No Condemnation

Me being myself and a natural perfectionist, I’m always trying to be perfect. Even though that’s not actually possible and the logical part of my mind knows that, I still find myself in that perfectionistic goal.

Just this morning, I was starting to feel guilty (whether false or true) about something I had been thinking about. And it was sort of like an epiphany when I realized that I don’t have to be “perfect” or think all the “right” things all the time with God. That might sound like something I should have realized a long time ago, but my mentality can often be so perfectionistic that it’s difficult for me to see past that.

blog19

Of course, that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to do the right thing – it’s not giving a free pass to ‘do whatever you want.’ It’s more of in the sense, that when I do something wrong, yes I shouldn’t have done it, but I don’t have to panic (*ahemlikeIusuallydoahem*) about, oh my gosh I’m such a horrible person, I can’t believe I just thought/did that.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of condemn is: “to say in a strong and definite way that someone or something is bad or wrong, to give (someone) a usually severe punishment, to cause (someone) to suffer or live in difficult or unpleasant circumstances.” And for those who are Christians, we are no longer under condemnation. Sometimes that’s easy to forget at least for me, and go into the mentality of, ‘what kind of punishment I’m going to receive’ when I mess up.

blog20

Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

I love that phrase “eternal redemption.” For those who are believers, we are redeemed for all of eternity. In the Bible, there is a term – “kinsman-redeemer” – that connects the Old Testament to the New Testament. A kinsman redeemer was someone who delivers or rescues, redeems property or person, avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner, and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died (biblestudytools.com).

Jesus is our ‘kinsman-redeemer.’ He delivered us from an eternity apart from Him and redeemed us from sin so that we can be made righteous.

~ Southern Dreamer

Prison of Fear

Everyone has fears. Some are small, others are big, and then, there are those that completely and totally overwhelm us.

fight song2

Fear is a tricky thing. It can creep up slowly and over time; perhaps subconsciously, until it rears its ugly head in our face. In other cases, it can come suddenly and without announcement. Maybe you’ve been through something traumatic and suddenly things that you did not fear before, are now quite terrifying.

I think, sometimes, we visualize fear in a one dimensional picture: snakes, the dark, experiencing change. But fear can also be the root cause of other issues in our life. Perfectionism (I fall into this category :p): fearing that you must be perfect, fearing the punishment or reaction if you are not. Being a people-pleaser: fearing that you have to make everyone happy, fearing the reaction of others if you say something that contradicts their own beliefs.

In the Bible, there are over a 100 references where it says, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” (http://www.openbible.info/topics/living_life_to_the_fullest). By that sheer number, it’s apparent that Jesus knew we were going to have fear – BUT, that we do not have to be afraid.

John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

God wants us to live life in the freedom of our salvation. He does not want fear to keep us from experiencing the blessings He offers. Of course, this is easier said than done. I know in my own life, its very easy to say, ‘oh, I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to give this to the Lord,’ but quite another to actually follow through with it.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Yet as the verse above says, God has given us a spirit full of power, love, and self-control. All components that help to combat fear.

Power is the Holy Spirit. If you really desire to be free from fear, this is where everything starts. The others are important too, but without the Holy Spirit, we’re trying to drive a car without gas.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Think of a time when you felt completely safe and secure. Was it when you were wrapped in the arms of your father or mother? Watching a movie in bed with your brother or sister? Similarly, God’s love is our security. We do not have to worry whether or not He will love us one moment and stop the next. His love is perfect, unfailing, and encompassing. Jesus demonstrated the greatest form of love there is: dying for us when we were still stuck in the mud of sin and unrighteousness. His love overcomes fear

blog16
Jeremiah 31:3 and Proverbs 8:35

 

Self-control is the last one mentioned in 2 Timothy. This is where our ‘homework’ comes into play. You have to want to be free from fear and be willing to do the necessary work. Self-control does not include only physical actions, but the discipline of the mind – which can be harder in many ways since it is not a tangible thing.

And Jesus does not expect us to fight our fears or anxiety alone! Sometimes I completely forget that I can ask Him to help me to not be afraid; I’m so set on how can I solve this or how I can work through this, that I neglect the one being who can help me through anything.

Being willing to ask for help – tell a close family member or friend. Expose light onto the fear so it cannot continue to ravage around in your mind, rely on God, and put in the effort are all important parts of overcoming fear. Fear doesn’t go away on its own. It must be a conscious decision to defeat it.

blog15

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Proclaim

 

blog9

In this world, it is critical for us to remind ourselves of all the Lord has done in our lives. So often, however, we can find ourselves dismissing that notion. Perhaps because of pride, or maybe we truly aren’t sure how God has been at work in our life.

blog8

Psalm 96:2-3 says, “Sing to the Lord; praise His name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does” (NLT).

blog11

I find it interesting that the Scripture specifically says tell others about what Christ has done. I believe he says this for many reasons, and while I do not claim to know them all, I feel that there are a few He has revealed to me.

One, when we tell others about the acts of God, it can not only strengthen our own faith but the Holy Spirit can use what we say to increase the faith of the listener.

Secondly, we never know who around us is being attentive as well. It could lead the way to deeper conversations or cause them to become curious about who this God is. And remember that whoever you are talking to, may not have a reaction. Perhaps their face is completely empty of any emotion. Or they act as though you did not say anything. Even though this is difficult, God is not limited by this. Despite their reaction or lack thereof, the Holy Spirit can prod their heart long after your conversation.

And lastly, when we are constantly speaking in a verbal manner about everything the Lord has done, it creates not only a heart of thankfulness but reminds us of how powerful He truly is. Sometimes in our busy, day-to-day lives, we forget. We forget the strength and power that He has and how He can work, act, and move situations – change people.

In Luke 8:39, Jesus says, “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

blog10

It can’t get much clearer than that. Jesus literally says, “tell how much God has done for you.” God never does anything just ‘because,’ He always has a reason. Maybe for you, its to strengthen your own faith – or perhaps encourage someone else.

Today, I encourage you to tell one person about something Jesus has done in your life – and remember, it doesn’t have to be a huge act. If you remain uncertain of how Christ has worked in your life, I encourage you to ask a godly mentor or adult who can offer wise insight. If you would like further study, make sure to check out Psalm 145.

~ Southern Dreamer

Judeo-Christain Foundation

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible,” ~ George Washington

george washington

Many people today are declaring that America was never a Christian nation, that it was not founded on Judeo-Christian values. And if people’s eyes are not opened to the truth, then this falsehood could become even more rooted in the minds of Americans.

John Quincy Adams said, “I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year,” and, “My custom is, to read four or five chapters every morning, immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day” (Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings).

john quincy adams

Even Benjamin Franklin, who many consider to be an unbeliever, said as recorded by James Madison, “We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness.”

On November 26, 1789, during his Proclamation for day of Thanksgiving, George Washington said, “It is the Duty of all Nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his Benefits, and humbly to implore his Protection and Favor.”

In fact, when the war with England cut off their supply of English Bibles, Congress in September of 1777, determined to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or other countries because, “the use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great” (pg. 60, Building Godly Nations).

George Washington Carver, born into slavery just before the end of the Civil War, discovered over three hundred uses for the peanut. The story of how this came about is remarkable.

“I asked the Great Creator what the universe was made for.

‘Ask for something more in keeping with that little mind of yours,’ He replied.

‘What was man made for?’

‘Little man, you still want to know too much. Cut down the extent of your request and improve the intent.’

Then I told the Creator I wanted to know all about the peanut. He replied that my mind was too small to know all about the peanut, but He said He would give me a handful of peanuts. And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth…to you it shall be for meat…I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.’ I carried the peanuts into my laboratory and the Creator told me to take them apart and resolve them into their elements. With such knowledge as I had of chemistry and physics I set to work to take them apart. I separated the water, the fats, the oils, the gums, the resins, sugars, starches, pectoses, pentosans, amino acids. There! I had the parts of the peanuts all spread out before me.”

george washinton carver

His story continues:

“I looked at Him and He looked at me. ‘Now, you know what the peanut is.’

‘Why did you make the peanut?’

The Creator said, ‘I have given you three laws; namely, compatibility, temperature, and pressure. All you have to do is take these constituents and put them together, observing these laws, and I will show you why I made the peanut.’

I therefore went on to try different combinations of the parts under different conditions of temperature and pressure, and the result was what you see.”

Peanuts

In other words, God had revealed to him the means by which to use the peanut for and in metal polisher, plastics, ink, shampoo, shaving cream, a dozen beverages, and synthetic rubber among many more.

When he testified before a committee of Congress, in 1921, the Chairman inquired:

“‘Dr. Carver, how did you learn all of these things?’

Carver answered: ‘From an old book.’

‘What book?’ asked the Senator.

Carver replied, ‘The Bible.’

The Senator inquired, ‘Does the Bible tell about peanuts?’

‘No Sir,’ Dr. Carver replied, ‘But it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and he did.'”

Another important American that believed in Christian values was Noah Webster. Father of American Education, in 1836, he wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed…No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

In his 1828 dictionary, “Noah Webster used thousands of Scriptural references and gave Biblical definitions, in contrast to humanistic definitions in modern dictionaries” (pg. 69, Building Godly Nations).

noah webster

Noah Webster also wrote, “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

“Dr. Donald Lutz conducted an exhaustive ten-year research of about 15,000 political documents of the Founders’ Era (1760-1805), and recorded every reference our founders made to other sources. This list of 3154 citations reveals those writings and men that most shaped the political ideas of our founders. By far, the most quoted source of their political ideas was the Bible, 34% of citations. The next most quoted sources were from men who largely derived their ideas from the Bible (Montesquier, 8.3%, Blackstone, 7.9%, and Locke, 2.9%). In fact 80% or more of all the citations were from the Bible or Biblical thinkers” (pg. 74, Building Godly Nations).

If that isn’t enough for you, then why Harvard College was founded should be. In 1636, New England Puritans founded Harvard College for the purpose of training ministers for the Gospel. “They thought the greatest curse that could come upon the land would be an impotent, ignorant clergy” (pg. 67, Building Godly Nations).

The original rules at Yale College, also show the importance placed on the Bible. “All scholars shall live religious, godly, and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of light and truth; and constantly attend upon all the duties of religion, both in public and secret” (Annuals of America, Volume 1).

In all, out of the first 108 colleges founded in America, only two were not based on the Christian faith. 106 were.

I could go on and on about other people, events, and facts that support the claim that America was founded on a Judeo-Christian heritage, but, of course, that would be a much longer post. I hope this has opened your eyes to the truth of our country’s history. And as we celebrate the fourth of July, let us remember the brave men and women who came before us.

Happy 4th y’all!

~ Southern Dreamer

Note: All of the information (unless stated otherwise) came from Building Godly Nations by Stephen. H. McDowell. Thank you for doing all of the hard research that allows people like myself to discover it!

Family Lake Trip

Last week, my family and I drove up to North Carolina. We were meeting my dad’s side of the family at a lake house in the Appalachian Mountains for a get-together-vacation. The scenery was stunning! Even though I’ve grown up living in a mountainous area, these mountains were far grander! The size and magnitude of it made me marvel at God’s creation. And to think, that he spoke something of such vastness into being!

Tanya's pictures 1149

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” Genesis 1:9

As we drove up the narrow, dirt road of the Appalachian Mountains, my writer mind was bouncing off the wall with ideas. If I could have, I would have stopped the car and spent hours taking pictures! Inspiration was everywhere.

When we finally arrived at the lake house – which was beautiful – I had a bit of a mini-crisis. Wi-Fi was not abounding. And given the fact that I’m a bit…attached to my internet connections, it was definitely not something I was particularly happy with. It ended up being a good thing though, since I actually wrote in my diary and looked at some magazines I had been meaning to look at, but had never taken the time for.

I also did a few “firsts” on this trip. I tried kayaking for the first time, and actually liked it! I even went by myself for a bit (this is coming from a non-risk-taking/adventurous person, so you must understand the significance of this lol :p). I also tried paddle-boarding, though I didn’t go as far out on the lake with that as I did with the kayak.

On one of our days there, my mom, grandmother, and I drove into the local town of Cashiers. They had beautiful pieces of furniture, and several antique stores. We went to one store, called Gracewear. They had really cute t-shirts, cups, and jewelry in the Gracewear collection. This was actually the original Gracewear store and as such, we were able to meet the owners. It was really neat and we talked about Jesus together for a while.

We had a great time at the lake, and I thought it would be a great spot to come back to for future vacations!

Tanya's pictures 1203
My brother and I on the dock of the lake.

 

~ Southern Dreamer

So Not Happening: Book Review

so not happening

So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones is a humor-filled story that is a melting pot of God, faith, and city-girl meets countryside living.

Bella Kirkwood had everything that the world offers: New York City was her home, Broadway only a step away, and an A-list line of friends with her plastic surgeon father’s credit card in her pocket. She adored fashion, name brands, and would likely advertise ‘shopping is therapy.’

Yet her life quickly changed.

With the divorce of her parents, Bella was left to live with her mother. And her mother happened to try online dating, fall in love with a farmer in the middle-of-nowhere-Oklahoma, and move herself and Bella there.

This is so not what Bella Kirkwood is about. And she is wondering exactly where God is in all this. Then there is, of course, the two stepbrothers she could seriously do without: one always seems to be trying to push her buttons and the other watches way too much news for his elementary school age.

I found myself sympathizing with Bella as she stepped in cow poo, was forced to dumpster-dive by the annoying editor of the school newspaper, and having to live with there not being a good shopping center seconds away (#smalltownwoes).

So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones is a hilarious story filled with some romance, mystery, and very relatable situations. I’d advise anyone to pick up a copy and laugh as you read of Bella’s adventures.

~ Southern Dreamer

To Read, To Memorize

blog

People always wonder how to hear the Holy Spirit – to discern what is their own thought and what is God speaking to them. Obviously there is not an exact “take-home” formula for this, but there is at least one area where God has and can surely use to speak to His children: Scripture.

God can do anything, of course, but if we do not invest ourselves in His Word then the likelihood that Scripture is how we will hear Him speak does lessen, I think. Many times in our busy day-to-day lives it can seem like a tiresome task to sit down and put away everything else, to solely focus on Jesus and the Bible (I myself am guilty of this).

blog2

At the beginning of this year, I started a chronological reading guide to the Bible. For someone who was struggling to make time to read the Scripture – and not just a devotion, and also likes structure/plans, this has proven to be a helpful tool to use.

If you’re like me, and have been struggling to make time to read the Bible, I would encourage you to either make up your own daily reading plan – perhaps a Psalm or Proverb’s a day – or Google one online to utilize.

blog3

I remember a few years ago, when my computer was crashing. I was naturally upset because basically all of my Word documents were lost. And for a writer, that is one of the worst things that can happen.

At some point that day, I can’t remember when exactly, the v came into my mind:

(*part of Matthew 17:20*) “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Now, I had never memorized that verse before and that’s when I knew it was the Holy Spirit who was telling me that. Yes, I had briefly read it – once, maybe twice – but I had never committed it to memory.

God used that Scripture, that at some point in my life I had read, to encourage me. If I had never read it, would that still have occurred? It very well could have since the Holy Spirit does not have to depend on our knowledge to tell us things. But the point of me saying this, is to show the importance of reading Scripture.

Joshua 1:8 says, “you shall meditate on it [Bible] day and night,” and Psalm 1:2 echoes it, “on his law he meditates day and night.”

Let us all become more invested in the Word of God, so that as Psalm 1 says, we may become, “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Love Letter

blog4

As I was looking through Pinterest one day, I saw the above quote. And it suddenly struck me on how true that is.

Being both a romantic and an avid reader, it is not uncommon for the thought to cross my mind oh I wish this character were real or I wonder what happens next. The amazing thing about the Bible, is that, in fact both of those thoughts are/can become reality.

The Bible is the truth. “We’ve got 25,000 to 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament,” remembers Lee Strobel in The Case For The Real Jesus, quoting Daniel B. Wallace who has a PH.D., “the average ancient Greek author has fewer than 20 copies of his works still in existence…If you stacked the works of other ancient writers on top of each other, they’d be about four feet tall. Stack up copies of the New Testament, and they’d reach more than a mile high.”

Characters written about in the Bible were real people who lived. The Scriptures are the recount of the redemption story of God wooing us to himself. It’s a love story written to us.

blog5

It’s the story of betrayal, adoration, and joy. A tale where despite our rejecting him, the prince of peace continued to fight for us. To do anything so that we could once more be called “His.”

blog6

What makes this even more incredible, is that He sacrificed everything – knowing that not all would love Him. He loved us before we ever did anything to deserve such. He continues to seek after us even now – even after we have sinned, not listened, and rejected him. The love of Jesus is one that is perfect, flawless. To us, He says:

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:5).

“For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35).

blog7

~ Southern Dreamer

Resources:

The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel

Pinterest

 

God’s Providence

Sometimes I think we take for granted how much God protects us. All the times when He has spared our life because it was not yet our time.

I was reminded of this especially over Christmas break.

My mom and my brother were in the car, driving home. It was raining extremely hard when suddenly a car from the left lane turned right in front of them. It rammed into the front of our van which had been going about forty miles per hour. By God’s grace, my mom was able to turn the car so that they did not hit the electrical pole in front of them or roll down the steep hill to their right.

There were basically no cars on that road besides ours and theirs. If there had been, I am almost certain someone would have died.

The axel on our car was broken and the front wheels turned in odd directions while the engine of the car literally touched the ground. The door on the driver’s side would not open.

Their airbags did not go off. And get this. They sustained no injuries.

As if that was not amazing enough, the people in the other car came out uninjured as well even if their car did not.

So many variables in that should have equaled their deaths: it was raining very hard, their airbags did not go off, and the axel was broken completely. Yet…God in His power had arranged for there to be no other cars on the road and had supernaturally protected them when at the very least they should have sustained injuries.

I don’t know how you can look at that and say that there is not a God watching over us. I, for one, am incredibly thankful for His protection.

Note: I understand that some people have had loved ones die in car accidents. That is a terribly tragic situation and I am not trying to undermine it. It does not mean that God loves my family members more since they did not die. It only means that it was not their time to go and be with Him.

~ Southern Dreamer

Sin and the Ingrown Toe Nail

Ingrown toe nails are nasty, painful problems to have. Actually, I happen to suffer from them. For me at least, they’re genetic: my dad and grandmother both have them. Every time I hit my ingrown tail nail – even if it’s gently! – on a surface, it hurts like the dickens.

And that is why, once a month, I have to go to the nail salon and allow the lady to remove it. And man does it hurt. You would think, after all, if I go monthly that it would not cause me any discomfort to have it removed, right? After all, it is a much better alternative than not going at all.

But that’s the funny thing about sin and ingrown toe nails. It’s not a one time deal. I can’t go to God and be like, “Alright Lord! Rid me of sin once and for all! I want it all gone! Every little bit!” or say to the salon woman, “Ok, what’ve you got for a one-time-fix-all?” It doesn’t work like that. Similarly to how ingrown toe nails do not disappear forever once the ingrown is removed, so does our sin not vaporize when the Lord extends his forgiveness to us and wipes the slate clean.

I remember, one time, when not all of my ingrown had been removed. Very soon after it began to hurt – when usually I can at least go a bit longer after having it taken out. We may desire for God to only cleanse us of one tiny portion of our sin, but that is not how He works. C.S. Lewis states it brilliantly in Mere Christianity when he says,

“Let me explain. When I was a child I often had a toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother – at least, not til the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache,” and “Our Lord is like the dentists…Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of…or which is obviously spoiling daily life. Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.”

If we even allow a little leeway for any specific sin to sneak back into our life, it will cause us some sort of painful consequence – even if we think, “Why, I’m only doing it once a week! How bad could that possibly be?” Quite dangerous indeed. For once a week can often turn to twice a week and that in essence can increase until you and I find ourselves doing it every day! The entire sin (and ingrown!) must be removed. Not only a portion.

Additionally, just as we must continually return to the throne of grace and humbly ask for forgiveness and aid in refusing sinful temptation, so must I go monthly and have my ingrown removed. Many times, both of these instances are horribly painful and reek of discomfort. But, the great relief that comes when that sinful corner or ingrown pressure is eliminated gives a much needed motivation to continue returning. The periodical short term (or sometimes long term) pain of having it taken out in return for the wonderful sensation of relief – even if it is a bit sore, it definitely is worth all the trouble.

~ Southern Dreamer