** Hi friends! This post is part of a blog hop for Advent. At the end of my post you'll find links to some wonderful blogger friends who want to help you prepare Him room. Take some time to read them all. They really changed my heart and they will change yours too. **
It may seem a little odd that on the cusp of Advent season I want to talk about Jonah, but God often takes us down windy roads to prepare our hearts. I have been stuck in the four short chapters of Jonah for over a month. Hidden in this story I have found the grace of God-the same grace that sent a son to die for the sins of the world.
Most of you know that Jonah was swallowed by a fish for disobeying God but lived to tell the tale. It's the great Moby Dick story of the Bible. What you will miss, if you don't read closely, is the story of man's selfish heart met by the grace of God's love-over and over again.
Jonah went on a three hour tour to get away from God (as if one could "get away" from God) and ended up in the belly of a fish. The reason? God asked him to go preach against the sins of a great nation, Nineveh. The very nation that had persecuted God's people. He was to preach a warning message to turn them from their evil ways. Jonah's reason for not wanting to do this was not because he was afraid of the people in Nineveh, it was not that it was a terrible place to visit as it was a rich land, his reason for not wanting to go was because he knew that if he warned them of their evil ways and they repented and turned to God that God would forgive them.
Jonah didn't want God to forgive the people of Nineveh. Jonah had decided their sins were too great to be forgiven. Aren't you glad that God is in charge of the forgiveness department and not Jonah or you or me? Left up to us, there would be a lot of nonredeemable people in the world.
Jonah does get out of that fish, praising God for His grace and he goes to that town and obediently preaches as God instructed. As the King called the nation to repentance Jonah hiked to a nearby mountain top hoping God would still destroy their city. I can picture him staring up at the sky waiting for fireballs to drop down on Nineveh. His waiting was in vain.
Jonah was flat out mad that God forgave the people of Nineveh and showed mercy. I love God's response in Jonah 4:10-11
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
In other words, I made these people. I created mankind and I alone will determine how to love them. And I choose grace. I choose to pursue them when they sin against me and reward them as they draw near to me. This is my relationship and the only law that dictates is love.
The theme of this first week of Advent is hope. As we anticipate the upcoming anniversary of our Savior's birthday, let us find hope in a God that loves with grace unbound. Let us extend that hope to others as we offer them grace and not judgement. Just as Jesus did.
Be sure to read all these blogs that are part of the Prepare Him Room blog hop.
Wrapped in Grace – by DeanaLynnRogers.com
Welcoming Jesus is less about perfect preparations and more about scooching over.
Prepare Him Room - By Going The Distance
Read about the love language of Advent season.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room – by Living For God
Pause, Reflect, Enjoy, Praise, Accept, Rejoice, Exclaim
Prepare Him Room – by Revelations of a Southern Girl
Revelations about celebrating the season with an illness.
This post is part of the Prepare Him Room Blog Hop as part of the Woven Vow Blogger Group on Facebook. Join us for blog talk and faith filled encouragement.
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Where was God? This is the most commonly asked question when something bad happens.
Where was God when I had a miscarriage?
Where was God when her husband left her?
Where was God when that young mother dies of cancer?
Where was God when that candidate won the election?
Where is God in all this crazy hatred in the world?
I am currently doing a study on the history of the early church. It is a study of how the church established itself after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Here is what I am learning as I really study the scriptures. When I look past the miracles and gifts of the Spirit, I see a darker story.
The church actually grew through persecution. When people had to flee their country of face certain death for being a Christian the gospel spread to new lands. When people stood firm in their faith at the cost of being beheading, or shouted to God to forgive the crowd as they were being stoned to death, a statement was made. My God is bigger than the evils of this world. Wasn't that the point of the cross. To proclaim once and for all that evil could not, would not, conquer good. As a result the gospels spread and many believed.
So where is God now? In a crazy world of genocide and racism and power hungry leaders. A world where a dollar is more important than a life and being right is more important than love? Where is God?
He is in each story of triumph that builds hope in the oppressed. He is in each hand that reaches out to help the poor and sick. He is in each word that says I will not lash out when I don't agree but I will lean in and listen and try to help. He is in generosity. He is in each act of love.
Loving in hostile times can be hard. Overcoming affliction with hope can be daunting. I like how Moses handled it in Psalm 90. As his nation was sinning against God he talked to God. He pleaded with God for help, he asked God to fill him up with joy and love, and then he ends the prayer asking for God to establish the work of his hands. He didn't know what to do so he asked God for direction.
Good idea Moses. Good idea.
Psalm 90:13-17 NIV (A prayer of Moses, man of God)
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us--
yes, establish the work of our hands.
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Hey, you, my friend. Did you know that God did not create you to be a beat down Christian?
Look we all have troubles and trials that easily overwhelm. Yesterday, I talked to my boss after he received some bad news. After processing it, he said something profound. "The reality has not changed because I now know the news. So it's not bad news. It's the opposite. Now I am aware of a reality that already existed and I can respond to it."
Awareness of your troubles is an opportunity to respond. You can respond in fear or anger or worry or you can respond in seeking God for strength and courage and joy. You can choose to live joyfully triumphant. Either way. Your reality does not change.
The Prophet Habakkuk explains it like this:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk was living in a time when injustice surrounded him. Nothing made sense. Nothing seemed fair. But he chose joy. He chose to tap into the strength of his creator.
Did you know that you have the power to tap into the joy of God's spirit anytime you need it? You do not need to embrace your emptiness and reduce yourself to dry bones when you face troubles.
Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Don't get me wrong, we can do nothing without God but if we tap into his spirit we can do everything with him! We may have trouble mustering up joy on our own but we can find it in God! Seek Him, find joy. Isn't this good news? Isn't this reason to preach on our wholeness and not our brokenness?
Hebrews 13:5 “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
We must maintain hope which brings joy.
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”
We must be thankful which stems from appreciation not anxiousness.
Philemon 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Don't worry, thank Him for all the good He is, all the wholeness He extends, and then make your requests known. Be patient as you wait for the response and kill the time with being hopeful. Joyful. Triumphant.
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I have set a goal for November to tell as many people as possible why I am thankful for them. Being specifically acknowledged for who you are is one of the best gifts. Words. Words are gifts.
I want to help you all tell some people how thankful you are for them this Thanksgiving Season so I whipped up these printable note cards for you to use. There are 22 cards all with lovely fall images,quotes and a corresponding Bible verse on the back. Just print them on card stock, cut them out, write a personal note and hand them out.
I plan to use them in my daughters lunch, slip them in my friends purses, leave the under some windshield wipers...and who knows what else. Follow me on Instagram to see how I use them all November.
This is a follow up post to The Faith To Not Grow Weary.
Whenever I write about the fact that my husband is an unbeliever I get a lot of responses. They are always quiet whisper responses…a private email, a personal message on LinkedIn, a phone call. They are almost always “me too” responses.
Me too…I have that problem.
Me too…I feel that pain.
Me too…I get weary.
Me too…thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.
I have been thinking long and hard on the responses I invoke. It is never my intention to wallow-or help others to wallow. For Christ came that we may have life and life abundantly. He came to earth to bring the Kingdom near so we could live in freedom. If He’s given us the gift of abundant life, then surely we should walk under the banner of that gift. I don’t think anyone has ever been won to Christ though sulking.
I share simply to enter in. I know the subject of being married to an unbelieving spouse is somewhat taboo. People don’t like to talk about it or don’t know what to say about it. Or often when they do have something to say about it-it’s all wrong. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was at a Pastor’s conference and I was speaking to a fellow teacher of our church. The subject of my husband sporadically attending church (because he has not yet come to faith) became the topic of conversation.
Now, in my mind, I was celebrating that sporadic was better than never. I was counting the ways I see God wooing my husband-even though my husband doesn’t see it yet. My friend across from me saw something else. He said, “You know what Pastor Rick would say if you guys weren’t married yet? He would say don’t get married.”
Hmmmm…long pause while I try not to reach out and strangle the young man for trying to strangle my hope. Isn’t it funny how we know our task is to build each other up in Christ but a thoughtless comment derails our purpose. The Bible warns against this. A lot! Proverbs 18:21, Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 17:28, Proverbs 15:4, Matthew 12:36, just to name a few. I decided to let it slide. He is young and still has much life before him to learn the lessons only learned through time on this earth. We all deserve grace when we speak out of turn, and Pastor Rick has nothing to do with this, so I can’t hold someone else’s careless words against him.
But it does remind me of the importance of entering in. God gave me my unique situation and my unique gifting to minister to people who have the same struggles. Same goes for you, same goes for the young teacher with the careless words. You see words are never careless if the pain of the recipient is felt. It reminds me to stay in my own lane.
So here is the thing. We ARE married and there is nowhere in the Bible that says leaving an unbelieving spouse is a good thing. It says the opposite. Study it.
Here is the OTHER thing. I feel that God trusting me with an unbelieving spouse is one of my greatest honors. It is one of my hardest trials, but one of my greatest honors. God sees something in me that He knows can lead my husband to him. If you are married to an unbeliever or living with an unbeliever or friends with an unbeliever than God sees something in YOU that can lead that person to HIM.
It flips the situation on its head to no longer be about the unbeliever, but about you. It becomes about how God is pursuing you. Stay with me as I elaborate. If God sees something in you that can draw people to Him but you haven’t figured out what it is yet, then the dilemma is not the unbeliever but rather you seeking out God’s will for your life. This is about the relationship God wants to have with you, the things God wants to teach you. Because when you know God in such an intimate way that His presence rests on your shoulders when you come and when you go then people won’t be able to help but want to know him too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them”. I don’t think my husband coming to faith rests on my actions. We don’t serve a God that keeps score on a merit based system. His blessings are given freely through His grace alone. I am just saying that if I draw close to the Lord and get to know Him in such an intimate way that I begin to reflect who he is in a powerful way, and in doing so His kingdom is brought near through my daily living, that it will be a beacon to my husband. A lighthouse shining the way. Then as God woos my husband through others he is more receptive.
Is all this easy when you break it down to the day to day trials of being human? No. But is it worth it? Is it worth the suffering to be closer to Jesus and to have hope my husband will come to know Him? Yes. Every bit worth it. Times ten. For where there are trials. There is opportunity.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
James 1:2 NLT
This is part 2 of posts about living with an unbelieving spouse. Read The Faith To Not Grow Weary HERE
It is common for us to confuse our gifts with our purpose. In fact, most people will spend their entire life developing their gifts, focusing on their gifts, and never scratching the surface of their purpose.
Purpose is eternal, gifts are a means to accomplish the purpose. For example, my gifts are speaking and writing and connecting people. My purpose is using those gifts to lead others to Jesus. I could use my gifts for many things and never lead a person to Jesus.
Using your gifts for God is not easy. It requires a daily dying to one's self, setting aside your personal ambitions and selfishness. It requires setting aside accolades to do the less popular. It requires thought and work and discipline. But it is so worth it. Folks, if you know the feeling of living in God's will, it is a high with no comparison.
So how do we live in the will of God and use our gifts in alignment with our purpose? Well, this is our journey, isn't it? It's what our time on earth is all about, answering this one question and acting on the answer. Let me help point you in the right direction.
Last week, I attended the Purpose Driven Conference at Saddleback Church led by my Pastor Rick Warren. This conference had about 1000 attendees of Pastors and Church Ministers from all over the world. All with the same focus, how they could use their giftings as Pastors to grow their church and lead more people to Jesus.
I listened as Pastor Rick taught how to create the proper balance of worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry in your church. The information was amazing and all based on scripture. But something really stuck with me that Pastor Rick spoke about. One of the reasons I love my Pastor is that he preaches the Bible in such a way that it makes sense to even a non believer. (Part of His Church growth strategy.) He has a way with words and a way with making the Bible relative.
He said, "If you want to see the Church grow. Do what Jesus did. Jesus came to earth and interacted with people. He met their needs, loved them, and was interesting as He taught them. He planted a church and preached reconciliation, he equipped leaders, assisted the poor, cared for the sick and educated the next generation."
Those seem like simple enough tasks, right? We could all use our gifts to focus on one of those goals couldn't we? And if we did, we would be fulfilling our purpose of growing God's church.
What are your gifts? Are you using them in the context of your local church and to spread the gospel?
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I am sitting at my desk on a dreary Tuesday morning and I come upon an email. Distraught with a weary heart I scanned over the words not really absorbing them until I read these words...
“So, sweet one, in pursuit of our gracious Father's heart, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (Colossians 6:9). Live for Him, love Him, and be loved by Him.” ~Kaylene Yoder
You see my husband is not a believer. Besides the obvious, this also creates division in the leadership of our family because we both have a different lens through which we love others. One self-centered and one God-centered.
Every once in a while, like a thief in the night Satan tries to wrap his slimy fingers around my hope. His grip tightens with each critical comment from my husband, with each harsh word that knows just where to jab. As I shut down my emotions to protect myself the chaos takes over the joy in my home. How does hope turn to despair so quickly? They don’t call him a sneaky devil for nothing.
His grip tightens and squeezes the gentleness from my responses until I start looking much like the old self-centered version of myself. I cry out to God, “How long must I endure? How long must this go on? Could today be the day you redeem him? Could you please make him whole today? This is too hard. I can’t keep on loving and being kind all the time when I am faced with this! He can’t treat me this way! He can’t yell at the kids like that! He can’t be that selfish and get away with it!”
“So, sweet one, in pursuit of our gracious Father's heart, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (Colossians 6:9). Live for Him, love Him, and be loved by Him.”
How He slays my selfish heart with his Word and the word of those that love Him. “In pursuit of our gracious Father’s heart”. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Pursuing God, accepting His grace and offering it to others so that they may see Him through you.
It is the sweet reminder of His amazing grace that spurs me to move towards anger with gentleness, snide remarks with soothing words. It is what helps my ears tune into the hurt behind the rage and pray that God will help me be a healing balm and not add to a festering wound.
But before I can be any of that, I must first be filled. So I come to the throne of my Creator and ask for Him to make my heart new today. I ask him to pour his refining fire on my mind so that all resentment and frustration gets lost in the embers of grace. I ask Him to pour out his love into my weary open hands so that I don’t look for it somewhere else. I ask Him to fill me with His spirit so that I may act out of self-control and with eternal ambitions.
And He does, because He is God. Unwavering and unfailing in His love.
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Be sure to read my follow up post to this one:
I'm just a girl, standing before my God, knowing that He loves me and wanting others to know that love too.