Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 7 Day Challenge

"...make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." ~ 2 Peter 1:5-6

So, my fellow Countrysider's, were you as challenged as I was this morning after service? Did 2 Peter 1 reveal sin in your life, as it did me? I don't know about you, but WOW! What a great challenge! This passage talks about 7 things that we as Christians are to live, and how to live them. It was such an encouragement to me, as God revealed to me practical ways to live as Christ lived-- sometimes that seems like an impossible goal, but this passage has opened my eyes to 7 things that God wants to see in my life, thus, the 7 Day Challenge.

Each day I am going to focus on living out one of the 7 things listed in 2 Peter 1. But first, I want to look at the first three words of verse 5, listed above. Make every effort. This is not something to pass off as something 'good to do'. This is not something to do half-heartedly. Like we talked about in sunday school this morning, we CANNOT serve 2 masters. We cannot be involved in sin, and still receive the benefits of Christ. We must actively pursue Christ. This is no joke, this is Truth. This is who I want to be, and I'm going to strive to do it to the best of my ability. I challenge you to do the same, come alongside me and GROW in your relationship with Christ.

Note: Most of this is taken from Pastor Mike's sermon. I'm not taking credit for any of it :)

DAY 1 (monday): VIRTUE
Today, live with MORAL EXCELLENCE. See that your life stands out because of the change Christ has made in you. Be distinctive. Our lives are a reflection of GOD. Act like it today. Give God glory by the way you conduct yourself, the decisions you make, the words you speak. Do so with virtue, with excellence, with purity.

DAY 2 (tuesday): KNOWLEDGE
Today, focus on the Word. Know the Word. Understand the Word. Devote time today to spend reading and studying the scriptures. But don't stop there. Apply what the Lord taught you through His Word to Your life. Apply what you learn to the decisions you make by actively seeking God's will. Remember that God's will is perfect ALL the time.

DAY 3 (wednesday): SELF-CONTROL
Today, hold yourself in. Say NO to self, and YES to God. Control your passions and desires that are not godly. DON'T let them control you. Give your passions to the Holy Spirit's control. That is why the Holy Spirit was sent to the earth- to help us in our sanctification. Do NOT follow your heart and it's desires. The heart is desperately wicked. Instead, Guard and Guide your heart. DENY ungodliness and worldly lusts. Be disciplined. Be God's "Yes-man".

DAY 4 (thursday): PERSEVERANCE
Today, press through the tough times. Have endurance that NEVER quits, even though times get rough and don't go the way you want them to. View the disappointments of life in view of who God is, and the wonderful hope that we have in Christ, that the struggles we go through now, PALE in comparison to the future glory we will experience. Also remember all the suffering that Christ went through for us on the cross. Not only the physical pain of crucifixion, but the emotional and spiritual pain of being forsaken by the Father. Nothing we experience now compares to that. Remember this quote from "The Fellowship of the Unashamed": "I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still." Live for Christ with reckless abandon. Persevere for HIM.

DAY 5 (friday): GODLINESS
Today, live with reverence for God. Have a soft, plyable heart before God, not our usual stubborn and prideful heart. Worship God. Worship with a pure heart. Worship with a sincere heart. Worship with a genuine heart. Pursue God with a burning passion.Remember that God greatly dislikes the lukewarm Christian: "So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16". God would rather you be hot or cold than lukewarm. Be on FIRE for God today. Stand firm for God. Be devout.

Today, put other's needs first, even when it is costly. The only way you can do this is if you are involved with other believers and know their needs. Be unified. Be involved. Show others that you CARE for them today. Do something out of your way, out of the ordinary, just to show somebody that you love them with Christ's love. Bear each other's burdens. ?Be quick to forgive others. Esteem others way higher than you esteem yourself. Do this by serving others. PRAY for someone today, really pray for their relationship with Christ.

DAY 7 (sunday): LOVE
Today, show strong, SACRIFICIAL love to somebody. Be so devoted to God that your love spills out and finds it's expression in a love for others. Show a love that is not limited in action. Go above and beyond how much you think you can love. God will expand your love for others, as your love for HIM increases. Focus on your love for God today, and watch how it spills out to everyone you meet. Share the gospel today- that is the GREATEST act of love you can do for an unbeliever. Step outside of yourself and your comfort zone to meet someone's needs, whether they are spiritual or physical. Be dedicated to a higher purpose than yourself today. Be dedicated to God. Have a love of selflessness.

I really and truly hope that you will apply these simple and practical truths to your life this week as I am doing. Please let me know if you decide to do this so we can encourage each other this week as we go through this together. Love you peoples!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I am a wretched sinner. God is a forgiving God. I am blessed.

Well, so much for posting every week! hahahaha...

I've been thinking a lot about sin recently. How much I struggle with it, how much I don't think I struggle with it, wishing it would just go away, wishing that I would be stronger in resisting temptation, wishing I would realize the sin that I struggle with every day that is right before me and change. But unfortunately, I haven't been doing a very good job of taking care of the sin in my life. And it's destroying me. It's destroying my joy, my peace, my relationship with God, my relationships with others... everything. Sin is so destructive and I am so ready to be done with it.

But that's as far as I get. I get so fed up with sin, but don't do anything about it. I get discouraged about all the awful stuff in my life, then turn around and do it again. WHY? Why do I take action against my sin!? Why am I content to just live an 'ok' life? Why am I fine with looking good on the outside and struggling with a lot of stuff on the inside? Why am I content to live with sin in my life?

I shouldn't be. Sin is an abomination to the Lord. He HATES sin with a passion. So I say I love God, but how then can my life constantly have the very thing that He hates most? It doesn't make sense. So that's why it's no longer gonna happen.

I am done with this. I no longer am going to tolerate sin in my life. I want to have the same passionate hatred of sin that God does. I am so ready to do a 180 and start living for God again. It's about time. No, it most definitely wont be perfect, and I WILL fail. That's just a fact of sin that I have to deal with. But at least I'm trying. At least I'm actively fighting the battle. At least I'm aware that there's a problem, and am doing my best to fix it.

Now, this is an impossible feat before me. I CANNOT do this on my own. There is NO possible way for me to do this. But I do have the ONLY way. And He literally LIVES IN ME. He is there SPECIFICALLY to HELP ME in my battle against sin. AND HE WILL. I know because He has before. He is SO GOOD. And He is MINE.

Thank you God for being such a forgiving God. Thanks for being so willing to forgive and forget all the things that I have done that are an abomination to you. You are so good to me. I do not deserve you in any way, yet you chose me, before the beginning of the world to be Yours. I can't wait to spend eternity with You. Love you so much :)


Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Did I Ever Do To Deserve You

Father God,
Be with me now. I am struggling.
I am struggling to keep you first in my life. Every time I think I have it down, you how me how inadequate I am, and how misreably I fail.
Yet you keep picking me back up, and giving me a second chance. You keep loving me, even though I fail you.
You are so forgiving. I do not deserve that. But it just makes me love you even more.
You are my best friend. I can always talk to you about anything and everything, anytime, anywhere. I love that. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you. So much.
I stand in reverent awe of you, and all that you have done for me. You have brought me up from the pits and the depth of my sin. You loved me when I hated you. You saved me while I still deliberately sought to please only myself. you continue to sanctify me even though I so often chase after the fleeting pleasures of sin.

I can't wait to be with you in heaven for eternity. It will be so grand. I can't wait to worship you without the distractions of this life.
Thank you.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

When I survey the Wondrous Cross

By Isaac Watts, 1707

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from His head, His hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down,
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

This song is one of my most favorite songs of all time. Yes, it is a hymn, and a very old one at that (over 300 years old!), but that fact, or its 'old' music style don't make any difference when you just read the words. They are timeless, a small glimpse of our eternal Father who has always been and never changes. I find it so cool that Isaac Watts in 1707 could write the words, and me, Stephanie Dietzel in 2010 can read them and still feel convicted by their truth. Isn't God amazing? Yes.

I love how the first stanza talks of looking at the cross, contemplating it and its purpose, and all that Christ did. And when you really and truly contemplate the cross, you can't help but disregard all the things you are proud of, your accomplishments, even your own spiritual maturity, which is something I easily am prideful of. And not only disregarding them, but pouring contempt on them. I love that line, and how is puts such a vivid, practical picture to something we Christians easily pass off as 'hard', or as an acceptable sin- pride is just too big, and a lot of times, its inward only. We don't necessarily go around stating how proud we are!

Stanza two: I just love how this come straight from scripture! Galatians 6:14 says "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." And once again, there is sacrifice, this time of our vain things.

The third stanza is unique because of the wonderful oxymorons- statements that seemingly contradict each other. Sorrow and love flowing from the same thorn-pierced head, hands and feet? Thorns composing a crown? Yes, these are contradictions, but they just make each other more extreme, and more precious to me.

The final stanza is probably my favorite. It shows how small I am in comparison to God. It shows how much God has given to me, and no matter how hard I try, how much I give, or what I do, I can never ever repay God for the incredible sacrifice He made for me. But that's ok! That is God's plan! And it is wondrous! Grace paid for my sins, and I don't need to worry about trying to earn my salvation. God did that for me. SO AMAZING! But in return, out of a gratitude to God, I give my soul, my life, my all to God. It's that simple.

The cross is truly wondrous. I am so thankful for it. Let us never grown numb to its wonder.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just Some Random Thoughts on Life and Praise to My Amazing God

Wow. I am so bad at this blog thing. but I am going to make a commitment to post something at least once a week this semester. And if I don't, I well... fail at life. or at least blogging. :)

So what's on my mind right now? Change. Not like the spare coins in your pocket, but changes in my friends, my family, my life.
The most obvious change is that Mike's going to college. It didn't really hit me until a couple of days ago. Not being a terribly emotional person, I didn't think it would be so hard or even different, but BOY WILL IT! He's actually going to be gone. Not here. At ALL. He's going to be in Wisconsin. We're going up to northland and coming back without him. That is going to be one very long and boring car ride. His room will sit empty. He wont be here to make fun of me and drive me places and do all those 'older brother' things that he does so well. I actually have to grow up. I'm the oldest kid at home now. How weird is that?

Along those lines, I'm also going to Juco this year. BIG CHANGE. You're talking to the true home-learned home-schooled girl whose only classroom experience is Southland. And that barely counts :) Not only am I going to a real school, it's a public school. And not only is it a real public school, it's a college. YIKES. I am a little bit afraid. Especially since SCHOOL STARTS IN 3 days!!! I can't believe summer is... dare I even say... OVER??!?!?! Where did it go?

Well, the biggest, most unexpected change (even to me) is ballet. Or lack of ballet, that is. yep, you got it right, I'm not dancing this year. For reals. No it's not because of my ankle, or teachers, or anything like that. God really spoke to me this summer about how I am spending my time, and what really matters for eternity... In a nutshell, not ballet. So I am not returning to my beloved KCBS. Don't get me wrong, I still love ballet dearly and this has really been one of the hardest things I've had to do... ever. So I would appreciate your prayers on that.

But I plan on filling all the extra time I have to serve God, preparing myself for a life of full-time ministry that I know God has planned for me, whatever that may be. I am open to anything, missions, pastor's wife, counselor... I don't know for sure right now, but I am so excited to see how God reveals his plan for my life in the future.

I don't know who is reading this, but if you are, thanks. I appreciate it. And I hope even just one thing you read is encouraging :) I am so thankful for you guys, God has blessed me with the most AMAZING friends that I definitely DO NOT deserve in any way, shape or form. I am so thankful for my older, more mature friends who are an example to me of what it is to live a Christ-centered life, the friends my age who are going through the same struggles as me, who are a great encouragement and help to me. I am so thankful for my younger friends who continually challenge me and my walk with Christ, and who provide an awesome opportunity for me to learn how to be a leader and a true friend.

God, thank You for EVERYTHING. i do not deserve anything you give me. I love you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Psalm 73

1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, "How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?"

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.

15 If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!

20 As a dream when one awakes,
so when you arise, O Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

I am so thankful that God gave me these verses last year at camp, which by the way is NEXT WEEK and I can't believe that it's already here again- it feels like it was just yesterday! Anyways, God impacted my life with these verses a year ago, and He is still impacting me with them now. I love how scripture is eternal and ongoing and continues to challenge, convict and teach people even over the past 2,000 years.

But back to my main point. This chapter.

The first 12 verses talk of how it seems like the wicked have such prosperous lives and get everything they want. Yes, they are evil, but they have no problems and are liked by others. They can do whatever they want to do and look good doing it.

So that's the wicked. But now verses 13 and 14. Here's where I come in.

I envy the wicked. Why? You might ask? Well, they have prosperous lives and they get everything they want. Yes, they're evil, but they have no problems and are liked by others. They can do whatever they want to do and look good doing it.

And I want that.

I want to be 'popular'. I want to be with the 'in-crowd'. Not as much a status thing, but more an acceptance. I'm always speak out against the evil that I see in others, but feel rejected, so I decide to forget about my standards and try to fit in by doing evil.

Of course, that marvelous idea backfires every time. Evil is evil, no matter what the circumstances. Somehow, right as I decide to take the plunge and do the wrong thing, all the wicked people stop doing it. Right as I decide that I would rather do something wrong because everyone else is doing it, everyone else stops. And before I know it, they are the ones correcting ME of the wrongdoings. Ironic? Well, I think that is God teaching me how stupid I really am.

Now that is embarrassing. The wicked correcting me? The stereotypical homeschooled Christian teenager? But not just to me personally. As a Christian, my life is to be a reflection of Christ's. But when I'm in this position, I am the complete opposite.

Right now as I'm writing this, I feel so stupid. Why would I do this? It's obviously so wrong! But I have an outside perspective right now. It's different when you're right in the middle of a decision. But hopefully now I have learned from my mistakes will, by the grace and strength of God, will think before I act, and weigh the consequences of every action.

I need to have an eternal perspective- nothing on this earth matters. Only eternity. My human image is not worth dishonoring my Heavenly Father's Holy name.

But all this 'drama', I guess you could call it, has left a deep regret in my heart. I have failed on so many levels. I have sacrificed my modesty, character, speech, and so many other things just to be accepted by the wicked. And I regret that. I regret that now because my reputation has suffered- but as I said before, my reputation is just a little speck in comparison to the image of Christ that I am supposed to be displaying. I feel like I have failed so much that I am not even worthy to be known as a child of God.

In one respect, this is a good thing. It is very humbling to realize all that I am not worthy of. It is good to understand, even in just a small way, my insignificance.

But it has become a real problem with me. It's turning into a pity-party for Stephanie. The focus has shifted off of God's wonderful and miraculous grace, and onto me. That is so not right.

But verse 26 has comforted me, and has helped me to shift the focus back to where it belongs:

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

God continually demonstrates perfect forgiveness to me. And not only that- He is the strength of my heart. He will continue to give me the strength to resist temptation, and be with me when I feel rejected by others. He is all I need, now and forever more.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Can you tell that I'm really busy?

Well hello again! Yes, I know it has been two month since my last post. Life just caught up to me, and I suddenly realized that I didn't have time to keep up with this blog!! But these past few snowdays have given me ample time to do anything I want to do, so here goes.

*WARNING* this post might be extra long cause who knows when I'll have time to do this again.

Well. Where to start? So much has been going on in my life. Almost too much for me to handle, but I know it's all in God's plan and I know He wont give me more than I can handle.

I guess a good place to start is my devotions. I started reading through the Bible a couple months ago and I have reached Genesis 36. (y\Yes, I know I'm a slow reader, but there is just so much packed into this book!) Chapter 36 is a genealogy of all Esau's children and grandchildren. To be perfectly honest, I almost skipped reading this chapter cause I thought "A genealogy? How am I supposed to learn anything from a genealogy?" But I decided to go ahead and read it cause I wanted to read through the *whole* Bible and didn't want to skip anything.

I am SO glad I didn't skip it.

So I started out reading it, and was amazing at the number of names listed! There are more than 40 names listed! WOW! That is a lot of kids!! Then I started to think about all of Jacob's kids. He had *12* boys who had kids of their own eventually. That's 52+ people now.

Why does this amaze me, you may ask. It amazes me because of God's promise to Abraham. God promised that Abraham would be the Father of a Great Nation. But how? Abraham had no children. God graciously provided a son to Abraham, but still, that was only *one*. But as I read in Genesis 36, Abraham's grandsons Jacob and Esau added 52 people! That is the start of a Great Nation.

But I questioned myself, Would I have the faith of Abraham? Would I trust that God would make a Great Nation from just one person? I don't think I would. Even after Isaac was born, it would still be pretty hard to believe that a Great Nation could come from that baby. He was just one person too. But the important thing is that God DID keep His promise, and I know that He always will.

So many times in my life I don't trust that God can do the impossible. To be specific, right now I am having a rough time believing that God could save my friends that I dance with. The way I see them, is as a teen that care less about church or God. But the way God sees them is as a lost person that His Son died for. I can trust in God knowing that He already knows whether they are going to get saved or not. He has already predestined them. Yet, I still find myself doubting His infinite power.

Wow. I have ramble on and on and ON! If you are still reading this, you are a trooper! Thank you for your time. I had actually planned to write about several other topics, but I think I will save that for a later time.