Monday, November 22

Give Thanks

In light of Thanksgiving being just around the corner, I felt this was appropriate. When we think about giving thanks, or counting our blessing... we think about all the good in our life. We think about the people who love us, the fortunes we have stumbled upon, the great opportunities we've been given... Blessing are only given from God.  I was curious so I searched for how many times the word "blessing" was used in the Bible... here's what I found.

In the King James version 

the word - bless - appears 127 times 
the word - blessed - appears 302 times 
the word - blessedness - appears 3 times 
the word - blessest - appears 3 times 
the word - blesseth - appears 8 times 
the word - blessing - appears 67 times 
the word - blessings - appears 12 times

That's A LOT. All over the Bible, repeatedly God talks about "blessing". We have a good and loving God who takes joy in giving us blessings and wants to bless us. I think that when we think of Thanksgiving God and what HE has blessed us with can be overlooked. We focus more on what have been given to us, and often we feel entitled to those things. 

For Thanksgiving this year I want to count my blessings and the praise Jesus for saving me from death and a life of sin and emptiness. I want to give glory to God for any of the "good" things in my life that I am thankful for. I want to thank God for my life, and for the abundant grace I have been given. Despite this day of thankfulness, and reflecting on all the good in my life I also want to thank God for all the trials, hardships, rough times, hopelessness that I have gone through. It has been through those times that I have been able to see Christ more clearly. It is through the hardships and trials that I can acknowledge Jesus as my Savior and see just how much I NEED Him.

Challenge: This year lets keep our eyes fixed on Christ and all His blessings. Lets acknowledge that we deserve NONE of the blessings we have graciously been given. Lets rid ourselves of our feelings on entitlement to these blessings and good things. Lets praise our creator for His work and His blessings.

Tuesday, November 9

Taste and See...

I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips. 

I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 

Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
   he delivered me from all my fears. 

Those who look to him are radiant;
   their faces are never covered with shame. 

This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
   he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
   and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good
   blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
   for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. 
Come, my children, listen to me;
   I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
   and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
   and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
   seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
   and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
   to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
   he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
   and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles, 
   but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
   not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
   the foes of the righteous will be condemned. 

The LORD will rescue his servants;
   no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

                                              Psalm 34

I am currently reading through the book of Psalms. I read "a Psalm a day". My reason for sharing this is that while I was reading this passage and promises from the Lord, I found great encouragement. I emphasized certain parts of this passage that I found particularly hopeful. If we all read this and truly believe these promises.. what would our lives look like? When I read this it puts my life, this little portion of life here on earth, into such perspective. God promises and offers us hope, protection, deliverance, freedom from shame, peace, and the list goes on. How could we not feel loved by these promises? How could we not experience joy from hearing this? The question is... do we believe these promises?

This passage repeatedly puts the ball in our court and gives fairly specific instructions on what we are to do in order to receive these promises... The great and incomprehensible thing about God is that those specific instructions are also SO simple. All he asks is that we seek Him, that we taste and experience His goodness, that we keep ourselves from evil, that we take refuge in Him, that we cry to Him, that we extol and glorify Him.

Jon Foreman- Your Love Is Strong
I've been listening to this song on repeat for about a month now. I've gotten a lot of encouragement out of it. The lyrics are just truth, and maximize how good God's love is!

My prayer today is:
That I would taste and see that the Lord is good. I don't want to miss out on God's promises. I want to seek His face and His peace daily. I want to believe that The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Thursday, November 4

I'm Not Who I Was

I'm a grown up now. I was hanging out with some freshman girls tonight (whom I love and really enjoyed spending time with) but man do I feel old. Of course we were talking about wedding stuff and getting married, and how crazy that reality is! We started talking about how I'll be graduating college, searching for job, getting married...! BAHH.

I also got the opportunity to talk to them about who I was when I was a freshman in college, right where they currently are. I came to Miami, "trying" to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I came college with the hopes of being a good Christian and living a Christian life. I had a wonderful Christian roommate (who is still one of my best friends, current housemate, and in my wedding), I didn't "party" or go out, i went to New Leader Training (NLT) for Young Life, I tried to go to church regularly... I was being good, right? I never just rested in the fact that I had been saved by Jesus from trying to be good. My past had been so rough, I had already come so far, and been saved from a lot, but i still felt as though I needed to present good works to God and try really hard to be that good Christian girl.

Much to my dismay, my good works never sustained or lasted. I could try with all my might to fight temptation and "be good" for a couple months, and honestly I fooled others and sometimes myself... but then when I could no longer fight on my own strength, I fell... hard. The worst thing about it all was that I really thought I was following the Lord. Not to say that I wasn't saved from those things or that I wasn't following Jesus, because I believe that the good work was started within me and it was the beginning of a journey and process. I just complicated it and made it so much harder than it needed to be... all I needed to do was simply surrender.

As I said before, I crashed. This was my cycle all through high school too. I would feel encouraged and empowered, and decide to make a commitment to not do the things I was doing any more. Then a couple months following that commitment I would cave under pressure and crash.
Another funny thing is that I got the word "completion" tattooed on my foot right after my senior year of high school. It is reference Philippians 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." I honestly don't remember what it meant to me back then, maybe I was already tired of trying and knew that some day things would be "complete". Now I'm so encouraged by this verse. I am confident that the good work will be brought to completion, it is a process of sanctification... It is long and often painful. It's definitely not easy to allow yourself to be refined, transformed, made new, changed, and stripped...

Here's the point of all of this... Regardless of my vain attempts, I couldn't keep masking myself or pretending like I was a "good" girl. I needed to be saved, I needed to believe that the Jesus I said I wanted to follow when I was a freshman in high school, really did die so that I may be freed from my sin. I needed to understand that there was NOTHING I could do to fix myself or cover up my sins... only the loving grace and blood of Jesus could clean and cover my stains and my blemishes. During my freshman year of college, when my area directors took, what I refer to as a risk (they might too), on me and I became a Young Life leader- this is the point when I realized people saw something in me. When they looked at me they didn't see my struggles, my imperfections, my past... they saw me as a clean, pure, freed, and saved young women! They saw potential in me, they saw a future me, they saw who I would become when I gave everything, including my efforts, up to Jesus.
Romans 6:5-7 puts it into far better words than I ever could...
"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." 

I'm Not Who I Was- Brandon Heath
I encourage you to listen to this song... How many of us think about who we we once were? That we went from being blind to seeing! That we crossed from death to true life! That we were lost and are now found! That we felt unloved and now know that we are loved by the creator of the Universe!
Take this opportunity to reflect on your life... 

This is my prayer today:
I want to constantly look back and see who I was and what I was saved from. I pray that my view of God would never stop growing because I know the transformation that was done in my life and the life of so many others. I want to continually praise God who SAVED and FREED me from my sinful ways, and that each day I would pick up my cross and surrender my life.

Tuesday, November 2

Rejoicing in Today

I have been struggling with thinking about the future, the future is not all that far off. The future that I am referring to is a short forty-six days away. In forty-six days I become Mrs. Thompson, and my life as I currently know it will be changed, forever. Obviously this is such an exciting time, and I can't wait to be married! It's just hard to think about what my life will look like. I'm moving out of my house, and my community and fellowship, which is currently in Oxford will be 40 minutes away. I will no longer wake up in the morning and have my best friends sitting in the living room or when come home after classes and have them to watch movies or do homework with. They will keep living together, keep carrying on the same traditions that we've built over the past 3 years, but I will no longer be living with and sharing life with every day. 
My ministry is changing and evolving into something unpredictable. I will no longer have the comfort of finding part of my identity in being a Young Life leader at Talawanda. I will no longer have my girls who I am taking to campaigner weekend and summer camp. The idea of living as if our lives are our ministry is going to be more real and more tangible to me than ever before. My ministry isn't going to be organized. The Lord can use me wherever He knows is best. Although in my mind, I have currently been praying and deciding what I'm going to do next semester... He might not use my ideas. 

  • I want to continuing leading my Bible study at Talawanda.
  • I want to help out with NLT and pour into freshman girls lives. 
  • I want to be apart of the community at Miami.
  • I want to help organize Terrific Tuesday, I want to be an encouragement and a light at the school I'm student teaching.
  • I want to continue participating in my Bible study with my housemates. 
  • I want to help out with Talawanda and Ross Young Life in anyway I can. 
  • I want to work as a barista at Books-A-Million and focus on loving and encouraging my co-workers. 
  • I want to spend more time with my family, mostly my mom, since I'll be living so close. 
  • I want to be a great wife to Jeff, and love and encourage him, as my husband and in his own ministry, to the best of my ability.
These are the things I WANT to do. None of this is promised to me, although I have convinced myself these things are what will be best for me. I recently realized that next semester, in this new season of life I am going to find myself in, I will struggle with feeling as though I have a purpose. I know that my worries and anxieties are not in vain, but they are unnecessary. In Philippians 4 Paul addresses this...

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

I want my life to model this. I do not want to be anxious about my future, about this new season of life, because our God loves us and listens to us. Paul says in EVERY situation, through prayer and with thanksgiving, we should present our requests to God. I want to rest in God as my Lord. My future, as uncertain as it currently is, is completely in His control. If I offer myself up as a tool and a humble servant, how could I not have purpose? This may sound cliche but the Lord has plans for my life, I just have to trust that... He's never let me down before, He's never forsaken me, so why am I so anxious, worried, and apprehensive now?

Today, this is my prayer:
I want to REJOICE in today. I want to live for today. If I keep my focus and attention on what is to come and on my future, I am going to miss all the joy, love, and beauty of today.