What’s Your Story?

“…And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel…as it is written, ‘Those who have not been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’.” Romans 15:20-21 ESV

Paul quotes Isaiah here to explain Paul’s own mission to the Roman Church: to evangelize. Paul fulfilled his mission in part by sharing his testimony, and we are called to continue that today.

You may think, I’ve been a Christian since I was little. Nothing exciting has ever happened in my life. I wasn’t saved from drugs or a bad relationship or anything drastic like that. My testimony isn’t terribly interesting.”

While God has given dramatic testimony to some, the stories of others are less so. But those stories are not less valuable. All our stories are given to us by God to be used for His glory. And there is someone somewhere who would benefit from hearing it.

Be thankful for your redemption story. Share it boldly. Ask God to use it for His glory. After all, that’s why He gave it to you.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

I Won’t Go Back

“I won’t go back, I can’t go back

to the way it used to be

before your presence came and changed me.”

I sang these lyrics so many times with the choir at FBCIT! And every time I sang them – and even now – I am compelled to say, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”

I do not want to go back to the way I was before… when I was in darkness. When I turned away from God. When I didn’t believe in Jesus anymore.

No. I want to stay at Jesus’ feet. In the light. In His joy.

I am thankful that Jesus heard me cry for Him. I am thankful that He redeemed me, that He bought me back out of my sin, and that His blood covers me now. And Forever. Amen!

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

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Image Credit: Faithful Workouts

A Giveaway and a Book Review

You definitely need to read Confident Moms Confident Daughters by Maria Furlough if you’re a woman who is influential in the life of a girl: a daughter, niece, granddaughter, student, church youth group member, etc. Maria makes it clear that the answer to the problem of how to be more confident for ourselves and our daughters lies in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  She supports her assertion with biblical scripture and her own life experiences.  She also uses expert testimony from various areas to support what she has to say about different aspects of identity and biblical confidence based on our identity in Christ.

As I read through the book, it felt like Maria and I were sitting across from each other having coffee and talking – the tone was so comfortable and conversational.  She truly shared her passion for God and family as she explored the topics of female body image, insecurity, and modeling godly confidence for the young women in our lives.

The book includes details from Maria’s own life experiences to help the reader see where she is coming from.  In addition, she discusses nutrition and physical activity among other topics related to body image.

I was concerned that the book wouldn’t be relevant for me at this time as my daughter is six.  Each chapter ends with a series of questions, and the readers are encouraged to discuss these with our daughters.  Upon first read-through of the questions for Chapter 1, for example, I felt they were over my daughter’s head – not age-appropriate.  However, I came to realize as I read further that I could adjust the wording of some and talk through a few with her right now.  Others, I can save for later.  Overall, because of my daughter’s young age, I am viewing the book as my preemptive strike!  I may not have these concerns with my daughter at this time, but they are certainly coming soon.  I can learn how to be more confident in my identity in Christ now so that I can begin modeling that for her immediately.  Some of the other information – such as Maria’s list of “Signs Your Daughter is Struggling (or Thinking about It)” – I’ll keep in my back pocket, so to speak, for when the time comes.

I honestly believe that every woman who has an influential relationship with a young woman would read this book.  It is so important to me, that I’m giving you the opportunity to win a FREE copy.

There are two ways to enter the giveaway –

  1. Like this post and leave a comment telling me about the girl or young lady in your life.
  2. Find me on Facebook at Heather Murdock Hooks and find the Facebook live video I posted about the book.  Like and share that post and leave a comment telling me about the girl of young lady in your life.

* Get your “name in the hat” twice if you complete one of the two ways explained above PLUS you subscribe to this blog by leaving me your email address (click on the “Follow” button to the right of this post).

Enter by 9pm Friday, August 30

5 Ways to Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

David and his army of 600 men returned home to find their city burned and their families and the rest of their possessions gone – the result of an Amalekite raid.  (1 Samuel 30:1-5)

David was distressed.  The men were distraught and talked of stoning their leader.

“But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God,” (1 Samuel 30:6b) and called for a prophet to come so David could inquire of the Lord’s will.  Once David heard what God wanted him to do, he and his men followed through and were able to recover their wives, their children, and all the things that had been taken from them.  “Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken.  David brought back all.” (1 Samuel 30:19).

The key here is verse 6b: David strengthened himself in the Lord.  The Hebrew word used here for strenghten is “chazaq” which literally means to tie fast, to bind strongly.  It signifies strong adhesion (Blue Letter Bible app).

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Image Credit: hereadstruth.com

In response to a potentially catastrophic situation – their families might be dead for all they knew, and the men were angry enough to kill David – David caught hold of the Lord tightly.

Can you see David doing that?

He seized hold of the Lord with both hands.

He bound himself to God and asked Him what to do.

The seizing, the binding, the holding tightly…this strengthened David.

The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how David strengthened  himself here…I’m reading into the situation based on the original Hebrew word used.

But, we know from other verses of scripture, there are many instances in Psalms for example, exactly how David strengthened himself in the Lord at other times.  And we can read story after story of how other people in the Bible made themselves strong by turning to God.  So, we can learn from God’s Word and apply this knowledge to our own lives.

5 Ways to Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

  • Pray
  • Read
  • Write
  • Worship
  • Fellowship

PRAY – Time spent in prayer binds you to the Lord

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  

Image Credit: godsfigerprints.co

There is no one, right way to pray.  As the scripture above explains, when we can’t even think what to say in our own prayers, the Holy Spirit will mediate on our behalf.  However, I have heard of an acronym for PRAY to guide you when you go before the Lord.  (I have heard it from several different sources and explained in a variety of ways over the years.  While I cannot give a specific source citation, I can tell you that this isn’t my original material).

P = PRAISE – Begin your time with God by praising Him because He is worthy.  Thank Him for His blessings.  Sing Him a worship song.  Recite Bible verses that show gratitude and thanksgiving.

R = REPENT – Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness.  Ask God to help you truly repent and turn from that sin back to Him.  Ask God to show your sin to you and convict you so you cannot commit that sin again.

A = ASK – Share your prayer requests with God.  Talk to Him about the suffering and needs of others as well as things that are troubling you.  Ask Him to help you make a decision.  Talk to Him about your job, your health, your relationships, your future.

Y = YIELD – Finally, tell God that, above all else, you want His will to be done even if it is different from your desires.

Hint – as you seize the Lord with both hands in prayer, He will change your heart.  He will convict you of things you weren’t even aware were sins.  He will reveal His will and begin to change your heart to reflect His plan.

Make prayer an every-day priority.

Read – Time spent reading the Bible binds you to the Lord

Exodus 24:7 – Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people.  And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Scripture is God’s love letter to us.  It is God’s Word.   His Word teaches us.  It encourages us.  It strengthens us.  It rebukes us.  It points us to God.  The more you read your Bible, the more you understand who God is and how much He cares for you.

Take time to read your Bible each day.

Write – Time spent writing about your faith binds you to the Lord

1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

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Image Credit: fountainpennetwork.com

Write your prayers.  You’ll have a written record of them and can go back to this when God answers you.

Journal about what you learned in the scripture you read.  Sometimes when I do this, I ask God questions about what I didn’t understand and write out what he teaches me from the story.  Other times I may paraphrase verses or summarize Bible stories, explaining in what happened in my own words.  The exercise of journaling helps me glean more meaning than reading alone.

Write or journal about your faith journey as often as possible.

Worship – Time spent worshiping binds you to the Lord

Luke 4:8 – And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ “

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Image Credit:  journalconnection.com

Sing God a worship song.  Dance to worship music on the radio.  Do you play an instrument?  Learn to play worship music on your instrument.

Prayer is also worship.

Go for a walk and admire the things God created.  Praise him for the warmth of the sun and the singing of the birds.

Serve in a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

Show kindness to a stranger for no reason.

Go cheerfully to your place of employment and do your work to the best of your ability.

Love and care for your family.

Let everything you do worship the Lord.

Fellowship – Time spent in fellowship with other believers binds you to the Lord

Acts 2:42 – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Participate in a church service.  Attend a Sunday school class/life group.

Invite friends to a fellowship meal at your home.  Share a meal with someone in need.

Join a Bible study group.

Focus on Christ-centered conversation with friends.

Find a Christian mentor or become a Christian mentor to someone “younger” in the faith.

The idea here is to be in community with other followers of Christ.  To talk about Him.  To worship together.  To read scripture and study the Bible together.

Participate in Christian fellowship whenever you get the opportunity.

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Image Credit: desiringgod.org

Spending time with God in prayer, reading scripture from His Word, praising Him in Worship, writing to Him or about Him, and joining in Christian fellowship guide you into a deeper relationship with Him.  All these are acts of binding yourself to the Lord your God.  Hold onto Him tightly.  He is your Rock and your Shelter.   Like David, a man after God’s own heart, you, too, can strengthen yourself in the Lord.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

 

 

I am King Saul

Do you know the story?  The people of Israel wanted a king.  They told the prophet Samuel to go to God on their behalf and ask Him to give them a king so they could be like the other nations around them.

Although it wasn’t God’s plan, He listened to the people and chose for them a tall, handsome young man named Saul who looked the part of a king.  (You can read Saul’s story beginning in 1 Samuel 9 – just as I was doing one morning).

My house was quiet – no one else was awake.  Everything was still.  I was sitting at the table with my Bible, my favorite commentary, my journal, my pen…ready to pray, read, and learn…

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Samuel Anoints Saul – Image Credit: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com

According to 1 Samuel, Saul started out well, like many people do, but then the subheadings in the chapters began to hint at a change.  They read, “Saul’s Foolish Order”, “Saul’s Disobedience”, “Samuel Rebukes Saul.”  And as I continued to read through his story, I became irritated with this man.  What in the world was he thinking?  God chose him to be king over an entire nation, yet he was quickly and effectively screwing it up!

I shook my head, disgusted at King Saul for being foolish enough to disobey God after being so richly blessed, and in that moment, God clearly said to me, “You are Saul.”

– Well, that’ll stop you in your tracks.  –

As I read about Saul’s excuses for his disobedience: “I feared the people and listened to their voice” (1 Samuel 15:24), I was convicted by the many times I allow the world’s opinion of me to be the influencing factor in my decision-making rather than what God has told me to do.

During his reign as king over Israel, Saul showed himself to be disobedient, prideful, arrogant, greedy…but I can’t turn my nose up at him without being confronted with myself.  I have been and am all these things.

In the story of King Saul, God wanted his obedience.  The story is the same for me.  It’s the same for you.

My behavior…our behavior as followers of Christ is our worship of God.  It is how we show ourselves to be His children.  We are to follow Him in genuine obedience.  This is to worship Him.

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Image Credit: hiswordmylife.org

This means we obey Him completely, not in part.

This means we obey Him immediately, not when or if we feel like it.

Look, I’m talking to myself here.  It is my lesson to learn, but maybe it’s yours, too.

 

 

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

My mom always told me, “bloom where you’re planted.”  It seems similar to being “willing.”

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Image Credit: LessonsFromHome.co

When you’re willing, you want to.  You’re inclined to.  You’re ready to.  It sounds positive.  Like maybe you’re cheerful about whatever it is you’re willing to do.

To bloom where you’re planted means you’re willing to make the best of a situation – even flourish in that situation.

I think of Esther, a Jewish woman who became a queen of Persia and saved her people from a plot to have them all killed.  She bloomed where she was planted.  She was willing to act on what was right, use the position God placed her in, and save an entire group of people…even if it meant losing her own life.  (Spoiler alert – she lived!  Shew!  Read her story in the Old Testament book of Esther).

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Image Credit: SermonCentral.com

I think of Samuel, a young boy serving in the temple when the Lord came and stood and called out to him.  Samuel was willing to bring a word of prophecy from the Lord, even though the first word pointed to the death of his mentor, Eli, the priest.  Samuel bloomed where he was planted and eventually ushered in the monarchy in Israel when he anointed Saul as king.  Samuel was willing to be an obedient servant of the Lord. (Read this part of Samuel’s story in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 3).

When we find ourselves in situations that aren’t of our choosing – a job, a move, a social situation – it is our Christian responsibility to represent our God and our relationship with Him.  We must be willing to choose Christ-like behaviors, to treat others kindly, to do the best job possible…to make the most or the best of the situation…to bloom where we are planted.

 

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up }

In It, Not Of It

Being a Christian who lives in the world but isn’t conformed to it isn’t the easiest job I’ve ever had.  I’m sad to say that I have conformed to the world and what it says is right.  Thankfully, I turned to God again and let Him and His Word renew my mind.

Satan is crafty, isn’t he?  He knows how to make sin look good.  Fun.  Exciting.  He knows how to twist things aroundHe knows our weaknesses.  He has been allowed some power in the world.  Don’t believe me?  Look around.  Read the newspaper.  Watch the evening news.  Walk through the mall.

But the world can’t have me anymore.  I have made Jesus the Lord of my life.  I have given control to Him.  I see the world through Christ-centered lenses now.

I know that I am not home here, and I won’t be conformed to it or by it anymore.  Not with Jesus in my heart and His Word in my hand.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up }

The Cliche Question

Why do bad things happen to good people?

A friend who desperately wanted to have a second child finally got pregnant after about three years.  When she and her husband went to the 18 week ultrasound, eager to learn the sex of the baby, there was no heartbeat.  She had to go to the hospital later that week to deliver a little boy who they’d never take home.  They named him Benjamin, held him a few minutes, and that was that.

I didn’t know how to talk to her about it.  We took them dinner a week or so later, and they asked us to stay and eat with them.  It was awkward, to say the least.

What do you say to someone who’s just had to give up their heart’s desire?

She told me, “I’ve been praying for God to use me.  I can’t get mad at Him when He does what I’ve been praying for him to do.”

That’s when I realized why this was happening to her.  It happened so she and her family could bring glory to God through their response.

We search and search for answers when bad things happen.  Why did this happen?  Why me?  Why us?  Did I do something wrong?  Is God mad at me?

But the answer is simple: all things – even the tough, the crappy, the hard, the ugly, the terrible – are an opportunity for us to glorify God.

{ This post was written a part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up – https://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/ }

 

You Are Kept For Christ

Follower of Christ, did you know that you are “kept for Christ”?

In the greeting of his letter to early Christians, Jude, one of Jesus’ brothers, wrote:

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” Jude 1:1

The original word used for “kept” in this verse is “téréo”, and it means to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard, to keep, to observe, to reserve.

God’s Promise

We are kept for Him, guarded for Him, reserved for Him.  Even better, He’s the one doing the keeping, guarding, and reserving. This means we are carefully attended to and taken care of by God. 

Notice that the word “kept” is in the past tense; the keeping and guarding was completed in the past.  God has already set us apart to carefully attend to us for Himself.  This is a task that is accomplished when we accept salvation.

In the closing of the letter, Jude writes, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” The original word used for “to keep” here is “phylassó” – another verb similar in meaning to “téréo.”  (This verb has a stronger emphasis on keeping someone or something safe).  Not only are we kept by God, for God – something completed in the past – but God is able to keep us – something He will continue to do.  He kept us in the past and will continue to keep us into the future.

Our Responsibility

Within Jude’s letter, he implores readers to “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)

This implies that Christians have a responsibility in the keeping and guarding as well.  So, although we are kept by God, we are also to keep ourselves in God’s love.

kept by God – God already did it when we accepted Jesus as our Savior

God is able to keep – God will continue to do it into the future

keep yourselves – Christians continue to do it

Ultimately, scripture teaches that true believers do not lose their salvation, but that doesn’t mean we have a free ride.  We must keep our eyes on God so that we don’t fall away into sin rendering ourselves useless to God.

This brings up an important question: How do we keep ourselves for Christ?

We find clues for that by doing a Biblical word study and looking for the words “kept” or “keep” in other parts of scripture.  Here are a few examples:

In Exodus 20:6, God, speaking to Moses, uses the word to explain that He will show lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commands.

In Leviticus 23:32, God talks to Moses about the Sabbath, describing how the people should behave on that day.

In John 14:23, Jesus tells the 12 disciples that anyone who loves him will keep his commands.

In these passages, God urges us to live as He said, to behave a certain way, to observe His words and do what He said to do.  This is how we keep ourselves for Christ.

Still, how do we know how He said to live or behave?  We have to study the Word and pray. We have to strengthen ourselves by reading our Bibles so we will know what God commanded. Then, we have to talk with Him daily to establish an intimate relationship with Him so we can know His heart.

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Say this prayer with me:

Father, I am grateful that I am kept for you and kept by you.  Thank you, Lord, that this part is finished. Done. In the past. Thank you for your lovingkindness.  But, Lord, your word also tells me that you are “able to keep,” which means that your care and attention continues.  I am grateful that, not only have you kept me for yourself in the past, but you are able to keep me today and forevermore.  You’re able to keep me from falling into sin.  I am kept, so my salvation is secure, forever.  More than ever, I want to study your Word, pray to you, and wait for you.  I want to live like I know you’re coming back.  I will keep myself in your love.

Amen

 

The Purpose of Sin

Sin points me toward a relationship with God.

Apart from God, I am a slave to sin.  I am powerless against it.

But with Christ, I am free from the chains of it.  I can resist it.  I don’t have to do it – whatever it is.  I am able to say no.

So, why do I still sin even though Christ’s death set me free from it?

My sin nature is what shows me my need for God.

When I speech doesn’t glorify God, I am reminded of my need for Him.

When I have impure thoughts, I am turned back toward a relationship with Him.

When I fuss and complain about people or situations, I see why I need a relationship with God.

When I have to fight off Satan’s attempts to distract and discourage me, I am pointed toward God.

When I lose my temper with my children, I realize I need God in my life.

When I sin, the Holy Spirit within me convicts me, and that conviction calls me to repent and turn back to God.

So, the purpose of sin is to point me back to Him, to remind me why I need Him.

Let me stop and say that I am not advocating for sin here.  I am not rationalizing that it is acceptable to sin because the sin will make me turn to Him.

I cannot ignore the pain and suffering Jesus endured on the cross and say it is ok to freely sin and go without repenting.

What I am saying is this is why sin exists – to remind the Christian that we can’t do it on our own.

Our sin shows us that we need God…an intimate, personal, relationship with Him.

We need to spend time reading the Bible so we’ll know who God is.  We need to spend time in prayer so we can know His heart.  We need to spend time listening to Him so we will know His voice.

His voice will convict us.

His voice will lead us down the righteous path.