Friday, May 31, 2013

Psalm 57

Today's scripture is Psalm 57. Go here to read it in your preferred version.

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.
He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.
My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.
They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.
Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.
I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
10 For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.
11 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth.

Actions of God:
He performs all things for me (v. 2), He sends from heaven and saves me. He sends forth His mercy and truth (v. 3).

Commands to me:
Trust in God and make Him my refuge (v. 1), cry unto God when I need help (v. 2), fix my heart on God and praise Him (v. 7-9).

Characteristics of God:
merciful, truthful, God on high, exalted

This psalm was written by David when he was fleeing Saul. David was in the midst of danger and yet he knew God would be his refuge. 

Luke 22:37 has an awesome phrase that relates to this idea: "for the things concerning me have an end". Yes, this phrase is taken out of context, but to me it has a lot of merit to anyone who is going through some kind of trial. The thing that concerns you has an end. We may not always have the end of the battle in sight, but no battle will last forever. I love that.

God's nature is that of a mother hen, who by instinct will shelter her young. In verse 3 we can see that David knows this. He knows that his help is coming from heaven, not anyone on earth or any earthly thing.

In verse 5 we see that God's glory is our number one priority. We should be more concerned with that than any of our own interests. One thing I have struggled with over the last couple of years is showing God's glory in the mundane. It's a tough battle for me but I am slowly learning this. I can pray while I'm washing dishes. I can dance around the kitchen with my kids singing praise songs while lunch is cooking. I can hold in my anger towards my children when they do something that is messy, but completely an accident. I can pay attention to a stranger who needs some attention. I can make sure my house is presentable and pleasing to my husband. The list goes on and on of ways I am finding to do this. I still mess up frequently but the great thing about making mistakes is learning from them!

Verse 7 - We need to fix our hearts on God. Attend to the Lord with no distractions. How difficult that is at times! I have figured out a routine that seems to work where I am practically guaranteed a quiet time with God with no distractions, even with two small children at home. They wake up at the same time usually (or within 15 minutes of each other, at least). After eating breakfast I let them each choose one TV show that I've taped. This gives me almost one hour of time to read my Bible, blog if I get the chance, read some supplemental books if I get the chance, but the important thing is I read my Bible first to make sure that gets done and I'm not rushed. If I'm not sure this will be able to take place during the day I make sure to wake up very early (to me) to make sure my devotions are done before they're even awake. This is something I have to absolutely plan every day or else it will be 10pm and I'll be wondering where the day went. I encourage you, even if you work, or have small children, or some other situation going on... find a way to get in your time with God with no distractions. I have found it is so worth it. It's not easy every day but I sure do need it.

Verse 8 - Don't have dull, sloppy devotions. Don't do it as something that is checked off your list. I hope my last paragraph doesn't seem like I'm encouraging that. If you don't have time to do a devotional that is quiet and uninterrupted it's probably not worth doing. Just reading words but not walking away with anything is pretty useless. You could have read any fiction novel and walked away with the same thing. Leave your devotions feeling on fire and feeling a new purpose! Learn something new! This scripture is so exciting and has something new for us every time we read it. I am still finding that out. 

Thoughts or comments on this scripture or anything I said? Feedback is appreciated! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Psalm 64

Today's scripture is Psalm 64. Go here to read it in your preferred version.

Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:
Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:
That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.
They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?
They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.
But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.
So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away.
And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing.
10 The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.

Sometimes in life we feel so discouraged and so persecuted, all we can do is cry to God and just beg Him to hear our voice. In this modern time we are not usually praying for the literal preservation of our lives (not yet, anyway), but fear of someone can still take hold in our lives if we don't watch out. It is much easier and tempting to try to please those around us because we can see them... we have a tangible relationship with them. David, the author of this psalm, begs for God to hide him. There are people who are going behind his back, trying to create chaos in his life. Verse 3 says they whet their tongue like a sword. I think this is such a great visual. The words that come from another's mouth can be so sharp and hurtful at times. Then the scripture says they basically will take aim and shoot their arrows. The arrows are words - you're not good enough; you're not smart enough; you can't do that; you'll never be in a relationship; you just aren't enough. If you are a Christian, people will say things because we are (should be) holding ourselves to a higher standard than nonbelievers. So it's very easy for us to get knocked down by words and think, "They're right. I'm not good enough. I screw up constantly, so how can I boast in God when I am so messed up?" This verse says that people are going to shoot at us "suddenly", sometimes very unexpectedly, and they will "fear not" when they do it. No thought of repercussions or the hurt it will cause. They get together and agree that they can do these things because no one will see them do it. They will look at every intricate detail of our lives trying to find the kink in our armor. BUT. Look at verse 7. God is our defense! He will shoot back at our enemies. When we are defeated, when we can't imagine how to fight back, God will be our defender. Their tongues will start to trip, their lies will fall apart, and people won't even want to be around them anymore. And then all of a sudden, those who had no fear (v. 4) will have fear (v. 9) and will admit that God is at work and they will begin to think more about their actions. We (the righteous in Christ) will be glad in the Lord and thankful that we can trust in Him, and we will say Glory, glory, glory! for the relationship we have with Him.

Thoughts? Comments? I loved this scripture and I think it is very applicable for many Christians today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Undeniably Yours Blog Tour

I recently received a review copy of "Undeniably Yours", a new book by Becky Wade. It's a Christian fiction novel, which I have not been reading much of lately due to the fact that many are cliche, corny, and old-fashioned. Quite frankly, most Christian romance novels are the same.

I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed this book. Okay, so there were ups and downs that ended in a happy ending (just like all other Christian romance novels) but this story and the characters were cute, charming, and blessedly normal. They seemed like people I would be friends with, not people I would roll my eyes at. The story is actually a classic - boss falls in love with employee (although in this case the boss is a lady and the employee is a male), but the story just fits together to make you want to keep reading.

I just read that this is the first book in a new series by Becky Wade. I would love to read the next books to continue to follow these characters. Wade seems like a fun author. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction and loves a happy ending.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Litfuse Publicity.

Buy your own copy here

Friday, May 24, 2013

Psalm 30

Today I'm blogging about Psalm 30. Go here to read it in your preferred version.

I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.
11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

I must praise God because He has lifted me up and given me support through times of trouble and persecution. When I cry to God He will heal me. He has saved my soul from the grave. Given me life everlasting! I must sing to Him. I must thank Him. He will get angry at me (my sin and actions) and discipline me, just like a parent, but He is only angry for a short time. I will be a better person because of that discipline. He makes me stand strong and if I will cry out to Him, He will be merciful. He can help me through my grief. He can give me joy and gladness. My glory to Him will not be silent!

These words make me think of one of my favorite songs - We Won't Be Quiet by David Crowder Band. It's a really fun song and talks about how we can't be quiet because God is everything to us!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Journible The 17:18 Series: Acts

Wow. Have I got a book for you that will Rock. Your. World.

From Robert Wynalda comes a new - but not so new - way of studying the Bible. I recently received part of The 17:18 Series, specifically the journal on Acts. I had no idea what would be coming in the mail when I requested this book. When I opened it up, my eyes just lit up. I've never seen anything like this before. It looked like a blank journal at first glance. Then I read the first couple of pages. The author bases this series on Deuteronomy 17:18, where kings are commanded not just to obtain a copy of the law, but to handwrite his own copy. Wynalda sees that research shows students who physically write out their notes have a better retention rate than those who hear or read the information. This idea was formed, about a person who doesn't just read the word of God, but who processes it slowly by handwriting it, as well as asking questions and making their own comments about the text.

Check out these pages from my book as an example of how to use this.

On the right hand side of the journal is the area for you to hand write each verse. 

 On the left side are very lightly written questions or suggestions to aid in study of the text.

Okay, so that is at first glance. Then I watched this video - about why to use a journible. Turns out it's not just a marketing ploy for you to buy a book full of almost empty pages. The author does a great job of explaining the thought process behind this. Turns out the team who creates these actually goes through and handwrites all of this on their own... with different Bible translations, even. They take into account how many spaces are needed for each verse. The author even describes why you should use this book instead of just a regular journal (which, I'll be honest, was my first question!!). He describes how thin the pages of regular notebooks or journals are, as well as the fact that their spines are often just glued together. After a lot of wear and tear (lots of bending while writing!) they can begin to unglue. I can definitely testify to that, as I have used journals for years for my devotions! I've used a lot of crazy glue in my day to "re-bind" my journals! The point of this book is to withstand a LOT of use. Another thing the author points out is that sometimes the notebooks you find at the store won't even hold an entire book of the Bible... but you won't figure that out until you've copied 75% of the book of Proverbs!

The other great concept they had when they were creating this journal is the idea of a legacy. They encourage you to get a pastor, close friend, parent, grandparent, etc. to fill in notes on the commentary side of the journal. In this way you get to know verses that are meaningful to those people who are so close to you. These books can be handed down and touch people throughout the coming generations. I know people who have Bibles that belonged to their grandparents, and the notes that were made in these Bibles are so significant to them.

The other thing I like about the commentary side is that it's not filled with a ton of study questions. They are trying to bring it back to just YOU and THE BIBLE. You and the text. As Wynalda states in the video, any "aids" that are on the page already are typed very lightly. It was created so you could easily write over them if you don't even want to use those questions or thoughts. And it's more of a guide as to what questions you could be asking yourself as you read the text.

I have to tell you, this is so exciting to me. I am just so pumped to be using this, because every few months I find myself wrapped up in some Bible study. Don't get me wrong, Bible studies are great, but when you are reading more of Beth Moore or Max Lucado than the word of God, you need to get back to the basics. This is something I have to remind myself often because I have such a love of reading. But it's amazing how much you know when you begin to read without any help or commentaries. Maybe it's not so much what you know as what God is sharing with you when your mind is open to that.

I highly, highly recommend this series. I'm doing the one in Acts right now because that's the one I received, but if you look on Amazon you can find everything from Proverbs to Jude. I'm copying the KJV because I actually do love the King James Version, which I think most people just don't like for some reason... I think it's beautiful and to me it's not any more difficult than any other version. But of course you can copy any version you want to. Or even mix and match!

Check out that video if you're curious about the series. Then check out the book and some of it's reviews (I'll give you a hint - they're all VERY positive!)

I've read of people even using it to translate the Bible into another language they're learning - Spanish, original Greek, etc.

I received this title from Cross Focused Reviews and Reformation Heritage Books in exchange for a fair review. This review is my own opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.

Psalm 20

Today's scripture is Psalm 20 (Go here to read it in your preferred version)

The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.
We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call.

This was a psalm written by David (as many of them were). If you know anything about David, you know he was a high-ranking official (a king, so pretty high-ranking!) and very well-respected. A great warrior. A great man of God. But this psalm shows that even as great as David was, he still knew who was in charge. We should be praying for protection like this. David had protection of who knows how many guards or servants but he still knew that God was/is the Protector. In verse 2 David talks about strength from the sanctuary and Zion. This is spiritual strength, strength to your inner being, and it's the kind of strength we should be praying for. If our heart and our plans are in God's will He will fulfill these things. Notice in verse 5, the rejoicing that is taking place. We must rejoice even as we pray, even before prayers are answered at times. When we pray believing, God will hear us, and it takes effect here. He gives a very real answer to our prayers, whether or not we can see it through our human eyes.

I love the phrasing of verse 6 - "saving strength of his right hand". It's just so powerful. I'm SO thankful I have that kind of God to rely on.

Verse 7 points out the difference between us and the world. Some trust in the physical things they see and they gain confidence from that. Our confidence must be in the Lord. Then we will rise and stand upright! We must trust in God and pray for His strength and protection. We must also pray for our leaders and authority - for protection and for wisdom, for peace and for godliness.

Growing up we had these prayer journals in youth group, and they had categories of things to pray for as reminders. One section was authority, and in this section you were supposed to list all the leaders you could think of - from the president of the USA down to the people on your local school board. I loved this idea and try to utilize it... unfortunately, a lot of times I am so busy praying for people's needs in my church or family or small circle of friends that I don't extend my prayers out this far... but I feel like a lot of people simply don't want to pray for those in authority because they don't like them. What a dumb concept. If I was on bad terms with my sister, would I stop praying for her? If I didn't get along with a man in my church with cancer, would I not pray for him? I think we consider authority figures differently because we don't know them, we don't interact with them, and somehow that makes us turn up our noses at them if we don't like them.

I encourage you to pray for our leaders. I wonder if they feel like all they have to trust in is "chariots" and "horses" (verse 7), and if that's the case that should make us mourn for them and want them to know the truth about God.

What did you think of this scripture? What did you take away from it?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Psalm 10

Today's psalm I'm blogging about is Psalm 10. Go here to read it in your preferred version.

Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.
He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.
He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net.
10 He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.
11 He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.
12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.
13 Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.
14 Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.
17 Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:
18 To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.

It's so easy when we are having trials and tragedy to ask these questions... Why are you so far away, God? Why are you hiding right when I need you? The author is angry about the wicked. How they take advantage of the poor and it seems like God doesn't do anything about it. The wicked won't submit to God's will in their decisions. He doesn't even believe God is a reality. "Those are nearest ruin who thus set it furthest from them." - Matthew Henry  

People may cover their malicious designs with a pretense of humility and kindness to those they design the greatest mischief to. They are like predators, just lying in wait.

The author calls out to God to lift his hand up for the sake of the poor. To break the arm of the wicked and judge them. And to keep them from being able to oppress anyone else. 

This scripture is more about the enemies of God than anything else. They will persecute (v. 2), boast in himself and the desires of his heart (v.3), they are prideful (v. 4), they don't even consider God in their thoughts (v. 4), they believe they're invincible (v. 6), they are cursers, deceitful, vain, and full of mischief (v. 7), they set their sights on weaker people (v. 8-11), they imagine that God isn't even real and doesn't see these things (v. 11), they are oppressors (v. 18).

This is scary. There are so many people out there that fit these characteristics. People in power seem to think they are not only invincible, but they give themselves all the credit for the things they have accomplished. Meanwhile, they feed out lies and they do whatever they want to "lesser" people, just so they can continue to gain things.

But the author here says, even when it seems like these people just keep moving up and up and nothing bad ever happens to them, God won't forget the humble people (v. 12). God does see everything (v. 14) and in the end he is our help (v. 14). It may seem like he is ignoring these people and letting them run the show, but God has a plan. We may not always see that plan because we're just humans - we can't see the full picture - but one thing we can have confidence in is that "The Lord is King for ever and ever" (v. 16). God will hear our desires (v. 17). One day things will be perfect, but never as long as we live on this earth as imperfect humans.

What did you think about this scripture? What did you take away from it?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Psalm 51

Today's scripture: Psalm 51 (Go here to read it in your preferred version)

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

Actions of God in this scripture:
He will have mercy on me (v. 1), blot out my transgressions (v. 1), wash me of my sins and cleanse me (v. 2), be just when he judges (v. 4), want truthfulness and will show us wisdom (v. 6), will purge us and wash us (v. 7), show us joy and gladness (v. 8), turn from me when I'm sinning but when I repent he'll take away all of my transgressions (v. 9), create a clean heart and spirit within me (v. 10), won't turn away from me completely (v. 11), bring restoration (v. 12), deliver me (v. 14), open my lips to praise (v. 15), wants certain sacrifices from me (v. 17), will be pleased with those sacrifices (v. 19)

Commands to me:
Own up to my sin (v. 3), teach others for the ultimate goal of converting people (v. 13), sing to Him (v. 14), praise Him (v. 15), break my spirit, be contrite (v. 17)

Characteristics of God:
lovingkindness, merciful, my salvation, righteous

Take away:
God is so merciful to me that He is always willing to blog out my sins. I am clean! But. I must own up to my sin and be repentant. I sin against God when I sin. When I have anger to a friend, that's sinning against God. When I am lazy, ultimately I am sinning against God. So if he judges me for that he is totally justified. Praise God he will cleanse me and make me whiter than snow! He takes away my past, present and future sins. I've got to continually strive to have a new, clean, pure heart though. He is the God of restoration! Then I must go and tell others for the ultimate goal of saving souls. The real sacrifices God wants are for my heart to break over the same things his heart breaks for. He is pleased with that, and when we are striving to be more like him.

Did you enjoy this scripture? What do you take away from it?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Psalm 141

It's been a really long time since I blogged about one of my personal devotions (yes, I'm still in the Psalms!). I go back and forth - trying not to spend time on the computer, but having this desire to share what I've learned with others and hopefully grow spiritually together. So today I'm making time to share what I learned this morning. I'd like to share what I've learned over the last couple of months but that will take a lot of blogs. I'll start with this one and then see how much time I have tomorrow morning. :-)

Psalm 141: (Go here to read it in whichever version you prefer)

Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.
Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.
Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.
But mine eyes are unto thee, O God the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.
Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.

Verse 1 - If I will humble myself and cry out to God, he will rush in... he will hurry to listen to me. What an awesome concept! The word "Lord" in this verse is actually "Jehovah" which means "one true God".

Verse 2 - A true prayer in faith is more meaningful to God than burning incense or sacrificing animals. Note: Incense is worthless unless it's burning. The same could be said for prayer... going through the motions without believing is a waste of time.

See 1 Timothy 2:8 - We should be praying, lifting up our hands in supplication to God, without anger or any doubt!

Verse 3 - Guard my mouth, God. You might need to lock my lips at times!

See Proverbs 21:23. Keeping a check on my mouth can keep me out of trouble.

I definitely know when I'm about to mouth off, and sadly, more often than not it's going to be to my children. I need God to set a guard on my mouth so only the good will flow out of it, especially to my very favorite loved ones.

Verse 4 - We have to pray that God will help keep us from sin. Sometimes we think that we can mingle with people who don't believe the same things as us. But then we feel this awkwardness... this feeling of being on the outside... sometimes, anyway. For some people that could certainly lead them into sin so they won't be perceived as different. God, don't let any of that stuff tempt me or seem like it would please me. Keep me from it.

Verse 5 - We must desire to be told of our faults. I have a handful of friends who would come to me honestly and lovingly if they thought I needed to be reproved. That is a rare friendship and a rare person. It's not easy to be rebuked, but would I want to continue down that path if it's wrong? If it's not glorifying to God? If it's presenting as a stumbling block to someone? No. I need a godly friend to come to me. It will be a "kindness". It may break my heart (as all sin should) but I should take this reproof in stride and have thankfulness for it.

Verse 6 - When life is good it's hard to hear God's voice at times. Nonbelievers find no reason to turn to God - after all, life is pretty good without this God character fitting into the picture. But when they are overthrown - even high-ranking judges... officials... powerful politicians... they will hear what we've been saying all along. "When the world is bitter the word is sweet." - Matthew Henry

Verse 7 - Sometimes we feel like this. Our bones are just scattered at the opening of a grave. We're done. We're dry bones. Just ready to be piled into a little neglected heap of mulch. Oh, give me a break! Doesn't God say, "Can these bones live?" "Ye shall live!" (Ezekiel 37:3, 5, 6, 14)

Verse 8 - My eyes are on you, God. I'm trusting you. Give me relief. Give me comfort. The scripture says "leave not my soul destitute". If we pray this prayer, God won't have us lacking anything emotionally.

Verse 9 - Help me discover traps. Help me to see them for what they are and not be deceived by them or lured by them.

Verse 10 - Whatever traps are laid for me by someone else, God, help me to escape.

Did you enjoy this scripture? What do you take away from it?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Prayer Warrior Mom Review

I think if you are a mother, you are constantly saying prayers. I bet even if you aren't a Christian, you pray things like, "Oh God, please don't let me have to tear her tail up in public!" or "Oh Lord, please keep him safe now that he's bought that darn motorcycle!" But seriously, if you are a parent and a Christian, it is part of your duty as a parent to be a prayer warrior for your child. That's why I wanted to read this book, "Prayer Warrior Mom" by Marla Alupoaicei. I know my parents prayed (and still do pray) for me throughout my life and it's so important to do that, I need all the pointers I can get on improving my prayer life.

The book itself is a very easy read. Alupoaicei has created chapters that are all on subjects we really need to learn more about - thankfulness, praying scriptures, interceding, fasting, loving your prayer life, being an advocate for your child, and hearing God's voice above all else, just to name a few. Each chapter is so relevant, you will find yourself nodding along while reading certain parts that apply to you personally.

I'm not sure this is the best book on prayer I've ever read. But I like that it is geared toward mothers. And it includes a daily prayer with each chapter, scriptures that relate to each chapter, and even small group discussion questions. It would be a great book to read with a friend or two and discuss with each other, or hold each other accountable with your prayer lives.

I would certainly recommend this book to mothers, particularly those with younger children or those with children who are in a... shall we say... difficult phase of life. It will be an encouragement to continue in prayer even when you don't feel heard.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Valley of Baca

So, for the last few months I've been studying the psalms. No rhyme or reason, I just pick a random one every day to study in depth. I love digging into these scriptures because each psalm is so different, yet so relevant to our lives.

About two days ago, the random psalm that I picked to study was Psalm 84. This is a great chapter in the Bible, a lot of great words packed into just twelve verses. 

You can go here to read Psalm 84, in whatever Bible translation you're comfortable with.

Most of this scripture was pretty straightforward. Great stuff, but very simple. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. My strength should lie in God. My heart should follow God's ways. God is my shield. God is my grace and glory. I will be blessed if I trust in God. These are awesome truths, but very easy to understand. So I got a little stuck when I was reading verses 5-7.

5: Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
6: Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
7: They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.

Okay, did anyone else read that and go, "Uh.. what??" I can understand verse 5. That's easy. A person is blessed if he gets strength from God and has God's ways in his heart. But what is this valley of Baca? What's this rain filling the pools? I'm lost. If you are too, then keep reading, because I did some research to figure some of this out, and I'm about to share with you what I've learned.

Most people agree that the valley of Baca was a valley in Palestine that was known as the "Valley of Weeping". You may know that consistently in scripture we see people give a name to a location based on an event, or some other connection. 1 Chronicles 14:11 talks about how the place of Baalperazim got it's name. Look in 1 Samuel 23:28 to find the meaning of the place Selahammahlekoth. There are tons of these background stories in the scriptures. So it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for this valley to be called the valley of Baca because it was a gloomy, dried-up valley. A valley of lamenting. Some people think that this was a figurative place. But others think that it really was a dried-up valley that was part of the journey one took to get to Zion. Note: Zion in the Old Testament was also known as the "city of David" and was part of Jerusalem. 

I believe this could have been literal. A real person making a literal trek from City X to Jerusalem, and they have to go through this dry desert as part of their passage. I can definitely conceive of that thought. If that's the case, this is what we can take from it. When going on a journey like this, in the driest part of the desert, what is the one thing you can't live without for very long? Water. You can live about three days without water. So on a journey through a desert such as this, what travelers would do is build wells. (see verse 6; we're getting somewhere on this.) Imagine a long path through a desert, traveling from Damascus to Jerusalem, or traveling from Hebron to Jerusalem... you're trying to get to the big city of Jerusalem but first you have to survive the journey. Wells are dug alongside your path. And as it rains, those wells fill up. There you have it. The pools of water have filled, and you can drink from those pools.

Suddenly, this valley of weeping is no longer that. It's not dry anymore. You saw that it was dry, and you created a solution for that issue.

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. So let's say it's not a literal place. There wasn't really a valley of Baca, this is just the author of Psalm 84 using a figure of speech. That's fine too - let's go there!

What's your valley of Baca? What's the section of your journey that just makes you weep? Infertility? The loss of a loved one? The loss of your faith? Losing trust in other Christians? Losing the trust of your spouse? Finances? Anxiety? Feeling abandoned? Having a child turn away from you? Whatever your reason for weeping, you have a choice to make when you're in that valley.

Are you going to struggle to make it? Or are you going to make wells and have them fill with rain?

I'm sure you see the metaphor here. We all have a road to travel. Sometimes that road is easy, and sometimes we feel dried up and deserted.

If you've gone to church your whole life, you know the story in Acts 16:25 -
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.  Yes, these two followers of Jesus were imprisoned, and yet they sat in there singing praises to God. They were in a desert section of their journey, but they chose to make wells. 

As I said, I do believe this could have been speaking of a literal journey to the city of Zion. But I also believe it could be alluding to the fact that we're on this journey to our Zion. For a Christian, that's eternal life in heaven. On our journey to heaven we're going to shed a lot of tears. A true Christian is going to be in mourning over his sin and over the sin of the world. Sometimes we can feel so defeated and so discouraged when we think about the direction of the world. I am scared for my children. I am saddened that they honestly will not have as carefree a childhood as I feel I had. But when I have those moments of sadness or defeat, there's always some comfort that comes from knowing God is in control. I have some pools that have filled up, and sometimes I have to pull from that when I am thirsty for answers. Sometimes I just have to relinquish control and hand it over to God. In those times, my faith gets strengthened, and so does my resolve; to reach as many people as possible in my short time here, and to change the world as much as I can with my husband and two children.

You know what I really think is interesting? A lot of people translate the valley of Baca as a place filled with balsam trees. I don't know how they came upon that, and I don't know if it's correct or incorrect. But I did some research on balsam trees. They are trees that you would use for your Christmas tree. That's pretty insignificant, I'm just telling you that so you can picture this tree. But let me tell you about some of the properties of balsam trees.

The resin from balsam trees can be made into a salve which alleviates sores.
The bark can be made into an herbal tea which relieves chest pains.
The twigs from the tree can be steeped in water and used as a laxative.
The resin as well as vapors from the branches could be used to alleviate breathing problems.

Now, this may be stretching it, but does anyone else see this?

The balsam tree can be used to alleviate sores - it heals your pain. It relieves chest pains and breathing problems - takes away your anxieties. It has a laxative effect - cleansing. 

God never said our lives will be easy. We will go through valleys. There is no doubt about that. But God provides little wells of relief along the way. He provides balsam firs which take care of our pain... our anxiety... and leaves us cleansed and renewed. We just have to trust Him when we get in the valley. We can't do it on our own. Yes, we can dig a well on our own. But God must send the rain to fill that well up. Yes, we can plant a balsam fir. But only God can make that tree grow to adulthood. 

Blessed is the man whose strength is in God. He will be able to pass through the valley of weeping. He will gain strength with every adversity until he finally reaches his destination. Zion. (Amanda's translation of Psalm 84:5-7!)

Any thoughts on this? I'm certainly no Bible scholar, just trying to dig a little deeper into God's word. I would love comments or questions.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Darkness Before Dawn Review

I recently finished reviewing Ace Collins' most recent book, Darkness Before Dawn. I definitely wanted to read this book because I love Christian suspense fiction. The story is about a young wife whose husband is killed unexpectedly by a drunk driver. The same day this happens, she finds out she is pregnant. The book is her story of the revenge she wants on the young teen who was driving the night that her husband died. It's her story of revenge, and also the story of how far over the edge she went before finding her way back to her faith and reality.

For me, this book was very dark. I kept trying to imagine how this wife was feeling... how I would feel in that situation. I just could not imagine myself going to the extremes she went to in order to complete revenge on this young 17-year old who killed her husband. I can't imagine myself ever feeling such hatred for another human being. To me, that was too intense. I enjoy suspenseful books but at times I just really didn't even care for this character. Her attitude and the way she hurt others around here was just too much for me. There was one character, Nancy, who I really "clicked" with while reading, and I especially enjoyed the sections of the book involving her.

Yes, there is a happy ending. Everything gets resolved and lessons are learned all around. I'd be interested to read some other books by this author because I felt like the book was a good read, just a little dark for me right now.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing the book in exchange for my honest review.

Buy from Amazon here.

Check out other reviews here.