Look Back- Remember the Goodness and Grace of God

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

As this year comes to a close and a new one begins, I can’t help but wonder what adventures await us.  2017 has been a blur of busyness and blessings! Sometimes I get so caught up in the present, and excited about the future, that I forget to take the time to look back and remember the goodness and grace of God up to the present time.

It’s important to look back and praise God for his presence, power, provision, and people he’s placed in your life.  Look back at your prayer journal and see all of the answered prayers.  Look back at where you were last January, and where you are now.

How have you grown in your faith, character, and in ministry? What trials did the Lord bring you through? Who were you able to invest in and bring closer to Christ, or who helped you grow this year?

As you look back, remember to thank God for each and every answered prayer, and divinely appointed person who had an impact on your spiritual growth.  Praise him for his goodness and grace.

Psalm 107 is a song of remembrance of all God had done for the children of Israel.  It begins with: O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever, and closes with: Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD, with 41 verses in between recounting the story of God’s deliverance, chastening, provision, and character.

There are two sets of key verses that repeat themselves, and one key word, that I think we can learn from as we look back on 2017.

Four times we see:

  • Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. (v.6)
  • Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. (v.13)
  • Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. (v. 19)
  • Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (v.28) (emphasis mine to show the slight difference in these very similar verses.)

and

  • Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (v.8, 15, 21, 31)

(These four verses imply that the people were lacking in the area of thankful and grateful hearts. They took advantage of God’s goodness and were forgetful of his works.)

The key word is: Mercy

While it only appears as this English word one time in this psalm, the Hebrew word checed appears 6 times as:

  • mercy (v.1)
  • goodness- 4 times (vs.8, 15, 21,31)
  • lovingkindness (v.43)

Checed is goodness, kindness, faithfulness, favor, and mercy.  This psalm perfectly combines God’s character and his conduct.

Even in his chastening for their disobedience and rebellion (and ours), he is at his core and in the very essence of his being, good, loving, and kind.  That’s evident in all he does.

This psalm also showcases God’s sovereignty.  Just highlight all of the verbs related to God in these verses!  Doing so you’ll see that he redeemed, gathered, delivered, led, satisfied, filled, humbled, healed, saved, brought, and blessed (and more).

What action words can you write down to recount how God has revealed himself to you this year?  Maybe you can write your own psalm of remembrance!

As I look back on all of the answered prayers, the miracles, the faithfulness, the love, and the fruit that has come in this year, I can’t help but praise God for his checed.

Did we have some tough times? Of course.  Were there trials and tribulations? Absolutely. Have I made mistakes and missed the mark?  You betcha!  But through it all, God’s mercy endures forever.

Pause to ponder the goodness of the Lord this past year. Look back on the Lord. Even in the heartbreak and hard times, he has been faithful.

He is good and is working all things out for good.

Believe it and move forward by faith, trusting that whatever lies ahead, the same Lord who was with you this year, will be with you in the next, and the year after that until he comes again or calls you home.

~Psalm 107:9~ For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

 

Proper Perspective

~Psalm 101:2~ I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.

David, the king of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, a lover of the word, and a passionate pursuer of God’s glory, wrote those words. He was concerned about his behavior and his heart as he walked within his house.

That prompts me to examine my own heart and behavior in the home.

As a homeschooling, babysitting, blogging, writing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, chauffeuring, praying, stay at home mom- I die daily.

I have to.

I can’t chase after my own plan and dreams and forsake the needs of those that God has entrusted me with caring for.

When the day goes opposite of my agenda, and I feel so very unproductive, I can respond with peace and joy, or in frustration and anger. I don’t always get it right. The difference is where my mind and will is at.

I have to surrender my day to the Lord and pray for the right heart attitude to serve these precious people with humility. And I have to be intentional to put my mind on  three things:

1) It’s worth it! Whatever you have to give up, or put on hold, to minister to the souls God puts in your life, it’s totally worth it. Jesus is worthy, and the eternal rewards for a faithful and fruitful woman definitely outweigh the temporal sacrifices.

~Colossians 3:24~ Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

2) Your labor is not in vain! You may not see the fruit of your time, talent, treasures, or truth, this side of heaven, but God’s word doesn’t return void, it accomplishes what He wills it to. What you’re doing today matters!

~1Corinthians 15:58~ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

3) This is just for a season! Before you know it your kids will be grown and gone, your house will be quiet and clean, and you’ll ache for those babies to be back in your arms. Enjoy the season you’re in!

~Ecclesiastes 3:1~ To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

So when it feels like they’re pushing you to the brink of exhaustion or insanity, and your to-do list gets buried under homeschool or homework, be intentional to think on those three things- It’s worth it, It’s not in vain, and It’s just for a season! 

Even if you’re not in the exact same situation as me, I know you can relate. Dying to self is something we all are called to do.

~Luke 9:23~ And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Dying to self daily is painful, but necessary in the sanctification process as God conforms us to the image of Christ.

Praise the Lord we don’t have to try to do it on our own. God supplies the grace, peace, joy, and strength that we need to lay aside our will to follow his.  His Spirit within us provides the power to obey his word and glorify him in every area of our lives.  We just have to rely on the Spirit, rest in the Lord, and remain in his word.

Here’s a great prayer to help us on those trying days:

~Psalm 143:7-8~ Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

Practical tips for proper perspective:

1)Proper perspective comes from prayer. Ask God for help!

2)Proper perspective comes from the word. Take a few minutes to read or listen to the Bible!

3) Proper perspective comes from remembering why you do what you do. Be purposed to turn your thoughts from yourself to your tribe!

4) Proper perspective comes from praising the Lord. Recount your blessings and list them back to the Lord. Turn on the praise music and rejoice in the Lord!

5) Proper perspective comes from lifting your eyes up from yourself and your problems to Jesus as Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Friend!

6) Proper perspective comes from being filled with the Spirit. Repent of any sin, do the things above, and let the Spirit rule your heart and home!

 

 

Memorizing Scripture from A to Z

One of the most important things a disciple must do is memorize scripture.  For some that’s an arduous task, for others it’s a breeze.  Writing them out on index cards, putting them to a beat or familiar tune, and practicing them over and over again are some ways that I’ve found to be helpful in memorizing scripture.

There are some key memory verses that have helped me tremendously in my walk with the Lord, and I decided I’d share them with you!  There’s one for every letter of the alphabet, with the exception of “X”, because I use the KJV and there’s not a single verse that begins with that letter.

There are verses for evangelism, discipleship, faith building, renewing the mind, praising the Lord, prayer, and Spirit-filled living.  I hope they’re as big of a blessing to you as they have been to me!

A ~ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 2Timothy 3:16

B ~ Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?  Jeremiah 32:27

C ~ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

D ~ Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Psalm 37:4

E ~ Every word of God is pure, he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Proverbs 30:5

F ~ For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

G ~ Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.  Psalm 145:3

H ~ Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.  Psalm 5:2

I ~ I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.  Psalm 18:1

J ~ Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  John 14:6

K ~ Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  Proverbs 4:23

L ~ Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

M ~ My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.  Psalm 57:7

N ~ Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.  Ephesians 3:20

O ~ Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  1Samuel 12:24

P ~ Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  2Timothy 4:2

Q ~ Quench not the Spirit. 1Thessalonians 5:19

R ~ Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

S ~ Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

T ~ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  Proverbs 3:5

U ~ Unto thee O LORD, do I lift up my soul.  Psalm 25:1

V ~ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.  John 5:24

W ~ Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Colossians 4:5

X ~ None in the KJV

Y ~ Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.  Philippians 3:8

Z ~ Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.  2Samuel 15:29

The verse for “Z” was a little hard to find, and not one that I have memorized yet.  It isn’t the typical verse for victory, but it does remind me that these guys had a job to do and they did it.  They were a part of bringing the presence of the Lord back into the midst of the holy city. What a blessing!

Have you ever done an exercise like this?  If so, what are your favorite verses?  Do you have any tips to share for memorizing scripture from A to Z?  I’d love to hear from ya’ll on this, drop me a comment below!

~Colossians 3:16~ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

 

The Aroma of Your Heart

I recently read a blog post giving an acronym for the word aroma to keep in mind when parenting.  It was a great reminder to cover these 5 particular bases when raising your kids, because the aroma of the home will remain in their memory for years to come.  You can read that post from M & B at Snippets of Stewarts.

That post prompted a couple of acronyms of my own!  It got me thinking about the aroma of my heart and what kind of scent is wafting in the air of my presence.

Here are some identifiers of the aroma of the heart:

Agreeable – Sweet disposition! Proverbs 16:24

Reverence – Submissive spirit! James 4:7

Obedience – Saying “yes Lord”! 1Peter 1:14

Music – Singing praises! Ephesians 5:19

Agape – Sacrificial love! 1Corinthians 13

~Also known as a sweet, Spirit-filled aroma, because I’m walking in obedience to the word of God!

 ~Galatians 5:22-23~ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

~or~

Argumentative –  “Say what?!”  “But why?!”  “No you didn’t!”

Rude – Short and sour! Snappy and unhappy!

Obstinate –  Stubborn pride! Like a mule!

Media –  Serious time-waster! Can I get a witness?!

Angry –  Seething temper! Everything’s an offense!

The flesh is so stinky!  Like the pungent scent of burnt popcorn, scorched in the microwave, causing nostrils to flare, and occupants to flee the space!

~Galatians 5:19-21~ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

What causes the stench of a fleshly aroma?  

  • Unconfessed sin
  • Unrepentant heart
  • Uncomfortable life
  • Unsettled mind
  • Unforgiving spirit
  • Unregenerate soul

~Galatians 5:17~ For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

What turns that repelling smell to Spirit-infused, warm and inviting sweetness?

  • Revealing Sin
  • Repentance
  • Requesting help from the Lord
  • Reading the bible
  • Releasing those who have wronged you from their debts
  • Receiving Christ as Savior

~Galatians 5:16~This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

The very first Christian movie I watched after I got saved was Facing the Giants by the Kendrick Brothers.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do!  It’s an inspirational football movie, that’s a tad cheesy in some parts, with a bit of stereotypical low-budget acting, but it has a wonderful theme and is very inspiring and heartwarming. It’s about an underdog high school football team, and the spiritual journey their coach goes on that has a ripple effect in his sphere of influence. One of my favorite parts is where Coach Taylor (played by Alex Kendrick) is addressing the team, he says “Your attitude is the aroma of your heart.  If your attitude stinks, it means your heart’s not right”.  So much truth!!  That is just one of many fabulous one-liners in the film!  You can see the clip on Youtube here. One of the songs on this movie happens to be Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns, which is where my love for it originated.  That song has truly ministered to my heart and I blog about it on my post titled Defeating Your Goliath.

I’ll confess, the aroma of my heart isn’t always pleasant.  This leads to contention and strife, and taints my testimony.  I have to look for the root cause and change it, so my life can be a sweet smelling aroma to others and to the Lord.  Because above all things I want to bring God glory, and an argumentative, rude, obstinate, media-distracted, angry woman certainly does not.

So identify the aroma of your heart, investigate the source of the smell, implement repentance and revive your relationship with the Lord through prayer, confession, bible reading, and praise to sweeten up.

  • Which description best fits the aroma of your heart on a daily basis?
  • Does the aroma of your heart change from home to church or work or school?
  • Do you recognize any of the contributors to the stinky aroma in your own life?
  • What are you going to do to correct those?
  • Do you have any more tips on how to be a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord?

~Luke 6:45A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil:  for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Faithful in the Fearful

Like a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold and dreary day, or a tight hug from an old familiar friend, our pastor spoke these words over us this past Sunday:

1Thessalonians 5:24~Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Comforting and confirming, that verse has been a spiritual booster shot of confidence, reminding me once again that God is faithful to do what he has called us to.

After almost seventeen years in our first house, where our babies were raised, in the town we’d called home for most of our married life, and out of the church we had been born-again and trained up in, the Lord called my husband to pastor a new church plant in the next county, forty minutes away.  We’ve been here for about three months now, and we’re getting settled in, meeting people, and doing ministry.

It’s been relatively easy.  It feels like home, and everyone is adjusting well.  God has consistently been answering prayer after prayer for grace and peace during this transition time and has confirmed time and again that this is exactly where he wants us to be.

As I was unpacking our office recently, I came across a prayer journal from the first year of our walk with Jesus.  We were both fresh out of the world, neither one of us raised in Christian homes, or knowing anything about the bible.  Everything was fresh and new and we were like sponges soaking it all up.  It was such a blessing to look back on where God has brought us from, and to be reminded of all the prayers that God has answered along the way.  Early on in my relationship with Christ I started praying that God would use our family in a mighty way for his name’s sake.  That we would all be sold-out servants, surrendered to his word and will, and walking in his ways.

He is faithful indeed!

Knowing where we have been and who we were before salvation, it’s sort of surreal honestly, that God is using us in this way.  It’s been about ten years since the Lord called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  A darkness that consisted of addiction, selfishness, pride, and lies. His grace truly is amazing. He saved us and has been sanctifying us for his service ever since.  We’re not perfect, or a model of holiness, but we’re partners in this ministry, purposed to teach the word of God, share the gospel, and bring God the glory he so rightfully deserves.

Let that be an encouragement to you ladies.  No matter where you’ve been, what you have done, or what your situation looks like now, God can use you if you ask him to.  He is in the miracle-working business, and he specializes in transforming even the messiest of us into masterpieces for his glory.

That includes your husband!  He may not be the man of your dreams right now, but that doesn’t mean anything.  Just because he may not be walking with the Lord right now, he may not even be a believer, that doesn’t mean he’s hopeless.  There are no lost causes with God.  Pray without ceasing!  Enlist trusted prayer warriors to join you in the battle for his soul.  Go to war with the enemy on your knees, and even when it looks like all hope is gone, pray through it, believing that God’s word is true and that God can do the seemingly impossible.

1Corinthians 1:9~God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  

When I can’t see what lies ahead, God is faithful and we are called. When I don’t have any answers, God is faithful and we are called.  Even if no one else is there but Jesus, God is faithful and we are called.

Called to salvation, sanctification, and service, and he is faithful to answer prayers and supply our every need every step of the way.   In those hard moments and trying times ahead, when it’s not so easy, and fear and doubt threaten to drown me, I know those words will come flooding my mind again.  I can be confident in that, because I know my God, and he has been, and always will be faithful.  And the same goes for you!

  • What do you need to trust him for today?
  • Has the Lord called you to something weighty or fearful?
  • Do you have a verse like a familiar friend?

Feel free to leave a comment below, I would love to hear your answers!

~Isaiah 25:1~O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.