How Hard is it to Be a servant?

Hello! I hope you are enjoying our extended summer weather, I know I am!
Well, you may have not noticed, but last week I was so busy that I forgot to send the command for the week! So here we are with Command #34: Be a Servant.
The disciples had been growing jealous over who would be the greatest among them. Jesus replied to their self-centered thoughts with His opinion on who will be the greatest. Unlike the princes of the day who ruled with a strong hand, Jesus said, "But it shall not be so among you: But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28).
In today's culture in America, we often view serving positions as demeaning and less-than-worthy occupations.  It is much more noble to be a CEO, a manager, or an acclaimed writer/athlete/you fill in the blank. These jobs are not wrong, but if we think that having that position will make us greater, than we have false perception of what it means to be great. If we want to be chief in the world's sight than those things may work, but if we want to be seen as chief in the LORD's sight, than we are called to serve, to give, and to put others before ourselves.
I personally don't think I have a problem being a servant...when I know I will be recognized and praised. It is easy to be 'servant of all' and to 'put others before myself' outwardly when I am with those whom I want approval. Isn't it a lot easier to do the dishes at church over your family's piled up mess? or how about making a nice dish for the church meal but rarely taking thought about how you could make your families' meal time more delightful?
Since I think it tends to be easier to serve those outside our family, I want to focus on how we can serve our families...those who won't necessarily shower us with thanksgiving and praise if we do the dishes.
One of the best ways we can serve is to give. Jesus served by giving of His time, His energy, His wisdom, His love, and His own life so that we could be reconciled to Him. He came not to be ministered unto but to minister to others. Wow. The King of kings and Lord of lords came to this evil world and served us, and here I am expecting to be served and to have all my needs and wants fulfilled by those around me! How can you give of your time and energy to an unsuspecting familymember today? "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:5-9).
Someone said, "The greatest test of being a servant is how we respond when treated like one." This is so true, because when I volunteer to serve, I feel very good about myself and my holiness. But if someone else asks me do something that wasn't my idea, my feathers get in a ruffle and I drag my heels. For instance, yesterday my dad asked if I wanted to rub his feet. I replied 'No.' (hey! at least I was being honest--okay there is no excuse for being dishonoring). Then I said, "Let me think about it, I have stuff I want to get done." Then my dad replied, "Oh so you are not available?" I went on doing my own 'more important tasks' before I said I would. By then he had gone to bed and God had reminded me of the Command for the week...ouch.
Here is a great character quality to study: Availability=making my schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving. "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42).
-Have I made my schedule and priorities secondary to those God has called me to serve?
-Am I doing my tasks unto the Lord and not for the praise of men?
-What do I need to remove from my life so that I am more available to serve those around me?
"But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:11-12).
Notes adapted from IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide

Do You Honor Marrige?

    Hello everyone!
The command is 'Honor Marriage.' I am not in a marriage so I don't have first-hand experience, but we can all learn and relate to this command. If you are married then you can apply these in full force right now! If you are single, then you can apply these concepts to your relationships, so that if and when you do get married you won't have to learn how to love someone as yourself the hard way.
In the study for this command there are 'affirmations' or resolutions to apply in a marriage. I was convicted by these and realized that I needed to be applying them in my life now.
Affirmations for Honoring Marriage
1) I will give higher honor to the one who I am married to than to myself.
    "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other    better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).
    This does not come naturally AT ALL (at least for me). I tend to put ME first and seek to    preserve my own rights and dignity above others.
2) I will commit myself to one person in marriage as Christ is committed to His Bride the Church.
    "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife and they    two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the     church" (Ephesians 5:31-32). In marriage this means having only one husband and only having     eyes for your husband. As single ladies, let's focus on growing in Christ rather than having a     'dating spirit' which is constantly on the lookout for the next eligible bachelor. I am pointing the     finger at myself because I am definitely guilty of this.
3) I will maintain purity before marriage.
    "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication,uncleannessinordinate        affection, evil concupiscence, and coveteousness which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).
    There are innumerable verses on this. We need to bring every thought captive. We tend to    struggle with emotional purity and lusting in our hearts and thoughts which is just as bad in God's    sight as committing adultery (see Matt. 5:28). The book 'It's Not that Complicated'    by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin has helped me see from a more unselfish perspective.
4) I will decide that divorce is not an option in dealing with marriage problems.
    "For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garments with violence,    says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit that you do not deal     treacherously" (Malachi 2:16).  God hates divorce and He intended man and woman to be in a     life-long marriage because they become one flesh (see Matt. 19, Mark 10, Rom. 7, etc.) Divorce     is usually the onset of even more problems; it is not leaving all your problems behind, but just     getting a new set of problems.
5) I will love my spouse as I would want to be loved.
    "Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them for    this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).  This doesn't necessarily mean that you buy    your husband roses and chocolates. What do you like? respect? love? to be listened to? to be    encouraged? Be those things to your husband and to those around you, even when you don't    feel like it.
6) I will look for ways to develop loyalty and genuine love in my marriage.
    I Corinthians 13 pretty much says it all. Every time I read it I am convicted of my lack of love. I    go in thinking I am pretty good Christian...all loving and caring..I come out thinking how selfish    and self-centered I actually am! Love does not seek its, even what is ours we must not    demand (our rights, respect, etc.) Whether your married or not, we have ample opportunity    to work on genuine love.
I hope I am not coming across as some marriage expert, because I clearly am not. The Scriptures are your Marriage Owner's Manual, if we read it, and apply it, we will have success.
-Do you view marriage as a life-long, until death do us part relationship?
-How are you showing unconditional love to your spouse?
-Have you purposed to not entertain thoughts about divorce?
"Have ye not read that He which made them in the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:4-6).
Notes adapted fro IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide

I Will Still Love You!

I've had alot of time to think recently about how much I have to be grateful for, and how much I take for grated. We never know when our life will end, or if we will get into an accident, and our lives will be completely changed. There are so many uncertainties in life, and so many possibilities for the future. As I thought about these facts recently, I was compelled to write this poem to honor the One who is certain in my life, and to recommit myself to His control, at all costs.

In life nothing is certain as certain can be, 
Nothing except death, and eternity, 
No one knows what the future may hold, 
It doesn't matter whether you're young or old. 

You could live today and be gone tomorrow,
Life could bring you continual joy, or meaningless sorrow.
But there is One as certain as certain can be, 
Jesus Christ, He who holds me everlastingly. 

To you I commit myself today, 
O Father God, let me never stray, 
From following you with my heart and soul, 
And keeping your glory as my only goal.

So if you take my life, before I'm old, 
And I never experience all I've been told, 
About the Man who will come for me to marry,
And how we'll be blessed with children to carry, 

If I loose my arms, or legs or feet, 
Or I'm attached to a wheelchair as my only seat, 
If my eyes, or hearing, or speech escape me, 
And I'm left Deaf, or dumb, and unable to see.

If I loose my ability to think, and move, 
And dance, and sing, and my music skills never improve,
If you take away all my friends, 
And all my relationships suspend. 

If I never see the reconciliation, 
And never feel the sweet reformation, 
Of friendships gone amiss, 
That bring tears and crying, when I wish for bliss. 

If I never get to look into the eyes, 
Of those I love, and never will despise, 
And tell them how much they mean to me, 
And how I wish to love them, and that will always be. 

If all my hopes, and dreams, and goals, 
Those mentioned here and those untold,
Never come to pass, and I'm left wondering, 
And crying, and suffering and often blundering. 

If my worst fears come to pass, 
And I never experience happiness that lasts. 
If you take away everyone and thing I've loved,
And give me no future except heaven above. 

Throughout today, and every day going forward, 
In times of uncertainty, and in times of reward, 
Let these words from my lips never flee, 
Though you take all, "I will Still Love Thee!"

I Forgive You!

I was reminded again this week of the importance of 'keeping' our eyes on God's commandments. Sailors have a term 'keeping the stars,' which means that they continually watch the stars as a guide for their travel. In the same way, Christ's commandments are 'stars' that guide us in the way we should go in this life successfully.
This week's command is especially important in making sure that we run the course successfully. The command 'Forgive Offenders' is explained in Matthew 18:21-22, "Then came Peter to Him and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but until seventy times seven."
I often have this attitude of, 'If I keep forgiving they will never learn their lesson! And I must let them know how much they hurt me (with the silent treatment, disapproving looks, etc.)
One person said, 'Forgiving seven times puts our focus on the offender, but forgiving seventy times seven times forces us to focus on God's forgiveness of ALL our sins.' So true.
Remember the parable about the unmerciful servant? Maybe we need a refresher, it has many rich insights. (Matt. 18:23-24)
-"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants..." God will one day judge both the believer and non-believer for what that have done on earth (II Cor. 5:10)
-"And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents...the servant therefore fell down and worshiped, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all..."
Ten thousand talents is the equivalent of 3.6 billion dollars today, that amount would have been impossible to pay back, and isn't that a wonderful picture of our sin before God? There is no way that we can earn our way into heaven, yet like this servant we often try to use our own efforts to do only what He can do for us.
-"Then the lord of the servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt..." Praise God. "And herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10).
We are that undeserving servant who God mercifully plucked out of eternal condemnation, forgiving the debt we could never pay. God is good.
-"But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest..." O, how I see myself in this wicked servant! He has been forgiven so much yet cannot have mercy on someone who has offended him a little. I often lose sight of what God has done for me and demand that others around me treat me fairly or else I will be angry.  If our perspective is on ourselves we can't forgive, but if we are focusing on Christ and what He did for us, we can't help but to forgive. "If any of you have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Colossians 3:13).
-"Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him unto the tormentors until he should pay all that was due unto him."
Oftentimes we try to punish people by not forgiving them, but actually we are imprisoning ourselves. One person said, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."Unforgiveness and bitterness lead to a host of spiritual and physical problems.  The wicked servant could be out of his bondage if he would just forgive all that was 'due unto him.' If we forgive others, we free ourselves from the torment of being disobedient to God and our own bitterness.
Rudy Tomjanovich was a four-time NBA All-star who was on his way to another award-winning season.  In one game, the score was tied and a scuffle started between a player from the opposing team and a player from his team. He immediately began running full-speed over to the scene, when another player saw him and whirled around and drove his fist into his face. Rudy was knocked backwards and laid unconscious. The doctors said the impact was like someone slamming into a windshield at 50 mph. His face was so broken up that his jaw misaligned, his whole skull got knocked out of place and even his tear ducts collapsed. After many surgeries he tried to get back into the game he loved but could not get back to where he was. He learned to forgive the man that punched him and did not hold a grudge, because someone had told him, "Not forgiving him is like drinking poison and expecting him to die", and he always remembered those words. (taken from Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss)
We have a choice to forgive those who offend us, don't wait until you feel like forgiving or until your emotions are ready...they won't be. Obey and forgive (I know, easier said than done.)
-Am I still holding a grudge against someone who has deeply hurt me?
-Am I focusing on God's mercy towards me?
-How can I invest in my offender's life?
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Notes adapted from IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide

August Church Campout!

In the first week in August, my family and I enjoyed camping with our church. We had a wonderful time with friends and family, and enjoyed every minute of our time together. Since I've never slept in a tent, (except in our backyard,) I was a bit apprehensive about camping in a tent, and it turns out that I only ended up sleeping in the tent for one night, and then Evan and I migrated to our van for the remaining nights, due to the noise of a nearby wood mill. 

Anyhow, we had great times of sharing of Scriptures, and singing around the campfire each night.

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity"

I really appreciated when Dad led one of the devotionals, and shared some great insights from James.

We had a great time hiking with a small group from camp, to see a Natural Rock Bridge.

The hike was a 5 mile hike above Detroit Lake, with spectacular views of the valley, and Mt. Jefferson.

After a good hour of hiking uphill, we reached the rock bridge, and some fearless people ventured out onto the top. 

Evan and some of his "fast- hiking" group, happy to reach the summit.

Yvonne atop the bridge. ( I didn't have the courage to venture out there, sorry:) 

The way down seemed alot easier than the way up. I'm not really sure why that always seems to happen. I think it's knowing where you're going, and being able to anticipate the end of the trail. 

Evan successfully reached his goal of being the first one up, and the first one down! 
He never seems to loose energy:)

A few weeks before camp, God blessed my Dad with finding some really nice bikes on Craigslist, and so we were able to enjoy riding around camp.

 I especially enjoyed going on long morning rides on the campground trails. 

A new experience for me, was whitewater rafting. It was SO fun, and I'm sure it won't be my last time:)

Hitting the rapids, swirling in the whirlpools, sitting still in the water, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and marveling at God's creation.... Rafting is certainly a new favorite activity for me:) 

Games were not hard to find around camp.

From volleyball, and volleyball, and more volleyball:) to soccer, water ballon fights, Banana grams, Anomia, and countless other card games, we had such fun together, and learned more reasons to be grateful for the Body of Christ. 

It was fun to stay up late the last night and roast apples, and cheese, (o.k. and a few marshmallows too:) over the fire, and enjoy telling stories of days gone by. 

All too soon it came time to clean up from camp, but before that, we all enjoyed a round of Frisbee, and experimented with new throwing techniques. 

I'm so glad God allowed us to spend the week with our dear church family. I praise God for sweet friends and family, who encourage me to follow Christ wholeheartedly. I enjoyed every moment of the camp, and I can't wait until next year to do it all over again!

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets;
and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints,
for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man,
unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we henceforth be no more children,
tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in
all things, which is the head, even Christ:
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted
by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working
in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body
unto the edifying of itself in love." Ephesians 4:11-16

If Only I Had A Little More!

Greetings! This week we will be talking about the coveteousness...none of us have this problem right??!
The command is 'Beware of Coveteousness.' Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of coveteousness, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke12:15).
Jesus gave this command after a man came to him asking that he get part of the inheritance from his brother. I honestly feel for this guy, thinking 'Yea, he should get part of the inheritance, that's only fair!' The point is not justice, but that he had let his love for money and riches become more important than his relationship with his brother. He was consumed by his desire for earthly possessions. 
For this command I am just going to include some notes that I took while studying this command. There are also many Scriptures that speak so clearly to this and I have only included some!
-"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us therewith be content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Timothy 6:6-10).
-'To covet is to violate God's very nature, which is to love and give, rather than to covet and get' (IBLP Commands of Christ study guide: Series 5, pg. 27).
-"He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
-Covet: to desire, long for, an inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire.
-"For I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Romans 7:7).
-'Contentment allows us to enjoy what we have. Coveteousness is setting our affection on things we do not have.'
 (IBLP Commands of Christ study guide: Series 5, pg. 28)
-"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbours" (Exodus 20:17).
-Have you been saying in your heart, 'If only I had _______ I would be happy'? (i.e. more money? a home of your own? a nicer car? new clothes? a better job? the perfect husband? better parents? no health problems?) ouch.
-"...he that hateth coveteousness shall prolong his days" (Proverbs 28:16b).
-"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
-"Will I anguish over my temporary riches or travail over the eternal souls of people?" (IBLP Commands of Christ study guide: Series 5, pg. 31)
-Contentment: Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness. (IBLP)
-"Let your conversation be without coveteousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
-Are there areas in my life in which I am discontent or envious?
-What things do I desire or delight in more than the Lord?
-Have I expressed gratefulness to God and others for what I already have?
-How can I exchange my earthly possessions for eternal treasures?

Jewels of Jesus: A Look Back (and giveaway!)

Check out this blog, and giveaway. I have been really encouraged through the posts, and thoughts on Scripture. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have!
Jewels of Jesus: A Look Back (and giveaway!)

"I Found My Righteousness In Thee"

Here's a poem I wrote a couple years ago. I hope to turn to into a song someday:)
Let me know if it encourages you!
Heavenly Father, Divine inspiration,
Champion of my great expectation. 
I ask thee now to go on before us, 
And lead us on to thy pathway glorious. 

Lord by thine own example proving, 
I through thee feel the spirit's moving.
With earnest desire, I humbly request, 
O Lord, make me more into thy likeness.

Bearer of sin, but committer of none, 
Thou art the example of the race we must run. 
Reviled by men thou revilest not again.
Through thy suffering, righteousness doth remain. 

Committing thyself to the one righteous judge, 
Thou in thy heart couldest hold onto no grudge. 
Even on the tree, while bearing every sin, 
And suffering and dying, salvation to win. 

You lived by righteousness unto the end. 
Healed by your stripes, all my wrong thou didst end.
But death had no power, over you to give, 
For rising again you  forever will live. 

You the Shepherd, I the lamb gone astray, 
You found and returned me to thy fold to stay. 
You are the great Shepherd, and Bishop of my soul, 
You sought, cleansed, redeemed, and made me whole. 

Now Lord Jesus, help me follow thee, 
Even through times of difficulty. 
Show me the pathway, that thy cross I might take,
Through life and through death, for thy name's sake. 

Lead me and guide me today and always, 
Help me to live for thee all my days.
And when at last, I thy face shall see, 
I'll say only, "I found my righteousness in thee."


Tell Me What I Did Wrong... Please!

Hello! I just got back from a great a week of church camping and am reminded how much I love spending time with other believers! However, when you are around any group of people there is a chance that you will be offended by someone or that you will will offend someone else. (Note: nobody offended me! Hopefully I didn't offend anyone else!)
That brings us to this week's command, 'Go to Offenders.'  "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother" (Matthew 18:15).  The point of this command is not to let every single person that hurts your feelings know how hurt you were and to rehearse the offense. I think the key idea here is that we are to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18).
This starts with us. Jesus begins the command with 'Go.'  We need to take the initiative to get right with others, rather than stubbornly waiting until they come to you. This is important, because Jesus said that before we even come to Him with our worship and gifts, we must first be reconciled to our brother (Matthew 5:23-24).  If we don't reconcile quickly, we can be tempted to bitterly share the story with others who are not part of the problem, hoping to gain sympathy. "Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another" (Proverbs 25:9).
First things first: you need to forgive them. If your forgiveness is conditional on whether they ask forgiveness first, then you do not have the mind of Christ. Christ forgave us and died for us while we were still in our sins and had not yet repented...we must do the same to those who offend us.
Oftentimes people say or do hurtful things toward us because of something we have done first. If you need to talk to an offender, and after you have forgiven them, ask them if there was some way that you have offended them. Be willing to listen and hear their side of the story. Remember, you are not talking to them to rehearse your hurt feelings, but to 'gain your brother.'
Just to clarify, this isn't a mandate to 'seek reconciliation' over every little thing. Just because someone doesn't help you with dinner dishes doesn't mean you need to have a conference--just forgive them. Use discernment and be quick to forgive. If you sense that they have offended you because of bitterness towards you, it may be a good time to initiate reconciliation.
It is quite interesting how God likes to teach us and sometimes I do not like His practical approach of helping me understand His commandments. Last Sunday, literally hours after I had studied this command, a few people began to verbally attack me in front of others. I was really hurt and almost began to cry and was trying to defend myself.  Afterward I was mad that they had ganged up on me and had said hurtful things. I began to rehearse what they had said and promptly let one of the offenders know how I felt about the situation. God reminded me that I had not forgiven them and was therefore  not in a position to go to them. God helped me to see why they had said what they said and I realized that they were responding to my lack of character.  Even though I did not like being humbled, God helped me to see more clearly what it meant to obey this command, and that it would not be easy!
-Can you think of someone who has offended you?
-Have you thoroughly examined yourself before preparing to go to an offender?
-Are you free from bitterness and anger?
-Have you kept the offense between you and your offender?
"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:17-18)
Notes adapted from IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide