Monday, January 30, 2012

FOTS: Love

I've been reading the book Spirit-Controlled Temperament by Tim LaHaye over the past week. I'm fascinated by the concept of "the four temperaments" and how my temperament(s) affects the way I live, the person I am now, and the person I will one day become as I learn to allow the Spirit to control my temperament(s).

Lately, I've been struggling with myself ... just not liking myself, to be honest. Ultimately, I'm focusing too much on my temperament's weaknesses ... but sadly, the Sanguine (that's me!) has a lot of weaknesses that must be overcome. Thank God He is strong even in our weaknesses, but He still wants us to overcome them. He wants us to be controlled by His Spirit so that we can honor Him with our whole lives.

When the Spirit controls my temperament, I produce the fruit of the Spirit.
and Self-control

Ideally, I should be producing ALL of these qualities EVERYDAY. But if you've read my most recent posts about depravity, you can understand that, sadly, this is NOT going to happen. BUT! I CAN take ONE quality each day and really try to put it into practice. And that's exactly what I'm gonna try to do. As I continue to read this book (and hopefully beyond that), I'm gonna try to focus on living out at least one of these fruit of the Spirit everyday.

The first one is L O V E :)
A dictionary definition ... "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person."
God's Word ...
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not brag.
Love is not arrogant.
Love does not act like a jerk!
Love is not selfish.
Love doesn't get bent out of shape!
Love forgives immediately.
Love hates sin.
Love adores the Truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes the best in/of people.
Love is always hopeful.
Love endures.
Love never fails.
(From 1 Corinthians 13 ... with a little paraphrasing ;))

Heck, I could take just one line from 1 Corinthians to work on each day. "Love doesn't act like a jerk!" That one by itself is HUGE! ... But anyway ... I wanna try to live out these qualities. I want to honor God! So here begins a new set of posts ... "FOTS" (Fruit of the Spirit) posts. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Depravity (Part 4): "Therefore, I will boast in my weaknesses!"

Why stop, when the brain juices are still a flowin'? :)

I've been reading through the book, So Long, Insecurity, by Beth Moore and working through a Bible study booklet that accompanies it. And a few weeks back, I was able to connect chapter 4 of Radical with So Long, Insecurity's Bible study questions. The Bible study had me read 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 and had me answer the questions, "What does it mean to boast about our weaknesses?" and "In what way are we strong when we are weak?" I think wrestling with this passage of Scripture and answering these questions is a great last step to wrapping up my thoughts on depravity because it sends us off with an application. How can we apply this Truth about depravity to our everyday lives?

"And [Jesus] has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Because our depravity (weaknesses) brings glory to God, by requiring the power of His grace at work in our lives, we are able to boast about our weaknesses. For me, I think boasting about my weaknesses means not beating myself up for my sin, but instead, striving to comprehend that God is so big, so powerful, and so perfect, that even when I sin, He STILL gets the glory. How does He do it? He gets the glory no matter what. That's how awesome and holy our God is. ...Furthermore, I should strive not to sin so that my faithfulness brings Him even more glory than my sin. And so that glory, resulting from my weakness, makes me strong because it is the power of Christ living and working in me.

To God be the glory!

Depravity (Part 3): God's Glory, that's the point!

A couple of months ago, I wrote two posts about human depravity, specifically, my own depravity. In the first post, I asked the question "Why did God create us if He knew we were going to screw up all the time?" This question brought Galatians 5:16-26 and Romans 6 to mind. So I read and thought through these passages and came away closer to the answer to my question but not quite there. In my second post, I attempted to flesh out my thoughts about Galatians 5:16-26 and Romans 6 in reference to my question. I concluded that getting rid of my sin, or even striving to get rid of my sin, brings glory to God. And although I think this idea is mostly true, it doesn't quite answer the question I started with. It simply made me feel better, knowing I was a step closer to the answer I sought.

I received a super encouraging message yesterday from a friend I haven't talked to in several months. In the message, he mentioned that my depravity posts had got him thinking on his own sinfulness. And so I immediately went back to my posts and read them over again. And I (re-)realized that the ideas needed to be hashed out further. ... I've read a bit of the book, Radical, since I wrote those depravity posts a couple months ago, and part of chapter 4 really hits my question of "What's the point of my sin?" right on the head. So here I am again ... trying to figure out this complex, yet simple, reality of human depravity.

The simplicity of depravity comes from David Platt's (the author of Radical) popular phrase from chapter 4, "Enjoy His grace; extend His glory" (64). By enjoying and accepting God's grace, we bring Him glory. ... Cool, huh? The complexity of depravity is that God's grace is not about us; it's about Him. Really, that's not complex when you think about it 'cause "it's all about Him." Everything in this existence, this universe, is about Jesus. But in our finite minds, at least in mine, we have a hard time wrapping our mind around grace being about someone other than ourselves. ... When we think about grace being about Jesus instead of about us, we can start to glimpse the glory in it. I love what Platt says about God's grace ... "God blessed the human race, not because of any merit or inherent worth in us, but simply out of pure, unadulterated grace" (65). God didn't create us or enter into a relationship with us because we deserved it or earned it but because that "pure, unadulterated grace" brought glory to Himself. And because "God is at the center of His universe, everything He does ultimately revolves around Him" (Platt 71). So you see ... our depravity makes us entirely dependent on the grace of God, and the grace of God brings glory to God. And so, ultimately, our depravity brings glory to God. Therefore, the answer to my question is that God created us, depraved human beings, so that He could lavish His Self-glorifying grace upon our lives. His glory is the point. It's all about Him. The point of everything in our lives, on this planet, in this universe, in all that God created - ever - is HIS GLORY.

Which leads me into more thoughts ... haha! Part 4 to follow :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 30

Day 30 - A picture of someone you miss

Without a doubt, this post belongs to Shelley Chambers!!!
Wow, I miss her! It was hard when she and Pastor Mike and the kids moved to Poplar Bluff, Missouri ... 6 hours away ... but now that they live 27 hours away in Prescott, Arizona??? Oh my goodness. Someday, I WILL get out there to see them! But until then, I'll just have to cry when I hear her voice on the phone (ahem ... just yesterday). Haha!

It's amazing how close you can get to your youth pastors. Wow. For me, it's a bond I have a hard time describing. When people love you, really love you, and pour into your life ... invest their time, energy, advice, love, encouragement, hope (and more importantly, God's hope) into you ... it really sticks with you. Maybe that's why I'm still in youth ministry? :) I think so. I want to invest in young people the same way Pastor Mike and Shelley invested in me. It is a very rare gift. Sure, there are youth pastors out there ... some good ones! ... but I had the best! :)

Shelley listened to me; she laughed with me (and at me :)); she sacrificed lots of time and energy to love and spend time with me; she was a source of strength and encouragement and support. And what's so great is that she STILL is!!! :) Years after I've graduated, 27 hours away ...

*Big sigh* ... And so yes, I really miss her. Love you, Shelley!

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 29

Day 29 - A picture that always makes you smile :)

Haha! I am smiling just thinking about looking at this picture. Such good memories come from this picture. It's of me and a very dear friend of mine, Jon Adamson. Haha! This guy is such a nut. We are a great pair of friends! This picture was taken at CIY (a youth conference), the summer after I graduated from high school. What a couple of dorks. I love this picture! This picture always makes me smile when I see it 'cause that week at CIY was tons of fun ... but also because Jon means a lot to me. We've been friends since I was in the 8th grade ... that's a long time. Hmmm ... about 10 years. Crazy. We've had lots of fun together over the years - playing basketball, singing on the worship team, singing specials with Uncle Mike, recording tracks in Uncle Mike's studio (lots of singin' huh? Great fun!), being in youth group together, going for coffee, sitting in the car listening to Southern Gospel music (and even, dare I say? Weird Al - ha!), hangin' out with his family and the Cooks ... tons of great times. He never ceases to make me smile or laugh. Just a very dear friend. So I can't help but smile when I see this seriously goofy picture of us. Too funny!

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 28

Day 28 - A picture of something you're afraid of

Whew! This is not a fun one to write about. :(
For as long as I can remember, I've been absolutely devastated when friendships, relationships of any kind, go awry. If I offend someone or someone dislikes me or I've hurt someone in some way or I've acted like a fool or someone is disappointed in me for some reason or a say something nasty or thoughtless or ... need I say more? If someone I know has been hurt by me in anyway, I just die inside. I have to reconcile as soon as possible. And if something can't be reconciled? Oh, my. Jesus, help me. And so, yes. Needless to say, my greatest fear is broken relationships.

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 27

Day 27 - A picture of you and a family member

My Aunt Peggy is so awesome! I don't get to see her very often. Like nearly all of my other family members, I only see Aunt Peggy once or twice a year ... usually at Thanksgiving and sometimes at one other family get-together throughout the year. And when I see her, I don't usually get to talk with her too much. But every time I see her, she is always a great encouragement to me. I think one reason she's so encouraging is because she smiles all the time. :) She's always so positive when I see her. And she believes in the Lord and what He's doing. All good reasons to think her encouraging, right? And, I think, without fail, Aunt Peggy always tells me how beautiful I am. Points for her! ;) Haha! But seriously, isn't that always one of the best compliments, best words of encouragement, you can get? Someone telling you you're beautiful? Oh, it always lifts my day! She always tells me that I'm beautiful and that she's proud of me. And ya know ... that may seem small, but wow, it is big! Don't you agree? And it doesn't matter that I don't see Aunt Peggy often or that we don't get to talk much. I know that she loves me. And that's what matters the most. So Aunt Peggy, if you're reading this ... Thank you so much for always encouraging me. It does so much more than you know! Love you! :)

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 26

Day 26 - A picture of someone who means a lot to you

I am incredibly blessed to have so many dear friends in my life. Sooo blessed! But I have to pick Uncle Mikey for this post. Uncle Mike and I go way back. One of my favorite things about our friendship is just that ... we've been friends for going on 19 years, since I was 6 years old. :) I'll never forget the Masterson-Cook get-togethers every week after church. Yeah, there were other families who joined us ... but the Mastersons and the Cooks were the two core families of these get-togethers. And so I've been so blessed to be apart of their family in a lot of ways and for them to be apart of mine. Uncle Mike and Jen and Adam are definitely like a second family to me. Uncle Mike and I have done lots together over the years - in addition to the Masterson-Cook family get-togethers every week ... I've spent tons of time over at Uncle Mike and Jen's house watching movies, eating yummy food, playing the wii, hanging out with the guys (Adam, Jon, Jason, Jarrod) and their honeys (Kristina, Melissa, and Susan), singing and making tracks in Uncle Mike's studio, swimming in their pool, drinking hot chocolate and eating popcorn, watching Chuck, having late-night conversations (usually after Chuck) about fun, serious, and silly things ... and I'm sure I could think of more if I thought long and hard enough about it. We've had many heart-to-heart conversations, and he's told me so many priceless Uncle Mike jokes (if you know him, you know the kind I'm talking about). :) He's taken me out for dinner. We've gone to Southern Gospel concerts before. So many wonderful memories with this dear friend. :)

Uncle Mike is my Chuck buddy, my singin' buddy, someone who never fails to make me laugh and make my day better, and we share a bond that is incredibly special to me. He really is my UNCLE Mikey. And I am so grateful to know him. :)

SoZo: Psalm 124 :)

Hey, SoZo!

Since we don't have Bible study tonight ... lousy weather ... I thought I'd share a "lesson" with you here on my blog. That way, we can still "meet together" this week.
So ... go grab your Bible real fast ... and I'll wait here. :)

Okay, you're back ... here we go.
We've been talking about relationships in SoZo lately. Last Sunday, we talked about confronting others when they need it and being confronted when we need it for ourselves. Tonight, I want us to think about how we should respond when people "rise up against us," like it says in the Scripture passage we're gonna look at.

Open your Bible and read Psalm 124 - yep, the whole chapter. It's pretty short. You can also read it below, if you so desire ...

Psalm 124
"If the Lord had not been on our side - let Israel now say - if the Lord had not been on our side when people rose up against us, they would have swallowed us alive because of their burning anger against us. The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. Blessed be the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap. the trap is broken, and we are free! Our help is from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth."

Take a second to think about how people "rise up against us" sometimes. Write down some of your answers somewhere if you like. But think about it ...
~ What does it mean for someone to "rise up against us?"
~ How do people rise up against us?
Maybe by gossiping about us ... by calling us names or tearing us down ... by not believing in us? What about someone dissing our family or the way we sing or the way we play soccer ... or maybe someone making fun of us or being hateful to us because we stand up for Jesus? Have any of these things ever happened to you? Think of some of your own scenarios ... when have people risen up against you? What was it that they said or did?

Now ...
How did that person or situation make you feel?
Probably pretty crumby. It is never fun to be persecuted, looked down upon, disliked, or slandered.

Psalm 124 (and our own life experiences) tells us that these situations might "swallow us up" and "overwhelm us." Basically, when mean or evil things happen to us, it can really start to bring us down ... we may even become super distracted or even consumed by our discouragement. BUT!!! What I want y'all to think about tonight is the HOPE Psalm 124 gives us. ... Look at verse 1 again ...

"If the Lord had not been on our side ..."

That means that God IS on our side! And that means God is going to help us through those times when people rise up against us. It is inevitable that people and situations are going to discourage us, tear us down, humiliate us, harm us, make us feel horrible ... BUT GOD will sustain us. He will be our HELP! ... Look at verse 8 again ...

"Our help is from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth."

Yep ... the same God who made everything we see on this planet loves us, EACH of us, enough to be our Helper ... to stand by us and build us up ... in the most difficult of times. So take courage in that, my SoZo-ers! If you are discouraged or feel beaten down today because someone is hatin' on you, take heart! Cry out to God for help. He is ready to comfort you and give you strength.

Take a couple of minutes to seek God for His help and strength. Meet with God ... He is ready to fill you up! :) I love you guys! See y'all Sunday morning. And don't forget about lunch at my house from 12:30 to 2:30pm this Sunday afternoon. Hope you can make it! :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 25

Day 25 - A picture of your favorite season

Without a doubt, my favorite season is fall!!!!
It's gorgeous ... not too hot and not too cold ... great weather for walks in the park, playing sports, puttin' on jackets and sweatshirts ... and toward the end of the season, hats, scarfs, and gloves ... the leaves change colors; the leaves "crumple" beneath your feet ... you can see your breath in the air ... 50-degree weather and 60-degree weather (my all-time favorite weather!) ... some rain, which I also like ... fall is just the perfect season! Love it! :D

Friday, January 6, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 24

Day 24 - A picture of something you wish you could change

I wish I could like reading.
Although I am trying to change this ... I think it's gonna be a process. I have to really like a book to read it for more than a few minutes at a time, day after day. Occasionally, I find one. I'm reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. It's about a 500-page book. I think I started it the day after Christmas, and I'm on page 361. That's pretty awesome for me. So I'm working on changing the fact that I don't like to read. But it's still pretty hard to pick up a book a lot of the time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

30-day Jesus Day 7: Reaping the Harvest

Ever been in a season of life when you can't believe how much God is at work??? I sure hope so 'cause it's incredible! Most of 2011 was a spiritual drought for me, but over the past few months (and what I know will be for ALL of 2012 and beyond), I've been reaping a harvest of lessons and Holy Spirit stirrings and peace and guidance that felt so distant and non-existent last year. It's great! It's more than great - it's absolutely cool, yo!

The only downside I can see in this kind of season is that because God is so at work, it's hard to keep up! I mean, it's like lesson after lesson keeps coming my way ... I've barely begun to grasp, let alone learn and DO, one lesson, and God starts workin' on me in some other area. Take the revelation "believe without seeing" for example. Man ... I'm not even close to putting that to TOTAL work in my life, and yet God is already (and has been for a while) convicting me about my attitude (more so in general than about my current life circumstances) ... and I'm only beginning to change my attitude in small ways day after day (I've still got soooo far to go) ... and He's moving on to "Do everything without arguing and complaining" (Philippians 2:4). ... Wow! Will it ever end???!!! Hahaha!

Thankfully, no, it won't.
God is too faithful to leave me the way I am. And boy, am I thankful for that!!! I want to be more like Jesus, people! Don't you?
It's amazing how God works when we let Him.
Be sensitive to the Spirit, my friends ... He's got so much to teach you! :)

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 23

Day 23 - A picture of your favorite book

Ah ha! I was able to get two in one picture!
Books are hard for me ... hard to narrow down, believe it or not, since I don't like to read ... but they are also hard because I don't comprehend or retain very well. So ... when I tell you that these two are my favorite books it's hard to tell you why. And of course you want to know WHY. ;) The titles of these books say a lot ... "Calm My Anxious Heart" and "Having a Mary Spirit." And like all good titles, they sum up what each book is about. But, to be truthful, I don't remember any specifics about these books ... I only remember that, in the season of life in which I read them, they changed my perspective. And believe me, if you don't know it already, texts that change your perspective on life, God, trials, anything really, are invaluable! :) And that's what I remember from these books ... that they taught me some great lessons when I read them ... ha! Too bad I can't remember those lessons. Too ridiculous, huh? But again, they were invaluable THEN. And so they are my favorite books for the time being ... until some other books come along and teach me some more perspective-changing lessons, I guess. :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 22

Day 22 - A picture of something you wish you were (naturally) better at

I can do a little more than carry a tune in a bucket ... but I'm a pretty average singer all in all. Which is great. I'm thankful I can sing. I got to be in Warrior Choir and Encore and Music Shoppe while I was in high school and Delegation in middle school. And those were some of the best experiences of my life - especially Encore - Danville's show choir. Wow, that was a blast!
I've done some singing throughout my life ... but I've always struggled. I love harmony - I'd prefer to sing it over the melody just about any day ... but wow, is it tough! I can hear some harmonies on my own but not many. And man, it takes me such a long time to learn harmonies I don't naturally hear. I would love to sing trios and quartets with Uncle Mike and the guys at church more often (all the time, really!) ... but it takes me so long to learn parts ... I don't like to bother them with my "slowness."
I love Southern Gospel music. I love trying to hear the different parts and sing with the singers. And I'd love to sing more Southern Gospel with the guys ... oh, to be a better singer!
But again ... I need to be thankful. But the challenge did ask for a picture of something I wished I were better at ... and singing is what I pick. Just being honest. :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 21

Day 21 - A picture of your favorite late-night snack

You may find yourself craving some yumminess from time to time, but you scour your fridge and pantry and cubbards and find no ice cream or oreos or pie or donuts ... or anything with the tons of carbs and sugar that you so desperately crave. So what do you do? Well, let me tell you. You take graham crackers ... left over from your last bonfire. You take some chocolate chips (only semi-sweet chips for me!) for your next cookie baking day. And you take some peanut butter (preferably crunchy, if you're like me). And put 'em altogether; nuke 'em in the microwave; and you have a delightfully delicious treat that has all the carbs and the sugar and the yumminess factor that you so desire. Yep, chocolate peanut butter graham crackers are a yummy late-night treat for me ... and for you - try 'em! :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 20

Day 20 - A picture of somewhere you wanna travel

Oh, yeah! Ever since I first saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I've wanted to see New Zealand. Man, it looks incredible! I'd love to go hiking through the sites ... maybe hot air ballooning. But just bask in God's beauty for a few days. I know it would be entirely incredible - maybe even life-changing.
Yep, if I could go anywhere ... New Zealand would be the place - fo sho!!! :D