30 January 2018

Equipping Eve: God Never Promised Us a Rose Garden

Contrary to what the Word of Faith preachers would have us believe, we are not promised lives of luxury as Christians. In fact, Scripture promises us quite the opposite. Scripture also promises us that God will strengthen us in our trials, sustain us in times of persecution, and grant us joy in all circumstances. God never promised us a rose garden, but we can still enjoy the fragrance of His grace and blessing in all things.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: Have We Left Our First Love?
Equipping Eve: The Discipline of Grace (Part 1)
Equipping Eve: The Discipline of Grace (Part 2)

26 January 2018

This 'n' That

I love word search puzzles. I don't know why, I just do. Crosswords? No way. I never know enough pop culture to succeed at those. But word searches? Even as a kid, those books were a staple for me. They say things like that keep your brain sharp as you age, so perhaps I'm just planning ahead, knowing that I'll need some extra help in that area!

Often, as I search up and down, backward and forward, and diagonal for that one elusive word, I am reminded of those deceived and deceptive individuals who teach that the Bible is full of secret codes. Just read every seventh word of Isaiah backward while standing on your head and twirling a baton, and you might finally see what it is God has been trying to say to us this whole time!

Our God is not a God of chaos. He is a God of order. And He is not a God of secrets. If He were, why would He have given us the Bible in the first place? The Bible is clear, understandable, complete, and sufficient....just like its Author. There is no secret, gnostic knowledge to be discovered in the white spaces, or in a word jumble. We may search for a word, but we must read that word in context so that we can properly understand what God is saying. He doesn't speak in riddles, and He doesn't stutter. If we want to know what God says, we need only open His Word and read. What a gracious God we serve, who has made Himself known in such an explicit way!

Speaking of reading, as always, I have a few articles you might want to peruse, so why not grab your favorite snack and take a few minutes to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

19 January 2018

This 'n' That

Patience. They say it's a virtue. It's a quality I possessed as a child, but now, as an adult, I often feel as though I have to constantly re-learn the concept and at times feel it waning in the midst of exceptional circumstances. Of course, I am reminded of—and convicted by—the fact that patience must characterize the people of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
So when I feel my blood pressure start to rise, whether sitting on hold for what seems like endless hours (which is happening as I write this), or nearing frustration with others, I pray that God would bring to my remembrance His gracious, long-suffering patience with me, such an undeserving sinner.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Unfortunately, I am still being sanctified and have a long way to go to refine my patience. I am sure I am not alone in this. But if God has been so good to save me and forgive me in spite of my sin, then surely I can be aware of my shortcomings in this area and be deliberate in my reactions so that I represent Him well and bring glory to Him in all things, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Well, now that confession time is over, why not sit back and take a few minutes to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

13 January 2018

Equipping Eve: Feeding on God's Word in 2018

With a new year often comes the start of a new Bible reading plan and Bible study. How should we approach both our reading and study of the God's Word, and what are some resources to help keep us focused and accountable this year?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year
Every Woman's Grace (resources from the women's ministry of Grace Community Church)

12 January 2018

This 'n' That

I've long lamented my handwriting. On any given day, depending on the medium, the setting, and/or my mood, it might be a sloppy cursive, a sloppy printing, a slightly more legible printing, or a sloppy "prursive."

The struggle for not only legible, but admirable, handwriting, is one that I've kept to myself. Whenever I see that someone—man or woman—writes with a beautiful, flowing script, I envy them. Yes, I'll admit it. And so I keep trying to force myself to write neatly. Of course, my efforts aren't helped by the fact that I often am writing on my lap or writing in a hurry, but nevertheless, I strive.

My ongoing endeavors to write legibly have, I think, been greatly aided in recent days with the receipt of a fountain pen as a gift at Christmas. I've long been a slave to my favorite ballpoint pens, so this has been quite a change, and one that I believe has been for the better. No, the pen has not magically altered my handwriting into that magnificent script that I wish flowed effortlessly, but it has caused me to slow down and be more deliberate, even if just jotting notes. When you have a beautiful writing tool, you tend to want the output to reflect the instrument.

Of course, the typed word prevails these days, but studies have shown, and I think many of us can testify from experience, that our brains retain things better when we write by hand. Further, handwriting is so personal—who doesn't love to receive a handwritten note from a loved one, knowing they spent time and effort to relay an important message to you? I still have many small notes written by my grandmother, and seeing her handwriting brings back many wonderful memories of her.

You see, whether we like it or not, our handwriting is part of our legacy. It's true, sloppy writing will not taint memories, but would we rather not have those messages we've written be able to be shared for years to come? Oh, sure, we can type our thoughts, but how much more special is that handwritten note?

A far more important part of our legacy, however, is our witness for Christ. Whether our handwriting is akin to professional calligraphy or whether our readers must squint and turn the page in order to decipher our code, at the end of the day, it has no eternal significance. How we live for Christ, then, is far more important. How did we react to the joys and trials of life? Did our families and friends see our trust of God in even the most difficult circumstances? Did the gospel of God's grace drip from our lips at every opportunity? Did our children see us reading the Word, and praying to our Lord?

Let us each pray that our legacy is one that brings glory to God, even after we are gone. Even lovely handwriting will fade, but our witness for Christ will reach into eternity.

With that, why don't you take a few minutes to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

05 January 2018

This 'n' That

"Equipping Eve tree" created by Jerry Krider.
Well, we've nearly survived the first week of 2018. How did you fare? Are all of your resolutions, if you made any, still intact? Are you still enjoying your Christmas gifts, or have they already been shoved into a drawer or closet?

One of my favorites gifts that is definitely not hiding in a closet is this "Equipping Eve tree," designed and carved by artist Jerry Krider. Krider is an amazing woodworker and showcases his work at art shows, mostly in the Midwest, I believe. I have to say that this is a truly phenomenal piece, and I love it!

I've also been enjoying the electric blanket I received. Seriously, how have I gone this long without one? For someone who is always cold, this is a no-fail gift. Not to mention, it pairs extraordinarily well with the Elizabeth Prentiss biography that was also under the tree!

Still, all these are just material gifts and even the luster of our favorites will eventually fade. So here we are. It's the fifth day of 2018, life is slowly returning to "normal," and half of the country is experiencing a ridiculous cold spell and/or being pummeled by snow. I suppose it's a time of renewal in more ways than one, then! So as we reflect on whether we're maintaining our New Year's resolutions, and considering how useful our gifts might be throughout the year, we ought also be asking ourselves another far more important question: are we keeping our focus on Christ? Even amid the busyness of the holiday season, we may find ourselves immersed in advent devotionals and thoughts of Him. Yet, as the new year begins, and as we return to that "normal" spoken of earlier, we may be tempted to set Christ aside while we get our affairs in order for this new season.

Sure, we may not set aside our Bibles. After all, we all opened up to Genesis 1:1 on January 1, didn't we? We have to keep that Bible reading plan going at least until we get to Numbers! But even if our Bible reading plan is up to date, we can still end up setting aside our Lord, forgetting that He alone must be at the top of our list as we organize our earthly lives for another year.

With that, let me welcome and thank you for spending the first Friday of 2018 here at Do Not Be Surprised. Let's all take a few moments to enjoy the first week of 2018 in review (kind of):