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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are You Jonah?


Romans 12:1-2
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”


Each night before bed, Riley Grace takes us through an extremely long bedtime routine. It seems that every week, we are adding something new to the routine!

Here’s the rundown after bath time:
-       Choose 3 books for story time
-       Read 3 books in Mama and Daddy’s bed
-       Cuddle with Mama and Daddy (She makes us both lie down. She sits in the middle of us and rubs our backs at the same time because that’s what her teachers do at school for nap time!)
-       Potty one last time
-       Take nighttime meds
-       Tell Daddy “goodnight” again
-       Turn on lamp and sound machine
-       Put on chap stick
-       Read “Bible book” (one of four children’s Bibles!)
-       Put on socks
-       Turn off lamp
-       Turn on fan and Olaf nightlight
-       Sing 2 songs and say prayers
-       Turn off Olaf nightlight
-       Get in bed and say another prayer while Mama rubs her back and head
-       Say, “I love you forever, I like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby (or Mama) you’ll be!”
-       Kiss and hug one more time
-       Close the door “just a tiny crack”

This routine takes 30 minutes!! She loves her routine and is quick to mention if we miss a step. And just like she likes her routine, she also gets into a rut of choosing the same Bible story over and over again. We will be stuck on the same story for weeks at a time. Her favorite stories used to be Abraham and Sarah and the First Christmas. Her current favorite story is Jonah. I’ve recently begun to understand why this story has become her favorite.

While we were reading the story of Jonah one night she concluded that, “At first, Jonah was not listening to God, but then he started listening!” She was so proud of her conclusion. Usually when we read Bible stories, she will state that the character in the story was either listening to God or not listening to God, but Jonah did both! He didn’t listen at first, but then (after being in a fish’s digestive system for three days!) he started listening (even though it was reluctantly). The next day while Riley Grace was being corrected for something, she said, “I’m like Jonah! I didn’t listen at first, but now I’m listening!” Oh dear. She was so proud to be like Jonah. She likes the story of Jonah because she relates to Jonah’s disobedience! What a connection to make for a three-year-old!

As I thought about her connection to Jonah, I pondered my own connection to him. We are all like Jonah. The Lord calls us and commands us to do things that we don’t want to do or not do things that we do want to do, and so we run.

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

Serve others even if you are tired.

Give your time, money, energy, resources, and ultimately your heart to the Lord.

Go to the ends of the earth for the Gospel (or just go across the street!).

Show kindness to your spouse even if you feel like they don’t deserve it.

Give grace to your kids even when they’ve tried your patience.

Share Jesus with the stranger beside you even though you are introverted and don’t know how to begin the conversation.

Ask the cashier how you can pray for her even though she may reject your compassion.

Hold your tongue in the midst of a disagreement.

Run away from gossip.

Choose to have a positive godly outlook in the midst of a troubling circumstance.

Study the Word even though you're exhausted. 

Etc.

There are many things that God calls us to do or commands us not to do. And many times, we simply choose something else rather than following Him. Just like Jonah, we run away from obedience many times. Obedience is too hard. It’s too costly. Sin looks more enticing. We are tired. We are busy. We are weary and frustrated. The person God is calling you to love just doesn’t deserve grace or mercy or love or kindness. We can list a myriad of excuses, and just like Jonah, we run. We choose disobedience. Jonah boldly chose disobedience as he physically ran in the other direction. We do the same thing, too.

But as Riley Grace pointed out, Jonah had another chance to obey, and he took it! He endured some pretty strong discipline from the Lord in the midst of his disobedience. In the end, he obeyed even though it was hard, and he still didn’t want to do it. (Jonah’s heart wasn’t rightand that’s another topic for another day) Many times, we may fail and feel like failures and think that it’s too late to get back on the right track, but it’s not! Our God is a God of second and third and fiftieth chances. He is full of mercy, grace, and love. Yes, He is a God of justice, holiness, and discipline, but His discipline is loving and good.

So can we all relate to Jonah? Yes!

Can we choose obedience NOW even though we have chosen disobedience BEFORE? Yes!

Is choosing obedience EASY? Not usually.

Is choosing obedience WORTH the cost? Absolutely!

APPLICATION
-       READ: Reread Romans 12:1-2, focusing on the fact that the only way we can successfully live obedient lives is by the MERCY OF GOD! Also, read James 1:19-27 about living out obedience practically being doers and not just hearers of the Word.
-       STUDY: How do these scriptures convict you about disobedience? How do they encourage you to follow the Lord? How can you “DO” the Word and live it out practically?
-       EVALUATE: What are some areas of your life that you struggle to be obedient to the Lord? Being faithful to pray instead of complain about a situation? Trusting God with your family, finances, future, etc.? Being obedient to verbally share Jesus with others? Take an honest evaluation of where you have run from God’s direction instead of following Him obediently in faith. Don’t dwell on these failures; rather, pray that the Lord will enable you to be obedient!
-       PRAY: Praise the Lord for His mercy, love, grace, justice, discipline, and presence in your life. Praise Him that He cares too much about you to let you continue on in sin. Ask Him for strength, conviction, and discipline to obey Him in the hard things.

I pray that you will be a doer of the Word. I pray that the Lord will gently, but firmly convict and challenge you to be obedient. I pray that He will give you the strength, passion, and discipline to be obedient even when it’s hard, and it will be hard. I pray that you will have the resolve to choose Christ over every worldly “pleasure,” even when those around you are choosing to follow the world. I pray that even if obedience is hard, that you won’t run away like Jonah, but rather you will run to the Lord for strength as you seek to obey Him!

Always, Jacquelyn 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tears Over Dirty Laundry

It was a normal Friday night at the Cochran house. We had just finished supper, bath time, and story time with Riley Grace. Patrick was grading papers for his classes, and I was putting Riley Grace to bed. After Riley Grace was snuggled in her bed with about fifty stuffed animals and goodnight kisses (along with fifty “last things” she had to tell me before I finally left the room), it was time for me to soak in my bubble bath (my Friday night ritual after a long work week). J I walked through the kitchen to the bathroom when I noticed the laundry closet was open. I peeked in to see that Patrick had washed some clothes. This is no big deal. He washes clothes often. But something about the laundry that night made me tear up. (And, yes, I do tear up easily, but not usually over laundry!)

Before I made it to the bubble bath, I stopped to sit next to Patrick on the couch. I just sat there and gazed at him until he looked up from his work to question why I was staring at him with a goofy look on my face. I said that I needed to tell him something. He immediately got nervous wondering if it was a good “something” or a bad “something.” I told him that it was a good “something.” I started tearing up and said, “Thank you for hanging up my wet clothes.” When he loaded the dryer that night, instead of drying some of my clothes, he took the time to hang them up because he remembered that I don’t like to dry those particular articles of clothing. He didn’t realize why it had meant so much to me (although he later asked if I was on my periodwhich I was, so that may have played a role in my tears over the laundry ;-) )

In that simple loving act, I learned a few things about marriage and was reminded of how marriage can and should point us to Christ.

1.      Little things matter // Take time to know what matters to your spouse. Patrick and I have been married for almost four years. He has learned that I don’t like to dry certain items of clothing. He noticed, and he remembered. And he cared that it mattered to me. He knows that I like the dishes to be rinsed in the sink so that they’re easier to clean later (since we don’t always get to them right away). He knows that I want him to tuck me into bed if he has to stay up and do school work. He knows that I like my coffee to be the color of chocolate milk. J And all of those things are small in the grand scheme of things, but I notice that he knows those things, and I see his love for me in his noticing and remembering. It doesn’t take much effort to notice and remember the little (and big) things that matter to your spouse, but we so easily focus on ourselves or are so busy with our daily tasks that we don’t take time to really see each other. Take the time to notice and remember what matters to your spouse. When you were dating and engaged, you noticed everything and wanted to remember everything. But when the busyness of life comes into play after years of marriage, it’s easy to believe that the little things aren’t that important, but they are!

2.    Make the effort to accomplish those things, no matter how trivial they may seem to you // This may sound pretty similar to #1, but if you know what little things are a big deal to your spouse, then DO THEM! Take the time to serve your spouse in small ways. My husband comes home from work/school, eats supper with us and plays with Riley Grace until she goes to bed, and then starts doing more schoolwork once she’s asleep. He does lots of work at home into late hours of the night. He could go to bed earlier if he worked all evening, but he values time with Riley Grace and me very highly, so he takes a break from work to be with us. Once he finally settles into his studies each night, he usually drinks a cup of coffee, water, and maybe hot tea. When we were first married, I always jumped up to refill his cup or reheat his coffee. After a few years of marriage, I don’t jump up to serve him so readily. I might be working on lesson plans or in the middle of a book or movie, settling into a warm and cozy spot on the couch, and I just really don’t want to get up. That’s selfish of me when I know it means a lot to him that I notice that his cup is empty and refill it. He’s not chauvinistic in a way that he expects the wife to jump up when his glass is empty; rather, I know it means a lot to him that I notice the empty cup and want to serve him by refilling it. It’s a small task requiring little effort, but sometimes I’m too selfish to get up. As wives (even if your husband doesn’t notice/remember/act on the little things that mean a lot to you), we need to serve our husbands because Jesus served. HE is our standard for love, service, and humility.

3.    Don’t let negativity overwhelm your interaction/conversations // Truthfully, many times when I tell Patrick we need to talk about something, it’s not a good “something.” Sometimes it’s a valid concern or complaint that is necessary to bring up, but other times it’s something that I am nagging or nitpicking about. I do not want Patrick to be anxious when I say that we need to talk about something, but if my conversation topics often point out a perceived flaw in him (not in me, of course) or a way that I’m disappointed or frustrated, then it is understandable that he is not going to look forward to serious conversations with me. When he asked me the nature of my tears over the laundry, he had every right to think that I was going to complain about the way he did something in the laundry processbecause truthfully I nag more than I like to admit to myself. What if I would have walked by the laundry closet to notice that he had put those articles of clothing in the dryer? Would I have felt like I needed to bring that up to him???... This night reminded me that I want to be positive and encouraging. I want to be my husband’s biggest fan, not his harshest critic. I want to build him up in love. I want him to cherish our conversations, even if it’s dealing with a hard topic, because I can be positive and encouraging in the hard times instead of negative and discouraging. Yes, I want to be honest with him if there truly is something on my heart, but I can work to say things in loving and encouraging ways, rather than demeaning or depressing ways.

So in all aspects of marriage, remember Paul’s words in Romans 12:9-13:

“Let love be GENUINE. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. OUTDO one another in showing HONOR. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, SERVE the Lord. REJOICE in hope, be PATIENT in tribulation, be CONSTANT in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show HOSPITALITY.”

And Colossians 3:14-15:

And above all these put on LOVE, which binds everything together in PERFECT HARMONY. 15 And let the PEACE of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be THANKFUL.”

I pray that we will be strong and humble women in the midst of godly marriages who strive to put our husband’s needs, wants, and desires above our own. I pray that the small things that matter to our husbands will matter to us because we are one. I pray that our minds and hearts are always focused on how to love, serve, honor, and respect the husband that the Lord has blessed each of us with. And I pray that the Lord will give us joy as we continually pursue marriages that mirror Christ’s love, devotion, and sacrifice. May you be encouraged to serve your husband in new and fresh ways! “Outdo” him in the ways that you love, serve, honor, and respect him!

Always,

Jacquelyn

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Happens on November 8

Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. Our pastor is bringing to light some amazing points about how Daniel served the Lord wholeheartedly while God’s people were living in captivity in Babylon. Among a pagan culture, God was glorified through the obedience of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s amazing to see the parallels to our own culture, as we are living among a culture that is increasingly pagan while we as Christ-followers are trying to be obedient in living out our Christian faith. It’s not easy to pursue holiness amidst a culture that celebrates immorality and denies God at every turn. When living in a materialistic, self-centered, culture filled with immorality, it’s a struggle to focus on the eternal things of God’s kingdom rather than temporal things that will fade away.

This morning, our message was regarding anxiety, specifically anxiety about the future and the events that we cannot control. Our pastor explained the events that Daniel experienced as he was taken into captivity. He lived among the Babylonian people for most of his life, a people who did not worship the One True God. Daniel certainly could have experienced anxiety over his future. When considering anxiety about the future, immediately, our minds were directed toward the looming events of November 9, 2016election day. The thought of the upcoming election produces feelings of anxiety almost immediately in the hearts and minds of many Americans, as we anticipate what the results will be on that day. Each day as I read the news of more scandals, lies, controversies, and vulgarity, I’m overwhelmed about what the immediate and long-term future holds for America. My mind already travels twenty years ahead as I worry about what America will look like when my children are young adults. What will they face? What will the experience? I can’t imagine.

As the sermon progressed, feelings of hope and peace, rather than dread and anxiety, washed over me as different Scriptures reminded me about WHO is in control of our future. The same God who was sovereign over Daniel’s captivity is the same God who is sovereign over the election results and the future of our country. He is ultimately in control, not the current earthly leaders of our nation.

With that said, let’s take a look at some Scriptures that point us to God’s sovereignty.
1.      2 Chronicles 20: 6: ”O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not the God who is in Heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.”
2.    Job 42:2: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”
3.    Psalm 33:10-11: ”The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”
4.    Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord works out everything for His own ends even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
5.    Proverbs 21:30: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”
6.    Daniel 2: 20-23: “Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king's matter.”
7.    Acts 17:22-28: “Paul Addresses the Areopagus So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
8.    Romans 13:1:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
9.    Romans 9:15-18: “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

These verses are so encouraging! They remind us that:
-       GOD is in control of which leaders come to power. It is GOD who “removes kings and sets up kings.”
-       NO MAN can thwart God’s plans. GOD’S PLANS will stand firm forever, even when all hope seems lost and it seems like God’s plans are not being realized here on earth.
-       God has determined the TIMES AND PERIODS for all people, which means He has placed YOU where you are in 2016. He knows the outcome of this election and the future of our country, and He is taking care of you in the midst of the uncertainty and turmoil.
-       God can use unholy people for HIS GLORY (as Romans 9 explains that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that God could receive glory for rescuing His people out of Egypt. We may not understand why God hardens hearts and allows corrupt leaders to rule, but we can be certain that the Lord is wise and just and knows the big picture. We have to trust that He knows what is best. Our finite minds cannot grasp the big picture, but we can trust the Lord who is in control!)
-       God plans for and desires for people to FIND HIM, because He is “not far from each one of us.” Instead of complaining or worrying about the fate of our country, let’s PRAY for our leaders to find Him. He is able to save them. Our complaining and worrying won’t do anything productive, but our prayers will!

APPLICATION
-       READ: Reread the Scriptures listed above. What truths jump out at you?
-       STUDY: How do these scriptures stir in your heart worship for the Lord? What do these scriptures reveal about the character of the Lord? How can these scriptures give you comfort, peace, and hope amidst the uncertain election results and future of our country? How are you convicted by these Scriptures?
-       EVALUATE: How have you approached this election thus far? Fear? Anxiety? Bitterness? Complaining? Trusting? Griping? Praying? Evaluate your attitude regarding the election in light of the Scriptures listed above. How can you honor God during this time? How can you be an example to others?
-       PRAY: Praise the Lord for the comfort of His sovereignty amidst uncertain times! Praise the Lord that He is unchanging. Praise the Lord that we have an eternal home with Him free from the worries and struggles of sin and pain. Ask the Lord to remind you to pray for our leaders. Ask the Lord to give you an unwavering trust in Him no matter the outcome of the election or uncertainties in our future.

I pray that you will enter a season of deeper trust and faith in God as we anticipate the future of our country with the election growing nearer. I pray that all anxiety will fade away in the light of the peace of Christ. I pray that our minds and hearts will be focused upon the firm hope in the God of all ages who holds our future and has promised us eternity with Him! We were made for so much more than temporal things. A heavenly dwelling place is waiting for us, and no matter the struggles we face on earth and no matter the direction our country is going or who our next president will be, we have a hope in the eternal reign of King Jesus, so we have nothing to fear! We can have peace knowing that the Lord is in control over the leadership of our country. Pray for our country. Pray for our leaders to humble themselves before them. And pray that believers will be found faithful to their King, even when our culture is far from Him. Above all, PRAY and TRUST!

Always, Jacquelyn