The Life of Surrender

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Category: The Life of Surrender Blog Post (page 1 of 2)

I Never Knew You

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you, Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Matthew 7:21-23

These words have weighted heavily on my mind for many years.  I have been terrified that when I stand before a Holy God and look to Jesus to save me, he will say to me, “I never knew you.” Oftentimes, I would skim over this verse and try to distract myself to something else so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.  I think our culture teaches us that distraction is the name of the game.  If we are worried about where we are going to spend eternity, we should distract ourselves so we don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Friends, I don’t want this distraction to rule my life or your lives.  Satan wants us to think that we have all the time in the world to get our lives right and have assurance of our eternity.  The truth of the matter is, we don’t know when our time will be up.  This world is filled with uncertainty and our lives are very fragile things.  We could be gone in an instant.  I am sure that all of us know people who have died very young or stories where people died in an instant that were otherwise perfectly healthy.  I think we know in our hearts that our time on earth is fleeting, yet we get sucked into the ways of the world and allow ourselves to be distracted from our ultimate mission here.

Jesus’s last words to his disciples were:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20

According to Jesus, our mission here is to go and make disciples of all nations.  We are to spend our lives glorifying God by telling others about Him.  Nothing else matters.  We get so sucked in to our lives that we are not fulfilling the great commission that Jesus set before us.  Satan is feeding us with lies and filling our churches with hesitation and distraction.  Sunday mornings are spent discussing sporting events in the fellowship hall instead of spurring each other on to fulfill our life’s purpose.

Here is where when Jesus says, “I never knew you,” is so convicting.  We don’t truly know Jesus if we aren’t fulfilling what he told us to do.  We can’t truly know Jesus if we are not in The Word and praying for guidance over our lives.  My life is not supposed to be lived so that I can be as comfortable as I can be and enjoy all the things I want to enjoy.  My life is here so that I can tell others the good news that I know and help others be able to spend an eternity with our Father.

How will Jesus know us?  I think he knows us when we are faithful to his commands.  When we follow what he is teaching us and have him be the focal point of our lives instead of our own desires. Oftentimes we try to make Jesus a compartment in our lives instead of the focal point.  We can’t truly know Jesus if we are serving ourselves.  Francis Chan sums it up nicely in his book, Multiply:

“The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life.”

When we know Jesus, we know that we serve Him. The apostle, Paul, calls himself a slave to God all over the New Testament.  This is what our lives should look like.  Our lives are not our own, we were bought at a price.  Jesus’ blood paid the price for our sin and for that we should be eternally grateful.  Our gratitude should spill out into all areas of our life and we should live as slaves to Jesus’s plan for us.

I want to be careful in saying all this because I don’t want it to be thought that we need good works to be saved.  All we need is Jesus to be saved.  He died on the cross for our sin and all we are to do is rest in Him for our entire lives.  When we are resting in Him, we will find that we want to do His will and follow Him.  That is how we stay connected to Him.  We obey His commands and when we go out of our comfort zones to obey Him, we can feel His presence firmly in our lives.

This isn’t the most pleasant topic area because the fact of the matter is a life of eternity whether eternal life with God or eternal separation from God are hard to fathom.  We can’t fully grasp the weight of that, so we think about other things.  I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about where you are going to spend eternity and how you are living your life.  Would Jesus be able to say that he knew you? Are we giving our entire selves to Jesus or are we offering Him a compartment?  These are questions that need to be answered in all of our lives.

When God Feels Distant

We all go through times when it feels like God has distanced himself from us.  It seems like we are crying out for his help, but it doesn’t seem like he is there.  I feel like God is teaching me recently that he doesn’t distance himself from us, but we distance ourselves from him.  We busy ourselves so much with the things of this world that we aren’t looking to God or being relational with him.

 

We just got back from a week at summer camp.  We were able to go as chaplains and talk to the campers about Jesus.  One of the things we told them is that God is always available for us, but we aren’t always available for him.

If you are stuck feeling like God is far from you, here are a few steps that you can take to draw closer to him.  These aren’t in any particular order.  To fully draw close to God we should be practicing all of them.

1.)  Remove all Distractions 

We live in a world where everything is right in front of us and we can get mostly anything we want immediately.  We are afraid of silence and we don’t want a lot of time in silence.  When we do have quiet time we turn to social media, television, or other people.  We are essentially making these things idols and putting them in front of God.  When we remove distractions, we are taking down a wall that separates us from him.

2.)  Get in the Word

I also told campers that much of my childhood faith was taught to me instead of me reading it for myself.  I didn’t go digging into the word to find God’s truths, because they were taught to me and I didn’t think that I needed to read them for myself.  As an adult I have gotten into his word and it is amazing how close I feel to him.  I feel like he reveals new things to me all the time about his character and how much he loves and cares for me.

God’s word is his way of communicating his truths to us.  It is his way of showing us his love and teaching us how to obey him.

There are so many Bible reading plans out there and good studies that really help you dig into the word.  I would suggest that you get out there and find one that works for you!  Peter and I are doing a plan from Biblegateway.com.  There are so many plans out there.  Do your research!

 

3.)  Prayer

Again, praying and letting God know how we feel about anything is also essential to feeling close to him.  I think prayer has been a struggle for me most of my life because I don’t always feel like I get a response.  For the last 3 months I have started a prayer journal and it has empowered me to pray bolder prayers and feel God’s presence more in my life.  It also enables me to remember loved ones and friends more easily.  So when I tell someone I will pray for them I don’t drop the ball because I have it all written down in one place.

This is the one I use.   I really like it because it goes month by month and helps me look back and even has a section for answered prayers!  It has been so nice to see at the end of the month.  Also, I am not getting any reimbursement for the link, I just thought I would share the one that I use and love.

 

4.)  Humility

Many of our sins stem from our pride.  I think pride essentially lets us think that we know more than God.  Pride allows us to take our own path instead of considering what God wants to do with our lives. When we are prideful, we can’t be used by God because we think our own way is better.  Ouch!  My own way better than God’s?  It sounds incredibly silly when we say it out loud, but how can God use us when we are being defiant?

One of my favorite verses of the bible is John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less.”

It seems so simple, but we don’t usually follow this verse and when we don’t it creates a big divide between us and our creator.

5.)  Thankfulness

God has been teaching me lately that he loves to hear praise for what he created.  He has created so many beautiful things in this world.  Recently I have been talking to our kids about simple things like watching the wind blow through the trees.  It is beautiful and mesmerizing to see God at work in our world today.  The photo above was taken last week at camp.  God gave us so many gorgeous views and it felt like he was right there with us.

Instead of just saying, “Look at the wind blow through the trees,” we can say, “Look how God is blowing the wind through the trees, he makes things so beautiful.”  That way we are giving credit where it is due!

 

I want to walk through a little exercise with you.  I want you to imagine a person in your life doing to you the things that we do to God.

1.)  You are spending time with your significant other and you are looking forward to it, but they will never look up from the screen in front of them to acknowledge you.  They tell you occasionally that you mean a great deal to them, but they never slow down to take in the relationship in front of them.

2.)  You have a friend that only wants to talk about themselves.  They go on and on and on about their likes, dislikes, plans, and interests but they never take time to learn more about you.

3.)  You have been meaning to get together with your significant other for a long time to talk about life and enjoy each other’s company.  Your significant other keeps blowing you off with different excuses every time.  You want to know them and enjoy relationship and they say the same about you but they never invest the time to do it.

4.)  Your children disrespect you and won’t be obedient.  They don’t want to listen to your ideas for their life or your hopes and dreams for them.  They know a better way and don’t want any of your help.

5.)  You work hard to provide a nice life for your children, but they never say thank you or show any appreciation.  You feel very taken advantage of.

 

If we look back on these scenarios I think most of us would feel pretty hurt under these circumstances.  It doesn’t feel nice to have someone not spend any time with you or disrespect you.  It is hard when people treat us that way.

Unfortunately, all those things that we said would hurt our feelings if a friend, spouse, or child acted that way towards us is how we treat God.  We busy ourselves to the point of not spending time with him; we don’t want to get in his word and know more about him; we don’t communicate with him and when we do we treat him like an ATM machine; we think we know better than him; and we are ungrateful very rarely giving thanks for the things he has provided us.  It feels heavy when I realize that I am the selfish one not willing to give God my all.

The last way to grow closer to God is:

6.)  Repentance

Some of what takes us away from God is our guilt and shame for our sin.  God knows our hearts, souls, and minds.  There isn’t anything that we can hide from him, but yet we try to.  Adam and Eve hid from him in shame in the Garden of Eden and we do it still today in our own lives.  God created a way for us (sinners) to be connected with him again. He is not asking for our perfection, he is asking for our hearts.  He wants us to trust in him and know that Jesus truly did pay it all.  We don’t need to hide in guilt and shame but we do need to ask for forgiveness and turn from the path we were taking.

Even after we treat him poorly, God is right there waiting for us to come back to him.  He wants our attention, love, and communication.  He wants us to get in his word and find out more about him.  He wants us to understand that apart from him we can’t do anything and he wants us to thank him for the wonderful gifts he gives us.

If you are feeling like God is distant from  you, maybe try these things and see how you can draw closer to him instead of pushing him away.  Our lives were meant to be spent living closely united with our creator.

Dear Students

Dear Students,

We are nearing the end of the year and it seems like all we want to do is be outside and not focus on the books.  We teachers are all fighting custody battles over you trying to get last minute things done (I will be fighting hard for some of you this week)!  I know this time of the year is especially difficult on you.  I know that you are dreaming of summer days and a little less responsibility.  I am feeling it as well.  I am not wanting to be in the classroom and the last thing I want to focus on is writing and grading tests.  This month of May is going to pass before our eyes and we will be in the summer months.

Before we get there, I wanted you to know a few things.  I know it sometimes feels like teachers are out to get you and we are analyzing your every move.  The truth is that we care about you.  If we are hard on you, it is because we want to get the best out of you.  We want you to reach your full potential.  I know that many of you don’t like being pushed out of your comfort zones because I don’t like being pushed out of my comfort zone.  In fact, when I was in high school I didn’t go out of my comfort zone very often because I didn’t like it.  Here is the secret though, you grow so much more when you are pushed out of your comfort zone.  You learn way faster and you remember deeper than you would have if you weren’t feeling the discomfort.  It is just downright good for you to step out of your comfort zone.

High school can be a hard time in everyone’s life.  There are many pressures especially with all of the activities we see you all participating in.  Some of you get home really late from games and are expected to be ready for a test the next day.  Some of you work late shifts and still need to be able to do your homework after work.  We know that you guys are over-committed to many different activities.  Pressure is high and times can be difficult.  We don’t want to add any more burdens to your life.  We want to be adults in your lives that enhance your life rather than add to the stress.  I know that we often do add to your stress.

There are a few things that I don’t care about as your teacher.  I don’t care if you win homecoming king or queen, break records with your athletic abilities, get a great ACT score and earn a high GPA, or if you drive the nicest vehicle in the parking lot (or in our case, the street).  It’s not that these things aren’t good things or things to be celebrated, but they are not necessary for me to like you or respect you as a person.  The things I do care about from you are that you are respectful, kind, compassionate, and that you live with integrity.  When you leave our school, I want people to wonder where you came from because they are so impressed with the way you live your life.  I want you to be good husbands and wives and good parents.  I want you to be dependable employees and good citizens in your future communities.  I want you to be  people that cares about others.

Some of you may have made some mistakes in your life.  I don’t want you to think that the teachers don’t care about you because of a mistake or many mistakes.  The truth of the matter is that we adults have made many mistakes in our lives as well.  Some of us are still making them. 🙂  What I care about as your teacher is how you deal with the mistakes after you have made them.  Living with integrity means that you apologize when you make mistakes and turn from them.  We care about you guys no matter what you do. That doesn’t mean we think your behavior was acceptable, but it means that we don’t stop caring about you when your behavior is unacceptable.  We don’t want you to hide in shame. We want you to face your consequence, learn from it, and move on.

You may wonder why I am writing this.  I write this because I want you to know that you are cared about.  You have many adults pouring into your life, and I want you to be encouraged to live a life that’s worth living.  We don’t want to see you get sucked into activities that are not life giving.  We want you to have the brightest future that you can.  I don’t think anyone gets into the teaching profession without the passion to enhance their student’s lives.  So students, you are cared about, you are seen, and we hope the best for you.  In this last month of school, let’s be quick to forgive and work hard even if we are not motivated to.  Let’s go into summer happy that we finished our school year strong and know that when you come back in the fall, you come back to plenty of adults who care about you.

When You Are on the Fence About Having Faith in Jesus

Peter and I have been talking about discipleship since this fall.  We feel that God is asking us to use our lives to disciple those around us and help them to follow Christ.  The biggest stumbling block we have encountered is what to say to people that we are interested in either, helping them increase their faith in Christ, or to tell them about the gospel for the first time.  It is a scary place to be.  Here is what I want people to know that are on the fence about having faith in Jesus:

Consideration #1: Jesus Loves you no matter what your sin is. 

Ever since the start of mankind, we have been sinful creatures.  We all deserve eternity in hell because we are tainted and sinful people.  Jesus stepped in to give us the greatest gift of all.  He took the punishment for my past sins and all of my future sins.  He took the weight of everyone’s sin and placed it on himself.  He was separated from the Father and went through extreme pain both physically and emotionally.

I have always thought that the sacrifice came through Jesus, but recently we were watching a Francis Chan video and he said, “Imagine you are a parent and your child is the one that is nailed to the cross.”  I have never thought of it that way before.  As a parent, that would be extremely painful to allow my child to die such a painful death and essentially turn my back on him.  Both Jesus and God sacrificed so much for me and you.  There is no way that sacrifice would be made without love.  God loves us so much that he was willing to allow his son to die in misery and Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to be the one to do it.

Jesus made this sacrifice so we can be washed as white as snow.  Before Jesus they had to go through all these procedures and make sure that they gave the right offering and sacrifice, and now we are free.  Jesus gave us the gift of forgiveness and love and we are free to experience his love in the here and now.  That is why no matter what we do, no matter how bad of a person that we think we are, our sins will be forgiven because Jesus already took the punishment for it.  We do need to repent and ask God for forgiveness, but he will always forgive us.  How wonderful it feels to be loved by the Creator of the world so much that no matter what I do, he created a way for me to be with him.

Consideration #2: Even when you are living for Jesus, we are not perfect and still need to repent of our sins.

Looking through all the people in the Bible, we can see that even those ones that God used to do great things were very broken, sinful people.  Noah was a drunk, David was an adulterer and murderer, and Moses wasn’t fully obedient to God.

I used to think that if Christ was in my heart that I shouldn’t sin.  The problem is, I am a sinful person living in a sinful world.  I should not sin deliberately, but sin will happen.  We shouldn’t make the dangerous assumption that because we are in Christ, we will no longer sin.  Ideas like that are a good way to get bogged down in shame and guilt.  We need to know that we are still humans with faults and we will never be perfect on this side of Heaven.

What Christ wants us to do is to come to him in our broken states and repent of our sins and return back to him.  The Holy Spirit is sent to convict us of sin so that we can repent of it.  Satan comes to condemn us and weigh us down with shame.  Satan wants us to hide our sins from God and the world and feel the heavy burden on our own.  God wants us to turn our sins over to him and bring them to the light of day.  He wants us to encourage others to repent of their sins and go on living our lives for him.  We will always be forgiven, but we do need to ask for it.

Consideration #3: Life following Jesus here on Earth will not be sunshine and roses

Life in the garden of Eden was perfect before Adam and Eve sinned.  We all crave that perfection and order in the world and it just is not here.  Even as believers of God, our lives will have trouble.  Coincidentally, when we walk through hard times, we will often feel God’s presence more than when times are good.  We get sucked in to the ways of the world and we often forget our first love, God.  When we are walking through difficulty, God is right there and we remember to rely on him.

This is why our family tries to live counter-culturally.  We are definitely not perfect at this and we know that we have a long way to go because we get sucked into the culture very easily.  God doesn’t want us to put idols before him.  An idol isn’t just a gold statue that people in the Old Testament worshiped.  An idol is anything that we put before God.  Idols in my life have been my relationships with people, food, entertainment, etc.

God’s goal for our lives is that we live them for him.  He wants us to wake up every morning and see what he has planned for our days rather than what we have planned for our day.  He wants us to communicate with him throughout our days and rely on him in everything.  No, our life here will not be easy, but we serve a God that is in charge of the universe.

Consideration #4: We have the greatest gift ever: Eternity with Him!  We have a responsibility to share that gift with the world.

Because Jesus was willing to sacrifice his life for us, we get the opportunity to spend eternity with him.  We have the greatest gift ever and we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves.  We need to share the gospel with others and pray that others will accept Jesus and live for him.  It is not good enough to sit idly by and live our lives the way we want to live them when there are millions of people out there that need to hear the good news.  Jesus sacrificed everything for us and we need to be able to sacrifice our comforts so that others will share in God’s glory with us.

I pray that we will be a people that live for God and feel his love on a daily basis.  I pray that his message would spread over all the Earth and that we will see many many people in Glory!

Is There Evidence of Jesus in My Life?

Peter and I have been asking that question a lot recently.  I posted this to Instagram last week:

Recently I have been asking the question, “Is there evidence of Jesus in my life?” The answer can be a bit scary, but we always have room to grow. Right now, I can pursue Christ by repenting of my sin, asking him to help me see the people in my life who need love and helping them, serving my husband and children rather than the other way around, letting go of distractions and things that block my relationship with Christ, reacting thoughtfully and apologizing when I don’t, and waking up with a mindset on others rather than on myself. God changes the world through small acts one person at a time.

This question has been asked in response to reading the book Radical by David Platt.  The book discusses taking back our faith from the American Dream.  He talks a lot about how our wealth and comforts in America can block us from Jesus.  The book also discusses that 4.5 billion people in the world don’t believe in Jesus.  By this standard we should be really busy trying to make disciples of all the nations as Jesus instructs us in the great commission.  Many times, we are not very busy making disciples because we don’t have an urgency because we are comfortable just living our lives.

Peter and I have been guilty of this and we also went/are going through a “crisis of faith” as David Platt describes in his book. We are not sure what this looks like for us.  We do know that we need to be wiser about what we spend our money on and we need to do a far better job of spreading the gospel.

There was an analogy in the book that I keep thinking about.  The SS United States was a troop carrier designed to carry fifteen thousand troops during times of war.  The SS United States ended up mainly being a cruise liner that carried 2,000 passengers. This is supposed to represent our lives.  As Jesus followers, we are supposed to be on mission.  We are supposed to carry 15,000 troops rather than 2,000.  It is way more comfortable to be on the luxury liner than the troop carrier, but our mission here on earth is not comfort.  Our mission here is to tell the 4.5 billion people that don’t believe in Jesus (and are inevitably going to hell) about Jesus and his saving grace.

Phew, this has caused some difficulty for us in the way that we think about our lives.  Our main goals now revolve around how we can be on mission, like the troop carrier.  How can we live our lives for Jesus rather than getting lost in our own comforts?  I think the answer is different for everyone, but it is our prayer that all of you would wrestle with this question just like we are right now.

Peter wrote a song about following Christ using the verses that David Platt used in his book (Luke 9).  The song is called Follow Me.  I love that Peter does his processing through song.  It is so insightful and then we get to listen to it over and over again.

I am thankful that I have a partner in life that is willing to wrestle with these questions.  We would recommend reading this book, but at the very least we hope that you will be praying that Jesus would lead you to those he wants you to tell about him.

One Word for 2017: Discipleship

We spent the year of 2016 surrendering over our circumstances and our lives to God.  I know that this practice is going to continue into 2017 because it is essential to the Christian faith.  I almost thought about doing it again in 2017 but I felt like God was putting another word on my heart.

Here are a few things I feel like I learned this year:

  • Being quick to apologize and not hold on to anger
  • Giving my fears and worries to God instead of trying to control my own situation.
  • Finding comfort in God instead of trying to control my situation.
  • Experiencing God better because I was removing my way and making way for his way!  I feel like when I remove those barriers that I put up, God shows up in a big way.

I am not by any means perfect in any of those areas that I listed above.  I still let my fears take over once in awhile and I will often be slow to forgive, but I do feel like God is placing different reactions in me and those times are becoming less and less.  I feel like I can turn to him more instead of relying on myself.

This fall I started thinking and praying about what word would change my lifestyle and mindset as much as the word surrender.  I didn’t think that it was possible to top.  I do feel like God did it, though.  I had an internal change in 2016 and I feel like in 2017, God is calling me to have an external change.  I feel like he wants me to be his disciple and disciple others.

This word, like surrender, makes me uncomfortable because discipling people means that I will have to give up my own comfort.  I like to keep to myself and not have to engage people.  Jesus often gave up his own comfort to be with those who needed him.  I think being in the people business can be a hard place to be.  I find myself constantly worrying about offending people, or if they are comfortable or not.  Jesus didn’t call us to make ourselves comfortable, he called us to go and make disciples of all nations.  (Matthew 28:16-20)

It has also been out of my comfort zone to talk about Jesus in my everyday conversations.  I think that if he is King in my life, he would be a part of my regular conversations.  Anything that we are interested in or care about comes up in our daily talks with others.  Jesus needs to be center in our lives and should come up in conversation with others.

I still don’t know what this discipleship will look like in our lives for 2017.  I do know that God has a plan for us and that we are willing to follow.  It should be a great year!

 

Remain in Me

Well, we have officially been on break from school for one week.  We have run the gamut of emotions: joy, happiness, frustration, crabbiness, and boredom.  I get so excited for these breaks from school and all the time with family.  I often forget that extra time with family doesn’t always look how I pictured it in my head.  The past few days it seems like we have been living in time out.  There is rude talk, fighting, and whining, and Peter and I have had to remind ourselves and each other that our family and home is our children’s practice field.  They are not going to be perfect and behave perfectly all the time and it is our job to teach them what we expect of them.  The process can be difficult and not look at all how I pictured our Christmas break to go.

The above picture is how our village looked after Christmas this year.  Luckily, I have a talented husband that glued them all back together again!  I feel like my soul sometimes looks like it’s been through the runner after Christmas as well.  I think my attitude often needs adjusting and I need grace from God so that I can give it back to my children.  I think I get very focused on my children’s behavior and how they are frustrating me and I often forget to think about why they might be acting that way.

I was driving my son to grab some pizza on the day after Christmas and he talked my ear off the whole way there and the whole way back.  I realized in that moment that even though we are all home together, I am not putting in intentional time together with each child.  With our 1 year old it is easy because she follows me around and begs for my attention all day long.  I think I often let Peter interact with the older two because I get so busy with Nora.  Our oldest daughter has been whining and talking unkind and it all came to a stop today when I got down on the floor with her and wrestled and tickled her.  I didn’t hear anymore rude talk the rest of the night.  She just wanted her mom’s attention.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  John 15:4

We also need to be intentional with God.  Jesus tells us to remain in him.  When we are focused on him, our earthly problems seem to disappear.  Just like Emily stopped talking unkindly when she got some attention, we also have better attitudes when we remain in God and get his attention lavished on us.  He is not withholding his attention, we are running away from it.

Remaining in God is the best way to get our broken pieces glued back together.  That is my wish for everyone this Christmas season.  Let’s lean into God and let him make us feel whole.

Peace When Loved Ones Are Hurting

Today marks the second week of Advent.  Even in this Advent season, people are feeling hurt, broken, afraid, sad, and unsatisfied with their lives.  This world can be a very difficult place to be.  I think we have all felt like we have wanted our wounds mended, our souls healed, and to live in happiness.  We also want these things for our loved ones.  I absolutely hate to see my loved ones suffer for any reason.  I hate to see them get their feelings hurt or feel unappreciated.  I hate to see them feel any pain.  I hate to see them feel even the slightest discomfort.  I ran home last week to get my daughter’s sweatshirt because I hated the thought of her sitting in her classroom uncomfortable and cold.

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What I am realizing is that God will allow our loved ones to walk through hard things.  Our loved ones will not have a perfect life, just like we will not have a perfect life.  It is in the struggles where we grow and learn to trust God in everything.  When I try to step in and “save” my loved ones from walking through a hard thing, I am stepping out of God’s plan and trying to form my own plan.  My loved ones don’t need me to rescue them from their struggles, they need to know that I am praying for them and asking God to draw them nearer to Him.

A few years ago, a family we knew was going through a big heartache and struggle.  I told my mom that I just couldn’t get them out of my mind.  It was so hard to fathom what they were going through.  My mom wisely told me that the reason I couldn’t get them out of my mind was because God wanted me to lift them up to Him.  Every time I thought of that family I should pray as hard as I could.  That conversation has been in my mind quite a bit these last few years.  My biggest defense against the struggles of my loved ones is to turn those people over to my Heavenly Father.

This world is full of hurting people.  It can be very discouraging to feel like we can’t be there to help everyone.  The idea that I can lift all of those people that enter my mind over to God gives me peace.  I have really been enjoying Ann Voskamp’s Advent videos.  The second week of Advent represents peace.  Peace can sometimes be very elusive.  We see all the headlines around us and it is hard to be peaceful when this world feels so broken.  Ultimately, our only peace is resting in God through prayer.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.  Philippians 4:7

This holiday season I want to have peace by putting my cares where they belong, with God.

Dear Lord,

   Please be with all of our loved ones this holiday season.  Help them to feel your peace and bring them closer to you.  Help them to feel your presence in their lives and help them to walk in your ways.  Most of all, Lord, help them to feel your love for them, your perfect love.

We love you,

Amen

Immanuel

We have begun our Advent season and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been lacking some zeal.  Today was our first day back at school after Thanksgiving and it is always hard to go back to work after a long holiday weekend.  The atmosphere in my soul felt very heavy last night.  I was talking to Peter about it and I think we concluded that I am clinging to the wrong things in this world.  In general, I want my life to be nice and easy.  The reality is that my life can’t be what I want it to be because we live in a sinful world.  When I feel burdened, it is because I am relying way too much on my circumstances to make me happy.

I think it is hard to go back to work after a break because my circumstances feel good during break.  I love to get to spend all that extra time with my family and be able to relax.  I love to not have to answer to the clock and have more freedom to do the things I want to do.  These holidays and breaks are a beautiful thing and I think they help us replenish.  We are not meant to live in “holiday mode” our whole lives.  I have been thinking of it like church.  Church is a gathering place for one day a week to go and get filled back up after a long week of following Christ.  I need to put in the hard work to get to the payoff (or enjoy my payoff fully).

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christ is wanting me to go out and do his will for my life.  Fortunately, I live in the time of the Holy Spirit and I am able to feel his presence right within my soul.  God’s people were so looking forward to Christ coming to be with them.

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The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, “God with us.”       Matthew 1:23

We live in a time where we can read all about our Immanuel or our “God with us” in the gospels.  We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us through our days.

I was watching  Ann Voskamp’s first week of Advent video and it is all about hope.  The sermon made sure to emphasize that it is not just remembering that God’s people were waiting for Jesus to come the first time, but we are also waiting for his second coming.  It is a time of preparation for us to be ready for Jesus’s second arrival.  At that time we will get to spend eternity with Him and be done with all the pain and disappointment here on Earth.

Peter and I have been reading in Matthew and chapters 24 and 25 are all about being ready for Christ’s second coming.  These have not been my favorite chapters to read, but they are very important!  The wording always seems a little menacing to me, but I think it is because he wants us to know that we need to be prepared for him.  It is so easy to get swept up in this world’s distractions and not be prepared for our King!

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.   Matthew 24:42-44

I can feel that I am not fully prepared for his arrival when I am relying heavily on my emotions about the circumstances that surround me. This week I will be focusing on hope for my future in Heaven.  I want to remember that Advent is not just a remembrance of Immanuel coming the first time, but also preparing ourselves for his final arrival.  The hope of Heaven and eternal life with God is the greatest hope of all.

I Need Thee Every Hour

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I absolutely love a good hymn. I have been wearing out my Joey + Rory Hymns That Are Important to Us album and every song on there speaks to my heart and soul.  When I sing I Need Thee Every Hour I have been feeling that it is what my life should look like but it isn’t always what my life actually looks like.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; 

Oh, bless me now, my Savior! I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, Stay Thou near by;

Temptations lose their power When Though art nigh.

We have been watching some Joyce Meyer broadcasts and on one she talked about having trouble brushing her hair and she felt like God was telling her to ask for help brushing her hair.  At first, she didn’t want to ask for help, but later decided to.  I think my initial thought is that God doesn’t want to hear from me on the trivial stuff.  What I am coming to realize is that when I bring everything to God, he will choose to work through me.

Just last week I was searching for items in my house in two different instances.  I was looking for my one year old’s shoes and my oldest daughter’s library book.  In both instances, I stopped searching frantically and sat down and prayed about it for a few seconds.  In the case of the shoes, it took a little bit. In the case of the library book, I found it a few seconds later.  If I were a betting person, I don’t think I would have found the library book right then had I not stopped to ask God’s help for it.

We wrote a family mission statement and the first thing we need to remember is to humbly acknowledge our brokenness and rely on God’s strength.  I love that relying on God is the first item on our mission statement.  I feel like we can’t accomplish the other items until we are able to rely on Him. I have the best intentions to not rely on my strength, but on His.  I can wake up in the morning fully aware of God’s presence in my life and completely forget by the time I walk out the door.  Just yesterday I was sitting in church struggling with my children’s behavior and not even thinking to ask God for help!

I have seen what God’s power can do in our lives.  I have seen God work through people in amazing ways, but he is not going to do it if we don’t go to him for help.  Going back to the song lyrics: I Need Thee Every Hour.  I am not sure that there has been a day in my life where I have been focused on God every hour.  I think there have been scary times for my family if someone is in the hospital or we are waiting to hear test results where I am very aware of God’s presence in my life and then things work out and I go on with my day depending on myself.  How arrogant and entitled I must seem to him.   Still, he wants me.

With November being the  month where we focus on thankfulness and how much we have, I also want to focus on how much I need God.  I am going to try to say a little prayer when the clock strikes every hour.

I want to say:

Dear Jesus, another hour is passing in this day and I need you.  I need you every hour.  Please help me to work for you and not myself.  Please help me to fix my eyes on you.
I love you,

AMEN

My hope is that God will be an even bigger part of my day and my life.  I want him to be my whole life. Peter and I have been reading in Matthew and Jesus has some pretty intense things to say about our lives:

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Matthew 10:37-39

I have tried too many times to count to “find my life” in myself and my own pursuits.  I have tried to find my life in relationships and circumstances.  It is time that I find my life in Jesus Christ because I do need him every hour.

 

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