Monday, 23 December 2013

See Amid the Winter's Snow


See amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See, the gentle Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Refrain:
Hail that ever blessèd morn,
Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He Who built the starry skies;
He Who, thronèd in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Say, you holy shepherds, say,
Tell your joyful news today.
Why have you now left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing ‘Peace on earth’
Told us of the Savior’s birth.”

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

     May God fill your hearts with joy this Christmas.



Sunday, 15 December 2013

Developing in the Dark

Do you know what happens to a roll of film when it is exposed to light? It's completely ruined. Once the light strikes it there is no going back.

Today I learned that faith, like film, develops in the dark.

81/365 Mar 22, 2011 by becca.peterson26
81/365 Mar 22, 2011, a photo by becca.peterson26 on Flickr.
I heard a message from Sue Gilmore, a woman of strong faith whom I greatly admire. She spoke on Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation, the time an angel came down to a simple girl from Nazareth and told her the mind-blowing news that she had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah. 
...God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
"Troubled" is probably an understatement. If an angel greeted me right now I might just have a panic attack. No wonder Gabriel's next words were, "Do not be afraid." He announced to the girl that she would conceive and give birth to a boy named Jesus. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

Naturally, Mary was curious as to how this was going to work. She was engaged but had never slept with a man, and was no doubt nervous about what this was going to look like.
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."
It's a well-known story, and I tend to glaze over whenever I hear it, but put yourself in that place with Mary today. How would you feel? Scared? Vulnerable? Confused? Anxious? The truth is that Mary was kept almost completely in the dark. She knew the basic facts: angel, favor, baby, Son of God. What she didn't know was the step-by-step guide to coping with an unplanned pregnancy in the kind of culture where sexual immorality could result in ostracization, or worse.

Something I had never realized about this passage until today is that this is what happens to every Christian. You won't be called on to give birth to baby Jesus, but you are called to give birth to the Spirit of Christ within you. The Holy Spirit comes to overshadow us, completely envelop us, and do what we are unable to do. This does not result in an easy life, but just the opposite. It throws us into the world's teeth, like lambs surrounded by a pack of wolves. Discipleship is a challenge, and a dangerous one.

But God knows what He is doing, and it's far more wonderful than we could ever imagine. He is the one who effects the miracle, but He waits for us to respond.
"I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled."
If God is keeping you in the dark, rest assured it's for a good reason. Your faith is putting on muscle right now; this is the place where you are meant to grow strong.

Today God is asking for our obedience. No matter your current situation, there is probably some area in your life that you hesitate to turn over to your Lord. I know there is in mine.

Will you choose to believe His promises and say "Yes" like Mary, allowing the Spirit to work in your life, or will you squelch Him and refuse to take the dangerous step of obedience?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Thanking the Lord for Shattered Dreams

There have been many times in my life when I’ve not gotten what I wanted. I’ve had many desires and longings, dreams and plans that just haven’t worked out the way I would have wished. I’d like to say I’m always trusting and full of faith that God knows what He’s doing when I’ve had those upsets and disappointments, but I can’t. However, when I lose my focus and my faith wanes, He remains faithful. Somehow, each and every time I haven’t gotten my way, I have been able to look back and say “thank you” as I see the goodness and mercy of the Lord sparing me from my own desires.

Psalm 27:14 by Sapphire Dream Photography
Psalm 27:14, a photo by Sapphire Dream Photography on Flickr.
Right after a major upset of one of my dreams, someone close to me told me, “I know you’ll look back at this and be so grateful that this didn’t work out the way you wanted. You’ll see God at work in your life sparing you from something you’d later regret. Even though it hurts now, I know you’ll be grateful for this.” At the time, I didn’t really like this comment at all. Why would I thank God for destroying my desires and dreams once again?

I can smile now as I look back. Life is hard. God is good. And I am so grateful He spared me from my desires and longings once again. It’s good to be alive and I have so much to be grateful for in my life. When I’ve been a complete mess at times, He has remained faithful. I’m testimony to His abundant, unmerited graciousness and love.

Yes, my life isn’t going the way I foresaw it, but that’s okay. I have so many opportunities, so many plans, so many new dreams. God is filling my life every day with new challenges and new ideas. He is so faithful.

In those times when I was at my darkest, when I was crying myself to sleep wondering where my life was headed, I begged God to give me joy and peace and a new dream. He has fulfilled that and filled my life with good things.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (Psalm 34:6, ESV)

I realize now that what I wanted so badly at the time was not at all what the Lord wanted for me at all. There were so many times when He was trying to gently grab my attention and show me the truth, but I stubbornly drove headlong to see my dream through. It took an unexpected jolt to make me see the light and even then, it took me awhile to admit the truth.

I can look back with regret on those times in my life when I stubbornly ignored God’s gentle promptings and instead strove to fulfill my desires. It’s easy to wallow in shame and regret, bitterness and remorse. However, if I confess my sins, He is faithful to forgive and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) He wipes my slate clean and gives me a new goal, new purpose, new desire.

Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5, ESV)

Maybe one day I’ll learn to focus on the Giver of my dreams instead of the gift. Hopefully, I’ll learn to pursue Christ as I worship Him through the gifts and dreams He has given me. He’s spared me from myself and my own selfish desires once again and I can’t be more thrilled. I know my life would have been miserable if He would have granted me the desires of my heart. Thank you, Jesus for being faithful in my life yet again!

Because of Christ, I have new beginnings, a bright future, joy in my heart, and the promise of His help every day. May I purposefully live only to His glory and not ignore His gentle guiding Hand.


“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14, ESV)

 - This guest post was written by Melinda Ruth of MelindaBlogs.com, where you'll find her original scribbles, heartfelt praise, and hopeful dreams.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

For I know the Destiny I have for You

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm You are probably very familiar with this verse. It is quoted often to us in times when we don’t know what is coming next. I know that I have heard it many times. I have often flipped to Jeremiah 29 just to read that eleventh verse. However, when I read it I always imagine it differently.

In day to day life, we are always making plans. We have calendars, day planers, and electronic organizers to keep us to the plan. Yet, our plans often change or are changed for us. Things happen, meetings are cancelled, coworkers call in sick. In short, our plans not always what happens. So when I read Jeremiah 29:11, I like to put the word a different word in place of the word plans. God’s plans for us never change. They are not like our plans that have to constantly be adjusted. God’s plans were worked out before the foundation of the world. That is why I like to use the word destiny when referring to the plans God has for us.

Your destiny is not something that changes, no matter what you do. God’s destiny for each of us is something he mapped out for us before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-8). His Destiny for us is not changeable, and it is to give us hope and a future. Next time you fill worried or discouraged about what is coming next, read Jeremiah 29:11 and replace the word plans with the word destiny.
For I know the destiny I have for you,” declares the Lord, “a destiny to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

--This guest post was written by Sarah Holman.
Sarah is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of three published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined. You can connect with her through her blog thedestinyofone.blogspot.com.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Confessions of a Failure

Do you feel safe talking about your mistakes? Is there someone you can go to who has your complete trust, and who doesn't mind knowing the worst about you?

As Christian homeschool girls, we have a lifestyle that separates us from many others. We have hiccoughs and hangups that other people just can't understand. But don't worry--we "get" you. You're in good company here.

There is power in being real and sharing our mistakes and the ways God has worked to change us. Just sifting through this blog's archives you'll find a lot of real-life issues and confessions: the truth about my idol, Jessica being forced to "adjust her sails," Rose's fear and depression, Mary Kate's struggles with getting up early, Sarah's doubts and questions about her faith. We all have our rough spots, our breakdowns, our failures, but if we stay quiet about them we'll never be able to help others through the same things. By keeping our failure to ourselves, we deny anyone else the benefit of learning from our mistakes. 

Believe it or not, God often uses the most broken part of a person to bring about the most good. The mother who aborted her child now campaigns for the right to life. The quadriplegic becomes a source of inspiration to millions. The lonely homeschool girl who never had any friends grows into a compassionate woman who constantly reaches out to others. It's happened many times before, and it can happen to you.

Even if you have always grown up in a Christian house and always considered yourself a pretty good girl, you've probably changed a lot over the years. God has smoothed sharp edges, healed wounds, and crafted you into something more beautiful, more like Jesus. I know that there are a few of those areas in my life, illuminated by a big, blinking neon sign that says "FAILURE."
  • Envy: I could write a whole blog post (or two or three or four) about looking at others and wanting what they have, i.e. artistic, musical, and theatrical talent that I lack, or a romantic relationship. I've fallen into the trap of feeling very possessive about a dear friend, and resenting people who are better than me in certain areas.  
  • Disrespect: Since I'm around my family all the time, I often treat them like they're second-class citizens. I'd never say some of the things I've said to my brother if he was just a friend and not a family member. I regret so many harsh and selfish words I've spoken to those who are nearest and dearest to me. 
  • Good-girl-ism: When you have a good reputation it's tempting to put on a mask that makes you look completely pure and blameless, hiding and therefore denying your own faults. That's called pride and hypocrisy, and it's ugly.
  • Judging: I've also fallen into the trap of condemning others who live a different way. I take one look at them, pull up the folder with their stereotype inside, and start thinking about all the negative aspects of their personality, looks, background, etc. 
Maybe you think I'm a dirty rotten scoundrel now, and shouldn't be writing for a blog like this at all. Hopefully, though, you realize that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Maybe you fall short in different ways, but we all fail. However, we know what God does with failure. Over the years He has worked on me. I haven't come full circle on all of these problems yet, but at least I know they are problems, and that's the first step.

What mistakes have you learned from, and how is God changing you?






Original Photo: 
Confessions of a broken heart, a photo by Dannyqu on Flickr.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

August 2013 Featured Girls: The Boyd Sisters

Alicia and Jharmaine are two girls on fire for the Lord! Through their blog and their passions for fitness and delicious food, these sisters are aiming to follow Jesus in every area of their lives. Let's hear a word or two from them about how God turned their lives around and made them a "new creation."

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your family like?

The Boyd Sisters are two sisters from Chicago, but we live in the Washington, D.C. area. We grew up in a fairly big household with four girls, mom, dad, and three dogs for the most part. We are two people who are sisters by blood and friends by choice that strive to put Christ’s love on display. We love to spread His love through fitness, food, blogging, scholarships, community service, or just our everyday lives. If we are a part of it, Christ is the center of it. Why? Because He loved us first!

What is your passion?

Our passion is to put Christ's love on display and make disciples. It’s impossible for us to not bring up Christ when we talk about our passion, dreams, or even desires because we find out identity in Christ. He is our reason for living and He defines how we live. Our passions consist of His purpose for our lives by using the gifts He has given to us. We love spreading the gospel through food and fitness.

Jharmaine is currently working to be a self-made chef. She has taken many cooking classes and is working with an amazing chef weekly. She has a cooking website called Get Nourishment that is actually being featured on “Curly Nikki” continually. She believes God has given us food for the heart, as David sang to the Lord in Psalms. We are to break bread with our loved ones to fellowship and build intimacy for the glory of the Lord.

Alicia loves working out and taking care of her physical health. She is currently training to be a personal and group fitness trainer. Alicia loves helping people feel good about themselves because our temple and life is a blessing from God to be used to give Him glory. She believes working on our spiritual and mental man needs to come before the physical. However, our physical is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we have to be healthy to be able to do God’s work and fulfill His purpose!

You and your sister have a blog that's all about "old self, new creation." What does that mean?

When we took the time to read the New Testament and learn about Jesus Christ, we started to realize that Jesus wants the heart. Jesus Christ is not concerned about our works, but our heart. Once He changes our heart, all those other things will follow. That is exactly what happened with us. We searched God for ourselves and realized how broken we were. It is so easy to get wrapped up in this world. To think like the world, do what the world does, and to promote the world. When you learn about Christ and His journey of servitude, you learn that He wants your heart. We gave it to Him. We constantly ask him to wreck our heart and make it like His. During our journey with Christ, he has shown us how unforgiving, prideful, selfish, and greedy (the list goes on) we really were. With every layer He pulled and continues to pull back that is not like Him, we have come to realize that we weren't Christians. We were Christian Atheists--believing in God, but living as if He didn't exist. We asked God to make us over. In Paul’s letters to the church, he teaches us that when we learn and choose Christ we are no longer our former selves. We are to put off our old selves and be renewed in our mind and spirit. Then we are to put on our new selves that are created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24. This is what being a true Follower of Christ is all about: becoming new in mind and spirit.

Jesus Christ came down here on earth to die for us so that we may live as a new creation in Him. He sacrificed His life for us and we know in our hearts and in His word that He deserves the same thing. We are to die to this world and our selfish desires. We are to live for Christ, bold and unashamed. When we choose to live for Christ, that person who craves to live for the world starts to die. He gives you a new heart and your desires change from your own to His desires for you. You care more about being obedient than making your flesh happy and this world. We let go of our old self and became a new creation.

Do you have a story about how you became a "new creation"?

Honestly, that is our entire blog! We have posted about how we learned to become forgiving sinners (click here), stop punishing people for hurting us instead choosing to love them (click here), stop using harsh words (click here), checking the idols we can easily worship without realizing it (clickhere), realizing how our sinful actions harm the body of Christ (click here), and so much more!

Who is your favorite artist (could be a musician, painter, photographer, writer, etc.)?

It is so hard for us to choose one, so we'll name a few. :) In the music realm, we love Andy Mineo, S.O., Trip Lee, Chris Tomlin, Marvin Sapp. This goes on if you're praising God. We try to choose to follow artists that are staying biblical, challenging us to be more bold with Christ, and keeping the focus on Christ and not us (i.e. prosperity movement). We love it!

As for writers, we love Gary Chapman and Francis Chan. They challenge us to put Christ’s love on display and not live for the world, but God.

Thank you for joining us, girls! 

Head over to The Boyd Sisters' blog to hear more of what they have to say.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What is under your tent?

What are you willing to sacrifice for? Where do you go first when you're in need? What makes you jealous? What do you think/talk about most? What can't you give up? 


This is your idol. 

Where to Find Fulfillment?


When I took my trip to Britain I had all kinds of expectations, many of which were met. I had amazing experiences that took my breath away and made me giddy with happiness. Nevertheless. After only a few hours I had the terrible realization that something wasn't quite complete. As I went through the rest of my trip I grew familiar with the sensation that I couldn't fully appreciate whatever it was that I was seeing (the Parthenon Marbles, the unique copy of Beowulf, the real-life Pemberley, etc.). I did think them magnificent, but at the same time there was a nagging feeling that I couldn't get as much enjoyment out of them as I thought I should. Have you ever had that feeling when seeing something you expected to be impressed by?


Buried Treasure by Evil Cheese Scientist
Buried Treasure, a photo by Evil Cheese Scientist on Flickr.

Under the Ban

While at Capernwray Bible School I heard a message from a man named Peter Reid about the Israelite's defeat at Ai in Joshua chapter 7. To be honest, this isn't a Bible story that we hear very often (not quite as dramatic as Noah and the Ark or exciting as the lion's den). But the message hit me right between the eyes.

Before Jericho was destroyed, God commanded His people to take no spoils for themselves but to dedicate them to Him. This wasn't being petty or selfish, it was setting aside the "firstfruits" of battle for His glory. These things were put "under the ban" to establish who was responsible for bringing Israel into Canaan. After Jericho they were allowed to keep 100% of the spoils. What a great deal!

But Achan became impatient.

This man coveted "a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight." He hid them under his tent. These things that God had claimed for his own, these things which were under the ban, became his idols.

My Idols

An idol is anything that you love more than God. It might not look like sin, but if it's a product of lust and not trust then that's exactly what it is

Those questions above, how would you answer them? For me during school it was a certain relationship. In general I am fine with the single girl's life. I love my independence and don't really fancy a boyfriend, or husband or anything like that. But every now and then...you know how it goes. You see people splitting off into couples, you start to feel left out, you get lonely, and then you ask God why you don't have that

Maybe it's something different for you—the freedom to travel, enough money to buy what you want, a less dysfunctional family, more friends—and you're even willing to sin to get it. You covet what is under the ban, and you've got something sparkly under your tent.

The Secret of Fulfillment

I have discovered the secret. It's not something you've never heard before, in fact I can almost guarantee that you know exactly what I'm going to write. However, application is a whole different ballgame. James 1:17, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." God gives good things, and without him no good thing is good (tweetable, eh?). He has been telling me to concentrate wholly on Him. I can't get the most out of life if I'm longing for this thing or that person—I've got to be 100% committed to Him or none of that is going to satisfy me.

If I'm seeking fulfillment and happiness in anything but Christ—whether it be a feeling, an experience, a person, an item—then I am coveting something under the ban, and it will never, ever, ever work.

Speaking from personal experience, I know that it is only when I give thanks to God for the good things around me that I truly appreciate them. I was feeling discontented with my trip to Britain because I felt that it should be that important. I longed for a special relationship because I thought it would be that good. Only when I stepped back and realized that I was searching for joy and satisfaction in something apart from my Heavenly Father could I understand why they didn't fill the hole in my heart. When I stop holding the people and experiences in my life to such a high standard and instead concentrate solely on God, I actually appreciate the other things much more.


What About You?

Are you focusing on something thinking it will bring you pleasure, and growing impatient instead of trusting God to give you good things? Having true faith means that Jesus is sufficient for you, and you operate out of trust, not lust. Listen to what A.W. Tozer had to say about this:
When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies our great woe. If we omit the "and" we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.
"...(H)e who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). When you seek the Kingdom first, you get the rest of the world thrown in.

Here is A.W. Tozer's prayer, one that would be good for us to repeat:

"O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long."


More than Enough

Last but not least, here is a song that perfectly encapsulates what I've been learning and writing about. Let these words from "Enough" by Christ Tomlin sink in and repeat in your mind throughout the day:

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love

And all I have in You is more than enough....


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