Tuesday, March 5

Wisdom and Our Hearts: Lessons from the Fool

Well readers, I have not abandoned you (although you might have thought so). This term has been extremely busy but also very rewarding because I have been given many opportunities in school and chances to serve in the Church as a children's Bible class teacher. I don't regret any of these, but as many of you know, one of my biggest problems is...you've guessed it! TIME MANAGEMENT! Anyone else the same way? Add that together with some serious writers block, and you have a no-go on the blog.

But, in the new Bible study class I'm taking, we've been learning about how to take each opportunity you are given to evangelize. This might be something I am even worse at because I am a very frightened people person (hence, reaching the world one blog post at a time). It feels almost unnatural to me to walk up to a person and begin to mention God in any capacity. Will they hate me forever after this? Will they find it funny in some way? What should I say? I still have to see this person every day...what's going to change if I bring up something so BIG in my life but might be a mockery to them? Questions, questions, questions that only bring rise to more doubt and eventual guilt that I don't do more for my Lord than I do.

So what's your point? Is this a guilt trip post, and you're trying to drag us along? Why, yes! Yes, it is!

This is my chance to rebuke myself and let you all know that you are not the only one afraid to speak to others...and at the same time, light a fire underneath you and motivate you to "go YE therefore, and teach all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). Yes, this applies to all of us, including myself, including you. Are you up to par on the going part of this command? I know I'm not, and I'm ashamed.

God tells us plainly through the writings of the psalmist: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God..." Psalm 53:1. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, I'm not denying God. I always believe in God with all my heart. I'm simply trying not to offend anyone. Reality check for us all: the scriptures deal with this too!

Mat 15:12Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
Mat 15:13But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
Mat 15:14Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Mat 15:15Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
Mat 15:16And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Mat 15:17Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
Mat 15:18But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
Mat 15:19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
           Mat 15:20
           These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Jesus spoke some hard things in this chapter to the Pharisees about choosing traditions of men over God's commands. These words can ring true to each of us that choose to not offend men over fulfilling a command of God. We need to be fearless, just as our Lord, if we want to be effective and obedient disciples to Him. Luckily for us, God gave us the answer to this problem in the verses above. It is the heart that will affect the actions of a man. Our heart, just like a fool's, can condemn us because we choose not to give it entirely over to God in service! Our hearts, and thus our very LIVES, cry out that we don't know God, that there IS no God! What a disservice we do to Christianity and the Lord's Church the world over when we choose to deny Him in actions and conversations. God wants us to be leaders to those who are blind to Him (vs. 14), but if we are too concerned with offending, we have already given our hearts to men instead of to the glory of God.

Where is your heart right this second? Are you afraid, like me? Even apathetic? Well, there's one thing I know of that will help each of us: prayer. Jesus told his disciples after seeing the multitudes that were following him, " The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest," (Matthew 9:37-38). God is letting us know that there are many things we can do, if only we will do just that: pray and serve! It's time for us to declare God with our actions instead of telling the world they don't need to know God, as we do through our actions. 

Here's a challenge that will get you thinking on how to start this: make sure to mention God once a day every day for a week. If you do this already, try to tell others about Him even more. Now, you don't have to set up a study with this person, or bring up a controversial subject. The challenge is just to mention Him somehow. He deserves at least that from us His creation. Maybe tell a friend how prayer helped you get through a trial during your week. Or tell them why you do not follow after their ways because you choose to do what God commands instead. Any way you prefer, make sure to mention Him. You'll be suprised at the feedback you'll recieve. Oftentimes, people are a little interested and might even share a similar story with you. Don't be afraid; fill your heart with love for serving God and dedicating your life (thoughts, actions, and words) to obeying His will.

Remember: "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love," (1 John 4:17-18).

Give your heart to God and His love so you may be bold both now and in judgment because you will know you have served Him with ALL your heart as a wise servant who declares, "There is a God!"

Monday, January 7

Wisdom and Temptation: Facing Your Own Wild Beasts

I'm glad to have you back in my wonderful world wide web room as we both learn a little more this year about our Lord! Tonight, I just wanted to share an idea that came to me as I was conducting my personal study before moving on to do some school work. Tonight's study was focused on Matthew 4. In this chapter of the Bible, Jesus is taken and tempted in the wilderness by Satan THREE separate times! You can also read some comparative accounts in Mark 1:12-13 (from which I drew the title) and Luke 4: 1-13.

After reading, my study book gave a couple of questions for me to answer for reflection. Many of them covered the topic of temptation, and I really began to appreciate just how hard Jesus must have struggled to say no to these things. Think about it. He definantly was a man, so hunger and having power would have been actual temptations he faced down. And we also should take into great consideration the cleverness of Satan. He didn't just walk up to Jesus and take blind guesses as to what would tempt Christ. He probably chose those specific temptations because they were things that would have had more of a pull on our Savior as a man.

So, what's the solution? Of course, Christ never sinned, and we recognized that all of the rest of us on this earth inevitably will. But through the example that Christ set and some scriptures that we have been given by God, we have an answer and maybe even a strategy that may help you to deal with your temptations. Look at these scriptures below:

Rom_8:13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Col 3:5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

The word "mortify" is italicized because that is the word I want us to all focus on. We are commanded to put our sin to death. Now, if you are going to go about putting to death something that frequently makes an attack on you and knows many of your weak spots, what do you need to do? Exactly what Christ did in His temptation. Look at the Matthew account again. When Satan tempted Jesus the first time:

Mat 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Jesus was a man of strategy and planning. He did all things for a purpose. He answered with scriptures! A simple "it is written." If it sufficed for my Savior to stand against His toughest tempter at a weak point, then why do we think that this will not also work for us? As I kept thinking and thinking, I found a strategy that I feel will not only help me deal with sins in my life, but also your life as well if you chose to challenge and defeat your beasts.

First, I chose to compartmentalize my sins by finally listing them out for myself to see and confront. I chose to follow a layout of three categories from 1 John 2:16-17, but you can simply list them if you prefer or even come up with your own way to list the things that may tempt you or cause you to be less than your best spiritually. So, for example, in my pride of life category (which was also sadly the largest) I have these things listed: anger, worry, living with guilt, not taking time to talk with others, not being willing to confess fault to others, being unsatisfied with my blessings, not remembering the problems others face, no praying about my problems, and not wanting to say important things that require being humble like "Sorry," and "I love you." Pretty long list, huh? 

And now, do you know what I'm going to do with this list? That's right! Take a cue from Christ. I am challenging myself to grab the nearest concordance, search up scriptures with key words from my faults, and study up. My hope is that I will find one (or more) verses that will really give me zeal to stand against the particular temptation and that I will memorize these scriptures so that I may be ready with answers when my temptations attack me. Until I memorize them, many of you may see me carrying around some 3x5 cards and pulling them out during the day. I encourage you, reader, to take this time to get down and dirty with these beasts that continue to tackle you into the mud of sin. Putting these temptations to death is the best defense we have as Christians! God gave us a will and His Will, so let ut put it to work! We do have a say in the matter of our temptations!

P.S.- I want you take particular notice on one of my faults: living with guilt. Oftentimes, I have guilt just because of temptation, but now that I have grown more as a Christian and studied more on temptation, I know that this is wrong. None can stop temptation from happening. Even Christ was tempted. Did he let himself feel guilty because He was tempted and stop serving God? OF COURSE NOT! If he had, we would not have the Gospel! And what a horrible world this would be without the hope that Christ provided for us. So again, take your cue from Christ. Don't live in guilt, but rather have a great defense and put to death these "members which are upon the earth."

God speed in this endeavor, and I thoroughly hope you decide to take up the challenge with me!

Thursday, January 3

Resolve and Wisdom: My Resolution for a Solution

      As you may have guessed from my dismal amount of posts throughout the entirety of 2012, I have an issue with resolve. I sometimes have this wonderful knack of starting things and then never going back to finish them with the zeal that I began with. Sure! I wanted to blow this blog out of the water and write twice a week! I thought it would be a great way to bring about further study of God's word and help me to reach out to other people in a way I never saw myself doing. But when the crunch time came (between studying for school, extracurriculars, the "need" for a flourishing social life consumed by television and reading, and many other excuses that I'm sure you all can identify with), my resolve went right out of the window. You can imagine my difficulty trying to explain my resolution this year to others without sounding a little strange. A resolution to have more resolve. But luckily, I still have a chance to work on things, and that's exactly what I wanted to talk about on my first post back.

You see, my New Year's Resolution at first wasn't even that but rather my choice to work harder on things I have set out to do. Say what you will, but I realized just how much God does for me. A few weeks ago, I was with my boyfriend in Covington, TN while he was teaching Bible class at a small congregation there. I was rewriting his sermon outline for him while he drove us out there. I saw that the topic was all about the prodigal son. Boy, did my brain start to race with ideas! I read Luke 15: 11-32 out loud to him so that he could be sure of his points, but in my mind I wasn't focused on his sermon idea any more. I started to think of how this parable would apply to me. I saw exactly how I could become the prodigal son so easily, just maybe not in the way you would expect.

So, prodigal son. What does that term make you think of? For most, it's the one who chose to leave his home to go away only to learn that he had  it better at home. And rightly so, because that is one of the points you should take away from this parable. How much better it is to be in fellowship with our God than in the throws of the wicked! But, when I gave this parable another look, I felt some sympathy with the son who left. Just look at what he does. It is not a crime to be the younger of the two sons, even though this may mean that he has less knowledge. Don't get me wrong. A Christian or really just any person can learn throughout their entire lives. We can't hold that against him. And we also know that, following the analogy, there is nothing wrong with asking God to bless us just as the son asked for his goods that fell to him. There's nothing inheirantly wrong with that request. And if we still keep with it even though this is a little bit different way to view it, we are told by God to go into the world and to teach but not become of the world (Matthew 28:19-20, Romans 12:2). So his journey, by looking at it this way, isnt' even the problem.

All of the things he did before this can be condemning things if we let them be, but I believe the true thing that the prodigal son did, something that we all (even me) can be accused of, and the whole reason why I thought to start this blog in the first place is explained in verse 13 of Luke chapter 15:
 "And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living," -emphasis added.

How often do we find ourselves doing things that we should just find so POINTLESS? Do I really need to watch a whole marathon of a television show if I could be better using that time to do something to give glory to God? Could I instead be visiting someone or even simply doing something nice for my family? I started this blog in 2011 because I felt so affected by one single verse of God's word and was moved to act, but since then, I have wasted my substance with riotous living. God has still been blessing me all this time, but I know that there have been so many opportunities where I could have done more for God and have decided to instead waste my life on this earth!

Now, I know you might be thinking, "Whitney, we can't always be doing something. We need to sleep, eat, relax, etc." To that I say, yes, you do! Always make sure to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. But I endeavor to use this blog to be a part of my life that I know wasn't a waste. And one day, I just work to hear wonderful words from my Judge rather than getting to that fateful day knowing that I could have, even for an instant, done a little more. Remember, and maybe even say this as a prayer when you end your reading session here:

Psa 90:12
"So teach us [me] to number our [my] days, that we [I] may apply our [my] heart(s) unto wisdom."

Sunday, September 11

Wisdom and Perspectives: Thanksgiving

Who isn't thankful? Anyone? Have you ever gone through one day without something to be thankful for? You might not have had a thankful attitude all day, but was there anytime you can think of when there's something you can't be thankful for?

Thankfulness is something that has been giving me trouble over the past year of my life. There have been many personal problems that have made things the hardest for me than they have ever been in my life. And for a while, I was allowing myself to be wisked along in my Christian walk, not even thinking about all the other great things in my life. These events in my life were such a burden that there seemed NOTHING to be thankful for...like life didn't even really have a purpose. I know. You're thinking, "Wow! She's so young! What kind of hardships is she talking about? A breakup or something?? I made it through plenty of those! Why's this so hard for her?"

And to tell you the truth, it's not like I went through anything that anyone hasn't gone through before. It's just that so many things happened all at once. Funny how that happens, huh?

But anyways, to save you from a sad tale (and myself from some embarassing truths that I cannot bring myself to admit), I'll skip the details and move on to my point.

When all of this was going on, and mind you it's still going on, I could not bring myself to see how God meant for this to be something good for me. You read passages like James 1:2-4
      "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing," and you consider them. You see that somehow, God uses all the trials you go through to help you, but it's so hard to see the outcome, that you can easily drop your faith underneath the weight of all these burdens. So, as I was wondering along, not really doing much for God, I now see that He had a plan for me! I saw how many people at the Jacksonville congregation were challenging themselves to read through the Bible in a year. I knew I had never done that before, and I really wanted to be able to say that I had. So I set to work.

And wouldn't you know that while reading Genesis, I came across a man who was faced with a similar situation...none other than Joseph himself! Talk about hardships! This man had seen it all! Obeying his father throughout childhood only brought him hatred from his own brothers. He was sold into slavery, where he was daily tempted and eventually had to flee before he sinned against many, chiefly God. After being imprisioned for a long time, he is called upon to interpret a dream. And finally, after years of being away from home but constantly serving God, he is rewarded with the place of authority right under the Pharoah! WOW! You would think this would be the great life lesson I'm trying to teach, right? Serve God, and you'll be rewarded. That sounds wise I guess, except for the emphasis on material things. But let me show you one of my other favorite passages of the Bible that really lets us know why we should be thankful for our trials.

Near the very end of Genesis, Joseph's father, Jacob, dies. As his family mourns his death, Joseph's brother's are also terrified Joseph will now enact his revenge against them now that their father has passed. But Joseph's answer to his brothers is what is so astounding! He was able to look over his life and see exactly what God intended for him.

Genesis 50:19, 20- "And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."

All these trials were meant to be something evil in Joseph's life, but as we all know, because of all that Joseph went through, not only did he end up saving many people from the famine in the land of Egypt, but he has also been a great standard for those suffering spiritual famine today to look to for strength and encouragement! We should rejoice in our trials, not only because they will make us better, but that one day, we will see the true value of our strength when we will be helpful to others!

Like now: all of you that have read this post have actually benefited (I hope!) from the trials I went through. They were one of the driving forces compelling me to study more, to teach more, and to DO more for our Lord! I hope that with this one grain of wisdom I've given you, the trials you face from now on don't seem so much of burden anymore, but rather God's way of making you into what you need to be, for yourself, others, and Him!

The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me:

Though I through the valley of shadow, o'er mountain or troubled sea, and oft in the darkness, have traveled, the Lord has been mindful of me!
Much more than my grief and my sorrow, much more than adversity, much more than the all I have given, the Lord has been mindful of me!
I'm rich! I am saved! I am happy! I've health and prosperity! I've friends! I have doors ever open! The Lord has been mindful of me!
The Lord has been mindful of me! He blesses and blesses again! My God is the God of the living! How excellent is His name! 

Have a great week everyone! And remember: be thankful!

Tuesday, September 6

Daughters of Wisdom: What Will You Be Known For?

This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a campaign as a chaperone and led the young girl's Bible devotionals at night. We were spending the week in the book of Acts, and each night, I tried to make at least one application from the text we'd read that would really hit home to young women. On one of the very first nights, we had just read through Acts 1-4. I challenged the girls to look closely at Acts 4:36, 37: "And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."

Now, when you were little, did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grow up? I still get some form of that same question while walking around campus: What's your major? What do you intend on doing with your life? My usual answer is to become an English teacher. But when I was looking at these young girls, and remembering being asked all my life about what I wanted to be, I made them do some heavy soul searching to answer a question we might not think of asking young people today.


Well, technically speaking, I asked them to tell me what they would want to be the daughter of, and why. It all boils down to reputation. We always stress the importance of building a reputation, but I don't think that it really sank in for me until I thought about it in this way. If we want our children to rise up and call us blessed, and for our works to praise us at the gates, we have to start NOW! (Proverbs 31: 28-31) Children are trained to be obedient and thankful, and reputations take time to build.

The girls gave me great answers and backed their answers up with scripture, like I asked. And, as I always like to do in an open discussion, I ended with my remarks last. I explained to them that one day, I hoped to be the daughter of wisdom. At the ripe old age of nineteen, I've already made more mistakes than I'd like to admit. They weigh on my mind daily, and that's a weight I wish I had never gotten. So, in order to try and fix my wrongs, I wanted to teach as many people as I could to start working toward their goals now, and not lose sight of them, because the minute you look away, you lose your way. I showed them some of the characteristics I'd like to have one day, referencing Proverbs 8 where wisdom speaks truth and is valuable to those who find her. She has understanding and strength (vs. 14). I wanted to be just like this "woman" of the Bible! She sounds like a joy to count in your company, and a blessing to all she surrounds herself with!

And as I ended our devotional, I showed the girls my favorite Bible verse, one that took me years to pick, and hopefully many more to apply.

Psalms 90:12- "So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom."

If we don't understand that the time we have on this earth is limited, we won't even begin to set goals for ourselves, let alone be known for anything! So, why not be known for something that will have an eternal effect! Choose to number your days, and make wise decisions so that you may be known as a daughter of Wisdom.