Going Deeper With God

Just a short post today.

Early last week I finished doing my study of the book of John in the Bible. I’d like to say I worked on it every single day, but that would be a lie.

Something I noticed, as I looked back over the notes I took, was at the beginning of my study I was more detailed and made more notes, highlighted more passages, etc. I don’t know if along the way I “forgot” that I was making detailed notes, or if I just didn’t put as much into it toward the end. I certainly think that not focusing on it every day was a factor! None-the-less, I did gt a lot out of this study.

Recently, I have felt a strong desire to grow deeper into the Word and with my relationship with God – deeper than I have before. And, now that I have more time, I hope to set my priorities and spend this needed time with God.

I have been feeling like I have only let myself go just so far into my relationship with God, possibly because I let fear control me. I have been afraid of what God might tell me, what He might reveal, or what He might want me to do. I mean, what if it doesn’t line up with what I want to do?

I do believe I am doing what God wants me to, but what if I dig deeper and find out otherwise? Or what if God wants me going in a totally different direction with what I am doing? Am I prepared for that?

I guess fear is trying to overcome me. That sneaky devil is trying to have his way! I’m not going to let him win, though. I AM going to go deeper in my walk, no matter what it reveals to me! I want to be the woman that God wants me to be, and I definitely desire to go grow deeper with Him.

If God is for me, which I know to be true, then who can be against me?

What is something you would like to improve upon in your walk with the Lord? Let me know in the comments!

Updated to add link to the post on Apple Blossom Ministries that resulted from this post.

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Your Sin Is Worse Than Mine…

purple flowers with a green background and the words "Your Sin Is Worse Than Mine" and a link to appleblossomministries.ca

I don’t know how many times I hear of people, and have had it said to me, that someone else’s sin is worse than whatever their sin is. It’s like people believe there is a big list ranging from number one to…however many sins there are. And on that list is ranked the least sin to the greatest, with the greatest as being number 1. “Well, what they did is way worse than my lies, or my speeding, or my (fill in the blank)…,” they say.

I don’t know why we do that. I guess it’s human nature. Maybe we try to make ourselves look better, or take the focus off our own sins and put it onto someone else so that we don’t have to face, or give account for, our sins.

The Adulterous Woman

In John 8 we read about the adulterous woman. The Pharisees were always trying to test Jesus, and this time they (and the scribes) brought a woman caught in the “very act” of adultery to Him. They quoted the Law of Moses in which the Israelites were commanded to stone the woman and then asked Jesus what he had to say about it.

Reading further, we find out that Jesus simply bent down and wrote something on the ground. I’ve always been curious as to what he may have written. Did he write, “Not Guilty” or did he write a scripture?

When He stands up again, Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (vs. 7).” Then He bends down and wrote on the ground again.

Just Walk Away…

Those who were accusing this woman began to walk away, one by one, beginning with the older men. When I was in university (my degree is in Biblical Studies), a prof once told us that the understanding as to why the older men were the last to leave, was that the younger men would have had less sin than the older ones. This was, of course, due to age; the older men had lived longer and would have had more time to commit more sin.

The men all left until Jesus was the only one remaining with the woman. None of the scribes and Pharisees condemned her, because they had sin in their lives as well.

Jesus Has No Sin

Note that Jesus is the only one who has absolutely no sin in His life. Yet, rather than stoning the woman (and He could have done that since His command was that those who had no sin could throw the first stone), He told the woman that He also didn’t condemn her, and that she could go, but His only stipulation was to “sin no more.”

One thing that has interested me about this story, is that only the woman was brought to be stoned. Last time I checked, adultery involves two people. So, where was the man? Why wasn’t he being brought along to be stoned?

But that’s a post for another time…

There Is No Condemnation

In this post, I want to focus on the fact that Jesus didn’t condemn the woman for her sin. And, just like he her, Jesus doesn’t condemn you for your sin either. He also doesn’t condemn me for mine.

My friend, Jesus went to the cross for you. He took all your sins on Himself, and died for you. He doesn’t condemn you for the things you have said and done. He loves you!

“I do not condemn you, either.” Jesus says.

You do need to be aware, however, that just because God does not see one sin as being worse than another, that doesn’t give us liberty to keep sinning. Jesus told the adulterous woman to, “Go. From now on sin no more.”

We still have to do our best to refrain from sin, though it will happen because we’re human, but it doesn’t give us an excuse to purposefully sin.

Friends, I want you to know that it really doesn’t matter what you have said or done. The Lord does not condemn you, and if you ask for forgiveness, you will be forgiven. Jesus loves you so much, and He is waiting for you to reach out to Him.


Take His hand, and feel no condemnation.

New Year Blessing

mountains, lake, water, man looking out over water,

We have come to that time of year again – December 31st!

For many people, this is a time to reflect on the past year. Memories are often front and centre on this day as we come to an end of the final page of this chapter in our lives. We think about all the good times we had, and even the painful ones we encountered. Sometimes there were a lot of struggles that were endured, missed opportunities, and many tears. Other times consisted of successful accomplishments, happy tears, and lots of laughter.

On this day, we look to the future and wonder what the next year will hold for us. We hope for good things, and that nothing bad will come our way. We make plans, we makes lists, and we wonder and dream of what’s to come.

As we embark on a new year, 2019, I wish you all the best and pray that this will be the year for you to grow stronger, and deeper, in your relationship with Christ, that you will seek him with your whole heart.

As we leave 2018 behind, grab hold of Jesus’ hand and move forward with Him by your side.

Be blessed, my friend!

Shelley

15 Things For Which I Am Thankful

apple blossom thankful

To me, Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday that happens once a year.

During Thanksgiving, we often tell others what we are thankful for.  I don’t think that should be limited to once a day in October or November, depending where you live.

Really, we should be thankful every day.

What It Means

To be thankful means to express feelings of gratitude, to appreciate something, or someone.

Sometimes, when life throws us for a loop, it’s hard to see the good. We tend to focus on the negative aspects.  But, even during those trying times, we can be thankful for something.  Focusing on the good can help redirect our thinking to something more positive.

I know, normally, people tend to list what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving.  It’s not Thanksgiving now, it’s already passed for us here in Canada.  But, I’m going to list some things that I am thankful, or grateful, for.

affection appreciation decoration design

My List:

  1. Jesus
  2. My salvation
  3. My husband and step-son
  4. My other family members
  5. Friends
  6. My home
  7. My church
  8. My job
  9. Living in Canada
  10. The beauty in Nova Scotia – lots of gorgeous places to see and explore
  11. The leaves changing colour this time of year (gorgeous!)
  12. I can see and hear
  13. I can walk (have the use of my legs)
  14. I can read and write
  15. The generosity of others

Those are just 15 things I’m thankful for.  Of course, there are many more people and things, but this is just a start.

Thankful Thursdays

I’d like to start a regular series on the blog to help remind myself to be thankful in all situations, like Paul talks about.  I think it’s a good way to help me redirect my focus during those difficult times.

And I’d like to be able to share that with you, to help you as well.  I’d like you to share the things you’re thankful for on Thankful Thursdays as well.  I think this would be a great way to help us be more encouraging to others so that we can be reminded that there is always something to be thankful for, every day – not just at Thanksgiving.

notebook

So, even though I’m a day late because it’s Friday, let’s get the ball rolling.

Leave a comment with something you are thankful for today.

Dear Younger Me…

photo of person writing on notebook

Dear Younger Me,

You are beautiful. You are stronger than you think. And, don’t let anyone tell you differently. And don’t believe that you aren’t.  You ARE enough!

The world is going to tell you that you have to be pencil-thin and have the latest fashions in style and the right hairstyle and makeup. They want you to look like the women on the covers of magazines. Don’t believe them. Don’t fall for it; those models are airbrushed and don’t really look like that. If you keep believing they are perfect and you aren’t, it will cause you so much harm in your life as you grow older.

I want to encourage you to be healthy. Don’t let eating junk get out of control. That will contribute to you feeling so badly about yourself later on in life. You don’t need it, but it’s fine to have a little now and then. I also want to encourage you to not take losing weight to the opposite extreme either. That’s also not healthy. Eat good size portions, drink more milk as you get older, and eat more foods that are healthier for you.  By the way, you will learn to like those little round, firm, sweet tomatoes, egg salad, and mild salsa.

Younger me, please don’t let shyness rule your world. Do whatever you can to overcome it, because you will let it affect you so much throughout your life. You will waste so much time envying those who are outgoing. Please, force yourself to talk to other people, go up to them and introduce yourself. This will save you a lot of heartache later on. Be friendly.

Please, also, believe in yourself. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Gain confidence in yourself and in your abilities early on. This will also help you – especially when you are out of school looking for your career. You are more than capable of putting into action what you have learned. You CAN do it.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. They help you learn and grow. Don’t think that you are the only one to mess up; you aren’t. Again, nobody is perfect.

you are enough text

Dear younger me, you are loved more than you even realize. Please don’t waste time hoping and praying for someone who isn’t interested in you. Don’t turn down boys who are interested in you because you keep hoping for the one who isn’t. And also, when you get involved with someone who will mistreat you, leave. Please, don’t stay. It will also cause you pain and heartache years after it happens.  You are enought, and you don’t need him.

I also want you to know that you will regret putting God on the shelf. Please don’t do it. God has your best interest at heart. His plan is way better than yours. Hold out, because He has someone very special for you. It will take awhile, but the wait is worth it.  He will love you and treat you with respect, dignity, and more.  You will love him and appreciate him so much. Trust me on this!

And, finally, dear younger me, have some fun now and then. Don’t take life too serious, and when you finally figure out that you are suffering with depression, please seek help. Stigmas against mental illness will always be there, but people will begin to fight them. Seeking help does not make you weak. You will be stronger for doing so.

Dear younger me, I hope you will consider my message to you. And I hope you will trust that your faith will get you through so much. Don’t let go of Jesus.

Love,

Older You

*** Check out the video for MercyMe’s “Dear Younger Me” here, my inspiration for this post.

Ideas For Creating a Prayer Journal

 

apple blossom prayer journal ideas

I used to keep a prayer journal several years ago. I don’t really know why I stopped; I probably just got lazy or forgetful, and it gradually fell by the wayside. I used a simple, cheap, journal I had purchased at a dollar store to record my prayers in.

I wrote somewhat specific prayers and recorded when they were answered. It was a great way to look back as a reminder of just how often God did answer my prayers.

Recently I decided that I wanted to start another prayer journal, mostly recording an actual prayer. Since I’ve only just started, there is still plenty of room to adjust and change things up. I’m using a smallish, hardcover journal that was gifted to me for my birthday this year.

The War Room

A couple of months ago, I watched “The War Room” on Netflix and was inspired. I’m not actually creating a war room, but I liked the idea of writing down the prayers (like I used to), using them as reminders to pray for the specific person or situation, and recording when it is answered. And, that’s what inspired me to pick up this habit again!

Inspiration

A quick look at Pinterest will reveal a myriad of ways to set up a prayer journal. You can use any type of journal, notebook, or binder, and you can make it as simple or as fancy as you like.

I like the pretty, fancy ones, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to make one of those. For now, I’m just focusing on a more simple journal and sometimes drawing (or attempting to draw, since I’m not overly artistic) a few little pictures (so far flowers) around the page. I have some washi tape as well that I might add to the pages, or at lease some of them, to help decorate it.

In my old journal, all I did was write the current date at the top, recorded the specifics of what I was going to pray – the person, situation, request, etc., and then at the bottom I would write the words “Date Answered:” and draw a line on which to write that date.

I’ve seen some posts that talk about having a page divided into the days of the week where specific people or organizations are written down and will be prayed for on that particular day of each week. For example, on Mondays you might choose to pray for your spouse, children, home, family life; Tuesdays might be for your job and co-workers; Wednesday might be for the government, both provincial and federal; Thursdays might be for your community, neighbours, city, friends; Fridays could be for the persecuted church, missionaries, your own ministry; Saturdays for the other ministries in your church, the congregation; and Sundays could be used to pray for your pastors and their families. You can set it up so it is personalized to what makes sense to you, and include everyone you want to pray for.

I actually like that idea of doing this and I am seriously considering adding a page in my prayer journal (maybe the back page since I’ve already started writing in this journal). I like the idea of praying for specific things/people on specific days, more for organization and helping me to keep focus – and remembering, of course!

Refer to:

Here are just four of the posts I read that all deal with prayer journals/notebooks. They all have great ideas for a prayer journal/notebook:

https://intentionalbygrace.com/how-to-make-a-prayer-notebook/

https://www.themodernmary.com/prayer-journal-tracking/#more-812

http://www.kathrynshirey.com/letters-god-keeping-prayer-journal/

http://thehealthyhappywoman.com/how-to-create-a-personal-prayer-notebook/

Focus

Remember, though, the focus on keeping a prayer journal shouldn’t be about making it pretty and perfect; it’s about focusing on God and communicating with Him.

clear glass jar filled of coloring pens beside of white sketch pad

You can use your prayer journal as a letter to God, writing down your prayer as though you are writing a letter – write to him how you would to a friend; pour out your heart and don’t worry about sounding fancy and using big words or being perfect.

Really, your prayer journal is personal and I encourage you to set yours up in whatever way works for you. If you’re not sure what you might like, try some different ideas and methods, and then choose one – or keep changing it up. It’s totally up to you; it’s your journal, after all!

As I record more prayers, I’ll share ideas I’ve had or different ways I might include in my journal. Keep checking back for updates.

Have you kept a prayer journal in the past, or even now? What are your favourite methods to use? Do you have favourite supplies you use? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on prayer journalling!

How Is Your Cup?

art blur cappuccino close up

We all know Psalm 23. It’s usually quoted at funerals.

I memorized this Psalm from the King James Version when I was younger (that was the only version available to me at the time), and in that version verse 5 states, “My cup runneth over.” I used to think this was a bad thing. I thought that it meant you had too much and you were wasting it.

That’s not what it means, though. It’s talking about how God takes care of us and gives us so much goodness and mercy that our cup overflows.

What It Refers To

One commentary I read (it came with the Blue Letter Bible I downloaded to my android phone for free from the Google Play Store) talks about how Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38, NASB)

boulders cave creek environment

Living Water

Christ is that living water. If we ask Him to be our Saviour, He will give us that water. And, we want to fill our lives with so much of Christ, that He overflows from us. We want that water to spill over so that it is available for others, so that we can freely give to others what Christ has given to us.

Being in daily communion with God – reading the Bible, praying, devotions, etc. – will help to fill our cups.  Fellowship with other Christians will also help fill our cups.

Caution

But, I want to add a word of caution: don’t let your cup run empty. That’s what will happen if we don’t spend time with God. It will also happen if we don’t take care of ourselves, and if we avoid fellowshipping.

I know, from my own experiences, that when I don’t spend needed time with the Lord, when I work too much and don’t get enough rest, not much flows from my cup. It also happens when I give to much of myself and I don’t take needed “me time.” When this has happened, I have had times when my cup has been bone dry!

It’s not a good feeling.

And I’m certainly not able to be productive for the kingdom.

It’s important to take care of all aspects of our lives – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. One really does affect the other.

Encouragement

My friends, let me encourage you to make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Make sure to eat properly, get some exercise (something I know I need to do more of myself), take care of your mental and emotional health. And definitely make sure to spend time with the Lord.

Make sure you are being poured into, so that your cup will overflow for others; so that the streams of Living Water spill over from your life.

The Armour of God – Part 4

16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17, NASB)

brown book page

Shield of Faith

These last three items complete our armour: the shield, the helmet, and the sword.

When I think of shields, I tend to think of something like what is used in the Captain America movies – small round shields. In the case of the Roman soldiers, they were not small and round. They were long enough to hide behind. They were doused in water to help extinguish the firy arrows that would be shot from their enemies. When a row, or group, of soldiers held their shields in front of them, they were blocked from the attacks.

I remember one of my professors in university talking about one type of formation they would use. It seems to me he called it a turtle – or something like that. He said that the soldiers on the outside of the formation would hold their shields so as to protect the group, and those in the middle would hold their shields overhead, adult ancient arena armorproviding shelter from arrows or whatever was being used to attack them.

The shield is protection, and keeps us safe from the enemy’s blows. And, this verse says that you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one – that should be comforting to know, that we can (with our armour) do this! We aren’t doing this using our own power, but with God’s help. He has provided us with what we need for the battle.

Helmet of Salvation

The helmet protected the head, and most of the face. Our head is important because it houses our brain. This piece of protection in the Armour of God is used to protect our thoughts and thinking.

All too often, if we aren’t focused on Jesus, our thoughts can

 be easily led astray and we think about things that we shouldn’t – whether we think bad thoughts of others, improper images, or we conjure up ways to get back at someone else. We need to train our minds to not go there, to not think of such things. Having the helmet on will protect us from when the enemy whispers those bad and negative thoughts to us.

Sword of the Spirit

photo of child reading holy bible

Of course, our sword is the Word of God – the Bible! We use scripture to stand up to the enemy, to lean on, to find strength in, and to reflect on the promises of God.

When Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness, Satan came along to tempt Him. Satan knows scripture too, so it’s not just a matter of being able to quote it, but using it as a weapon. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus, he quoted Scripture, but the thing is, Jesus (obviously) also knew scripture too, and He used that to counteract the enemy.

That’s what we need to do as well.

Don’t just simply memorize verses from the Bible to be able to quote or to appear knowledgeable or smart because you know so many of them. Use them in your battle. Find scripture that can fit with whatever situation you are going through and when the enemy attacks you in your weakness, fire back at him with the Word. Use your sword!

Praying these items

When I am praying on my armour, and I get to these items, I say something like, “Father, I put on my shield of faith. Help me to use it to extinguish the firy arrows and darts the enemy flings at me. I put on my helmet of salvation to help protect my thoughts. Help me to think about Godly things and not to be negative in my thinking. Help me use the helmet to protect me from the listening to the lies of the enemy. Lord, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is your word. Help me to memorize your word and use it in battle.”

As I’ve said before, there is no magic formula to pray on the armour, but we do need to make sure to put it on daily. If we are doing God’s work, Kingdom work, then we are going to be attacked. Satan wants to keep us down and he’ll stop at nothing to do so.

My friends, I encourage you not to give up if you are going through a spiritual battle. Put on your armour and remember that you have it on (even if it means praying it on several times a day as a reminder). You are protected, you are doing good work. Lean on others through those rough times, but most importantly, lean on God.

See the other posts in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

At My Age?!

I am almost 50 years old.  It seems like only yesterday that I was half the age I am now.

woman leaning on glass window

Sometimes I feel like I’m now too old to take on new roles, new adventures, follow new paths. I often think, “If only I had started this in my 20s or 30s….” and then I feel depressed for a little while, thinking of all the time I have lost and all the things I failed to try through the various decades I’ve been alive.

There is no one God can’t use for His kingdom-work

Thankfully, God can use anybody – it doesn’t matter if we are men or women, how young or old we are, what careers we have, if we are stay-at-home moms or dads, if we have kids or not. None of that matters to Him.

Take a look in the Bible. There were men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Jesus ran with fishermen and tax collectors and associated with women of ill repute. He didn’t care where they came from, what their careers were, or even how old they were. None of that mattered. God can, and does, use anyone – even today!

What really matters?

man and woman talking

The main thing, though, is that we are actively seeking the Lord, that we are taking part in the great commission to go and make disciples, that we are getting involved in various ministries to help further His kingdom. Anyone can do this, and that’s definitely a good thing!

Age is just a number. I need to remember that. Paul said to Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness…” (1 Timothy 4:12), and I believe it also works with those who are not so youthful as well. No one should look down on anyone who is older, nor should we do that to ourselves either.  No one should hinder another from doing the Lord’s work.

I often use my age as a reason that I shouldn’t do something. I feel that I could accomplish more if I were younger. Truthfully, I need to let go of that.  I need to summon up the courage, take the plunge, and just do “it”. I don’t want to look back 20 years from now and wonder why I didn’t do it, or wonder what I could have accomplished, if only…

What Can We do?

The only way to do this is by relying on the Lord. He’s the only one who can give me the strength, determination, and wisdom to do what it is I want to accomplish in my ministry now (or at any point, really). But, I need to take the necessary steps. If I don’t do anything, then how can I expect God to help or bless it?

I think of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

I want God to be at the center of my ministry. I want Him to be at the center of whatever I do. I need to allow Him to use me for His work, to lead me, to guide me, to accomplish what it is He has for me to do. I need to stop using my age as an excuse to not do something, and just do it.

Do you ever feel you are too old or too young to accomplish something? What has your experience been with your age and ministry?

couple elderly man old

The Armour of God – Part 3

brown book page

14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (NASB)

As previously mentioned in this series, we don’t rush into battle; we stand firm. We’re reminded of that again in verse 14. Because standing firm is mentioned more than once, it must be important; so it’s wise to follow through with it. When we are standing firm, remember that we are standing strong – strong in the Lord and in His might.

Let’s look at the first two pieces of our armour:

Belt of Truth

The version I have quoted from above (New American Standard Bible) says “girding our loins.” But what does that mean? It’s good to check out other versions of the Bible as well, because things can be worded a little differently. Some use more modern language that is easier for us to understand. Some of these versions talk about buckling the belt of truth around our waists. So, girding our loins and putting on the belt of truth is the same thing.

Belts are important – they help keep our pants up! In Bible times, the belt would have been used to tuck in the hem of the outer garments to aid in moving quickly. What I learned, was that a man would grab the back hem of his garment and draw it up between his legs, tucking it into the front of his belt. It would have looked similar to Hammer Pants from the 80s…well, somewhat. By tucking his garment into the belt, he could run or move quickly without fear of tripping or having his feet get caught in the hem of his garment.

For the Christian, the belt of truth is important. We need to speak the truth, but we must do it in love. Truth is important, but we needn’t be harsh or sarcastic with it. Speaking in truth, I believe, takes the other person’s feelings into account. Be gentle, be kind. Don’t try to hurt someone else; but at the same time, we do need to be honest and truthful. And, don’t forget that love is listed first in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Breastplate of Righteousness

The next piece of armour to put on is the breastplate of righteousness. This article wasn’t just covering a soldier’s chest; it went all around his upper body, where the heart and lungs are located, to protect him.

Our organs are vital for living – for breathing and pumping blood to the rest of our body, to keep us alive, so obviously we would want to make sure that part of our body protected!

Praying on the Armour

When I learned about praying on the armour of God, I was taught that when Roman soldiers would have put on their armour, someone else would do it for him, helping him get dressed for battle.girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942.jpeg

Likewise, we should pray on the armour of God for our brothers and sisters in Christ in order to help them be protected. I don’t think it means that we shouldn’t pray it on for ourselves, though. We still need to be dressed, and someone else might not know (or remember) to pray it on us.

When I Pray

When praying on these two items, I tend to say something like: “Father, I put on the belt of truth to help me speak the truth in love to others. I put on the breastplate of righteousness to help protect my heart and my feelings.” You don’t have to pray it exactly that way; I say it this way to help me remember what the pieces represent.

My friends, I pray that if you are going through troubling times that you will remember that God is on your side. Turn to Him and trust Him to help get you through to the other side.

Please visit the following links to the first two parts of this series if you haven’t read them yet:

The Armour of God – Part 1
The Armour of God – Part 2