Blog

Run to the Word

Teach me,  O Lord, the way of Your statues, And I shall keep it to the end. (Psalm 119:33 NKJV)

My half marathon is just over a month away. One. Month. Away. Last week, I ran 7.3 miles and was feeling pretty good about my mileage, until I did the math.

13.1 – 7.3 = 5.8

Did I mention I never liked math? (Hence, I teach English.)

The good news is I’m over half way there. The bad news is that I almost need to double last week’s distance to reach the finish line. *Groans*

Don’t worry. I’m not quitting. I will cross that finish line. There just might be some teeth gritting, blisters, and tears.

Sometimes, my walk with God requires the same resolve. Let’s be real. In our Christian lives, we all face obstacles, trials, and temptations. If we throw in the towel when those hit us, we might need to examine if our faith is genuine or fake (like we talked about earlier).

I’m convinced the way to press through any circumstance is to put down deep roots in God’s Word. A few weeks ago, we looked at the reasons we need God’s Word. Today, let’s identify some common responses to it and examine our lives to see where we fit. Do we take it for granted, or do we run toward it like the prize it is?

In Mark 4, Jesus told the parable of the sower where he describes four responses people have to God’s Word. I encourage you to read the whole parable and explanation in verses 3-20, and then check yourself against these categories.

#1: Wayside Listeners

“And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.” (Mark 4:15 NKJV)

To these people, God’s Word is all about convenience. There’s no real relationship with the Word Giver, and the Deceiver easily steals what little truth they heard. To them, the Bible:

  • Is a nice story about a good man
  • Doesn’t really apply to their everyday lives

#2: Fair-Weather Listeners

“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” (Mark 4:16-17 NKJV)

These people have good intentions. They enjoy hearing the “good news” of God’s Word, but there’s a disconnect between its relevance to their lives when storms or problems arise. To them, the Bible:

  • Tells sweet stories for children
  • Doesn’t solve their real-world problems

#3: Distracted Listeners

“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19 NKJV)

These people might like some of what God’s Word has to say, but they’re not willing to let its message change their lifestyles and habits. After all, what’s wrong with a little fun? To them, the Bible:

  • Is outdated
  • Preaches a doctrine that’s too narrow-minded

#4: Active Listeners

“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:20 NKJV)

These people don’t just listen. They do what the Bible says. They search it to learn how to deal with confusing decisions, how to understand God’s will, and how to make a difference in their world. To them, the Bible is:

  • An irreplaceable lifeline to God
  • A must-have for all decisions

Let’s ask ourselves: Do we run toward God’s Word in good and bad times or only when it’s convenient? What kind of biblical listener are we?

Yes, the race is hard, and often, the training hurts. But that doesn’t mean we should quit.

Dear Lord, I want to run in “the way of Your statues” until “the end” of my life (Psalm 119:33 NKJV). By your grace, I’ll cross that finish line and hear a “well done” one day.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

What kind of biblical listener are you? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Advertisements

The Season of Change

The fact Florida doesn’t experience foliage proves to be a sore spot for many residents. Personally, I’m happy to live with the trade-off of year-round sunshine since driving north a state or two lets me visit fall in all its glory.

However, I may be the exception. The other day, a friend shared a graphic of the current fall foliage, which met with nearly unanimous groans. The focus was my home state, Florida, and the key read something like this:

With some, I’ll never win the sunshine over foliage argument. However, there’s one season that proximity to the equator doesn’t determine. The season of change doesn’t discriminate like fall colors or winter flurries do.

In any given year, we may face changes in jobs, professions, schools, churches, or relationships. Maybe we made or didn’t make the team this year. Maybe our new commitments require cutting out other good things from our calendars.

How do we deal with change? As I thought about this question, I remembered high school science projects (of all things), because the scientific method takes a positive, proactive approach to problem solving. In many ways, change is a “problem,” but not in the negative sense of the word. It’s a challenge, something through which we can grow and learn.

That said, here is a semi-scientific approach that may help us deal with the unavoidable changes in life.

#1: Identify the constants.

Regardless if our world seems to be spinning, God and His Word remain solid.

  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV).
  • “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NKJV).

Though change can be uncomfortable, it can also drive us closer to God as we seek to understand His plan for our lives.

#2: Consider the variables.

“Ten years from now, will ______ make a difference?” My mom asked my brothers and me this question all the time when I was growing up, and I grudgingly came to realize she was right. Often, some perspective can help us realize that change isn’t the end of the world.

However, some decisions will have long-lasting consequences. Where we go to college, what career we choose, and who we marry will impact the course of our lives. We would be foolish not to bring these decisions before the Lord in prayer, seek godly advice from family and mentors, and consider how the options align with the calling God’s placed on our lives.

#3: Form your best solution.

Recently, I was talking with a friend and mentor whom God has called to a new opportunity and place. He told me he’d given God every chance to close the door, and yet, God hadn’t. Instead, after hours of prayer with family and friends, he believed God was calling him to move forward in faith.

The conversation reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths (NKJV).

Change can be conflicting and even frightening, but when we’ve done our part, the times comes when we must move forward and trust God to do His.

#4: Accept the outcome, and let God work.

Sometimes, the results exceed our wildest dreams, and other times, we wonder if we made a misstep. I remember a period in my life when I felt God had opened a door, only to find Him closing it months later. Had I misheard His voice?

Looking back, I don’t think I had. Though that season proved difficult for me, I can see how I grew through it and how God used it to bring me where I am today. Without that experience, I would have missed out on greater blessings and opportunities.

Challenges and problems aren’t always the result of sin or misguidance. They can be God’s tools to bring us where He wants us to be.

Are you facing a change and feeling unprepared? Are you stuck on any of these steps? If so, what truths from God’s Word can help you grow through the circumstances?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

The Season of Change – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Faith That’s Not Fake

Recently, I attended the Florida Blog Convention in Orlando with my friend and fellow writer Ashley Jones. We figured we might be the only Christian bloggers there but wanted to go and learn what we could. Turns out, there was only one other “faith” blogger in attendance, but everyone we met was friendly and welcoming to us.

We befriended one blogger who seemed confused by what we write. Finally, she asked, “What is a fake blogger?”

Ashley and I stared at each other. Fake?

“Oh, faith-not fake,” we hurried to explain.

She smiled. “Yeah, I was kind of wondering what a fake blogger would write about.”

Truth be told, however, some people are just as uncertain what faith bloggers share. Mainstream blogging is all about monetization and numbers. While some Christian bloggers also make their livelihood from writing and most certainly want to be successful in reaching their audiences, the difference is their motivation. We write because God’s called us to write and to be light.

Our new friend’s words made me pause and question: Do people see our faith as fake? “Authentic” is a buzz word in blogging, and we Christians of all people should strive for transparency. We can’t present ourselves as happily settled on an unreachable pedestal.

Instead, we need to be real, honest, and also loving toward those who might be genuinely searching for God. No one can relate to someone who presents himself as “perfect,” and yet how often do we want people to think we are?

Of all the ideas I took away from the convention, this one conversation sticks out to me the most. Though the blogger simply misheard what Ashley and I said, she could have easily misunderstood the meaning of our faith if we hadn’t shared it sincerely with her.

How can you authentically share your faith instead of putting on a “spiritual” front? What does that transparency look like in your day-to-day life?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Does your faith look fake? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

2 Lies the Enemy Tells Us about Being Single

This week’s post talked about God’s timing, and I think it’s “timely” that my guest post for DailyPS.com on singleness also published the same week. In every season of life, most of us would probably admit we’re “waiting” for something … to get through that advanced math class, to hear back on college applications, or to receive that long-awaited promotion.

Many people are also waiting and wondering when their relationship status might change. Though I don’t often blog about singleness, I think this topic is important, because it’s often misunderstood. If you’re single or know someone who is, I’d encourage you to click over to DailyPS.com to read the full post.

Regardless of your “status” or the item on your “waiting” list, the bottom line is this: Live abundantly where God has you today.

Post excerpt

Often, we single adults don’t stress about our relationship status until someone suggests we should. Not long ago, my church’s youth pastor shared from the pulpit how he met his wife online. The woman in front of me twisted in her seat and raked me over with a look that said, “Sweetheart, what are you waiting for?”

Well-meaning though she was, she doesn’t know my story. Well-meaning though people may be, they don’t know yours. Whether through not-so-subtle suggestions or other prickly tactics, Satan can make us question our confidence in Christ.

To deflect his darts, we should consider Paul’s challenge to the Ephesians, equipping ourselves “to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 NKJV). Dictionary.com defines wiles as “a trick, artifice, or stratagem meant to fool, trap, or entice.”

In other words, wiles are lies that parade as truth, and perhaps we’ve entertained a few before. Something’s wrong with you. You’re not good enough. You missed the bus.

When lies rear their heads like ugly dragons, the only way to slay them is with truth. Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word “is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (NKJV). It’s the weapon we need to defeat the doubt and live the abundant life God’s planned for us (John 10:10).

Click here to read the full post.

Our Maker’s Metronome

Click, click, click. Beep, beep, beep. That metronome used to drive me crazy as a beginning piano student. If you play piano (or some other instrument), maybe that little device was the bane of your early musical years, too.

Of course, my teacher had my best interests at heart, and thanks to her persistence and the nagging of that metronome, my timing improved. All along, I knew its steady beat was right, but I still resented it.

Am I that way with God’s timing? Are you? We might say we believe His ways are best, but truthfully, we’d rather speed up the tempo. However, when we rush ahead of God, we miss His perfect plan. Two Old Testament characters learned this lesson the hard way.

King Saul forgot his place.

As Israel’s king, Saul enjoyed many privileges and responsibilities. Offering burnt sacrifices was not one of them.

During the second year of his reign, he faced a critical test. Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, gathered to attack. Their numbers were “like the sand on the seashore in multitude” (I Samuel 13:5 ESV). In response, the men of Israel fled and hid themselves.

Although the text doesn’t contain the message, King Saul must have sent for the High Priest Samuel to come sacrifice to the Lord and intercede on their behalf. In reply, Samuel sent word he would be there in seven days (I Sam. 13:8).

Can you imagine the tension building inside Saul? His forces were scattered, and he couldn’t do anything to rally them until Samuel appeared. His panic grew as more men disappeared with each new dawn. At this rate, he wouldn’t have an army left to face the Philistines.

Finally, the day arrived, but Samuel did not. Too impatient to wait any longer, Saul offered the sacrifice himself.

Guess what? The Bible says that “as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering,” Samuel arrived (I Sam. 13:10 ESV). Saul armed himself with excuses, but the bottom line was that he had disobeyed God. As a result, Samuel declared that God would not establish Saul’s kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Do we try to take things that don’t belong to us—or perhaps aren’t God’s design for us right now? Losing our place in a musical piece might leave us embarrassed, but getting out of sync with God’s plan can only bring regret.

Abram and Sarai rushed ahead of God’s plan.

In Scripture, God made a covenant, an unbreakable promise, with a man named Abram.

  • In Genesis 12, God promised to make him “a great nation” (vs. 2) and give the land to his offspring (vs. 7).
  • In Genesis 13, God told him that his descendants would be like “the dust of the earth,” meaning that no one could count them (vs. 16).
  • In Genesis 15, God declared that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (vs. 5).

There was only one problem. Abram and his wife Sarai were old and childless.

Perhaps at first, Abram believed God without question. But ten years passed from the initial promise when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4). Maybe he needed to “help God along.”

He wife suggested he have a child with her handmaid. The result of that union was a boy named Ishmael, but he was not to be the son of promise. Instead, God told Abram and Sarai they would have a son named Isaac (Genesis 17:19-21). He changed their names to Abraham and Sarah to underscore His promise that they would be parents of not just one son, but of many nations (Genesis 17:4, 16).

God’s promise came to pass, though not on their timetable. Twenty-five years after the promise in Genesis 12, Sarah bore Isaac to Abraham, now 100 years old (Genesis 21:5).

Although God always keeps His word, we often grow impatient. We think our timing is better—only to complicate our circumstances.

God’s promises endure.

Is there something you’ve been praying about for some time? Does God seem to be saying no or not yet?

God’s Word provides the encouragement we need to persevere. As we spend time in the Bible, we can identify unchanging truths and apply them to our circumstances.

Let’s look at one of them from Abraham’s story. This man had his share of doubts, but the Lord told him: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward (Genesis 15:1b NKJV).

I wonder if these words were God’s way of reminding Abraham that greater even than the child of promise was His own presence in Abraham’s life.

Try placing your name in that verse. Say it out loud.

Do not be afraid, ______________. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.

The Lord is our shield and our reward—even while we’re waiting, even if God ultimately says no or reshapes our request.

God’s timing is always perfect.

We would never tell a metronome that it’s timing is wrong and ours is right. We’re aware, sometimes painfully so, that it’s on tempo and we’re not.

If we wouldn’t argue with a mechanized device, why do we argue with God? How often do we tell Him that He needs to answer our prayers … for a friend, a relationship, a growth spurt, a scholarship … NOW?

Even though we may think our timing makes sense, the truth is we can’t see or understand God’s schedule. In the Bible, the book of Isaiah speaks to this very truth:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

Let’s stop resenting His timing and learn to conform to it. Our unchanging God has planned the perfect rhythm for our lives, and when we follow it, we can enjoy His best.

~ Kristen

This post first appeared in the Girlz 4 Christ Fall Issue. To read more great content for teens girls, subscribe at girlz4christ.org.

Tweetable

Our Maker’s Metronome: God’s timing is always perfect – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Dare to Know God’s Word

Gutenberg Bible, Library of Congress

Know that God’s Word has to be front and center. We have to be thinking about it, be able to quote it. Refuse to let fear and discouragement hold us back; for wherever we go, God will be with us.- Lysa TerKeurst.

Last week, I introduced you to TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes, which challenged me in the area of priorities. My running friend gave me a daily calendar based on the book to help me focus daily on some key principles.

The above quote reminded me that I not only need to train physically for this half marathon, but I also need to prepare mentally for the spiritual endurance life demands. Together, we’ve challenged ourselves to memorize the book of Ephesians during the training weeks ahead.

As a teen, I committed books of the Bible to memory through the Christian Alliance Church’s Bible quiz team. Those years memorizing God’s Word built a foundation of Scripture and truth in my life that have seen me through some tough times. Recently, though, I haven’t been intentional about memorizing God’s Word, and I want to change that.

Why should we know God’s Word by heart? Psalm 119 reveals Scripture’s priceless value and offers several truths that show why we need the “living and powerful” Word (Hebrews 4:12) to be active in our lives.

God’s Word …

  1. Cleanses (Psalm 119:9). If we stray from a path or lifestyle that’s pleasing to God, we can immerse ourselves in the cleansing power of Scripture.
  2. Guards (Psalm 119:11). There’s a sign in my chiropractor’s office that says, “Prevention: the best cure for disease.” We hide God’s Word in our hearts so we won’t go places and do things that contradict God’s will.
  3. Revives (Psalm 119:25). Have you ever felt worn out with life’s trials? God’s Word provides a source of comfort and refreshment like nothing else can offer.
  4. Strengthens (Psalm 119:28). We can’t build physical endurance if we don’t exercise, nor can we grow our spiritual “muscles” if we don’t spend time in God’s instruction book.
  5. Prepares (Psalm 119:42). We can’t know what challenges, conflict, and criticism we’re going to face from people. God’s Word equips us to answer beyond our own wisdom. It won’t return to us void (Isaiah 55:11).
  6. Gives life (Psalm 119:50). The Gospel of John describes Jesus as the Word who “became flesh” (John 1:14). He came, lived, and died so that we can enjoy eternal life. Maybe the here and now presents problems that threaten to overwhelm us, but we can rest in the assurance of our eternal life, if we know Jesus as our Savior.
  7. Offers hope. (Psalm 119:76, 81). The Bible is full of “precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) that we can pray. God’s mercy today is just as deep and wide as it was thousands of years ago, and the Word provides us with hope for tomorrow.

We’re privileged to live in a time where the Bible is more readily accessible than ever before. With a few keystrokes, we can look it up online, download it on our portable devices, and even have Scripture texted directly to our phones throughout the day (with apps like GoTandem).

Yet its availability sometimes gives us a complacency regarding its worth.

Are you spending as much time in God’s Word as you’d like? If not, what’s holding you back? Romans 12:2 says:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (NKJV).

The only way we can renew our minds and discern God’s will is to know God’s Word. 

Will you join me? You don’t even have to start with a whole book. Choose a chapter or a few verses. I encourage you to comment with your favorite passage that you’d like to know by heart.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

Dare to Know God’s Word – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

7 Reasons to Memorize Scripture – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Cone of Uncertainty and Giving Up Control

Last week, I had a hard time focusing, and this week started much the same. If you live in Florida, you may have shared the same problem.

When I stared at Hurricane Irma’s cone of uncertainty, I wondered how the storm’s path might impact me. Not having owned my home for even a year, I found myself wanting to hold tightly onto what I had little control to protect.

Though I’m grateful the storm didn’t damage my home, the experience made me realize I need to hold more loosely, not only to the things of this life, but also to choices and circumstances whose results I can’t control.

Because at the end of the day, control can be a struggle for many of us.

A good friend of mine kindly reminded me of my problem. She pointed out that I like to plan and prepare, and when I can’t, I tend to stress.

However, life presents many scenarios that blast at our insecurities. Maybe we’re faced with a choice, and we don’t know if it’s the right one or not. Maybe we don’t know which job to accept or which decision will be best for our family.

Recently, I read Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes. It’s an amazing book on priorities, the power of the “small no,” and how to save your “best yes” for the calling God’s given you. If you’re a young adult or adult wanting guidance in decision-making, I’d encourage you to add it to your reading list.

TerKeurst covers all the bases of praying, exploring our options, and talking to wise mentors and family when making choices. However, there comes a point when we can’t let “analysis paralysis” keep us from moving forward.

Here’s what she says about taking that next step:

I don’t think we should fear stepping out of God’s will. But if you desire to please God with the decision you make and afterward it proves to be a mistake, it’s an error not an end.

An error, not an end. I love that.

We can’t control storms, nor can we control the outcomes of all the choices we make. But we can trust that if we suffer wind damage or disappointment, neither is an end in itself. By God’s grace, we rebuild and move on.

Praying for all those affected by Hurricane Irma.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Cone of Uncertainty and Giving Up Control – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)