Friday, October 16, 2009

Home again!

Despite the cold, rainy weather outside, my heart has been filled with boundless joy this week. Changing churches is really a difficult, emotional time. For the last several months, I have felt my joy wavering, and the transition to a new church, though necessary, has been a struggle for me. This past Sunday, however, I found myself almost in tears by the end of the service. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I was home. Because it had been such a long time since I had felt such peace and love, I had begun to wonder whether I would ever truly feel it again. God is an awesome God.

Knowing that I now have a community of people who love me and whom I love, understanding that there are shoulders for me to cry on and that I am there to support others, and listening to the wonderful Word of God preached filled me with a complete desire to get more involved in church and to be much more faithful in my daily Bible reading.

Since Sunday, I have been digging in the Word, crying tears of joy over the Word, and I am very excited. God took away, but He has given again and for that I am very, VERY thankful. :-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Update on Us

So, in  case you haven't heard, I have a new last name!  Patrick and I got married on July 18, and we are really enjoying married life.  I thought that I would give an update on us since I haven't seen many of you in quite a while.

Although the two months before our wedding saw us in churches with our relatives in New Hampshire (during our pre-marital counseling with my uncle), New Jersey (visiting my grandparents OPC church with them), and Virginia (I went down for my cousin Nick's graduation from high school),  we have been regularly attending New Covenant Presbyterian for the last seven or eight months.  During this time, God has richly blessed us individually and as a couple.  We have both grown in Christ under the teaching of Pastor David Barker, Pastor Don Dove, and the elders of the church.  They have encouraged us in the Lord, and their preaching has spurred us on to greater holiness.  We have really enjoyed getting to know the brethren there.

Being married has been a great blessing to us so far.  When God ordained marriage, He ordained a good thing.  I would like to add a word here about purity in relationships.  God commands purity and abhors sexual immorality, and He blesses those who obey Him.  Patrick and I saved our very first kiss for our wedding day.  You don't have to do that to be a Christian, but it was something that we chose to do.  We felt that it would be a great way to bring glory to God and to witness not only to unbelievers, but also to believers that it is possible to be in love and to remain pure.  Like I said--it's not necessary to save your first kiss, but it was the right decision for us.  It wasn't always easy, but it was well worth the wait!

On Saturday, we adopted a little kitty from the Lucky Cat Rescue.  Her name is Pippi, and we love her very much.  It was so neat to see Patrick's metamorphosis from rolling his eyes and saying, "Do we REALLY have to do this?" (he did promise) to running into Wal-Mart to buy toys and saying, "Hey Erin--get a picture of us!  It's Daddy's little girl . . ."  His heart melted like butter.  Little Pippi keeps me company during the day, and she cuddles with me by night.  In between times, Patrick tries to slip the little beggar tastes of ice cream. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mercies Anew

I think I posted something on this topic a while ago, but I happened (in the providence of God) to open up to these verses today:

Lamentations 3:22-26

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. . ."

I often wake up in the morning and go throughout the day with a "God'll get me through somehow" mentality--it was kind of like that today, in fact. However, these verses say so much more! "God's just going to . . ." in an impersonal, distant way changes to a "Wow--God is personally working in my life each and every day!"

In the haste and bustle of every day life, it is so easy to think of God as just . . . there, for lack of a better way of saying it. Sure I pray to Him often and often sing praises to Him, I don't often think of Him as He really is. God's love for me isn't some broad, all encompassing love that He has for His children that just covers me like everyone else, it's a special love--a love just for me. He's not just going to give me generous dose of mercy, same as yesterday. No! His compassions are NEW EVERY DAY!! This brought so much joy to me as I read because I realized anew the awesomeness of that statement. Yesterday's grace was definitely not enough to get me through today. Each day brings something different: a different challenge, a different experience, you name it. God knew before the world began EXACTLY what trials I would encounter, and He gives me just enough grace to get through each day. Some days I need more, some perhaps I need less, but God always gives me enough and, what's more, He always gives it.

Not only does this speak a lot to me on dealing with difficulties, but it also communicates VOLUMES about the love of God. Seems to me that giving grace to me would provide full time jobs for at least ten people (I need a lot of grace), but God not only does this for me--He also does it for every other one of His children. This concept is completely unfathomable to me. And can it be? Oh yes! Oh YES!! This is GOD! Stop for a minute and just think about this. I am totally blown away in wonder at the power, might, and love of the Lord. Nobody else can even come CLOSE to loving me this way, let alone loving so many people of all walks and races of life.

Do you know the love of God in this intimate, personal way? Are you familiar with the way His mercies are new each and every day? No matter who you love most in the world, despite the most wonderful love you may experience from your family/friends, NOTHING at all can ever compare to the love of God. Probably one of the most amazing things about this love is that it is free. You and I have nothing to offer God that He does not already have--He doesn't need anything from us. Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to His cross I cling. There is a hymn that encapsulates the beauty of God's love for us.

Original Trinity Hymnal, #393
Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity joined with pow'r:
He is able,He is able,He is able,
He is willing; doubt no more.

Come, ye needy, come and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Ev'ry grace that brings you nigh,
Without money,Without money,Without money,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all:
Not the righteous,Not the righteous,Not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him;
This he gives you,This he gives you,This he gives you;
'Tis the Spirit's rising beam.

Lo! th'incarnate God, ascended,
Pleads the merit of his blood;
Venture on him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude:
None but Jesus,None but Jesus,None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Writing His Law on My Heart

I've been discovering lately that I really know so much less than I give myself credit for. Yeah. I have also found that Satan is very clever in the lies that he tells college students. IMHO, "cram season" is one of his favorite times to mess with the minds of believing scholars. In my devotions tonight, I was reading again from Jeremiah and saw this verse underlined,

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people . . . For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. Jeremiah 31:33 and 34b.

Okaaay . . . this is what I WANT so badly. It is so easy for me to make excuses about why I am too busy to do my devotions during cram time and to discuss why God really understands what I’m going through, so it’s really all okay. WRONGO (as Dad likes to say)! This is the time that I need it the most! When things get hardest, during the roughest times, I need to rely more fully on God, not listen to the lies of the devil.

Time with God makes every day so much better. Recently, I’ve been trying to find ways to keep Him ever before my mind. I want the law of God written on my mind and heart. Perhaps I have not because I ask not? God has promised that He will not withhold any good things from His people—keeping Him ever at the forefront of my thoughts sounds like a good thing to me. I was just telling Julia this week (or maybe last) how I sometimes wish for the phylacteries of the Pharisees, not because I want to look spiritual or trying to impress others, but because I truly think that my life would be a better offering if I were constantly thinking on the Lord. How can I honor Him (my main purpose and goal in life) if I can’t even REMEMBER Him?!?

In desperate attempt to do this, I’ve been trying little tricks. If the people who saw me smiling and moving my body in rhythm to the song in my head knew WHAT the song in my head actually was, then they would be in for a huge surprise. Steve Green’s “Hide Em’ In Your Heart” songs were always a central part of my childhood, and I have found them to be the easiest way for me to memorize scripture. When my day is bad, I force myself to sing “A joyful heart is good medicine, good medicine, a joyful heart . . . but a broken spirit dries up the bones, a broken spirit dries up the bones . . .” ba dum bum bum . . . and after about ten times through, there is joy in my heart and a smile on my face as I dance-walk to my next class across campus. Amazing what a HUGE difference just a little bit of keeping God before my eyes makes for me. I actually have the whole CD in my car for those times when I need reminders. “G-O-D is L-O-V-E” is another favorite of mine. Whatever works.

What do you do? Do YOU seek God’s face? Do you know the love and sheer joy that comes from being a child of God? If you don’t, please ask me about it. I hope you can see it, at least in some measure, in my life.

Please pray for me as cram season begins and my stress levels boost to levels unknown. Pray that God would keep Himself ever before my eyes, and please pray that He would keep be sane during this time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jesus Paid It All

I AM HERE . . .

God is so faithful, and I am so unfair. While God is busy forgiving me, I am off casting stones at others. When God is mercifully taking me back into His loving arms, I am struggling to release the bitterness in my heart against those who have wronged me. There could not be a greater gap between the character of God and the carnality of my human heart.

Time and time again, God forgave the Israelites in the wilderness, so often did He show them mercy, but they always managed to fall back into grievous sin. It's amazing how easy it is for me to read the Old Testament accounts and think "Man, God did so much for them, provided them with all things, and they STILL turned away?!? I would NEVER do that." But then I look back upon my own life and realize that I am no different from the Israelite nation.

Pastor Barker preached the other night on the Israelites and the golden calf. The elders of Israel had JUST SEEN the power of the Lord, the whole nation camped in the shadow of Mt. Sinai where Moses met with God and saw the cloud of the Lord descend upon it, but despite the magnitude of God's presence at that place, the people begged Aaron for a god. Aaron gave them the golden calf. Again, it is soooo easy for me to judge them self-righteously. But . . . Every day I see the loving-kindness of the Lord, every day He is gracious toward me and provides for all my needs and more--and I STILL forget to thank Him, still forget to seek His face, and I still forget to give Him the praise and worship that He deserves. It is at times like these that I need to seek the face of God and remember again that I am here to do all things for His glory. Christ has changed my life, and I owe everything to Him.


How about you? Do you see yourself as a good person? Do you compare yourselves to others and think, "Gee, I don't do THAT, I must be okay" and then move on with your life? If so, I would encourage you to read the Bible and see what God has to say. God teaches that there are none righteous, no not one, that we have all turned aside to seek after things that will please and gratify us NOW. Only ONE was good, and that one was Jesus Christ.

God is a just God--would you want Him any other way? How would you feel if someone murdered one of your loved ones and the judge decided to be a nice guy on trial day and let the guy get away without any penalty at all? I could be wrong, but I think you'd be outraged. I know I would be upset. So God is just. He is also holy, and He hates sin. He cannot let sin go unpunished. That is why Jesus came to earth: to take the punishment for our sin. Only someone without sin could be a sacrifice in place of sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death--in other words, hell--but that Christ came to take the blame for any who would believe on Him. Jesus was a propitiation, a sacrifice to turn away the wrath of God, for us. You know that "little white lie" you told your boss this morning? No big deal, right? Wrong. Even if that was the only sin that you ever committed, it would still be enough to send your never-dying soul to Hell. Being a "good person" or living a "clean life" just isn't good enough. In Isaiah 64:6, we are told, "But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Filthy rags? That's pretty base and just gross. That is how God views sin. If we have sinned, which we all have, there is nothing that we can do to earn salvation. Instead, we must turn to the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. Jesus came to save sinners. That includes you, me, and everyone else who has ever been born except Jesus. Come to Christ. Turn from your sin and believe that He is the only way to enter heaven. Seek after Him, pray to Him, and dare to see how He can change your life.

God doesn't just want part of you. Maybe you think that going to church once a week means you have a "get out of jail free" card from God. Going to church isn't enough, being a "good person" isn't enough--the only thing that will make you right with God is salvation through Jesus Christ, the one who paid your debt of death for you if you will trust in Him.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Anne Shirley! To Despair Is to Turn Your Back on God!"

Who would have thought that this quote from Anne of Green Gables would end up being the basis for a blog post? When you think about it, this statement is really quite true. Despair, discouragement . . . it's all natural, right?

I've been talking to my amazing roomie a lot about encouragement lately. As one who becomes discouraged very easily, I often find myself wondering why. I've come to a few different conclusions about discouragement, and I thought I'd quickly post them here (I really need to get to bed, but I don't want to forget this).

Discouragement is NOT a natural part of life.

It is so easy to be sucked into the lie that discouragement is natural, that it is something that we must all just deal with. Not true. We are to be encouraged in the Lord, not worrying about tomorrow, and we must trust in God to take care of us. Be reminded that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose AND do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. God cares for the birds, the fish, the grass, and every living thing. Trust Him fully.

Also under this I would clarify that suffering and trials ARE a natural part of life in this fallen world. However, that does not mean that we should be discouraged in them.

Discouragement IS a sin.

Yes, we will have difficulty in this life. Yes, we will suffer and go through much trial and tribulation. No, we are not to be discouraged. God gives us these things because He loves us, because He wants to test our faith and to cause us to grow in Him. When we grow discouraged, we doubt this and distrust God. Instead of becoming discouraged in hard times, rejoice in them. Bless God that He sees fit to try you and seek Him more diligently that you may grow all the more during your trial. Though all seem lost and the world caving in around you, remember that God is in control and that He is using this for your good.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. Our own understanding will tell us that we have a right to be discouraged, that it's okay to be depressed. It's not. Instead, we need to rely on God. I became very discouraged the summer that my grandfather died, but I also found that God used that time to draw me closer to Him than I had ever been before and to cause me to trust in Him completely.

Pray through trials and against discouragement. Be ENCOURAGED that God loves you enough to try you and that He is in complete control. Lean on Him in your time of need, and He will never fail you. Use your time of tribulation to grow in faith, love, and adoration for our Lord. What could be more amazing than that? Who would have thought that it could rise from the depths of despair?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Could I Possibly BE More Relevant?

Conservative. It’s a word that I always would have used to describe myself. Politically conservative, theologically conservative, whatever conservative . . . so perhaps I never had much credibility with the "cool" crowd, those who were always on to the latest and most hip "thing" in life. Perhaps now that I'm marrying a guy with a tattoo and an earring I can up my standing some. Seriously, though, I've discovered something as I've grown older: I'm just not that different from everyone else out there. What do I mean by this? And why is it that things are creeping into the church in the name of relevance?

When I go to college, I look just like everyone else. True, my chest and stomach are decently covered at all times and my jeans are more loose than most, but I pretty well fit in with the typical college crowd (especially when I ditch the geeky backpack that I use to carry my laptop and million pound load of books). I work in an environment where employees can dress casually. I fit in there too. I never leave the house without some makeup. I change my hair color every couple of months, and my hair is cut short in the now-popular "inverted bob" style. All in all, I highly doubt anyone at school would look at me and think, "Man, what planet is she from?" or "Dude, look at the way she dresses--is she from Little House on the Prairie?"

I listen to secular music all the time, but I am discriminating about what goes in my ear-gates. I watch a lot of movies and shows on television, but I am very careful about what goes in my eye-gates. I have a facebook account, frequent my Google Chat and AIM accounts, and speak like a normal person in the 21st century. I'll scream at the Terp's game on Saturday (albeit without the cursing) and then go out to Starbucks for coffee afterward. Sound normal? I think so.

Why is it, then, that I keep getting blasted with the phrase, "YOU NEED TO BE CULTURALLY RELEVANT" ?!? How could I possibly BE more relevant without sinning? To be completely honest with you, I'm not trying to be relevant and normal, I just am. In all sincerity, I have enough trouble being conformed to the image of God without worrying about fitting in with the world. It's easy to be a part of the world, it's seeking after God whole-heartedly that is so difficult.

If I hear another sermon on cultural relevance, I think that I am going to scream. People ARE culturally relevant. Instead of doing all in our power to look, smell, and be like the world, we need to be more concerned with being "in the world, but not of the world." The Bible teaches that anyone who loves the world does not love God, that it is impossible to love both. Loving the world comes naturally to us because we are sinners. Seeking after God and loving Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength takes a lot of prayer and work.

My first priority in life is MY SOUL. I am responsible for working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I personally believe that IF I am doing my duty and molding my own life after Christ's, then witnessing to others and being a godly example will flow from that. Yes, I'll still need to work and pray about it, but I do think that it is a natural progression from personal holiness to personal evangelism.

The church is set apart. Different. The Bride of Christ. Why are men trying to conform the church to the world to make men more comfortable? The unsaved are supposed to feel somewhat uncomfortable when they come into church. They are supposed to see that THIS is DIFFERENT, that something is GOING ON here. Sermons tailored to make sinners feel "at home" are more doing a disservice to them, in my opinion, because the word of God (foolishness to those who do not believe) is supposed to point them to Christ. If they walk away from hearing the Word preached thinking that they are "cool" with God because He just loves everyone and has wonderful plans for their lives, then they are walking further down the path to hell. Hell, the word that so many are shying away from. Perhaps it is called "the bad place" or not spoken of at all. Sinners need to KNOW, so why worry about offending them. The Gospel IS offensive to those who are not saved. When the Word of God is preached, the Gospel and the saving work of Christ should be CLEAR. Forget being culturally relevant. Preach the Word and trust God to do the rest.

Another thing that truly bothers me is a growing fad to use foul language and crude/ribald stories/jokes from the pulpit. I shudder to think of what happened to Nadab and Abihu in the Bible when they offered strange fire before the Lord. Everything in the Bible teaches that God is serious about the way that He is worshipped. Using things that He has deemed unholy and joking about that which He calls sin should NOT be used to draw people to Christ. I do not care how "culturally relevant" it may be, it is wrong. Do you want your sons and daughters speaking dirty words? Would you like them telling and laughing at lewd descriptions or stories? I think not. Why is it that these things are all of a sudden acceptable when coming from a pulpit? Is it because the preacher is drawing large numbers of people to his church? So what?! Who cares? We should be more concerned about the glory of God and what pleases Him. This is truly offensive. I would walk out of any sermon like those described above, and I would never choose use such language myself. I would not even consider marrying a man who spoke like that. Why is it that these things are okay? I've heard the argument that we can take some good things from preachers like this and then leave the bad. Does the end justify the means? No.

It's getting late and I have classes tomorrow, so I am going to draw this to a close. The whole cultural relevance thing is really starting to get on my nerves. It's like a CD that is stuck on the same track and keeps repeating the same two seconds over and over and over again. AAHH!! Why can we not just focus on the important things: the glory of God, our own salvation and sanctification, and winning sinners to Christ? I believe that God will bless those who follow Him, and I think that we should keep our eyes on him, not on the numbers (or lack thereof) in our pews. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. The end never justifies the means, and using "cultural relevance" and foul language is not the way to evangelize a lost world. They need to see a difference, to see the light of Christ in a fallen world. We should not put the dimmer on our candles so that we blend in better with the darkness. Let your light so shine before men--brighter and brighter and brighter. Do not risk putting out your light by covering it up to blur the line between saint and sinner. Seek God and put your trust in Him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Rain

As I look back on this blog, I am reminded of the reasons why I chose its title. "Bring the rain." Current times have been full of blessing, but also very difficult for me. I am now engaged to the man that I believe God made me wait for, and I am very excited about getting married. Coupled with my joy, I have been extremely stressed lately. Between classes, trying to get through classes, and managing life, times have been rather trying. How easy it is to lose focus in the hecticness of every day life. Logging back into my blog reminded me today that I PRAYED for rain. Lately, I have felt drowned by it instead of refreshed. For the past two weeks, though, I have felt God drawing me closer to Himself, calming my overactive mind, and soothing me with the knowledge of His love, power, and sovereignty. I have begun journaling my devotions in an attempt to meditate more on God's word and so that I have something to look back on during difficult days. I have been so convicted that my lack of joy has been the cause of many of my difficulties. Instead of looking at the as glass half-full, I've been seeing it as mostly empty. Now, I am trying once again to live day by day (as Julia reminded me on Sunday night), and to look for and rejoice in the positive things that happen to me. Whether it's the beauty of the swirling snow, the blessing of actually finding a parking space at TU, or the warmth of Boo (the cat) resting on top of me while I rest, the little things have begun to brighten my days.

When in the mire of sin and self,
My eyes fall from the light.
With sadness sweeping over me,
Sin's grip just seems so tight.
I struggle feebly to climb out,
To find the joy I seek,
But ever deeper do I fall.
My heart begins to weep.
"O Lord have mercy," now I cry,
"And save me from my sin!"
These words--so simple, pure, and true,
The only way to win,
Should be the first words from my lips . . .
To save till last was sin.
God is my refuge, tower, hope,
The strength in all my fears.
O to keep Him before my eyes
Before they fill with tears.
Please make me steadfast, O my God,
And make my heart be true.
And may my first and greatest love
Be only, ever You.