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February 2006
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Spiritually Single?

Are you spiritually single?  If you are married to someone who is not a Christian, then you fall into this category.  Are you equally yoked with your spouse or significant other?  If you are not both on the same spiritual plane, then you probably aren't, even if both of you are in fact Christians.  I mention this topic today, not out of the blue, but because it came up today at our church service today as our pastor continued a series on dating and marriage.  Consider the following:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? 16 Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? (NKJV)

As my pastor had a helper bring out an oxen yoke for demonstration, my heart sank as I thought of how so many people are living out their lives in a constant battle because they and their spouse are not on the same spiritual level.  I thought of all of the married ladies that I see attending church without their husbands and my prayers go up for them.  Think about what happens if two oxen are yoked at neck and one of those oxen is weak and can't pull its share of the load.  What if one of the oxen wants to go left while the other wants to go right?  Can you see what kind of a problem this could become?  How much energy is spent fighting against the other?

As stated above in the passage from 2 Corinthians, we see this example as applied to people.  It is so important before marriage to make sure that our partners are going the same direction we are and at the same speed that we are.  Fire insurance - just making sure they are Christian - is not good enough. 

Friends, my intent here is not to make anyone reading this feel bad because of a mistake they have made or merely to warn single individuals about the pitfalls of being unequally yoked.  We need to be aware that our fellow brothers and sisters who are unequally yoked either to a "baby" believer or to a non-christian need our prayers desparately. 

If you find yourself "spiritually single", here are some tips that might prove helpful for you:

1) Pray before you speak.  Remember that you are not your spouse's Holy Spirit, God is.

2) Focus on your own walk with God.  The only sure-fire way to change someone else is to change yourself first.  I guarantee your spouse will respond more favorably to you if you are acting more like Christ.

3) Remember that you are not alone.  If you can find a prayer partner in a similar situation, do it. They are out there.  (However, be sure to not dishonor your spouse in your prayer meeting)

4) Read or talk to a person who has "survived" a similar situation and pick their brain.  I highly recommend the book Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage, by Lee and Leslie Strobel.  It gives lots of helpful insights into what the non-christian spouse is thinking.

A Meek and Gentle Lion?

I finally finished the book "Captivating", by John & Stasi Eldredge, last week. It was a good feeling to finish one of the books I've started! I'm sure that some of you out there can relate to the I-like-to-read-five-books-at-one-time syndrome.  Does a person really like to read everything at once or does it say something else about us who do?  Once again, another subject for another day.

I came across a section in the book regarding 1 Peter 3:3-4 a few weeks ago that I just can't wait any longer to comment on.  First, let's look at the bible passage:

1 Peter 3:3-4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Paul is speaking here of how wives should behave around their husbands, specifically those who are unbelieving.  In short, wives of unbelieving spouses can win over their husbands to Christ by their actions, not their words or outward appearance.  I'm not going to dive deeply into the depths of this doctrine today though because I want to look at the "meek and quiet spirit" part. 

Honestly, this passage has always been one that I have been extra critical of myself for.  If there is one verse that I use where I compare myself to others, which I know I shouldn't do because we're all different, etc. etc., it is this one.  You see, of the four personality types (otter, beaver, golden retriever, lion), I am a lion.  Okay, I have equal beaver characteristics, but the lion is definitely there.  I struggle with wishing I were more like some other ladies I know because I think they are more "meek and quiet" than I.  After all, I want to be of great price!  Listen here to what Stasi Eldredge has to say about the passage.  When I read this, it was like reading words out of my own mouth!

First, Peter is not saying that we shouldn't enjoy wearing pretty things.  What he's trying to say is that true beauty comes from the inner part of us.  Our hearts.  A heart at rest.  When I first read the part about a gentle and quiet spirit, I gave up having much hope of ever making the grade.  I am loud. I make jokes when I am nervous or uncomfortable, and when I am comfortable and at ease.  I am not prone to long silences.  If no one is talking in a group, I take that as an invitation to share my thoughts.  A gentle and quiet spirit?  Oh dear.

I began to include in my prayers for sanctification a complete personality transplant.  Yes, put an angel at the edge of my tongue to guard my every word.  And while you're at it, make me someone else, please.  Someone more like Melanie in Gone With the Wind.  Or Mother Teresa.  Someone really good.  I believed this was not to much to ask.  He is the God of miracles, after all.  (p. 134)

Have you ever had these thoughts? I bet some of you have, even those of you who are quiet on the outside.  You see, after reading what Stasi Eldredge had to say in this chapter of her book, it was like the light finally came on for me.  Even introverted people struggle with 1 Peter 3:3-4 because they are not necessarily quiet on the inside.  Remember this passage in Luke?

Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Friends, no matter what type of outward personality we have, we need to look at our heart condition first.  We are all different.  I will always be an extrovert and others will always be introverts.  However, when we let God have our heart, soul and mind, he will make us to be more of who He made us to be!!  I just love being unique, don't you?  Here's more from Stasi:

Peter doesn't mean that beautiful women rarely speak above a whisper, if they speak at all.  No.  To have a gentle and quiet spirit is to have a heart of faith, a heart that trusts in God, a spirit that has been quieted by his love and filled with his peace.  Not a heart that is striving and restless. (p. 134)

That makes sense to me and I hope it makes sense to you too.  Freeing sense.  A freedom to be who you are and who God intended you to be without comparing yourself to someone else. I'll leave you with one more thought from Stasi Eldredge.  I pray that today you find rest in who you are in Christ.

A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest, trusting God because she has come to know him to be worthy of her trust.  She exudes a sense of calm, a sense of rest, and invites those around her to rest as well.  She speaks comfort; she knows that we live in a world at war, that we have a vicious enemy, and our journey is through a broken world.  But she also knows that because of God all is well, that all will be well.  A woman of true beauty offers other the grace to be and the room to become.  In her presence, we can release the tension and the pressure that so often grip our hearts.  We can also breathe in the truth that God loves us and he is good. (p. 135)

Am I a Brawler?

brawl: vi. [ME braulen, to cry out, quarrel; prob. akin to Du brallen, to boast] 1 to quarrel or fight noisily  2 to flow noisily over rapids, falls, etc.: said of water --n. 1 a rough, noisy quarrel or fight; row 2 [Slang] a noisy party, with much drinking of liquor -- brawler n.

One of the reasons I love the King James Version of the bible is because of the old English used and the fact that through that old English language we are blessed with its specificity. Admittedly, the KJV is a little harder to understand at times, but for study purposes, I love the payoff.  Which brings me to Titus 3:2.  Paul is advising Titus to teach others "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing meekness unto all men."

So my question to you, dear readers, and to myself, is "Are we brawlers?"  I have a feeling that today, like the day I decided to meditate on Psalm 19:14, might give me plenty of opportunities to practice what I preach.  Yikes.   What have I done?  So back to my real thoughts rather than my imaginations about what my day is going to be like...

When I typically think of the word "brawler", I think of a bar fight.  Not that I've ever seen one except on TV, but I think of a bar fight.  The bible tells us not to be brawlers, but what does that mean?  In the context of this passage and verse, to put it simply in Janna's paraphrase:

We need to be kind and loving to everyone around us all of the time, putting the pride aside.

We don't need to be lawyer "wannabes" by always having to take a stand for everything we know is right.  (Funny thing, I just had a conversation about this very thing with a friend yesterday afternoon.-Thank you, God, for bringing this up in my daily reading).  We may be right a lot of the time, but endlessly correcting other people is not profitable.  We need to pick our battles for which we stand.  Maybe, just maybe, correcting someone about the winner of a particular ball game isn't the best battle to fight.

That is all for now, because I find that I'm rushing here.   Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on the meek and gentle spirit.

Promises, Promises

Have you ever made a promise that you failed to keep?  I'm sure that most, if not all of us have at one time or another.  Maybe we've promised something to someone as a "reward" for services performed, or maybe just promised a friend going through a tough time that we would always be there for them.  Unfortunately, we too often fall short of our promises to ourselves, to others and to God.

I am grateful however, that there is one person whose promises never fail me.  Can we really call God a person?  Yes and no to that one, but let's not get technical here.  I keep pressing in this life through good time and bad "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;" (Titus 1:2).  Isn't it amazing that God's promises stand the test of time?  Not just a few days or years, but thousands of years! 

What kind of promise are you seeking today?  God has it for you in His word. 

Obviously, these are just a few of God's promises in just a handful of circumstances.  Whatever your issue, God has an answer - a promise that will never fail.  All we have to do is hang on to that promise for dear life.  What are some of your favorite promises from God?

Helpful Tip:

If you don't have a book of bible promises, you can buy one very inexpensively at any Christian bookstore.  They come in handy for quick reference for yourself personally as well as for helping someone else in need.

First of all, pray

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made before all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

What an awesome time I had last night with God before my husband got home.  The house was quiet for the most part - remember, I sometimes suffer from barking dog syndrome - and I had an uninterrupted hour and a half to spend with God.  Sweet.   It was one of those times when I felt that God was speaking directly to me from the pages of my bible.  God's Word truly is a living book.

This time I read through all of 1 Timothy again as well as 2 Timothy.  As I was reading, I kept settling on the passage above and the phrase "first of all".  First of all, Paul says, that we need to pray.  Aha.  Once again, God is drawing me back to prayer.  He knows that I haven't yet "arrived" in this area of spiritual discipline - not that I've mastered any other - so He gave me a subtle reminder that I must not do things in my own strength and wisdom, but allow Him the opportunity to work.  (Note: I have a Women's Ministry planning meeting tonight.  Do you think this was coincidence?)

From 1 Timothy 2:1, God brought me to Ephesians 6:18 through my bible cross references:

Praying always with all prayers and supplication to the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for the saints.

Yes, that was great to hear about prayer again.  After I finished reading and journaling, I spent some time in prayer.  I got the lesson from God yesterday.  Now though, I'll give you the "bonus" I got from Him!

From Ephesians 6:18, my eyes turned on the page to Eph 6:10 as it says, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."  I believe that after all of my reading and the lesson learned once again about prayer, that this is what I sat down with Him for.  God spoke to me here to say that I'm not alone, that I don't have to rely on my own strength and that He is with me.  (Then I was reminded about how yesterday I received an email from an online friend that was a blessing to me).  Yesterday was a good day. 

Questions to think about:

1) Am I doing anything today in my own strength instead of relying on God?

2) Is my day, every day, fully prayed over?

3) Have I taken the time to listen to God speak to me today?  Have I been quiet long enough to hear?

Thirsty To Be Loved

As you know, I usually do most of my own writing on this blog, with occasional small quotes from other sources.  However, today, as I was cleaning out some old email, upon discovering that AOL has done some housecleaning for me of which I'm not to pleased to find out,  I came across a devotional that I would like to share.   This devotional was sent to me by Becky Kinney, an employee at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes headquarters here in Kansas City.  I'm assuming that she wrote it personally as I see no other credit given.

To me this devotional hit home because I wonder how many opportunities or "God moments" we miss because we are too busy or perhaps not walking with God as closely as we should.  I hope it impacts you as it did me ... to open my eyes to be watchful for what God has for me each day.  Enjoy!

Thirsty To Be Loved - by Becky Kinney
February 14, 2006

Mary Alice was sitting in her car in the parking lot of the local Walmart listening to Tony Evans on her favorite Christian radio station. She had her Bible sitting in her lap and was content as she waited for her daughter to grab the few things she needed in the store.   She notice that a young woman was sitting in the car next to her. Out of the corner of her eye she could tell the woman had noticed her also. After a few minutes the other woman got out of her car and started to head for the store. Mary Alice was surprised to see her hair was streaked with a bit of purple and spiked all over.  As the young woman walked past the open car window, she immediately turned around and asked Mary Alice if she was listening to Tony Evans, because she too had been listening.  What an amazing encounter!  God had placed both of these women in a parking lot with something wonderful in mind.  This stranger, who seemed so different than Mary Alice asked her if she enjoyed reading her Bible and of course Mary Alice's answer was "Yes, do you?"  "Well,  I have a Bible, but I have trouble understanding what it says," she responded.  Then out of the blue, she asked Mary Alice if she would have time to meet with her and help her to study it.  They met the following week and a wonderful friendship and mentoring time began.  For the past two years, every Thurday morning at 6AM,  in Mary Alice's home, they have huddled over their Bibles studing God's Word.  I know the Lord is pleased!

How difficult is it for us to show another person value when they are not like us, when they are not accepted in our world?  Would we go out of our way to find such a person?  How do we know when God is leading us to step out of our comfort zone and meet the need of someone with whom we have nothing in common?  All of us know of someone thirsty to be loved and valued. 

The Samaritan woman in John 4:4-42 was that kind of woman.  The Samaritans were a mixed race and rejected by the Jews.  They worshiped Jehovah, but also worshiped other gods as well.  Their land, the people themselves, and even carrying on a conversation with one of them was considered unclean.  Any contact with the Samaritans made a Jew unfit for worship. 

John 4:3-4 tells us that Jesus “left Judea and went away again into Galilee.  And He had to pass through Samaria.”  Why did Jesus take his disciples through Samaria, instead of the eastern route?  Was his decision based on time (the other route was longer) or was he following a call from the Father to minister to this woman and the city in which she lived?  We are told that the disciples went into the city of Sychar to buy food and Jesus stayed at the well outside of town.  A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink.   Her response was, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?”  In short, Jesus lets her know that He can offer her water that will cause her to never thirst again.  He offered her kindness, hope and trust.  She was thirsty to be accepted and valued, and Jesus reached across barriers of race, gender, language, religion, and disgrace in order to take the drink from her water pot.

Jesus knew this woman’s sinful past and offered her unconditional acceptance.  How do you feel when you realize that He knows the truth about you and accepts you as you are?
Can we offer that kind of love and value to others?  When we discover another person’s weaknesses, past stories and sins are we able to place a high value on them? Do we have trouble overlooking our own failures and critically judge others? 

The disciples returned and “were amazed that He had been speaking to a woman.”  Yet not one of them questioned Him. The disciples had gone into town and returned with food and no one followed them out of the city to see Jesus.   The Samaritan woman left her pot at the well, ran into the city, and returned with a crowd of people who wanted to know more of this man she spoke of.  His disciples were so focused on themselves that they missed the opportunities in front of them to accomplish His work. 

“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’  So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.  Many more believed because of His word.”  John 4:39-41

Are we like the disciples…blind to see the opportunities to reach out to someone who is not like us?  Christ lives in us, therefore when we touch another, He is also touching them.  Let us not be so tangled in our own world that we miss seeing the value of others who are close enough to touch.   

1 Timothy 1:1

I mentioned a few days ago that I was going to start memorizing the book of 1 Timothy, not just for knowledge's sake, but so that I can better understand what God has for me in his Word and be able to recall it when necessary. In case I didn't say this before, I chose 1 Timothy because it is here that Paul passes on the wisdom he had learned in all of his years of ministry to his "son in the faith", Timothy.  This weekend, I came to 1 Timothy in my daily reading, and I have to admit that I am a little intimidated now at the thought of memorizing this book!  After all, the last and only attempt I've made at tackling such a feat did not end at its completion!

What I did learn last time, however, was just how much each verse means in the bible, including the salutations at the beginning of each of Paul's letters.  Usually I skim over the greeting to get to "the good stuff", but if I memorize, I can't very well do I learned something, then and now.  I've decided I'll share my gleanings from 1 Timothy 1:1 with you.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; (1 Timothy 1:1)

1. If you are in a position of influence, use it humbly for God's glory.  First of all, I noticed the way Paul gives his credentials in the letters opening.  He was an apostle of Jesus, and is writing because he is commanded by God and Jesus.  This means something personally to me because I had a lot of difficulty deciding whether or not to mention in this blog that I was the director of Women's Ministry at my church.  I didn't want to be self promoting, but at the same time was hoping to add some credibility to my thoughts.  After consulting with some wise counsel (thank you, bro) I decided to mention my position.  Leaders, God has placed you a position of influence.  Keep in mind that I'm not saying to strut around bragging about a title by any  means.  I'm just saying that if your position can help bring more glory to God's kingdom, don't be shy.

2. Remember that you have nothing to say. Paul shared his credentials, but also gave God ultimate credit. Paul did not say that he was writing because he had something to say but because he was commanded to by God. Paul was aware of who he was, a humble servant of the Saviour of his soul.  I thought it was interesting how Paul chose to say that God was our Saviour.  I usually think of God as God and Jesus as my Saviour, but I suppose that God is also my saviour because He sent Jesus to do the hard work, and after all Jesus is God too!

3.  Give credit where credit is due.  The Lord Jesus Christ is our hope.  This is huge.  When I think of how little I have to offer without God's hand on my life, it is very humbling. Jesus is our hope of godliness here on earth as well as our hope for eternal life in heaven.  Col 1:27 speaks of the mystery of Christ among the Gentiles:  To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Without Christ in us, we would lose the battle against ourselves.

Thank you, God for being my Saviour and my authority.  Thank you Jesus, for being my Lord and my hope.  Thank you for giving me Your words of life to think on, pray back to you, and to teach others about who You are.  You are my Rock and my ever faithful Friend.

Doctrine and Faith

Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians because of one primary reason: He was trying to protect his beloved church from believing things that were not true.   In particular, they were troubled over some things they had heard about the second coming of Christ (2 Th 2:2). The things they heard were contrary to what Paul had told them earlier, but they believed the heresay and were freaking out about it.  Poor Paul.  I wonder if he ever got tired of repeating himself?

What would have happened had Paul not been diligent in tending to his "flock"?   Matthew Henry in his commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2 says the following:

Errors in the mind tend greatly to weaken our faith, and cause us trouble; and such as are weak in faith and of troubled minds are oftentimes apt to be deceived, and fall a prey to seducers.

I think that the Thessalonians would have been in some pretty bad shape.  I like what Matthew Henry says here.  Errors in the mind do cause us trouble.  If left unchecked, they might cause us to take the easy way out rather than hold our ground for the truth.

So how  can we protect ourselves against these "errors in the mind"?  First of all, we need to know what is truth so well that  we cannot be dissuaded from it.  Paul says, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle...".(2 Th 2:15)  We need to constantly keep referring back to the written word of God that does not change. 

How well do you know the truth?  How often do you refresh your mind of the truth in your bible so that God may correct those errors in your mind before they get to much hold on you?   I firmly believe that individuals with the strongest faith are those that spend the most consistent time in God's word.  They have the same problems as everyone else, they just handle the situations better because they are constantly being refueled and recharged by the life-giving words of God.

We can all be strong in our faith if we just work at it.  We don't have to be the smartest people around, but we just have to be consistently in the Word of God. 

Questions for today:

1)  Do I have trouble believing God's promises for me?
2)  Do I even know what God promises for me?  If I don't, then why?

Memorize the Bible

I read all of 2 Thessalonians this morning, but alas, I am not going to post about it until I get some more time later because it delves into the second coming of Christ. Once again, isn't it something that work has to get in the way of a great blog post or bible study?  :)  I guess one must keep balance. 

So...I'm going to direct you to a blog post that I find fascinating and inspiring.  I guess I should say that I think the author is inspiring, because she has actually memorized the entire book of Revelation.  I truly appreciate her insights and agree as to the benefits of memorizing scripture and know that you will find her "how to" post beneficial. 

But first, I must say a few words of my own.   I have attempted to memorize an entire chapter of a book of the bible before because I needed the application of those scriptures in my life.  I only got the first and last 4 verses memorized before I decided to move on, not out of lack of desire, but of lack of necessity.  I felt that God wanted me to pursue other areas. 

With that said, I'm going to memorize the book of 1 Timothy (KJV).  I started it a couple of days ago and so far, here is what I have from memory:

1 Ti 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by commandment of God our saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope. 

I know, it isn't much, and it isn't 100% accurate but a gal has to start somewhere.  Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with this every day!!  :D    I chose 1 Timothy because it is very applicable to me in my current ministry roles.  I can't wait to see how God blesses/changes me from it.

Now without further adieu, I will direct you to Kathleen Dalton, at her post "How to Memorize the Bible".  I hope that you enjoy her teaching and thoughts as much as I.

Good Advice

I know that I finished 1 Thessalonians yesterday, but that isn't going to stop me today from relaying God's message on this blog.  Keep in mind that I'm not saying that I, Janna, am the sole provider of "God's message", but I do believe that any time God's word is sent forth, it is of Him. These words definitely aren't mine. 

With that said,  I decided to post today on about something I read in the last chapter of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians.  Keep in mind that so far we've seen how much Paul has cared for these people.  He has some good advice for them, to either keep them strong in the faith or protect them from impure doctrine sneaking into their chuch. We find some more great advice as Paul closes out his letter. What Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to do is still very applicable to us today.  Here is Paul's advice to them and God's advice to us from 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22:

1.  Support the weak with love.  (v 14) We need to gently speak the truth in love to others to build up those that are in sin, being patient with those and comforting those who are less fortunate than ourselves or who are going through difficult times. (Ro 15:1)

2.  Be kind no matter what. (v 15) In other words, turn the other cheek, so to speak. (Mt 5:39)

3.  Rejoice evermore. (v 16) No matter what is going on, if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we will have no choice but to be joyful because we are so thankful for who He is and what He has done.

4.  Pray without ceasing. (v 17) What more can I say here?

5.  In every thing give thanks.  (v 18) God does have a plan for everything.  Remember who is in control and that He only wants what is ultimately the best for us.

6.  Quench not the Spirit. (v 19) Are you letting God have all of you?  Do you try to stifle His still small voice?

7.  Despise not prophesyings. (v 20)  God's word is right, true and good. Period.  Are you trying to fit your way of thinking to what the bible says or trying to fit what the bible says to your way of thinking?

8.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (v 21) Prove everything - what you read on blogs, hear in church or bible studies or see on TV - by the truth of God's word.  If it is good, hang on to it tightly.

9.  Abstain from all appearance of evil. (v 22) Don't you just love this gray area?  Bottom line:  Christians are held to a higher standard than everyone else, especially Christian leaders.  A good testimony that took years to build can be destroyed in minutes.

That is all for now.  This kind of reminds me of the 22 questions list I posted about a few weeks ago.   I'm once again reminded how much prayer that I need!!

P.S.  I pray that this post is exactly what someone needs today.  My internet connection has been acting crazy since I've been trying to write and post it to the site.  Thank You, God for answering my prayer that the connection problems cease.  You are bigger than the itty bitty prince of this world.  Amen.