Tag Archives: Faith

Waiting in Harmony

Standard

WaitingHarmony_BSK

The following blog post appeared on Lift Up Your Day and is included below in its entirety. Check out their website to read more encouraging posts from other writers.


If there is one thing we all have in common, it’s that we hate waiting. We despise it. In our fast-paced digital world, waiting is a monotonous waste of time.

And yet right before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told the disciples to stay in town and wait on the Holy Spirit. (See Luke 24:49.) He didn’t tell them exactly where to stay, how long they would be there, or what they should do with their time. Nor did He explain what it would be like when the Holy Spirit came.

He just told them to wait. And then He left His followers behind.

 

The Waiting

Fifty days. That’s the amount of time between Acts 1 and Acts 2. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but it must have felt like forever to the 120 people who put their lives on hold to wait for the Holy Spirit.

But they didn’t wait passively. During those seven weeks, they

  • prayed continuously
  • ministered to one another
  • shared what they had with those in need
  • loved and prayed for one another
  • told stories of Jesus’ life
  • mourned Jesus’ death and
  • celebrated Jesus’ resurrection.

 

The Harmony

“These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer…” (Acts 1:14 NAS). The KJV states, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication….”

That’s 120 people repeatedly gathering in one room for 50 days. Not fighting. Not panicking. Not seeking their own interests.

They were waiting in “one accord.” The Greek word for this phrase means “with one mind, one accord, one passion.” The expression combines two thoughts, “to rush along” and “in unison.” This creates a musical image, reminding us that a number of different notes must be combined to create a unique harmony.

All of Jesus’ followers were regular people. They had their own backgrounds, emotions, and beliefs about what God was doing. They didn’t check their individuality at the door when they walked into the upper room. But through prayer, they surrendered their own desires and wills to that of Jesus. As they submitted to Him, they were able to live and worship together, in true harmony.

 

The Results

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1 KJV).

When the big day came….when God showed up in full force…when thousands were gathered together outside… Jesus’ followers were ready! Because a small group of believers chose to be obedient and wait on the Lord, three thousand people were saved that day. And thus the gospel began to spread across the world.

 

Our Turn

As Christians, we still wait on the Lord. Individually, we wait for Him to give us guidance, for healing, and for loved ones to be saved. As a Church body, we wait for fresh movements, revival, and for the second coming of our King.

The great news is that we now have the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit within us! If we will allow Him to move in our lives and within the Church, He will direct us to Jesus—with one mind, in one accord, and in complete harmony.

If 120 people could start the Christian movement, imagine what the Church can do today!

Holy Spirit, help us to focus on Jesus. As we set our sights on Him, help us to live in harmony with You and with one another.

 

A Great Resource

If this topic interests you, I highly recommend the The Centurion’s Wife. This is an excellent fiction book set within the fifty days that occurred between Jesus’ resurrection and the day of Pentecost. It’s the first in the Acts of Faith series by Janette Oke and Davis Bunn.

The Hope that Doesn’t Disappoint

Standard
Penny_Disappointment

Penny in her happy place after destroying her scratching post.

Penny’s Disappointment

Penny, my kitty, is disappointed.

The weather has been so beautiful lately, here in Sunny Florida. Like the rest of us, Penny wants to spend every moment she can outside (which, for her, is the screened porch). Unfortunately, a storm front has rolled in with incessant thunder and lightning. The porch is currently too scary for kitties.

So, Penny is stuck inside with me. She’s letting me know her displeasure by meowing very loudly every few minutes. I’ve tried all the tricks, including throwing paper balls at her (her favorite pastime), but nothing is as good as watching squirrels from the porch. Or so she says.

I’ve explained to Penny that the storm is still raging, but she won’t take my word for it. Nor does she believe what she sees out the window because, apparently, that could still be different than the actual weather outside. (That’s what we call “kitty logic.”)

A couple minutes ago, I opened the door for her—again—so she could see the conditions for herself. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed. She stood there, deflated. I scooped her up and said in my best fur-mommy voice, “I know you’re disappointed, Penny. I know what it’s like to be disappointed.”

 

My Own Disappointments

As my ears heard what my mouth said, I realized how true a statement it was.

Looking back on my life, I see hundreds of moments of disappointment. As a child, I would get upset if an exciting trip or event was canceled, or it didn’t turn out to be as fun as I had hoped…or I wasn’t invited in the first place. Then, there were friendships that fizzled or broke. Loved ones who passed away. Opportunities that never materialized. Accomplishments or awards I never received. I’ve had my heart broken in lots of ways, some big and some small.

I am familiar with disappointment. And I bet you are, too.

Perhaps you’re thinking of a childhood memory, or maybe it’s something that happened just this week. Love may be the universal language, but disappointment is its ugly sidekick.

 

The God Who Never Disappoints

There are two synonyms for disappointment: letdown and dashing hopes. We feel disappointed when our hopes are dashed.

So, what are your hopes? I mean the big ones. Do you place your hope in education? In being a good person? In our political or judiciary system? In our military?

King David said his hope was in the Lord:

  • “I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71:14 NAS)
  • “You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5 NAS)
  • “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (Psalm 42:5 NAS)

David put all his hope in God because he knew something profound:

If God is our hope,
and nothing can break or diminish God,
then our hope is unbreakable.

We cannot be disappointed with God.

Get God’s Perspective

It’s true that bad things still happen in this world. But God is the one who sees us through them. He’s the one who carries us when it gets too hard for us to go on. He’s not the bad guy in our sad story. He’s the hero who gives us a new story.

Unlike comic book heroes, though, our God doesn’t just show up to fix our problems. He is always with us. We can—and we should—know Him before the bad stuff happens. In fact, if we focus our lives on Him, we can see our disappointments through His perspective.

We can appreciate that God had a better plan. We can trust that He was watching over us. We can be thankful for the rain instead of mad at the storm.

I encourage you to get to know the Lord now by reading the Bible daily and praying often. When something bad does happen, ask God for guidance and comfort. Let Him soothe your heart and set you on a right path.

If you know others who are going through disappointments, encourage them. Use this as an opportunity to share with them God’s love and mercy. Show them that God is alive and relevant, and that He never disappoints.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  (Hebrews 10:23-25 NAS)

I Have an Agent!

Standard

Me_Signing2

I’m excited to announce that I have signed on with Hartline Literary Agency!

I met Cyle Young, my new agent, at this year’s Florida Christian Writers Conference. I told him about the children’s books I’ve written as well as the book I’m writing for young women (Girls with Gusto). It turns out that Cyle writes in a lot of different genres, including children’s books. And he’s a pastor, which I think is a very neat combination.

I’m honored that Cyle has agreed to represent me on behalf of Hartline, and I believe that our hard work will result in publication. Everything I write is intended for God’s glory, and I trust that if God is giving me a message to share that He will pave the way for it to be successful. (See Isaiah 55:11.)

Thanks to all of you who continue to support me here at BigSisterKnows. Your comments, likes, shares, and your prayers are appreciated more than you know. Please continue to pray for guidance, wisdom, and favor—for me and for Hartline.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NAS

~Ashley

Six Rules to a Rock-Solid Relationship

Standard
Joneses

Robby and me on our wedding day six years ago.

This year, Robby and I celebrated our Sixth Wedding Anniversary! (Hand-clap, please.) Before we were married, our friends and family shared some sage advice with us. We added that to what we had picked up along the way and, before we knew it, we had several great rules to live by.

In honor of our sixth anniversary, I’d like to share with you our top six rules for a rock-solid marriage. Some of these can also be applied to relationships with friends and family, so keep reading, even if you’re not married.

 

1. Pick ‘em Right

Robby and I had great peace when we got married because we knew God wanted us to be together. We started our marriage on rock-solid ground because we promised to keep God at the center of our relationship.

Before you say I Do, make sure he’s right for you! How? Pray earnestly and with an open heart. If He tells you to walk away, then do it, knowing that His plans for you are good. (See Jeremiah 29:11.)

A rock-solid relationship has to be built on God, the one true Rock. (See Deuteronomy 32:2.) God has to be the focus of each of your lives in order for your marriage to succeed.

Marry the one you find the least annoying to be around. – Jeremy E.

2. Treat ’em Right

It’s so hard to find time to just be together, but Robby and I have learned to make it work. We don’t always answer the phone when it rings or get the dishes washed after dinner. Sometimes, we have to go out to eat to ensure we’re not distracted by the demands at home. But we do whatever it takes to carve out quality time for one another.

Your spouse is the one person on earth who has vowed to love and cherish you above all others. Don’t take that for granted.

If you’re having real marital problems, sort them out before they get too big to heal. If you’re just starting out, then treat each other with love and respect, and you’ll avoid a lot of heartache.

Just be decent to each other. – Jeremy E.

3. Watch Your Mouth

Robby is the quiet one in our relationship, and I’m more of a hothead. I’ve had to learn to guard my mouth—especially when I’m emotional or tired—so I don’t say something callous or hurtful.

The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death, for good and evil. (See Proverbs 18:21.) Make sure the words you speak into your marriage are a blessing and not a curse. Tell the truth, but say it in love. Avoid yelling or saying ugly or demeaning things. You can’t just say, “I didn’t really mean that,” and make it go away.

Also—and this is extremely important—never, ever, ever, say “divorce.” Once you say the D word, it becomes an option. Once it’s an option, it’s much more likely to occur.

Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth. – Unknown

4. Give Him Space

Robby and I are both analytical, and we need time to process our thoughts. After hanging out with friends or family, or spending time in town, we like to go to separate corners of the house to “piddle” (that’s “work on house stuff” for those of you not from the South). Sometimes, we’ll just veg in front of the TV. That allows us to be close to one another physically without draining each other mentally.

Give your spouse the space he needs. When you have room to breathe, you’ll enjoy your time together even more.

It’s a good thing that you have different hobbies, so you’re not always on top of one another. – Jeff M.

5. Mystery Alive!

Robby and I agreed early in our relationship to keep the “mystery alive.” That means we don’t do anything really gross in front of the other person, including belching, passing gas, going to the bathroom, spitting, or picking our teeth. (I still can’t understand why some people do this stuff in front of their spouse. How do they go from gross to intimate? I don’t get it.)

If you want a strong relationship, keep the gross stuff to yourself as much as possible. This isn’t about being fake but about being courteous. You’ll respect each other more, and it’ll be easier to be romantic on a daily basis.

Mystery alive! – Me

6. When in Doubt

I can honestly say I’ve never doubted Robby’s faithfulness. I know he loves me and would never do anything to hurt our relationship. In the few instances when I couldn’t reach him by phone, or he came home later than usual, it never crossed my mind that he was doing something inappropriate.

A strong marriage is built on trust. That means you should always give each other the benefit of the doubt. When he’s late and he hasn’t called yet, or when he doesn’t text you back right away, don’t assume that he’s out doing something wrong. If you really trust him, then you trust his actions when he’s not around you.

Happy couples give each other the benefit of the doubt. – Topic of several studies, books, and articles.

 

What are some rules you live by in your marriage? Please share them here to encourage others. Thanks!

 

 

The Problem with Proverbs 31

Standard

ProblemProv31_BSK_jpg

The following blog was posted this week on Lift Up Your Day and is included in its entirety below. For more encouragement, check out the other posts on LUYD.


 

The Woman

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’ve probably heard about Proverbs 31. Depending on your Bible translation, you may know this as the chapter describing the “virtuous woman” or the “excellent wife.” (See verse 10.) I used to think of this fictitious person as the Perfect Woman—Mother Theresa, Martha Stewart, and Ivanka Trump rolled into one modern day Super Hero.

Sounds cool, right? Sure, until you read the details.

This woman

  • does good things for her husband every day of her life (with no exception);
  • makes beautiful clothes and linen for her family using exotic raw materials she’s sourced in the marketplace;
  • finds time to make additional items, which she sells through her own clothing line;
  • is also a successful farmer and vine dresser;
  • never sleeps, rests, or is idle (and probably doesn’t blink for that matter);
  • still has the energy to mentor others;
  • is strong, wise, and dignified; and
  • apparently doesn’t have a negative bone in her body. (God bless her heart!)

 

The Frustration

Is it just me, or does this woman give us over-worked, over-stressed, under-paid girls a bad name? Don’t you just hate her? Can we agree to ignore this chapter all together?

Okay, so I was a little mad at the Proverbs 31 woman for a while. I was also frustrated at the preachers and teachers who lifted her up as the standard against which all women are measured. I was doing good to get out of bed on Sunday morning, so this comparison to the Proverbs 31 woman was becoming a stumbling block for me. I began to feel guilt and self-condemnation because I couldn’t measure up. My solution was to ignore that entire chapter as best I could.

 

The Truth

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t let me off that easy. Over a period of years, He kept bringing me back to Proverbs 31. Eventually, I discovered something amazing: this isn’t a to-do list of all the things we have to accomplish daily for God to love us and use us. Instead, this chapter is like a map of our spiritual journey as seen from a 20,000-foot vantage point.

For example, the woman buys a field, plants a garden, sells the produce, and then buys a vineyard with the earnings. Later, she helps the poor and needy. (See Proverbs 31:16-20.) We all recognize that we can’t reap what we don’t sow, and we can’t bless others if we have nothing to give. Even from a spiritual standpoint, we can’t offer the gifts of knowledge and wisdom until we’ve received them ourselves. Proverbs 31 contains many such natural laws, which helps us understand our spiritual journeys and track our progress.

I also realized that Proverbs 31 applies to both men and women. There are numerous Scriptures depicting God as a bridegroom courting His bride, which is the Church. (See Matthew 9:15 and Revelation 21:9-10.) So, when we read figurative Scriptures referring to the marriage relationship, we can usually put ourselves in the wife’s role and Jesus in the husband’s role. Applying this to Proverbs 31 has given me a new outlook on how we, the Church, interact with Jesus.

 

The Encouragement

Over time, I came to see that the problem with Proverbs 31 wasn’t with the Scripture at all—it was with my own misunderstanding of the Word. I encourage you to read this important chapter again with fresh eyes. Notice how the woman grows over time, from faithful servant to wise teacher. Then read the verses again as if the woman is the Church body and the husband is Jesus.

Instead of running from this chapter—like I wanted to—lean into it. Seek God’s guidance and understanding. Let go of the guilt of not being a Super Hero and pursue the greater role of an obedient child of God. May this bless you and encourage you on your journey.

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NAS).


The book I’ve been writing, Girls with Gusto, delves into these topics of perfection and Proverbs 31. As I pull these sections together, I’ll share them here with you. Please give me feedback—what you like or don’t like, what you find encouraging, and what’s difficult for you to live out in your daily life. Thank you!