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A birthday behind bars

saeed1Bread and cheese for breakfast. Rice and soy sauce for dinner. Everyday. Not much sustenance but it’s something. Those aren’t meals I would choose and they aren’t meals Saeed Abedini would prefer, I’m sure. But it’s what is being offered to him in prison as he serves a sentence imposed by the Iranian government. And today, May 7, on his birthday, he won’t get the added bonus of a buttercream cake or a chocolate cupcake. This day is just like all the others that he’s spent behind bars. Except this year, the National Day of Prayer falls on his birthday and on mine. Pastor Saeed is 35 today and I’m 36. A few days ago I mentioned to my daughter that I was getting old because 36 just sounds old…or at least older. I don’t exactly feel 36 but then again I’m not sure what 36 should feel like. Yet, I have the chance today on my birthday to celebrate with my family, to enjoy meals with them, to go to the bookstore, to drink vanilla chai tea. All of the daily pleasures that Pastor Saeed hasn’t enjoyed for the past three years and that he won’t enjoy on his birthday. Can you imagine a birthday behind bars? You can read more about his days in prison here.

So, thankfully, Saeed has been able to write letters from prison and wrote a powerful message for this National Day of Prayer encouraging Christians to remember his chains and to cry out to God for revival in this country. My prayer today, as it has been daily, is for his release and for the release of other believers behind bars, that God would return Saeed to his family when his work in that dark prison is done. My prayer is also for the release from bondage for those who are in a different type of prison cell. The binding chains of sin that can be undone by belief in Jesus alone; the bondage of addiction to substances or performance or relationships; the poison of unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Not to fulfill our own desires (which I’m often guilty of doing) but the freedom to live for Him first and for others second. And that’s the one thing that Pastor Saeed has that no Iranian official or prison guard can take from him – his freedom in Christ. He has the freedom to not fear, the freedom to not worry, the freedom to not get even or seek revenge. He has the freedom to be joyful in the midst of pain, the freedom to be loving in the midst of evil and the freedom to be bold in the midst of trouble. He has this freedom because he knows Jesus Christ. Just like the Lord God was with Joseph when he was put in prison, the Lord God is now with Pastor Saeed in his prison cell. And He cannot be taken from Saeed.

For the past few years on my birthday, I’ve chosen to start reading, meditating upon and sometimes memorizing the psalm that matches my age. So, this year, it’s Psalm 36 and it’s ideal for me as I’ve been focusing on the character of God. David wrote the psalm beginning with the wickedness of the ungodly, how he doesn’t fear God and has ceased to do good. In contract, the Lord is righteous and faithful and loving. The Lord is a refuge to His children and the giver of all good gifts. If Saeed were to do the same and pick a psalm based on his age, his would be Psalm 35 (mine last year) and it’s titled, “Prayer for Rescue from Enemies.” Some of it is below…

Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue my soul from their ravages,
My only life from the lions.
I will give You thanks in the great congregation;
I will praise You among a mighty throng.
Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me;
Nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously.
For they do not speak peace,
But they devise deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land.
They opened their mouth wide against me;
They said, “Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it!”
You have seen it, O Lord, do not keep silent;
O Lord, do not be far from me.
Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right
And to my cause, my God and my Lord.
Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness,
And do not let them rejoice over me.

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Pastor Saeed is greatly blessed!

Instead of blogging…

rosesI’m not sure why I can’t find or make time to blog. Wish I could say I’m stopping to smell the roses but most days seem chaotic at home with my kiddos. So, blogging just hasn’t been happening. When I checked in here and realized it had been three months since I blogged, I thought about what I’ve been doing instead of blogging. Aside from daily chores and schoolwork and colds and coughs (which lasted way too long), we’ve had some fun times and made some good memories. This is where all the pics on my phone came in handy…visual reminders of what I’ve been doing these past three months. Instead of blogging, we’ve been…

Celebrating my brother’s wedding! The kids had a super fun time and asked when they can go to another wedding :) Family from out of town came for the wedding and it was great hanging out with everyone again. And just a week after my brother’s wedding, we celebrated our baby’s 1st birthday! She is on the move all the time now and does her best to keep up with her big brother and sister. They love her and she loves them so it’s been working out well :) She also enjoyed her first visit to the zoo. The warm weather has brought out all the bugs so we’ve been trying to catch them on our daily walks around the neighborhood, keeping track of the different trees and flowers and animals we see. Baseball is also in full swing and it’s our son’s second season. He has a good time playing and this year has his dad as an assistant coach. Most of our days are spent reading and playing and teaching and training and fighting and forgiving and loving and learning. We’re nearing the end of our countries and cultures curriculum and just finished reading through the Gospel of Matthew. Now, we’re on to a bible study of the New Testament book of James before heading into ancient civilizations and Genesis early next year. Summer is nearly here and we’re looking forward to library visits, pool time and ice pops :) And maybe a few more frequent blog updates if I can scheduled them. Just thankful that I do make time for photos…

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babysleepingEvery night before I put our baby in her crib to sleep, I rock her and sing “Jesus Loves Me” as part of our bedtime routine. It’s the simplest of songs that I think every child growing up in a Christian home learns to sing. I was actually surprised to find it in the hymn collection, Then Sings My Soul, since I hadn’t really considered it a great hymn of the ages. Yet, the history behind the song is interesting and actually began as lullaby in a fictional story written by Anna Bartlett Warner and her sister Susan Warner. Longtime New Yorkers, the Warner sisters began writing stories and poems to help bring in money for their family after a financial crisis. In their later years, they ended up teaching Bible studies for cadets at the United State Military Academy – West Point. While Jesus Loves Me is considered one of the most popular hymns, here are the first few lyrics for anyone unfamiliar with it:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

So, the other night, after I sang the song for, by now, at least 300 times if not more (with my 10-month-old being more than 270 days old and I’ve sung the song with my older kids), one line stood out more than usual:

For the Bible tells me so.

Nothing really spectacular when you read that but after going through several Bible studies with Pam Forster of Doorposts, I’ve learned to pick up on key words and ‘for’ is one of them. The word ‘for’ usually gives a reason or evidence of something and can be synonymous with the words ‘because’ and ‘why.’ You need to look at the phrase before ‘for’ and after. In this case, “Jesus loves me this I know” is the phrase before ‘for.’ Therefore, the ‘for’ in this phrase is telling us the reason I know Jesus loves me is because (or for) the Bible tells me so. That’s how I know.

bugreadingAnother tip of Pam’s – while reading put emphasis upon each individual word of a line of Scripture or verse. Well, the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me” aren’t Scripture but principle can be used. And so I did just that once this line began bulging in my mind: For the Bible tells me so. The Bible I have at home, the Bible that is available online and has been translated into hundreds of languages, the Bible that people have tried to destroy in other countries and cultures but can’t. For the Bible tells me so. It actually tells me? It speaks to me? Yes – the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is the very words from the Lord’s mouth (Proverbs 30:5-6). More than that, the Bible is the Lord’s message of love to His lost children – which was me before Christ! – spoken through His only begotten Son.

The Bible tells me so. What does it mean to ‘say so?’ We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Because I said so,” most commonly heard from our parents. They said so, or said it was going to be a certain way or the way they wanted, and that’s what was happening. ‘I said so,’ is better translated, ‘What I said is all that matters. No more discussion. The end.’ That was it. No questions. Is that how I view God’s word? Do I believe that God’s word is the final say, the ‘I said so’ for my life? The authority upon which I am to base my life?

BibleIs the Bible enough? For those who don’t accept the Bible as an accurate, believable and credible source of not just theology but also of history, why accept any other historical documents written before our time as credible? A ton can be found online about biblical credibility and reliability through an Internet search and this is one good site. At least see for yourself what it’s all about by reading the Bible to get your own first-hand account. Start with Matthew or Mark, or listen to this short message to find out where to start reading.

For Christians who struggle with the Bible’s words, maybe a good place to start is getting to know God Himself as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Hebrews 1:1-2). Reading through one of the Gospels, hearing from Jesus and seeing Him, who is THE Word of God. Wrestle with the word like Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord and don’t give up seeking Him through Scripture. Study His word (and check out this lengthy article on how to study the Bible.) Not everything will be understandable right away or even make sense but God has given believers His Holy Spirit to lead us into truth and He will. For the only way to truly live righteously in this world is by thinking righteously as we seek God and let the truth of God transform our minds as the True Woman devo shares on Day 5:

Scripture is God’s authoritative means of instructing us in His ways, and it reveals His holy pattern for our womanhood, our character, our priorities, and our various roles, responsibilities and relationships.

Believers in Christ are to look at this world and our circumstances through the lens of the Bible and the knowledge of God’s character. The essence of His character is love for He is Love (1 John 4:8). The Creator of the universe allows us to know Him and His love through His word. That is the goal of Bible reading and study – to know Him and live like Him. Scripture provides the sound doctrine for the sound living that God calls His followers to live out in this temporary world as we wait to enter our eternal one. What a blessing that He hasn’t left us on our own but has given us His word, His own “I said so,” and it is enough because He is enough. For the Bible tells me so.

babybornThis morning, the kids and I were driving down the freeway to our local library and we passed by the hospital where both of my 5-year-old daughter and 10-month-old baby girl were delivered. For better or worse, I decided to point out that fact to my kids as we drove by and my 9-year-old son added that he was born there too. But I reminded him that he was born at the hospital of the same name but at a different building a few miles away (this hospital constructed a larger building a few years after he was born.) Here was our interesting conversation about babies, the birds and the bees while in the car:

My son (trying to imitate my mom’s New York accent): Remember when Grandma said, “Oh, Edson, I remember the day you were born and when Dr. Andrews pulled you out.”

My daughter: Pulled you out of where?

My son: Out of Mama’s belly.

Me (silence, waiting for the subject to change)

My daughter to me: But you don’t have a hole in your belly? How can the baby come out of your belly?

Me: Well, God made a special way for babies to come out.

(Insufficient response)

My daughter: But how? How did the baby get in there and come out?

(No hope for that change of subject I was expecting…)

Me: Well, God made a special way for a mama and dada to have a baby. Remember in Genesis when Adam and Eve were naked in the garden? Well, when a mama and dada are together and naked like Adam and Eve, sometimes a baby is created by the special way God made.

(My pause, trying to figure out other words to say as we near the library.)

My daughter: Is this the same road where the trail riders and their horses come down?

YES – the subject change :) Time to exhale…no need to expound further for now at least!

Me: Yep, this is the road and we’ll see the trail riders later this month! (The trail riders that kick off the Houston Rodeo!)

kidsThe irony of this impromptu conversation is that my son kind of kicked it off but remained pretty silent the entire time and our church just recently had a sermon about how to talk to your kids about sex so I was sort of prepared (and the sermon’s really good so check it out). Sexual intimacy was God’s idea after all so might as well blame it on Him! :) Perhaps I’ll be a bit more prepared next time but am praying to not pass up these “teachable moments” as they come. Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithemtic!

Girls2I wanted to make some excuse, find someone else or something else to blame. Ignore it, write it off. It was a long day. I’m tired, overwhelmed. It’s the same thing over and over again. I wanted to tell myself I didn’t mean to react that way. To try to reason with myself over the tone of my voice, over the frustration in my heart. But my daughter’s words wouldn’t let me. And more than that, the Lord wouldn’t let me.

“Why don’t you like me when I disobey,” my five-year-old daughter asked me.

“What do you mean? I do like you when you disobey and I still love you,” I explained to her. “I just want you to learn to obey and do what’s right for your own good. Why do you think I don’t like you?”

“Because you talk angrily to me,” she confessed.

Ouch. Our kids are quite honest when they need to be. And she was right. I had spoken angrily to her earlier over an instance of repeated disobedience. My words weren’t harsh or mean or wrong but the tone was. And that’s what mattered to her. And that’s what matters to the Lord. So, it needs to matter to me. With sorrow in my soul and hurt in my heart, I asked her to forgive me for speaking to her in an angry tone. We hugged and she was happy. But I remained troubled. So many times I’ve read verses on anger, pleasant words, soft tones. “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God…” It doesn’t make anyone around us do what is right. So what would work?

Fear began to set in, making threats that I would never change, could never change. The fear that angry responses would win when I sought for a kind and pleasant voice (while firm when needed) to rule. But I’m striving after a no-fear new year that isn’t dominated by being afraid of anything. And a no-fear new year is only possible through a God who is able, a God who is greater, a God who is compassionate. A God who sees all things, who knows all things. A God who is glorified when sin is mortified. A God who exchanged the righteousness of His selfless Son for the unrighteousness of a selfish sinner.

So, I’m tempted to run to books and blogs and behavior management to curb my angry outbursts. But those have no power. The Bible is where I need to go. To seek the Lord to make the changes in my heart that only He can make as I humble myself before Him. For that’s the only safe place to be – on my knees at His feet living in the light. Praying today to instead of attempting to organize the little souls around me I’d first organize my heart to set apart Christ as Lord. And my Lord is with me and has promised to never forsake me as He completes the work He began in me. For the Lord Himself reminds me in Isaiah 57:15 of His dwelling place:

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

bibleSeveral years ago at an annual used-book sale, I found an antiquated collection of short stories called The King’s Daughter and Other Stories for Girls that included writings about girls living in the late 1800s. Most of the tales share timeless truths and biblical messages for girls of various ages. The idea is that “every story contains an important lesson.” Some of the stories were intriguing, others were just so-so but there was one that I always returned to, that seemed to be seared upon my mind. I found the entire book online for free as part of the Project Gutenberg (and also free for Kindle on Amazon) so you could try out some of the stories to get a taste for the book. This is my favorite one for it highlights the worthiness of delighting in God’s word morsel by morsel, or as Job stated, to treasure the words of our Lord’s mouth more than our necessary food.

Two Ways of Reading the Bible
(reprinted with permission from Project Gutenberg)

“Would you like another chapter, Lilian dear?” asked Kate Everard of the invalid cousin whom she had lately come from Hampshire to nurse.

“Not now, thanks; my head is tired,” was the reply.

Kate closed her Bible with a feeling of slight disappointment. She knew that Lilian was slowly sinking under incurable disease, and what could be more suitable to the dying than constantly to be hearing the Bible read? Lilian might surely listen, if she were too weak to read for herself.

Kate was never easy in mind unless she perused at least two or three chapters daily, besides a portion of the Psalms; and she had several times gone through the whole Bible from beginning to end. And here was Lilian, whose days on earth might be few, tired with one short chapter!

“There must be something wrong here,” thought Kate, who had never during her life kept her bed for one day through sickness. “It is a sad thing when the dying do not prize the word of God.”

“Lilian,” said she, trying to soften her naturally quick, sharp tones to gentleness, “I should think that now, when you are so ill, you would find special comfort in the Scriptures.”

Lilian’s languid eyes had closed, but she opened them, and fixing her soft, earnest gaze upon her cousin, replied, “I do—they are my support; I have been feeding on one verse all the morning.”

“And what is that verse?” asked Kate.

“‘Whom I shall see for myself,'” began Lilian slowly; but Kate cut her short—

“I know that verse perfectly—it is in Job; it comes just after ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth;’ the verse is, ‘Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.'”

“What do you understand by the expression ‘not another’?” asked Lilian.

“Really, I have never particularly considered those words,” answered Kate. “Have you found out any remarkable meaning in them?”

“They were a difficulty to me,” replied the invalid, “till I happened to read that in the German Bible they are rendered a little differently; and then I searched in my own Bible, and found that the word in the margin of it, is like that in the German translation.”

“I never look at the marginal references,” said Kate, “though mine is a large Bible and has them.”

“I find them such a help in comparing Scripture with Scripture,” observed Lilian.

Kate was silent for several seconds. She had been careful to read daily a large portion from the Bible; but to “mark, learn, and inwardly digest it,” she had never even thought of trying to do. In a more humble tone she now asked her cousin, “What is the word which is put in the margin of the Bible instead of ‘another’ in that difficult text?”

“A stranger” replied Lilian; and then, clasping her hands, she repeated the whole passage on which her soul had been feeding with silent delight: “‘Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not a stranger.’

“O Kate,” continued the dying girl, while unbidden tears rose to her eyes, “if you only knew what sweetness I have found in that verse all this morning while I have been in great bodily pain! I am in the Valley of the Shadow—I shall soon cross the dark river; I know it: but He will be with me, and ‘not a stranger.’ He is the Good Shepherd, and I know His voice; a stranger would I not follow.

“Oh,” continued Lilian, “in the glad resurrection morn, it is the Lord Jesus whom I shall behold—my own Saviour, my own tried friend, and ‘not a stranger;’ I shall at last see Him whom, not having seen, I have loved.”

Lilian closed her eyes again, and the large drops, overflowing, fell down her pallid cheeks; she had spoken too long for her strength, but her words had not been spoken in vain.

“Lilian has drawn more comfort and profit from one verse—nay, from three words in the Bible, than I have drawn from the whole book,” reflected Kate. “I have but read the Scriptures,—she has searched them. I have been like one floating carelessly over the surface of waters under which lie pearls; Lilian has dived deep and made the treasure her own.”

English pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote this about thinking upon God’s word: “Jesus showed us the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but mediation upon the Word of God. The readiest way to be spiritually rich in heavenly knowledge is to dig in this mine of diamonds, to gather pearls from this heavenly sea…O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!”

A no-fear new year

edsonbabe3I’m not sure how it happened but my son, my oldest child, will be 9 years old next week. I have been a parent for almost a decade. Wow…! Time zips by before our eyes. It seriously feels like just yesterday that I was in our one-bedroom apartment sitting with my 9-month-old baby boy playing peek-a-boo and reading nursery rhymes. Now, he’s the one playing games with our third baby, his 9-month-old sister, and reading his own books. Reading his own books – I also remember fretting over that. nine2Will he ever read? Will he ever want to? And wondering if he’d ever be potty trained or able to write his name or do his chores independently or memorize his math facts. Being just days away from 9 years old, I can confidently say he’s now able to do all these and more. My fears were unfounded and at times robbed me of joy. But isn’t that often how fear is anyway? Fear promises control but delivers with disappointment.

More fears for my son, as well as my daughters, continue to bubble around in my mind. Will my husband and I have enough time with them to teach them what is necessary? Will we use our time wisely? How will this all turn out? For the believer in Christ, fear of circumstances or people or the future is unnecessary. Similar to worry and anxiety, fear doesn’t add anything to our days or lives. It does, however, take away whether it steals our peace or our joy or even our health. Over the last year or so, I’ve been listing down almost every fear that I could possibly have: the fear of health problems, the fear of a lack of money, the fear of my children never seeking to follow Christ, the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of not getting everything done, the fear of not being a good enough mom. The list goes on. What I’ve discovered is that underneath my fear is unbelief. If I’m believing God is good, righteous, kind, loving, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and more importantly believing His word since He cannot lie, then how can I fear any situation or circumstance that threatens to overwhelm me? At my moment of fear, I’m choosing instead to not believe God and what He says to be true. I’m believing instead whatever looms large in front of me.

kids1Moms have lots of fears when it comes to their children and my no. 1 fear is that my failures at home could prevent my children from seeking Christ as their Savior. They see me mess up more than anyone else sees. Will that hinder them? Only Jesus knows the outcome and so my only choice is to trust. A recent sermon at our church lined up perfectly with these thoughts and left me with this super-truth: faith kills fear. My faith in Christ and in His goodness, wisdom and love will kill my fears. I have been saved by grace through faith in Christ and He is with me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. Salvation belongs to the Lord. He is in control. No fear necessary.

So, instead of being a fearful follower, I’m asking the Lord to help me become a faithful follower. A brave mom. A brave woman. One who takes heart or has courage or is of good cheer, knowing that my peace and joy can only come from Jesus and knowing Him (John 16:33). I’m asking God to help me fear only Him, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And I’d like to be a wise mom too who can help these three blessings enjoy all of their short years at home before they are launched out into the world to fulfill God’s purpose for their own lives. Most of all, I’m asking God to help me love Him more, love my husband more and love my children more in this new year. And there is no fear in love for perfect love (from my Jesus) casts out all fear. Happy 2015!

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appleWhat kind of fruit did Eve eat in the Garden of Eden? Was it an apple that the crafty serpent-devil tempted her with? Or maybe a pomegranate? Was it an orange tree or maybe a fig tree? For some reason, picture books and storybook Bibles illustrate the forbidden fruit as an apple. That’s the most common fruit although the creation account in Genesis doesn’t identify the fruit. Located originally somewhere in the Middle East near or around the Persian Gulf, the Garden of Eden was a lush and fruitful garden with I’m sure any and every kind of tree and plant. Any type of fruit could’ve been the object of obsession for Eve and while we don’t know which fruit tree it was, we do know something important about the tree from Genesis 3:

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Eve looked at the tree, after the serpent brought it more closely to her attention, and she saw that it was a delight and it was desirable. She wanted it. Yet, it wasn’t the one the Lord wanted His children to have.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

But the serpent opposed God and accused God of lying.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

lizardYet, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). It’s not in His nature – it’s not who He is. It’s not that He doesn’t lie, as in He has the choice whether to lie or not. He just cannot lie since in Him is no darkness, no sin, no impurity. But the serpent, who was really the Devil as Revelation 12:9 states, has been a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). Whenever the Devil speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies, Jesus said. But Eve believed the serpent, ate the fruit and gave some to her husband. And at that moment, God’s creation became corrupted and man became separated from God, as the True Woman devo highlights on Day 3:

I believe that sin has separated every human being from God and made us incapable of reflecting His image as we were created to do. Our only hope for restoration and salvation is found in repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ who lived a sinless life, died in our place and was raised from the dead. I realize that we live in a culture that does not recognize God’s right to rule, does not accept Scripture as the pattern for life and is experiencing the consequences of abandoning God’s design for men and women.

girlsGod created His creation good but sin brought destruction to this earth. God created man good but sin distorted that goodness and now none of us are born good. Romans 5 tells us that through one man sin entered into the world, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. Yes, man and woman created in God’s image is a good thing for He created us for purpose and with worth but as sinners we don’t naturally seek His good or do the good that God created us for apart from Him. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Paul tells us in Romans. All. Everyone. So, Jesus died to take the punishment we deserved for our sin. All of our sin. The righteous for the unrighteous.

The amazing thing is that in spite of our sin we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10) – God designed us to do good through Him and for Him. That can only be achieved through His Son, Jesus Christ, as day 4 of the True Woman devo states:

I believe that Christ is redeeming this sinful world and making all things new, and that His followers are called to share in His redemptive purposes as they seek, by God’s empowerment, to transform every aspect of human life that has been marred and ruined by sin.

What does that look like? What does that mean? It means believing in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, the only One who can cleanse us of our sin and reconcile us to a holy, pure and cannot-lie God. It means repenting of our sin of wanting to do life our own way and by our own plans, and instead following God’s way. It means what Paul wrote to Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

How we live that out looks different for every Christian in different seasons of life but the ultimate goal is the same – to honor Jesus with all we do and bring glory to Him so others will taste and see that the Lord is good! :)

buddies3 (2) Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:26-27, 31

Day 2 of the True Woman Manifesto devotional:

I believe that the creation of humanity as male and female was a purposeful and magnificent part of God’s wise plan and that men and women were designed to reflect the image of God in complementary and distinct ways.

kidsphotoThe Hebrew word for ‘image’ is tselem meaning likeness or of resemblance (of something.) God made man and woman in His own likeness and in His resemblance. We were created to resemble God – not to be Him, but to be like Him. To resemble His qualities, to be similar to Him, to remind others of Him by what we believe, think, do and say. Whatever God creates is good, whatever God creates has purpose and whatever God creates has worth because He created it. The heavens, the earth, light, waters, plants, animals, man, woman. He is the Creator – we are the created. Psalm 33 says:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; From His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works.

God created man and woman – equal before Him yet with distinct purposes. Man created first, woman created next to be a corresponding helper for man (Genesis 2:18.) This document outlines Biblical purposes and roles for men and women according to God’s good plan.

The Lord is good and all that He makes is good (1 Timothy 4:4). But not everything that God makes does good…more on that next time.

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fireworkHappy New Year! Another year gone, another year ahead. How did that happen so quickly? Time seems to go by more quickly when you have kids…or so I think. :) Time for resolutions! I have yet to write down any plans for 2015 but did get a chance today to start on one goal – to journey through the 30-day True Woman Manifesto devotional from Revive Our Hearts. You can read more about the manifesto and devo here. Day 1 started off with a bang:

I believe that God is the sovereign Lord of the universe and the Creator of life, and that all created things exist for His pleasure and to bring Him glory.

Based off of several Bible verses, this Day 1 declaration starts off the devo and my year right where we need to begin – with God Himself. The Lord is the creator of all things as Genesis 1:1 shows us:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Who is the Bible about? God. Who is this life about? God. Whom should my life be about? God! Read these verses cited in the True Woman devo:

…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 1 Corinthians 8:6

For by Him (Jesus) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16

The context of the 1 Corinthians verse is Paul writing about sacrificing food to idols, and he calls idols false gods or no gods because there is only One True God and One True Lord. Any other “god” aside from Jesus Christ is non-existent. Colossians shows us that also, how all things have been created through Christ and for Him. Everything was created for Him even though we know because of sin that not everyone acknowledges this nor lives their created lives for Him. Not everyone honors Jesus or strives to bring Him glory.

kingWhat does it mean to bring Him glory? The word ‘glory’ is doxa in Greek and is defined as splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty, most glorious condition, most exalted state, and good opinion concerning one resulting in praise. Bringing Jesus glory means using our thoughts, words and deeds to show that He is the most exalted one we worship and love. It’s making Jesus and His attributes – His compassion, love, patience, joy, righteousness, forgiveness – known in all that we do and shown to all those around us. This is the reason we exist. Really?

And that leads to the question cited in the True Woman devo for believers in Christ: Is the glory of God your supreme passion? Does it define your goals, objectives, how you spend your time…everything about you? If not, what does?

Knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known should be the guiding principle in our New Year’s goals and resolutions. Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards stated that he was resolved to do whatsoever he thought would be most to God’s glory. Life is about God, not us, yet He allows us to live and move and exist in Him. So it means getting to know Him and who He is by seeking Him in His Word. To display His glory and live for Him we have to know Him. God and His Son Jesus are all in all as Paul reminded the intellects at Mars Hill and all of us today:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Acts 17:24-28

To seek God, to know Him, to worship Him. Why? Because…

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Revelation 4:11

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