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Psalm 13
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

 

Romans 7:24-25

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

This week, these two passages have been teaching me something very important about faith in Christ: We can’t wait for our circumstances or our “feelings” to change so that we can praise the Lord and trust in His power.

Last week contained a particularly challenging day for no particular reason, and it was really hard to feel God in those strange moments. The next day, I had a wonderful, uplifting conversation with a friend, and one thing that we talked about was the verse in Romans 7. We talked about how Paul deeply felt his sin and his despair, but immediately acknowledged hope and praise in the Lord. He knew he was unworthy, but also knew that his deliverance is through Christ! And he didn’t hesitate getting from the “I’m terrible” to the “Thank you God for being great!” To imitate Paul (he talks throughout many of his letters about imitating him) means to see our sins but to see Jesus as greater than our sins AND praise Him.

Often times, I wait to praise God until I feel “ready”, either emotionally ready or ready based on my circumstances. I think many people don’t go to church, read their bibles, or pray when they don’t “feel” like doing it, and don’t worry, I get caught in this trap frequently, especially with regards to reading my bible. We don’t praise God or give thanks in the midst of hard times or bad moods because we aren’t “feeling” the positive energy. And yet, Paul didn’t say “and then I felt Jesus’s power and felt like praising him, so I say…”. No, he just does it.

Paul also tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” He doesn’t give any qualifiers there about the mood we should be in when we rejoice, pray, and praise God. We should be doing these things always, but it isn’t saying we should always be in the perfect mood for it! Instead, we should be doing it always, regardless of our mood or how we feel in the moment.

[I also want to add the excuse of “I’m not feeling God right now”, because I think it is in the same camp sometimes. I think it’s very easy to not pray or stop praying because our prayers aren’t helping us “feel” the Lord. But just because we don’t FEEL God’s presence doesn’t mean He isn’t with us; He promises throughout scripture that he is with us always, and that means when we feel him or not. See a quote from The Screwtape Letters at the end].

Early this week, I was reading through some of the Psalms, and I read through the short Psalm 13, and I realized the Psalmist (David) has the same attitude as Paul. David sounds like he is not feeling God’s comfort, he is distressed about what is happening in his life, and he wants to hear an answer from God. But the Psalm doesn’t have a verse that says “Then David heard God and he praised him…” or “But David felt up to…” or anything like that. No, David praised God regardless of what he was feeling. He acknowledged his salvation was from the Lord and he praised God for his goodness and unfailing love, even when it was difficult to do so in his situation.

I want to be the kind of person who turns right to trusting God in every circumstances, especially when turning to God, praying, and thanking Him is the last thing that I feel like doing. I want to be like Paul, David, and so many others who didn’t wait for their circumstances to change to praise God and trust Him. I’m thanking God now for His goodness (in the relatively easy moments), and I pray that I can always and constantly be rejoicing in Him in EVERY situation.

 

 

 

*The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a collection of letters from one of Satan’s men to another to coach the younger devil (his nephew) into being more effective at keeping people from God, who is referred to as the Enemy in the letters. This is what he tells his nephew about prayer. (This is the whole book online for free, if you are interested: http://www.truechristianity.info/en/the_screwtape_letters.php)

The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether. When the patient is an adult recently re-converted to the Enemy’s party, like your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part. One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray “with moving lips and bended knees” but merely “composed his spirit to love” and indulged “a sense of supplication”. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practised by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time. At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.

If this fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.

 

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Anti-Psalm 1

If you have been reading for a while, you will know that I tend to have three kinds of posts: 1) I write about the message of a song, or its meaning to me, 2) I expound upon random thoughts that I have had throughout the week, or 3) I have shared what I am learning and seeing in scripture as I read through it.  While these are not bad things, it has been pointed out to me truthfully that they have left my posts a little impersonal and overly-positive.  I have shared much about general truths that speak general encouragements.

Through this, I have recently come to realize that I have done a poor job of humbly confessing my hearts desires.  Not only on this blog, but also to people, in general.  This comes out of a mix of reasons, but when you push past all of my excuses, the reality is that I want to be better than I am.  I trick myself into thinking that if I hide my sinful desires, then they will go away and I will not need to deal with them.  If nobody knows my heart’s temptations, then I don’t really need to know it either.

It is not easy to share or confess where we are tempted.  Fortunately for me, there is great encouragement in the psalms for people like me.  They give us many, many encouraging verses that speak about a million ways God is faithful, God is sufficient, and God can turn peal our hearts away from the things that we cling to that are not Him.

Why is this so fortunate?  When we take these psalms in their inverse, we have an easy way to a) articulate our confession of areas where we are not believing God’s truth, b) better understand what God is trying to teach us, personally, in these verses, and c) hear the very words of our true God speaking into our pain.

As I attempt to confess where I am tempted through these anti-psalms, I am going to post them here.  It is too easy for me to lie to myself and to God when I keep my confessions between me and God (perhaps some truth in “it didn’t happen until its on facebook”?).  Thank you for helping me be honest with you and with God.


Anti-Psalm 1

I feel cursed for trusting in things that are not godly,
standing with sinners
and filling myself with contempt,
I delight in my own strength,
and ignore the ways that I called to depend on God and follow him.
I am like a dead stump with my roots upturned,
pulling away from the fresh water,
I feel thirsty, wishing for the water I have turned away from,
I am tired, all of my branches broken and my leaves fallen.
everything I do seems to be no better than mediocre.
I cannot thrive without the living water,
without it, even my upturned roots will not last.
I cannot stand on my own strength,
I am not strong enough to be counted among the righteous on my own.
I act like know how to improve myself,
but I can’t help but continue to depend on myself for my own help
and continue to press on toward death.


 

Though that may be how I am living, it is not truth.  This is:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season
whose leaves also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the Ungodly shall perish.


I just wanted to note that anti-psalms are meant to be a personal reflection on the psalm.  That said, I hope that the anti-psalms I post can help you to see each psalm in a new light.  Keep in mind that though they can be helpful, they are not scripture, but only point to the truth that we actually need.  I encourage you to go back to the psalms, read them, and create your own anti-psalms.  If you are bold enough, post them on Facebook or post them in the comments to my posts.  Let yourself be real about who you are, and embrace the encouragement that is in the psalms.

 

Marriage is not all about… Love

It’s been awhile since I posted, so here are some thoughts that I’ve pulled together from some of my recent conversations and interactions!

I’m assuming that the title of this post elicited some confusion, but let me explain first. These thoughts come from a conversation I had with my mom, and I wanted to flush them out more here, for all of you!

My mom and I were talking, and she asked how my marriage is going. It was a bit of a strange question, but I started on a monologue about how Dan is a good man, and he serves me and cares for me well. And how I appreciate how hard he works for me. And I appreciate how much he does around the house (he practically painted the whole apartment on his own in a week!). When I finished, my mom commented that I didn’t say anything about love. And she was right. I hadn’t mentioned that common word in my description about my marriage and my husband. Why?

Well, to start off, I am learning that love only goes so far in marriage. Sure, I love my husband dearly and deeply, and that hasn’t changed at all. But if I only loved my husband, but didn’t do anything, or if he only loved me but didn’t do anything, then things would fall apart! Right now, I’m learning that my attitude of love MUST inform my actions towards my husband, because if I don’t have actions of love, then I’m not truly doing what I need to do for my marriage. Stay with me while I keep explaining.

Dan and I don’t fight very often at all, which I am very grateful for, but most of the fights we have happen after we have seasons where we are not letting our love inform our activities. You see, I can say that I love my husband until I’m blue in the face, but if my love doesn’t change my behaviors, then we have a problem. BECAUSE I love my husband, I try do dishes late at night when I’m tired, I try to keep the coffee table clean because he doesn’t like clutter, I try go to bed earlier even if I’m not tired because Dan is tired, I try to get my lunch ready the night before so that I am not rushed and stressed in the morning (which always leads to me being a very not nice person…), and I try to do many other things to care for, serve, and support my husband. Now, I said “try” because I’m not very good at doing all these things to care for Dan, but a big part of marriage is constantly making the effort. And for me, it also includes making the effort without complaining. Our marriage works well because Dan has the same attitude towards me, and he is constantly trying to serve me in the same way. Our love for one another means we behave in a certain way!

Two verses come to mind when I think about this. First, James 2 talks about how useless faith is without deeds. We can gentle extend this to say the love without deeds is also useless. For either faith or love, if you say that you have it but your actions don’t look any different than someone without it, then it doesn’t make sense! However, 1 Corinthians 13 speaks into this on the other side, saying that if we don’t have love underneath our actions, then everything we do is meaningless! So either way, we need love, and we need it under, around, and in our marriage to inform what we do for one another!

So yes, my marriage is not all about love, but it is definitely full of love, informed by love, and able to endure because of love.

Summer Update!

Greetings!

One of the purposes for this blog is to have a clear forum for us to share updates to friends and family. We thought we would take a moment to fill you in on what we’ve been up to so far this year as we move into the summer! (And apologize for taking so long!) We also would love for you to walk with us in prayer, and so we will add some ways that you can be praying for us.

School is still very much a part of our lives! Even though we both have Master’s degrees already, we are pursuing more education to make us more qualified for what we want to do. Dan has begun an online Biblical Counseling program, with the goal of slowly taking classes to gain another Master’s degree and certifications in Biblical Counseling. With this training, he can better serve in a ministerial role in our current or future communities! Amanda is still pursuing her Education Specialist degree in School Psychology, along with working to obtain behavioral specialist certifications. It feels like we have never stopped going to school, but we try to think about our pursuit of education as a way to train us to be more qualified ministers of the Gospel. We don’t know what that will look like yet, but we know the Lord is using this time to allow us to get education and experience, and for this, we are grateful.

We also are both working full-time in secular positions. Dan coordinates market research studies for a healthcare company. Amanda works with students with special needs in school or home settings. We both have easy days of work and hard days of work too, but our jobs right now, while not our dream jobs, are helping us gain experience and skills that we will use to further the Gospel. Stay tuned, and you might hear how God is using our current jobs to spread His message!

Church is also a major part of our lives, and we love the community of Citylight! We are both heavily invested on different serving teams in the church (Amanda works with the kids ministry as a lead teacher and doing curriculum preparation; Dan runs the soundboard and prays with people during the service). Once a week, we meet with a small-group of Citylight people to eat, read the word, share our hearts, and share our lives with one another. Since joining Citylight, we have been a part of a couple different groups over the last two years, but we have been with this specific group of individuals since November! We love having a group of people to know, love, and build relationships with, and we have really grown in love for this specific group in the last several months.

When we are not doing schoolwork, working, or doing church activities, we are spending time with our friends, trying to take care of our bodies with exercise, enjoying puppy cuddles, or just trying to refresh ourselves before the next thing on our schedule. This summer, we are hoping to spend some time camping and being out of the city! Life seems very full lately, but God graciously fills us and strengthens us for it.

Well, since school, work, and church are the big things in our lives right now, we could use some specific prayer for these areas.  If you are so kind as to want to pray more specifically about any one of these areas, please let us know and we would love to share more details with you.

  • Pray that we can feel endurance and strength that can only come from God (Ephesians 3:14-21)
  • Pray that we can rest in Jesus in this busy season (Matthew 11:25-28)
  • Pray that we can glorify God in everything we do (Colossians 3:18-25)
  • Pray for our marriage, that we can walk with Jesus together (Colossians 3:1-2)
  • Pray that we can live missionally, being bold to share about Jesus (1 Peter 2:12)

For those of you that have already been praying for us, we want to share some ways that we have already seen God at work!  Thank you for your prayers!

  • Our neighbor is excited about Jesus and studies His word!
  • Amanda’s process of certification has begun! The first round of paperwork has been sent in! Just waiting now!
  • God has provided us lots of opportunities to grow toward Him and love Him more deeply!

Thank you to everyone who prays for us, cares for us, and loves us from close or far away! Feel free to reach out to catch up and share what is going on in your life!

 

Ecclesiastes 10:18-19

Hard work and money are dangerous.  We know that they can lead to sins that pull us away from God if we depend on them, but that is not what makes them dangerous.

They  are dangerous because in a lot of ways, they work.  Money and hard work produce a lot of results, and it is easy to be tempted to trust them instead of trusting God.  I promise that God is so much better.  They are not bad things, but God is even better.

Evidence of Love

There is a balance of works and grace here in Titus 3:1-8.  It reaffirms that it is God’s mercy that saves us, but if we believe in God, we should be careful to do good works.

This type of dichotomy is not unique to our relationship with God; he has implanted this picture into marriage as well. No matter how many good works I had done, they were not what was going to make Amanda marry me.  It was because, I presume but we will have to confirm with her, she loved me so much that she was willing to forgive all of the not-so-great qualities just to be in relationship with me.

Yet, at the same time, imagine what would happen if I never did good works or deeds for my wife?  It probably wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I am sure she wouldn’t be happy with me.  Not only that, but every person looking in on our marriage would probably doubt that there was love as they do not see the evidence of it.

We are loved by God.  If we truly believed that, Good works would be evident in our lives.

Colossians 1:3

Pail is writing to the church at Colosse to correct them and their incorrect theology.  The majority is spent doing that: sharing the truth in order to correct.

It is because of that truth and purpose of the book that v3 is so wonderful.

Paul gives thanks, first and foremost, for the faith of the church.  Then, out of that loving thankfulness he prayerfully corrects the Colossian Church.

Do we do that? I know that I usually don’t. What would it look like the next time you are on Facebook and see that post that you want to argue with or you feel needs correcting, you first were praying for the conversation, and those in it, and were thankful for the other person, and you told them that?

If I am being honest, that sound hard to do.  Can you do it?

P.S. If Paul can write full paragraphs as one long sentence, so can I.

 

Ecclesiastes 10:10

Having the right skills is important, without them tasks will be incredibly difficult.  It is worthwhile to understand where we are gifted, where we need to grow, and where we are not gifted, before we attempt to accomplish a task.

That being said, God will grant and has granted us the skills we need to accomplish any task before us.

Colossians 3:12-13

These verses beautifully describe things that we can, and should put on as Christians: tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering.  When I read this list I start hearing that old sesame street song play in the back of my head: “one of these things is not like the other.”

It is easy for me to accept kindness, humility, tenderness, mercy, and even meekness as virtues but long-suffering?

Other translations use the word patients.  I can get behind patients as a virtue, but the focus here is not just of patience but of patience in spite of troubles.

This means that it isn’t good enough to be patient until you are being yelled at, corrected, or frustrated. It is in those moments where Christ is calling us to have long-suffering.

This makes patience a much harder thing to have, but if we are transformed by the new life given to us in Christ, we are called to put on long-suffering as part of the character of our new man.