Why doesn’t God just move the nails??

January 31, 2011 by

This past weekend, Savannah and I went away for a few days together. We headed out Friday morning for Savannah, GA. Around 9 am, we were driving through Columbia, and we both heard a funny noise…then the back left tire went flat! I pulled over, checked out the damage, and called Don, who gave me the number of the nearest Goodyear to see if they could help me. The Goodyear guy told me I was 6 miles from his store, but was actually just around the corner from another tire shop. I was right by an exit ramp, and he said if I could cripple my way up the exit, the shop was just a couple blocks away. So I did that, and those guys changed my tire in less than 10 minutes! It was amazing. Apparently I had run over some nails…one of them flattened my back tire, and another one was stuck in my front tire. They fixed them both, and I was back on the road in no time. The whole ordeal took exactly 20 minutes! Isn’t that incredible?? I’m pretty sure it’s a miracle! 🙂

When we got back on the interstate, I kept going on and on to Savannah about how awesome God is, and how I was so thankful that He had those people build a tire store right there where we would need it to be!! 🙂 And how good He was to guide Don to tell me to call someone who actually knew about this other shop, and was willing to send me to his competitor! I told her that the whole time I was feeling like God was just carrying us right through that mess, and had everything work out beautifully to get us safely back on the road. I was reminded of that verse “Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20:7)

At some point, she asked me, “Well, why didn’t He just move the nails out of the road?” That’s a really good question! It’s actually the age-old question!! Why does God allow the bad things to happen? Why does He let the nails get in our way? Hey, we’ve all asked that question at one time or another! The answer is this…If there weren’t nails in the road, we wouldn’t get to see God take care of our flat tires! Like the song “Through It All” says, “If I never had a problem, I wouldn’t know that He could solve them.” Without those nails, we would’ve just cruised on down to GA and would’ve missed the chance to see God sovereignly take care of us!

God just showed me this in my daily Bible reading (hmmm…just in time for me to be able to teach Savannah! what a “coincidence”!) Exodus tells us the story of the plagues, and recently as I was reading this again, I was struck by how many times God emphasizes His purpose in it all: “In order that you may know that I am in Your midst” or “In order to show you My power” ….He says it over and over. THAT is why He doesn’t move the nails. There’s an important purpose in those experiences. God uses those nails to teach us that He is in our midst and to show us His power, and ultimately, to strengthen our faith.

Ex. 14:31 “And when Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.”

Ps. 46:1, 7 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble….The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

Stunned by the Gospel

January 5, 2011 by

When’s the last time you rejoiced in the gospel? When’s the last time you were stunned by its amazing message? I know for me, if I don’t make conscious efforts to focus on its truth and power, the gospel message can actually become too familiar. I’m a pastor’s kid, so I was learning about the gospel through the “Wordless Book” probably before I could speak! My entire education was in Christian schools and colleges, so it’s a very familiar theme. But when I stop to really THINK about it….to really meditate on the craziness of that kind of love…it can knock me to my knees.

Lately, I’ve been reading a little book called A Gospel Primer, by Milton Vincent. I absolutely love this book. It’s revealing the gospel in new and fresh ways to me, and I’m constantly being stunned by the beauty of the gospel message. Have you been hearing the phrase, “Preach the gospel to yourself”? Well, this is a great way to do it. Not only does it have small entries to meditate on, but it also lists tons of Scripture passages to confirm and develop the topic. I’m planning to write some posts on some of the ones that are transforming my thinking.

But for now, I just want to challenge you to really meditate on the amazing redemption that is ours through the work of Christ. We’re all so messed up. We’re just people…and we’re all in need of a Savior. And for some crazy reason the Holy God, the Creator of the universe loves us and has a plan to redeem us!

Listen to this description of Him: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6) “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone…For I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done.” (Is. 44, 46) And for a really amazing description that God declares of Himself, read Job 38-41….Wow!!

Now listen to this description of us: “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless…their throat is an open grave, with their tongue they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is on their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3)

And the good news: “BUT GOD…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us ALIVE together with Christ -by grace you have been saved!” (Eph 2) “He made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5)

Isn’t it a crazy love?! It’s so crazy, in fact, that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness; but to us, who are being saved, it is the POWER OF GOD.” (1 Cor 1) This is where the power is! The word of the cross….the Gospel. I want to take time to really meditate on it and allow it to give me God’s power to live for His glory! I want to rejoice in it continually and be stunned by its beauty! Oh God, don’t let me become so familiar with this message that I miss how incredible it is! Keep me, Lord, in a posture of humility and awe of You and Your amazing Good News!!

Update on our “new life” :)

June 11, 2010 by

Well, it’s been about 9 weeks since Karie and her kids came to live with us…and I can’t believe I’m just now writing an update! It’s a little crazy around here!! Now that the kids are out of school, things have slowed down some, but it still seems like non-stop activity in this house!

The first 6 weeks were pretty rough, I’ll be honest. We had SO many adjustments to make…combining 2 large families from 2 completely different worlds. It seemed like every time I turned around there was another “issue” to deal with. Lots of conflicts, between the kids and also between Karie and myself. We kept having “family meetings”….giving people a chance to air their concerns. We’d work through one issue, and immediately be faced with the next one. Honestly, I felt like I was drowning in “issues”!

The most difficult part was that I was meeting resistance from Karie. She didn’t like being told what to do! And even though I hate conflict and didn’t want to tell her what to do, it came with the territory. Bringing 6 people into our home meant that we had to constantly explain how we do life. It also meant that they needed to learn how to adapt to doing things they’d never done before. The longer it went on, the more resistant they became. Karie’s attitude gradually got worse and worse until things came to a head.

A couple weeks ago, she and I got into a heated argument, and she said she was just going to leave. I had seen it coming, and didn’t try to stop her. I really didn’t know how to make this work. We were offering her a new life, but it meant she was going to have to make some changes. If she wasn’t willing to do that, I didn’t see how it could work.Then right in the middle of this huge discussion, the phone rang. It was our pastor, Peter Hubbard, and he was asking if Karie would be willing to share her testimony that Sunday at church! We were going out of town for Memorial Day weekend, so that wasn’t going to work, but that phone call changed everything. I went to her and told her about the call. She was visibly shaken by it, and ran out of the room. I’m not sure how it happened, but after that, she came to me, broken and completely sorry for her attitude. It’s weird, but it’s as if God used that call to remind her that He is up to something BIG in her life, and she was fighting Him. She apologized to me, and has since apologized to each person in our family, and has had a complete change of heart since that day. We laugh now about how she was running out the door and God grabbed her and said “Where do you think you’re going?” 🙂

We still have issues and it’s still a challenge, but our hearts are on the same page now. Karie has a deeper sense of humility, and I have more compassion. And amazingly, as she and I are growing and working together, the kids are changing too! They are so much more respectful and cooperative. We are all experiencing so much more peace. It’s just so amazing to see God work like this and experience His life-transforming power!

Please continue to pray for us as we “take up His call to be part of the most important thing happening in the universe: REDEMPTION.” (Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands)

My new life: 13 people in our house! :)

April 19, 2010 by

I’m very excited to tell everyone about what God is doing in our family! We have felt, for quite a while, that God was preparing us for something…we just weren’t sure WHAT! Almost a year ago, our youngest daughter, Savannah, told us she wanted us to “get a kid” (meaning, a foster child, or maybe even adoption). At first, Don and I just looked at her like she was crazy and told her we already have 4 kids! But she kept on. She even set up the Pack-n-Play in her bedroom to get ready! Pretty soon, our other kids were joining in, asking us to “get a kid”! So we agreed to pray about it, but really had no desire to go there. Over the next few months, though, God completely changed our hearts! Don and I went through the book Crazy Love with our shepherding group, and then I decided to read it with Ashlyn and Kristen. The conversations about that book, and the Scriptures that it highlights, made us all reevaluate our lives in light of eternity. What were we doing for God? What were we doing that would count for eternity? Were we really laying down our lives for others? In light of Christ’s sacrifice, how were we following His example and sacrificing for others? In our shepherding group, people were noticing that God was working in our lives. Our leader even asked us if God was calling us to the mission field. It was obvious that God was up to something!

Meanwhile, God was also working in the heart of a friend of mine. She and I had gone to church years ago, but she had walked away from God, and we had only maintained occasional contact. Recently, she began to feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction, but didn’t know how to get out of the life she was in. She emailed me a few weeks ago, and we began to talk through her options. She’s single, but had been living with the father of her 5 children. The relationship was very unhealthy and dysfunctional, but she couldn’t imagine leaving him because she’s studying nursing, and would have to drop out of school, and try to support the kids on minimum wage.

Remember how God was preparing my family?? When I heard her story, I wondered if God was going to ask us to open our home to them. I told Don about it, and his reaction was immediate. He said he would love for God to use us that way! We discussed the details, prayed about it, and began to really feel God leading us to make the offer. Sure, it would be hard. Very hard. But hard is good! And what a great way for all of us to learn how to sacrificially lay down our lives and unconditionally love the way God loves us!

When I told my friend, she just couldn’t understand it. Why would we do that? 9 kids in one house?! Were we CRAZY?? (Did I mention we were all reading Crazy Love?!) She thought it over but decided she didn’t want to do it. She just couldn’t get up her courage to leave him. But then, a couple weeks later, their relationship went from bad to worse. He became abusive and she called me in a panic. She finally had had enough, and decided to come to our house for the night. After talking things through with us, she decided to stay. And here we are, living a whole new life! Her kids are 2, 3, 9, 10, and 13. Mine are 10, 12, 16, and 18. Then there’s my mom, too! (who is completely supportive and wonderful, as usual!!)

We all realize this arrangement could last a long time. We also realize that it won’t be easy. But we know that God did this. Pretty sure He plans to transform us ALL in this process! It’s been amazing to watch Him pursue her, and also change our hearts to prepare us to reach out to her and these precious kids! And guess what? Savannah finally got “a kid”– actually…several of them!! 🙂

My 1st “Spiritual Retreat”

March 19, 2010 by

Back in the fall, my mother-in-law invited me to attend a conference with her. It was with NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) and she invited me because she had observed that God had been bringing into my life many people who were seeking encouragement and counsel. She thought maybe it would help to equip me for this task. So strange, because God HAD been clearly working, and her invitation was actually a confirmation to me that I had been praying for. God just keeps bringing these confirmations, and I’m fairly certain, at this point, that He wants me to continue to get equipped through more training. Not sure what that’s going to look like, but I’d appreciate your prayers as I seek His wisdom on it all.

Anyway, I DID go to that conference with her, and it was amazing! Alot of the sessions were specifically aimed at helping the counselor keep his own eyes on God, so that he could be filled with the Spirit and walk close to the Lord, in order to be a useful vessel. These sessions were so helpful to me! One speaker challenged us to take a “spiritual retreat” at least once a year. He offered us articles with more information on how to do this, and I was very intrigued with the idea. I read the articles, prayed about it alot, and decided it was something I needed to do.

So, back in February I went away for a few days to be alone with God. I kind of mapped out a plan for Bible reading, Scripture memory, worship, prayer, study, etc. Sometimes I kept with the plan, and sometimes God led me in other directions. It was the most incredible experience!! I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it was. He taught me so much, and drew me to Himself in ways I’d never experienced before. His presence was so real, and I could hear His voice so clearly with all the other noises gone. I came back feeling like a kid who’d been at youth camp….such a spiritual mountaintop!

When I got back I was afraid that I would bottom out, or somehow lose that excitement. But I’m still standing in awe of God and all that He taught me. The lessons are still with me, and if anything, it just increased my hunger for Him. I can’t spend the entire day with Him, like I did there, but I wish I could. And so my “quiet times” with Him each morning are longer than they used to be, because I want to just linger in His presence. And because I’m spending more time with Him in the morning, I’m carrying more with me throughout the day. My mind is more focused on Him, my heart is more in touch with His, my ears are more in tune to His Voice.

I took alot of notes on my trip…things He was showing me and teaching me. I’m hoping to find time to write them out here and share them. I’m still processing it all! But for now, maybe the challenge will be for whoever might be reading this to consider taking a little trip, getting away for a few days alone with God. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life….and I can’t wait to do it again!!

Quiet Time ideas

February 22, 2010 by

Well, at the start of the new year, I decided to switch up a few things with my daily quiet time with God. For the last several weeks now, I’ve been experimenting with a few new ideas, and I’m so excited about some of the fresh ways God is speaking to me. I thought I’d share here some of those, and also ask for your input on what you’re doing in your personal quiet times.

First let me challenge you with some words of Andrew Murray, one of my heroes of the faith. His books really got in my face about this a few years ago, and motivated me to be more devoted with this discipline. He says:

“Is it possible that Christians can say that they cannot afford to spend a quarter or half hour alone with God and His Word?…Dear child of God, let us never say, ‘I have no time for God.’ Let the Holy Spirit teach us that the most important, the most blessed, the most profitable time of the whole day is the time we spend alone with God…As indispensable to me as the bread I eat, and the air I breathe, is communion with God through His Word and prayer. Whatever else is left undone, God has the chief right to my time. Then only will my surrender to God’s Will be full and unreserved.”

One of the biggest changes I’ve made is that I’m using my computer more. I’m doing my Bible reading with the Blue Letter Bible. You guys HAVE to check out this website: http://www.blueletterbible.org. You can read the Bible (in your choice of several different translations) and as you’re reading, you can click on options to read specific words in a Vine’s dictionary, Strong’s concordance, commentaries, and more. The more you play around on this site, the more you’ll love it. They have daily promises, daily devotionals, and several reading plans to choose from. I could go on and on. I’m LOVING this site!

Another great site I’ve discovered is Recover the Gospel at http://www.recoverthegospel.com. The music tab will take you to a page of songs to choose from. Each song is actually a video of the lyrics so you can read along as you listen. I usually start my quiet time with a song or two, to quiet my mind and focus on worship. This site also has something called “sermon jams” which are short video or audio clips of some great sermons. There’s also a video tab which takes you to longer videos of complete sermons, and a reading tab which lets you download sermon transcripts. It’s just a wealth of information!

The last thing I want to mention is my prayer folder. A couple months ago, I was having my quiet time in my dining room and as I was praying for my kids I realized that there was a framed picture of them on the wall in front of me. So I looked at their picture as I prayed for them, and somehow it was easier to pray for them as I was looking into their eyes. I’m a visual person anyway, so that may be why, but I loved doing that so much that I decided to get on my computer and make a folder of pictures of people I want to pray for. I have a bunch of friends and family on facebook, so I went through and copied and pasted pictures of them, then put them all in one folder. Now I can open it, and this slideshow appears where I can look right at them and pray for them. It’s been a great tool to help me be more consistent with intercessory prayer.

These are probably the biggest changes I’ve made, but there are others. And I can tell you, I’m LOVING my time with God. The more time I spend with Him, the more I LONG for MORE time to spend with Him! And I can see more and more clearly how true Andrew Murray’s words are–it is the most important, most blessed, and most profitable time of my whole day!!

How can we fight the materialism of Christmas??

December 9, 2009 by

I just read a startling statistic: “We will spend 450 billion dollars on Christmas. 30 billion would end world hunger.” Now, I realize this may not even be an exact statistic, but you get the point. Am I the only one who gets annoyed with the ridiculous amount of money we spend on ourselves at Christmas?? We are already so spoiled here in America. We need nothing, yet we spend extravagently on more “stuff.” And how do we, as Christians, justify using all that money for things we don’t need, when so many in the world are suffering?

And to be honest, the REALLY annoying part to me, is that we do it “in honor of God’s gift” to us. Somehow, God’s incredible, sacrificial gift of His Son gets used as an excuse for us to indulge in materialism. Confusing God’s sacrificial gift with our insatiable desires…mingling our lusts and pleasures with worship…yikes!!

Now, don’t get me wrong…I do love Christmas. At least, some parts of it!! 🙂 I love getting presents, and I love giving presents…so I’ll be the first to say I don’t have the answer here. We actually tried to do Christmas one year without presents. We focused on giving to others, serving the poor, loving the elderly….our kids actually handled it beautifully. But we felt sad for them. We ended up surprising them with presents, because we couldn’t go through with it! We just couldn’t stand the thought of them hearing what all their friends got, and them saying they got nothing. Something’s not right about that either! Like I said, I don’t have the answers. We’ve ended up compromising by saying they each get 3 gifts (plus stocking gifts) from us, and they also buy gifts for each other. So they still end up with a pile of gifts…and I go back to my initial misgivings….

Am I indulging in materialistic nonsense? Am I being a poor steward? Or am I giving my children sweet Christmas memories? Or should I instead be using this money to spread the gospel and further His kingdom? AHHHHHH!!!!! It’s a dilemma.

I’m actually crying out for help here! How are YOU handling this dilemma? What are some good ways to keep this in balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Josh’s blog post

December 4, 2009 by

Just read a blog post that Josh (my 12 yr old son) wrote. I loved it and was challenged by it, so I thought I’d share it here. It reminded me of a quote that God used to convict me a couple weeks ago. I posted it on my facebook status, so some of you may have seen it there. It was by Theodore Epp:

“To look with disdain on someone else is to oppose the indwelling Christ and the concern He has for everyone.”

Josh’s words are about our “enemies”…but really, the idea can be broadened to include anyone that we might tend to “look on with disdain.” Sobering thought…

Do You Love Your Enemy?

11-16-09
by Josh Hall
The question is do you love your enemy? Most people would say no, that’s why they are my enemy. Well that means you’re breaking God’s law. It states “love your neighbor as yourself.” Everyone’s your neighbor, even your enemy. Now wait a second, that phrase sounds selfish- well it’s not. Loving your neighbor as yourself has two meanings.

1. Treat others how you want to be treated.
So just be nice to others so that they will be nice to you? No. Saying yes would be the wrong answerer. I’m homeschooled and co-op is like school for homeschoolers except one day a week. And every week I held every door from class to lunch. There were 3-4 four people who always thanked me. Is that the only reason I hold the door, just for a thank you? No I did it to be nice but that’s not the point –well it sort of is… anyways. Just because you’re nice doesn’t mean you will always get something in return.
So would you hit someone if you knew they would just hit you back, maybe. Would you hit someone if you knew they would turn their cheek the other way, just so you could hit them again? The wrong answerer is… YES. The right answerer is no. Well here is the big question. Are you ready? Are you gunna lie? You better not. Here it is, would you hit Jesus? If you said yes I am now very afraid of you. The right answerer is… Uhhhmm no brainer! NO!!!
2. What you’re doing to your neighbor you’re doing unto Christ Jesus.
So treat your neighbor like Jesus.

Thankful for the gift of this moment

November 18, 2009 by

I recently looked back over my journal from last year, and around this time I was facing my first holiday season without my dad. I’ve heard people talk about the sadness they’ve experienced during a holiday season that follows a death, but this was the first time I’d really struggled through it myself. I think- for me- Thanksgiving was even harder than Christmas.

All my life, Thanksgiving meant a very big party. We would have a giant family celebration with aunts, uncles, cousins….LOTS of cousins! We eventually outgrew my parents’ house, and for many years we all met at Oakwood’s gym. We’d have a big potluck meal, play basketball and volleyball, watch the kids run around and play. Then we’d sit around and catch up on each other’s lives. It was such a fun, happy time.

A really special part of it was the prayer before the meal. My dad would always get everyone to gather around for prayer and I can still remember how he prefaced the prayer every, single year. He’d say how thankful he was that we were all together again, thankful that God had given us one more Thanksgiving together, and how we should never take it for granted. He would sometimes remind us that next year when we get together, someone could be missing….So we should look around and thank God for this gift– this special time with each other, because we weren’t guaranteed another time like this.

Now he’s the one missing…and Thanksgiving will never be the same. We still get together and it’s still a big party. But someone’s not there…and he’s greatly missed. I’m so thankful for every Thanksgiving I got to enjoy with him. For the laughter…the hugs…the sweet, generous heart that he had for each member of our family…the strong godly example that he gave us…and the beautiful memories we cherish.

And I’m thankful that he taught me how to enjoy and appreciate each special family gathering. This year I want to remember to pause- like he did each year- and thank God for the moment…and for the gift that it is. Because we aren’t guaranteed another one like it.

Scriptures for Difficult Circumstances

October 28, 2009 by

A few years ago, my family faced 2 really difficult circumstances, almost simultaneously. Rusty was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, and my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s hard to even begin to convey with words the depth of the pain we experienced as a family. In many ways, we were losing them both. Neither circumstance was an abrupt ending…both were only the beginning of a long, painful experience. My dad’s disease took us slowly through many sad, dark days…a very long, painful good-bye. Rusty’s sentence is an ongoing sorrow and grief for what has been lost (although I must add that we all recognize and rejoice in God’s sovereignty in his life).

Through the dark days, God has taught me so much in the midst of my sadness. I thought I’d share here some of the Scripture passages that He has used to guide my thinking and draw me to Himself through the pain. I organized them into 3 categories as He taught me…and this is definitely not an exhaustive list! Just a few of my favorites that I thought I’d pass along!

1. Understanding our need for difficult circumstances:
~Psalm 119:71 (they turn our attention to God so we can learn His ways)
~James 1:2-4 (they bring us to spiritual maturity)
~1 Peter 1:6-9 (they prove and refine our faith)
~1 Peter 2:21-23 (they show us how to follow Christ’s example)
~1 Peter 4:1-2 (they teach us to overcome sin and live for God’s will)
~1 Peter 4:12-13 (they teach us to share in Christ’s suffering)
~2 Timothy 2:1-10 (they give us the opportunity to endure hardship for the benefit of others)
~2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (they perfect God’s power in us through our weaknesses)

2. Relying on God’s strength through difficult circumstances:
~1 Peter 5:6-10 (humble yourself before God, cast your anxiety on Him, resist Satan)
~Ephesians 6:10-18 (put on the “armor of God”)
~Isaiah 41:10 (do not fear; remember: God is with you)
~Isaiah 40:29-31 (wait for/ hope in the Lord)
~Psalm 62:5-8 (wait and hope in God; He is our Rock and Strength)
~Philippians 4:11-13 (rely on Christ’s strength)
~Psalm 119:28,50 (get strength from God’s Word)

3. Maintaining a peaceful heart through difficult circumstances:
~Philippians 4:6-9 (don’t worry; bring your requests to God; set your mind on good)
~Isaiah 26:3 (trust God; keep a steadfast mind)
~2 Thessalonians 3:16 (pray for God to grant you peace)
~Psalm 94:19 (let God’s consolations be your delight)
~Psalm 119:92,165 (find comfort in God’s Word)
~Psalm 23:1-4 (spend time with God; let Him lead you beside still waters)