  Take the challenge from His word and enjoy His peace instead of the bondage of depression!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fear? Anxiety? Depression? ANSWERS? - My Story

I am writing this blog series dealing with the topic of fear, anxiety, and depression because it is something that I have battled for a very long time.  I spent most of my growing up years being worried and anxious about one thing or another.  I could never quite get content, always wanting something different, something more.  I was never very popular, not good at anything, and kind of a nerd.  I always felt like I needed to have a boyfriend so that I was worth something, but any guy that actually sort of like me would go out with me for a little while and then break up with me, some time's for no reason at all.  I was annoying, my voice bothered him, his friends were making fun of him, or he just really didn't ever like me, he was just playing a game.  (Do you have any idea what it feels like always be the one getting dumped, never ever the one doing the dumping?  This excruciating truth in my life is why I counsel girls all the time to wait until they are ready to get married and find a husband, don't just date around.  Guard your heart now while you're young so you don't have these unnecessary insecurities going into marriage!)  My entire growing up years were drowned in abandonment and insecurities. 

I firmly believe that these events have shaped my psyche to be a prime target for Satan's attacks on the battlefield that is my mind.  Day after day he tries to tell me I'm no good, nobody really wants me, I'll never be any good to any body.  And day after day I'm faced with the choice:  succumb to the lies of the devil, or fill my heart with Truth and trust God and what He says about me.

I am now married (going on 14 years) to a man who loves me unconditionally, I have 3 amazing kids, a fantastic church home, and a successful business.  People tell me all the time how strong I am to be able to do all that I do in homeschooling, running a business, running a ministry at church, being a wife and homemaker, and once in a while putting on some makeup!  I hear this kind of praise almost daily from someone or other, and I have no response.  Because, underneath the makeup, underneath the almost stylish clothes, under my professionally colored long hair, and under the surface of all the things I seem to be able to juggle, sits that little insecure girl that Satan is badgering with lies.... "you'll never succeed.... you're kids are going to suffer because of your work.... Homeschool?  What makes you qualified?.... You can't minister to women, you haven't had enough experience yet....  no body wants you... lies, lies, LIES LIES!" 

Yes, I know they are lies and I praise God that He has brought me to the place that I can finally have a little bit of understanding into who I am, how He made me, and the Truth to deal with the lies.  I've learned that these lies aren't going to go away.  This is my weak spot and Satan knows it.  He will keep attacking me as long as I am a threat to him.  But I have chosen to trust in Someone who is bigger and infinitely stronger than the devil.  I know that I have been chosen by God alone, and He loves me always and forever.  He not only loves me, but He cares about my day to day struggle with these attacks.  He never promises me an easy road, but He does promise to carry me when I'm weak. 

Paul talks about having a thorn in the flesh that he asks to be taken from him.  Finally he accepts that it will never be taken from him, he has to live with it and choose to love God and serve God in the midst of it.  I don't know if that thorn in his flesh was an attack from Satan, a weak spot, or if it was a physical impairment, but I do know that God doesn't always remove our problems.  What he desires is that I choose to love Him and serve Him and OBEY Him when these attacks come.  I cannot stop Satan from firing off his darts at me, but I can absolutely defend them with the shield of faith from the armor of God. (Ephesians 6)  That's what I intend to share in the following blogs.  Scripture after scripture of truths from God's Word that have taught me to combat Satan's lies.  Scriptures that explain the root of anxiety and depression, that offer answers for how we are supposed to deal with it, and give hope for overcoming it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fear? Anxiety? Depression? ANSWERS??

Where does depression come from?  What is this fear I always have?  How do I deal with my anxiety?  How can I be free from this bondage?  Is there a permanent fix?  These are just a few of the thousands of questions that almost every woman on the planet faces at some point in her life.  By God’s design, we were wired with something so intricate and delicate that when used properly gives us the sensitivity and compassion to snuggle our babies and calm them down from their own anxious moods, but when pushed ever so slightly in the wrong direction sends us careening into a pit of despair.  You can spend the rest of your life searching for the perfect workout regime, read every top selling book about stress and depression, go to the top psychologists, eat all the right foods and be as healthy as possible, but there is only one place that you will find the healing you so desperately need.  It stands to reason that since God is the one who created us with our emotions and our intricate wiring, He is the only one who can teach us how to manage what He’s given us.  So, what does the Bible say, and more importantly, how does it work out practically in my unique situation?
One thing I have discovered as I study the Bible is that fear, anxiety, and depression are very closely intertwined and all play a role in the imbalance in the life of a woman.  Don’t get me wrong, men experience these issues too, but it seems that women are so much more susceptible to being overtaken by them.  While I don’t deny that there are valid health issues and chemical imbalances that can play a part in our anxiety, these instances are extremely over-diagnosed and real cases are few and far between.  More often are woman who need a relationship with Jesus Christ, and then need to learn from Him how to manage the life He blessed us with.  Remember, our emotions were given to us as a gift from God, not a curse.  Sin is what changed things and brought us to the place we are now of needing to figure out how to keep our moods under control.
I have had more than my fair share of struggles in this area, and everything that I will say here I firmly believe based on my understanding of scriptures.  I never claim that it’s easy, but I know it to be truth.  This is obviously going to be way too much to type into one blog post, so stay tuned for the next post in this series where I will share some of my own experience with fear, anxiety, and depression.  Following will be many more posts of how God’s Word has helped me and how it can help you too.  Let the journey begin!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Where's Your Heart?

For years I have struggled back and forth with the question "can a Christian really backslide, or were they never really saved to begin with and still in need of Christ?"  One school of thought is that if you pray to ask Jesus into your heart and confess your sins to Him, then you are saved.  In result, if you never have a changed life and you just keep on living in darkness or if you at some point walk away from God then you are a "backslidden" Christian, a prodigal.  And I believe that this happens, especially when there is no real discipleship taking place in the new believers life.  However, as I study the Word of God in other areas, this issue has screamed out to me from the pages of my Bible bringing a new light to my beliefs showing a slightly different truth to the matter.

 Before I share anymore, I want to make clear what the Bible says about Salvation to begin with. When God created man, it was for His glory and for His fellowship.  He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve every single day.  We were originally created to be with God forever.  Instead, we gave in to temptation and chose to disobey God.  Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to Adam.  Because Adam ate, we have all inherited his sin.  Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  We CANNOT get to God on our own, our sin will always keep us apart from Him.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us "for by grace we have been saved through faith, and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.  Not by works, so that no man can boast."  There is no way that for us to pay our sin debt on our own.  Our works will never be good enough to reach the Glory of God, they all fall short.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the payment for our sins is death, eternal separation from God.  Hell is a real place that will be eternally separated from God in the Lake of Fire and anyone who is not written in the Lambs Book of Life will spend eternity there. (Revelation 20:15)  But remember, God created us to be with Him!  Even though we chose to leave Him, He still made a way for us to choose to return.  He did this by coming to us in the form of Jesus Christ.  He lived a sinless life and became the perfect sacrifice to pay the payment for our sins.  He died on the cross for you and me and then He rose again 3 days later, defeating death and making it possible for us to spend eternity with God.  In order to have your name written in the book of life you must turn from your sin, admit your need for a savior, and give your life to Jesus Christ.  Accept His gift of salvation by calling on the name of the Lord.  Believe that Jesus paid the price for your sin by dying on the cross, that He rose again showing power over death.  By trusting in Him alone you will become a Christian and will have eternal life with Him in Heaven. Romans 10:8-10 - If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

Here's the deal.... God isn't a magic genie in a bottle that if you just say these magic words then "poof" you're going to Heaven.  He sees into the depths of your heart, where no man can see.  He knows if you are just praying a prayer or if you are truly repentant.  He knows if you have truly changed your heart of not.  My calling as a Christian is to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and to plead for your reconciliation to God.  I can't see you're heart, therefore I have to look at your life.  This is where I have struggled back and forth on.  Instead of trying to find the right words to share what I have found, I am just going to write out the scriptures that have helped me to understand it a little better.

Matthew 7:18-20 - A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Galatians 5:19-25 - Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleannes, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Romans 8:5-8 - For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 13:13-14 - Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Ephesians 4:22-24 - that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 5:8 - For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.

Colossians 2:6 - As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. 

I John 1:6 - If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

I John 2:15-16 - Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world.

Matthew 7:21 - Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

James 2:19 - You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe - and tremble!

I could go on and on but I want to leave something for you to study on your own!  What I have found is, if a person truly turns from their sin and trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation, then there will be change.  The Bible promises it.  I have concluded that it is not for me to say whether a person living in darkness is a backslidden Christian or has never truly repented.  Our works are not what saves us, but the Bible is clear that they are evidence of our salvation.  Because God has given us as Christians the responsibility to be a witness to reach out to a lost and dying world, then I will assume that people that PRACTICE carnality are not in Christ based on what I see in scriptures.  The bottom line is, God isn't going to force Himself on you.  He gives you a choice to come to Him or not.  If you are tired of living in darkness and are ready to come to Christ, then call out to Him in faith and repent of your sins.  Turn your life over to Jesus Christ today.  If you have given your life to Christ but have returned to a life in darkness, He's still here for you just waiting for His prodigal to return.  I love Romans 8:38-39..."For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  I do believe it's possible to be truly saved and backslide.  I also believe it's possible to think that a prayer saved you and you never really were saved.  But I KNOW that I know that when you have a heart change, and you allow Jesus Christ to come into your life, NOTHING can ever take that away, not even your own sin.  Only you can look deep into your heart and give an honest answer to the question of your spiritual security.  My sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.  I have turned from my sin and am trusting in Christ alone for my salvation.  How about you?!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lead me to the Rock

Here it is, 1:00 am, and my throbbing back is keeping me up despite the pain meds and muscle relaxers I took before bedtime.  It's a great opportunity to get into God's Word while the house is peaceful with only the sound of the wind to soothe my mind as I read.

Tonight's truth that God took me to is in Psalm 61:1-4.  "Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings."    


 My heart definitely gets overwhelmed often.  Sometimes it's the pain I feel over a sister's hurting heart when I don't have any idea how to help her.  Other times it's being overburdened by demands that I have allowed to be made of me.  Often it's just in the daily ins and outs of life that tend to pile up so high that they drown me.  All too often I have been in this place of grasping for a foothold only to find myself slipping further and further beneath my cares.  It's in this place that I cry out "Lord, lead me to the rock that is higher than I!"
I can't get through this pain alone.  I am overwhelmed with fatigue and am unable to keep up with the simplest demands of life.  Yet I have known Gods comfort, His shelter, and His protection in my life.  There's always a greater purpose, He always has a greater good in mind and I trust in that.  I trust that I will be able to accomplish what He has planned for me to do and I will lay aside those things that don't fit into His plan.  Thank you Lord for being my Rock, my shelter, my comfort, and my strength!