Strength in Scripture

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In the past 3 months, I have undergone too many life transitions to even list here. Certain situations in life felt hopeless.  I was unsure if they would ever change; there seemed to be no change to the patterns.

In the midst of my uncertainties and mind battles, the Lord is planting certain Scriptures on my heart. These Scriptures are giving me strength to press on. When I felt hopeless and as if those aspects of my life wouldn’t change, Psalm 118:17 sprang into my heart: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.”

I began to recite the verse to myself often, especially when the difficulties reared their head. No matter how difficult life seemed, I will live through it. Even greater, I will live to testify to God’s great works! Someday, I will be able to tell how God’s mighty hand turned my circumstances around.

This is just one example of God’s Word being strength to me. There are other verses that have been given to me during other difficult situations. God’s Word is “alive and active.” (Hebrews 4:12)  The Word is becoming nourishment for my mind and heart in each circumstance of my life.

I am coming to a greater appreciation of Scripture, especially for life’s difficult situations. If we are rooted in Scripture, we can dig deep and find power in God’s Word when trials come.  It is working for our good and can provide whatever we need. But like any superfood, it can’t take effect unless we have taken it into our body!

At all times, we need to make Scripture reading a priority. In the times when life is great and we believe we’re super successful…To God be the glory! Praise and thank Him, and make sure you’re reading His love letters to you. When difficulties inevitably come, you’ll be able to dig deep into those times of reading Scripture. By God’s grace, you will have a store of spiritual “vitamin C” to keep you strong. Your remembrance and continued reading of Scripture will sustain you.

It’s easy to put off reading the Bible, or to only listen to it at church once a week. But it is strength to our lives. It is a big aspect of what roots us in the Lord. We keep our focus on Christ when we are reading the Word, in both good and bad times. When troubles come, we will find great strength in being rooted. The Word teaches us God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. Make learning and loving Scripture a priority. You won’t regret it.

What passage or verse has helped you in a time of difficulty?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

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Cookie Cutter Faith

cookie cutter

As a child, I remember marveling at the explanation for the term, “one size fits all.” A sweatshirt that can fit anyone of any size? What sort of enchanted fabric is this and where can I get it?

Of course, when I matured, I realized that the term is terribly specious. It can indeed fit all but it may be very baggy on one person or too tight on another. 100% perfect fits are the aberration, not the norm.

I was reminded of this during a Bible study session recently. During one particular section, my pastor imparted that there is no unanimous method for spiritual growth. Author Gary Thomas says it this way: “[There are] four elements essential to worship: adoration, communication with God, Scripture reading and service….But here’s the key: How we pray, how we worship and how we study God’s Word will differ.”

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. God did not use cookie cutters to create us.  We were created using a medley of varying gifts, desires, personalities, and idiosyncrasies.  And we were all made to fulfill a different purpose for Him.  So if no one person is exactly the same, why would we relate to God and Him to us in the exact same way?

The diversity of worship and relationships with God is present throughout Scripture. David wrote psalm after psalm filled with praise and exaltation for the Lord. Martha provided care and served the Lord. Elijah routinely and vocally opposed all work against the Lord and His purpose.  And though He loved them both, in John 20, Jesus deals with Mary and Thomas’s contact with Him in different ways.  In verses 16-17, Mary’s motion toward Him was gently denied. According to commentaries, Mary’s joy would have caused her to cling too long. She needed to understand that Jesus was not ascending immediately.  In verses 24-27, Thomas was urged to touch the scars in His flesh. Thomas’s doubt needed to be irrevocably destroyed. He needed to see and feel proof that Jesus is alive. Different people with different relationships with the same God.

When you take time to pray and study the word of God​ ​this week, I encourage​ you​ to also take this spiritual temperament quiz.  Discover in what ways you relate to God and how it can help pave your path to spiritual maturity.

Which spiritual temperament are you? How do you see it influencing your relationship with God and how you worship Him?

August Finish/September Start!

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Brr!  I walked outside this morning and there was a chill in the air!  It sure feels like the start of fall!  To me, fall says college football watching with nachos, chicken wings, and dip, long hikes through woods exploding with color, and cool nights under a blanket with a mug of hot tea.  Fall is by far my favorite season.

Rather than fall representing the end of growth, fall is energizing to me.  There is a quickening in the air, a sense that change is coming.

It is also a time for reflection.  The year is coming to a close.  All those great goals from January – what happened to them?  Am I closer to where I wanted to be?

Last month we looked at taming the tongue.  It’s no coincidence that this month we’re looking at managing conflict.  The two are intertwined; if we all had a lot more control over our tongue, we’d have a lot fewer conflicts.

In today’s world of phones, emails, texts, and social media, the opportunity for conflict is ever greater.  What’s more, taming the tongue is no longer valued as a sign of maturity and self-control.  Instead, now people start Facebook posts with “I just have to put this out there…” and post not-so-cryptic memes that are clearly aimed at specific people in their lives.

The Bible tells us that Satan is prowling like a lion, looking for opportunities to devour someone (1 Peter 5:8).  We are daily presented with these opportunities – that’s a fact.  We have to decide now who we’re going to be, how we’re going to respond.  We can follow the world and say what we want, what makes us feel good, show how right we are.  Kaboom, conflict.

Or we can do what Jesus prescribes.  Turn the other cheek, be a peacemaker, forgive even those who have wronged us.

When soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter responded with the way of the world – conflict.  He drew his sword and cut off a soldier’s ear.  But Jesus responded in the way of grace – he told Peter to put away the sword and he healed the soldier’s ear.

Are we more like Simon Peter?  Or are we more like Jesus?

Do our actions foster conflict?  Or do they foster peace?

As I said last month, the biggest source of conflict in my life is not my personal life, but my work life.  Last week, I had a situation that made me so upset.  I felt it was unfair and completely unjust.  I was so upset about it that it kept me up at night.  I wanted nothing more than to call out the person who I thought was being unjust.

But instead, I prayed for peace.  I prayed for self-control.  I prayed for wisdom.  I checked my motivations and found that what was driving me was really ego, and I knew that wasn’t right.

Rather than calling out the person and likely blowing up the situation into a larger conflict, I chose a different path.  The time for the conflict passed and peace reigned instead.

When Satan comes prowling, choose peace.

Gossip Girl

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Talking had never really been my thing. As a child, whenever a teacher would call on me to speak, my mouth would rapidly coat with the tepid slime of fear. Maybe it was social anxiety or deep over analysis of my own thoughts but I was totally comfortable being silent. At 8 years old, I became a professional at keeping my tongue still.

But while my mouth was inactive, my ears weren’t. I learned the art of eavesdropping and soon discovered gossip. The adults in my family would collect around a crowded dining room table, a bright cozy kitchen, or sizzling barbecue grill to talk. About their spouses. Their children. Friends. Coworkers. Church folk. Other relatives. Celebrities.

When it became aware that I was in earshot, I was quickly shooed out the room. But the rich laughter and vociferous declarations were too full to be contained and always spilled into the other rooms. The conversational crumbs would tumble into my lap, sponge cake-like cubes soaked in innuendo and dusted in opinion. I’d stuff them in my mouth and scarf them down excitedly. Unlike being called upon in school, listening to juicy tidbits about people I knew loosened my tongue. I’d chew happily, surprised at how delicious they tasted and how much I wanted more.

The words of a whisperer (gossip) are like dainty morsels [to be greedily eaten]; They go down into the innermost chambers of the body [to be remembered and mused upon]. –Proverbs 18:8 (AMP)

Gossip is appetizing, there is no doubt about it. But there is equally no doubt about how damaging it is. It wrecks friendships (Proverbs 16:28), destroys trust (Proverbs 20:19), and creates an environment where love is M.I.A. and judgement reigns supreme (Psalm 69).

I wish I could say that that I’ve acquired a more mature palate or an appetite that always craves more graceful conversation. Unfortunately, I can’t yet but I have learned a few ways to keep away from the gossip platter.

  1. Walk away. Simply walk away. When a conversation among friends dives into gossipy terrain, remove yourself. Suddenly become really interested in the view from the window. Or if at a large gathering, get acquainted with people on the other side of the room.
  2. Say something positive. 99% of the time, the subject of a rumor mill is never present to defend or explain themselves. Their absence can give gossipers pretended power to tear down their reputation or even their worth. Saying an encouraging or optimistic word about the person can stop the flow of destructive words. It can remind everyone that gossip affects a real person, not a thing.
  3. Pray. When you feel tempted to gossip, pray. When you are in the midst of a gab session, pray. When someone’s name comes up in conversation, pray for them. And when someone comes to you with a load of gossip about an acquaintance, try saying, “Oh, that’s too bad. How about we pray for her right now?” There’s something about prayer that makes sin no longer as attractive after you’ve talked with God about it.
  4. Don’t talk. Do. Talk is cheap. It is emotionally and physically easy to run our mouths about someone else’s life, misfortunes, choices, and events. But that’s not what we are called to do. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Instead of talking about the person, reach out to them. Inquire genuinely about their life and their situation and offer to do what you can. Then do it.

Like most unhealthy foods, gossip is good to the tongue but injurious to the body. And like all unhealthy habits, God can and will overcome it.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

End of July Challenge: Making Space

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I quit my job this summer.

It feels crazy to even write that sentence. For years, I felt consumed by my job. I was working in a very high-stress social services position. The sacrifices I made for my job were many: social, time, financial, and (unfortunately) even spiritual. Don’t get me wrong – it was a calling for a certain time. But then the Lord gave me the peace and the wisdom that it was time to let go and hand over the reins to someone else.

By letting go of one thing, I have opened myself to other opportunities.  I’m ready to make space for other aspects of myself that a high-stress, full-time job simply did not leave the time or energy for.

Space is scary. Space means emptiness. Yet that same scary emptiness is bringing me hope. That space can be filled up by my Savior. That space will give me the time to hear the still, small voice. The God I serve can show me new ways to serve with that space. Finally, I can even focus more on my writing! That space and the changes in my life could even allow a special relationship to blossom. Only God knows the great things that could happen, if we would only allow some space in our lives!

Creating space can be difficult. Most of us have a tendency to fill up our time. Like me, we can get so focused on one thing – even one that we see as a calling – that we forget to still give ourselves space to grow in multiple dimensions.

Empty space has a way of forcing us to face ourselves. Empty space brings unknowns. I believe that empty space is necessary as we move onto new steps in our lives and discern what God is asking of us. Space is necessary for growth.

I’m taking the risk and creating space in my life. Yes, it’s scary, but I’m also feeling freedom and new waves of hope in my life. I’m eager to see what God will show me as I create empty space in my life.

Are you ready to see what the Holy Spirit could do in your life, when you allow some empty space?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Finding Space…from Church

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The social media without a doubt is a great platform to share, express, inform or even be inspired, but it also brings out an unspoken expectation on how we should be, should have or should achieve. It seems to preach its own agenda and has its devotees grappling in search for approval through the number of ‘likes’ and to a certain extent defining (or redefining) culture. The awesome places others visited, the picture perfect family/ couple, new homes, snippets of moments in conferences where he/ she is invited to speak or lead worship, and let’s not forget the unforgettable proposal story. There was a season I felt suffocated by the tsunami of news feed that I decided to take a one month break from Facebook. Guess what? I survived!

Church is no different.  As a Christian, what if I feel overwhelmed by church because I’m not ‘there’ yet?

Yes, you heard me right. About 2 years ago when I was still working in a law firm in my hometown (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah), church ministry (i.e. being actively involved in church activities) for me included worship leading, hosting weekly bible study group, being a council member and for a short term as the honorary secretary of the Anglican Diocese of Sabah – all these were in a span of 7 years prior to relocating to Kuala Lumpur. I was ready to relinquish all those in view of a new season in life and thought I would quickly regain my ministry in the new city and new church that I decided to attend. As you can guess, it did not happen as I expected.

Today, I am still figuring out how I will fit in, in this new church. Since moving, I struggled with the restlessness of not being involved in church ministry. I drowned in the sea of the congregation of people that I hardly know. I felt lost.

So, I decided to retreat and give space – to allow myself to accept the Timmie who does not lead any groups or hold any leadership position, and just be Timmie. Giving myself the space allowed room for reflection, clarity and growth.

I came to realize that the one person who doesn’t need space even though I need space from Him (or His Church) is our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In my season now being free from church ministry I am able to internalise the fact that I am still worthy of God’s love, I am still approved by Him and His love for me has never changed.

I am reminded of the story of a fierce battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal and was in a run for his life from Jezebel (read 1 Kings 19 and 20). Elijah had to take a breather: he struggled with the purpose that God had for him and the reality of the persecution – he needed time off from the craziness of life. To a lesser extent, that’s how I feel about my season now.

But just as God refreshed Elijah, He constantly assures me through the scriptures and a few close friends that I am still loved and accepted for just being me. I realize that though I may need some time off from church ministry per se, I do not have to create that space between me and God.  God closes the space between Him and I with His loving assurance. I am reminded by what Christine Caine (international speaker and bestselling author) said – that our goal in life is not how much we can do for God but how much like HIM we have become. The same principle is applicable in our careers, personal lives and finances.

I pray that you’ll be assured of a loving God who cares for you no matter the season you are in.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

Teapots

teapot

When I was a little girl, I had a tea set that I adored. What I loved most about it was that it wasn’t the plastic toy kind. It was real. Porcelain. And the crown jewel of the whole set was the teapot.

It was a smooth white with pink flowers painted on it. It was dainty and delicate. I thought it so elegant with its spout curved like the neck of swans. But I, at age 8, was very remiss. Within a year, the teacups were scratched, and some saucers were lost.

And as for my beloved teapot?

Well, the teapot was chipped and cracked. The spout I so admired had pieces broken off it. I had used it so much and handled it so carelessly that its quality had deteriorated.

I think women are a lot like teapots. Beautiful vessels created to pour out nourishing care, sweet encouragement, and supportive love.

Refreshing paper cups with attentive concern. Filling mugs with warm words for the emotionally deficient. Topping off tumblers for the parched, the thirsty, and anyone who happens to have an empty glass.

But it can get so where we are always tilted, palms tapping and pounding us, hoping drops will dance out.  And without refreshing and replenishing ourselves, heavy handed use will weaken our effectiveness and sap our joy.

So it’s necessary to retreat and spend time with God to soak in His peace and settle our weariness.

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” –Luke 6:30-31

Yes, we were created to pour into the world and into each other. But it’s OK to stop the flow for a spell in order to be filled again.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!