Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's a wonderful thing...

...to be able to compare events from one year to the next and know without a doubt that you are maturing in Christ. 

I'm experiencing that right now in my job search/thinking about the future. 

I don't feel this nearly-obsessive need to "figure everything out" anymore. I still consider myself a planner & organized, but more my plan is to simply wait on the Lord. How many times I've heard that sometimes cliche phrase, but I'm getting to the point of really understanding what that means. The Lord has proven to me countless times now how trustworthy He is. He's proven to me that His promise in Prov. 3:5-6 will totally happen every time. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." 

When we acknowledge Him, our paths are always, always made straight. It might not be (and usually isn't) in the timing that we prefer. But our paths are made straight. This is where the trusting with ALL your heart is so essential. This is where you have to learn to never lean on your own very limited understanding. This is where you have to acknowledge that God's ways are so much higher than your ways. 

There were times this past year when I felt like I was just groping around in the dark trying to take just one little step on the right path. I'm sure I didn't walk perfectly, but I do trust that God was delighted in my sincere desire to acknowledge Him and stay faithful to Him. There were countless times when I doubted that I knew what my Shepherd's voice sounded like anymore. I thought I was acknowledging Him, but since I didn't feel any direction, I assumed that meant that I was doing something wrong in the acknowledging department. Did I have to ask Him more frequently throughout my day? Was I not sitting quietly long enough to wait for His direction? 

Or maybe, He really does just want me to continue to wait and be still. Maybe He's totally okay with me not always "doing stuff". Maybe He's not guiding me any further down the path, because He's not finished with me where I'm at right now. 

So rather than investing all my time and thoughts into thinking about what I might do in the future, I've learned a lot about what it means to invest it in where I'm at right now. How can I love Jesus and His Body right now? How can I grow in grace and truth right now? How is whatever I'm doing right now preparing me for this future ministry I feel the Lord calling me to? This is what I think part of waiting and being still means. I think it means being content in where you are in life--no matter how meaningless or random it may seem. I think it means trusting that God doesn't let His children who choose to acknowledge Him go down a path that He doesn't want them to. I think it means that knowing that when God wants me to keep moving down the path, He will show me in the way that I need it. He's not trying to make me play guessing games. 

Okay, now check out this blog I wrote last spring :: Straight Paths
See what I mean about maturing in Christ? :) 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Speaking of love...

...I am really lovin' Deuteronomy because of all the LOVE that is in it! :)
Did you think Deuteronomy was just a repeating of all the laws for the next generation of Israelites? Think again! It's way cooler than a repeat. :)
Even though it is more than a repeat, I have certainly been appreciating how Moses has been repeating the laws. Maybe it's the "teacher" in me that is impressed with Moses' pedagogy. :) He's not just listing off a bunch of rules--he's giving reasoning behind it and lots of encouragement to remember and recall ALL that God has done for them. Most often the reasoning Moses gives is 1 of 3 things :
"So that it may go well with you..."
"So that you will not forget the Lord..."
"So that the other nations will see that the Lord is the one true God..."
Can you think of better reasons for why you should obey a command? I know I can't! :)

But even more than the reasons, I really love that Moses keeps telling the Israelites is how much God LOVES them & how incredibly special the Israelites are to Him. It's pretty obvious that Moses really, really wants the Israelites to understand this about themselves! Check it out...

The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.

Observe them [the decrees & laws] carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of His inheritance, as you now are.

The Lord said..."Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever."

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.

But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharoah, king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. 

Yet the Lord set His affection on your ancestors and loved them; He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations--as it is today.

Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession.

I think the reason that Moses tried to really get the Israelites to understand that they are a treasured possession, is to give them understanding and motivation behind why the laws are important and why they should try to follow them.

I think the same is still true today. No, we don't follow all the same laws as OT Israelites, but there are certainly some things that Christians should not do, not to mention the 10 Commandments. Why? Well, we could say because God told us not to. End of story.

Which would be true. But what if instead, we said that it's because we're God's treasured possession, His inheritance, and we want Him to get His full inheritance from our life? We don't want to do anything that hinders that. What if instead, we say that we don't choose to sin because we love God and want to please Him with our lives?

I can't think of any higher motivation of doing the "right thing" than wanting to please someone whom you know loves you a whole bunch and who you love in return.

Do you understand this for yourself? If you're struggling with a particular active sin or maybe more passive sin, I encourage you to ask the Lord to reveal more of His love to you and to help you receive it. The more of God's love that you have in your heart, the less room you'll have for anything else that's not of Him! :)

In reflection of the day that's all about LOVE, my prayer is that you seriously consider that YOU are also God's treasured possession and His inheritance that He set His affection on long ago.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Shadow of the Good Things Coming

The Lord said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place...or else he will die." --Leviticus 16:2

So then just what must Aaron do to enter the Most Holy Place? Simple!
#1-Bring a young bull for a sin offering
#2-Bring a ram for a burnt offering
#3-Bathe himself with water
#4-Put on the sacred garments: tunic, undergarments, sash, tunic
#5-Take 2 male goats for a sin offering from the Israelites
#6-Take a ram for a burnt offering from the Israelites
#7-Offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself
#8-Cast lots for the 2 goats--one as a sacrifice, the other as a scapegoat
#9-Sacrifice the one to the Lord
#10-Make atonement with the scapegoat by sending it into the wilderness
#11-Take a censer full of burning coals from the altar & 2 handfuls of finely ground incense behind the curtain
#12-Put the incense on the fire so that the smoke from it will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so he will not die.
#13-Sprinkle with his fingers some of the bull's blood on the front of the atonement cover
#14-Sprinkle the blood 7 times before the atonement cover
#15-Slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people.
#16-Take the blood behind the curtain and do the same thing as with the bull's blood.

Alright, so the Most Holy Place is atoned for now, but there's still the altar and the tent of meeting which involves more sprinkling of blood, etc.

Then Aaron must take the scapegoat & lay hands on its head, confessing over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites--and put them on the goat's head. A man appointed for the task will lead him into the wilderness. He must bathe himself with water before coming back into the camp.

Then go into the tent of meeting, take of the sacred garments & leave them there. Then he shall bathe with water & put on his regular garments again.

Now he can sacrifice the burnt offerings for both himself & for the people. This will also make atonement.
And he shall burn the fat from the sin offering on the altar. Also they should take the hides, flesh, & intestines outside of the camp and burn them. That man must bathe before he comes back, too.

Twenty-nine verses later, we're finished! Simple, huh? Maybe not...
The Lord says: "...on this day, atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins....This is to be the lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites."

I think Leviticus kind of has a bad rap in the Bible because of all the laws & details. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't skim through a few of the chapters on mold & bodily discharge BUT this chapter 16, details and all, is exactly what Hebrews 10 is talking about when it says...

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming...For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship...But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

"Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when THIS Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. For by ONE sacrifice HE has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

So not only are we made perfect forever, but it gets better! Instead of trying to memorize all these laws, God promised to put His laws in our hearts and to write them on our minds. This is the Holy Spirit! Can you imagine trying to follow God without the Holy Spirit? I think it can be easy to criticize the Israelites for being so fickle and wanting to go back to Egypt and what not, but they didn't have the Holy Spirit! We would be just the same as them if we didn't have the Holy Spirit helping us each step of the way.

And sometimes we ARE the same even with Holy Spirit in us. Holy Spirit wants to help us & make us holy, but He's a gentleman. He's not going to force Himself on you if you're not asking or surrendering. Take a moment and think about this :: Who do you think you're like more often--Jesus, our ultimate example of a life lived by the Holy Spirit--or the Israelites--a people that turned to idols, failed to trust God, complained a lot, and failed in the commitment to God frequently? Take advantage of the GREAT GIFT of the Holy Spirit in you. Tell Him right now that you want to start being more like Jesus and less like the Israelites.

God promised in Jer. 31:34 that our sins and lawless acts, He will remember no more. And the Hebrews author says quite plainly: "Where sins have been forgiven, sacrifices are no longer necessary!"

What a drastic difference between the verse in Leviticus I started this post off with and this one in Hebrews 10: "Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new & living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a GREAT Priest over the house of God...
[because of ALL that] ...let us DRAW NEAR TO GOD with a sincere heart and with FULL assurance that our faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is FAITHFUL."

He IS faithful! Start off your day praising our faithful & great High Priest. Thank God that you can draw near to Him boldly & with confidence, whenever you want, unlike Aaron who would die. Thank Jesus for His perfect sacrifice. As you sit in the Most Holy Place, tell Holy Spirit that you want to be more & more like Jesus. Tell God that the only sacrifice that you want to give now is your life. Because He is so, so, so worthy. He is so worth giving everything for. He is the only One worth "wasting your life" on. Ask Him to show you where you are actually wasting your life on other things. Tell Him that you want to be used by Him in any way that He chooses. Ask Him to help you surrender each day. Amen!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


On my way through Exodus now...There could be a lot to be written about the connections between God bringing the Israelites up out of slavery in Egypt and bringing His people up out of slavery to sin. I encourage you to read over the first few chapters of Exodus & think of it as God doing all those things for YOU in order to rescue you from your slavery! Especially read over Moses & Miriam's song of Deliverance in Exodus 15 as a song of praise for your own deliverance!
Also, if you're like me, and you can't get over how ridiculous the Israelites are for wanting to go back to Egypt so often, then you'll come to humbly realize that you actually do the same thing a lot when you think about going back to our "easier" life of sin rather than choosing to cling to God and trust His ways completely.

Another thing in Exodus is all the details about the ark of the covenant, consecrating the priests, how to make sacrifices, etc. In church this morning, we celebrated the Lord's Supper, and it just made me think all the more about how big of deal it is that we can approach God's throne with boldness & confidence because--and only because--of Christ's blood. I can't even begin to imagine what life would be like if that curtain hadn't been torn in two. Sure, the details in Exodus might get a little mundane, but it certainly shows how serious approaching God's Presence is. This is not a privilege that we New Testament Christians should take lightly!

And now for a verse that really stuck out to me when reading today: Exodus 34:14 AMP--"For you shall worship no other god; for the Lord, Whose name is Jealous, is a jealous (impassioned) God..."

I love that word impassioned! And then to think that this is so much of who God is that He says His very Name is Jealous! Check out the Dictionary definition for impassioned: filled with passion or zeal :  showing great warmth or intensity of feeling

ardent, blazing, burning, charged, demonstrative,emotional, fervid, feverish, fiery, flaming, glowing, hot-blooded, fervent, incandescent, intense, passional, passionate, perfervid, red-hot, religious, superheated, torrid, vehement, warm, warm-blooded
Antonyms: cold, cool, dispassionate, emotionless, impassive,unemotional

I am so thankful that we have a God that shows great warmth and intense feelings for His people, rather than a cold, emotionless, impassive god. When we truly know God and His impassioned character, why would we ever want to worship any other god?? Don't you think that's what God was longing for the Israelites to understand about Him all along? I think that's what He still longs for His people to know about Him--He is FULL of passion for us!

And all that made me think of a paper I wrote my junior year on discipleship for CORE 399. I've been cleaning out my computer and came upon it a while back. You can read the whole thing HERE if you're curious but the following paragraphs are really what applies to the jealousy idea. For a little background--protagonists are the good guys in the movies, antagonists are the bad guys. :) 
In an individualistic narrative, we are the protagonist. We think the story is centered on ourselves and that we are the most important. Essentially, this has been human’s problem from the day that we fell into sin. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, they represented all of us telling God that we know better than Him, that we cannot trust Him to guide us, and that we must make the decisions on our own for how to best live our life. We became individualistic and independent, believing that we could live life on our own without relying on God every step of the way. 
Ever since that day, God, filled with perfect and holy jealousy for His Beloved, has been fighting for our hearts to come back to Him. We defined the antagonist as anyone who gets in the way of our story’s plot, and I believe that when we are a disciple of anyone or anything but Jesus Christ, our antagonist is God Himself. He will do anything to get His Beloved to fall in love with their Bridegroom again. He graciously lets our other stories fall apart until we realize that we are not intended to be the protagonist—God is. 
The key to being a disciple of Jesus Christ is realizing that we are not intended to be the protagonist in our story of life. When we are the protagonist, we are on a never-ending search to find satisfaction, but that will never be found until we fully surrender our stories to God and let Him be the protagonist. We need to recognize the privilege God has given us in being able to have a part—regardless of the size—in His story of Redemption and bringing the Kingdom here to earth.
So who is God to you--the antagonist or protagonist? Have you come to realize yet that this life is not about you? Ask the Lord to reveal more of that His Name--Jealous & Impassioned--really means. Ask Him to show you that His Story is the only one truly worthy of being followed. Tell Him that you want Him to be the protagonist from here on out. Thank Him for being the gracious antagonist letting your story fall apart.

Friday, January 17, 2014


My one & only New Year's Resolution was to read through the Bible like I would any other book. Meaning that I start at the beginning and read my way through each day. Some days I have an hour to read, other days only 10 minutes. (I'm not very good at the Daily Plans to read through the Bible in a year thing.) I just want to get through it all in a relatively short amount of time. But the way it's not like any other book is that it is living & active! I want Holy Spirit to give me new revelations of each story within the overarching story.

So I just finished Genesis & was reminded of what I read in another book, Living Water by Brother Yun, that talked about why God so often refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When people make an oath, they swear by someone higher than them. God can't do that. So this is His way of swearing by Himself. Referring to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is  a reminder of His unconditional faithfulness to keep His covenant & promises. So when He reminds His people of this, it's like He's saying, "I haven't broken a promise yet, so you can trust Me to keep this next one, too."

I also think that reading through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is an encouragement to any Christian. After all, those three men don't exactly have the best reputation all the time. Sure, Abraham is remembered for his faith when he was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But there were also times when he lied about Sarah being his sister so that he wouldn't be killed. Isaac did the same thing with his wife Rebekah. And Jacob is known as the Deceiver & for wrestling with God. Isn't that encouraging that none of those examples of lack of faith caused God to give up and find someone else to establish a covenant with? He was committed forever.

I have a guess that God knew what He was getting into before He even made the covenant, and He was willing to anyway. Why? Well, I think one of the reasons was that God wanted a family. He's a very relational Being. He's the Creator of love. He is love. I think He wanted a family to have relationship with and to manifest His love with. He doesn't need us, but He wants us! It makes me think of this song: I Knew what I was Getting Into

God knew what He was getting into when He called Abraham. He knew what He was getting into when He called you, too! He's not shocked by your weaknesses, your lack of trust, or your failures. He understands your brokenness. He knows that Satan is fighting against your efforts to walk with God. He just wants your repentant heart. He wants you to humbly come to Him and let Him help you. (More on this in Exodus) He wants you to be in a faithful, committed relationship with Him. If He can stick with Abraham's family through all the generations, surely He can stick with you. Rejoice in that truth! I hope that truth makes you fall more in love with God today. And each time that you hear or read about God being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I hope that you are reminded of God's faithfulness to both His family and to YOU specifically.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I've said this many times before: this blog is just as much for myself, if not more so, than it is for you. I wanted to record 2013 and typing is faster & easier than writing :) I hope you're blessed & encouraged by God's work and blessings in my life this past year though, as well!

Well, 2013 was an interesting year to say the least. A million other words could go in that spot, but I'm sticking with that one for now. It must be somewhat interesting to you the fact that you're taking the time to read this, right? And really, I think anyone's life can be interesting even in the most mundane situations if they choose to let God run the show. He's a very interesting Person. :)

The end of of 2012 was spent at the OneThing conference in Kansas City. I still often think about the messages I heard there by some great speakers. I didn't go to it in KC this year, but I did get a chance to listen to a few of the messages at the HOME building here in Sioux Center. Not quite the same as being there, but still good. :)

New Years Eve 2012 was spent celebrating the marriage of my college friends Jake & Lydia Buss! A bunch of us friends got a hotel room that night and had a lot of fun. The following few days involved a lot of wedding planning in a short amount of time. A lot of people were surprised as how much I got accomplished in like 3 days. What can I say?? I'm a planner, organized, and probably had a secret board or two on Pinterest dedicated to this special event. I could look back on all that planning as worthless and saddening, but instead, I'm choosing to be thankful to see how not a big deal wedding planning has to be. I mean, sure, I could put hours and hours and hours into planning my wedding someday, but really, it's not that necessary. All the stuff I was seeing on Pinterest about the 18 month timelines was kind of freaking me out, but now I'm convinced that, if God is okay with it, my next engagement would only have to be about 3 months and I could comfortably plan my next wedding and it can be just as special as a wedding that took 2 years to plan.

**I'll take this opportunity to offer a word of encouragement to any of you soon to be engaged ladies out there that are wondering when your guy's gonna pop the question :: just relax. You will never, ever get this time in your life back again. Embrace it, don't hate it! (Well, unless you have my situation, but that's beside the point :]... )Anyway, this time of anticipation of when is he gonna ask and how is it gonna be done, can be super fun & exciting if you choose to see it that way. Or you can choose to listen to the Pinterest timelines and freak out about how you're never gonna get it all done in time. I hope you choose the former. Because where there's a will there is a way. Sure, you might not get to reserve the "perfect" photographer, reception hall, caterer, etc. But there are others out there. They might not be your idea of perfect, but they'll do just fine in helping you two celebrate your marriage. I promise. :) Plus, I can almost guarantee that your man will appreciate you getting off his back. If he wants to spend the rest of his life with you, he'll ask. Maybe not when you'd want, but he will.

After my few days of planning, I was off to Lynden, WA for my first session of student teaching. My mentor teacher, Sandy Van Zonneveld, was seriously awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher to learn from. I was seriously questioning if I even wanted to teach in a classroom and Mrs. Van showed me that legitimately teaching Christianly in the classroom is very possible. She had a ton of really neat ideas of how to get those 6th graders to start seriously thinking about their faith and what it means in their lives. I'm still not sure if I'll ever teach full-time in a classroom setting, but regardless, I am very thankful for Mrs. Van and her mentoring me during that time! :)

My second session of student teaching was at Sanborn Christian School. I got to live at home & commute the 10 minutes to school every day. Often days after school, I would get to stop by my grandparents home for some homemade goodies, tea, and to work on a puzzle. I will always treasure those times with them. My actual student teaching at SCS isn't quite as memorable and probably part of that was because of everything else that was going on at the time at home. I'm thankful for the gracious teachers I worked with there, as well. I also spent quite a few afternoons with my sister-in-law and nephews at their home. Becky was always willing to offer a listening ear to me and other times it was just nice to goof around with my nephews and forget about everything else for a while. I don't know what I would do without those kiddos. :)

After round 2 of student teaching came graduation. I remember it being a lot harder that I thought it would be. I hated having everyone ask me what I was going to do now and me having to try to explain in minimal details something about how I thought my life was planned out to move to WA and hopefully find a teaching or youth ministry job there, but now I have absolutely no plans. I have absolutely no idea what God is going to do with me, and I'm just trying to cling to Him and wait. It was difficult, but it also helped me move past clinging to any hope that this relationship still might work out and move on to the next stage of grief--anger & resentment. Again, in it's own way, this was a gift, as well. Because, yeah, I really did need to move on. :)

The month of May was kind of a blur. I got a job at a greenhouse and worked there a bunch. It was nice to get out of the house and was a bit of a distraction too. I did still have plenty of time to think though, which was good for me to process more of my feelings of resentment and move on towards acceptance. Isn't it cool how even a mundane job at a greenhouse can be a gift from God and exactly what He knew you needed? :)

Then in June, sista Christa came home! Again, what a gift from God. She came home a month earlier than usual and was so helpful in talking through things with me. I know I had others around to talk to me, but I think Christa just understood so much more of the situation and of myself. She helped a bunch :) Plus we had a lot of fun together and with Becky & the nephews. I really didn't feel guilty one bit about now having a job. :)

Near the end of June, I accepted an assistant coach position at Dordt. I remember being shocked that my coach was calling me asking if I would be willing to come back to Dordt's program as a coach. I started in early August and it lasted all the way until early December. Dordt did really well & finished 11th in the nation! It was definitely different being a coach rather than a teammate to the girls, but overall, I enjoyed it! I wouldn't say coaching is necessarily my passion, but I loved being able to serve my coach and the girls and doing what I could to clear up any communication issues that I might have recognized from years before. :)

Because I knew I would be quite busy with volleyball, I decided that it wouldn't be wise to take on a full-time teaching position. Instead, I applied as a substitute at a few of the local schools. I've subbed for 2nd graders all the way up to seniors in high school. It's all been enjoyable and a good learning experience. It also helped verify for me that I really love & connect well with middle schoolers. I've also really enjoyed the variety & flexibility that comes with this job. Variety really is the spice of life! :)

I've also been blessed to be part of the middle school youth group at 1st Ref. again this year. Because I sub at SC Middle School quite a bit, I get to eat lunch with a lot of the girls that I know from youth group & connect with them even more. This month I will also be coaching their AAU volleyball team. :)

I think my favorite thing about 2013 is the relationships part. Even though one really big relationship in my life got broken apart, I've had many, many other special relationships spring up! I already mentioned my time spent with my grandparents in Sanborn. I've also grown closer to my other grandma. I treasure her emails of encouragement to me.
I also grew closer to my parents and am learning to not wait until they ask me about my life, but to just tell them--because they care a lot about me and want to know. :)

Most surprisingly & unexpected to me is all the friendships that I've made with people from Dordt this year! A lot of the people that I'm friends with now I knew as acquaintances all throughout college but never really got to know. Now I do and it's just super great! :) In a lot of ways I feel like I'm a senior again for all the good reasons and none of the not so good. I'm just so blessed to be able to live on Dordt's campus. It makes it so convenient for me to stop by a friend's apartment, for my brother and cousins to stop by, and for me to run over to the Rec Center for practice or to workout. Plus, I love living by myself right now, being able to decorate the entire place, and have IHOP livestream playing all the time without worrying about annoying any roommate. :) :) Not to mention the rent is a very nice price!

What else to say? God is good. All the time. I love His work in my life. He's taught me how to rest, to wait on Him, and to stop trying to plan the future. Today in Jesus Calling it said "One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events." God gave me understanding of this fact big time this year. Sometimes I just amaze myself in how at rest I am now. Sure, there are still days when I am weak and start to let worry creep in. But overall I am just very much at peace that God has everything under control and no matter how much I think about it, it's not going to change anything. God's proven to me big time that His ways are so much better than mine. I really don't want control over my life anyway--God does such a better job of running the show.

Here's to seeing what He does in 2014! :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Isaiah 26

I hope you read this entire passage. The Amplified Version really explains some words & concepts in a neat way. But if not the whole passage, at least check out the bolded verses! :) 
In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; [the Lord] sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates, that the [uncompromisingly] righteous nation which keeps her faith and her troth [with God] may enter in.
You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].
For He has brought down the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city; He lays it low, lays it low to the ground; He brings it even to the dust.
The foot has trampled it down—even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.
The way of the [consistently] righteous (those living in moral and spiritual rectitude in every area and relationship of their lives) is level and straight; You, O [Lord], Who are upright, direct aright and make level the path of the [uncompromisingly] just and righteous.
8 Yes, in the path of Your judgments, O Lord, we wait [expectantly] for You; our heartfelt desire is for Your name and for the remembrance of You.
My soul yearns for You [O Lord] in the night, yes, my spirit within me seeks You earnestly; for [only] when Your judgments are in the earth will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God).
10 Though favor is shown to the wicked, yet they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and refuse to see the majesty of the Lord.
11 Though Your hand is lifted high to strike, Lord, they do not see it. Let them see Your zeal for Your people and be ashamed; yes, let the fire reserved for Your enemies consume them.
12 Lord, You will ordain peace (God’s favor and blessings, both temporal and spiritual) for us, for You have also wrought in us and for us all our works.
13 O Lord, our God, other masters besides You have ruled over us, but we will acknowledge and mention Your name only.
14 They [the former tyrant masters] are dead, they shall not live and reappear; they are powerless ghosts, they shall not rise and come back. Therefore You have visited and made an end of them and caused every memory of them [every trace of their supremacy] to perish.
15 You have increased the nation, O Lord; You have increased the nation. You are glorified; You have enlarged all the borders of the land.
16 Lord, when they were in trouble and distress, they sought and visited You; they poured out a prayerful whisper when Your chastening was upon them.
17 As a woman with child drawing near the time of her delivery is in pain and writhes and cries out in her pangs, so we have been before You (at Your presence), O Lord.
18 We have been with child, we have been writhing and in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth [only] wind. We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world [of Israel] have not yet been born.
19 Your dead shall live [O Lord]; the bodies of our dead [saints] shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For Your dew [O Lord] is a dew of [sparkling] light [heavenly, supernatural dew]; and the earth shall cast forth the dead [to life again; for on the land of the shades of the dead You will let Your dew fall].
20 Come, my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the [Lord’s] wrath is past.
21 For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place [heaven] to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also will disclose the blood shed upon her and will no longer cover her slain and conceal her guilt.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guest Blogger! :)

This is from one of my very best friends, Mary. God brought us together freshmen year at Dordt and we've been friends every since. We like to call each other teammates :) I'm uber thankful for who Mary is in my life. Every once in a while, we'll go through books of the Bible together and write each other about what we've learned. I told Mary I was doing this Isaiah thing on my blog and told her she can contribute--so here it is! :) Get excited, folks!
I learned from my big book of commentary that Isaiah lived during the time that Israel was in exile. It said that Isaiah was confronting the king of Israel on ‘ the difficult issue of the choice between a quiet faith and a desperate alliance.’ Basically, Israel was deciding to take the path that God didn’t want them to take… instead of trusting Him, they were deciding to take things into their own hands by aligning with other countries.
God basically says in verse 2 that He raised them, gave them everything— ‘I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me… Israel does not know, my people do not understand.
V5-‘ Your whole head is infused, your whole heart afflicted.’ God says that their whole selves were affected by this disobedience. I think that’s true in general. When we decide to pursue our own dreams or comforts instead of God’s truth, our whole selves are afflicted.
I also learned from my big commentary book that Isaiah means ‘Yahweh is Salvation.’ I love that in the Bible, their names usually mean something… how fitting for Isaiah, who brought the good news way before his time that Yahweh would be salvation for his people.
So in verses 5-8, it talks about how Judah is nearly wiped out. But then in verse 9, God is still faithful… Zion would have been gone if it weren’t for God being faithful and saving a remnant.
And here’s where I thought it got pretty specific and kind of intense. In verse 12, “Who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” God, that I may not trample your courts! And then verse 15, “Your hands are full of blood,” Again, God, show me if my hands are full of blood! I don’t want to put eternal lives at stake by my ‘need’ to protect myself, or make myself comfortable.
God gives them a command—wash, and make yourselves clean.
Verse 17, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
God cares so much about the fatherless, the case of the widow, that He is willing to hand over his people to the Babylonians because of it. This is serious stuff. “Your hands are full of blood.” He holds them responsible for those lives that they didn’t stand up for… so really, when you think about it, it’s not about what they DID that was evil, it was about what they DIDN’T DO. They didn’t defend the cause of the fatherless, or encourage the oppressed.
Now this next verse to me sounds more like a reprimand than it did before… “Let us reason together {Let’s argue our case according to the big commentary book.} Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.
It’s like God’s saying—"Don’t throw this away, just for your comfort! I have salvation waiting for you. Are you willing to be obedient? Then follow me! Come and have your sins washed away."
Then it continues to go on about how the Faithful City no longer is full of justice.
But God has hope for this city… He wants to renew His people.
V26, “Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” He says, one day you’ll be ashamed of what you’ve done here. You’ll understand what I do… you’ll understand because NONE of this lasts (i.e.; the sacred oaks in which you have delighted—that oak has fading leaves).
So essentially, this scared me a little… because this still goes on now. We still prefer our comforts, our ways of living over God’s decision making. But I think that what we don’t understand sometimes is that those decisions put blood on our hands. This scared me… I know there’s grace for these things, but again, it makes me ask… God, whose blood is on my hands? Whose eternal life is affected because I chose to ignore your voice?
I don’t know. Maybe this is an inaccurate belief, but it at least shows how much it matters to God… to forsake justice and the oppressed is to ignore one of the things that matters most to God.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Surely, Certainly, Without a Doubt

Every other Monday night, I attend a Bible study with other local young adults. I'm really thankful for it. We just finished up a series on Jesus as the Perfect Leadership model. You can check out the lessons HERE. if you're interested.

One of the things that came up this past week at Bible Study was Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. This was also mentioned in the message I heard at HOME's Ignite service two days before, so I felt like God was highlighting this for me.

So get this--out of all the ways that Satan chooses to tempt Jesus, he thinks an attack on His identity is His best route to take. Two out of the three times, Satan says "If you are the Son of God...? In other words, he's asking Jesus if He's sure of who He is. If you really think about that, doesn't that seem like a ridiculous thing to try to make Jesus question? But we all know how crafty Satan can be, so if he really thought that was the best tactic, then what's to say that Satan won't also try the same on us?

Take a moment to think about how many times Satan makes you forget the heart-knowledge you have of your identity as a dearly beloved, holy, child of God. Sure, we know that in our heads but our heart is really what drives what we do & how we live. If we truly, fully believed our identity, I think it's safe to say that a lot of our lifestyles and every day choices would be quite different. I know mine would!

So in Bible study we talked about that a little and then took it a step further to say that Satan's overall tactic is to make you question if God really said that--whatever "that" may be. Think about Satan's first encounter with Eve in the Garden of Eden. He says "Did God really say you can't eat that fruit?" I can just think of how often Satan inserts that question in my mind AND heart!

"Did God really say that He has good and perfect plans for you?"
"Did God really say that He'll work all things together for the good of those who love Him?"
"Did God really say that you can come to His throne confidently & with boldness?"
"Did God really say that you are saved and made righteous by grace alone; that nothing you do will change anything of how He sees you?"
"Did God really say that He cares deeply for you and wants you to cast every care on Him?"
"Did God really say that He's proud of you no matter what & really delights in your heart?"
"Did God really say that His thoughts about you are precious and the sum of them is vast?"
"Did God really say that [insert sin] is really a sin?"
"Did God really say that He wants you to give up everything and follow Him?"

I could go on and on! But I think you get the picture. This is where I decided that my stubborn strong-willed tendency comes in handy. I can take that negative nature of mine and use it for good against Satan. When Jesus was tempted, He immediately put down each of Satan's attacks with Scripture--nothing else. It's not called the Sword for nothing! This is the one piece of our spiritual armor that is used for offense. Take advantage of this gift we have to stubbornly fight against every question Satan tries to throw our way!

And to put a bookend on the "highlighting" of this topic this past week, yesterday I read the following in the book Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning: "Tangible reassurances, however valuable they may be, cannot create trust, sustain it, or guarantee any certainty of its presence...When the craving for reassurances is stifled, trust happens."

I don't know about you, but as for me & Brennan Manning--we long to be reassured. My love language is definitely words of affirmation--I love to be assured & reassured that people (and, most of all, God) appreciate & understand me. But I also agree with Manning that those reassurances, no matter how consoling they may be for the moment, do not build trust--in the people in my life or in God. It's the times when I am questioning if I really am appreciated, if God really notices me or has plans for me, you name it!--that I need to stubbornly get past those questions and use my Sword to say "Yes!"--that's when trust is built. That's when it has nothing to do with my wishy-washy feelings but with the firm confidence that God is faithful, unchanging, full of truth and never goes back on His word.

And then when I read verses throughout Isaiah like 14:24 that say "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen," I can know without a doubt, that it will happen. God has proven to me in my personal experiences that He certainly fulfills every promise. In return, I can surely trust that each promise in Isaiah, and the rest of the Bible, is no different.

No matter what happens in the end times. No matter how much more broken the world becomes. No matter what world leaders do. No matter how confusing His actions--or lack of actions--may appear at the time--I know that I will be able to say "Surely, Jesus will come back. Certainly, He will bring justice. Without a doubt, He has perfect plans. I don't need anymore reassurances. I really, really trust Him."