Friday, March 28, 2014

The Lord's Compassion #SheSharesTruth

So last week we left off with the whale spitting out Jonah.  This is where most Sunday School classes leave off (at least in my experience).  I never knew much more about Jonah and the journey God had sent him on, until this study.  I hope you will take a closer examination with me! 

Jonah goes to Nineveh, the city he dreaded since they were very wicked and he doubted he could turn them towards repentance…he was wrong!  So he adjusted his attitude towards obedience and preached to these people.  To his utter surprise, they turned from their wicked, sinful ways, and repented in hopes that God would not destroy them! How shocked must've Jonah felt when even the king put on sackcloth and fasted.  These people heard the message and were determined to show God that they not only stopped sinning but changed their ways; they wanted to follow Him and be His people.  

God, being the gracious, merciful and compassionate God that we serve, changed His mind and did not demolish the city.  God was gracious, merciful and compassionate with us too when He allowed His Son to be killed so that we wouldn't be destroyed! What wonderful news!

Next we see Jonah miserable.  He should've been celebrating that God saved the people and used him to preach the message.  My life goal is to lead even one person to God, save just one soul.  I would be utterly ecstatic if The Lord would use me to do that.  If I led a WHOLE CITY, well I would feel like God used me beyond anything I could comprehend.  This isn't the last time we see this type of attitude.  

Jesus used two parables to explain situations with similar attitudes: The Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20:1-16) and The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-31).  Both help me expand on the reasoning behind Jonah's feelings.  In the first parable, Jesus explains that a vineyard owner went out and hired workers at different hours of the day, promising each set of workers he would pay them a denarius for the day.  When it came time to pay the workers, he started with the ones that he hired one hour before the end of the work day.  He gave them a denarius.  Then he went down the line of workers until he paid all workers one denarius for their work.  You may be thinking like the first group of workers, "How unfair!" but this paints a beautiful picture of God's grace.  No matter what stage of life you are in, God will receive you at any time and give you the eternal life He promises everyone! Even if from birth you have followed Jesus or on your death bed you accept Jesus, your reward will be the same: Eternal Life.  

Even though our reward may be the same, a life lived in the presence of The Lord does have some perks!  He will bless us our entire life ( I can't say how but I know that He loves to Bless His children abundantly!). Therefore we mustn't be bitter if someone later in life accepts Jesus while we have been serving Him for years.  This is very similar to Jonah's attitude, he didn't want to accept these people and be joyful that they were now his bothers and sisters in the faith.  

The second parable is similar to the first.  It may be more familiar to you as the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Jesus tells us a man had two sons: one who wanted his inheritance early, ran off and lost everything and the second who stayed with his father and helped in the fields.  The son I want to focus on is the second one and his poor attitude when his brother comes home and the father welcomes him with a party.  He was angry and jealous of his brother: 

"'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.  
Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  
But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'" 
Luke 15:29-30

Can you relate?  Do you feel like you should be rewarded for all your hard work (I know I have felt this way, many times in the past few months). We don't deserve anything close to a fattened calf because we sin and fall sort of the Glory of God every day.  But never fear, our reward will never be taken from us: Eternal Life with God.  The Son wanted a party for all his hard work, yet the father responds with even better words than a party could ever satisfy:

"'My son', the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" 
Luke 15:31

This is the Love of God.  Everything we have is His and we are always with Him from the time we accept Jesus into our lives until we are reunited with Him in Heaven.  How powerful is that image.  So what is your attitude: those of the first vineyard workers, the second son and Jonah: pouting that they didn't receive the same payment OR a grateful attitude that God will reward us all the same but wants us to live a full and long life with Him!!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Who Swallowed Jonah? #SheSharesTruth

This week at my church, the youth choir sang "Who Did Swallow Jonah?" Of course there was a verse about the whale swallowing Jonah.  In the story of Jonah, most people stress the fact that the whale swallowed him and then three days later spit him back out.  However there is soooooo much more to the story.  On that surface level (the whale), shows the ultimate power of our God but on the deeper level shows God's relentless search for us.  

In the 1st chapter of Jonah, God calls Jonah to go to a city deep in sin, Nineveh, and preach repentance.  Jonah said "No way that's Impossible" and fled. Big Mistake: Jonah didn't believe that the Power of God and Trust that He would give him the words to turn these wicked people back to God.  Can you relate? Has God called you to something that seems impossible and you keep putting it off?  If so I encourage you to go to Him and ask for the help.  The Holy Spirit will guide your words!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Jonah found the first boat leaving the port and boarded.  God followed him with a storm and rocked the boat severely.  Jonah told the men that he was fleeing from the Lord; the men confronted him with terror because they were afraid of his God.  Jonah finally realized that to stop the storm, the men must throw him into the sea.  God stopped the storm immediately and commanded the whale to shallow Jonah.  I don't know about you but I've never been swallowed by an actual whale but what about a metaphorical whale?  Has God ever captured you so that you would have no other option then to turn to Him?  When I think about it that way, I can certainly think of "whales" in my life: breakups, deaths, and illnesses.  My whales happen to all be somewhat tragic but that's how God has driven me farther to Him.  God is constantly pursuing us! It's awesome to think back on how He has used so many events in my life to show His love for me.

While Jonah was in the belly of the whale, he started to pray (Jonah 2:1-9).  Let's take a look at this prayer:

"In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.

I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; 
seaweed was wrapped around my head. 
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.

When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, 
and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.'"

Very similar to David's Petition in Psalm 38 (last week), Jonah cries out to God.  The imagery of crying out from the "deep in the realm of the dead" can often describe my heart.  When those "whales" swallowed me, that was my same reaction: crying out to God.  However we don't have to wait until we are swallowed, we can go to God every day!  I find that when I spend daily time with my Lord, then when a storm or issue hits, God doesn't need to use a whale to swallow me to bring me to Him because I'm usually close by.  It has taken a few years to learn this lesson and sometimes I still stray a bit away but God wants us!!  That is the Wonderful Love of God, He will continually search for us, even when we run away.  (I encourage you to look up the Parable of the Wandering Sheep Matthew 18: 10-14 and Luke 15: 3-7)

After Jonah prayed and vowed to do good in God's sight, God got him to the point he wanted: Jonah admitted that only 'Salvation come from the LORD'! (Jonah 2:9)  Then the whale spat him out (Jonah 2:10).  God used those three days in the belly of the whale to shape Jonah and change his attitude.  (Also it is a great foreshadow for Jesus' death and resurrection, see Matthew 12:38-41).  Our storms, whales and trials may last shorter or longer than three days but the end result will be the same: God has used that time to change and shape us.  From my personal experiences, I learned much more in the presence of God then I would've if I had tried to go through it alone.  So where are you in your walk with God? Has God used a "whale" to swallow you so that you can draw closer to Him?  Are you running from God?  Well use Jonah's example and cry out to God.  

After studying the first two books of Jonah closer, I have concluded that while the whale swallowing Jonah is a great feat that only our wondrous God could have willed, the more astonishing aspect is that God kept pursuing Jonah.  He still pursues people today, is He looking for you?


p.s. If you have enjoyed these devotions, I encourage you to check out #SheReadsTruth

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shamrock Protein Shake

I plan to post mostly devotions on my blog but in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day coming up, I wanted to share with everyone my healthy Shamrock Shake.  Also in the future I want to post about fueling and nurturing our bodies because they are temples that God has allowed us to borrow so this is a great kickoff!!

So here is my first recipe post! 

The base for the shake is banana, almond milk and protein powder ( I use Designer Whey Vanilla).  This is the shake I drink every morning after my runs.  To make it shamrock-y, I just added a handful of spinach and a few sprigs of mint! So simple! My sister discovered a secret to making the smoothies really smooth and thick: add the protein powder in while the blender is running!!

Banana, milk, spinach and mint ready to blend

All ready for the protein to be added
Adding the protein after blending other ingredients
The finished product in my mason jar mug!

Shamrock Shake Recipe:
  • 1 Medium Banana
  • 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (or any milk) 
  • handful of spinach (about 1 cup)
  • about 10-15 fresh mint leaves, depending on how minty you want
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder  
Nutritional Value: 234 Calories | 4.4 g Fat | 31.8 g Carbs | 20.9 g Protein

I hope you enjoy!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Psalm 38 #Shesharestruth Week 2

This week, my post will be on Psalm 38.  I enjoy reading and studying the Book of Psalms because the raw emotions of having a relationship with God are relatable and ever present.  Take a minute and read through it below.   

Psalm 38 NIV
LORD*, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; 
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome because my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away
Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; 
all day long they scheme and lie. 

I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak;
I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.
LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.
For I said, "Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip."

For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause, those who hate me without reason are numerous
Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me, 
though I seek only to do what is good.

LORD, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.

The imagery that David uses is heavy.  His sin must've been weighing hard on him.  Can you relate? Have you been so feeble and utterly crushed that it feels like there is no health in your body? You are not alone.  I have certainly been there, my unconfessed sin weighing me down like kevlar armor that I am forced to wear.  There is GOOD NEWS!!! You do not have to be constantly reminded of your failures and set backs.  

Did you see what David did? There are three important actions he took.  First, he went to God and confessed his sin! God knows we will fall short of His standards so He will be ready to forgive you when you ask.  The key to seeking God's forgiveness is going to Him and confessing your wrongdoings.  David was troubled by his sin, my guess is the Holy Spirit was convicting him of his actions.  I certainly have experienced those feelings of convicted sin.  If you have those feelings, don't ignore them! Go to God and talk to Him about them.  This leads to another great action David took: he asked for help quickly.  He didn't wait around for his sin to crush him even more.  

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11.28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." For me this is incredibly encouraging because with the help of Jesus, I no longer need to shoulder the burden of my sins.  I can go to Him for forgiveness and rest.  In this world today where there is craziness and chaos, often times it is difficult to rest even for a minute.  I encourage you to take time each day to rest in the presence of Jesus.  Tell Him about your day, ask for forgiveness from your sins, and study His word.  

This leads to the last action, David confessed his need for a Savior.  He knew he needed help and asked God to help him.  If you are struggling in sinful actions that seem impossible to break, have faith and ask for help.  God has enough strength, patience, self-control and love to give you a daily dose to overcome any temptations you are feeling.  Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation have overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  Remember also Jesus was fully human and fully God.  He knew the power of sin and temptation yet never succumbed to the devil's ways.  Jesus used an important tool when He was tempted in the dessert by the devil: He recited scripture back to the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11).  Therefore my advice to you (and it has worked for me) is store pieces (many and many) of scripture in your heart.  Bring them out when you are feeling particularly tempted.  

We can use David's petition as an example for confessing sin in our lives: first confess sins and ask for forgiveness, go quickly to God when feeling sin overcoming you, and lastly proclaim your need for a Savior.  We can't do this alone.  Jesus died for all your sins, past, present and future, so that He can spend eternity with you!  You are now pure and blameless in the sight of God.  How awesome is that! 


*note: If you are unfamiliar with reading the Bible, when LORD is used instead of Lord, it translates to the Hebrew term Yahweh.  This is the personal name of God.  It signifies that David and any other writer in the Bible has a personal relationship with God

Friday, March 7, 2014

First Devotional: Psalm 130 #SheReadsTruth

So here it goes, my first post.  I created this blog a while ago because I thought it would be a good idea to help others going through similar situations to offer encouragement.  Even though I came up with some post ideas, I never wrote a word.  That was until I was reading Wednesday's #SheReadsTruth devotion where they suggested that each Friday the readers become the teachers.  So I'm going to try to tap into the wisdom that the Holy Spirit has given me and write about this scripture passage.

For those of you who don't know, I am caring for my mom who had a Brain Aneurysm and Stroke in May 2013. My sister has a full time job while I stay at home and help my mom with everyday tasks as well as going to physical, occupational and speech therapy.  As a family we decided to buy a new golden retriever puppy.  I was so excited to have a cute fur ball in the family that I did not prepare myself for the immense load of work needed to raise her.  Being the main caregiver for both her and my mom took a toll on me.  Last week, I snapped.  I couldn't hold my anger and rage back any longer.  She peed inside and bit me one too many times.  But the thing with puppies is the more that you yell at them, it only frustrates you because they don't know to be afraid of you.  So the more I screamed, it didn't bother her, she continued to do what she wanted.  I felt as if a Rage Monster (that's what I used to call it when I was younger and dealing with my anger management) was controlling my heart and not God.  Maybe you can relate. What has the devil used to bring out the ugliness of sin within you?  In addition I also lashed out at my mom.  She is so fragile emotionally that it was easy to make her cry and I knew how.  In that moment I felt so broken and such a terrible person.  I ran to the cross and the feet of Jesus.  It was all that I could do.  I sobbed and cried out to Him, asking for forgiveness and the glue to put me back together.  (1John 1:9)

I wonder if the author of this Psalm had a similar experience.  I was so ashamed of my actions, they were certainly not Christlike.  I confessed all my nasty actions and thoughts, after a few quite minutes I was able to regain my composure.  I went to the ones that I had hurt to apologize and the beauty of dogs is that they forgive immediately.  She treated me as if no wrongs had been committed.  That's how God will treat you if you confess your sins.  He gives you utter and total forgiveness.  Wipes the slate clean.  That's all I had wanted, no recollection of the worst moments of my week.  Jesus went to the Cross to die for the sins of every person in the world so that there will be no record of them.  (Colossians 2.14) This is something I need to remember not just during Lent and Easter but every single day.  We will not have to face death because Jesus drank from The Cup that we deserved! (Isaiah 51:22, Matthew 20:22)

This Psalm also reassures me of no matter how broken and sinful I am, God's love is unfailing.  He will forgive all of our sins and make us a new creation (2Corinthians 5:17).  Each day I can see that God is working in me to make me the person He wants to use.  Since the "Rage Monster" incident, I ask for His patience each day when dealing with the dog and my mom.  Also for Lent I have given up speaking negatively about the dog in hopes to enjoy the puppy raising process instead of resentment and bitterness.  I want my daily actions to reflect God's love.  This Psalm is perfect for the beginning of Lent because it kicks off the season of purifying ourselves from the sins that hold us captive.  For me this year, it is anger.  Last year it was overeating and indulging of sweets.  I encourage you that whatever you have decided to give up or add to your life for Lent, be reminded that it is for the Glory of God!