Archive: August, 2009

Are You Ready? By: Heidi Avery

“Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:13-18

I’ve been just a “little” off for the last 5 days. My kids would tell you that I’ve been a mean ole monster mom. My husband would also tell you that I’ve been a little less than fun to be around.

Looking back over it today I can see that it’s of course my own fault. There’s been an important ingredient missing from my life… my time alone with God.

I am not the most scheduled or disciplined person in the world, but I truly desire to be. In fact I am convinced that half the reason the Lord has me as a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom is to turn me into a more disciplined person. It’s been a very painful process, but I’ve come to appreciate the refinement by fire and I’ve also come to know that He truly does know best.

For example, we started school on August 3rd and with that began a new “schedule” for my life. It’s great, really… starts at 5:30am giving me time to be alone with the Lord and to exercise before the kids wake up. We start school by 8:30am and we’re done by lunch. The first week and a half was really great. Then we took a break and went out of town for a week and a half and that was great too. But, while we were away there was no schedule and I think that’s where things went awry.

First of all without the schedule my quiet time was sacrificed for extra sleep. My kids were crazy because they had no direction, therefore I was also crazy as I am sure you can imagine. Somehow it still surprises me how easily the fruits of the Spirit can get thrown right out the window and replaced with the devils schemes. The nature of the flesh just comes to life…lack of patience and self-control, anger, unhappiness, unkindness… they all just slip on in as if they’d always been there.

I’m realizing that the busier my life gets the more I need to ensure my time with Him. Without it I become weak and unprotected. My flesh takes over and it’s just not pretty. I really don’t enjoy looking back at myself in that picture.

I know you’ll laugh, but this all got me to thinking about fresh home baked bread. I really enjoy making bread. There aren’t many ingredients in a basic bread recipe, all you really need is yeast, flour, water, oil and salt. There are many variations adding other ingredients, but those are the necessary basics for a delicious, fluffy loaf.

A couple of years ago I made some bread to send over to a friend’s house and of course I made some for us too. I had made many loaves of bread and it came together beautifully and smelled wonderful baking in the oven. As soon as it was done I wrapped it up with pretty paper and a ribbon and quickly carried it over to my friend, so she could enjoy a fresh warm piece.

When I got home I rushed in to sink my teeth into my own warm, fresh piece only to find that something was just not right. The delicious, fluffy yumminess that I had come to expect from my bread was not there. Everything looked and smelled just like it should have, but the taste wasn’t quite right, in fact it tasted absolutely awful. I mentally recalled the process of putting the ingredients in the bowl and oops, there it was… I had forgotten the salt! As that came to memory the fact that I had just dropped a loaf of this bad bread off to my friend also crossed my mind! I was of course mortified!

We’re kind of like that loaf of bread aren’t we? There are many variations to life that we enjoy, some that we think we just couldn’t live without, but really there are only a few ingredients that we absolutely need to survive. Food and water are necessary for us to maintain our physical existence on this earth, but most important our eternal existence depends on consistent time spent at the feet of our Savior.

We mistakenly think we’ll be alright for awhile, and everything dose look fine… for awhile, but suddenly without notice things can turn very bad. Food and water may be providing us fuel to live, but without His Holy presence we literally become the walking dead.

We are being attacked daily… 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. That someone is us. Spending time in prayer and in His word keeps the Spirit moving inside of us. And, it’s the battle gear that He provides us, giving us the power to resist the elements of this world, the trickery of the devil and the hostile take over of our flesh. We can’t afford to take our armor off even for a second. We must remain alert and armed for the battle at all times.

Are you ready?

Father, thank you that each day is indeed new! Precious moments at your feet breathe the loveliness of your Spirit into our hearts once again, restoring us to you. May your armor become an irremovable part of us, protecting us against all evil. You alone are our un-shakable fortress, our mighty and just protector! We will glorify you God.

"Finding Security In the Check-Out Lane," By Kelli Zaniel

Today’s woman often finds herself knee deep in the trenches of insecurity asking, “what’s wrong with me?” “Why don’t I measure up?” We pick ourselves apart to the point that we become unrecognizable to God. Sometimes, it’s as if Satan tiptoes around camouflaging himself behind every swimsuit magazine or plastic surgery advertisement. He sneaks around town with his big bag of tricks slung over his back anticipating his next opportunity to trip us up. At the right moment he grabs a thick slice of insecurity and tosses it forcefully in our direction. Have you been there?

Being a woman today is extremely challenging. Our outward appearance is constantly scrutinized. The unrealistic images that emerge from our mainstream media have a profound and sometimes crippling effect on us. We remain in constant battle to guard our hearts against the negative influences in our culture. Have you ever stood at the check out counter at the grocery store while the “barely there” models gaze up at you snickering while the grocer does a price check on your king size bag of M&M’s? We compare our “average sized” hips to their “airbrushed to perfection” hips. As a result, we begin wallowing in a mud puddle full of insecurity and negativity. I found myself falling into this trap as I picked up a naked Barbie off my floor. I began thinking, I bet Barbie has never felt bloated a day in her glamorous life. Ken must be a great husband because Barbie has a permanent smile plastered across her fully applied make-up face all day long. I was truly spiraling out of control when I began comparing myself to Barbie.

It is easy to become bombarded and overwhelmed by these ideas. Satan’s deceptive mark is easily observed in our society today. His poison seeps out through the words written in our newspapers and spoken in television programs. I begin to measure my self worth, “insecurities best friend,” by the world’s standard of what is beautiful and significant. Those thoughts are driven and fueled by Satan. We, as women, must reject Satan’s counterfeit attempts to stir up deceptive feelings of insecurity in our hearts. If we allow ourselves to drown in his water of lies, we will become less effective Christians. Once this cunning creature has achieved his goal, he will arrogantly sit back to watch his destruction unfold.

When Satan begins to take the upper hand, how do we fight back? When he swiftly throws out his stone of temptation hoping our fragile legs will buckle and stumble over it, how do we respond? We have three options. We can either trip and fall down the road of worthlessness; dodge each stone and remain unscathed; or grab the stone and beat ourselves up with it. I have done the latter more times than I care to admit.

When the walls of insecurity begin to close in, I need to cling to God, grab hold of His rope of Truth and allow Him to pull me from Satan’s clutches. Jesus is the author of our book of life and is the only One who knows how our story will end. He is the only One who can quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger.

One of God’s promises is that He will be the light that delivers us from darkness. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the Glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1); I will never leave or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). When we feel stripped of our pride and self-worth, we can look to our Heavenly Father for reassurance. He never leaves our side. He is always there to remind us how precious we are to Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you, my power made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). If we could fight off temptation in our own strength, why would we need God? He chose me as His dearly loved child and he desires to be my shield of protection when my defenses are down. We can conquer anything with God’s help. Scripture tells us that He helps us because He loves and delights in us. There is nothing that can separate us from His love (see Romans 8:39).

So the next time you fall into the “grocery store checkout trap,” throw on your armor stitched with God’s love and assurance that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-14). He knows and loves every hair on your head, whether it is frizzy or hasn’t seen a good shampoo in days. Step into the light of God’s Truth and never feel unworthy again. The truth is you are very significant to God (Phil. 3:20); you are bright and salty (Matt. 5:13-14); you are complete in Him (Col. 2:10); and by the grace of God, are set free (Rom. 8:1-2).

P.S. I must confess that after writing this, I threw my clothes on over my unshowered body, covered my greasy hair with a hat and grabbed my Big Gulp as I hurried out the door!

"Standing at the Crossroads" By: Heidi Avery

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Have you ever planned a road trip before? I think you will agree that good driving directions are a very important part of a successful road trip. These days we don’t use our old fold up maps from AAA any more. Our family mostly uses the internet and some people even have fancy navigation systems installed right in their vehicles. You need only to type in or just “speak” your destination and it directs your every turn. I can’t speak for the navigation systems, but sometimes the internet directions either aren’t quite right or they are incomplete, so we always keep our fold-up maps on standby just in case.

Many times we’ve been headed in what we thought was the right direction only to find that we missed a turn or took a wrong one. We’ve had to pull over and get the fold-up map out to check our directions and sometimes we’ve even had to stop at a gas station to seek local expert assistance on where we are going. It takes precious travel time to figure it out sometimes doesn’t it? Whether you’re just staring at the map or finding a local that really does know what he’s talking about time will be lost.
Life is like that sometimes too, isn’t it? You find yourself steadily moving along and suddenly you’re at a crossroads, you pull right up to your own personal intersection of life and wonder “where the good way is?” As believers we usually stop, look up and say okay God where am I headed, but do we really do all of our homework before we take that next step?
Though it could happen, it’s unlikely today that God is going to whip the wind in a certain direction making it clear to us which way to go. Even if he did we’d likely still remain there, furrowed browed and puzzled, trying to decide what is best. It’s just not that easy and seeking His way is never quick.
There are many crossroads in our lives and they are unique to each individual, but what it all boils down to is the choices we make each day and really it’s about “who” we are making choices for. We live in a fast paced, self-involved world and it’s spinning so fast most of the time that we are making decisions by the minute, sometimes without thought. I’ll give us all the benefit of the doubt and say that “subconsciously” we end up making most of our choices based on what we want. Our own plans and selfish desires somehow make their way on to the path ahead.
I’ve got news for you my friends… the crossroads are not there by accident. They are reminders, free supernatural moments handed down to us by our loving Creator causing us to stop and seek the ancient paths to find the good way… His way. They provide an opportunity to do a “spirit check” a place to do what Jesus required of his disciples and what he also requires of us… to “deny ourselves and follow him.”
Standing at the crossroads, we will put on the breaks to our own urgent agenda, be still long enough to clearly see beyond ourselves for His way ahead. We must thoughtfully and prayerfully take in our surroundings. We may even be required to take out our old fold-up map… the bible, before we can be sure we are moving in the right direction.
Our bible, just like road maps can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when we are standing at a crossroad and confused. In these cases we may also need to seek some expert assistance… godly counsel, to confirm our new path. God often gives us great wisdom through the people around us and we are also wise to seek it. Proverbs 5:1 says “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”
However, we must do this responsibly. We can not put our trust in people, only in God, so whatever direction is given from people we ought to confirm… “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John:1 We should pray, testing any advice with the Truth of his word, proceeding slowly and cautiously allowing Him to lead.
Just like on a road trip, pulling out the bible and seeking godly council will cost us precious travel time. More than that, pursuing Jesus first in our lives means we absolutely will lose our lives. But, in return we get to claim His promises… “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” That motivates me… you? The simple reminder that our eternal lives are at stake by not following Jesus gets my attention, but it’s not enough and it’s selfish thinking too. Don’t get me wrong our eternal lives are at stake and that should motivate us, but we ought to follow Jesus because HE is GOD and because we love him desperately and more than our life. We have to remember why it is we are here. Though the world would have us believing it’s all about us, we know well it’s not about us, don’t we?

It iS all about Him.

If we sincerely seek the good way it can always be found in the ancient paths… the old ways. That’s exactly why God gave us the Living Word, to guide us through this life. It may indeed be old, but as Ecclesiastes reminds us “there is nothing new under the sun.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” He gave us the handbook for life, we need to take the time to use it.

When you find yourself at the crossroads do look up to God, but also reach for your bible, study the ancient paths, seek godly council, find the good way and walk in it. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28
Does your soul need rest? Mine does too.
Join me and “Seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God.” (Mat. 6:33) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col. 3:23,24). Keep the first and greatest commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mat. 22:37,38) This is where and only where rest for your soul will be found.
Upon Thy Word I rest, so strong, so sure;
So full of comfort blest, so sweet, so pure,
Thy Word that changest not, that faileth never!
My King, I rest upon Thy Word forever. —Havergal

"The Marriage Experiment" By: Kelli Zaniel

“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men.” Proverbs 2:10-12

If you have ever experienced the following, then this is the experiment for you. You return from the salon only to have your husband respond, “wow, I can’t tell they cut anything!” After wiping crusty noses all day, scrubbing toilets and discarding of the dog’s hidden treasures, it’s now time to evolve into a sex goddess in under 20 seconds. Have you received an improper response to the infamous question that every girl has asked, “do these pants make me look fat?” I am not a marriage expert but I do know that awareness of your spouse’s specific needs and how to meet them is the oxygen to any successful relationship. Forecasting how your significant other will respond to certain situations is a challenge. You can’t live with someone every day without episodes of occasional friction. In this experiment, lets ask ourselves, are we compatible or combustible?

Let’s explore marriage as if it were a chemistry experiment. Follow these important precautions when handling combustible materials in a relationship. Handle with care as some elements are flammable and can cause serious injury to the heart.

· Communicate in a well-ventilated area. Keep away from ignition sources;

· Be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18). Do keep in reach of children;

· Do not be disrespectful (1 Peter 2:17) to each other as volatile language may vaporize and ignite; and

· Keep all combustible materials, such as anger (Ephesians 4:26), jealousy, pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13) away from your source.

Another way to “mix well,” is through adjustment. Sometimes, we are required to adjust ourselves in certain areas in order to please our partner. We must say “no,” to self, and “yes,” to the needs of our spouse. This is the kind of relationship God wants with us. He desires for us to take up our cross daily, relinquish our selfishness, adopt selflessness and submit to righteousness. We must encourage our spouse daily as God desires to encourage us (Hebrews 3:13). A marriage must be nurtured in the way we are to nurture our relationship with God. It takes work, discipline and commitment. James Dobson wrote, “only when a person begins to develop a deep appreciation and admiration for another will an intense awareness of needs, strengths and character emerge.”
No junk or combustible materials allowed. Make a commitment to develop a renewed awareness of your partner’s needs, wants and desires. Familiarize yourself with the situations (or materials) that carry the potential for an explosive response. Be of one mind and live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).
God is the heavenly chemist of marriage. He carefully designed and constructed each part. He knows which elements will successfully react and those with unstable properties. The Bible provides the proper solution for achieving a successful and God-centered relationship between husband and wife. For the success of your marriage experiment, your Heavenly Father recommends you gather the following materials: endurance, encouragement, unity (Romans 15:5), peace, consideration, humility (Titus 3:1-2), kindness, compassion and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32). We may have an occasional spill but if we follow each step of the marriage experiment the way God intended, we can neutralize our combustible materials before they begin to fizz and bubble over.

"Free from Worry" By: Heidi Avery

Yesterday I took my son to the hospital to have a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. There was really nothing to be worried about, it’s a common procedure, quick and it doesn’t even require an over night stay.

Nothing to worry about, right?

It’s no big deal, really. A completely competent and trained nurse is going to escort my son away from me into a sterile surgery room where an anesthesiologist will then cover his mouth and nose, carefully watching him breath in super happy sleepy bubble gum gas until his eyes close shut. Then in a flash Dr Laser himself will swoop in with his mini light saber laser and within moments he will defeat the enormous tonsil and adenoid monsters. Within the hour they will be calling me back to be by his side as he awakens from the deep slumber, totally unaware of the laser show that just went off without a hitch inside his mouth!

Again I ask, nothing to worry about, right? Logically, no, but I am a mother and as a mother I have a “small” tendency to worry about my children, especially when they are going under the knife or in this case the laser! Well, my son taught me a lesson about my God today or more accurately God used my son to teach me a lesson about Him today.

Just before the nurse came in to take Robbie away my husband and I prayed over him and the doctor. Then I picked Robbie up, looked into his big hazel eyes told him I loved him and hugged him so tight. I wondered if he was scared, he didn’t act like it, he’d been jumping around and playing ever since we got to the hospital at 7am in the morning. So, I asked him anyway, “are you okay?” He smiled and said, “mhmm.” But, that wasn’t good enough, so I asked him “are you worried?” He hugged me and said, “nope!”

After he left I began thinking about the freedom a person would feel without worry. We say we trust God with everything, but then we put something into his more than capable hands and yet we still worry. In Matthew 6: 25-34 Jesus says… “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life. And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Five times Jesus tells us in these verses to “stop worrying”

Why is it so hard? What is worry anyway? If you peel away the layers that make up worry I think what you will find festering underneath is fear. More specifically, fear of the unknown. I wasn’t worried about Robbie’s surgery ending in a complete success, I was worried about something going wrong, something unusual that happens only once in a thousand cases. We are happy to rely on God and trust him with our lives as long as he’s working off of our game plan. But, we do know God, right… and knowing him means facing the fact that he’s got a plan of His own and that plan may very well include something unexpected and sometimes undesirable to us. We may experience temporary discomfort emotionally or physically or both. His plan may be that we are thrust right into the midst of a life trial.

The truth about worry that we need to deal most with is the fact that it is sin. Worry, says we don’t trust God, we are telling him that we don’t think he’s big enough to handle our issue. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 we find some worthy advice on how to conquer worry… “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” If we humble ourselves under God’s almighty hand then we will accept His plan for our lives no matter what we have to go through. We will trust him no matter what His plan looks like or how it contradicts our own plans. If we are humbled before our Creator we will desire deeply to cast our anxieties only on him because we will know that is the only place we can truly exchange them for peace.

In her book “Calm My Anxious Heart” Linda Dillow says “Humility means to have total trust in God alone. It is the surrender of our total being – intellect, emotion, will, plans, and judgments. It is relinquishing everything. For me, humbling myself involves yielding to God as the Blessed Controller of whatever situation or person is causing me anxiety.”

I think being truly humble also means learning to be content, which is a life time pursuit with many failures and victories along the way. As the apostle Paul says… “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” I love how Jeremiah Burrows defines true Christian contentment… “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition”

I’m praying for us, mothers, women… we’re worriers aren’t we? I am praying that like a child, we may we boldly embrace a life free from the chains of sinful worry, free from selfish fear that gets in between us and our gracious Provider. I know the deepest parts of your core call out along with mine for an inner humility that allows us to live a life of complete contentment, a life of peace that comes only from Him.