No Valentine Left Behind Part 2

Last week’s post introduced ways Jesus’ love can overflow our hearts and be used to bless others.  The focus was on loving single moms.  This week, I wanted to highlight another demographic that would love any extra smiles you have to offer.

Valentine’s Day can feel like a day gone by to shut-ins and the elderly.  At the same time that a young single girl might be sitting at home and wondering why her day isn’t pink and roses, other hearts are sitting indoors, maybe recalling the days of dances and holding hands that are now only memories.  Jesus wants to hold these hearts too.  He wants them to know that they are dearly loved, and never forgotten.

It can be easy to try to bring warmth into someone’s life through an upbeat smile and a chipper attitude, but it is not always easy to start a meaningful conversation with someone when you might not even know their story.

Perhaps you already know of older people to visit who would love the company, or you may be venturing into new territory.  Every person will be different, so be sensitive in interacting with those to whom God leads you.  Valentine’s Day often feels like a time to make a big show of affection through gifts and attention, but it may also be a point of sorrow for someone who is grieving a loved one.  If you aren’t sure what the best approach would be, just bring yourself and be a friend.  Remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen.

Some people don’t need much encouragement to start a conversation, with others, it may be helpful to ask questions.  What sorts of music do they like?  Maybe you could even listen together of your phone.  Do they have a favorite season, flower, or sport?  If they have been in church for a large part of their lives, they may have favorite Bible verses or hymns.  You may even find common ground that you didn’t expect.  I once had a very amusing conversation with my grandmother about how we didn’t understand the trends and fads of “our generation” (hers and mine respectively), and how they all had to be up on the latest things like Elvis or rap music.

Be sensitive, but don’t be afraid to reach out.  It can be common in nursing homes for a person to have physical touch from those who care for them, but not very often from friends who have time to sit and hold their hand or give a reassuring touch.  Jesus also reached out into places and to people that needed the warmth of His reassuring hand.  Spend time with Him and learn His same compassion for people who are in situations we might not understand.  Even if they seem not to understand everything that is going on around them, ask Jesus to give you His eyes to look past it, and His hear to speak to them as a friend would.  In the midst of a life that rushes by, stop and have a chat with someone who needs a friend.  He may share a blessing with you that you did not expect as you reach out to share His love.

Ask if you can pray with them before you leave.  Even if a person’s mind is not what it used to be, their spirits often remember the touch of their Savior.  It is such a sweet thing to hear a heart that has long belonged to Jesus when it prays.  If you think that you may not be able to visit again for a while, make sure to tell them what the time meant to you.  Don’t be afraid to speak from the heart and let them know what has touched you.  For someone who cannot get out much anymore, it can mean the world to know that they can still reach others too.

by Stephanie H.

If you have any stories you would like to share or ideas for reaching out to others, please let us know in the comments.  We would love to get to know you or answer any questions you might have.  Thank you so much for spending time here with us.

No Valentine Left Behind Part 1

  The warmth of Jesus’ presence is so satisfying.  It is so sweet to hear Him whisper for you to come away alone with Him for a while.  In silence and in song, there is no place so loving as His embrace.  Why do we come back to our day to day lives?  Not because His love loses its comfort, but because we cannot bear to see others without this same love.

Valentine’s Day has become a special time with Jesus for me.  Previously, Anna and Tai have given us some great advice on how to keep Jesus as the center of your Valentine’s Day, even if you’re single.  When our cup begins to overflow, and we see His heart and His eyes of compassion, what can we do but share it?  Valentine’s Day has such a strong focus on love and sweetness, that it can also end up highlighting pain and loneliness in our lives and the lives around us.  What an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

Whom do you have in your life that might need a touch of Jesus’ love?

The first people that came to mind for me are single moms.  Being single at all on Valentine’s Day can be tough.  A single mom carries a great deal of responsibility for the little hearts she holds, but it is not always easy for her to have those heart-to-heart conversations of her own.  This could be for any number of personal or practical circumstances.  Perhaps there is a single mom near you who could use a ray of Jesus’ joy in her life.
Even if you don’t know someone very well, flowers can be a sweet reminder that she is loved.  God didn’t have to finger-paint the plants in order for them to thrive, but He just loves to delight our hearts.  Can you believe how many beautiful things He has made?

In the same way, receiving the gift of flowers can bring so much light into a busy or stressful day.  They can be such precious windowsill reminders of God’s love.

It might take you out of your comfort zone to give flowers to someone if you don’t know her well, but don’t underestimate how much of a blessing a sincere smile can be.  It often touches people’s hearts more than they show it, and it certainly blesses Jesus to see His daughter sharing His heart with the ones He loves.

If you know her well, you may be in a position to take her out for coffee, lunch, or on a shopping trip.  You might even know her well enough to surprise her with a favorite latte at work, or to set up a chance for her to get a manicure.

Don’t forget the kiddos!  Every mom is different, and every phase of parenting every child is different.  Some moms might need a chance to regroup before they get back to tying shoes and giving goodnight kisses.  Maybe she might like some one-on-one adult conversation, and appreciate the offer to baby sit while she catches up with a friend.  Other moms might have the best Valentine’s Day ever taking a packed lunch to the park or sharing laughter with her kids and her friends over ice cream.  Sometimes the best way to let a friend know that Jesus loves her is to show her that He loves her kids.

Keep close to Jesus in prayer as you consider what Valentines He might call you toward.  Every situation is different, but He will lead you where He means for you to be His light, even if that means spending more time alone with Him before He tells you how His love will overflow through you.  Even so, don’t be afraid to share a smile and a loving word with those around you.  A little love can go a long way.

by Stephanie H.

Part 2 of this serial will be available next week.  In the meantime, how has the Lord blessed you when you were lonely, Valentine’s Day or otherwise?  Have you ever followed His direction to show love to someone even though you were nervous?  Send us a message or let us know in the comments.  We absolutely love hearing from you!

A Single Purpose

It hasn’t always been easy being single.  Even in learning to rely on Jesus, and truly seeing Him as my beloved, there are some times of loneliness that still come up.  I am at the point in my life where I can really resonate with what Katie Davis Majors wrote about singleness, and just really being happy (maybe a bit stubbornly so) with the thought of life being just me and Jesus, together forever.

But what is a single person supposed to do?  Each of us has an individual calling from the Lord, but it can seem like married couples have a clearer map to follow than single people.  There is so much to learn about caring for and considering another person even before children come along, and then life is a whirlwind of keeping them fed, loved, and in one piece through terrible twos and teens years, and then teaching them to be adults and parents for themselves.

That’s certainly an oversimplification of the process, but to a single person, it can be hard to figure out where to focus your energy if not on finding a way to get married and start a family.

Culture tells us that this is this is the season for self-love and self-discovery, but, as Tai and Anna have written before, that way of thinking never gets us very far. We can do all “twenty things to do while you’re in your twenties” and still come out more confused than before we started.  What is easy to overlook is that all of culture leans this way.  A focus on “me time” is more noticeable in the lives of singles because they seem to have less of an obligation to take care of others.  God’s people were not meant to live this way.

In Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus said that “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (verse fifty)  And in the book of Acts, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” (Acts 4:32) 

God’s people were made to be a family: a family that extends beyond our blood relatives.  As Tai wrote, that does not mean that we have to be stay-at-home daughters until are married.  But it also doesn’t mean that our lives must be mainly focused on our own interests or on our work lives.

One profound way I have been learning to be a part of God’s family is by using the time I have to support my brothers and sisters who do have greater family commitments.  I am still at a stage of life where there are not many variables that would make it hard to change up my schedule if I need to do something.  I cannot imagine how great a responsibility it is to support a family at work, go home and make sure they are fed, loved, and doing well in school, maybe staying up with them at night when they are sick, then getting them up for school in the morning and doing it all over again.  Some of my colleagues do this sort of thing every day, and it is a huge blessing to me to know that I can help them in it by picking up odd tasks (turns our I love doing certain kinds of paperwork), or filling in if a sick family member needs care that day.  An added bonus is that I have also been learning many things that will be a huge benefit when I have a family of my own.  And that is just my own experience.  There are so many people who could use a little more family support.  The elderly might need a chat or a hand with the heavy lifting.  Maybe a single mom could use a friend stopping by for some girl time, a grocery shopping buddy, or a babysitter for the evening so she can wear jewelry again.  A dear pastor or leader might appreciate the lawn mowed so he can spend time with his family or take care of some of God’s other family members.

As a single person, I also have fewer complications if the Lord calls me to the mission field.  It might not be your call, but it is a reason to be in prayer.

If you’re not yet called to sell everything and move into the jungle, think about how you do use your resources.  If you have a good job and a family support network, you might have the opportunity to splurge on hobbies and hanging out with friends more often than others people who are supporting families. In what ways could you be supporting God’s family?  What are some of the dreams, needs, or wishes among your friends, church family, or community?  Is there a woman at church who could use some flowers today?  Is there a younger person who might need a big sister to take them for ice cream?  Has an emergency come up for a friend, making it harder to make ends meet?  Would it really make a friend’s day if someone caught the check at lunch?  This can be a tricky subject, since some people find it embarrassing when when another person meets their financial needs.  There are also cases where giving money might encourage a harmful lifestyle.  Always been in prayer about how the Lord can best use what you have, but don’t be afraid to overcome your inhibitions when He shows you how to bless His family.

Be especially generous with your prayers.  Just knowing that someone else is willing to take a few minutes out of their day to intercede for them really touches so many people’s hearts.  So many of these things can be great random acts of kindness, but take it a step forward and get to know and love the hearts of your family in Christ.   Don’t be afraid to adopt someone!  Take the love Jesus has given you and show His family how He cares for them.  He’ll use His family to take care of you too.

by Stephanie H.

Freely Give

Sometimes, Christmas still has that sparkle.  The snow fell pretty heavily yesterday morning, leaving us to the warmth of lamps, blankets, and instrumental carols to complete the picture.  By noon, the pajama-clad children are all napping on the couch, one on top of another like puppies, surrounded by empty boxes, stray wrapping paper, and all of the newly discovered treasures.   There is just something magical, even surreal, about the Christmas festivities.

I was thinking about all of the gifts exchanged and received, and how much there seems to be in the moment.  One gift right after another with barely time to look at them before they are scattered amidst the boxes, bags, bows, and packaging that hid them: between gifts of clothing, tools, toys, books, snacks, gadgets, and novelties, it suddenly feels like everything in your life is new, as though this is the first day of a life defined by different things than the last year.  The thought made me stop and count what exactly my gifts had been this Christmas.  I don’t mean to reduce how thoughtful they are, or how much I will enjoy them, but realistically, a few sweaters and scarves, a tote bag of snacks, and a novelty lamp will change very little about my day to day life once the glimmer of this charming Christmas day has worn off.  I will enjoy them, but I will still have to come back to the firm reality of the world and admit that these things are just amusements.  I had some very significant time with Jesus this Christmas, but I also came to realize how whimsical so many of my expectations of a “good” Christmas day are.

Another thing that stood out to me this year was in giving gifts to my friends at work.  With the month of December being so busy, I only put together small gifts this year, but the response I got surprised me.  Nearly everyone to whom I gave a gift hesitated at first and asked “Is this for me?”  I teased some for being surprised (“No, I just wanted you to hold it” *wink*), but their voices really did sound affected.  A stranger might ask such a thing if given a gift, but there were friends and co-laborers with whom I work day in and day out.  Did it actually surprise them that someone was thinking of them?

The roads we walk are often hard.  Jesus is always there with us, to pick us up when we fall, and to refresh us when we are weary, but I underestimate how often He does this through His family.   The whimsical gifts fade, but anything with a hint of Jesus in it lasts, in as much as He is in it.  I have known things even as small as a smile that touches the eyes or a good-night hug to have a realness, a solidness, to them that all of the “real” material things seem to lack.  Those glimpses of Jesus are the things that keep me anchored during the difficult times.  From the moment that they are given, they may be as small as seeds, but they can quickly become the roots that keep us stable in the midst of the harshest storms.

It can be a struggle to keep scattering seeds when we often cannot see the results, but it is something that is starting to spur me on to love more actively and directly.  It may seem silly to invest time and resources in people who don’t seem to need the attention, or who don’t seem to want it, but the seeds God gives us were meant to be scattered.  Whether they will face heat, thorns, or be eaten by birds, so that we never see where those seeds come up, is for Him to decide.  He may move us on to other fields before we even know which patches were the good soil.

Is that not to our benefit?  We would be so quick to decided what “good soil” looked like if the Lord always let us see at face value the results of our devotion to Him.  His words to us were “freely ye have received, freely give.”  What if we could move past our fears, and love and serve others as often as we feel the need to be loved?  The thought that “This is for me?” could mean that I have given someone a seed in the midst of a hard time makes me long to give away everything I own to bless others.  What might I be keeping that could be used to bring hope to others?  When might my timidity be keeping me from reaching out to someone in public who may need a friendly smile or a kind word?  Christmastime has its whimsical charms, but I want to see Jesus Himself.  I pray that I will love more freely in the New Year.

by Stephanie H.

A Baby is the Door

 

 

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
~Isaiah 7:14

 

I keep coming back to Tai’s post about the Highways to Zion.  Something about a real city, a physical image of the kingdom community, goes so far to help me understand what it is like to know and to come close to Jesus as a real person, a real God, a real King.  That is what I thought when I saw this Christmas card.  The baby King was born away from the people He loved, out in a little stable, or a lonely shepherd cave, but this manger cradle is tucked into a doorway.  It made me think of the city of Zion, and Jesus’ own words, that He is the door.  He didn’t just grow up to be the door.  He wasn’t even born to be the door.  He has always been “God with us,” the example we have of what our Father and His Father is really like.  And this is how He first comes to us; later, it will still be meek and riding on a donkey, washing feet, and with death for a coronation, but at the moment this new and glorious morn breaks over a weary world; a world that lies in sin and error pining, mourning in lonely exile; at that first moment, the reigning King comes as a person probably not even ten pounds, and not even able to lift His own head.

How can Jesus love us so much that He wanted to be so helpless in such a broken world?

I think of how often I can get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and everything I can try to do to make myself better; how I often worry about waking up at the right time, whether or not I know my Bible as well as I should, and always trying to know the right things to say at the right time.  We so often weigh our closeness to God with how much we can carry.  Then, we come to this little door: the way, the only way, to come to the Father.

It is such a sweet thing to hold a baby, to memorize the features of a sleeping face, or watch brand new fingers take hold of your own.  One precious blessing is that you cannot be overburdened with luggage and hold a baby at the same time.  As we come to this perfect door, we must put down everything else.  Sometimes, it is as though everything else just melts away in His presence.  Other times, it is a fight against our nature, and the belief that we now have to find a way to balance all of the cares of our lives and our Christian obligations, and still find a way to carry a baby too without hurting Him.

It is quite impossible, and it is meant to be.  The first and hardest habit to break is trying to protect ourselves.  Can you trust that the Lord will hold back the anxiety and the fear, and protect you from every enemy thought while you spend time with Him?  We shouldn’t have to be looking over one shoulder when we are in His presence; we aren’t meant to.  It is the place of absolute trust.  Trust He showed us by example when made Himself vulnerable to every mother’s worst fears, even before He was born.  He showed us how to become little children in trusting His safety to His Father, even during the time of such violent kings on earth.

Christmas does not need to come with any expectations.  The anticipation of beauty breaks our hearts when we have rested that success on ourselves.  Those expectations are meant to be trust given to Him; fears He will erase when we come face to face with His innocence: a purity that has outlasted the darkness of one thousand generations.  I pray that He will again be the light of your holiday this year.

Merry Christmas.

by Stephanie H.

If you are struggling to find the joy and peace of Christmas this year, please message us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.  We would love to talk and pray with you.

Waiting for the Letdown

 

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
    those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

Zephaniah 1:12-13

 

“God…I trust you. I know you don’t want to harm us…I just…don’t really see how this could possibly work out well in the end. But, I WILL hold onto you no matter what happens, even if it is a disaster, and things don’t go the way I’m hoping.”

So often my thoughts have gone something like this, as I try to have faith for something that seems….well….just crazy. Maybe I struggle to believe that God can actually DO something that big…or maybe I struggle to understand why or how He would do something like that…….for ME. I don’t deserve a blessing like that…so…why should He see it through? I mean, I can believe for the same thing for someone else. But me? I brace myself for the disappointment. The letdown. The failure of my faith.

Faith?

What faith? Is THAT faith??

It is so easy to fall into this attitude that Zephaniah so poignantly describes in chapter 1 of his book. It is so easy to know deep in our hearts that God won’t do evil toward us…but…not letting — or MAKING — ourselves believe that He can and WILL also do good! We must guard ourselves very carefully from this attitude, for, as Zephaniah points out, this attitude breeds complacency; NOT the bold faith that sets out to conquer in the name of the Lord! We must push aside every doubt that tries to crowd into our minds and hearts when we set forth to pray in faith, and we must BELIEVE the Lord for good! For us! Today! He will not fail us, and our hope is NOT in vain. Unless we press the victory, and break through the hoards of doubts that try to stand in our way, to keep us from receiving that which we pray for, we will fall short of what God desires for us! It is like the story of Joash in 2 Kings, when Elisha told him to take a bow and shoot arrows out his window. And Joash took it, and shot 3 arrows and then stopped. Then Elisha was angry with him, because, he said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” When we lose heart after praying only for a little while, we do not gain the victory we might have had if we pressed on! And unless we press forward in our trust in the Lord, we will be like those Zephaniah describes who never see the fruit of their labors. So too, if we do not believe the Lord for the answer to our prayers, and hold fast, waiting expectantly for His blessing, we will not get to see the fruit of the wrestling faith, and we will not have the reward of our faith. For, simply thinking, “God will not do evil….but neither will he do good,” is not enough.

Ask God to show you how you may have been doing this in your own life…and ask Him to teach you REAL faith and trust in His goodness and faithfulness!

 

 

How to Have the WORST Valentines Day EVER!

 

“‘Worst?’ Why would I want to have the *WORST* Valentine’s Day ever?”

 

Well, that is a good question. But…you’re reading the article now, aren’t you. 😉
However, this sentiment is basically exactly what our actions speak about what is going on in our hearts. The moping, the self-pity, the long sighs…all these things shout, “I’m having a terrible Valentine’s Day! Pity me!”

Now, being a single-twenty something has its perks. More time to myself, the ability to travel freely, lots of ‘girl time’ with friends, and being able to pour out into others’ lives in a unique way. Even though I have hard days where I’m longing over Pinterest boards, I am learning to be honored that the Lord entrusted me with this time of my life. I want to learn every lesson He would teach me. Right here. Right now.

This being said, when February rolls around, it is associated with a magic number. “14”.

Ahhhh..Valentine’s Day.

Jokingly called Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.), it is one day where singles tend to feel left out of the ‘club’. Advertisements for Cards, Roses, and Chocolates bombard your senses in every store. Exclusive ‘Valentines Day’ perfumes tantalize your sense as you walk past Mall kiosks.

So what’s a (single) girl to do? I mean, aside from buying all that chocolate for *yourself*?

As I alluded to before, one of the most common (and easiest) reactions is self-pity. ‘Another year…alone’. I fall into this snare often; however, I don’t want to stay there and I don’t want YOU to stay there. My social circle consists of mostly 12-19 year olds, most of whom are girls. I don’t exactly have hoards of young beaus flocking to my door. But this year, I want to share with you a few things (personal and then practical) that the Lord has reminded me of this week—truths to cling to when you feel alone.

1)      God honors prayers. He hears us. He hears our heart’s desires. He remembers prayers that have been prayed, even when WE don’t remember praying them! If you have a desire to be married, know that God hears you. I don’t know what the future holds for you. But, the truth is, He has HIS best in mind for us. It may not always be clear—but He knows and remembers us. Even this week, the Lord reminded me that I have prayed for my heart’s protection ever since I was little. Even though it is “natural” human desire to appreciate attention, I have earnestly prayed that the Lord would be my Guard—that He would keep all the “Mr. NOT-Right”s away. I don’t want attention for the sake of attention. I want God’s best. In little steps, He is teaching me to be thankful and cherish His protection over my heart.

 

2)      The Lord reminded me this week that singleness is also His opportunity to care for me in a special way. It may not always be the world’s perspective of ‘fun’, but it is so special. To curl up on your bed and spend time talking to the One who understands the core of your soul? Priceless. I have seen the Lord care for me as a Father by providing for my every financial need, my emotional needs, and my spiritual needs. Ask Him to take care of you. He loves to do it!

 

3)      He is the best Valentine Date. Ever. Last Valentine’s Day, I went on a walk with Him through the field near my house. I cannot express the contentment of a soul when it is in the presence of Jesus Christ. In Him, we are made whole. In Jesus, insecurities don’t exist. There is no comparison. There is no size requirement. There is nothing lacking, because He is our all. His voice is the one we long most to hear. His is the wisdom which baffles man. His is the love which isn’t hinged upon our “performance”. He is God. The one whom my soul loves, and longs to know MORE. He is my favorite Valentine…and He can really be yours, too.

 

So, here’s the practical. If you WANT to have the WORST Valentine’s Day ever, feel free to wallow in self-pity. But…if you want to have a joyful, and even fruitful day…why not try out some of these ideas instead! Here are a few things I have done which get my focus off myself and back on serving others.

1)      Get dressed up and go out to eat with some girl friends

2)      Host a girl night at your house/dorm room

3)      Make Valentines and send them to Widows, Single friends, etc.

4)      Bake Cookies and give them to others (Law enforcement, mail carriers, etc)

5)      Make a special dinner for your family

6)      Find verses about “love” and make decorations for your house/room

7)      Watch a couple’s children so they can have a (probably much needed) night out

 

What about you? How do you celebrate Valentine’s day—single or married! Do you have any new ideas for this year that you’re going to give a try??

by Anna Faith.

Contentment in Serving God…His Way.

 

 

servinggodblog

 

I struggle with lots of things. Shocking, I know. 😛

But one of my biggest ongoing struggles has been wanting to be more fruitful than I am…and, in spite of being on tour half of the year specifically to go around sharing the gospel with people all over North America, with my family, I often feel so useless….and have a list of TONS of things that *I* want to do for the Lord that would be *way* more fruitful than what I’m doing….at least, in my mind, that’s the way it seems.

But, the other day, a thought suddenly came to me…that  my struggles are just like this scenario:

What if my husband came and asked me to go out to dinner with him…and I responded with, “Well…that’s nice, BUT…I already have a list of things that I’m going to do for you that will make you REALLY happy. I’m going to clean the house, vacuum, scrub the floor, and mow the lawn – because I know all that will make you really happy!”

But…what my husband actually wanted was just for me to go to dinner with him. And, while all of those other things might actually *be* a blessing to him at a different time, at that moment, if I was refusing to go out with him so that I could do all those other things instead, OR if I went out, but I was continually talking about how I should actually be doing all of those other things instead because they would have been more useful or more of a blessing to him…..that would NOT be actually blessing his heart. AND it would probably both take away from the sweetness of the time that could have been had, and also it would ruin his plans for blessing me and just having a sweet night.

Well, it’s the same with God. There have been times that I know He has asked me to do some “projects” (like my magazine, books, etc.), and when He has asked it of me, He has made it to be in the perfect timing and has blessed it, and caused it to be completed, making my small windows of time to be very efficient.

BUT…if I am continually wishing I could do all these “fruitful” things that I feel would bless Him *more* than what He has set before me right now (like being on tour, being a mommy to two kiddos, etc.), that is really not a blessing to His heart, and in fact, it takes away from the sweetness of being with Him and being faithful in what He has set before me, and fills my heart with discontentment and endless struggles.

I’m praying that God shows me how to be JOYFULLY content in His will, as well as fruitful in being faithful with what He has set before me.

What about you?

 

signatureMED

Part 1: How Can YOU Be God’s Sanctuary?

PART1

by Stephanie H.

“And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” ~Exodus 25:8

Oh, the dear Old Testament.  It can be so easy for me to learn only the “usual” lessons from the Old Testament, especially the books of the Law, and reserve my real growth for Psalms, the Prophets, and mainly the New Testament.  Usually, if I think about Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, I may remember a few stories that take place in there, an a lot of grief between God and the Israelites, but I most often approach these books as being full of things to learn that I no longer need to worry about, since I am under the blood of Jesus.  I am an avowed student of knowledge, so it fascinates me to know that the Israelites were not to seek to model heathen cultures who would wear cloth made from plant fibers, and from animal skin, while wearing pins of precious stone, in order to worship nature by representing animal, vegetable, and mineral in their garments.  Fascinating!  I devour that kind of knowledge on a regular basis, but I know the Lord does not require me to be picky about what blend of wool, cotton, or polyester my t-shirts are.  I love to study the books of the Law, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with the information once I have it.

Enter the book of Hebrews.  This letter is written to the Christians who have been worshiping God since their ancestors left Egypt, over fifteen hundred years before this letter was penned.  Jesus had only come, at most, a few decades ago.  Can you imagine?  Now all of these lifelong believers need to know: what do we do with our faith?  How are we to continue in our faith as Jews, but still give our full devotion to Jesus, without neglecting the commands given from God the Father to Abraham, Moses, and the fathers?

With pen in hand, and plenty of notebook paper, I was ready to document all of the contrasts between the old and new covenants.  Of course, I was also willing to compare the things that hadn’t passed away, but I honestly wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the straightforwardness of the religion found in the books of the Law.

“And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” ~Exodus 25:8

The Lord did not give His people a building project so that they would stay out of trouble.  He also wasn’t involved in intimate relationships with all of His people until He decided they should have to come into His house in order to see Him.  God is so pure and holy that if any sin is in the presence of His radiant, blinding, infinite purity, the sinner will die instantly.  God never wanted us to be separated from Him like that.  The tabernacle He commissioned, and the Law He gave His people were a lot of work, but it would mean they could be near to Him again.

“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.'” ~Matthew 1:23

Jesus’ purpose for coming is the same purpose God had from the beginning.  Building the tabernacle and the temple were just previous steps to that plan.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:14

I just love it when the Lord shows me something new in familiar places!

“Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple [or sanctuary], and in three days I will raise it up.’ … But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” ~John 2:19, 21

But wait!  There’s more!  The writer of Hebrews tells us that the tabernacle is a shadow of what it will be like in Heaven.

“…who serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for ‘See,’ He says, ‘That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.'” ~Hebrews 8:5

So everything that the Lord told Moses was so that His people would know what it will be like when we are all with Jesus for eternity.  So if Heaven is the true sanctuary, and Jesus is now our High Priest, what does that mean for us today?

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” ~1 Peter 2:9
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ~1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you hear that?  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and that creation is the temple of God!  You don’t have to wait for a priest to burn incense before the Lord on your behalf.  You are a priestess!  Your prayers are set before Him like incense! (Psalm 141:2)  You can come into His presence whenever you pray, because the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and Jesus is your High Priest.  You are the temple of the Most High.

As I sit here and write, that is enough to baffle me.  The fact that God has gone to such great lengths and depths just to dwell with me is astounding.  Now what do I do?  How do I construct the sanctuary, that God may dwell with me?  If we no longer burn incense and offer sacrifices to be near to the Lord, what does a priestess do to prepare for life in Heaven?

I’m so glad we’re asking the same questions.

 

Prepare the Sanctuary.

“For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.” ~Hebrews 9:2

Sometimes individual words just stand out to me.  What did it mean that the tabernacle was prepared?  That means the Israelites had to be expecting something to happen.  They were making the sanctuary ready for the purpose it would fill.  That purpose was the one God gave them: “Construct a sanctuary, that I may dwell with you.”  The Israelites believed, and obeyed.  That is the first step in constructing your sanctuary.

Believe, and obey.

God dwelling among us is not a naturally occurring state.  Sometimes we expect that we will be stumbling through the desert of life, and that if God is real, we will just trip and fall into an oasis.  That is probably why mirages of worldly happiness so often deceive us.  True, the Lord does offer more peace and joy than anything in this world.  It is like finding a river surrounded by shade palms in the middle of a parched land.  But we are priestesses.  We play an active role in our relationship with the Lord.  Even when the Lord chose to meet Moses by surprise through the burning bush, it was not God’s dwelling place.  It was a command, and a promise.  Moses believed the Lord and acted accordingly.  The tabernacle was not discovered like the burning bush.  It was prepared for God to dwell in it among His people.  Our relationships with the Lord today are built on the same faith.  We come before the Lord, and He will tell us what to do to prepare for His blessing and His work in our lives.  We believe, and do as He tells us in His Word, and in prayer, and we grow in our faith when we see that His promises are true.  God is infinite, so we will be spending an eternity discovering Him!  So prepare yourself, sister.  Your walk with the Lord will be a series of preparations to meet with Jesus, and to receive His promises, all in preparation to be with Him forever, just as He promises!

 

Follow the Plan.

“Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” ~Exodus 26:30

There was no room for artistic license in building this sanctuary.  Not in the architecture, not in the lighting, not in the interior decorating.  God still employed the talents of incredible craftsmen and weavers for the building of the tabernacle, and later the temple, but their job was to follow the plan.  As God’s temple, it is the same for you and me.  We follow Jesus first.  He has given us a plan in the Bible, and it is our duty to follow it so that we will be made pure and holy temples that can dwell in His presence.  That always means there will be some things we have to give up, even some hobbies that aren’t sinful in themselves, but have become idols in our lives.  For me, a big part of my life that had to be removed was my writing.  I wanted to be a fantasy novelist.  For the most part, I even wanted to use it for the Lord.  I had plans to write stories that would show good triumphing over evil, and hoped they would teach good lessons.  But God had better plans for me than I had for myself.  The more closely I follow His plan for my life, the more He shows me things I had never even thought of before!  Not all hobbies will be things He asks us to remove.  He let me keep all of my field guides, and He has given me joy in discovering more rare birds than I usually see, but it is something I must still be willing to leave behind if it does not fit with the pattern on the mountain.    Many times, we decide who we want to be, and then want to look for ways to adapt our sanctuary to be more like the things we like, but the Lord desires obedience, not sacrifice.  A priestess cannot have her own agenda.  She is to serve the Lord with her whole heart.

 

….To Be CONTINUED….

Single? 3 Ways to Have the BEST Valentines Day EVER!

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Valentine’s Day.  That blissful time of year when all of your “non-single” friends get chocolate, and flowers, and romantic candlelight dates.  That dreaded time of year when you hide out under your covers, eat lots of chocolate (that you bought yourself), and avoid everything pink, red, or even remotely romantic.  That, or you’re one of those people who actively torture yourself by scrolling through Facebook, looking at all the sweet things that people did with their “significant other”, and you cry yourself to sleep listening to gushy love songs.  [Some people do it to themselves…just saying. 😉 ]

It’s a wonderful holiday that seems to have been instituted just to remind you of your definite singleness…again.  Not dissimilar to pouring lemon juice on a paper cut [Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — Just take my word for it.]…or having text messages sent to you continually about the HUGE sale that your favorite store is having…right when you’re completely, totally broke.

So, what’s a single gal to do??

Well, you CAN hole yourself up in your room all day, and have a great big pity party…by yourself. But, I mean…again??  Really??  OR…what if you tried something different this year?

Here are 3 ideas to help you have a Valentines Day worth remembering this year!

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1.  Pray for your single girl-friends.

Start now – don’t wait!  Begin praying for each of your single girl-friends…and ask God to direct your prayers for them.  Pray that God would encourage their hearts, and surround them in His love this year.  Even ask Him to give you specific scriptures that relate to how you can pray to them, or that would be an encouragement to them.  Praying for others is one of the very best ways to get your eyes off of yourself, and get out of your own pity-party.  Making a list may help you to remember to pray for them, and to not forget anyone.

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2. Ask God to show you how to be a blessing to them.

As you’re praying for your friends, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them.  Ask Him for ideas of things you can do that would encourage their hearts, and show God’s love to them.  Ask God to make you His hands and feet to show them His love this year.
And then…do it. Whatever God shows you — put it into action!  It may take some real time and effort…and even money, but God will bless you for all you give.  Write out the scriptures God gives you into sweet cards.  Share whatever word of encouragement God puts on your heart for them.  Buy them some flowers…or chocolate…or both!  What do you wish someone would do for you?  Now go and do that for them!  If you really want to go all-out, you can even plan a special evening to invite them over, decorate, and make them a special meal!  Or what about a special girls’ spa night, and devotion time, where you can pray together (spending time with Jesus together is always the sweetest thing)!  The possibilities are endless when you ask God for great ideas — He knows what will most bless each of your friends! And it might be something different for each one.

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3. Spend time with Jesus.

This is last, but definitely most important of all, for truly having the best Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to spend time with Jesus, and just enjoy His presence.  Remember: He truly cares about you more than anyone else…and even after you have a loving relationship, and a blessed marriage, no guy can fill that spot in your heart that was meant for only Jesus to fill.  You’re not just spending time with Jesus because you don’t have a boyfriend!  You’re spending time with Jesus because HE is your Love, and your Life!!

Spend time thanking Jesus for all the ways He has shown His love for you this year — even write some of them down to be a reminder of His goodness for you when you’re discouraged.  Don’t rush — how would you like it if you were out for a special time with someone and all they did was look at their watch the whole time??  Take your time to really enjoy God’s presence, and be a real friend for Him.

And why don’t you take some time to actually write God a love-letter this year?  Tell Him all the things you love about Him, and that you can’t imagine your life without Him.  Even pray about what you can give Him as a gift this year — it can be something as simple as giving Him your worries about the future, and committing to trust Him more, and not fear about the future.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?? Do you have any other ideas for having a blessed Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever tried reaching out to those who are lonely on Valentine’s Day?  If someone was going to do something kind for you on Valentine’s Day, what do you think you would bless you the most?  Now…how can you take that and use it to bless others?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, and even feature some of your ideas here!

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