4.13.2015

Rule of Peace

For the last several weeks I have been in a stronghold of anxiety, fear, and worry.  It has completely been crippling.  I won't go into all the details about it, but I will say that it has brought me to a point of complete desperation and dependance on God.  I prayed about it begging God to release me from this.  I was on my face before the Lord, quoting Scripture, and literally singing to myself, "I Need Thee Every Hour."  I had a loss of appetite and couldn't sleep well for almost two weeks due to nightmares.  The only relief I would get was when I was reading the Word.  As I have talked with others over the last few weeks, I have discovered that many people, women mostly, struggle with anxiety as well.  It is actually more common than I even realized.  

In our Sunday School class we are studying the book of Colossians right now.  In chapter 3, there is a verse that really stood out to me, especially since I was struggling.  Colossians 3:15 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."  I knew that peace wasn't ruling in my life during this time. Yesterday, Landon and I taught about this verse, and I thought I would share since I feel that it applied to many in our Sunday School class...ME INCLUDED!!!

According to the verse I quoted above, peace is to rule.  If peace isn't ruling then what is?  The opposite of peace is stress, anxiety, fear, worry, or frustration.  Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God.  We are commanded to let peace rule, so that would make the opposite a sin.  

Recently I read this article that was referring to the impact of sexual sin, but it could apply to any sin. I love the description of sin in the article.  Call sin what it is...  

"Now that it is in the house, don't buy it a collar and a leash and give it a sweet name.  Don't "admit" sin as a harmless (but un-broken) pet.  Instead, confess it as an evil offense and put it out!  Even if you love it!  You can't domesticate sin by welcoming it into your home.  Don't make a false peace.  Don't make excuses.  Don't get sentimental about sin.  Don't play the victim.  Don't live by excuse-righteousness.  If you bring the baby tiger into your house and name it Fluffy, don't be surprised if you wake up one day and Fluffy is eating you alive.  That is how sin works, and Fluffy knows her job. Sometimes sin lurks and festers for decades, deceiving the sinner that he really has it all under control, until it unleashes itself on everything you built, cherished, and loved.

Be wise about your choice sins and don't coddle them.  And remember that sin is not ever "who you are" if you are in Christ.  In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King; you are royalty.  You do battle with sin because it distorts your real identity; you do not define yourself by these sins that are original with your consciousness and daily present in your life." 

I think many people struggle with this and instead if eradicating sin from our life, we tend to just learn how to deal with it.  That is not what God desires for us.  He desires for us to have peace to rule and for us to live life abundantly.  

I am not diminishing the fact that sometimes life is hard.  It can be difficult and sometimes painful.  If my car breaks down, that is a difficult situation.  If I have an accident and am permanently disabled, that is painful and life changing. There are these two extremes and anything in between.  Difficulties usually occur in the ordinary activities and responsibilities of life, but the question is: How do we respond?

In the New Testament, there are twenty-seven character traits.  Love is the most repeated, with humility in second.  What would the world be like if we actually did these?  In third, trust in God is mentioned approximately thirteen times.  The opposite of trust in God is either anxiety or frustration. Jesus had much to say about anxiety.  In Matthew 6:25-34, He deals directly with this issue. "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do now sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the filed grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive to day and tomorrow is thrown in to the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!  Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?  or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  

If you are familiar with the Bible or have been in church, that passage is familiar, but do we really take these things to heart when we live in a state of worry or anxiety?  Do we nod our head and get all warm and fuzzy when we hear these words and yet not apply them to our lives?  I have been guilty.  

Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  Did you read that???  Be anxious for NOTHING!!!  Not one thing!!  Take it to the Lord instead by prayer and supplication.  Then in verse 7...good news!!  "and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 

Anxiety is a sin for two reasons:
1)  It is distrust in God.  When I give way to anxiety, I am, in effect, believing that God does not care for me and He will not take care of me in that particular circumstance.
2)  It is a lack of believing in God's sovereignty.  God is in control over all things.  When I am anxious, then I am saying He is not in control.

Worry is a synonym for anxiety.  Most of the time we worry, it is over something we have no control over anyway!!!  We worry about things that more than likely will never happen.  Worry will do no good.  It will not change the circumstances at all.  It just creates turmoil within us and shows that we have a lack of faith.  

Both fear and anxiety are battles of the mind.  In 1 Peter 1:13, we are commanded to "prepare our minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  This same terminology is used in Ephesians when we are told to put on our armor so we will be prepared for the schemes of the enemy.  We are told to "gird up the loins with truth..."  In the 1 Peter passage, we need to "gird up the loins of our mind." This was an image that the people of that time understood well.  When they went to battle their uniforms were basically like a dress.  In order to be prepared to run, they would have to tuck in their "dress" into their belt so they wouldn't have any loose ends to trip them up.  That's exactly what we are to do with our mind.  Don't let your mind just go!  We must tie up any loose ends so we aren't tangled up in thoughts that will trip us up.  

We must Philippians 4:8 our thoughts.  "Whatever is TRUE, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  Once again, this isn't just a suggestion.  It is a command.  We must take control of our thoughts.  


2 Corinthians 10:5 is another scripture that we should memorize!  "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."  As soon as a thought enters into our head, we must do the Phil. 4:8 test to decide if it can stay.  If it is not true, pure, lovely, excellent, praise worthy, worthy of praise, we need to take the thought captive!!  In that we destroy speculations, things that are not TRUE, and we kick the thought out to the obedience of Christ.  Does this seem radical or extreme?  It did to me, but this is what we are told to do.  This is the only way to live in freedom from anything besides letting peace rule our lives.  


Also, if we "set our mind on the things above, not on the things of earth," our attitude in every single situation will change.  (Colossians 3:2)

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Frustration

This section was highly convicting to me!!  Where anxiety involves fear, frustration usually involves being upset or even angry at whatever or whoever is blocking our plans.  How often does someone or something block my plans?  Almost daily!!  When I am trying to get out the door for a practice on time and my child can't find all their gear they need, I can simply lose my mind.  Or when I am in a hurry to get somewhere and traffic doesn't part like the Red Sea for me, I can be tempted to be frustrated.  When my computer won't work properly when I'm trying to send an email or print something important and nothing is cooperating, I can wig out.  Frustration invades, peace is gone!  In these moments, do I stop and think about God?  According to my responses, sadly I would have to confess no.  Here is a Scripture that I read in a book on this specific issue that had an entirely new meaning for me.  "All the days are ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  Psalm 139:16.  This verse is familiar to me, but I haven't ever thought about it in this context.  Our days are ordained before we were even born, yes, but what about the circumstances of my days?  Of course they are are ordained as well!!  I believe God is sovereign in all things including the circumstances of my daily activities.  When you think of it in this way, then everything changes.  When I discovered this "sin" in my life, I have really been aware of the times I get frustrated over so many little things, things that block my plans.  

Instead of allowing frustration to rule, we need to learn how to respond in a godly manner.  We can pray for wisdom in the situation.  We can pray for our nerves to be calmed and for peace to rule.  We can ask if there is something we need to learn or if there is something we need to be attentive to. For me, usually in these situations when my frustration level is high, it does more harm in the situation anyway.  Above all, we need to remember that there are no events in our lives that do not ultimately come to us from the invisible hand of God, even through they come through some visible cause.  

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How do we obtain God's peace?  "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."  2 Peter 1:2-3.  God's peace comes from true, experiential, not just theoretical knowledge of the Source of peace, God and Jesus Christ our Lord.

One of the names of God is Jehovah Shalom, which means God is Peace.  It is first found in the book of Judges.  Quick summary of the time during the Judges...In those days there was no king in Israel.  They were to let God be their king.  They were supposed to be a holy, called nation, and set apart from all others around them.  However, they were not holy and set apart.  When Moses dies, he passed on the responsibility to Joshua.  However after Joshua's death..."A generation...arose who...did not know God or the work which He had done for Israel and they forgot the Lord their God." Judges 3:7.  Then Israel, "did evil in the sight of the God and served Baals (Judges 2:11) and they provoked God to anger (Judges 2:12) and they forsook God and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.  In sum, Israel forgot God's person and power, forsook Him and began to fear other gods who are no gods at all.  

In Judges 6, there had been forty years of peace in the land.  However during this time of peace, Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.  Thus, God gave Israel into the hands of Midian and they prevailed against Israel.  How did Israel respond?  They hid in dens, caves, and strongholds instead of running to hide in the cleft of the Rock of their salvation, they run to the rocks and clefts.  They are afraid and terror stricken, filled with anxiety.  They have lost their peace by doing evil in the sight of God which will disturb peace. They were brought low and cried out to the Lord.  He responded to their cry by sending His Word by a prophet and reminded them that He had brought them out of Egypt, out from slavery, and He delivered the from the hand of all oppressors and gave them the land.   But despite all that God did for them, they did not obey.  

During this time of oppression from enemies, Gideon found himself in the winepress--threshing out the wheat that would sustain both his life and the life of his family.  Threshing wheat was a job to be done outside because the wind helped in the process.  He was inside because he was afraid of the Midianites.  This is where the Angel of the Lord called him to be a valiant warrior.  Gideon asked how was he to do this great thing since his family is the least and he is the youngest of the least.  This shows, once again, that God can use ANYONE!  He uses the unexpected to show His power lest we boast of our own strength and abilities or prestige.  God sees what we do not see.  He sees our potential, not who we are at the time.  He is in the business of transforming lives.  He takes our inadequacy and transforms it by His adequacy.  God sees beyond our fears and frailties.  God does not save us and use us for what we are but for what by His grace we may become in Christ.

What did God promise to Gideon? He promised him HIs presence, that He would be with him, he will defeat Midian as one man, and PEACE.  God reveals His name as PEACE and that He would pour out peace in a time of war.  Like I said earlier, peace isn't the absence of conflict but the presence of God.  We can have a supernatural peace in the most difficult and trying situations through God alone.  

True peace comes from the source of peace, Jehovah Shalom.  Jesus is called the "Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6, and Jesus says right before He is crucified, "Peace I leave with you."  At Pentacost, the Spirit of Peace in the form of the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who believe.  So all three parts of God, declare and pour out peace.  It is Their nature.  

As a believer, we are to have peace.  We are to let peace rule in our hearts.  It is also one of the nine fruits that we are to bear, not produce ourselves.  It comes through the power of the Holy Spirit alone.  The secret of genuine peace with God is founded in trusting Jesus Christ, not just a one time event, but every single day for the rest of our life.  It is dependence and surrender to Him.  This complete trust in Him will manifest itself in obedience and the ongoing sense of the peace of God.

God grants us peace and grace when needed in situations.  Steven was granted peace at the time of his death.  There have been numerous other martyrs for their faith in Jesus that have died willingly. They were given peace unto their earthly death as they were ushered into eternity with Him forever.  

We won't achieve complete freedom from anxiety or frustration in this life, but we should never accept them as part of who we are or as part of our temperament any more than we would accept something like adultery as part of our temperament.  If anxiety, frustration, fear, or worry is ruling, then peace is not. 

"God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there.  There is no such thing."  C.S. Lewis


Resources quoted from:










3.19.2015

Is it Worth It?

If you've ever built a house before you know there are many plans and decisions to be made.  You've got to pick out land, house plans, paint colors, flooring, carpet, doorknobs, light fixtures.....etc.  It can be a daunting task because you want to pick out styles that you won't get tired of quickly.  Before you even get to all those details, though, you must first make a budget adding 10%-20% increase for unexpected expenses that come up along the way.  When we built our last house, we had lots of expenses that were not planned. We weren't planning on building a retaining wall which ended up being an extra $12,000.  YIKES!  We had to make adjustments and cuts in other places.  We did spend more than we originally planned, but it just makes sense to calculate the cost before you even begin the project.

There is a house in my hometown that the owners decided to renovate.  I don't know the details of the project, but it appears they either miscalculated the cost or ran out.  Perhaps they, too, had some major unexpected costs that they just couldn't cover.  It is now sitting unfinished, rotting, abandoned, and an eye sore.

The Bible gives instructions on everything from taxes, mother-in-laws, bullies, sex, to building plans. In Luke 15:28-33, "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"

Recently I was witnessing to a friend who was not a believer.  She had lots of questions but just couldn't understand what Jesus dying on a cross had to do with her.  We talked about God, the Bible, Jesus for months.  At one point, she said she would read the Bible and make a decision.  She said she wouldn't join a club without knowing what it was about first so she wanted to read the Bible first.  I thought, "GREAT!"  I know the Bible is living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword that pierces as far as the division of soul and spirit and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Reading the Word for myself has literally transformed me from the inside out so I was thrilled that she was going to read it for herself. This was her way of "counting the cost" of being a follower of Christ.  It took her seven months to read the whole Bible.  Did you read that?!?!  Only SEVEN months.  By Psalms she became a believer.  Every time I think about this I literally cry.  

Is there a cost to following Christ?  God gives us the gift of salvation.  We can't earn salvation, but salvation cost Jesus His life.  When we become a follower of Christ, there is a cost for us well.  This isn't the message I hear often in some teaching about becoming a follower of Christ, but what does the Bible actually teach? How do we become Jesus' disciples?  In Luke 14:33, Jesus says, "None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."  OUCH.  Do I have to sell my house and everything I own to be a follower of Christ?  No, not necessarily, but maybe!  I have to be willing to give up everything for Jesus.

Some possibilities for followers of Christ:
1.  You may be handed over to the courts.  (Matthew 10:17)  Although we don't face this here in America right now, I feel that it is coming quickly.  I just listened to an amazing broadcast the other day, Trusting God in the Midst of Persecution.  It is an interview with Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini who is currently imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian beliefs.  It is an incredible interview that I encourage every believer to hear.  This happens everywhere!  We are so blinded in our country to this possibility.

2.  You may be betrayed by family.  (Matthew 10:21)  "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death."

3.  You may be hated.  (Matthew 10:22)  Because of the name you bear, some will hate you.

3.  You will be persecuted (Matthew 10:23)  If Jesus Christ Himself was persecuted to the point of death, how can we expect anything different?  A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.  All throughout the New Testament we are warned about when not if we will be persecuted for His name's sake.

4.  You may die.  (Matthew 10:38-39)  We are told that in order to be worthy to be a follower we must take up our cross and follow after Jesus.  We must be willing to die for Christ.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me.

Sounds appealing right?!?!  Sign me up!!!  Philippians 1:29 says, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."  Everyone wants the good parts of being a Christian, but we see there are some hard parts to being a Christian too.  In order to be a disciple of Christ, you must be willing to suffer for Him.  This could be anything small such as being unfriended on Facebook because of your beliefs, to something more difficult such as suffering in a job or public ridicule and mockery and more.

There is is a cost to following Jesus, but is the cost worth it?  Even if I am hated, betrayed, or killed my answer is an emphatic YES!  There is a cost but what is the reward?  Too much to write!!  Salvation, forgiveness of sins, peace, inexpressible joy, gift of the Holy Spirit to teach, guide, and convict us, and an eternal inheritance.  If I were to make a pro and con list on whether or not to be a follower of Christ, although there are some cons, the pros completely outweigh the negatives.

I adore this song by Rend Collective that describes this beautifully.  Here is the link to the song...The Cost by Rend Collective

I'm saying yes to You and no to my desires.  
I'll leave myself behind and follow You.

I'll walk the narrow road 'cause it leads me to You
I'll fall but grace will pick me up again.

I've counted up the cost, Oh, I've counted up the cost
Yes, I've counted up the cost and You are worth it.

I do not need safety as much as I need You
You're dangerous but Lord You're beautiful

I'll chase You through the pain, I'll carry my cross
'cause real love is not afraid to bleed.

Jesus take my all, take my everything
I've counted up the cost and You're worth everything




I'd like to ask if you're a true follower, a true disciple.  Are you willing to give up everything and follow Him, because that is the requirement.  If you're not willing, then perhaps you're not a true follower.  I've had to ask myself the same question.  He is so worth it.  There is nothing in this world that can satisfy.











2.21.2015

Downton Abbey Party

A few days before Christmas I was browsing Pinterest, and I saw a few pins about a Downton Abbey party.  I love the show and I know that several of my friends watch it so I thought it would be fun to dress up and have a party.  We have lots of parties for our kids, but it would be nice to have one for moms occasionally:) I mentioned the idea to Landon and he looked at me like, "Are you serious?"  He wasn't thrilled about it, but I'm thankful he will go along with my madness most of the time.

I wasn't sure exactly who all watched it so I sent random text messages that said, "Do you watch Downton Abbey?"  It was an odd question for most and completely out of the blue, but I wanted people who had seen the show to come.  It wouldn't be as fun if they were clueless about the show.

I found lots of treasures at Goodwill for the party.  I got the mugs for .50 each and the saucers for .25 each.
I painted their names with an oil based paint pen so it would be dishwasher safe.  (Yes, I know that proper nouns are supposed to be capitalized.  I read a comment about that from some pictures that were posted.  haha)
Lots of tea choices.  I know nothing about tea.  I had to ask for help. 

Everyone pitched in with some English food choices.  
Jamie's beautiful serving dishes from her grandmother made it look fancy.

I adore how these turned out!!  The idea was found here.
Ashley Brandes made the scones.  That was a little intimidating.  She has made them before and has also been to England, so she was the most qualified:)

I loved everyone's attire!

I found all the candelabras from Goodwill as well.  I spray painted them all to coordinate.  It was a cheap decoration.


Since I was having a party on a Sunday night, I felt guilty.   So we read some Scripture together and had a devotional.  

There is a great deal of fascination about the classes from this show.  It makes it appear so wonderful and elite.  The truth is that very few people actually belonged to the upper class.  In all likelihood if I were there and living in this era, I'd be a maid instead.  But according to what Christ has done for us all on the cross, as a believer in Him,  I am royalty.  

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nationa people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."  1 Peter 2:9-10

I also read another scripture from James about not showing favoritism.  This show is filled with this.  Even though she is a beloved character, the Dowager Countess of Grantham often looks down on people because they are middle class.  She doesn't want herself or her family to be associated with some people because of their class. 

I have often laughed at her attitude, but can we not have this same kind as well?  I see it happen regularly, and I have been guilty myself.  I was reminded of a very convicting passage from James...

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude ofpersonal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this worldto be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."  James 2:1-9

We played a trivia game.  Lori and Christina tied.  They were good!!


Tea Time!
Gretchen loves tea!

I feel certain Julie was saying, "SHUT UP!"  haha.  It's a common thing to hear her say and that's what it looks like anyway:)

Rebecca came over early and fixed my hair.

Rebecca also made these amazing raspberry thumbprint cookies.  I ate a ridiculous amount of them.  They were so GOOD!  Leanne fixed my tea for me because I didn't know how.  Who knew?  I love tea!!!!  I've never had hot tea that I liked.  This was Earl Gray with sugar, honey, and a little milk.  Delish.


These were made with tiles with Downton artwork decoupaged on them.  The girls got to pick them out in order of the amount of questions they got correct from the trivia questions.  Julie didn't do so well and was moaning that she was going to get stuck with the O'Brien one.  haha.  






2.19.2015

Logan's 11th Birthday

For Logan's birthday this year we took him and a group of friends to Jump Jam, a trampoline park, in Knoxville, TN.  His birthday is in the middle of December which is a really busy time of the year to plan a party.  So, we decided to have his party after Christmas.  He didn't want to wait, but it ended up working out the best and it gave him something to look forward to after Christmas.  None of the boys had been here before so it made it even more exciting!



It's a little challenging to get a group picture on a trampoline.  I'm glad I snapped quickly because it turned to this in just a few seconds...

The boys love the basketball goal on their trampoline.  I knew they would love this one!

Jumping into the foam pit!
Lucas blends in!


Obstacle Course:
I love Riley's face in this one!



They camped out in this spot for a while.  They wanted to try and touch the ball hanging from the ceiling.  Cameron didn't have trouble with it because he is so tall!  Logan and Bray were determined to touch it.  They tried and tried until they both did it!  It was funny to watch their persistence and dedication.  
Look at Colby.  haha


Dodge Ball!!
I think Landon got a little too much enjoyment in pegging kids with the dodge ball.  :)
Two hours of jumping made for a group of sweaty and hungry boys!

MELLOW MUSHROOM!!