Category Archives: From the Word

SACRIFICE OF PRAISE

PTS | Sacrifice_post_900   Listen or read...your choice 🙂  

It was late 2001. Jason and I had been living in India for more than a year. We were approaching our second anniversary and I was desperate for children. Desperate.

At this point, we had already lost three children to miscarriage. My heart was broken into many pieces and I grieved for the children I had lost and the motherhood that might never be mine.

My older sister, Sally, was expecting her second child. The envy was thick. I wanted to be happy for her, and in many ways I was, but I wanted so much to know if and when it would be my turn. I wasn't concerned for the Lord's timing or for His work in my life. I simply wanted my own way.

Because we have a good God, one Who has began a good work in us an is carrying it out to completion, He didn't give me my own way. Instead, He brought me through trial and heartache and to Himself. He surrounded me with His love even when I couldn't feel it. But just because we can't feel God doesn't negate the truth: He is always with us.

In those years, God was doing a mighty work in my heart. He was wooing me into the wilderness where He would minister to me. He taught me lessons which would be needed then, but much more, needed later.

He taught me how to praise Him, even in the valley. He taught me to praise Him, even in the pain. He taught me to praise Him, even when I didn't want to.

The thing is, it isn't about me. It's about God. And he wanted me to learn that our circumstances don't get to dictate our praise. Our praise is dictated by the One to Whom it is due. Our feelings and desires and sickness and emotional pain have no influence on our call to praise God in all things. None.

In my pain and longing to be a mother, I was working through these truths. And in many ways, I still am. God is still completing His good work in me, one that won't be completed in full until He calls me home.

I have carried this tattered piece of paper with me everywhere our lives have taken us. Living in India in the early '00s, internet and email were sparse. The school had one computer capable of sending and receiving emails. We would write an email, save it to the computer, and once a day the school would batch send all the letters and then download all the incoming mail. These would then be printed and put in our "pigeon holes" (mail boxes).

As my sister was approaching the time to find out the gender of her baby and I was grieving the latest miscarriage, she asked me how I was doing. This was my response (please excuse punctuation and grammatical errors...I was still learning to write (as I am now!)


October, 2001

Sally —

Hmmm...How I am REALLY doing...I guess that's hard to say. I have been filled with a lot of emotion the past week — everything from deep despair to quiet assurance. But, I am learning a lot...

For the first time, I think I really know what it means to offer a SACRIFICE OF PRAISE. Usually, when I am hurt or upset, I don't praise God because frankly, I don't really mean it, or feel it, so I don't think that I should do it. After all, I don't like people telling me things when they are not sincere.

But, God is different. He wants our praise, whether we "feel" it or not. His love and devotion to use is not conditional upon emotions, so why should ours be? But the praise I have been able to offer up is a SACRIFICE. A sacrifice is to give when it HURTS! Someone donating thousands of dollars isn't sacrificing if they are millionaires. Sacrifice is giving when you are giving all you have — and then some. And praising God during this time, for me, is a sacrifice. I don't have a lot to give. I don't always feel like it, and sometimes I want to REFUSE. I want to yell and scream at God and ask Him why? Ask Him why He lets me get pregnant if He isn't going to allow me to keep it. To ask Him why I have to wait. To ask Him why He lets thousands of young girls get pregnant every day when they only plan to abort the baby.

I let self-pit reside in my home. I want to let it be my best friend. In doing so, I let Satan twist truth. Satan is good at that — even with Eve. He didn't outright lie to her at first. Instead, he questioned God (Did God really say...) and then Satan pointed out truths to Eve — that the tree was good to eat and that it would make one wise. That was true—he wasn't lying—but he left our part of the story—that God said NO because God knew what the result would be.

And so it is with me—Satan points out truths to me—that I don't have any kids, that I don't have any close friends, that I don't have any talents, etc., etc. But then he leaves me to wallow in self-pity, leaving out the fact that God still loves me and He still cares about me, that He has plans for my life that I don't know about. When I let Satan just point out bad things in my life—true or not—and don't run to God with my sacrifice of praise, my depression kicks in high gear and I cry and wonder how to end my life.

But, when I look to God, tears streaming down my face, and tell Him that I love Him and that I need Him, He comes. Maybe not in the way I would like, but He comes to me nonetheless and comforts me in a way that only He can do. And when I (still crying) crawl up into His lap and call Him Abba, He tells me that He loves me and that He sees the end of the story. And while He can't tell me what it is (that would ruin the surprise), He tells me that I will like it. It won't be what I imagined (good stories never are) but it will be His best for me.

Of course, Sally, I want answers. I want to know why. I want to know how much longer. I want to say, "That's not fair!" (And I admit, I do all those things.) But the question comes down to...as all things come down to this question, where our faith is put on the line...

IS GOD STILL GOD?

Is He still sovereign? Is He still in control? Or does my human pain nullify the character of God? HOW ABSURD! (For some reading on this I recommend Elisabeth Elliot's THESE STRANGE ASHES, and NO GRAVEN IMAGE.)

Bad things happen to everyone. In times of trial, God builds us up. We all want a life free of pain (or at least we would like to choose our pains!) We want what we want when we want it. But perseverance isn't built that way. And through perseverance character is built. And on character, hope. And on hope, love. I will come through all of this, no matter what the result, a stronger and better person, if I continue to bring my sacrifice of praise.

All this isn't to say I don't still cry myself to sleep at night.

With Much Love,

Janet

p.s. Let me know how the ultrasound goes!


For almost 16 years, God has been teaching me this lesson of what it means to bring a sacrifice of praise. He is faithful and He is long-suffering. He will wait as I learn to offer a pitiful sacrifice. The praise and glory is due Him and when I offer it sacrificially, He is honored. In our pain, the praise of our lips is the fruit of our hearts.

Back in 2014, I started sharing some audio posts. It's been a while, but if you want to listen, feel free. I haven't re-listened to these, so I apologize for any errors or repeats 🙂

It’s That Time of Year

behindthename_web                                     Almost five years ago, I chose a new domain name and pushed publish on my first post. Although I had been blogging or five years, I knew it was time for something new. I wanted to start a new blog and a new place to encourage other moms in their walks with the Lord and in their journey through motherhood. The dream was there but the name wasn't. Convinced God had a name perfectly planned for this new space, I prayed and waited on Him. Although I put fourth my own ideas, my heart didn't feel the peace I was expecting. And so I continued to wait. In His good time, God gave me His vision through my reading in the gospels. Matthew 13 and Mark 4 revealed a truth to me that I would carry both through life and motherhood: the key to a flourishing life in Christ is to first, prepare the soil. Because my Bible reading plan lands me on the same chapters each year, my heart is annually reminded of God's whispers to me: "This is the way, walk in it." I choose to take some time each summer to reflect on what God has done and what He is doing, both in my children and in my own heart. I've shared the story before, but like with anything of value, it is worth returning to. The details may become fuzzier each year, but the lessons learned will remain forever. And so I reminisce with memories of summer 2011:
Five years ago, I sat on the balcony off of our master bedroom. My coffee steamed hot on the table next to me, my Bible in my lap. Jason and the four older kids were away for a few days enjoying the beach while I stayed home to write the book that was on my heart and to enjoy the extra snuggle time with my then four-month-old. 
 
I loved sitting on that balcony. One of my favorite things about our Indonesian homes was the balconies and their offering of a treetop view of the world below. Somehow I was able to think more clearly in the fresh air and unique perspective of life from above. That particular morning, with Bethany still sleeping and my coffee still hot, I opened my Bible reading for the day.

But before I finish that story, another one needs to be told. And I'll save that for tomorrow.

Psalm 103:8

PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

It is well worth the time to dwell on God's truth, letting each word flow softly over your heart. When we slow down and savor the specific truth within, our soul sits at the banqueting table.

THE LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love...

It is THE LORD, not a LORD. He is the only One who is worthy of the title.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The LORD, Yahweh, the great I AM, the One who has no beginning, no end, and is utterly independent of anything outside Himself. Who else can make this claim?

The LORD IS merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He IS merciful. It doesn't say He can be, or might be, or is able to be merciful. It says He is merciful and we know that God does not change.

The LORD is MERCIFUL and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He is MERCIFUL. He is full of mercy. Mercy is this:  kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly; kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation. Isn't that you? I know it's me.

The LORD is merciful AND gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He is merciful AND gracious. Not either. Not or. AND.

The LORD is merciful and GRACIOUS, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He is GRACIOUS. Full of grace. Grace is this: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. It is something we don't deserve. We can't earn it, can't work for it, can't buy it.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, SLOW to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He is SLOW to anger. He doesn't act under impulse, sudden emotion, or fatigue. He is slow, patient, ready to wait, ready to extend forgiveness.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to ANGER and abounding in steadfast love.

God does, at times, display His ANGER. He restrains it, of that we can be sure. As we bask in His patience, though, we would do well to remember His own glory is on the line and He will see justice prevail.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger AND abounding in steadfast love.

His slow anger has a counterpart: love. He is slow to anger AND He abounds in love for His creation.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and ABOUNDING in steadfast love.

He is ABOUNDING in love for us. Teeming, profuse, plentiful. His love won't run out, dry up, or be unavailable. It is ours in abundance.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in STEADFAST love.

His love for us is STEADFAST. Abounding (NIV), unfailing (NLT), plenteous (KJV). HIs love will not change, grow weary, or fail.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast LOVE.

From the Hebrew word cheçed  meaning kindness, rarely by reproof. Do you see that? RARELY by reproof. He would rather extend kindness toward us than correction (though He won't withhold it when our good and His glory are at stake.) divider graphic     Dwell deeply today.

Me and King Dave

©janetphillips_october10_2015_web-75

I did something a little bit different today. Some of my friends were politely asking me to do some more audio posts. I did one yesterday and then for some reason, after editing, it was silent. I took it as a sign 😉
Today, I have the written post below and the same post in audio format for those who prefer it that way. You can download or just hit the play button below.
   

________________

I'm a little like King David: I think we share an emotional profile. Either we are literally gasping for breath in awe of God's holiness and awesomeness or we're gasping for breath, crying out to God, asking Him how long He will forsake us.  There doesn't seem to be much middle ground — no slow and steady breathing — for me and King Dave.

I know I don't want to change who I am (I am learning deeply about how to be content with who God made me), but the emotional pendulum swings that are part of my makeup can be exhausting.

I worry. I fret. I wonder, "What if?" And when I worry and fret and wonder, the emotion builds up and overflows in ways I am not proud of. It often involves avoidance and living in the pretend world of "tomorrow" — the fictional land where all problems get fixed, work gets done, and restitutions are made.

This week, the pendulum has swung...a few times. One minute I can be so confident in who God is and who I am and my faith in unshakeable. The next minute I sit, tears rolling down my cheeks, wondering where God is. I ask, "If He loves me so much, why I can't see it or feel it?"

I was talking with a friend yesterday and I told her that the only thing that got me through this past year was the Spirit's use of Scripture in my heart. It's the only way I get through any day. When I am tempted to shake my fist and ask God why, His Words wash over my heart.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. —James 1:2 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? —Romans 8:31 I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. —Revelation 2:2-3 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. —Galatians 6:9-10

And on and on it goes.

Because my soul is fortified with God's Word, the Spirit can (and does!) use it to fight for me, even when I don't have the strength to fight for myself.

The sword of God's Word is our only offensive weapon in this battle of life. If we want to win, we must not merely defend ourselves, but also truly do battle with the forces that work against us.

But we can't do battle without our Sword. I could never fight the emotions and confusion and questioning that rages within me without a weapon. God's Word, read daily and repeatedly and systematically is the weapon we need. It fights in the coldest storms and the darkest nights.

As we look toward the busy holiday season with all its festivities, beauty, and excitement, let me encourage you to look toward the Word of God, both the written Word and the Word Incarnate. The longer I live, the more convinced I am—in my heart as well as my head—that God's Word is what each of us needs most. It's what the world needs most. It is the answer to poverty, social justice, education, parenting, marriage, worry, doubt, fear, health, obesity, work ethic, finances, and love.  We sit at our computers complaining about politics on Facebook or we sit glued to the TV enamored with the charmed life with others while our Bibles are covered in a fine layer of dust, mirroring the much deeper layer of dust on our hearts.

I used to want to do great things with my life. I have so many dreams and ideas and hopes and plans. They aren't bad, and I hope I get to do some of them someday. But I know, more than anything, my life is about getting God's Word into people's hands and hearts.

Many (1800+!) languages around the world wait for God's Word to be written in a way they can understand. And that's why our family is with Wycliffe Bible Translators, doing our part to ensure people have to wait no more.

And many people here in the U.S., with our 400+ English versions to choose from, cry out to God in the midst of battle for Him to come and rescue them while their weapon sits unused, unsharpened. And that's why I won't stop talking about God's Word and encouraging others to find their sustenance in "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." I can think of no better way to spend my life than encouraging others to take up their sword and FIGHT!

 So what about you? Do you worry, question, and fret? Do you wonder where God is? Do you ask God what He is doing in your life and when He is going to come rescue you? I won't say the battle is easy. Even with our weapon life is a tough, tough assault. But won't you at least try? Won't you at least use what you have?  He will fight for you. He will fight for me. Won't we let Him?

Oh, and the photo? Well, this post was going to be about a walk our family took last weekend so those were the photos I had ready. But as often happens, I start typing and realize God has something entirely different to say through my words. I just go with it. 

All Things

www.preparingthesoil.com

Dwell on these words. Really let them sink into your heart.

That's what I have been doing for the few weeks since I read them. I wrote them in my sketch book. I have looked at them, played with them, and created with them.

Anything you want to know intimately requires time. This is true of all things. If we want to know a person well, we spend time with them. If we want to know how to play a musical instrument well, we practice. If we want to know how to take photos, we spend many hours shooting and learning.

If we want to know God's Word, we must spend time with it. For the past four years, I have been intentional with daily time in the Word. I have read and reread and then reread again. I want to know it well.

As much as I know and understand the importance of knowing God's Word as a unified whole, I also see the need for me to know its individual parts. To spend time with them. To be acquainted with them.

And that is why I have been writing God's Word. Each day I take time to grab some pens and my sketch journal and look at the words intently, individually. I write them, letting their weight fall in different places. I roll the words over my tongue, my hands, and my heart. I want to be intimate with the Word of God. When 1800+ languages don't have a single word of Scripture in their own language, how can I not show my gratitude for God's Word by spending time with it?

Back to a few weeks ago.

I read this verse. I wrote it down. I looked at it over and over. And I let it sink in.

ALL THINGS

OF HIM

This verse says that ALL THINGS are of Him. This means that ALL THINGS come from God. The things in the natural world, things manmade, things created and evolved and changed. ALL THINGS are of God. Without Him, nothing would be here.

This also means that ALL THINGS within us are of Him. Our personality, our gifts, our talents, our resources, our time, our health, our children, our dreams, our problems, our trials, our successes...ALL THINGS are of Him. ALL THINGS originate with Him. This is where true humility is birthed. When we recognize that not one thing is of us, only then can we be truly humble. We can't let ourselves be fooled into thinking we did anything. The hard work that brought us success, even that is of God. The intelligence that brought you opportunities, even that is of God. The hours studying or practicing or preparing, even those are of God.

THROUGH HIM

Not only are ALL THINGS of God, but also ALL THINGS are through God. Not one thing comes to you without it first going through God. Think of all you have: your house, your cars, your kids, your job, your friends, your time, your money. ALL THINGS come from Him and through Him. It ALL passes through the hands of God. You have it because He allowed it. This is also true of the things you do, all the successes you have, all the trials you encounter. They are from Him and they go through Him. Nothing goes from here to there without God being the middle man (and the beginning man and ending man, as we shall see.)

TO HIM

ALL THINGS are of God. They are through God. And they are to God. ALL THINGS we do or give or perform or build or create or dream or execute aren't to anyone but God. I don't use my gifts for others, they are for God. I don't do my duties for others, I do them for God. And I don't give to others, I give to God.  ALL THINGS are to Him.

That's why we can give a little one a drink of cold water and have it count as love toward God. That's how we can do all things for the glory of God.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ —Matthew 25:35-40

How—if we truly let these words permeate our hearts—can we not be changed? In our thinking? In our doing? In our giving? In our loving? In our grieving?

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being —John 1:3

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. —James 1:17

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. —1Corinthians 8:6

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. —Colossians 1:6

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. —Nehemiah 9:6

What do you have that you did not receive? —1 Corinthians 4:7

 

It’s Been Four Years

Roots

It was 2011. I had been praying about my word for the year. Just as the calendar turned to January 1, God gave me my word: ROOTED.

A usual, I didn't know what God would choose to teach me through it over the year, but I knew the context. Immediately, this verse came to mind:

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." — Colossians 2:6,7

At the time, I so wanted to be built up in Christ. I had deep longings for service, for opportunities, for His direction. Although I didn't understand it then, He was telling me, "You must be rooted first."

It's helpful to think deeply for a moment on the purpose and function of roots. An agricultural society would understand the significance more readily than our culture that scarcely knows how to grow anything other than mold in the fridge (myself included!)

Roots serve multiple functions:

1) Roots anchor the tree. Without the roots, without the deep penetration into the soil, the tree could not survive. What we see when we look at a beautiful tree is only half the reality. The other half lies beneath, doing the work that allows the beauty to be exposed.

2) Roots take up minerals and water from the soil, transforming into life-giving sustenance for the tree.

3) Roots store food for use in later growth — in the trunk, branches, and leaves.

Over the course of the year, God showed me what it meant to be rooted. He taught me that the reason I so often felt beaten down was that my roots were shallow. I would let them grow for a while and then pull them up when waiting caused me to lose interest. He taught me that without being rooted, I could not be nourished. Yes, of course, I would survive temporarily, but wilting and dying was inevitable. He taught me that the more I rooted, the more I could store for when the heat and drought came.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream. and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield." — Jeremiah 17:7-9

About halfway through 2011, my roots began to take hold. Beginning when I was twelve years old, God's word fascinated me. I remember my spirit being quickened the first time and in the thousands of instances that followed, I had no trouble believing that God's Word was truly living and active. However, wanting to read God's Word and actually doing it are two very different things.

I've shared my story before, the most important resolution you can make,  and what my Bible time looks like on a regular basis.

But today, I am reflecting on what regular and systematic reading of God's Word over the course of four years has done. Never has the benefit been more clear to me than over the last six months.

As I mentioned before, I didn't expect the wave. And after feeling better for a few weeks, I certainly didn't expect another wave to come crashing down. And yet, it did. Already weary from before, I scarcely had breath to keep going.

"If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction." — Psalm 119:92

I read that verse a few days ago and it was all very clear to me: had I not found my delight in God's Word and intentionally rooted myself in it, I would have perished. Whether that death would have been physical, spiritual, or emotional...I don't know. I don't want to know. What I do know is that God's Word has sustained me. Is sustaining me. It is my life. My strength. My song. My deliverance.

That is because Jesus sustains me. He is my Life. My Strength. My Song. My Deliverance.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God...In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." John 1:1-5

As the wave recedes, I am thankful once again that I have rooted myself in the Word. I am standing strong with joy in my heart, even as I tend to my emotional and mental injuries. This is only possible because I have been well-nourished and well-supplied for the future.

Is it any wonder we have given ourselves to the cause of the Bibleless people? If I know the One Thing that can truly save and satisfy, how could I be loving to do anything but work to ensure everyone has it? And how could I be loving to not encourage those of you who already have it to saturate yourself in it? There is no alternative to growth, to survival. The 180,000 million people who wait for their very first word of Scripture in a language they can clearly understand need it just as much as you who have to blow the dust off your cover every Sunday.

Why not start today? Why not open those pages and let the living word of Christ penetrate your heart and spirit. Become rooted. There is nothing more beneficial you could do with your time, both for now and for eternity.

Consider

Preparing the Soil | April 30 2015

Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)


CONSIDER: to think carefully about something, typically before making a decision; to think about and be drawn toward a course of action


We make hundreds of decisions a day. Some big. Some small. In making these decisions we consider — sometimes at length, sometimes instantaneously — our feelings, our desires, our cravings, our laziness, our ambitions, and our values.  But what does God tell us to consider?

This morning, as I was tempted to worry again about all that needed to be accomplished, all the unanswered questions that fill my mind, all the feelings of guilt and inadequacy that plague me and weigh me down to the point of inaction, He reminded me:

"...Consider what great things He has done for you."

Oh yes. That. What great things He has done! When I stop to consider and to reflect, the floodgates of memory open wide and I am overcome with His goodness. His grace. His patience. He has cared for me in the past. He will care for me in the future. He is caring for me now. He is caring for me in the joyful moments and He is caring for me in the pain (emotional and physical).

Our God is a God of memories. Through all of Scripture, God asks us to remember, to consider what great things He has done. The psalmists reflect and it comforts them. The Israelites set up stones of remembrance. The story of the exodus was told over and over so that those who couldn't remember would remember. The passover was to be celebrated each year so God's people would remember their great deliverance. We go to the communion table to remember what great things Christ has done for us.

As I go about my day today, I want to consider. Before making a decision — a decision to worry, a decision to be impatient, a decision to bow down to the god of my feelings — I want to consider God's goodness: past, present, and future.

He has done great things for me. I choose to consider them.