Saturday, December 12, 2015

Treasures of the Snow

Merry Christmas, sisters! 
My favorite Christmas verse is
“the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” 1 John 3:8.
God has done a great work in my life. I give Him all the glory that I am here in His Name and able to share how far He has brought me.
Psalm 107:2 says
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story”
So I am going to share a little of my story with you…
I grew up in a loving home. I was sheltered from a lot and our family was safe. I went to a Christian school until I was in 7th grade and I was at Church every Sunday. I am VERY thankful for my parents and grandparents leading me toward Jesus at a  young age.
I have found journals from when I was a little girl. I wanted to love God. I just didn’t really know how.
When I started going to a public school in 7th grade, I was introduced to things I didn’t even know existed. I didn’t know how to navigate sin and I didn’t have a personal walk with the Lord so the current of the world began pulling me. It continued pulling me out further and further and further through high school and into college.
All this time,  I KNEW God had a calling on my life. I KNEW He wanted to use me for ministry. So, like Jonah… I RAN because I was afraid.  After all, what if God made me be a missionary in the jungle or made me weird??
 I definitely didn’t want to be weird!! 

(Sidenote—it always makes me laugh thinking of how afraid I was God was going to make me weird and now I am a homeschooling mother of six who drives a conversion van. I would have DIED if He would have told me that then.  God truly  has made me super weird and I am so very thankful! But back then I just wanted to fit in and be popular!!!)

In high school and college I drifted further and further from the Lord and into sin.

God  pursued me and protected me during what I call my “Jonah years”.
Ps 139 says that when we make our beds in the depths, EVEN THERE His loving hand is guiding us.
It was the day after Halloween  in 1997. God had used an atheist philosophy teacher at UT to challenge my faith, my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer, my relationship with my boyfriend was TERRIBLE, I was LIVING in darkness.  The Holy Spirit was drawing me toward Jesus.

I remember One night being at a fraternity party where I was surrounded by sin, 
I heard a voice that said, 
“You don’t belong here”. 
I didn’t know it at the time but it was the Holy Spirit calling me out of the dominion of darkness and into the Kingdom of Jesus.

I was sick from my sin, I was empty.  I was in my room all alone… 

I opened my Bible in that room and I remember thinking “who are you God and why have you not stopped pursuing me? I began to read Galatians 5  and my eyes were OPENED to my need for forgiveness and a Savior. I bowed before God and begged Him to forgive me. 
I remember praying “I have nothing to give you but I give you all that I am." And I said these words that would change my life… 
“If I can know you, I want to know you.” 
The roof of that house opened and forgiveness and grace poured over me. I will never forget the feeling.  
The dead was brought to life. 
The Holy Spirit quickened me and made me ALIVE. 
I was ALIVE! 
And God answered my prayer to know Him by giving me a supernatural hunger for His Word. 
That is how we know Him.
I was radically changed. I went from hungover to not being able to stop reading my Bible. This Book that had been on my shelf collecting dust began to breathe and it began to speak.
That night, I entered into what I call the GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD. The story of a Prince coming to the rescue of a sinful unworthy girl and asking her to be His Bride. He proposed to me that night and I said YES.
God had a major renovation to do in my heart. He began to purge things from my life and renew my mind. I am STILL in that renovating process. He began to teach me to walk with Him.

I prayed for Him to lead me to a Church where I could truly learn His Word. 2 weeks after I gave my life to Jesus, I got a phone call from my cousin Tracy. She said, “Mark and I have just moved to Knoxville and we are going to be having a Bible study, would you like to come?” YES, YES, YES!!
I think there were 5 of us in that Bible Study. It was AWESOME. Mark would play his guitar and teach the Bible for like an hour. I soaked it in. It was a precious time in my life. I was like a newborn baby that just craved pure spiritual milk… and I began to GROW.
  God promised me a husband one night in prayer. He told me He had a husband for me but I would have to trust Him and let go of this relationship. He spoke 1 Cor 2:9 to me that night. “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 
I hid that promise in my heart.

All I wanted to do was study the Bible and serve God. Tracy told me about Calvary Chapel Bible College in Europe. I applied and before I knew it, I was boarding a plane by myself to Austria to study the Bible. I call it my honeymoon with Jesus.
After my time there was through, God began to call me back to Tennessee. I didn’t understand why. It was a hard couple of years. I got a job and spent as much time with Tracy and Mark as I could. I lived with them for a while. 
I joke I was  their bad penny.  
I watched their lives. 
 They were so patient with me as a young immature believer. Tracy and Mark would stay up till 1 in the morning answering my questions and encouraging me that God had a good plan for my life. Their marriage was godly. There home was godly. I felt safe there. They have raised me in the Lord. Mark taught me how to BELIEVE the Word of God. His love for the Word rubbed off on me. Tracy would say “God has a husband for you”.
I went to a Tommy Nelson conference where he taught through the book of SOS and on dating and marriage. He encouraged us to have high standards for marriage and to write them down.  So my friend and I went and wrote our lists for our desires for marriage. We laughed at some of the things we wrote. We had so much fun with it. I wrote must have fresh breath and not too much chest hair. But then I wrote some more serious things down like “can play the guitar so we can worship God”, spiritual leader, and I asked God for a husband who valued purity. I laughed at my list. It was impossible. But I did what Tommy Nelson said to do, I wrote down the desires of my heart. 

I asked the Lord that if He truly had a husband for me, that He would drop him out of the sky and make it obvious.
I ended up getting a great job in Chattanooga. I didn’t know anyone there. I met my first friend at Church. We spent a lot of time together and she would tell me about this guy who I had to meet.
I told her “I didn’t date” and I wasn’t interested.
She went to the dentist to get her teeth cleaned. This cute guy just so happened to be her dentist. She told him about me. He said, “where can I meet her?”.  She said, “at Church”.
One Sunday morning, I walked in late to Church. It was meeting in the YMCA. The first thing I saw was a sunbeam coming through the window and landing right on this REALLY handsome guy worshiping the Lord. He was in a yellow shirt and he was glowing. No joke.
I thought, “whoah…. He is so good-looking! I am sure he’s married though.”
After the service, my friend walked up to me and introduced me to the guy in the yellow shirt. She said, “Tim this is Steph, Steph this is Tim”.
My life was changed in that one sentence.
The Lord began revealing that Tim was the one He had chosen for me. He confirmed it through prayer, people, the Word, and MY LIST. My list came to life. God has truly given me the desires of my  heart. Tim isn’t perfect but he’s close. I tell young single girls that a real prince will be like THE KING.

1 cor 2:9 was right… I never DREAMED the plans God had for me. 
We were married in 6 months. On our honeymoon, the Lord spoke to me through Malachi during my quiet time when I said, “God why have you given me such an amazing gift that I don’t deserve?”  Then I opened to my daily reading where it said,

Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.”

I thought, wow… God… you want us to have children? It was nowhere on my radar.
God began to give me the heart of a mother.
After many trials and much hardship, God has given us 6 children.
Here is a first look at our Christmas card picture this year.
We have 5 boys and one girl.
I have battled for my family. I have battled for each child. Getting them here and keeping them here.
God gave me a clear vision that morning on my honeymoon. To raise up GODLY OFFSPRING. So that is what I try to do. We study the Bible and memorize Scripture and I try and teach them everything He has taught me.
Tim and I don’t deserve these children. 
But what do we deserve that He has given us?
Aren’t you thankful God doesn’t give us what we deserve? 
He gives us so much more.
Can I get an amen?

Now, before you start thinking “her life is perfect”… “I can’t relate to that”. The funny thing is I am thinking the same thing about you!
Let me be quick to remind us both… In every Fairytale, there is a villain. I have experienced great suffering during the last 18 years. I have battled a chronic illness that God has used to draw me to Himself. I have watched someone I love very much lose the battle to addiction. Most of the things I trusted for support have dissolved. My marriage has been tested. My faith has been tested. I have battled evil face-to-face.  I have pulled my kids back from the grave. I have been overcome by despair.  I have had so much loss in the last 2 years, my life has felt like a graveyard. Yet in all of it, God was there. Pulling me back up when I get knocked down.  
My daughter used to pray “God thank you for the good things but not the bad things”. I taught her to pray… “God thank you that you turn bad things into good things”.
Only God can create beauty out of the ashes.
There is a HIGH COST to following Jesus. Nothing close to the cost He paid to have relationship with us.
Read Matthew 10 when Jesus calls his disciples together to prepare them for the road ahead.
At the end he says..
"If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."

I always get convicted when I read about a soldier from the 1700s named Nathan Hale. His last words before being hanged were “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”. How much more should we say that about the Lord on our deathbed? 
“I only regret that I have just one life to lose for Jesus Christ”. 
I wish I could have given Him MORE.

We are to rejoice in our sufferings and boast in our weaknesses because that is how the world will see Christ through us and how we will know Him MORE.
We are in a WARZONE. The spiritual climate is so heightened as we prepare for the return of Christ. The battle is fierce. I tell my boys God chose them for the final battles because He knew they could do it.
My life hasn’t been a walk in the park. It has been filled with pain and death, loss and tragedy.  Yet, I rejoice in how much God has given me. How He has restored and redeemed and resurrected. How He has taken a girl with a rebellious heart and given her a heart to serve Him and raise children. 

People say, “Wow, I am so impressed you have so many kids. And I quickly say… don’t be impressed with me. Be impressed with my God and how He saved me and gave me all of these children I don’t deserve.” 
They don’t know what to say to that.  Then I get to tell them about the goodness of God.


When Tracy told me that the theme for this tea was “White as Snow”, my immediate thought was, “oh, great, I will talk about purity in Jesus and how He makes us white as snow”.  And what a GLORIOUS truth that is that God was able to take me, a sinful girl with a heart of rebellion and make her white as snow. My prayer over my daughter at night is that God would make her as pure as freshly fallen snow with no specks or spots.  I love fresh snow. When you wake up in the morning and everything is WHITE. Perfectly covered. No footprints or mud. Untouched. That is what happens to us when we receive Christ. We become perfectly white. No blemishes. The blood of Christ not only covers over all of our sin but it’s actually even better… He takes it away. We can walk in purity because of Jesus. He doesn’t hold our sins against us. We don’t live a changed life. We live an EXCHANGED life. His righteousness is applied to us. We are made WHITE AS SNOW… dazzling white actually.
I love when it talks about Jesus at the transfiguration. It says…
"His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them."
Mark 9:3
Dazzling white... that is what we are in Christ.
Aren’t God’s adjectives awesome?
He doesn’t just love us. He SO loves us. His clothes aren’t just white…. They are dazzling, exceedingly, out-of-measure- superabundantly white. So are you when you place your faith in Him.
I am always looking for better adjectives to describe how God saved me.
I am gonna use "super-abundantly" and "dazzling" more often!
Tell one of your sisters in Christ she looks "dazzling". :)

As I began praying about what to teach tonight, the Lord led me on a trail I didn’t expect.
I was looking up verses about snow and I found this one…
In King James it says…

 "Have you entered into the treasures of the snow?”
Job 38:22


I thought, Lord you have treasure for us here. Help me find it.
So, I began studying snow.
And I immediately started finding treasure.  The Bible says that God uses His creation to reveal Himself to us. Romans 1 says
Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.”
I want to see His invisible qualities, don’t you?

Does anyone know what a snowflake is formed out of?
It starts as a tiny piece of floating dust. Water vapor in the air sticks to the dust and turns into ice.
I have a short little video that will give us an inside look at the formation of a snowflake.
Click HERE to watch this fascinating video of snowflakes being formed.

Almost all snowflakes have 6 branches, some have less...
Each snowflake being so intricate and full of beauty. 

Yet they are simply dust turned into beauty through harsh conditions and a supernatural transformation.
A Christian scientist from the 1800s who devoted his life to studying snowflakes said…

“snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design; and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Is anybody starting to connect some dots here?
What were we created out of? 
(Well, I joke I was made out of Tim’s rib but, yes, the Bible says we are made from dust!)

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Gen 2:7

“all are from the dust, and all return to dust.” Ecc 3:20

I tell my kids we are just walking dust bunnies really that God has chosen to breathe His life into!!

God breathes the breath of life into us when we are born and then He breathes the life of His Spirit into us when we are “BORN AGAIN” when we accept Jesus as our Savior.
This floating dust particles begins to experience harsh weather through a storm or frigid temperatures that seem unbearable, that’s when we begin to see the power of God to take a tiny speck of dust and reshape it into something breathtakingly beautiful.
Sisters, anything starting to sound familiar. I don’t know about you but I have gone through some severe storms and harsh conditions. The last 2 years especially seemed unbearable. It’s ironic because I actually used the word “harsh” when crying to my husband about the trials we were facing.
Yet God is at work in us during those harsh seasons.
One of my prayers that I have learned to pray with one eye open (ha ha ) is from 1 Thess 5:23
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.” 
Yoweee… that can be a painful process BUT it is worth it! WHY?
So that people can see the hidden treasure that has been placed in us!
What is this "treasure"?

"But we have this TREASURE in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."
2 Cor 4:7-10

If we could be placed in under a spiritual microscope and video’d, we would be able to see a very different story than what we see with our own eyes! 
One day, we will be able to see it.
 “Now we see things imperfectly…but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.” 

We will see that everything was totally controlled and He was creating the EXACT CONDITIONS in which we could be formed into the beautiful image of His Son. His very image is being manifested in our bodies. All of these harsh conditions are being perfectly controlled by God. He won’t allow us to shatter. We will not be crushed!
We just have to BY FAITH stay yielded and stay the course. 

"So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
1 Peter 4:19

What do we do when we suffer according to God's will? 
1. Commit ourselves to our faithful Creator.
2. Continue to do good.

We have to trust the great PHYSICIST Who not only creates millions of snowflakes but Who is working all things together for our good. 
You’ve heard that verse right? Romans 8:28. 
Does anybody know what Romans 8:29 says?
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son
Romans 8:28,29

We have to believe that if God would put that much time and care into a snowflake, how much MORE will He care for us Whom were PREDESTINED TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON.
During the last couple of years I have felt like I was free-falling into darkness. It encouraged me that the dust particle IS free-falling during it’s transformation.  All the while, it is being made into a NEW CREATION. We are too. So, if you feel like your life is out of control, you are probably being conformed this very day and you don’t realize it!
We have to trust the Lord that He will not let the conditions get so harsh that we will shatter.
They won’t. God knows how to conform us. He knows exactly what we need to be re-created into the image of Jesus.
How we respond is critical to harsh conditions is critical and believe me when I tell you I am preaching TO THE CHOIR here. I pass most of the tests God gives me with a D-.

I found one type of sad snowflake called an IRREGULAR snowflake.

Irregulars Snowflakes can have a hard life blowing about in a turbulent cloud, so that many arrive on the ground "broken, ill-formed, and generally in bad shape".
 This snowflake made me want to cry. I have felt like that before. I think this is what can happen in someone’s life who doesn’t know the Lord or a believer going through life without being in the Word.  That is definitely what I looked like when I gave my life to Christ… BROKEN, ILL-FORMED, and generally in bad shape! I think I begin to look IRREGULAR when stop trusting the Lord and staying in His Word during a trial too.
The faith you need to get you through your trial is going to come from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. STAY IN THE WORD and in prayer. That is how you will survive the storm.
I will tell you a very simple thing I do every day and my kids do too that is super basic but a good discipline. We read straight through the Bible one chapter a day. And before we eat breakfast, we write down 5 verses that we read that day. That is how we start our day with living water and daily bread. We have to feed our inner girl before we feed our outer girl.
The best thing I have ever done is memorize Scripture.
I would encourage you to memorize the passage from 2 Cor…
"But we have this TREASURE in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."
2 Cor 4:7-10

The last type of snowflake I want to talk about is a NEEDLE snowflake is called a NEEDLE snowflake. It is VERY uncommon and unique. It is one of the slenderest snowflakes.
My jaw dropped when it’s picture popped up. I think yours might too.

Isn't it beautiful?

Through everything God made, we can clearly see his invisible qualities!!
Y’all, I will never look at snow the same. This winter when it snows, I will be thinking of millions of tiny crosses falling from heaven… pointing me to Jesus.
Won't it be awesome when creation is freed from its bondage and we can see creation in all of its pre-fall glory?

God has used this tiny snowflake to teach me SO MUCH BIG TRUTH.
He is using the harsh conditions in my life (and yours) to shape us into the image of His Son if we will give Him permission.
Beauty from ashes.
From dust to GLORY!

If you don’t know Christ, you are like that IRREGULAR snowflake we talked about.  Broken, ill-formed, and generally in bad shape. This morning, God is calling you by name into relationship with Him. There is only one way and that is through faith in His Son, Jesus. You can’t fix your condition. You are broken. But, God can fix you and change into something magnificently beautiful!
You see, we truly are  “melting” or dying. We only have so much time. You could melt away never having known Christ or manifesting Him for the world to see. What a tragedy. That is the whole point! That is what you have been predestined to do!

Today is the day of salvation and today is the day we want to ask God to use our lives to show the world this great treasure contained in us:

Oh that God would manifest the life of His Son through us...walking dust bunnies.
I'll end with a prayer...

"God, you are Elohim. You are Creator God. We are in AWE of your creation all around us. And, God, it is so awesome to see Your hand involved in forming beautiful snowflakes. How much more actively involved you must be in forming us into the image of your Son. Help us to continue to trust even in the harshest conditions. Trusting that if we stay yielded, beauty will be birthed in those places of hardship.
That we will transformed from dust into the image of Jesus.
God, if there is a someone here who does not know you as Savior, they are broken… I pray they would place their faith in You this morning. If that is you, please repeat after me in your heart..
“God, I am broken and in bad shape. I can’t change my condition. I am marred by my sin. I am just dust apart from your breath and Spirit. Only You can take my life and create something beautiful. Only you can take what is broken into a million shattered pieces and put it back together as a brand new creation. Jesus, I am asking you right now to forgive my sins and make me a new creation. I surrender my life to you and give you everything. Use me, Lord.
For the believers reading, I want to pray for strengthening
We are hard-pressed on every side.
yet not crushed;
we are perplexed, 
but not in despair;
but not forsaken
struck down, 
but not destroyed

God, we have been weakened by harsh circumstances and storms.
You are our faithful Creator and we commit ourselves to you. Give us the strength to continue to do good and help us to keep pressing in. 
To Keep believing you are at work in the free-fall of life.

May we not melt away having never shown the world the great treasure in us, Your Son.
May we care more about Jesus being seen in our bodies than we do about our comfort.
God, protect us in this dark time. Use us, Lord.
Fill us afresh with Your Spirit to serve you well.
God manifest the life of Jesus in our bodies.
And may our only regret be that we had only one life to lay down for you."


Be Blessed~

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