Firstfruits

Happy New Year!

Some of my friends chose a word for the year. Maybe there’s a “one word” thing circulating, and I’m just realizing it! My one word for the year though came easy. Firstfruits.

I woke up thinking about that on January 1 and spent some time studying what it meant in the Bible, just using my simple concordance at the back of my Bible.

When the Israelites came into the land, they were to offer firstfruits of their harvest to God (Lev. 23:9-14, Ex. 23: 16, 19, Ex. 34:26, Deut. 26). In Nehemiah 10:35-36, they brought the firstfruits of the ground and the firstfruits of fruit and trees. My Bible notes say, “The firstfruits of the ground were given to the Lord as an acknowledgement of His status as landowner.”

In Exodus 23:17, we see the Feast of Harvest was one of the three annual feasts at which they would bring the firstfruits of their labors which they had sown in the field.

My Bible notes say, “The Israelites were to offer to God the fruit that ripened first, even though there was always a possibility that the rest of the crop would not ripen or be harvested because of some unforseen circumstance. By offering the first of the produce to the Lord, the people expressed their trust in God’s provision and their gratitude for His good gifts.”

I also looked into the New Testament. Romans 8:23, we have the firstfruits of the Spirit.

James 1:18, which follows a beloved verse of mine (every good and perfect gift is from above, James 1:17), says, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

Revelation 4:4, being redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.

Then this: Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep! (I Cor. 15:20) My notes say, “Because Christ rose from the dead, those who are asleep in Christ have a guarantee of their own resurrection.”

Obviously, this could become a very in-depth and exciting study!

These are just some glimpses of what I read. I can give my firstfruits of all I have been given (what all does this include?), but is my very life a kind of firstfruit (James 1:18)?

As I thought about giving my firstfruits, the area I was convicted to give this year is of my time, the firstfruits of the day, trusting God will make the rest of the day effective, even when I’ve given up time in the morning.

So my 2015 goal is to spend time in the morning reading the Bible and praying – before I do anything else — before I get ready, before I eat breakfast, before I make lunches, before everything! I am using the M’Cheyne reading plan to read through the Bible in a year. So feet out of bed and on the ground, downstairs, praying, reading, before anything else.

I want to be realistic – anything we do in a new way can be hard to keep going. But I’ve pushed through and here I am on the 8th day. I’ll take it a week at a time and see how it goes. But I can tell you this so far: it’s been a complete blessing! I’m learning so much in my time in the Word. It’s amazing how four select passages can intertwine with one idea. More on that in a future post.

For today, my word for 2015, firstfruits.

Honor God with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).

A New Year’s Resolution

The new year. A time to begin again. New hopes, new goals, new plans.

Yesterday, I turned the last page and closed the book it took me a year to read. The Bible.

I used the NIV One Year Chronological Bible. It was the first time I had ever read the Bible in a year, the completion of a goal I set for 2013. It was a blessing to see the full scope of God’s Word, how it all ties together. I encourage anyone to do this and take time to see what God has spoken to us through the Bible.

For those of us craving to hear from God, this is the place we find Him speaking. It’s worth the time to daily read, reflect, and pray.

I could come up with a whole list of goals and resolutions for 2014 (i.e., exercise, eat right, limit distractions such as social media, etc.). Perhaps like last year, though, I should pick one main thing and find joy at year’s end when it’s achieved. Instead of many resolutions that end up broken, I name one that is attainable and that can produce growth through that one action. And then commit it to the Lord, asking for His strength to do it, dedicating the new year to Him.

What are you resolving to do this year?

Happy New Year 2013!

It’s been a while since I blogged. We were busy the last couple of months of 2012. My sister and her family came to visit us for two weeks for Thanksgiving. I had not seen them for almost 2 1/2 years — and that visit was for my step-father’s funeral and was a short time together. We toured many museums and had so much fun watching the cousins together.

Christmas was wonderful. I often feel overwhelmed at Christmas with all that has to be done, but this year seemed very smooth and was so much fun. We entertained a few times in December, having students out twice, having our small group over, and hosting friends two or three times for dinner. One dinner party was unexpected and planned on short notice, but those seem always to be the easiest and best kind.

My husband’s family were all out of town this Christmas, so we enjoyed a quieter one with my mom. I’m so glad she moved here this year and is getting to spend a few weeks with us while the family that has rented the house to her are back in town for their Christmas vacation. It’s been great!

So now we enter a new year. I don’t like to leave the last year without some kinds of reflections and enter the new one without having a theme.

A few reflections for 2012:

I never did update after I took the 10 day prayer challenge in October about how my heart was being deceived. At first, I anticipated a specific answer each day, but there were 2 specific answers during that time. One was the blog post I wrote about bridling my tongue. That has continued to come to mind more times than I can count when I am in conversation. It has been an important truth for me to remember and an area where I can continue to grow.

The other answer came over several days and seemed to be a highlight of those days of prayer. It was a verse that showed up in both of my Bible studies during that time. And it was a verse I saw on Facebook and in other places during those days. It was this:

Matthew 16:24-25:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

There were specific ways this was applicable to me at that time. Isn’t this such the reverse of what we would naturally desire? Self-denial, carrying a cross, losing our lives? But it’s in embracing those things as we follow Jesus that we really discover our lives and true joy! My heart can deceive me in these kinds of things.

So those were some meaningful verses for me in 2012.

Some “Favorites” from 2012:

A favorite song was 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. The third and last verse will always remind me of our friend who went to be with the Lord in 2012.

Some Bible studies I enjoyed in 2012 were Beth Moore’s study of James, Beth Moore’s study of Esther that I did on my own and finally finished last night!, and the Bible studies we did at church on the minor prophets (spring) and the Storyline of the Bible (fall).

This is when it’s fun to keep a blog and scroll through some of the events from the last year and remember different things, from speaking at Women’s Bible Study in the spring, to the third book in my husband’s trilogy being released this summer, to knee surgery in the fall, to seeing our friend go to be with the Lord. It’s good to trace the journey of life through these seasons and record God’s hand at work in each of them.

Entering 2013, I don’t yet have a theme for the year. Last year it was prayer. I’ll give this some thought over the next few days and see what emerges. I am going to try to read through the Bible in a year. I’ve tried before, but never actually done it! This is the book I am using:

I’m very excited and enjoyed the first day today! We’ll see how it goes!

Happy New Year to whoever stumbles upon this blog! May you be blessed in the new year and know the joy of following Jesus daily.

2012 Theme: Prayer

It’s Friday, January 13, and I’m sitting at the park while the kids and a friend sled. We finally got our first big snow of the winter. January 12 was pretty late for it to arrive, but this Southerner has enjoyed the first warmer winter since I’ve lived here, now 10 years! We had temperatures in the 50s just two days ago! I stood in the sun outside talking to a friend and loved every minute of it.

The last few years I’ve had a theme for the year. Last year it was the Lord as my Shepherd. Every year, it’s such a blessing to ponder a theme, study more, and it seems to go with the circumstances of the year.

Last year as I was faced with a decision I didn’t know how to make, I realized I wanted to know the end answer immediately. But I had to trust that God knew that answer, and I simply needed to let Him show me one step at a time, to lead me as my Shepherd. Over the course of a few months, it became obvious and unmistakable what His plan was. He led me step by step, revealing just what I needed for each moment.

My theme this year is prayer. I had been in a bit of a rut lately, and two days ago, I finally took time to pray. I was amazed at the things that happened that very day after specifically praying about some things. I asked the Lord for wisdom about a friend, and she literally emailed me less than an hour later telling me the very answer I had prayed about!

I had asked him some things about purpose, like “am I missing anything?” I see some of my friends doing amazing things, adopting, moving around the world — and I was wondering if I was being faithful and pursuing all He wanted me to. It seemed so clear as people came to mind that the Lord was wanting me just to be faithful to the ones He has put in my path.

I needed to go out to get some books at the library, and ordinarily when I need to do that, I just go at lunch. But I decided to go out at 10:30 a.m. I debated this back and forth, this out of the ordinary timing. I was so close to turning around. But I went, and when I arrived at the library and parked, a lady was by her car beside me. When she turned around, we both looked at each other shocked. She is someone I haven’t seen in a while, who doesn’t live in the area, who I only knew through a previous work relationship. She went on to share some heavy burdens, and she said she had thought about calling me to pray for her. She felt sure God had brought us into each other’s path that day. And of course, I had no doubt about that. It was an answer to prayer.

I also was convicted by something the Lord had shown me to do in the past, children He has me outreach to, and its been awhile since I took the initiative. So today at the park, we are all together again, 3 sledding while one sits with me playing on the iPhone. I canceled dental appointments for my kids so we could invite them today after school.

Prayer. God used prayer to open my eyes to things I would have overlooked. He hasn’t asked me personally (at least yet!) to go on the mission field or adopt, though I can love and support those who do, but He has placed before me people to love and encourage, alongside my commitment to my family and my work. I am thankful that the Lord is gracious to lead me as my Shepherd, and I pray I will have ears to hear and eyes to see where He is leading. I pray I will pray with consistency and belief that those moments are powerful and effective because of Him.

A quote from Spurgeon to end: “Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element, and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray that we may be more and more prevalent in supplication.”

Happy New Year 2012!

We’ve had a really nice Christmas and New Year. We spent the entire 2-week break in town this year, which is unusual, but it was the most relaxed break I think we’ve had in years! We got a lot done around the house, spent a lot of time with family and friends, stayed up late, slept in, and truly rested!

The worship services at church were the highlight for me this Christmas season. It was a blessing to have church on both Christmas Eve (we went to the candlelight service) and on Christmas Day. After preparing for weeks for Christmas in all the ways that it requires, and enjoying Advent services and the Christmas Carol service along the way, to finally sit at church and rest from the busyness that the season brings and arrive at the reason for it all just fills my heart with great joy! Aaahh, we finally made it to THIS moment, to this time to worship. And to have Christmas Day on a Sunday — I would love that every year!

Surely as my heart and mind reflected on Advent in the weeks prior to Christmas, I worshiped, I hope. But for some reason, it always feels like a bit of a forced exercise for me during the season of Advent to try to read Advent books and keep up the reflection on Christmas. This must sound like an awful admission, but I find myself longing for all the other days of the year where I more naturally want to seek Him without it being in a more prescribed way. And yet I’m thankful that the reflection on Christ’s birth gives opportunity to people for more outreach and evangelism in ways that are unique to this time of year. It seems people are more giving and thinking more of others at Christmas, and all of that is good.

As I think about resolutions, it’s easy to want to say I’ll exercise more and eat better, but it occurred to me that maybe my resolutions don’t have to be centered on me. What about what I can do for others? Just something I’m thinking about as we enter the 2nd week of the year!

We struggled to get a good picture in front of the tree this year. This one will do, I suppose. 

I haven’t blogged in a while, and I don’t feel real eloquent tonight. I figure if you skip blogging on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, you may not be a real blogger. 😦

I’ll try to gather my thoughts and write about my theme for the new year when I can. But for now, Happy New Year.