Where Is Your Treasure Stored?

What is your most prized possession? Is it your car? House? Shoe collection? Is it not a possession at all, but do you value your relationships with others most?

What do you treasure?

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:21)

When we value something or someone strongly, we can let it or them control us. We get attached. I, honestly, use to attach myself to things and people very easily. I became devoted to them. I would fear the thought of losing that person or thing. Fear is a powerful emotion and the Enemy knows it all too well. Satan will take that fear and use it to his advantage. Just how far will you go to hold on to your treasure? He will test the lengths you will go to hold onto to your valuables and ultimately,  enslave you to it. 

I focused so much on it that I didn’t see the God who had placed it into my life. Everything is for God. Our money, clothes, houses, careers, people we love, even our very next breath belongs to God. Yes, we belong to God but God loved us so very much that He sent His perfect Son as a sacrifice that we no longer have to be slaves to sin. If we have been freed to sin, why enslave ourselves to our money, possessions and relationships?

God calls us to seek Him first. Seek Him and come to Him with what we desire. He will provide everything we need. Always. God always follows through with His promises. We have to trust in Him completely and allow Him to fulfill them. Treasuring a relationship with God above all else frees us from the fear and sin. 

I pray today that we will trust God completely.  Put 100% of our faith in Him. Thank Him for the blessings He has provided to us and all the good things He will continue to do in our lives. God, please grant your Spirit to us so that we do not become slaves to the things the world has taught us to value. May our true treasure always be in knowing You and Your son, Jesus Christ. 

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:31‭-‬33)

God’s Plan > Ashley’s Plan

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6)

As I was writing my prayers this morning, I came to this verse and it really spoke to me and the ways God has worked in my life recently. God’s plans are so much better than ours and I thought I should share how his plans were far better than my own.

Like many affected by this pandemic, my hours at work were cut….all the way down to 0. Due to the fact that I’m a per diem employee at my job and my hours aren’t guaranteed. I also don’t receive any benefits like PTO so my only source of income was gone. 

I received an opportunity to work in New Orleans to help with Covid. I wasn’t 100% in favor of going but I needed to provide for my family. I signed a contract, headed to New Orleans, and went to work. I did my full day of orientation and training. When I got to the hotel later that evening, I received a call that my contract was canceled along with 4 others. I was devastated.  I had driven 6 hours, left my home and family for this opportunity and I was back at square one. 

I gave myself a moment to cry, then I remembered that whatever God has for me, will be for me and I have to trust in Him – so I did just that. I prayed and finally accepted that I had to let His will be done. I checked out of the hotel and drove back home the next morning.  

So I returned home, back to job searching.  I called agencies everyday trying to find assignments for jobs that would suit me. I’d spend hours doing applications, checklists, and sending documents everyday for three weeks. Then I stopped. I stopped calling and thought, maybe God has given me this time at home for a reason. And what was I doing with that time? I spent more time with my family,  I was able to work on my relationship with God and to take care of myself. I have always worked so much. It had been over a year since I took time off and here was my opportunity to rest. So I rested. 

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. (Psalms 127:2)

Then last week as I was cooking breakfast I received a call for the job that I wanted the most and, honestly, had given up on. On what  would’ve been the last day of my contract in New Orleans, I got on a plane and flew to Connecticut to help those affected by Covid. The company and position have more benefits than the prior and my time here has been so rewarding thus far. I feel so honored to be on the frontlines doing what God has blessed me with the ability to do. I pray everyday that God uses me to extend His healing power and I’m so thankful for this opportunity to provide for my family and grow closer to Him.

Now this is just one of the many times that God has worked in my life. I just think it’s so amazing how things worked out. How I was so let down when things didn’t go the initial way I planned and yet, His plans were far better. As much as we want to be in control, God always is. When we learn to surrender to that, God will never fail us. 

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Struggling with Envy

God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. (1 Corinthians 12:6)

Praise be to God for this day. Today, I pray the Spirit helps free us from a sin that I’ve struggled with time and time again – envy. I’ve seen others and thought, if only I looked like that or had that family or had that opportunity,  I’d be so much better off. Struggled with focusing on what I saw God was doing in another person’s life that I saw right past the blessings He was giving me. 

God is present in all our lives but His presence won’t be the same as your neighbors. It’s not for our minds to know or understand the plans God has in place for our lives. Trust in Him. That’s what our jobs are. Trust that the God who sent His Son to free us from sin loves you enough to fulfill all the promises He has made. 

I pray that we can all appreciate the lives God has given us and stop wondering why someone else might seem to be better off than us. May we focus on the blessings we have been given and trust that God will gift us a beautiful future. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Self-Control

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22

Looking at this verse and seeing what the fruits of the Holy Spirit are, one seems a little out of place for me. Sure, love, patience, gentleness, all those make sense but self control? What does self control have to do with the Holy Spirit?

Well, turns out it has plenty to do with the Spirit. I have to ask the Spirit for it every day. God loved us so much that He set us free. Freedom to make our own choices and decisions and even the freedom to decide if we will love God back. That freedom is a beautiful gift but that freedom also opened the door to sin being brought into the world. 

So God gave us this freedom to do whatever we want, but should we? I can choose whether or not to follow Christ and I’ve not always chosen Christ over the world. And choosing the world and choosing to do what Ashley wanted to do just for Ashley hasn’t always turned out well. I lived for this world, and living for this world didn’t bring me a fraction of the joy and peace (we’ll cover those fruits later) that I’ve found in Jesus. 

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. (1 Peter 1:14)

Following Jesus is a choice that I didn’t make one day and it became automatic from then on out. I have to choose Jesus every moment of every day. I have to choose Jesus when someone hurts me. I have to choose Jesus when things don’t go my way. I have to choose Jesus when I’m angry and frustrated and tired and think why me? Why isn’t this easier? 

I have to control all those emotions that so easily can take over and turn me away just like that. You may think well I can’t control my thoughts. But yes, you can. God has given us the strength and the tools we need to control our thoughts and minds. He gave us the Holy Spirit so that we can have Self-control over our minds and actions.  

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

And I know, for myself,  I definitely need to pray and ask the Spirit for self-control every single day. Doing the right thing is often so much harder than doing the wrong thing.  But if living right was easy, we’d all be doing it right? I think it’s especially hard because I used to live how the world lived. I was caught up in it. So sometimes, situations occur and it is so easy to just slip right back into the wrong thing. 

God gave us the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and confidence to choose Jesus over the world. The Holy Spirit helps us to strengthen our minds and the confidence of knowing God is always in control. 

I pray you take the peace knowing that always, in everything, God is in control and always will be and because He loves us, He set us free. It is up to us to accept that freedom or not. We can use His power to control our choices and to not be slaves of this world and sin. Living for ourselves can bring us happy moments, but it is only in accepting our salvation, we receive eternal joy. 

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. (1 Peter 1:13)

A Confident Hope for You

I pray that you feel the presence of God in your life today. I’m so grateful for you and whatever it is that led you here. Even in your toughest and darkest times, I want you to know that you are worthy. You will get through it. I can’t say that things will be easy. Life gets really rough and knocks us down over and over. But being a Christian doesn’t stop us from getting knocked down. Being Christians gives us the confidence of knowing that we are already saved and God will never forsake us. 

You are a loved child of God. Come close to God and He will come close to you. Even when you feel like He isn’t there, He is always at work for your good and will carry you through.  

God didn’t wait for us to be perfect to save us. Jesus died on the cross for us while we are still sinners. Jesus meets us where we’re at, sometimes not even realizing we need saving. So wherever you are in life, whatever you’re going through, whether it be a high point or a low, you are loved, God is with you, and you will get through this.  

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord , who made heaven and earth! (Psalms 121:1‭-2)

Be Encouraged

It is through lifting others up that we ourselves will be lifted. When we encourage others, we are encouraged.  We grow by building others up. We accept others so that we can be shown acceptance. And do we do this for our own good? Of course not. Everything is for the glory of God. 

So today, I want to encourage you. No matter what your gift is or what you do, I pray God uses you for His good.  I pray that others will see the glory in and through you. You are so very loved and worthy of that love. Be graceful. Show mercy.  I love you. 

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. (Romans 15:2)

Where is God in the suffering?

Why Does God allow bad things to happen to us?

Most of us turn to God when we go through hardships, whether we are believers or not? Why would God allow this pain, this suffering, this heartache to me or anyone I know? If He loves me, why would God let this horrible thing happen? Right now, the world is suffering. Millions of people are suffering from this illness and many have succumbed to it. So where is God now?

God is where He has always was and always will be – right here with us. It can be hard for us to think and rationalize these things because we are only human. We are not all-knowing and all-powerful.  But we still try to understand God. We have limits, God is limitless. His love is perfect and without fault. 

The enemy comes into our lives and into our minds with lies that God has left us and allowed us to fall into despair. Every time that thought has crept into your mind that God has left you – that is a lie! Yes, even our own thoughts can be lies. That’s where Satan does most of his dirty work, right in our heads. But as believers, we are called to live and be in truth. 

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

When we believe the lies and let Satan use our minds for his work, he wins. He lies and deceives us and is so great at doing it that we’ll think it’s our own ideas and thoughts. Satan lied and brought sin into this world because our minds are weak. That is why bad things happen. Because sin entered this world and took it over. Nothing bad can ever come from God because God is all good. That’s just who God is. 

So the next question is why does God allow it to happen? Why does God allow pain? 

I’m a mother and will do any and everything for my son because I love him more than I can ever explain. I’m sure not just mothers, but all parents would do the same and want to protect their children. But sometimes, our children don’t always listen to us. We want to teach and guide our children, and I know personally,  sometimes that means I allow him to make his own mistakes. I allow him to make some choices and decisions, knowing it’s a bad idea because sometimes, that’s the best way for him to learn a lesson. And I let him make his mistakes and let him go through it because I know it will help him to learn and grow. I do it because I love him and want him to grow and be stronger and wiser. 

So don’t you think that God is a much better parent than we are? He is the perfect parent and because of his love for us, He gave us freedom to make choices and mistakes. Yes, those choices will hurt not only ourselves, but others sometimes. That unfortunately, is tragic but just like a parent, God is right here with us through the pain. He never leaves us and uses tragedy and bad things for His goodness. 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (Roman’s 5:3-4)

So I pray that when you go through trials and suffering, you always remember that God is with you. God loves you. He will never forsake or abandon you. You will get through this and when you trust in Him, He will carry you through the storm. 

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither or fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38)

Photo by Darius Chretien

Desperate Prayers

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)

Lord, I pray that when I am facing the fire, that my faith in you will never waiver. I know God can save me from any situation this world can throw at me. He has the power to overcome, for Jesus has come and overcame the world (John 16:33). I have faith that you can remove any obstacle from my way…..But what about when He doesn’t?

Before I truly knew Christ, I thought I was doing pretty ok as a Christian. I mean, I would go to church occasionally, didn’t do anything I thought was too bad, and prayed occasionally. Mostly, my prayers were out of desperation. I always looked to God as a last hope, not the answer. I’d get myself into a tough situation and pray God would deliver me out cause only a miracle could help! And sometimes, things would by His grace, work themselves out. I’d be happy, tell God thanks and move right along doing whatever I wanted until another challenge came my way. And other times, well, things didn’t work out. I’d suffer, be angry, sad, and wonder why God wasn’t here to help me this time?

Now, I know, God is not at my beck and call. Yes, He hears all of our prayers (even the last hope ones) and He is always here with us. But did God put that challenge before me or did my own actions get me there? Nine times out of ten, Ashley probably got herself in her own mess. The other one time, these messes just show up at my front door with my name on it. But those times are just because we live in this world and this world isn’t for God and there is evil in it. 

So imagine you have a friend or family member (child, specifically) that doesn’t call you, you only see them at Easter, and doesn’t listen to any advice you give. Then they call you out of the blue saying they desperately need your help that you,  only you, can fix and need it right now this instant. I’d hang the phone right up and say see you next Easter. But I am not God. The mercy and grace He has extended to us is beyond anything we can measure or even deserve. When we call, He always answers. Just may not be the answers we want. Sometimes His answer is having us walk right into the furnace and walking through the flames. As hot and miserable and agonizing that fire will get, He will be right there with us. That is His promise. Not to always deliver us from our circumstances, but that He is faithful and never forsake us through anything. 

I hope that we can always remember to not only seek God as our last Hope but in everything we face. In every circumstance, may we seek Him first. God is Able. And even if He doesn’t do what we ask of Him, always remember his plans are much better than our own.

Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Love

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22

How do we see Christ in our lives? How do we know He is there? Have we been transformed? Reborn? I don’t think we see a physical change or wake up with a brand new makeover or wardrobe? What evidence is there to show that we have received the Holy Spirit given to us through faith in Christ? I believe we as people can easily be tripped up and consumed by this world that we will lose focus of Jesus. The fruits of the Spirit are evidence that our hearts are rooted in Jesus and our souls are watered by the Holy Spirit. We are born again, we are growing in faith. “…every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire.” Matthew 3:10. Yes, we have evidence that we have been planted in Christ through our faith and his Holy Spirit. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Love – ahavah

I think of all these fruits of the Spirit, love is probably the most important and hardest one for us to truly grasp. What is love? Is it an action or is it a feeling? I think most of us know when we feel love but how do we see it as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives? I think to answer this question, we must turn to what the scriptures have written and teach us about love. 

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  (1 John  4:16b)

Scripture gives us direct qualities of love. Jealousy, pride, rudeness, irritability – how many times have we let these emotions control us and our actions towards others. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind, all the times I have fallen short. I’ve been irritable and rude to some of the closest people I love. I’ve boasted about myself and things I have done out of my own pride. I have been impatient and unkind to others and I feel it’s often the people we love the most that we don’t always show love to. 

These are the times Satan wins. We let our emotions turn our love into just the opposite. Emotions are false. Emotions will lead us onto the path to destruction if we allow them. See, when we let our emotions control our actions and words, we aren’t allowing God control over lives. We can’t serve two masters, God and our emotions. Our emotions aren’t as obvious as many of the false gods we see present in this world but anything that we allow to control us and lead us away from God and his love is a false god, even if it is our own thoughts. 

So as Christians, we are called to love one another unconditionally. At the center of that love is forgiveness. It is easy to love someone that hasn’t wronged us but when there is hurt attached, we know that isn’t easy. We must make every effort and pray to the Holy Spirit that we can love and show mercy just as we have been shown through Christ.

Photo by Darius Chretien

Becoming a Proverbs 31 Woman

Virtuous – Hebrew word is Chayil which means “strength”, “might”, “army”, valiant”, and “riches”

How did a godly woman turn from mighty and strong to dainty, demure,  and pure? A godly woman is called to be strong and valiant. In western culture, there is a sense of lordship with men being dominant. I can see how using the words army and might to describe women be seen as opposing the male-dominated society. However, a strong woman is not over a man. A strong woman is a foundation and rock for her family.  Men are called to lead the household. A godly woman manages her household.. Proverbs 31 are spoken from a woman, from a mother to her son. A woman who sees how valuable and precious (more precious than rubies) a godly woman can be to her husband and his prosperity. 

Her children stand and bless her.  Her husband praises her; “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,But you surpass them all!”

Proverbs 5 and 7 are almost the complete opposite of Proverbs 31. It tells of the immoral woman and though her physical features and touch are “sweet as honey”, she ultimately leads to death and destruction. Proverbs 7 describes where to find an immoral woman “She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner.” ( Proverbs 7:12b)

Yet we look at the first line of finding a wife of Noble character and it says “who can find her?” Immoral women are everywhere and it’s so easy to get caught in their traps. But a virtuous and noble woman isn’t easy to come across, further adding to her worth. 

A beautiful woman who lacks discretion, Is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout. (Proverbs 11:22)

A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, But a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones. (Proverbs 12:4)

A wise woman builds her home, But a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

Solomon, the wisest man in history spoke many proverbs on women and the importance of wives particularly. He spoke to the blessing and joy that comes with an understanding and godly wife. In contrast, he also spoke of the destruction and temptation of immoral and promiscuous women. Solomon is stressing to men the value of women, particularly, godly and virtuous women all throughout proverbs leading up to the end – Proverbs 31. 

When I think of wise people, I see them as thinkers who never do anything in haste or without reason. God gave Solomon “a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will.” Throughout history, we’ve seen wise leaders, philosophers, scientists, and diplomats do great things for society. Solomon had more wisdom than any of these throughout history and probably more than all of them combined. So if Solomon saw fit to share his wisdom in Proverbs for us and to finish this book with the description and value of a righteous woman, I believe he did this with a purpose. 

Proverbs 31 is also the advice of a mother to her son. Even the wisest of all the wise follows the teachings and advice of his mother! It does seem that Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, set a very high standard for women to follow. Spinning wool, preparing meals, planning and preparing for her household, making business negotiations, being charitable to the poor, sharing wise words with others, and making fine clothes for her family. I mean, who is this woman?! 

Solomon himself should have known women plenty enough to see how much influence a woman can have on a man. He was known for many wives and concubines (hundreds) and many of these came from noble birth and foreign lands, even though the Lord had instructed him not to. And in taking these women for wives, Solomon let them influence his life and his decisions. Solomon turned away from the Lord. He began to worship other gods and was no longer faithful to the One True God. The One True God that had appeared to him, had blessed him with wisdom and riches and shown him favor and he turned so easily away because of his love for immoral women. For this, God punished Solomon by taking his kingdom away from him, it was only for his father’s sake that his son kept one of the tribes.  And he was the wisest person to ever exist! I’m absolutely sure he had more knowledge and intellect than any man in today’s world and still his downfall was being influenced by women who didn’t know God. 

As women, it is important we realize the influence we can have on the men in our lives, specifically, our husbands. That our behavior, our words, our thoughts, our actions – can lift up this man or bring him to destruction. Men are the leaders of their households but as women, we are called to be his helper. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” Genesis 2:18b. I know some may not agree but women and men are not held to the same standards. This is just from my own account from the words in the Bible. I know some will say “Well, the Bible was written by men.” Yeah, but so were many of those female anthems you love and our laws and textbooks. In our culture, men and women are equal or at least, that’s what we are striving for. But that is being of this world and as Christians, we are called to not be of this world. 

I feel proud being a woman knowing that I am not held to the same standards as men. That my role is not that of a man and a husband but of a helper and wife. We are held to higher standards because even wise men and nations will fall if we do not hold ourselves accountable to the role God has set for us. Above all of the other values of the Proverbs 31 woman, the one of highest importance is she fears God. That is how we, as women are called to honor our families, our husbands, our children, and most importantly – ourselves. Placing God first in our hearts and actions will guide everything we say and do.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;  But a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. (Proverbs 31:31)

It is important to take into account that this is written to a man from a mother. Proverbs 31 isn’t an instruction for women but instructions for men on qualities to have in a wife. We also have to take into account who this was written to, a king, a leader, a man who followed and loved God. Aren’t those qualities we want in our husbands? If so, shouldn’t you strive to possess the attributes and qualities of character he would want in a wife. 

The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, And he receives favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22)

Being this “Proverbs 31 woman” sounds like so much work, doesn’t it? Being up before dawn to plan the day, making lucrative business deals, spinning wool and making fine clothes for the household, volunteering at homeless shelters, all while giving wise and sage advice to her husband and others. I’m honestly exhausted just thinking about it. But striving to do all these things is not what we should be doing. Follow Jesus. Following Jesus and praying every day for a renewed heart and mind will lead women to godly and virtuous lives. We have been saved on the cross. We are free in Christ. Salvation is not given to us by our works or character because all of us will fall short of the glory (Even the wisest person on earth succumbed to sin). No, we are saved through Jesus. It is by love and faith in Jesus Christ that we accept the salvation given to us by God’s grace. 

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

Now, one could argue that proverbs aren’t Jesus’ teaching, they were Solomon’s. Jesus’ teaching doesn’t start with the Gospel in the New testament. No, the whole Bible is Jesus. From front to back, beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is Jesus. The message of God is Jesus. 

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, And the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.  (John 1:1-2)

By loving Jesus and following his word and teachings, his works can show through us and in us. We can be strong, valiant, capable women because we do not rely on our own merit for strength but because we know our strength comes from God. This Proverbs 31 woman is capable and wise because she knows the Lord and that with Jesus, the impossible becomes possible. She serves a God that gives the power to move mountains through faith. A God that shuts the mouths of lions and brings death to life. Giving God the control of our lives gives us power and freedom to be the most virtuous and capable women in the world. Because ultimately, it is all for His glory. 

Reward her for all she has done. 

Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31:31

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