Thank you.

Hi again.

I just wanted to take a moment to post here and say “thank you” to anybody out there reading. This morning, this blog had its 25,000th hit. I am stunned beyond belief; the number is incomprehensible to me.

God has done great things, I trust, with the Hinds’ Feet on High Places study guide I posted exactly four years ago today. I had no idea when I wrote it that it would be used as a spiritual tool for so many people. I simply felt compelled, at the time, to try to chronicle and organize what the Lord was teaching me so I could share it with my book club. I followed that leading, and through it the Holy Spirit has borne much fruit.

I am so amazed to know you are out there reading. I am so humbled to know that God would use me, and a simple moment in my life, to do eternal Kingdom work. And this morning I just want to share with anybody who may be wondering if they’ll ever amount to anything: you may never know the impact you will have, but God does.

If you are out there blogging and nobody seems to notice, keep blogging. If you are serving without a thank you, keep serving. If you feel lost in the darkness and don’t know where to turn, reach out to God – He sees you.

Persevere, beloved; persevere. He does cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Ro 8:28). Believe Him.


A New Creation – Again!

Wow, where do I even begin?

I thought I had left this blog behind in the dust. I thought I had walked away from it, never to come back. I figured nobody would miss it anyway.

For most of 2009, I was not living the Christ life. I became pregnant early on in the year and it consumed me – and my dedication to God with it. I was so worried that God would take my baby from me in order to teach me something through suffering that I refused to come to him with an attitude of trust. I walked my own way because I bought into the lie that God is not good.

My baby is now almost four months old. She is beautiful and perfectly healthy, and God loves her.

This year I have recommitted myself to living obediently to God. I started writing again and have two other blogs now, which I will link in the sidebar. And then yesterday I was invited to participate in a community blog for Christian women that is hosted here on wordpress.

At first I was worried – did I really have to come back into this account? I considered deleting all my entries so no one would know I was ever here before – a kind of fresh start, or more literally, a blank page. But when I logged in…

My word. Just because I’ve been gone and disobedient to God doesn’t mean all of the world has. This blog has had over 15,000 views. I had 50 comments waiting to be moderated. (For those of you who asked me questions in those comments, I am so sorry I did not respond! Please forgive me.) This blog was doing God’s eternal work even if I wasn’t.

God is so amazing! My heart was so full of praises for Him this morning. I was truly touched to find that I hadn’t been forgotten forever.

I will probably continue to post on this page, but the posts will be of a more personal nature. I have enough places to post devotionals and God-thoughts for the time being (and I welcome and encourage you to visit them). As for the future, who knows what will happen? I certainly didn’t expect this when I started this blog two years ago. Let’s see what another two years will bring.

It’s Friday… But Sunday’s Comin’!

My mother-in-law sent this to me this morning. It’s quite short, but I think it does serve to remind us well of what must have seemed, to Christ’s disciples, to be the darkest hour possible. It also serves to remind us of the joy we have in our savior’s death for us.

Often, we tend to focus on the violence and horror of Good Friday – we weep for what was done to our Savior. And yes, that is part of the reverence of Holy Week. But I urge you: don’t forget that Resurrection Sunday is coming! He died that we might never die, “so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 5:21)


Matthew 26:1-25 – Avoid Becoming a Judas

Matthew 26
1When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” 3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”

6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. 8But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? 9For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman ? For she has done a good deed to Me. 11“For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12“For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

14Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.

17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near ; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”‘” 19The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

20Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25. And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

Considering the approaching anniversary of our Lord’s death and resurrection, this is where I began reading my Bible this morning.

The first thing that struck me about this passage is how utterly specific Jesus was when He prophesied about His own death in verse two. You’ll recall that He alluded to His death often when He spoke with the disciples, but usually in parables or in such a way that He did not make clear what was actually going to come to pass. Here, at this moment, in this very verse, Jesus revealed to them all that He was going to be crucified, and in a matter of days.

This knowledge makes the disciples’ reaction to the woman with the alabaster jar particularly appalling. The context of the passage reveals that Jesus had made it clear – in no uncertain terms – that He was going to be crucified in a matter of days. He explains in verse twelve that the woman’s intention was to prepare Him for burial. Obviously, the twelve disciples and Jesus’s other followers knew and understood that He was about to give His life. And yet this is the only record (at least in this chapter of Matthew) of anyone acknowledging that fact.

The second thing that occurred to me when I read this passage was the absolute sovereignty of our God. In verse 24, Jesus says: “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Jesus knew that He was going to die – that it was the only way for Him to save us; but more than that, Jesus knew that He was going to die one way or another, regardless of Judas’s betrayal. When He said “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him,” he was speaking of the fulfillment of prophecy and the carrying out of God’s holy will. True, it was Judas who ultimately made the decision to hand Jesus over to the chief priests, but our Father’s will would have been accomplished no matter what – and no man would stand in His way. Even His own son’s prayer for mercy could not deter the Father from His ultimate, holy goal (Matt 26:39).

But all this got me to thinking – why did Judas do what he did? How could he betray his teacher, the man he followed, the one they called the Messiah, for thirty pieces of silver? Please note that from here on out, I am purely speculating about something that isn’t necessarily addressed in the Bible, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. But you would think that someone who had been following Jesus as long as Judas had would have learned some of the principles that Jesus taught, and become aware of the consequences for those who did not abide by His teachings.

As I prayed about this today, I came to the conclusion that there were several possible reasons that Judas betrayed Christ – the first being that it was the means to God’s end. This is another one of those moments when a man meant his actions for evil, but God meant them for good (see Gen 50:20). Judas betrayed Christ because it was God’s will that His son take our punishment.

But even when we admit the fact that, yes, there is no “if” Judas hadn’t betrayed Christ, there is still an amount of personal responsibility to be laid upon Judas’s shoulders. He made the decision to turn against his teacher, his Rabbi, and his friend.

I heard a sermon on the radio this afternoon while I was thinking about this topic. The pastor was speaking about how there isn’t a safe environment in our churches; people cannot come to church and feel relief to confess their sins in front of their brothers and sisters and be in prayer for one another. Instead, there is an attitude of condemnation that makes us want to bottle up our sins and pretend to be living lives that we are not (this, by the way, is the definition of a hypocrite). I’m firmly convinced that Satan uses this against us to rob us of the freedom we have in Christ.

But I wonder – could such an attitude have contributed to Judas’s heinous actions? Could Judas have been so consumed by greed the entire time that he followed our Lord that it ate him up inside? Did he feel like he couldn’t confess to the evil in his heart, and did he let that drive him away from his Father in Heaven? Again, I will remind you that I am speculating here, but yes, I think the guilt Judas may have been carrying around for what he knew was evil in his own heart could have driven him to forsake his master.

Is that so hard to believe? Doesn’t it attack us, too? I can certainly say that there have been times in my life when I have known that God was pointing directly at a sin in my heart, and my response has not been to pray for forgiveness, but to run from the condemnation. Brothers and sisters, it is so important that we not let our guilt enslave us like this! Our God loves us, and trying to pretend He isn’t there will only increase our problems, not liberate us from them. Please remember: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) – so stay in Him!

The last reason I thought of for why Judas may have done what he did came from the sermon my pastor gave this past Sunday morning. We have been studying the book of 1 Timothy, and we looked at the last two verses this week. This is where Paul exhorts Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to [him]” (v 20), that being the Gospel of Christ. Our pastor took us to Matthew 13, where Jesus tells the disciples the Parable of the Sower. He says, by way of explanation, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” (v 19). Our pastor was illustrating the point that if we don’t guard what we have been taught, Satan can steal it from us!

Is there an area in your spiritual life that you have gone over and over, but on which you still have not learned a lesson? Is there a lesson that God has been trying to teach you that just doesn’t take root in your life? Maybe it is that you are too quick to anger; maybe you have a weakness for lust or greed. Christ says that if we do not sow the seed into our hearts, it doesn’t matter how many times we hear the lesson. It is understanding that is essential, not the teaching.

So Christ taught Judas; Judas heard Christ; Judas may have even listened in earnest and known that the words applied to him – but he did not sow the seed into his heart because he did not understand it.

Understanding the Word of God is of the utmost importance. How can we worship if we do not understand the worship our Lord desires? How can we evangelize if we do not understand what it is we teach? How can we live Godly lives if we do not understand what God has willed for us?

Pray for understanding! It is His desire for you to have the salvation that comes with it.

And if we are to avoid becoming a Judas – a betrayer of our Lord and of our faith – we must avoid the things that ensnared him. First, remember that if God wills it, it will come to pass; everything is under His holy control. Second, do not let your guilt and sins drive you from your Father. It is during these times that you need His loving forgiveness the most! And lastly, “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.

Grace be with you.” (1 Tim 6:20-21).

Matthew 9:1-6 – Jesus Sets the Precedent of Forgiveness

1Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”

Jesus came to earth for only one reason: to save us. So His entire ministry here was focused around giving us proof that God exists and loves us.

Why would He want to prove that God loves us, a truth not fully-formed in Old Testament Scriptures? Because God was about to do something miraculous: God was about to forgive all our sins through the death of His only Son on the cross. Only if we were sure that He loved us could we have accepted such an action as the Truth that it is.

And so in this specific instance, Jesus also sought to prove “that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” How awesome to set a precedent with such a dramatic example, so that we would know this was His plan from the very beginning!

Psalm 19: God’s glory is right in front of our faces!

This is mostly my personal devotion from this morning – what the Lord said to me. It’s for my personal record and use, but if you find it helpful or useful to yourself, please feel free…

Psalm 19
1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sin;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptble in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

This Psalm tells us that the purpose of creation on the whole is the same as the purpose of Scripture – to glorify God. Of course, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Romans 8:28), but creation has always seemed, to me at least, to be more of a prerequisite (we had to be created in order to praise Him) than a means of glorification itself.

The first half of this Psalm focuses on the fact that, were there no Scripture, the Heavens alone would be testimony enough that there is a God and that He is great. But I’d like to look at it in a more practical sense, that being that there is Scripture. We have God’s Word written down; we know His laws; we know the story of His people and what He did for them. As a result, don’t we tend to ignore the book of creation, which was also written by God Himself for the purpose of glorifying His name?

Truly, “Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge” (v 2). That means that if we look at nature in a godly way (that is, considering that He made it all and made it for a purpose), we can always – every second – be communing with Him and learning more about who He is. Yes, even those times when we do not have a Bible in our hands and we aren’t on our knees in prayer, His creation itself will tell us of His wonder.

Continuing in the same vein of nature being yet another testimony to the Lord, the sun appears in verse 4, a direct reference to the “son,” Jesus Christ. God has prepared a throne for Him in Heaven, and when He emerges as the “bridegroom” to marry together the adverse natures of God and man in redemption, He does complete a “circuit” by which He leaves Heaven for Earth, descends into Hell, and ultimately returns to Heaven. Thus ,there really is “nothing hidden from [the sun’s] heat” (v 6), no stone unturned and no place in the universe unvisited by His glory.

For this reason, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (v 7). The “law” the psalmist speaks of refers, of course, both to God’s scriptural laws, and the decree by which He made provision for us to be saved. First, His Son’s reconciliation of us to Him “restores our souls”; second, His word, or “testimony,” will convict and teach us (2 Tim 3:16). The “testimony” refers similarly to the Scriptures, which record for us the decrees and nature of the Lord, and also to creation, in itself a witness to God’s glory, as we have already established.

Lastly, the psalmist sends up a prayer. Though God’s Word and His creation “make wise the simple” and “enlighten our eyes” (vv 7-8), still, “Who can discern his errors” (v 12)? Only God makes a complete circuit, spanning the universe and all knowledge; the principle does not transfer to men. Therefore, no matter how much we study the testimonies to His glory, whether the Bible or His creation or both, we must always seek forgiveness from the only Wise one, the ultimate judge: our Lord God, the creator of Heaven and Earth.

Musings on Peretti’s This Present Darkness

My Christian Ladies’ Book Club has just finished reading and discussing This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti. Soon after we chose this book I learned of its contraversial nature, but I chose not to read anything about the book until I had read the book itself. It turns out, it was very easy to understand, once I read it, why the book is contraversial in the religious world.

Firstly, I will attempt a review of the book as a book instead of as a piece of Christian fiction. There’s not much I can say about it without addressing its religious implications, but I will do my best. The book itself is not Nobel Prize literature, to be sure, but it is a fast-paced page-turner. It will not bore you. The writing may not be poetic or expand your vocabulary, but the plot is dense with adventure. Ironically, the best comparison I can come up with in terms of the writing style is to the way Dan Brown wrote The DaVinci Code (also a riveting page-turner, and one I enjoyed very much, despite the inaccuracies that offended me as a history major, much less as a Christian).

But This Present Darkness is much more than a novel to be discussed in terms of plot, character, rising action, and climax. It evokes some very puzzling questions about my Faith.

One complaint raised at the book club’s monthly meeting last week was that Peretti “made it seem like every tiny thing we did was instigated by angels or demons.” I feel this is definitely a valid complaint in that ascribing all our earthly actions to spiritual motivators somehow absolves us of a bit of our guilt and challenges the idea that we have free will. For instance, when a character in This Present Darkness rapes a woman under the influence of demons, he suffers no consequences for his actions because he is a different person once the demon has been cast out. But shouldn’t we, as Christians, be responsible for wearing and maintaining “the full armor of God” to prevent such breeches? (Ephesians 6)

Nevertheless, there is something to be said for Peretti’s approach. This Present Darkness reminds us that there are angels and demons willing to use our strengths and weaknesses for their purposes in this world, and that if we face a difficult decision, we can pray for God to guide us in the right direction. It also puts in perspective just how much our little lives are ultimately a part of the Lord’s greater plan.

Another point our book club discussed was the concept of “prayer covering” and whether or not it was Biblical. None of us in our group could come up with any examples from the Bible supporting the idea that our prayer lends strength to God’s spiritual warriors, but I do remember the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18), and I know we are constantly called to prayer for ourselves, one another, and the glory of God.

In fact, if we return to Ephesians 6 – the same passage in which Paul advises us to “put on the full armor of God,” we find that prayer plays an important part in spiritual warfare, too. In order to “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11) we must take up “the helmet of Salvation and the sword of the Spirit . . . And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:17-18). How can we fight with the sword of the Spirit, an integral part of the armor of God, without prayer and petition for the Spirit’s help?

We discussed in our book club that we don’t really know what the effect of our prayers is. Would God save someone He might have forsaken in response to our prayers? Do angels gain influence in the lives of those we pray for? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But the Bible does tell us this: we must constantly be welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives if we desire God’s presence there. And “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31)

“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

I haven’t written anything here in a while, but I don’t want you all to think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth or anything. It’s just that I am currently dealing with writing my final (final! as in never again until grad school final!) papers, studying for exams so I don’t mess up my chances of graduating Summa Cum Laude, coming to terms with the fact that my 91-year-old grandfather’s heart is a ticking time-bomb that could suffer a massive heart-attack at any minute, and counting down the last 23 days until I am married. I have spent a lot of time letting people minister to me recently, rejuvenating my own soul instead of really reaching out to others. The Bible studies I’ve been doing recently haven’t really struck me as anything I could make helpful to anyone but myself: I’m sure that many of you out there would benefit from studies on marriage as much as I can, but having no experience as of yet, I don’t really feel comfortable writing how-tos.

But here’s something I have had quite a bit of experience with lately: attempting to relax and let the Lord take over.

Those of you who know me may be laughing right now at the very thought of me “relaxing” and letting anybody take over. I am usually the most extreme micro-manager on earth; whether it comes to my own responsibilities or groups I’m involved in, I am far too paranoid to delegate responsibilities to anyone else. But in an attempt to avoid a mental breakdown from all the stress that could potentially result from my current situation(s), I have simply decided not to worry about it, only pray that God will take my life into His holy hands.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phillipians 4:6)

I am sure we have all heard that verse too many times to count, and I don’t know about you, but it didn’t have quite the impact it should have on my life until quite recently. For the longest time, whenever I would worry about something and someone quoted that verse to me, I only worried more, this time not only about what had been previously bothering me, but about my own inability to trust in Christ. I’m confident that was not God’s intention when He gave out such divine instructions.

I am also confident that God knows better than we do what we are capable of.

It is only within the past few weeks, when more burdens than I have ever held have been handed to me, that I have been able to truly say, “Lord, I can’t. You can.” And maybe those words are supposed to be spoken in a different context; maybe I still haven’t truly given all my life up to the Lord’s work, but I have certainly been able to stop worrying about the most distracting earthly things (the wedding, my final exams, my grandfather’s sickness) because I know that if they are important, God will take care of them.

I do not think it’s a coincidence that when I actually have things in my life worth worrying about, I can entrust those things to God.

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

God’s power is made perfect in weakness!

The answer to why I haven’t been able to trust God with my worries until this point is that they were not worries that weakened me to my core; they were issues I believed I could handle on my own. Now, when I am truly weak and I know for a fact there is no way I can make it through each day without the Lord carrying me accross the sand, He has granted me the grace to trust in Him. In fact, He has withdrawn all other options from my life.

And now I can only praise God for allowing me to suffer afflictions frightening enough that I am forced to stand back and watch as the Lord handles them, and pours out blessings.

I know this is not quite a message of ministry or an organized devotional or study, but I hope that it inspires you. The Lord is good, and all-powerful, and there is no affliction on Earth that He cannot handle. And when there is a time in your life when you feel you can’t go on alone, you will not have to. If you are realistic enough to realize that you cannot, you will not even try. Remember that “the Lord will provide.” (Genesis 22:8)

The Hate Squad Walks Again

My father went to Virginia Tech.

The first boy I ever liked, back when I was four years old, goes to Virginia Tech right now. His name is Todd and he lived up the street from me.

I thought about going there myself.

And now it is the sight of the largest gun-massacre in the history of the United States. Thirty-three people died on Monday; that is thirty-three souls and thirty-three families, thirty-three funerals and thirty-three mothers whose children will never come home for dinner again.

That is an exponential amount of pain.

And now, Fred Phelps, of let’s-build-a-statue-stating-that-this-poor-murdered-boy-is-in-hell fame, of God-hates-fags fame, and of a “Church” that claims “Christianity,” is going to rub his foul-smelling politics in the faces of those victims’ families.

The ideas this man propagates are lies. He is not a Christian; this is not what we believe. God does not rain down wrath on innocent human beings because the world is in sin. A man, a deluded and mentally ill man, took thirty-two lives on Monday – not as a judgment for anything they had done, but because he was sick.

This is not to say that God does not judge, or that God does not have the right to judge, but to imply that thirty-three people’s lives were the payment for the world’s sin is to completely deny the fundamental Christian value that Christ – and only Christ – paid for our sins on the cross.

I just feel it’s important to say to all of you, whether you are Christian or not, that this man represents a fringe-group whose theology we do not recognize as Truth. As far as Christians are concerned, the God of wrath became antiquated when Christ died on the cross. Forgiveness is the center of our religion now, and love for each other, not condemnation, is the only way to practice it.

Tips for Counting Your Blessings: Where did you glean today?

The pastor at my church is currently taking the congregation through the book of Ruth, and we recently covered the section that contains the verse, “Her mother-in-law asked her, ‘Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blesssed be the man who took notice of you!” (Ruth 2:19) Those of you familiar with the book of Ruth probably remember this verse as the moment when Ruth brings home an abundance of barley after a day of gleaning from the what the harvesters left behind in Boaz’s field.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ruth, it’s valuable to note the context of the situation here. Ruth was the Moabite daughter-in-law of a woman named Naomi (whose name meant “Pleasant,” but who had begun to call herself Mara, meaning “bitter” because her husband and sons died and she felt that God dealt bitterly with her). (Ruth 1:3-5; 1:20-22) One of Naomi’s sons was married to Ruth in Moab. Instead of staying with her people in Moab and finding another husband after she became a widow, Ruth followed Naomi back to her home in Bethlehem where she could be devoted to Jehovah God.

The heart of the matter is this: Naomi followed the God of the Israelites from the time she was born; Ruth converted to the Israelite tradition when she married Naomi’s son. But while hardship and bitterness led Naomi to blame God for her problems, saying “The Almighty has made my life very bitter” and “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me”, Ruth only asked that she be allowed to return with Naomi to Bethlehem in service to God. (Ruth 1:20-21; 1:16) Even in a time of hardship, Ruth did not turn her back on the Lord. Instead, she followed His commandments and worked patiently to care for herself and her mother-in-law.

When Ruth returned home from gleaning in Boaz’s field and had, literally, gallons of extra food, and Naomi asked “Where did you glean today?” there was only one acceptable answer. Ruth gleaned in the Field of Faith, where “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 13:12)

I’m sure you are all familiar with the phrase “You reap what you sow.” It comes from the book of Galatians: “7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) It is shocking to me, though, how many people use these verses only as ominous forebodings and never as encouragement; yes, the verse does say that some will reap destruction, but that does not mean we should ignore the second half of the verse: “the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Our heavenly Father made a promise to us the day that His son died on the cross. It is an unbreakable covenant that guarantees us eternal salvation and freedom from sin. But we cannot find joy in these things if we are looking in the wrong places.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:9)

Christ died to bring us forgiveness, certainly, but also so that He would have the authority to be master of the living and the dead (and that’s everyone)! For “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Are you acknowledging Christ as the Lord of your life? Are you a slave to Him, submissive to the One who saved you? Are you reaping joy, blessings, and abundance from the faith you have sown into your relationship with Jesus Christ?

. . .Or are you wanting?

If you are unhappy, angry with the Lord, or suffering feelings of bitterness and resentment toward Him, I challenge you: ask yourself, “Where did I glean today?” If you gleaned from a field into which you have sown self-serving ideas about what you want for your life instead of trust in the One who made you, is it any wonder you are not harvesting that which He promised you?

I am a firm believer that it is our outlook, not our circumstances, that determines what joy we take from life. If I am dissatisfied, it is because I am not fully trusting God to provide all that I need, and am questioning whether or not His grace is truly sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9) If I am blessed, it is not due to the absence of sorrow or pain in my life, but because I devote myself to my God, and know that if He sacrificed His son for me, He would not ask me to endure unnecessary pain. I know from my daily communion with Him that He loves me, and teaches me obedience through my sufferings. (Hebrews 5:8)

But I know it can be difficult to see God’s mercy and grace through troubled times. And sometimes, scripture verses and uplifting comments from friends make you feel more jealous than encouraged. That is why, I present:

Five Practical Ways to Count Your Blessings

  1. Actually do it. Count them. The best way, in my opinion, to accomplish this is to keep a daily journal. Add a few extra minutes to your quiet time or just make a list before you go to sleep of all the ways in which the Lord blessed you that day. Read it when you’re feeling depressed or sorry for yourself.
  2. Write a letter to the person, place, thing, or idea that is causing you pain. Tell him/her/it why you are angry. Be as hurtful as you feel like being. Burn it.
  3. Pray honestly. Tell the Lord that you are angry, hurt, and that you don’t understand why you are afflicted with your circumstances. Then pray that He will help you to see the path He has laid out for you, and that He will soften your heart toward those who are trying to help you.
  4. Become a servant to others around you who are hurting. If you look for them, you will find other people suffering around you who you may not have noticed because your eyes were focused on yourself.
  5. Read Matthew 27:27-66. Compare your sufferings to those of Christ. Remember that they were for you.

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