{Contentment & God’s Word} (Heather)

These last few weeks have admittedly been hard to really feel connected with God through His Word. It’s usually the most natural way for me to relate to God because I love to read. But so much is happening right now, and I too often let my circumstances rule my life. One thing that has been encouraging to me is the Psalms reading plan our church is doing together this year. Each week we read and think through a selected Psalm. This past week we read Psalm 19, and a few verses really stuck out to me.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the just decrees of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.

Psalm 19:7-9

I particularly love verses 7 and 8. It’s so easy for me to believe that other things will bring contentment. I often think if I can just get to a place where I am ready for the baby to come or more financially stable or [whatever is on my mind that day], then I’ll really be satisfied.

We all have those things that we think will really fulfill us—dating someone, marriage, having a baby, finishing college, maybe even just getting through this week. (Fill in your list here!) These are all good things, but the truth is that only Jesus can really revive our souls and cause our hearts to rejoice. Those other things can never hold the weight of fulfilling us because they were never meant to do so.

Knowing Jesus is real contentment whatever our circumstances may be. There’s so much peace in knowing that our lives don’t need to be dictated by what’s going on around us. We can rejoice that our Creator and Savior came to save us and He has made a way for us to know Him.

I’m praying that you will take some time today and let the Word of the Lord revive your soul.

Where is God when I am suffering? (Steph)

People often ask how God can be loving when there is so much pain in the world. From breakups and betrayal to pain and death, suffering is always a part of life. How do we reconcile this with a God who loves us and promises to care for us? Although God does not take away all of our pain and problems, I know one thing – we can be sure of His presence.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6 

Did you catch that great news? “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

Never: at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever.

A simple word but in this context – so powerful!

I saw God’s presence in the midst of extreme pain when I lost my first child to a miscarriage. It has been 9 months and 6 days since I found out my baby’s heart had stopped beating. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember the loss. In a matter of moments my world was flipped upside down as I realized I would never get to hold her, hear her voice, or see her run to me and hug me. I had no say in the matter and I knew God could have done something about this but chose not to. I had to trust that His plans were somehow good (Jer. 29:11).

The weeks and months following were full of grief. Where was my loving God in the midst of pain and heartache? 

God was there when He allowed Zach’s work schedule to work out so that I was not alone when I heard the news. God was there that night when my best friend brought me flowers and a giant chocolate bar. God was there as I received more cards, texts, e-mails, and gifts from family and friends than I had at any other time in my life.  God was there as other women shared their stories of miscarriage with me. God was there when my former roommate bought me redbox movie codes so I could take a break from crying and have some laughter in my life. God was there when He lead me to a book (at just the right time) that reminded me I would see my child in heaven someday. God was holding me on Dec. 26 (my original due date) as I woke up and cried. Again and again He poured out His love through the people He had placed in my life.

I can’t count the number of people who prayed for us. Zach and I were surrounded by encouragement and support and I knew it was from God. The God who promises to never leave us. The God who knows what it is like to lose a child. The God who gave His son for me so that I could have the hope of eternity. The God who walked the earth as Jesus and knows what it is to suffer loss. Thanks to the truth of the Gospel I will see my baby in heaven someday. I don’t know why we had to experience such loss but I know it drew us closer to Jesus, the ultimate Comforter. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Cor. 1:3-5

Whatever you are suffering through right now, know that God will never leave you and His plans for you are good. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, financial situation, the unknown future, or a broken relationship, allow Him to be your comfort today and always. You are loved.

Love for God & Knowledge about God (Laura)

With the beginning of the Lenten season, I decided to read through the Gospel of John. Thanks to the library of books I have inherited through my husband, I have a copy of The NIV Application Commentary, by Gary M. Burge. I highly recommend it, but with a little caution. While I really enjoy it, there can be a temptation to immediately read what Burge says about Scripture rather than give time for the Holy Spirit to reveal more to you personally. I combat this temptation by reading a passage of Scripture, spending time journaling observations and reflections, and then reading the commentary. Burge’s book gives historical background for the passage, bridges the context for Scripture during that time until now, and provides commentary on the contemporary significance of the passage.
I started right at the beginning of John and read chapter 1. It is the story of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ disciples following Him. (Now would be a good time to take a minute or two and read John 1 in your Bible). What stood out to me the most was how each person experienced Jesus on their own.  Each person is invited to “come and see” Jesus and through their experience, know Him. What often helps me to stand firm in my faith is the confidence I have in my own experience of Christ, making it easy for me to relate to this part of Scripture. I believe others must also experience Christ themselves to know Him. As Burge said, people “must have a personal experience that completely reorients who they are” (p 81).  However, this was only half of Burge’s observation and I am so grateful for the challenge in the other half. 
The point I missed is the knowledge the disciples had in addition to their experience. Burge makes a list of all the names associated with Jesus in the first chapter:

– Messiah (v 20,41)
– the Prophet (v 21)
– Jesus (v 29)
– Lamb of God (v 29, 36)
– one who baptizes with the Spirit (v 33)
– chosen [Son] of God (v 34)
– rabbi/teacher (v 38, 49)
– Christ/anointed one (v 41)
– son of Joseph (v 45)
– Nazarene (v 45)
– Son of God (v 49)
– King of Israel (v 49)
– Son of Man (v 51) 

Isn’t that crazy? It puts me in awe of how Jesus filled each of those roles so perfectly and how He relates to us in so many different ways. What challenges me is how the disciples had scholastic insight into Jesus. When asked “Who is Jesus?” they had their experience to help answer as well as knowledge. I am called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind(Luke 10:27). But how well do I really love the Lord with my mind? When people ask what my belief as a Christian is on dating, drinking, sex, or other things, do I know how to respond with the truth that Scripture teaches? Is there substance behind my love of God? My experiences can certainly play a role in my response, but the truth must be grounded in God’s Word.
“John the Baptist is not only experiencing personal self-effacement and an overwhelming desire to glorify Jesus, he can also give a correct theological explanation of who Jesus is. There is a theological substratum beneath his commitment. The same is true of the four men who follow in the story” (Burge p 85)

So the challenge I am facing is this: Is loving God a “spiritual mantra”(as Burge refers to it) or do I have and continue to seek more of the depth in understanding and knowing who I love?