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Refining Gold

I always tried to be a helpful child when I was younger. I liked to make people happy so was usually eager to be accommodating and obedient. Sometimes I took this method a little too far. For instance, when I was about 5 or so, I remember coming home from an evening church service with my family and I heard my Dad say, “Did I leave the stove on??” Always one to be helpful, I eagerly exclaimed, “I’ll check!” and placed my hand flat on the burner before anyone could stop me. Turns out, it was on and I burned my hand and learned a good lesson.

I was thinking about that story recently as I heard someone referencing a verse in the Bible that talks about God refining us. There are actually quite a few verses on the topic and I got to wondering how hot a refiner’s fire was anyway? I’ve been around a lot of fires and sometimes I turn my oven up pretty high…how hot does a fire have to be to melt metal? So I did some research. Turns out that to melt gold a fire has to be anywhere from 1600-2000 degrees F. Whew! (Guess I won’t be doing any of that in my kitchen…)

And the more I thought about it, I realized the huge significance of those verses. One of my favorites: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.” Prov. 17:3 The parallel drawn here is pretty clear as the author compares the method of refining metal to how the Lord tests and refines our hearts. Suddenly it became apparent to me that it’s not a pleasant parallel. The more I read about refining, the more I realized that I didn’t want that done with my heart! It’s hot and it hurts! It’s not a fun process and that’s why it’s so important to have God’s perspective and not ours. Right now, I just see the temporary pain and loss but according to God’s Word:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7

All that to say this: every year I pray for a specific thing that I want God to teach me that year. In 2016, it was compassion and we all know how that turned out. This year, I prayed for the Lord to give me a richer prayer life. You know what happened? I moved to an apartment by myself, I was under rest orders from my doctor, and wasn’t even able to read my Bible for a while. My only resort was to talk to God.

I know what I want to learn in 2018 but I am actually terrified to pray for it. I have truly seen that God answers prayers but not in the way I expect and I am afraid for this one. I’m not sure I’m ready for the heat of this fire. I want to learn true and full contentment in Christ. I want him to be my life and the fulfillment of it. Right now, I often feel restless and discontent because I want my life to be how it was before. I want my old life back and the more I realize that isn’t going to happen, the more upset I become and I don’t want to live like that. I want to embrace the life God has given me even if it’s not what I would have chosen for myself.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but on January 1st, that is what my heart will be crying out and what I will continue to pray for the entire year. Would you pray with me?

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in contentment

 

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When You Don’t Feel Like It

Warning: Honesty Alert! This post may contain elements of honesty that are unfamiliar to regular church goers and may come as a shock to you.

When I was about 10-11 years old, I started doing devotions on my own. My family did devos together but suddenly one day, I decided to do my own also. I grabbed my Bible and my Lisa Frank notebook, sat down, and started reading. I read through Genesis in 5 days. If you don’t know, Genesis has 50 chapters. Not bad for a kid, right? I loved it and was hungry to learn about the Lord and read his Word for myself. So I kept going. For years, I read through the Bible in a year and in multiple versions to compare them. In the last two years my devotions have taken more of a meditation aspect.

But recently, I simply haven’t felt like doing devotions. (crowd murmurs) I really don’t think this is an uncommon problem in the church; I just think that most people aren’t willing to admit it. After all, it sounds terrible. How can you not want to spend time with your Savior, the One who gave his life for you?? I’ve been a part of my Young Adult group for over 4 years now and every week there is always at least one person who asks for prayer that they make their devotions a priority. But they make it sound like their schedule is so busy and they just need to set aside the time. I certainly have the time; but no motivation.

So what do you do? What do you do when you wake up and literally don’t want to do your devotions or pray? I think the temptation is that you shouldn’t force yourself to read God’s Word. Tell me you haven’t said to yourself before, “Well I’m not going to get anything out of it anyway.” And we use that as an excuse to go about our day without spending time with Jesus.

Let me ask you something. Do you believe that God’s Word is living and active? Do you believe it can work even when your heart is cold? Trust me, I know the heartbreaking feeling. You sit down with your Bible and feel nothing. You don’t want to read it, you don’t want to talk with the Lord. But you want to have the desire to do them!! I have literally sat and prayed, “God, I don’t want to do my devotions today and I am so sorry. Please forgive me for having a cold heart. Please, PLEASE, help me to learn something from your Word anyway.”

I think there are benefits to doing your devotions, even if you don’t feel like you have an amazing time with the Lord every day. I also don’t believe our faith is based on emotions (thank the Lord!) and if you decide not to do your devos just because you don’t think you will learn anything, you’re probably playing right into Satan’s hand. It seems to me that most of the things that are good for us in life are difficult at some point and take work, such as exercise, healthy eating, or perfecting any skill.

So my advice (to myself) is this: don’t give up! It may be hard for a while. It may feel forced for a while. No matter what you are feeling, tell God about it. Pray, pray, pray for God to give you a fierce love for him that drives and motivates you!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Devotions

 

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Stop Reading the Bible

Someone in my life recently challenged me to stop reading the Bible. So I did. About two weeks ago. Hang on; before you grab your copy of God’s Word and come smack me over the head with it, hear me out.

For probably 5-6 years running, I did the Read-Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year thing. I love plans and things that are organized, so it was great. You do your reading for the day and put a nice little check mark beside the line and Bam! you are good to go! Devotions done! And at the end of the year, you feel really accomplished because you have finished the whole Bible! Tada!

But let me ask you something. Have you ever been reading the Bible (or any book, for that matter) and you read a chapter and then realize you have NO IDEA what you just read? You read every word on the page but wouldn’t be able to tell the person sitting next to you what it was about. Yeah, me too. I’m not sure how that happens but it does.

So now let me tell you the second part of what my friend said to me. What he actually said was, “Stop reading the Bible. Start meditating on it.”

There are quite a few passages in the Bible that talk about meditating on God’s Word. The most convicting one for me being Joshua 1:8:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

What would our lives look like if we actually meditated on Scripture instead of just reading it? If we kept it in our minds day and night? It reminds me of how the Israelites were commanded to keep God’s law before their eyes and hearts all the time:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut. 6:6-9

I think when we start to meditate on Scripture is when the above passage becomes a reality in our lives. It becomes a normal thing to speak of God and his Word instead of it being something that we do at church. His Word permeates our lives and hearts and we are filled with him.

So my devotions have changed. Instead of reading whole chapters a day, I’ve starting reading a couple verses, sometimes even just one (you do have to keep context in mind.) And I meditate on it. I read it over and over and I pray over that verse. Depending on the verse, I might pray for God to make it a reality in my life or in the lives of my friends and those I love. I pray for God to make his Word clear to me and to keep me in it always. I’m getting so much more out of my devotions now. I find myself thinking about Scripture way more often than I used to.

So my challenge for you also then is this: will you stop reading the Bible?

 

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2017 in Devotions

 

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Answered Prayers

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t for a long time now, but I do usually pick something in my life that I need to work on and pray for the Lord to help me in that area.

On January 1st of 2016, I asked God to make me a more compassionate person. I realized that I rated very low on the compassion scale and I wanted to be more tenderhearted and sensitive. You see, I’m usually a get-over-it, you’ll-be-fine kind of person. So I prayed and asked God to teach me how to give more compassion to others in 2016.

Did you know that God doesn’t think the way that we do? You probably did. Actually there is a verse that goes with that,For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Well, in MY mind, God was going to make me more compassionate by sending someone to me that really needed compassion and mercy and I would suddenly acquire tons of compassion and have this wonderful opportunity to show it to them. I had it all figured out. But as the verse says God’s ways are not my ways.

Instead, he made it so that I was the person who needed compassion. I needed the people around me to be sensitive and tenderhearted and compassionate. I needed people to care for me, encourage me, and show me gentleness and comfort.

And that’s when it hit me. I didn’t know what compassion was before. If God had done things my way, I wouldn’t have known what to do because I didn’t know how to comfort someone or show them compassion. I needed all those people to teach me and show me first before I could learn to show it to others. I desperately wish I could have learned another way but I know that God’s will is perfect and he is always good.

I am thankful that God placed those people in my life to be living examples of compassion. So you see, God really does answer prayer. I have learned so much about how to comfort others who are going through a difficult situation. I definitely still have a lot to learn and I still pray for compassion often but I am thankful that God didn’t do things my way. I am thankful that his thoughts are not mine and his ways are higher than mine.

 

(You are currently reading a post in a series called The2016Story. If you have jumped in in the middle and would like to start at the beginning, click HERE.)

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in The2016Story

 

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Bearing Burdens

I’ve had to do some serious thinking lately. I’ve been thinking about sin, bearing burdens, consequences, and death. (I know, a real pick-me-up here) Let me share some stories with you.

Story 1

One of our summer staff is going through a tough time. She was always very close to her cousin and they had many childhood memories together. Her cousin knew all about the gospel in her head but it never made it to her heart. She began to have mental problems which caused terrible physical pain for her. The problems were imaginary but the pain was real. She was suffering greatly so she decided to take her own life. My friend was heartbroken as she traveled from another state for the funeral. She has ended up staying here for a couple of weeks while her mom ministered to her family.

Story 2

During the time she is here, we had a mini summer camp weekend at the farm. A lot of our summer staff came and that brought in one very loved individual. This particular young man is about to begin his 4th year on summer staff so you can imagine the connection we have there. The camp started on Friday night and lasting till Sunday afternoon. On Sunday morning, this man’s grandparents showed up at the farm with some terrible news. His 16-year-old sister had committed suicide the night before. (No, not related to Story 1)  He of course, left camp and rushed home to be with his family. What I found out later was that on Friday, before he came, he had found his sister hanging from a tree and had cut her down and saved her then. She had recently began to suffer from emotional and mental problems. She felt alone in the world and so she didn’t want to be here anymore. Me and about 24 other staff members attended her funeral today.

Story 3

On Monday, one of our full-time staff went to the doctor because he wasn’t feeling well and found out that he has cancer. They don’t think it is very critical and he will be having surgery tomorrow to remove it. He is 23 years old.

Dear friends, please be praying for these three situations. It feels like our staff are being hit all at once. We are standing strong in the faith but these are heartbreaking situations that the Lord has given us at this time. The grief we have felt for these people is amazing considering none of us personally knew the ones who passed. The Bible talks about bearing each other’s burdens and weeping with those who weep. We have certainly been doing so. Please keep the families of the first two stories in your prayers and pray that the surgery goes well tomorrow. Thank you

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in prayer

 

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Farewell for the Summer

It’s been super busy around here as I prepare to leave in 15 days!  Everything has been winding down and I’m getting excited!  I’m done with THIS now and I’ve learned much through it.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a blessing and servant of Christ!  My house cleaning has also ended and homeschool co-op teaching is done as well.  I’ve had my last flute lesson and I’m babysitting one more time for a Bible study.  I’ve had my last day in the church nursery and I’ve stopped teaching Sunday School.  I’m finally done scheduling blog posts for  while I’m away!  Spring cleaning is done and the garden is planted. Everything is preparing for summer!

Of course, I’m still busy.  No matter how much is over with, it seems I’m still busy.  I like this kind of busyness:  playing games with my siblings and enjoying their company before I leave them for the whole summer, falling asleep when Bethany reads to me for her literature,  watching as Becca grows up into a beautiful young lady, packing for camp, going to garage sales, and learning more about the Lord!

 

Here’s what he’s been teaching me lately (besides how much I will miss my family this summer!). I’ve always struggled with praying.  It just seems like it was always a routine and something to do and get it over with. I’ve always talked to God throughout the day but the sit-down-and-only-pray thing threw me off.  Ashamed to admit it, but I always got bored. How sad!  Talking to the Creator and Savior and I get bored?! This year I’ve been focusing on learning more about prayer.  I’ve learned something:

Prayer is not optional.

 

“Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17

If you notice, it’s a command, not a request.  It doesn’t say to pray when you feel like it or when you’re in trouble or when you’re feeling joyful.  It says to pray without ceasing= all the time.  I need to be in the spirit of prayer at all times. NOT just when I feel like it.  I think that’s what I’ve been doing most my life- only praying when I wanted to.

He’s also been teaching me how sweet prayer really can be!  I’m so thankful for God’s lessons!

This is probably farewell for me until August.  Maybe I’ll be able to pop in from time to time to say hello but don’t count on it!  In the meantime, I’ve scheduled two posts per week- nothing fancy, just the catechism question, songs, and some quotes.  I’m also probably going to turn all comments off since I won’t even be here to read them.

Thanks to all of you for reading!

 

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in camp

 

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“I’m Dreaming….”

Well, it’s 11 days till Christmas and we’ve had NO snow! Now, I believe in the power of prayer, so I’ve just one simple request to make:

Would whoever is praying for it not to snow- Please STOP!!!

Anyway, I’m going to pray for it to snow before I go to bed tonight.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Christmas

 

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