It’s been a while!

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged! Things get so busy when I’m concentrating on schoolwork and friends. Lots have happened in the last couple months… we moved into a little studio apartment on campus (that I LOVE) and Corey found a great job that he loves that we’re still thanking Jesus for.

I am really enjoying college and all that I’m learning. My favorite classes this semester are Bible Study Methods and Gospels. In my bible study methods class we are doing just like the title suggests – learning how to study the bible.

Now, the bible isn’t exactly a foreign concept to me. I grew up going to church, had Christians around me constantly, and even my grandfather and uncle have been pastors all my life. Yet still, I’ve never really learned how to study the bible. No one’s ever taught me.

I’ve heard that I should study the bible, but never how to actually go about doing it. This class is really helping with that and I’m fascinated with how much I’m learning, and I’m learning how much I don’t know! It’s quite humbling, to say the least.

I’m just about done with reading a book for this class called, “Living by the Book” by Howard Hendricks and William Hendricks.

This book has pretty much transformed how I read the bible and how I understand it. I recommend it for anyone that has never learned how to study the bible or that would just like to deepen their studying of the bible. It’s broken down into three major sections which are observation (what do you see), interpretation (what does it mean), and application (how to live it).

In the first couple chapters, the book explains why it’s so important to study the bible. Now, if you’re like me, you’ve had pastors tell you all your life that you need to be reading your bible…and blah blah blah, in one ear and out the other. However, it’s so true! Studying the bible is essential for our spiritual growth, maturity, and effectiveness. There’s a quote on page 24 that says, “The mark of spiritual maturity is not how much you understand, but how much you use. In the spiritual realm, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge but obedience.”

Therefore, I’ve also learned that studying the bible doesn’t mean jack… unless I actually put it to use, which is the hardest part! It’s easy to read something and have the knowledge in my brain; it’s an entirely different ballgame when I let it change my actions, way of thinking, and most important of all, my heart.

I highly recommend “Living by the Book” and I’d be glad to lend it to someone once I’m finished reading it. Have a great spring break! =)

Oh, October.

October is one of my most favorite months in Kentucky. The trees shedding their summer leaves, the crispness of the air, pumpkin everything, and the feeling that Christmas is just right around the corner are some of the best things about October.

However, this year I find myself at a different place than last October. This October everything feels a little different. This year I will be moving back to my home state of Oregon in just 2 1/2 short months. Although Kentucky isn’t the most horrible place ever, I’m ready to get back to my home. I’ve missed Oregon. I’ve missed my family, my friends, and the people. I miss the beach only being 1 1/2 hours away. I miss the culture, the diversity, and the opportunities.

Since I’ve been married (over 4 years) I have lived in: a house, a log house, a barn, a townhouse, my own home, currently an apartment, and then once I move back to Oregon I will be living in a motor-home. Yes, you read that right, a motor-home! Since Corey and I sold our home back in June, we have sold almost everything inside of it as well. We’re currently in a very small, 315-sq. ft. studio apartment, and when we move into the motor-home we will have even less space! And yet I find myself unequivocally happier than ever. This year Corey and I will have made well under half of what we made last year, and yet I feel freer than ever!

So…. why is that? Why is it that after having significantly less money and less things that I am so much happier and freer? Well, after all we’ve been through this year, Jesus has really put things of this earth in perspective.

When you have plenty of money, $1 isn’t that important to you. Even $20, $50, or $100 isn’t that big of a deal. But, when you don’t have very much money, that $1 seems a little more valuable than it did before, so you think twice before spending it, especially on trivial things. And that’s what I think has happened. Not that Jesus has turned me into a tightwad, but that He has shown me all of the foolish things I used to spend my money on. DVDs, CDs, new kitchen gadgets, new clothing, expensive dinners out, cable television, media packages on our cell phones, etc.

Now – I’m not saying any of these things are bad! Please don’t get me wrong or misunderstand me. All I am saying is that there are needs vs. wants and Jesus has really put things in perspective for me over this past year. When I look back on the first 3 years of my marriage, I wonder what happened to all of our money. Then I realize, it was spent on unimportant, nonessential things that I probably don’t even have anymore or that I sold for 25 cents at one of our garage sales. The things I used to think that I “needed” now don’t have a place in my life.

So, the rest of this year I am going to try to focus on the things that will last. Things that will matter in eternity, and long after I die; the things that truly are important. To think less and do less things that are temporary sounds like a better way to spend my energies. I want the things I do in life to have eternal significance, and be able to work towards those things every day.

Matt. 6:19-20 (NLT) says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

I want to end my life knowing that I spent it on things that mattered and will last. Maybe this is something that speaks to you too. Take this month of October to join me in focusing a little less on the fleeting things of this world and keeping your eyes open for opportunities to make a difference that will carry over into the next life. We will always make mistakes and screw up, but know that God is a loving God full of grace and peace, slow to anger and quick to comfort, so never beat yourself up when you mess up. Let the love that comes from Jesus flow out of you into every part of your life.

Love you all!

Financial Peace

Photo by: Ben Gray

Financial peace is something that most people in America will never attain. People wreck their relationships, marriages, and lives with money every day, and never seem to learn the key to having peace with their finances.

I subscribe to a blog called Christian Personal Finance that has really helped Corey and I to get a grasp on our finances and not allow the “almighty dollar” to be ruler of our lives. One of their posts that I particularly like is titled, “5 Bible verses about money every Christian should know” and you can find it here.

My favorite verse on that post is Philippians 4:19, And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

It’s easy to get caught up in putting our trust in our bank account or job instead of Jesus. By now you should know that the things of this earth are so fleeting that you could lose everything you own and all your money in a heartbeat, especially with the way the economy is. It is only in Jesus that we find true comfort in knowing that when we put our trust in Him, we can never lose, because Jesus always has our best interests at heart. Regardless if you DO lose all of your worldly possessions and money, your heavenly reward will be left untouched. Trusting that Jesus knows what is best for me helps me to have peace and not worry.

If everyday you say to yourself, “God will meet all of my needs,” and really believe that, you will have so much more peace within your life. Constantly worrying about your financial situation says to Jesus that you don’t really trust Him with your life and that you would rather try and control it yourself. Learning to rely on Jesus for your needs and desires isn’t easy, but if you rely on yourself or what you can control, your life will be filled with unnecessary worry and stress.

Here’s an assignment for you:
– Write down everything that you are worried about. Money, jobs, children, family, school, etc.
– Then, read the list aloud, and after every item, say aloud these bible verses:
Deu. 31:6: “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.
Matt. 6:26: “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

Isn’t having trust in Jesus so much better than worrying about situations – especially when you can’t control them? I tend to think so. =) The next time you find yourself worrying about something, read those bible verses above. Print them out, hang them on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator if you need to, just don’t get stuck in the trap of worry, because it will wreck you and leave you miserable. Choose peace in your life.

Here’s a few more awesome verses:

  • Matt. 28:20b: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  • Isaiah 41:10: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
  • Heb. 13:5-6: “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”
  • Psalm 118:6: “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Plan B

I recently started reading a book titled “Plan B” by Pete Wilson that my neighbor lent me. “What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought he would?” is the defining question throughout the pages. Although I’ve only read through chapter 4, I want to share some things I’ve learned thus far.

Sometimes God doesn’t show up when you think he should. Sometimes I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed until I couldn’t pray any longer and my prayer was still left unanswered. This could harbor bitterness and resentment, or you could realize that you are a human being with limited knowledge and power, and choose to put your trust in an infinite, all-knowing and all-loving God who always has your best interests at heart (i.e. Jeremiah 29:11). Who am I to tell God that I know what’s best for me? Have I ever truly known what’s best for me?

We must have faith, and trust that God is who he says he is. When things don’t happen like you think they should, it’s those situations that “force us to rely on a power beyond ourselves.” In my current situation, I feel God whispering, “I will make a way; I will get you where you need to go safely, in perfect timing.” As Plan B states, “even when we’re faced with a seemingly impossible barrier, we are exactly where God wants us.” Sometimes this is a hard thing to understand. Why would God want me to be in this difficult situation right now? Why would he want me to be experiencing this pain? Sometimes there’s not answers to questions like these, but I do know that God uses these situations to stretch us and grow us into becoming more like him. God can see the end and the final result.

Moving on, Pete Wilson talks about Joshua in the bible and how he is faced with an insurmountable task that he cannot conquer alone. God instructed Joshua to do something crazy that didn’t make a lick of sense. He wanted Joshua to cross the Jordan river, which was the river between Joshua, and the promised land that God had chosen for the Israelites. This illustrates how God tests us and how “sometimes there’s hurdles to jump before you get to the life God has for you.” Instead of God giving him the easy way out and parting the Jordan river like he parted the Red Sea for Moses, he tested Joshua to see if he trusted Him. Pete Wilson also states that “you won’t experience God’s power or faithfulness until you take the first step.”

“We have to take that risk if we’re going to live the kind of lives God has called us to live, to be the people God dreamed of when he thought us into existence…So many miss out on this designed life because we make an unconscious vow that we will only trust ourselves and the things we think we can control.”

So, why does it seem that sometimes God intentionally allows things to be harder than they should be? Pete Wilson again says it best; “God’s power generally gets released when somebody trusts him enough to obey him.” God really wants our obedience, not because he’s an authoritative God, but because he desperately wants us to trust him, even when things seem crazy. God repeatedly told Joshua “do not be afraid.” He wants us to trust him, just like you desire your spouse or friend to trust you.

So, what’s the “Jordan” in your life? What river does God want you to cross that you’re scared of getting near or diving into? Where are you having a hard time trusting God? The antidote for fear is spending time with your Creator. Just like you would a lover or friend, spending time with them and getting to know them usually develops your trust in them. When we “understand God’s character, faith comes easier,” and allows us to overcome fears and face every situation holding the hand of our Heavenly Father who promises to never leave us. We’re not called to be worriers, but instead, we’re called to be warriors for a God that has and will conquer it all.

Lose the Coat

I didn’t grow up living in the Bible belt. On the contrary, I grew up in Portland, Oregon on the West Coast, which is predominantly secular. Moving to Kentucky almost 4 years ago was a huge transition for me, a culture shock if you will. Not exclusively a change in scenery but also a change in the character of people.

In the Bible belt, everyone, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e goes to church. The Bible belt encompasses Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North & South Carolina, and Virginia. These states house more churches per capita (about 15 churches for every 10,000 people) than the other states in the U.S.

Don’t get me wrong; I go to church, have my entire life, and I love how it challenges my relationship with Jesus and leads me into a deeper walk with Him. What I am getting at is a lot of these people go to church for the wrong reasons; because they’re “supposed to”, that’s how they were brought up, or they feel guilt if they do not go. To describe it in simpler terms, they merely put on their “religious coat.”

In the Bible belt, people tend to hide their flaws a lot more than I’m used to. People like to hide behind facades, making themselves look better than they really are. I’m all for becoming a new person after making mistakes, but I say don’t hide behind them, be real with people because a lot of people can relate. Not only can people relate to your failures, but also sharing them with others in a genuine way will maybe help them through something that’s going on in their life. Before moving 2,300+ miles, I didn’t realize people were like this. Granted, I knew some people acted fake and insincere, but now I see that not only how you were brought up, but also where you were brought up will shape you as an individual.

In looking up some statistics, murder, teen pregnancy, obesity, STDs, hate and intolerance, and divorce is higher in the Bible belt than the rest of the U.S. This was shocking to me on one hand, but on the other it makes sense. The Bible belt boasts elements of religion and displaces Jesus, who is the true transformer of life. It seems as though the Bible belt has taken Jesus out of its everyday life and replaced Him with rules, rituals, and what’s customary to please family and friends by blending in.

Personally, I like being with the professed “sinners” as some people would call them. I like being with real people who have real struggles and who are living genuine lives. These “messy” people are real; they don’t hide behind hypocrisy, they propel their lives with sincerity.

My challenge to you is this: If you’re finding that you’ve been wearing a “religious coat” most of your life, it’s time to take it off. Becoming a real, broken, humble person is the only atmosphere for true change. Without living an authentic life, change will only be on the outside and internally you will still be a wreck.

Live boldly, knowing that Jesus loves you right where you are, just as you are. Know that your struggles could one day be evidence to others of what Jesus has done in your life, and what He can do in theirs.