You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7
Oh man, do I LOVE to dream about the future! I drive my very-down-to-earth husband crazy, in fact, with all of the dreaming I do. Sometimes I sit and explore possibilities of what could be, just for the fun of it! Think of all the things we could do with our lives! We could move across the country! Build a tiny house! Start a hobby farm! Buy an RV! Start a business! Run a bed and breakfast! Complete a renovation! I am full of ideas, and I love to talk about them. I’m always mentally choosing paint colors and learning new skills and exploring the endless possible future within my head (or occasionally out loud). My husband has mostly learned to ignore my rambling when I start dreaming, because he knows that most of my dreams are just ideas, and not necessarily things I want or need to make happen in reality. Sometimes, though, I take my dreaming a step further and start to develop plans. Not only would it be fun and exciting to make something happen, I’m actually going to make it happen! Whether it’s getting out of debt, moving into a different home, choosing an educational curriculum for my children, changing my diet, or going on vacation, I lay my plans carefully and then work hard to make my dreams come true!
When all goes according to plan, I can’t help but enjoy the fruits of my labor! An endeavor that meets financial success, an effort that meets worldly acclaim, these things make me feel great! They are the reward for all of my hard work! Nothing better than creating a goal, working hard to complete it, and then reaping the rewards of the completed goal!
Except, after a few successes, it can be tempting to rely on them. Suddenly, success feels like a guarantee. If I just make careful plans and work hard to achieve them, I will achieve success, just like I did yesterday. And I will deserve that success because I will have worked hard to achieve it. Right?
Emboldened by my past success stories, I start to view my earthly future success as guaranteed and secure. But that’s not how the world works, is it? God says in James 4:13-14
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
Oof. I’m a mist. Kind of puts me back in my place, doesn’t it? Good metaphor, God.
I can think of plenty of times in my life that God reminded me of my “mist” status. In 2009, we had moved from a small city back to a big one with big plans. My husband and I were both going to get GREAT jobs! We were going to work hard at those jobs and move up the ladder, get out of debt, put away a fair amount of money, and then think about having kids. Ha! Turns out God had other plans for us. Two days after moving into our new home, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. The night before we found out we were expecting, we had been sitting in a bar with a friend chatting about how we didn’t plan to have kids for a long while, and now here we were, pregnant. Our plans derailed, I started searching for more mom-friendly jobs than the ones I had been previously considering. My husband was able to land a job in his field but it didn’t pay much. We were struggling financially and living on ramen and falling deeper into debt. Nothing about our lives that year was written in our carefully laid plans. But God’s Love saw us through, and today we can’t imagine life without our firstborn daughter…or her three younger siblings.
Jeremiah 29:11 “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Tonight we again found ourselves discussing plans as we went over our bank account and household budget. “I have this much coming in this week,” I said, “and you have this much. So I think we should pay off this and then buy that and then we can fix this and work toward that.” Greed and self satisfaction clouded our otherwise innocent enough conversation. It felt so good to have a little bit of extra money coming in this week, that we immediately began scheming, with no pause to thank God or ask Him to bless our endeavors. All we could see was dollar signs.
It’s not that God wants us to stop making plans and to quit budgeting our money. He just wants our hearts to be in the right place when we do so. James 4:15-16 goes on to say:
“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”
When we grow arrogant in the assurance of our own earthly success, we lose sight of the One who has blessed us with all of our past achievements. We don’t achieve any success because we deserve it. In fact, earthly success is not something God ever promised to us as Christians! In fact, He tells us that we will experience the consequences of sin on this earth. That is the only earthly guarantee God gives us:
"For the wages of sin is death…" (Romans 6:23a)
But he doesn’t just stop there.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
God walks with us throughout our lives, through our wonderful successes and our horrible failures. Our entire lives, with the high points and the low frustrations, are a beautiful gift from God, because they all lead up to His Ultimate Gift: the gift of Eternal Life through Jesus! How shallow and petty of us to get excited over earthly money, to obsess over arrogant earthly plans which may or may not ever come to fruition, when we have a heavenly kingdom awaiting us that we did absolutely nothing to deserve!
Let’s go to God in prayer with all of our decisions, lay our plans at his feet, and ask him to bless us. Let us thank and praise him through the high points, and sing his praises still as we cling to Him through the low. Let us be brave enough to ask God to mold and refine us through our futures. May our end goal always be closer communion with Him, and not the meaningless short lived thrills that come through worldly success.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I cannot believe how noisy my life is.
Sure, there are the every day physical noises that come along with raising four small children. Cries, whines, fights, stomps, squeals, crashes, and deafening thuds accompany my entire waking existence just by virtue of living with preschoolers.
But that’s not the noise I’m talking about.
The noise I hear lives in my brain, and does its best to crowd out coherent thought, peace, prayer, and worship, all of which thrive in silence. This ever present undercurrent noise is formed by the feelings and opinions of the world, poured into me through various media sources. The news, the internet, forums, movies, articles, and blogs. All of the world is online, simultaneously screaming its opinions into the void. And my mind receives and attempts to weigh and digest these opinions daily. There are so many of them. So much confusion. So much hate. So many mothers on forums arguing about the best way to X. So many personalities on articles debating the definition of Y. So many new horrifying realities to worry and wonder over. And my mind receives these thoughts and opinions and facts, balks at the enormous magnitude of them, and can’t even begin to digest them. Instead, they spin around in my brain and bump into one another noisily, forming a horrific cacophony which drowns out my ability to think clearly.
How can I possibly act on any information I receive if I’m constantly and incessantly taking in conflicting information?
As I was sitting down to write this blog post, my brain was screaming with all of this incessant noise, and I couldn’t concentrate. So instead, I went on Facebook (naturally, my biggest noise-source. Like that’s going to solve the problem!) and I vented my frustration with my cluttered brain to a friend. I probably typed 20 paragraphs about everything swimming around in my brain before she responded,
How simple is that? Almost feels TOO simple, doesn’t it? God is our quiet place.
Why am I not with Him in that quiet place? Oh, right. Because I’m filling up my brain and my life with unimportant, non-essential NOISE. I’m pouring my energies into topics and causes that do not matter. I’m exhausting my resources on things which are not beneficial to either me or to my mission.
My friend’s words immediately reminded me of the story in 1 Kings of the time the Lord appeared to the prophet Elijah.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 kings 19:11-13)
God presented all manner of wild and noisy phenomena to Elijah, from a wind to an earthquake, to a fire, but the Lord was not present in any of them. Elijah did not find the Lord in the rage and the power and the noise. He found God in the whisper. When all was quiet, save a gentle whisper, then God spoke to Elijah.
I often drown out God’s message with the noise in my life. I cannot hear what He is trying to tell me if I fill my ears and eyes and other senses with the noise of this world. Sometimes, this noise FEELS important. It demands attention because it is very loud, or very powerful. But not all of it can actually be important for me or my mission. I need to learn to employ a filter, to limit my time spent ingesting information, and to quiet my brain and the noise in my life so that I can hear the Lord’s “gentle whisper” speaking to me.
There is no one exactly like you.
Not even the Myers-Briggs test can pin you down.
God planned you. He planned for you to be alive during this very moment.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
You - your gifts - are important to the Lord and his kingdom.
Don't worry. You aren't going to answer any multiple choice questions like those teen magazine quizzes to narrow down your spiritual gifts. Not yet.
There is something more unique and important to you that comes from God.
The gift from which all gifts come from. The gift above all gifts. Faith.
Open your Bible to 2 Timothy chapter 1, the basis of our bible study. Paul wrote his second and last letter to young Timothy while he was in prison. Timothy likely felt discouraged with Paul being in prison and afraid to speak out about his faith. Paul reminded Timothy that his faith was a gift of God and should not be hidden in fear.
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I hope you enjoyed our first online bible study from the series Fan Into Flame.
Join us next week as we study how the Spirit of God is powerful in our lives.
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I need a new coffee maker. The glass container from my French Press Pot coffee brewing system has shattered, and that’s a problem, because my husband and I both enjoy coffee in the morning. For now, we use the pour over method, putting an old tea strainer to good use. But this method only makes one cup of coffee at a time and some mornings, we are in a hurry. A new replacement glass container is in order, yet I’ve somehow avoided shopping for one for almost two years. Unlike seemingly everyone else, I don’t particularly enjoy shopping. But I really shouldn’t put off this purchase any longer. A new beaker would make our morning routines so much easier. So I turn where I always turn when I want to shop from the comfort of my own home: the internet.
I begin the shopping experience by searching directly for what I need on a large well-known shopping website. “French press replacement glass” I type into the search bar, and am immediately redirected to “French press replacement beaker.” The screen floods with possible solutions to my missing beaker problem. Fantastic! So many options! But which option is best? I begin to read descriptions and reviews. Hmmm...here’s a beaker for a great price. But the reviews aren’t great. What about this one? A bit more pricey, but it has good reviews. But it’s 34 ounces. Do I need the 34 ounce size? Or is it 12 ounce? 8 cup or 3 cup? Does it matter what brand I buy? What brand is the frame I still have? Does it say somewhere on the frame what size beaker I need? Hmm...here’s an entirely new french press system for not that much more money. Maybe I should just start completely anew with a new system? stainless steel is an interesting thought. It certainly wouldn’t break as easily. Or what about getting a cloth cover for the glass? Might be nice to insulate my coffee.
Scrolling down, I catch sight of a section of the website entitled “Customers who bought this item also bought.” On the list is a conical burr grinder. Oooooh, how nice would it be to own one of those! I’d better add it to my ongoing wish list. While I’m here, doing this shopping thing, maybe I should add some Christmas presents to my cart and get some of my Christmas shopping done. Woohoo! Sweaters are on sale. I needed to buy a sweater for someone anyway. Perfect. And here’s a great deal on that toy for my kid. Alright. Time to check out.
After I finalize the check out process and close my laptop, I realize that while a few things that I needed or wanted to purchase are now on their way to my front door, I didn’t solve my original problem. I still need a new coffee maker. But at least I’m now well-informed of my options. I have things to think about and measuring of my coffee making frame to do. Since I’m out of time to shop, I resolve to come back to my computer the next day and hone in once more on my search for a beaker replacement. I’m confidant that if I just keep searching, I’ll find what I’m looking for.
Sometimes, reading my Bible is a little bit like shopping. I know it needs to be done. I know that the information I find in the Bible will help me cope with problems I’m struggling with in my life. But it feels like a chore, so I avoid doing it. Sometimes for a long time. In the meantime, I limp along trying to make my own hacked solution work. When I finally buckle down and open my Bible, I am typically somewhat initially overwhelmed by the help and encouragement contained within it. Through the use of a concordance or Bible App search I am able to narrow down my problem and receive tailor-made advice and encouragement. But I’m not always ready to immediately receive and implement it. Sometimes I need to take several days or weeks reading or pondering a verse or chapter in my heart before I digest and understand it. Sometimes it takes even longer than that for me to put God’s Word into action. Sometimes I even need to compare one scripture to another before I’m able to get what I need out of the Bible.
Even if I don’t find the solution or encouragement I’m looking for when I initially open my Bible, however, it’s never a waste of time to open and read it. I almost always come away with something else that I didn’t even know I needed to read. I find encouragement to face a different problem in my life, or insight and renewal to address and pray over my struggles again tomorrow.
Unlike shopping, however, we never need to put the encouragement and salvation found within the Bible on a “wish list.” In fact, everything we discover within the pages of the Bible is immediately ours to own and cherish. It’s like searching the internet for something you need and discovering that the thing costs zero dollars with free shipping! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never gone window shopping downtown and had every shop-keeper immediately hand me the things I need plus everything I could ever desire from every window to keep forever and ever. God has given us eternal life in His Kingdom. For FREE! And not because we deserve it, either. What more could we ever want or ask for?
The treasures we find in God’s Word are much more deeply satisfying and far more long lasting than any temporal gifts we may buy online or at the nearest big box store. So what are you waiting for? Don’t put off “shopping” the Bible a moment longer. The sales never expire and the “product” is under an eternal warranty! ;)
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