Prepare, not Plan

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“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~ Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV)

Each time I read this verse, I am encouraged to not think so stressfully about my future and to put it in God’s hands. But after a few seconds or the next day, I forget. I think about where I should study for grad school, what I should study, what job I should get when I go back home after my contract finishes, and on and on, never ending worries. I stay up late almost every night on the computer searching for answers. I don’t even bother praying or asking for prayer. These days I’m especially finding it harder and harder to trust in God about my future. I will be going home after finishing my time in Korea and I am both happy and sad about it. And although this is what God has planned, it is difficult to not worry. It’s part of my personality to plan so that I’m ready for what’s to come.

Just a few days ago, I remembered a conversation I had with God over a year ago. I could not sleep that night so I stayed up arguing with God as to why I had not figured out my future after graduating college. I had so many plans I wanted to complete but nothing was coming into place. I knew at the time that I wanted to go back to Korea, but I also wanted to go to grad school. And then, I realized that God had been telling me to prepare, not plan. Preparing could have been to take advantage of the time I had with my family before I came to Korea or studying the Korean language. Or better yet, strengthening my relationship with God.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (NIV). So much evil passes us when we are too focused on the future. In those times of worrying over the future, we lose sight of who God really is. While we are jumping up and down thirsting for an answer, God is telling us to relax and wait. So now that I know this, I’m making the most of my time, right? Absolutely not.

As I teach my students at my academy, I am not focusing on my students but instead thinking about what I should eat during my break. Or, when I am playing guitar in church, I am thinking if I will do this back home or if I can find a church like this one back home. My mind is distracted, and I’m still learning to not think so much about my future. But now, as I’m writing this, I’m feeling hopeful and gaining some clarity. I have no idea what I will do back home regarding a job or where I will live. But there is no need for me to think about that. God has it all taken care of.

~Mariana

How do you prepare for what God wants you to do? As always, we love hearing from you!

Encouraging Others

Encourage

As children of God, we are called to build each other up. In a world where we are encouraged to judge each other and to be judged based on appearance, we are called to be apart. We are called to look beyond appearance and to help each other. It can be challenging, as it seemed to be an instinct. I would size people up constantly and compare myself. It wasn’t a matter of putting them down but almost a ranking system to see where I fit. Guess what? If I thought someone was “above” me in whatever criteria I was using, I found myself intimated and looked for reasons not to like them. This is not the behavior God is looking for.

We are called to encourage each other. Older men and women are called to mentor younger men women and since there is always someone younger than us, we all should strive to mentor someone and vice versa. The scripture to support this is found in Titus 2:2-5 and while it assumes that older women are married, the motivation behind mentoring younger people remains true no matter what season of life.

We are brothers and sisters bonded together by our salvation through Jesus Christ. We need to have each other’s backs, because life is rough. We’re family, which means while we don’t always like each other, we do love each other. We are called to be united and work together. It’s hard to work together when you’re judging someone’s looks or actions without understanding the story behind it. People make mistakes; people have pasts and we have quirks. I know that some of the circumstances in my life have led me to respond to things certain ways; ways that might not be the healthiest. They might not be sinful but they aren’t examples of how to live either.

Some how, we’ve allowed the rat race to spill over into our regular lives and keeps us in constant competition. The only competition we should be in is with ourselves and that should be to be a better version of who we were yesterday. We should want to share advice and useful information. We are the church and we should be working together to build instead of tearing down. This doesn’t just apply to other Christians but to everyone we encounter. We don’t need to judge – we need to accept people and encourage them.

Today, I want you to really focus on encouraging people and putting aside negative internal voices that are critical of others. Notice how it makes you feel and if it changes your interactions with people. It won’t be easy but making new habits is almost always challenging.

Let me know how the challenge goes for you! As always, I love hearing from y’all!

Handling Anger in a Godly Way

I love Psalms and seeing how David spoke to God. It shows an intimate relationship of honesty, trust and love. I sometimes struggle with the idea of sharing my feelings with God (or anyone) without holding back. I don’t mind telling Him when I’m really happy or scared or even sad but I hold back on telling Him when I’m angry. Yet looking through Psalms, I see David display all of his emotions, including anger. He doesn’t bottle it up; there’s really no point in that anyways, since God already knows. David addresses it with God. He lays it at His feet and let’s go.

I know some of the anger I’m struggling with is a result of my selfish desires and dreams. I know God has a plan and that it is for good. I know that this is where I am supposed to be but…I’m angry. I’m angry at having to give up what I want so that I can do the right thing. Then I feel guilty. It’s a terrible cycle of anger shoved aside that boils over at the “best” time and then leaves me wallowing in feelings of guilt. I’ve asked myself a few questions:

1.What do we do when God calls us to give up our dream and drastically change gears?

  1. What are we to do with our anger and worries and burdens?
  2. What can we do when life is too tough?
  3. How does He call us to live?

As usual, when I turn to His Word, I find the answers I need.

  1. When God calls us to give up our dream and change our lives, He calls us to be like Abraham and to obey. He calls us to move even if we don’t know the destination.

“Now, the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1

  1. When we are angry or worried or burdened, Jesus told us to give it to Him. We don’t have to carry the weight alone. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have struggles but it does mean that we won’t be alone to carry our problems.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew28-29

  1. David tells us that when life is too rough that we should run into the sheltering arms of our father, God. He shows us through example how God was his refuge.

“He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:17-19

Psalm 46 also points us to God as our refuge:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

  1. We’re called to be like Jesus. We’re called to serve and humble ourselves and obey our Father, no matter what the cost. My broken dreams are nothing compared to the sacrifice Jesus Christ made when He chose the cross! I can grieve and ask that things change but ultimately I must accept what is and move on.

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.”

– Matthew 26:39

Three times, Matthew records Jesus asking that God not require this but ultimately it was done, as the Father needed it to be and Jesus went willingly to the cross. This terrible event led to the salvation of our souls! This event was necessary for Christ to rise and defeat death! This act of obedience and humility is how we were saved!

So while I understand how I am to respond, I also recognize my humanness and know that it will be a process of acceptance. I also know that He is using this time to develop me for work He needs done.

Do you struggle sharing your emotions with God? How has God shown you to respond to these struggles? As always, I love hearing from y’all!

Breaking the Mold: Throwing Pinecones

Happy Monday! I am so excited to introduce Dusty from Throwing Pinecones who is doing a guest post about her ministry, Throwing Pinecones and The Rubies Project. She has shared a short bio and the story of her ministry. I hope y’all enjoy it!

BIO:
My name is Dusty and I live in Portland, OR with my husband who is 13 inches taller than me and my daughter who is only 19 inches (at 7 weeks old!). It is my dream to build a women’s ministry that breaks the stereotype of a complacent woman and to give the silenced a voice. I am doing that through Throwing Pinecones, The Rubies Project and my #agodlylady movement. In my free time I love to garden, cook, make pretty things, binge watch Friends and drink all of the coffee in the land!

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Throwing Pinecones & The Rubies Project

Growing up I wanted so badly to build an intimate relationship with God and make Him proud, but I felt as though my gender held me back from truly experiencing God. All of the women’s groups I attended were shallow and superficial. I hated the gossip that always seemed to follow and every part of me was jealous of the men’s groups. I wanted to get my hands dirty, serve God’s people by rebuilding houses for the poor, doing lawn work for the elderly and digging into God’s word together – not baking cookies! I was tired of all the frills when all I wanted was to experience God and grow in Him! If I am honest with myself a large part of this was my own pride getting in the way. I didn’t really know what it meant to be #agodlylady, but I knew I wanted no part of having to be “lady-like”. On the same hand, I did see a real life need for a strong women’s ministry that focused on being authentic, digging deep and allowing woman to be vulnerable without fear of gossip or all those extra fancy frills. Little did I know that God was going to radically change my mindset and teach me what it really meant to be a woman of God and that being #agodlylady was nothing to be ashamed of.

Several years later God has blessed me with my own ministry called Throwing Pinecones. Through Throwing Pinecones I am devoted to empowering women to cultivate a relationship with God that is undaunted by fear or failure. One of the ways I am working on doing that is through The Rubies Project. The Rubies Project is a series started on Throwing Pinecones that focuses on sharing the stories of ordinary women to create an extraordinary impact for Christ. I could create blog posts all day about God’s goodness and power but there is something so special about our own stories and testimonies that share God’s love in such an intimate and personal way, there is nothing I can do to replicate that!

I have written and rewritten this article more times than I can count. I wanted to find the perfect way to show you my heart behind The Rubies Project and why it is so very important. The thing is I can’t remember what it was that inspired me to begin the Rubies Project. But I can say this: through The Rubies Project I pray that women everywhere know that their story matters and that in turn they matter because God has made it so. Our stories, testimonies and experiences are what shape us, grow us and mold us and that is certainly not something we should be ashamed of! What better tool do we have to share God’s unfathomable love? Every Monday on www.throwingpinecones.com one woman shares the story that God has given her for this very reason! I saw a bigger potential for The Rubies Project and I didn’t want my outreach to stop there.

So many women, men and children are bought, sold, used and then disregarded while we are so unaware. It breaks my heart how blind we are to human trafficking. I wanted a way to be able to raise awareness and help fight this tragedy head on and what better way than through The Rubies Project!? Through The Rubies Project I have raised over $1,000 dollars to help fight human trafficking and it is my prayer that that number continues to grow! The money we raise goes to an organization called She Has A Name. Their focus is on the healing and restoration of women who have been rescued from human trafficking.

Thirty-four brave women have shared their story for The Rubies Project, thirty four brave women have made an impact more than they know. By sharing your story you are not only professing your love for God loud and clear for everyone to hear but you are also confirming the fact that our lives matter; our stories matter. Whether you realize it or not your story is important. You, just living life is at the hand of your Father in heaven and is worthy of sharing! By sharing your story, you are validating God’s design for women everywhere to be one that is courageous, valuable, beautiful and loved. Share your story. Fight human trafficking. Build God’s kingdom.

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LINKS:
Website: http://throwingpinecones.com

I hope you all enjoyed Dusty’s story! Please check out her website for my Rubies Project Story, which is being featured today! As always, I love hearing from y’all!

The Suffering Race

The Suffering Race by Mariana

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“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” ~ Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

I have a love/hate attitude towards running. I enjoy doing it because of the benefits it brings: staying fit, clearing my mind, getting fresh air, etc. And I always feel good after a run even though there are times when I feel like I dropping to the floor feeling exhausted. On the other hand, I often dread running. Regardless of all the good things it brings, I really hate getting ready for a run and starting it. My body is not always prepared for the run. For example, there are times when I don’t run for a long time so there might be some aches here and there. Or I run in a bad mood, so I end up running in a bad mood. Then I think about how far I have to run. Ugh. Yet, I run because I know the results will be worth it.

So, I’m running. And during the run, there are many obstacles I face. Stomach pains. Nausea. Knee pain. Heavy Breathing. Shoulder pain. Mental Battles. Exhaustion. Distractions. The music I’m listening to. So many problems, both small and possibly life threatening. I want to quit but I keep going. I think I’ll never finish, but then I think I can run for hours. So much can happen within one run. I go through periods of feeling everything to feeling nothing: strong to weak, winner to loser, determined to lazy.

As I continue to push myself, I see the end of my run. Before, I couldn’t think of actually making it through the run. And even though I dreaded it like no other and I pleaded with God, Why?, I knew that it had to be done. If I don’t run, I will not get stronger, faster and my mind will not reach a level of peace. If I don’t run, I stay in the same place, in the same level, and possibly even fall. Therefore, when I finish a run, no matter how tired I am or how much I struggled, I am glad it happened.

To me, running is a perfect image of a human suffering under God’s will. It’s hard to believe that God can use our sufferings to make us stronger. We are often too busy or too focused on living comfortably and avoiding fear-thinking life would be better. If only we knew that suffering could be a way to willingly seek God. Who needs God when one is doing fine? There’s nothing wrong with being afraid to suffer. Jesus, Himself, was afraid to die. Mark 14:35-36 says, “Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (NIV). Furthermore, in Luke 22:44, Jesus was so afraid that it says that Jesus’ sweat was like blood (NIV).

I see suffering as a blessing. It is a chance to see who God truly is, what He truly does, what we should learn, and a chance to grow in our relationship with God. My relationship with God is nothing without suffering. Without suffering, I am swimming in lukewarm water. In other words: boring. If I didn’t come to Korea to teach English, I would have stayed in the US battling to get out of my comfort zone. And although God has broken me so that the only thing left I have to call on is Him, it was worth it. I found contentment in my suffering. And like Romans 5 says, we are persevering, building character, and having hope. All this is necessary according to Romans 5:2 which says, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (NIV).

I love seeing how God teaches us through everyday moments, like running. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. As always, we love hearing from you! ❤

Grace in Action – Johnny’s Testimony

I am happy to say that my friend, Johnny, is sharing his testimony today. I met Johnny when I was living in South Korea and just loved his passion for Christ and his desire to share the gospel with any and every one he encountered. His Facebook posts are inspiring and poetic and encouraged me to be more open in sharing my faith.

Johnny shared his testimony at our church and was delighted to share his testimony here, so without further adieu here is Johnny’s testimony. Since this was what he wrote when he shared it at church some of it is geared towards a live audience but I didn’t want to change anything as it would take away from the impact of his story.

The Testimony of John-Samuel Etheridge Williams

I seem like a pretty confident guy. I have no illusions about who I am and especially my emotions which are not only on my sleeve but also on Facebook.

I haven’t figured out if it’s yet a curse or a good thing that I feel no qualms about not hiding anything about who I am or how I feel. Within 5 minutes of meeting a homeless person he will probably know my life story and there is a 90% chance I will be crying and embracing him and all the while he is wondering how this lunatic is NOT homeless.

So let me open up once more and tell you as much as my confidence pervades I was terrified to stand before you. I mean feeling like I wanted to vomit nervous.  I felt so small like who am I to stand before you this born sinner? What will they think of me after I testify? Will they think less of me? Will they silently judge me?

But it’s a funny thing this turmoil rolling inside of me; It points to the indisputable fact that God is good. It is truly a hallmark of His infinite wisdom and power that he can turn the most vile of emotions like fear for his glory and as these were coursing through me I watched a sermon by John Piper and he was trying to explain how to retort when an unbeliever questions the belief in God as sovereign creator over all the universe he said something to this effect: “Ever notice how the best moments of your life make you feel insignificant?”

Standing in the shadow of a great mountain, standing in awe of the galaxies scintillating against the night sky, looking at the ocean ebb and flow and crash against the shores.

Its like our bodies are hard wired down to our very cells to recall and remind us and point us to the majesty of our creator no matter what we believe or how far we wander…even in my anxious thoughts he who makes all things new was molding the ground I stand on now before you. And solid ground it is.

Many of you know me as Johnny but the name God intended my parents to give me is John-Samuel Etheridge Williams. For most of my 29 years of life I believed in God out of fear. I was scared not to believe for that I would be condemned or left behind when Jesus returned. My sister used to read and watch those left behind books and I remember crying sometimes thinking and knowing how much of a sinner I was and that I was going to get left. While at the time I was right to fear God that I justly stood underneath the wrath of God to be condemned for I had not yet received Christ. However that would all change and as Romans 14:11 says one day for all, it will be because “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess” that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God. The shepherd will come back with his staff and his rod.

Most of you know how much I love to socialize, talk ,make people laugh and tell stories. I love people and I love the power of words but in my existence until He calls me home there will be no greater three words that will hit my ears and would set me free, and BREAK THE CHAINS I was shackled with since birth. In my life there would be none other that would care such immeasurable weight. But like most of our journey’s with God this was by no means a direct path and it was never intended to be. I will get to those words later.

When I was a kid I had 3 images of God and what it meant to believe. My Grandma, who took me to her Baptist church which she still attends today Linda Vista Second Baptist Church. Most of you maybe know what a traditional Baptist church is like. If you don’t, as my friend when I was younger affectionally called it a “hallelujah” church because you could hear the bass rumbling and the hallelujahs from down the street.  I would watch as people would shake and convulse or shout and scream with tears rolling down their face. I thought it was funny that they were being silly and would imitate them before she quickly swatted and scolded me. I could not comprehend the concept of the Holy Spirit and at that moment he didn’t intend for me to but maybe to plant a seed.

The second image was my father who was the rock of faith for our family. He was the one to always pray at the rare dinner we had together or on holidays when we were all gathered. I remember him always not for talking about God though he did but more I felt Him trying to SHOW me God. Along with my grandmother he always took me to church but to a different one where I would see kids my age weeping and my dad and other members being moved by His love. I thought something was wrong with me that I didn’t feel that same thing. I felt afraid that I was so not moved  but God said “my child, wait a bit more.”

My third image was of my Mom who had a faith and passion similar to Peter in that she could and would move mountains in His name but that emotion would sometimes lead her astray of His will instead of into his arms. Praise be to God that today she is still walking closer to Him than ever and is forever encouraging me to do the same.

In my sinful nature out of this I treated God like a vending machine. I went to him as I needed, which was mainly the occasional Sunday, gave what I wanted and received what would only be temporary not even lasting sometimes the day. So as the years saw me grow older I sought to fill this void with everything but Him – the wrong women, the wrong friends, the wrong decisions, alcohol, machismo, etc.

I traded his plans for me for being accepted and liked by the same world that couldn’t even provide me with what I was seeking. The same world that said you are not good enough, you are weird and you need to be like us but you cannot be us…

My life flew by like this for some time, but like any plane without a destination and the proper fuel I ran out of gas and I tumbled out of the sky. For years, I was in darkness that it raises the hair on my skin to even recall. Mornings in a bottle, nights in a bar, days looking for love, compassion and acceptance in all the wrong places and in all the wrong people. I was like a sheep wandering forgetting that it had a shepherd to guide me back at any point but no, I went my own way.

I was envious of people receiving gifts from Him. Things I declared I wanted for myself but had no right to and was not in any way prepared to receive. For that is one thing we sometimes miss in Gods plans and it’s that we are not always ready to receive what he has planned and promised to give us. The road is paved with sanctification sometimes by struggle and wrought with strife…Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” Take up your cross and follow me….So understand when I say God delivers surely as I stand here today our strength is in him and him alone.

So what happens after we get to the Promised Land? What did they do when they got there? They complained, they griped, they built false idols and worshiped them.

God delivered me from the depths of my futile and filthy mess and I find myself, today in these moments, after he has rescued me from myself looking at my brother, who just had a monumentally beautiful wedding, and just bought a house. My friend from high school who just got nominated for a Grammy is taking off in her singing career. Just about all my ex’s (the same ones who said they didn’t want to get married) getting married and having babies. I look at my kids, my beautiful students and sometimes my favorite ones I pretend for a second they are mine. What would I say to them at that moment if I were to strengthen them? I look at the beautiful babies we are blessed with at Redeemer International Community Church, Ivy, Castor, Chloe. Then there’s Colby and Eunjeong’s love, Martha and Caleb, Traylor and Hannah and find myself saying why not me??! Father! After all you have brought me through, the desires of my heart you have gently planted are blooming so why not me? Have I not done enough? Have I not gone through enough?? Why do you put these desires in my heart only for them to be paraded in front of me, just out of grasp.

Do you see this? This sinful nature, he brought me out of the muck and mire of my sin and here I am with the audacity to demand of him more! You see when I came up out of the waters after I was baptized I felt immense joy but I felt something greater. At the moment I could not even understand it fully but now I know it was a sense of responsibility I had. That I would now walk with him so closely that my life would reflect him in all his glory. Like a sunrise paints the trees of a forest or a child reaches back as he is walking smiles and holds out there hand for their father everything I did would reflect and point to Him.

I knew what I had to do. You see salvation is not a magic portal we walk through despite what most unbelievers or people think, we don’t become the perfect version of ourselves when we rise out of that living water. You see because before we went beneath the waves, we failed, I failed. I was born so imperfect. I carried my sin until My Jesus found me and said “you can put it down now, I will be perfect for you.”

The only difference before and after my salvation is now I have an advocate in the father and I cannot fail. I am unbeatable in Him. So when those thoughts arise when my refuge is put it to the test and the evil one beckons me to seek it in jealousy, guilt, in lust, in anything but Him. Those three words I told you at the beginning. Those three words I told you were the most important words I will ever hear. THOSE THREE WORDS STRIKE DOWN ALL OF IT AND SATAN COWERS AND CRUMBLES. Everything I’ve battled, through every pit of despair God has pulled me from. Every lie I told myself, every person who tried to and did bring me down. Everything that attempted to come between me and the only one who was all I ever needed to find my way back home are silenced and defeated

IT IS FINISHED.

IT IS FINISHED.

These words should hit you like a slug to your chest. I’m a big imagery person so let me paint this for you. We are shackled as prisoners, left to our own devices and Jesus comes in triumphantly breaking the chains on our hands and feet with a cry of IT IS FINISHED.

The last words spoken by our Savoir, our Great Redeemer, our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago as our sin drove the nails through his hands. The same ones that he threw open to embrace us, his little wandering children saying “come home”.

Every time something doesn’t go your way. When you put yourself before God or you don’t know God. If you aren’t right with God, When you find your worldly beliefs in contrast to His word. When we catch ourselves not loving His people as he said we should. When we find ourselves not honoring him with the very lives he has blessed us with. When you struggle and when you’re having what we call a bad day. When it seems like everything is falling apart. When we don’t know what to do when the world turns it back to us then we must remember His words. Remember these words uttered by the Saviour and RUN TO HIM…

Run to Him.

My brothers and sisters in Christ…

The war is won and the battle is living like it.

 

I hope y’all enjoyed Johnny’s testimony. You can read more from Johnny at https://shepherdofthelight.wordpress.com.

If you’re interested in sharing your testimony, please comment or email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from y’all!

 

Quality Time with God

I don’t know why I never really valued time but it is such a valuable and limited resource. I had so much time in South Korea. I had time to focus on God, work on this blog, run errands, work, and spend time with friends. Sometimes I felt like I had too much time on my hands. I don’t have that luxury right now. I am trying to transition, doctor’s appointments, moving, errands, etc. By the end of the day I’m exhausted and my quiet time with God has suffered a bit.

I really liked my time with God in the morning and evening as I felt like they helped me focus on what really matters and kept me centered. I have a tendency to wake up and roll out the door when I have morning appointments. Whether it’s my attitude towards others or just my perspective on events, I’ve noticed that if I don’t start my day with God it’s a rough day. I didn’t know how to realistically solve the problem.

I remembered when I was riding with my youngest brother that he kept a copy of the Bible in the car. At the time, I was curious as to why he thought this was a good place to keep his Bible. He told me that he was so busy that sometimes the only chance he got to read the Bible was on a break, so he kept it in his car because a few minutes in the Word was better than nothing.

A few days ago, I decided to put my devotional in the car and committed to starting the day with it. I bought the “Jesus Today” devotional by Sarah Young, which is setup as if God was talking to us and includes scripture verses. It might only be a five minute read but it has made a big difference in how my days have been going. I feel more at peace and feel more focused on God and His work. It’s funny how a simple little habit can completely transform my day but it does. It’s not about the quantity of time you spend with Him but the quality of time. He understands that we go through different seasons and have busier times than others. He gets it, so don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the amount of time you want; focus on the quality.

 

What do you do when you’re short on time? I’d love to hear what kind of tips y’all have!

Dealing with Difficult People

How are we supposed to respond when people are unpleasant or rude or hurt us? My first instinct is to get defensive and strike back. Sometimes, if I’m hurt badly, I react by shutting down and allowing the relationship to fade. No one likes to be treated poorly but there has to be a better way to respond to these situations. I’ve always heard things like “treat others like you’d like to be treated” or “turn the other cheek.” As mentioned, I don’t always respond in this manner so I wanted to dig into the Bible to see what it says.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”

– Matthew 7:12

This is where we see the “Golden Rule”, although that’s not what Jesus called it. In this same section of Matthew, Jesus references the narrow gate maybe because following the Golden Rule isn’t easy. This is a great rule and easy to say but what does it look like in action? I kept looking to see how Jesus applied this. Matthew 8 shows Jesus curing a leper, which is great because most people avoided lepers but the leper wasn’t rude to Jesus. I kept looking and saw numerous examples of Jesus treating people well but how did he respond to people who were rude or mean to Him? Did He really live this principle?

I kept looking through the book of Matthew to see where and how Jesus interacted with the Pharisees. I observed some interesting things:

  1. Jesus wasn’t a pushover but He wasn’t rude either. Jesus responded to the Pharisees logically, firmly but politely (most of the time).
  2. He avoided confrontation if possible but didn’t back down.
  3. He continued to obey God and follow His plan.

Matthew 12 shows the Pharisees questioning Jesus about what He and His disciples were doing on the Sabbath. Jesus responds calmly and references what David did on the Sabbath. He doesn’t blow up on them or yell at them. He explains and defends His actions in a reasonable manner. That’s how I like people to treat me when we disagree. I think that encounter shows the Golden Rule in action. Granted, Jesus would call them out on things but this wasn’t His normal communication with them.

Secondly, Jesus avoided confrontation if possible. “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there.” – Matthew 12:14-15.   Knowing there was a conflict, Jesus didn’t try to engage them, but He avoided them. He didn’t want the drama. If someone has a problem with me, I’d want him or her to avoid me if possible. If it wasn’t possible to avoid them, He did what He needed to do. I think avoiding confrontation is a good application of the Golden Rule.

Finally, despite the opposition, Jesus continued to obey God and follow God’s plans. People aren’t always pleasant to be around and you cannot control how a person is going to act but you can control how you respond. No matter what people say or do, we are called to respond according to how God commands us to. He calls us to treat people how we want to be treated, but that doesn’t mean we’re a doormat or overlook bad behavior. We are called to be polite but firm, to avoid confrontation but above all, we are called to carry out the plan God has for us.

How do you handle difficult people? Any scripture or advice you want to share? As always, I love hearing from y’all!

Bible Study Tools

I am a bit of a nerd. I love learning and buying new pens and pencils. I confess – I was that student in school. Before I left Korea, I asked my Pastor for some tips on materials that I could use to study the Bible more indepth. He recommended a Study Bible (I own one I love – the ESV Study Bible by Crossway) and a Bible Dictionary. I admit, I turned my nose up at the idea of a dictionary. I know what the words mean (mostly), so how useful could a Bible dictionary be?

I was at a Lifeway Christian bookstore this past weekend and saw a great sale that had a Bible Dictionary 50% off, so I decided to bite the bullet and purchase it. For those interested, I bought the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (These are just my opinions; I am not affiliated with any of these companies or products). They call it a dictionary but I would describe it more as an encyclopedia. I love it! From Aaron to Zuzim, I find all kinds of information in this book, including maps and timelines. In case you were wondering, the Zuzim or the Zuzite were people who lived in Ham. I love the pictures and the seemingly random information scattered throughout this book.

I think it will be very useful in topical studies, since it includes verse references, and in understanding both the people and the books of the Bible. It also gives me history on the plants and transportation of the time, which helps me understand the context of the books that were written. Sometimes I get caught up wondering about the feasibility of something or focused on how things work that I sometimes miss the message. I used to get online to look things up and somehow, my computer would take me from my Bible search to Pinterest to Facebook and through a time warp that resulted in lost hours! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had that happened. Having this dictionary as a tool should help eliminate some of that.

Additionally, my ESV Study Bible gives me a lot of information. It’s a big Bible and it’s heavy too but I love being able to study the Bible on my own. Please don’t misunderstand – I love Bible Studies but I don’t want to rely on someone else leading me through interpreting the Bible; sometimes I want to read a particular book or section on my own and understand it. My study Bible gives me a good overview of the book, including the author, the timeframe it was written, the theme, the purpose, occasion and background, a summary, literary features, key themes and an outline. This information helps me with the context of what I’m reading and gives me a clue as to what to expect when I’m reading it. My Bible includes footnotes to help explain verses and cross-references to other scripture.

I love learning and I gain so much information from my Pastor, online sermons, and Bible Studies but sometimes I just need to sit down with my Bible and tools to study it with the Holy Spirit guiding me. There’s always something in the Bible to learn but depending on the season or what the Lord is doing in your life, different things may catch your attention. If you never sit down to read your Bible, you are doing yourself a disservice and limiting your relationship with the Father. He speaks to us in many ways and one of those ways is scripture. I encourage you to gather the necessary tools to be able to learn on your own.

 

What tools do you use to study the Bible? What would you recommend people starting out use? Does anyone else have a Bible Dictionary? As always, I love hearing from y’all!