Just Ask

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given to him. (James 1:5, ESV)

I came across this verse during a study on James last year, and it rocked my world. It just seemed too simple. All I had to do was ask God for wisdom, and He would give it to me? The passage goes on to say that when we ask we should not doubt, with divided loyalties between God and the world. But if we come to God in faith, he WILL give us wisdom generously. Seriously?

As I continued to study, I found these verses which REALLY had my head spinning, in good way. Jesus said in Matthew 7:9-11,

Which of you, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (ESV)

There is a theme here: God WANTS to give us good things, and we just have to ask Him. Could it be that simple?

Prayer used to be the LAST thing I did when I had a problem or a need, and ironically it was the most powerful thing I could do. We know from Scripture that prayer changes things, and regardless of how God answers, prayer changes us. But why do we have to ask God for wisdom if He knows we need it? He could just give us whatever we needed without us asking Him, but He wants us to come to Him. He desires a relationship with us. He cares about us. And when we come to Him in prayer, we pour out our hearts to Him, tell Him our cares, and allow Him to be our comfort and sufficiency. Even in the asking we are blessed in His presence. He is not the means to an end; He IS the end.

After reading this verse, I was convicted because I never asked God for anything besides material things. (Not that there is anything wrong with some Lululemon pants! Just keeping it real ha!) So I started to be more intentional about asking the LORD for wisdom. When problems or decisions came up, I began to go to Him more and more, even before calling my mom. 😊 It has been unbelievable to me how He shows up through His Word, other people, even using “random” things throughout the day to guide me. There is such a difference when I go to Him versus when I try to figure things out on my own. And I can testify that He does indeed give us good things when we ask. He has even given me one of the most precious gifts ever over the past two years: a love for His Word that I never would have unless I had asked Him. And I am so thankful.

Sometimes we can make things way more complicated than they need to be. Just ask.

Natalie

 

Calling all Perfectionists

I am very type A. Which is a blessing and a curse. Over the years I have mellowed out quite a bit, but once upon a time, even my burned CDs were color coded, with handwritten song track cards for each one. Must have had too much time on my hands. Ha!!

There is nothing wrong with being a high achiever. God made us each differently, with unique personalities. We are fearfully and wonderfully made!! But here’s where the problem comes in: it is very easy to allow perfection to become our goal. And the bad news is that we can’t reach perfection. It’s impossible. When we constantly strive for an unattainable goal, it exhausts us, ultimately making us miserable and defeated. And yet we continue trying, running on that treadmill, spinning our wheels but never really getting anywhere because we are focused on the wrong unachievable thing.

There’s another aspect to perfectionism that I have recently discovered. We can even try to reach perfection in our walks with Christ and then become bummed out when we fall short. What do I mean? Well, we can want to do His will, desire to please Him, and then when we inevitably blow it, (because HELLO we aren’t perfect 😊), we beat ourselves up to the point of being overwhelmed by guilt and shame. Yes, we need to confess and repent, but then we need to MOVE ON! It’s often hard for perfectionists to accept God’s grace and forgiveness, because that means we messed up. We may try to make up for it by “doing better” and pretty soon, we are back on that treadmill, unable to move forward, burdened by our own imperfections.

Here’s the truth for all of us perfectionists: we aren’t perfect!! And it’s OK. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life FOR us because we could not. And when we accept him as our Savior and LORD, His righteousness covers us instantly. We are still sinners, but God sees us through the lens of His Son. So we can stop trying so hard to earn it and rest in His grace. And while we are it, we can stop looking to see how other people are doing on the perfection scale.

I wish I could say that I have laid the goal of perfection down at His feet. I still battle it, although it looks differently than it did in my college years. (Does anyone even burn CDs anymore? Ha!!) It creeps back up subconsciously, and the enemy bombards me with thoughts on anything from my parenting to my skills as a homemaker until I am worn out. So how am I going to fight it? I will hide his word in my heart. Starting with this one.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV)

Perfectionism is a burden if there ever was one. The next time I feel it strangling me I’ll try to remember this verse along with one little word… grace. Thank you Jesus.

Natalie

 

 

Grit and Grind

Well, it’s officially fall! How is that possible? I realized by the huge stacks of paper that we are well into the school year. My kids are no longer looking sparkly and fresh each day. Gone are the fresh eggs and pancakes each morning. (Who am I kidding? That never happened!) We are in the GRIND! The newness has officially worn off, and I am already #overit. Can anybody relate??

I have been reminded recently that our Christian walk is not much different. Whether we realize it or not, we are in a daily grind spiritually. Although we go through seasons of newness, peaks and valleys, and mountain tops, more often than not, we are in this constant grind. For most of us, this is where we will spend the majority of our lives, and it can be the hardest. I am not talking about having a routine, boring relationship with the LORD. That should never be the case! I am talking about the day in, day out of our time on earth, where life happens. It’s here where we may be in the waiting season, where we are not hyped up on feelings, where we just have to DO the thing, sometimes in the face of adversity. It’s here where we exercise those spiritual muscles, practice the spiritual disciplines over and over, even though we don’t “feel” like it’s going to serve a purpose. It’s in this daily grind where we obey Him, even if we don’t know why. (Think Noah building the ark! Can you imagine what those days were like?)

I had the privilege of attending a Beth Moore workshop several months ago. She brought up the word GRIT and said, “for whatever use your talents are, effort counts twice.” And I can’t help but think that principle can spill over into our daily walks with the LORD. Yes, we don’t have to do anything for His love, but, wow, in our day to day lives, it can be so easy to drift away. A relationship requires effort, especially when we have an enemy who is out to knock us down. We may not be called to ministry, but we are ALL called to walk with the LORD and serve in our own sphere of influence, whether that is as a mom, wife, sister, or friend. And that takes grit living in the world we do. It takes determination to set aside time with Him in the midst of the busyness. It takes discipline to develop a prayer life and to KEEP IT. It takes effort to find a community of other believers and put yourself out there. It takes intentionality to hit the reset button periodically and reevaluate our priorities before Him. And it takes humility to remember that we can’t do any of this without Him. The list could go on and on. I would say that takes grit no matter who you are!!

And be encouraged that although it might seem like today doesn’t matter that much, it may matter a whole lot more than we think. Because He is preparing us for something tomorrow in today’s daily grind. We just can’t see it yet.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV)

Let’s go into this week ready to Grit and Grind for Jesus!! 🙂

Natalie

A Love of the Law

So in my last post, I mentioned that I got a new Bible. I was so excited to use it!! I left it out on my bed, and when I walked back in the room I found this… (picture has been staged to reenact the actual event….)

moses

My boxer Moses was eating my new Bible! I am not even kidding you! And he has never chewed on a book in his life. Sooo bizarre!  I am convinced that he can read Hebrew, and he wanted to keep the Old Law buried!! I explained to him that I understand we are under the New Covenant and GRACE, but he wasn’t convinced. ☹

Anyways.. I don’t really believe my dog Moses is the real Moses (ha!), although whether he can read Hebrew is debatable… dogs are smart!! But here’s the point. Can you relate to how my Moses feels about the Bible? Maybe you don’t try to destroy yours, but do you view it as a book of rules to follow that burden you? Do you feel like it’s one more thing you are “supposed to do”?

Yesterday in our small group, we talked about Psalm 19. It’s a beautiful Psalm of David describing how God reveals himself to us. In verses 1-6, David speaks about God’s revelation through nature and then moves on to how God reveals himself to us through His Word. Look at Psalm 19:7-11 below.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
Sweeter than honey and drippings of honeycomb,
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward. (ESV)

Notice that David is talking about God’s, law, precepts, rules, etc. We cannot deny that God’s instruction is not only for our good but IS good. David is singing the praises of God’s law. Delighting in the LORD is delighting in His Word, which includes his rules for us! (I have never been a fan of rules, so I never thought I would say that!!)

Look at what he says in verse 7, “the law is perfect, reviving the soul.” When you stop and think on that… it’s contrary to everything our human nature and culture tells us. We think the law is a downer, something to suppress us, but David tells us it revives us!

I read something from Charles Spurgeon that just blew my mind. The King James Version reads in verse 7the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” Spurgeon said that the Word of God is the great means of conversion; in other words, the Word of God is the great way by which we are saved. It contains the Gospel! So God’s Word has the power through the Holy Spirit to revive our souls from eternal death to eternal life, and then daily it revives us when we are worn down, weak , weary, etc. How cool is that?

And skip on down to verse 8. “The commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes.” The NIV says, “The commandments of the LORD are radiant.” OK, when I think of commandments, the word “radiant” does not come to mind. (Just being honest!) But I have experienced God’s commandments opening my eyes. When we walk in His ways, we are walking in the light. Our eyes are opened. It’s no wonder Psalm 119:105 says “thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

One of the reasons I am so passionate about God’s Word is because I have been on the side where it seemed like a bunch of rules I had to follow. I felt overwhelmed with the legalistic side of Bible study, and so I just threw all His “law” out the window. I learned the hard way that He gave us His Word, His instructions for a reason, and they are in fact for our good. Who would have thought?! 😊

After a tough season in my life forced me to rely on Him and His Word in a new way, my eyes opened up to the wonderful things in His law. Today when I read His Word, I just can’t believe He gave it to us. It often overwhelms me in a good way, and literally takes my breath away. My soul is revived, my heart rejoices, and my eyes are enlightened. It is the most amazing adventure. I am so far from perfect, and I am reminded daily how desperate I am for His grace. But His Word sustains me.

If you have not experienced God’s Word in the way David describes it, if it seems like a book of rules or outdated stories that have nothing to do with your life, something that you are “supposed” to do, ask the Lord to open your eyes to the wonderful things in His law.  And keep reading His Word. It is one of His greatest gifts just waiting to be unwrapped.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Natalie

 

 

See I am Doing a New Thing

Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up! Do you not perceive it?! Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)

springin up

For those who know me personally, you may be either laughing or rolling your eyes as you read this verse because you have probably heard me say it AT LEAST 10 times this year! This has been my verse, (so Andy’s too ha!) of 2017. It seems like we have had a lot of new beginnings from big to small: new church, new season of life with both kids in school, new Bibles, new phone (me- that was a FUN one!), new email address… The first part of the year this verse was etched in my mind because we began to see God leading us in new directions and to be quite honest it was hard to accept. Why is it that we can know something in our head, but it is difficult to know it in our heart? I may know that God’s will is best for me, but I don’t want to trust Him, and do what He says. I want to say “But, but, but!”

Well, after lots of waiting, prayer, and time in His Word, we stepped out in faith and followed His prompting in an area of our lives. (And just to be clear, this is extremely rare for us ha! In the past, we have made many knee jerk decisions and have gone ahead with things without even thinking about asking Him. It’s only by His grace we have survived to this point!)

But here is the part I wasn’t prepared for: after taking the initial step of faith, it still required faith. Who would have thought?! We were out of our comfort zones, which gives the enemy prime ground to throw in the doubts! Thank goodness, I didn’t turn into a pillar of salt. 😊 (See Genesis 19:23-29)

And then just when I gave it up to God, confessed that He is in control, started to drop my pre-conceived notions and focus on Him, a funny thing happened. An opportunity came out of nowhere, and His hand was all over it! He answered a prayer in a way above what I could have asked, in His perfect timing, and this morning my head is spinning. Please forgive me if I have rambled, but this post is strictly a testimony to the LORD and His unbelievable faithfulness and goodness in my life. This is one of those sweet times when I am just overwhelmed, and I want to savor it. He is real, He is good, and His ways are higher than ours.

Thank you for allowing me to share 🙂 And on another note, thank you to all who serve our country. My prayers are with the families of all who lost their lives on this sad day.

Natalie

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

 

 

When all the Chocolate Disappears

Disappointment… You know the feeling. You realize something has not gone the way you had hoped, and your stomach drops. Sometimes it feels like an instant slap in the face. Other times it’s a gradual realization until you feel bamboozled. (Isn’t that a fun word?) And if you are anything like me, the following days can be worse than the actual moments of disappointment. The individuals closest to you might suffer the consequences, which COULD include: constant discussion about said disappointment, an increased atmosphere of irritability, and the sudden disappearance of all chocolate in the home.

crunch bag.jpg

The first definition that came up on my google search was this: “disappointment: the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”

Notice the word “feeling.” Wow! That struck a chord with me, because I get so caught up in my feelings, and they can get me in big trouble. Feelings are not bad in and of themselves, but because of the Fall (Genesis 3), they are tainted by sin and can (and will) lead us astray.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. We cannot trust our feelings to lead us through life.

Keeping in mind that feelings should not be the primary guides for our decisions and actions, is disappointment a positive or negative thing? Negative!! Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where we would never experience that horrible feeling in our stomach when we are let down in a situation, or fight back the tears when we are betrayed by the ones close to us?

The LORD brought to mind this verse from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

Look what Paul says about our hope. As believers, we do have a hope that does not disappoint. Here, Paul is building upon the hope he introduced in Romans 5:2, “the hope of the glory of God.” This is the promise that God will perfect us one day, and we will spend eternity with Him in heaven, if we are saved through Christ Jesus. That hope will NEVER disappoint us.

That’s great Paul, but how can this unbelievable hope on the promises of God help me handle the disappointments while I am here on earth? Can I apply this future hope NOW so that I don’t continue to lash out at everyone around me or stay in bed for the next six months? (That’s one of those jokes with a hint of truth ha!)

Look at Hebrews 11:1.Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV) Some translations say faith is the confidence, evidence, even reality of things hoped for. Those words give such a strength and objectivity to this idea of faith. The author goes on to give us a list of heroes in the faith such as Abraham, Moses, and my personal favorite, Rahab 😊 who have gone before us living their lives with their eyes fixed on this future hope. They lived here on earth amidst major trials and HUGE disappointments, but continued living “by faith” because they believed the promises of God and placed their confidence in that future hope. In a way, they were celebrating their future hope while they were here on earth, almost like having a pre-victory party. Can you imagine being that confident in something? What a beautiful picture. We can (and should!) have that same level confidence, because WE serve the same GOD who has given us the same promises through His Son!! He will NOT disappoint us.

So perhaps there IS a correlation between faith and dealing with my disappointment. Maybe if I fix my eyes on the future hope in my Savior Jesus Christ, and think on who He is and what He has done for me, I won’t get as worked up when things down here make my heart sink. Could I train my mind to outsmart my emotions and start running to the One who doesn’t disappoint? Could I refocus on HIM and the glory He has waiting for me, instead of myself and the sadness, hurt feelings, and disappointment I feel?

Well, I definitely have a LOOOONG way to go. To give you an idea of where I am in this department, the family size bag of Nestle Crunch bars I bought from Kroger a couple of days ago is almost gone. And I’m the only one in the family who really eats chocolate. 😊

Natalie

 

 

 

Through the Eyes of a Child

EllieThe other night, I was doing a devotion with my 2 munchkins, and we started talking about how Jesus helps us in our daily lives. My 7-year-old daughter Ellie, gave me this really confused look. She asked, “Mommy, how does Jesus talk to you? How does He tell you what to do?”

Talk about a deep question! Quickly, I realized that Ellie thought Jesus talked to me and other adults audibly, and she had been frustrated that she had not heard him yet. That blew my mind! Isn’t it interesting how children think? How do you explain to a 7-year-old how the LORD guides us in our daily lives? How do you explain it period?

It just so happens (wink wink 😊 ), that I have been studying Psalm 25 the last two weeks. Verses 8-9 say,

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (NIV)

  • First, how amazing that our God, who is good and upright, instructs sinners, (that’s me!), in His good and upright ways! That is His grace in our lives; we do not deserve it. He is a good, good Father.
  • Second, “he guides and teaches the humble…” It is important that we are right with the LORD. Harboring pride and sin in our lives is the fastest way to block His guidance and direction the Holy Spirit; we just don’t want to hear it!
  • Finally, look  at the verbs in these verses. The LORD “instructs, guides, teaches…” Our God does not leave us hanging. What does he instruct, guide and teach? HIS way… The God of the Universe teaches us HIS way. If you have ever felt like you are alone and don’t know what to do, you are NOT! We serve a God who promises to teach us. This is just one verse, but it is ALL throughout Scripture.

Now practically how does the LORD teach us? Well I can only speak to my personal experience. I think I really burst Ellie’s bubble when I told her that up to this point, God HAS NOT boomed down from heaven speaking to me. Nor has he texted me. (My 5-year- old son actually asked me that question. ) I’ll tell you what I told Ellie.

One of the big ways God teaches me is through His Word. The more I read it and ask the Holy Spirit to teach me and open my eyes, the more I am blown away by its truth, power, and life. Just yesterday, my pastor taught a sermon on Daniel 6, the story of “Daniel and the Lions Den.” Do you know that I have been doing a separate study on Daniel, and I “just happened” to read Daniel 6 the day before? Do you think maybe the LORD wants to hammer something home from this passage in Scripture? I’m still trying to figure out what it is, and I am hoping it’s a figurative lesson and not a literal one.😊

What about you? Have you ever heard a message or read a passage in your quiet time, and then had a situation where it was so applicable that you could not deny that it was more than a “coincidence?” That is the power of God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 says,

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV)

The more consistently we are in His Word, the more it guides our lives. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and I light unto my path.”  I had heard that verse a thousand times but never really understood what that meant practically. Only recently have I experienced how God’s Word can literally help me walk in the ways I should go. I can choose to walk in the light or the dark, but I have the torch in my hands.

So back to Ellie. I did my best to explain to her how knowing God’s Word helps me go through life, whether I am scared, sad, happy.  Just when I thought I had completely blown it she looked at me and said, “Mommy! I think I understand! So you are saying that when I know Bible verses, I have them in my head and God will help me remember them when I need them? And the more I know the Bible, the more those thoughts are in my head? And they will help me wherever I go?”

Oh, how I wish I could just freeze that moment in a picture forever, that sweet little girl with her big blue eyes, so innocent and sure. Yes, baby. That’s exactly right. His Word will always be with you, wherever you go.

Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth, teach me. For you are GOD, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Enjoy your Monday, and may the Lord guide you in His truth this week 🙂

Natalie