Saturday, December 8, 2012

Praise, Praise to the Father

Those five words remind me of one of the best weeks I ever had, the week we went to Family Camp in Oregon.  Every day before meals we sang a prayer:

Praise, praise to the Father
Praise, praise to the Son
Praise, praise to the Spirit
All praise to the three in one

Bless each of our families
Bless this food we eat
May we be a blessing
To all that we meet

Amen.

It was such a sweet way to give all the glory and honor to God before each time we ate.  As we enter the Christmas season, I want to remember to praise God in everything I do.  So, this Christmas season, I will be posting  my praises to God and my thankfulness for what he has done for me.  I hope that this will encourage you and remind you of how great and powerful our God is.

Praise, Praise #1
God, I praise you for your work in my little sister Sunshine's life.  She has had lots of the struggles in the last three years, but I see your power and strength in the way you have turned her life around.  I am filled with such joy to see her obeying you and enjoying life.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Like little children

"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
- Matthew 10:25-26

Every Tuesday night, I see this verse in action.  I lead a group of three and four-year-olds in my church's AWANA Cubbies program.  We go through song time, crafts, snack, verse time, games, and story.  The kids have a blast, and it makes my day to see their happy little faces.

More than that, though, I am incredibly amazed by the faith of these kiddos. Last week, out of the eleven kids in our room, we had seven who wanted to pray for snack.  It makes my heart full of joy when I hear one little girl thank God for her entire family and then thank Jesus because He's her "favorite one in the whole wide world."  Or to hear another thank Jesus that she gets to "come to Cubbies and learn about God."

I praise God for how he has revealed himself to these kids.  They sing to God with all their hearts and recite His word happily.

I have even seen quiet little ones who wouldn't participate in anything become leaders among the other kids and teach the younger ones to sing the songs and play the games.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said
"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

A little child doesn't worry about denominations, legalism, or predestination.   It is simply this:

"Jesus died on the cross to take away our yucky sin."

Trying

Sometime it seems like all I'm doing.

Trying to finish a paper before it's due tomorrow.
Trying figure out the very last part of a piano piece.
Trying to study for two tests at the same time.
Trying to be patient when my sibling interrupts my train of thought for the third time in a row.
Trying to think of something worthwhile to say so that I can update my blog.
And trying to see how God fits into it all.

The last one is the hardest.  It is hard for me to focus and to take the time to pray when I would rather just go to sleep or to spend ten minutes reading His word when I would rather email a friend.

With the rest of the things I try to do, I think I can handle it.  I can spend hours studying, I can cram in my memorization, I can even bite my tongue and control my anger.  I can do that.

Then again, maybe I can't

Unless God is constantly there, in the center of my heart, it is all futile.  Honestly, what does an A in English mean when compared to knowing our Savior?

If my life gets crazy and seems out of control, He shows me His view of the bigger picture, and my issues suddenly become much smaller.

I've learned lately that my relationship with God isn't one-sided. He doesn't automatically give me peace and fulfillment.  It is only when I seek after him and follow his ways that I am given the joy that comes from following Christ.

Blessings 1-5
1. Love.  From so many people, in so many ways, and most of all from my Lord Jesus Christ
2. The opportunity to serve with little children and to see their faith.
3. An umbrella (Not very spiritual, but soooo nice to have at school)
4.  Friendships.  Past, present, and in the making.
5. The miracle of adoption

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friend of Sinners



Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away 
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing 
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see 
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me 
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded 
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided 

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, 
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers 
Let our hearts be led by mercy 
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors 
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours 

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand 
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands 
Help us to remember we are all the least of these 
Let the memory of Your mercy bring your people to their knees 

Nobody knows what we're for only against when we judge the wounded 
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did 

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, 
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers 
Let our hearts be led by mercy 
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors 
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours 

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast 
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came 
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast 
But you died for sinners just like me a grateful leper at Your feet 

'Cause You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever 
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever 
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever 
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever 


I have spent a lot of time pondering this song by Casting Crowns.  Every word of it is so true.  It is so easy for me to just judge an unbeliever; it is more difficult to reach out in love.  Jesus didn't attract crowds of people because he was constantly judging them.  No, he reached out in love first, and then gently showed them what they were doing wrong. He alone had the right to judge them, but he didn't do it.  

Meanwhile, the Pharisees were constantly judging people, and judging Jesus because of the people he hung out with.  Two thousand years later, we Christians can tend to act more like the Pharisees than like Jesus.  

It IS easier to "stay out of it" or to avoid people who we're not comfortable with.  But God didn't call us to something easy; rather, He calls us to something glorious.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Content


You can have money, and cool friends, a ring on your left hand
But it's never gonna be enough, if you don't have love
You don't have love
You can have a fast car, a mansion, and everyone's attention
But it's never gonna be enough, if you don't have love
You don't have love, you don't have love

I heard this song on the radio today and I realized how true it really is.  The message is so simple, and yet so powerful.  We can have everything that we think we need.  We can even have everything that we want, but if we are not fully content in the love of God, we will never be happy.  

I love Philippians 4:12-13,

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

It should be announced everywhere.  We know the secret of being content!  We know the way to have joy even in the darkest of circumstances!  It is the reason why the poorest man in the world can be more joyful than the richest.  

And what is the secret? "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  That is so good to hear. I don't have to do it on my own.  He gives me strength to push through when I don't think I can.  He gives me the self-control to be kind when a sibling is getting on my last nerve.  He gives me forgiveness when I make mistakes over and over again.

What a mighty God we serve!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Better

Last week I was at Disneyland.  Yep, the happiest place on earth, as it's called.  I had a blast spending time with my family and enjoying the parks.  One night, we saw a show called "World of Color" at California Adventure Park.  It was absolutely incredible.  Streams of water colored by light shot into the air, while sheets of water formed projection screens in the background.

While watching this, my thoughts kept going back to how amazing God is.  At the time, I thought it was strange that a water performance of "Under the Sea" brought God to my mind.

That night, my mom got a call that my Great-grandpa had died. He died only a few minutes before the show began.  We had heard a few days before that he was sick, but we never expected it to be so sudden.  He lived a very long life and loved Jesus with all his heart, but it was still hard.   It was especially hard to be so happy and so sad all at the same time.

Later that night, I realized why my mind kept coming back to God during the show. I was watching one of the most spectacular displays of human ingenuity.  Technology and beauty came together in an incredible way. Still, that was only what man had to offer.  While I was watching a earthly presentation down here, I can only wonder what my great-grandpa was watching up in heaven at the exact same time.  If I saw the beauty of what man can do, the shows that God puts on up there must be far greater.

I love the song that says,

Better is one day in your courts
Better is one day in your house
Better is one day in your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

We are sad that our great-grandpa has left us, because we will miss him a lot.  But we are happy for him, because he has gone to someplace far better than any place on earth.

Friday, August 24, 2012

His Hands

So I don't know about you, but whenever I'm sad or upset, worship songs really help me.  Singing songs and hymns reminds me of the truth and helps me relax.

During a time when I was sad and had to surrender to God, there was one song that I kept singing over and over, but I could only remember part of it.  This is what it was:

I trust in you
I trust in you

I believe that you're my healer
I believe that you are all I need
I believe that you're my portion
I believe you're more than enough for me
Jesus, you're all I need

This song spoke to my heart in the moment.  It helped me come to a place where I understood that Jesus is really all I need.

The other night, I was singing this song again, not because I was upset or anything, but just because I was remembering the goodness of God.  Thinking about singing that song in church, I was suddenly reminded of the part I had forgotten:

Nothing is impossible for you
Nothing is impossible for you
Nothing is impossible for you
You hold my world in your hands

This made me cry.  In the original situation, I was struggling because it seemed impossible to me.  It was out of my hands.  But that doesn't matter, because I serve a big God who holds my entire world.  He is all I need. In fact, He is more than enough.  I am amazed that the God who created the universe would care about my little problems.  He truly is an awesome God.

The song is "Healer" by Hillsong if you want to look it up.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The attention level of a three year old.

So today I spent some time playing with my three year old cousin.  (To see pictures of her her when she was one click here.)  While I hung out with her, I was reminded of how short the attention span of a little kid is.

Example:

"Do you want to play on the swings?"

"Sure! Let's go!"

2 minutes later she says...

"All done now. Can we play on the teeter-totter?"

You get the picture. But, even thought she would only play the other toys for about a minute, there was one thing she really wanted to do, the trampoline.  At the time, some other kids were on it, so she had to wait.  Every time we finished playing with something else, she asked for the trampoline.  When she finally got on, she had a blast and wanted to stay on for a really long time.

That surprised me.  Since she had such a short attention span about the other things, why did she like the trampoline so much?  She knew what she wanted, and she really worked to get it.  (I mean, how many times can you ask for something in the space of ten minutes?)

I can be like a three year old at times.  My mind and my focus want to jump from activity to activity or from event to event.  I have to push to stay focused and have a long attention span for the things that are important.

But what about those things that I really want?  What about those things that I work for?  Am I pushing hard after the things of God, or am I working really hard to get to jump on a trampoline?  It was another good wake-up call to remember to evaluate everything I do in light of eternity.

To end this post on a happy note, let me show you a few pictures of my cousin at her "big kid" age of three years.
 

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm an Israelite.


Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

-Numbers 14:1-4

One of our new pastors at church preached about this on Sunday.  He talked about how the Israelites had forgotten where they came from.  In this passage, they were crying because they were afraid to enter the promised land.  They told themselves that the people in the land were too big, that it wasn't worth it.  Quite simply, they were saying that God didn't know what he was doing.  

Reading this, I can get pretty frustrated with the people's attitudes.  Yes, it seems like a big job, but God just freed you from the most powerful nation on earth!  The ruler of that nation gave up when faced with the mighty power of the Lord.  How can they say such a thing?  

Then it hit me.  I'm an Israelite.  Many times, including two specific times this summer, I have said very similar things to God.  I asked, "Why did God bring me here, only to have me fail?  or  Why did God bring them into my life only to take them away again?"  In my small, human view of things, sometimes I questioned Him, asking if it would have been better for me not to have gone.  Would it have been better not to have met them?  

Just like the Israelites, I forgot how great God is.  While He saved them from the Egyptians, He saved me from death.  While He freed them from slavery, He freed me from sin.  I can imagine God shaking His head when we ask these questions.  So often I forget that I can only see a tiny piece of the big picture, while He can see it all.  

It all comes down to trust.  Do I really trust Him?  
I would answer in the words of  Mark 9:24:

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

Of teeth and sin.


Today I have a confession to make.  When I was little I had a habit.  No, maybe a bad habit. No, maybe a really bad habit.

I would forget to brush my teeth.  Yeah, I know. But as a little girl I just didn't remember.  I would forget until my mom told me I needed to.  Thankfully, I don't have that habit anymore, because I started to notice.  I noticed that when I forgot, my teeth didn't feel clean, and I wanted to brush my teeth as soon as I could.  I hate having teeth that aren't clean.  


My Youth Pastor was speaking on James once, and he talked about how we are supposed to hate sin, but love the sinner. I realized that sin should be like dirty teeth. I should hate the feeling of it.  When I speak to someone with a disrespectful tone, my first response should be to apologize to the person right away.  


Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to hate other people's sin than to hate our own.  It is easy to look at my brother's rude attitude and say that I hate sin, but do I feel the same way about the pride that is continually creeping into my own heart?  

Loving the sinner is also hard.  When someone is being unkind to me, I can't love them on my own strength. I have to use God's strength.  I remember a time when a person did something mean simply to get a reaction out of me.  I wanted to give them a piece of my mind, but I could hear the Holy Spirit inside me telling me to turn the other cheek.   Because I did not strike back in anger, they stopped being mean and were kind to me for the rest of the trip.

Hate the sin and the love the sinner? Seems like an impossible command.  But we can remember that what is impossible with man is possible with God.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hearts

Riches I heed not nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art

For those of you who don't know, this is the third verse to Be Thou my Vision. We sang this song at family camp, and this verse in particular touched me, especially the third line.  

First in my heart. Always. No ifs, ands, or buts.  He needs to be first.

At first, this might seem kind of easy.  I mean, we already accepted Jesus into our hearts, so obviously He is first.  I have learned that keeping God first is not a one time decision.  It is daily.  Every single morning, I have to purpose to put God first in everything I do.  I have to purpose to listen to His voice.  Otherwise, it is very easy for other things to slip in unnoticed.  

The hardest part is that the things that slip in are not always bad things.  I can get distracted by schoolwork, fellowship with believers, or even ministry.  The problem is when those things become more important than my relationship with God.  I have to fight against this constantly.

What's cool though, is that God knows how easily we get distracted.  He says to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." If it were easy to stay focused on God, why would strength be in there?  God is telling us that we need to constantly be redirected our focus and strength to building a relationship with Him.  

I have been closer to God this summer than I ever have before.  It was an amazing thing last week when I realized that I am more comfortable talking to God than anyone else.  It is incredible to realize that I can call on the Creator of the universe at any time and He is ready to listen.  

But it wasn't easy.  I learned some hard lessons about trust and obedience.  At several times, I asked God why.  I told Him that I didn't understand what was happening.  Because of the lessons I learned, I know that I can trust Him, and that He is more than enough for me.  This last week, there was a situation where I had to let go and trust God.  I still don't know what will happen, but I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and that He is in control.  

In the words of another famous hymn:
Here's my heart, Lord.  Take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.

He has my heart.  I want it to stay that way

Your Last

Am I truly thankful?  Do I really understand the gift of it all?
Yes, I thank God for my daily bread, and I praise him for his blessings, but do I truly live out my thanks?

The real question: Do I live every day as a precious gift from God?  Do I treat every hour as if it were my last?
My answer: Not really.

But the hard part of it is, how do I turn this around?  What is the right way to spend each minute?  How would I know?
I found my answer as I was reading Matthew this week.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
-Matthew 6:33

That is where true joy can be found.  To follow and seek after God in every circumstance.  To listen to his voice to know what He wants me to do.

I have spent some time lately evaluating my actions.  If today were my last, would I respond differently to my sister?  Would I reach out to the person who seems to have no friends?  Would I let trivial things consume my thoughts?

We don't know when God will take us from this life.  I don't know if I will have one more year, or eighty.  God has each of us on this earth for a purpose. Whenever He calls me home, I want to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."  I want to know that I used my time on this earth to bring glory to his name.

So I ask you, Will you live every day as if it were your last?
I'm sure going to try.



Monday, June 25, 2012

Top 15 Bible Quizzing Verses

This year I have spent a vast amount of time studying Hebrews and 1 and 2 Peter.  During this time, I found some amazing verses that shared God's love and promises. Here they are!

15. Hebrews 3:12-13
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

14. 2 Peter 1:10-11
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

13. Hebrews 9:15
 For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

12. 2 Peter 3:8-9
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you , not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

11. Hebrews 7:24-25
But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for him.

10. Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

9. 1 Peter 5:10
And the God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

8. 1 Peter 1:18-19
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

7. 1 Peter 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

6. 1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

5. 1 Peter 4:12-13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

4. Hebrews 10:23-24
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

3. 1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

2. Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

1. Hebrews 13:20-21
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant  brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever, Amen!



Friday, March 2, 2012

What percent are you?

Now to the two people who still read my blog, I want to apologize for not having blogged in almost three months.  I also want to tell you why.


If you have read the posts on my blog, you will hopefully see that I prefer to write about who God is and what he has done in my life.  For the last few months, I haven't written because, I haven't been feeling him.  I was still reading my Bible and doing the things I am supposed to do, but I didn't feel his hand on me.  I didn't feel close to Him.


That changed this week.


This last week, I attended an organization called TeenPact at the state capitol. If you click on the word it will take you to the website.  TeenPact is and incredible organization that teaches students about government while challenging them to know God and pursue him better.  I was really excited, as this was my third year attending.  We had awesome worship and our guest speaker gave some really good talks on David and how to have a heart like his. One the last night at the camp, our guest speaker gave an convicting talk on "Subtle Substitutes for Seeking God" We went over different things that can seem like seeking God, but really aren't.  At the end, he had a girl from my cabin who had accepted Christ earlier in the week come up and give her testimony.  Her life was changed the minute she gave her life to Christ.  We could all see it in her, and she communicated this in a powerful way to the whole group.  After she spoke, our guest speaker had one of the staff sing, and asked any one who wanted to become a Christian to stand up during the song.  He also said that if anyone wanted to give their whole self to Jesus, to make him our "Personal Priority Relationship" to stand up as well.


All I can say is that it was incredible.  We had 10 people accept Christ for the very first time, and almost all the rest of us re-dedicated our lives to Christ.  I was one of those.  You could feel the presence of God in the room.  We broke into groups and were weeping and praying and pouring our hearts out to God.  The worship team kept singing, and the songs were perfect.  They fit the cry of all our hearts, and we all sang together, lifting up our hearts to God.  We all committed to give God 100% of our lives and hearts.  Not 95%, not 98%, not 99.9%, but 100%.  Through coming together in our love for God, we were instantly a family.  People were hugging each other and crying together.  It was what the body of Christ should be.  


Obviously, that was a huge spiritual and emotional moment for everyone involved.  But something like that doesn't have to happen for you to give yourself 100% to God.  So I ask you, what percent are you?  I have got to tell you, I have lived at 95% for quite a while.  It doesn't work.  If you are 95% God's, 5% of you belongs to something else.  Nothing can fulfill you like God can.  No one can satisfy you like he can.  


One thing our guest speaker said really hit me hard.  He said, "Sometimes it is the good things that keep us from God's best things."  Wow.  That is so true.  Things like wanting to do well in school, thinking about how I can help my friends, and even wanting to do well at Bible Quizzing can distract me from my focus.  Serving God is not the same as seeking him.  


Lately, I have felt so full of joy and peace.  This morning while unpacking, I listened to a worship CD and poured out my heart to him all over again.  He IS present.  We just have to seek him.  I love one thing my pastor said, "God can never be more than an arm's length away." He doesn't walk away from us, rather, we push him back.


When we were nearing the end of what I call "The Teenpact Revival," someone would shout out, "God is so awesome!"  And we would respond with shouts and cries of joy. 


Why shouldn't we?  Yes, life is hard.  I have experienced just a taste of it.  But we serve a faithful God!  He never lets go, he never fails, he never stops!  He is always there!  Why shouldn't we be filled with hope and joy?  One song that I love has a chorus that reads as follows,


Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me



That is our promise, along with "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  


So this is my story.  I want my life to be changed from now on.  I want to be wholly surrendered to God in everything.  


What about you?


Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21