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Memorizing Scripture – Verse 2

The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed – Jeremiah 17:7 (HCSB)

For those of you who haven’t read the story behind why I’m memorizing scripture so fervently, you can find it HERE.

In context, this scripture is so perfect for what Chris and I are going through right now. We are facing big transitions in every aspect of our life together and at times it would be easy to trust in the things of this world instead of God. The verses preceding this one talk about what happens when man trusts in mankind. Verse 5 says “The man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord, is cursed”. It’s the exact opposite of verse 7! After verse 7 it goes on to say that if you trust in the Lord, you will be like a tree planted by water, with strong roots, no fear, and fruit aplenty. When you experience drought, you won’t worry. I chose verse 7 to memorize from January 15 to February 1 because I want so desperately to truly trust in the Lord, and experience the peace of mind and blessings that come from full confidence in Him. I have already been able to use this verse over and over again whenever my mind wanders to anxiety and uncertainty about different things. I love that I’m experiencing firsthand the benefits of memorizing scripture and of using these verses to fight against things not of God! Be encouraged to start your own journey of memorization too.  

Ami’s Shotgun StirFry

This is a really foolproof, cheap, not very fancy recipe that Chris and I use a lot. It’s just your typical stir fry but I’ve adapted it to where it costs next to nothing to cook, and takes about 10 minutes from start to finish (without the meat). Plus it’s super yummy and not bad for you. For all my readers who are in college, or newlyweds, this is a quick and dirty go-to stirfry.

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Ami’s Shotgun StirFry (serves 2)

2 packets ramen noodles (without the flavoring)

1 packet frozen veggies (I use the fajita mix which costs just a few dollars at the grocery store, but there are some other mixes specifically for stir fry. My mix has onions and peppers in it and I occasionally add some frozen sweetcorn. I have added fresh pineapple a couple times and that has gone down really well too.)

Soy Sauce

Honey

Meat of choice (Chris and I often skip on the meat if we don’t have any in the freezer or if we are running low on time but we have used beef strips and chicken in the past)

Directions: In a wok (or large skillet) heat a little bit of olive oil. You don’t need much as when the veggies are cooking, they’ll release the water they were frozen in and therefore not stick. When your oil is hot either add your meat and cook until just done, or if you’re doing the vegetarian version just go ahead and add the veggies (once the meat is just cooked, add the veggies). I spray soy sauce over the stir fry at this point so that they have a little bit of time to soak in the flavor. Very important to note: soy sauce is naturally very salty, so no need to add extra salt. Also, be careful not to add too much soy sauce for the same reason. I also add some honey to thicken it all up and add some sweet to offset the salty. While the veggies/meat are cooking in those flavors, boil some water in a different pan and cook your ramen noodles. Be sure not to cook them for too long otherwise they just get mushy. Drain those and add them to your wok/skillet, squirting more soy sauce over the top. Toss with some tongs and serve! Easy as anything.

 

Memorizing Scripture – Verse 1

May all who fear You find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in Your word. – Psalm 119:74 (NLT)

At the very beginning of this year I was in a meeting with John Piper, who was speaking to a group of leaders and had so much insight to offer. Probably the advice that impacted me the most was to concentrate as a leader on these three things: to Analyze Scripture, to Memorize Scripture and to Believe Scripture. Piper said that if you model these things to the people you’re leading, the ripple effect of your ministry will be immeasurably more. I enjoy analyzing scripture and along with that I wholeheartedly believe scripture, but I have really dropped the ball with memorizing scripture. This revelation led me to Beth Moore’s blog. At the beginning of the year she rallies together thousands of women from around the world  online and they all make a commitment together to memorize a new verse of scripture every two weeks. Two weeks is a great amount of time for the words to sink into your memory and your soul. What I like about her idea so much is that each woman is able to choose her own scripture, something that is relevant to her life at that moment. This really helps me to memorize the verse and live out what I’m repeating. HERE is the link to her memory verse ‘program’ – I recommend that everyone give it a try (if you’re a guy, totally do it – just not on her blog)!

I have decided that since I am going to be memorizing all these verses I need to know what they’re about, what context they’re in and how I can apply their meaning to my life in a practical way. I chose Psalm 119:74 for Jan 1 – 15, 2013 because I want people to find joy in me – not because I’m amazing but because God’s love shines through me and His word is alive in me, so that they can’t help but have fresh revelations about who He is when conversing with me (that’s the goal!).

When I read this verse, it’s very clear to me that God comes first, then me. I am only present in this verse because of God and His word. I think that whenever you are actively in His word, you’re drawing near to Him. Relationship with God is reciprocal. James 4:8 says draw near to God and He will draw near to you – it works both ways and has to come from both parties. So first of all, we have a choice to make about drawing near to Him and a great way to do that is through His word. When you’re doing that, it can’t help but radiate off of you so that others are encouraged too, though they may not always know why. John Piper also said that every time a leader opens his (or her) mouth, something about the scriptures/life should be clarified. May it be so with me, Lord! The only way to make this a reality in my life is to live out this verse and to analyze, memorize and believe scripture. I can’t wait to start memorizing my next verse tomorrow!

Unity in God’s Great Church

Let me be united with all who fear you, with those who know your laws. – Psalm 119:79 (NLT)

As Christians we are called to be ONE CHURCH. Although we may meet in several different buildings in several different locations and learn from several different teachers and preachers, we are supposed to be one church. If we are called children of God, then we are siblings – brothers and sisters in Christ. Aside from the Lord, there is nothing more powerful than a family united in Him. Unfortunately the ‘church’ today seems to have misconstrued this concept somewhat (I am aware that this is a very general statement). Chris and I just got back from taking a group of our college students to the Passion 2013 conference in Atlanta, Georgia. There were so many wonderful teachings and speakers but the one I want to remind myself of at this moment is the powerful message we heard from Judah Smith on community. He spoke about how our God, by His very nature, is based on community – he is three persons, Father, Spirit and Son. Singular in character and in nature but plural in person. Distinguishable but indivisible. Since we are called to reflect His image, we are called to be just that: distinguishable but indivisible. Judah said that without community, our world will not see God. We are called to love the church because we love God. That does not mean love OUR church – it means love THE church. The church was designed to be united – as human beings we have distorted this into a church that looks and often acts divided. When we are divided, we are vulnerable. Judah used a great illustration from a show he had seen during ‘Shark Week’ on the Discovery Channel – they did an experiment to see if sharks went to a lone seal more readily and more confidently than a pack of close-knit seal. You can guess what the outcome was – they obviously went for the isolated seal and destroyed it in a matter of seconds. This can so easily happen in the church. If we become competitive, territorial, defensive, pushing other churches away because we’re doing our ‘own thing’ we can destroy what God so lovingly designed for us – a unified church. When Jesus returns it will be to ONE Bride, not many! So what does that mean for us on a practical level? Does it mean we instate membership at several different churches and hop between them, not able to commit to actively serving at any one? No, of course not! But it does mean that we can decide to love the church as a whole, to steer conversations that could easily turn critical into positive ones, to encourage those around us to build up their own local churches instead of constantly networking people to join ours. A verse that I’ve been pondering as a result of Judah’s message is 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13. The verses before hand talk about how nothing in this world is stable and everything is beginning to be shaken up. As Christians we will need to be alert and awake while others are sleeping because we do not belong to the night or the darkness. Then verses 11-13 say this:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 (HCSB)

To me, these verses just scream unity in the church – encourage, build up, give recognition, regard them highly in love, be at peace. There are so many things we can do but it has to start in the heart – if this is something that you struggle with, pray that God would change your heart to love THE church and not just YOUR church. If we are not unified, we are totally vulnerable to the devil creeping in and destroying the pure and beautiful vision for Jesus’ Bride.

Anna the Prophetess

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. – Luke 2:36-38

Only a few short verses in the book of Luke are dedicated to Anna the prophetess, but they are so profound and I believe we can learn a lot from her story. Anna was one of the few female prophets mentioned in the New Testament. After seven years of marriage her husband died and I cannot imagine what that was like for Anna. We can guess that even if her husband was not a good man, this would still be a tragic event in her life because being a widow in those times was not exactly glamorous. Widows were not considered heirs, and it does not mention that she had sons to take care of her, so we can assume that she had her fair share of struggles. What I admire about Anna is that in the midst of tragedy and a complete life change, she held fast to the Lord and to His word. She had distinct gifting in the area of prophecy and the Bible says that she never left the temple and worshiped God day and night with fasting and prayer. That’s dedication! Since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down to dwell among us on earth, we no longer need to visit temples and offer sacrifices of atonement – in fact 1 Corinthians 6 says that since the Holy Spirit is inside us, our bodies are now temples. So the fact that Anna never left the temple is key to this lesson – she was always dwelling in the presence of God, always pursuing Him, always in tune with what He had to say and we can experience this same thing throughout our daily lives because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and His word is readily accessible to us. We have to be constantly aware of the Holy Spirit’s promptings and convictions so that we can grow spiritually and get to know and recognize the Father, Son and Spirit deeper as we continue through life. One day, Anna walked past Simeon who was talking with Mary and Joseph as they were holding Jesus as a baby (for more reading, this is just as Simeon had finished prophesying over Jesus, Luke 2:25-35). This was the day that Anna had been created for, I believe. She was a prophetess, and her whole life’s purpose was to know God on a deeper level each day so that when she saw Him with her own eyes, she recognized Him immediately and without hesitation. She knew God so well, she enjoyed such an intimate relationship with Him, that when she walked past, she knew who this baby was.

Anna knew God because she spent all her time in His presence and therefore she recognized Him immediately. It’s hard sometimes to discern when God is speaking or if it’s something we have conjured up in our minds. The more we know Him, the easier it is to recognize Him. The way we get to know Him? We dig deeper and more frequently into His word, and we spend time in His presence in prayer and reverence for who He is. This is the journey that I am on. I want to know him so well as a result of my ‘dwelling in the temple’ that I cannot question what is God and what is not – I will know immediately His voice, His presence, His promptings in my spirit. Join me on this journey, you can never have enough or too much of Him and His word.

Clinging to a Broken Spirit

“I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who has delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor. – Exodus 6:7-9 (HCSB)

I think that this passage of scripture is absolutely fascinating. Here are a group of people that are being told the promise of blessing beyond their wildest dreams, but they do not listen. Why don’t they listen? Verse 9 says because of their broken spirit and hard labor. The main thing I want to focus on is a broken spirit. How many times has your spirit felt so broken that although those around you may have encouraged you to read the Bible and the promises of God, you just didn’t want to? I’ll be honest, there are times when I flat out don’t want to listen, I don’t want to read the word because my spirit is so broken and I’m frustrated. Perhaps when your spirit is broken you don’t feel worthy to come to God in prayer and believe His promises in the word. Maybe you have felt like it’s all your fault and so to ask for help would be expecting something you don’t deserve. When our spirits are broken and we allow that to overtake our thinking, our vision can only stretch so far. These promises were supposed to bring joy and comfort to the Israelites but their vision was blurred because they were not willing to sacrifice their brokenness to the Lord. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart”. How beautiful is that verse? It means that God can use everything – even the most broken spirit, despite what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. In fact, it goes so far as to say that a broken spirit is pleasing to God! He delights in our vulnerability before Him because that is when we humbly admit that we can’t do life on our own and we desperately need Him to break through. He wants us to want Him. As humans we have a tendency to hold onto what is holding us back. Are you holding onto bitterness, unforgiveness, a broken spirit, or anything else that is stopping you from hearing and believing the promises of God? If so, don’t hesitate any longer to sacrifice that to the Lord! He delights when we are vulnerable before Him and He longs to pour out His promises on us, if only we would give up what we cling so tightly to.

 

Cannellini Bean ‘Meat’balls

Excuse the quick break from my usual musings but I wanted to share this unique and delicious recipe that I tried out. My aunt and two cousins came to town for a few days from Virginia after Christmas. It was so lovely to see them and also a great opportunity to try out some vegetarian cooking, since they do not eat meat or anything cooked with meat products. I’m just thanking God they aren’t vegan – that would be ten times more difficult! Chris was very apprehensive about this recipe as he is most definitely a meat lover but he ended up loving every bite!

Cannellini Bean ‘Meat’balls:

2 x 15oz cans of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed

1 red pepper (chopped into squares, not too small as they will go in the food processor)

1/2 medium onion (also chopped, not too small)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)

Some dried herbs (I just eyeballed this and used Italian seasoning)

1 egg (for vegans use a flaxseed egg)

1/2 cup dried regular breadcrumbs

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Salt & Pepper

9be174f8507711e281cb22000a1f9a0a_7Throw the beans, red pepper and onion into a food processor and process until just chopped. If you process them too much they’ll be too mushy and won’t form properly into balls. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the garlic, parsley, dried herbs, regular breadcrumbs and salt&pepper. Form into balls, if the mixture is not staying together add some more breadcrumbs. Roll the balls in Panko breadcrumbs to coat and place on a baking sheet (I greased mine with a bit of butter and not one of them stuck!). Bake in oven (350degrees F) until firm and somewhat golden (about 20-25mins). I made thin spaghetti noodles and a marinara sauce with mine and everybody loved this meal!

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