Monthly Archives: August 2012

Small Group

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Small Group

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

So a while back I mentioned wanting to start up a small group Bible study. Well guess what? I did it! Or I suppose I should say WE did it. Mitch and I open our house to a total of 3 other people at the moment, and we’re hoping we can continue to grow and fellowship with as many people who feel lead to come. ūüôā This coming Tuesday will be the 4th week of our group’s existence and I can’t say enough how proud, blessed, and pleased I am each Tuesday evening as we share scripture and life experiences with one another, growing in spirit and wisdom. I’ll take a picture or two of our next get-together so you can see us all in “action” ūüôā

God is good and we would be in a very dark and abysmal place without Him as Lord of our lives. That is what makes our small group study such an amazing blessing; we have found a group of people who desire God and want to walk with the Spirit. I just thought I’d share with you our topic of discussion for next week and give you all some things to ponder this weekend.

We will be discussing the subject of “Choosing to be Servants”.

1. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12– a Cord of THREE strands

  • Is God an integral part of your marriage? Your relationship?
  • If not, why?

2. Ephesians 5:21-33– Biblical Submission: Submitting your right to be right because Jesus is right. ūüėČ

  • What is your first thought when you hear the word “submit”?
  • What does Biblical submission look like to you?
  • Is your marriage following this pattern outlined for us in Ephesians?
  • Do you believe that order and unity under God’s design for marriage are truly more important than demanding to get the decisions “right” based on pride rather than righteousness?
  • If not, why?

3. James 4:1-10– Adulterous People

  • Women, how is submission to God essential in being able to submit to your spouse? And do you Biblically submit to your husband?
  • Men, how is your submission to God critical to you being an effective spiritual/ household leader?

4. Ephesians 2:2-3– Objects of Wrath

  • Are you at war with God?
  • If yes, is that putting you at war with your spouse?
  • What steps can you take to put yourselves at peace with God? With each other?

5.  Romans 5:1-2РFinding Peace

  • How does this scripture relate to your marriage?
  • Do you believe that peace with God or conversely, war with God will ultimately lead to peace or war within your marriages? Why or why not?
  • The fruits of our faith and submission to God’s will are peace, grace, access to God, the hope of Heaven. Do you see your relationship with God bearing these fruits? What about in your marriage?

That is our basic outline for study next week. I’m truly excited about the discussion the scriptures will inspire and the many insights that will be brought to the table. Think on these things for yourselves. If you are NOT married, think about these things in relation to what you hope to find in a future mate. Are you looking for someone based on what is scripturally sound? Are you setting yourself up for failure by going against God’s plan for marriage/relationships? What can you do to change or enhance your relationships according to scripture?

Enjoy your weekend and leave me some feedback on your thoughts/ideas of marriage/relationships and how they are or are not similar to those outlined to the Bible.

Doggie Prayers

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Doggie Prayers

“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal…” Proverbs 12:10

I have a very – using¬†the word ‘very’¬†liberally – sick doggie. ūüė¶

Three mornings in a row Anna has had accidents in her crate, and can’t seem to control her bowels throughout the day. I’ve handled dog messes before, but for whatever reason, this time it’s hitting me harder. I look at Anna and see that she is in discomfort, and it breaks my heart. I’ve been doing the standard care for bowel issues; pick up the food for 24 hours, liquids all day, gradually ween the animal back to solid food via rice, boiled chicken/ground beef, low fat, low sodium… She ate a little bit of rice this morning, but she isn’t her usual self.

For those of you who think I’m a psychopath for being so concerned and caring for my little Anna Beth, let me share with you a few of my memories of her:

 

 

 

 

 

Those are only a few of my fond memories of Frisbee, “tennis ball hockey,” and her first romp in the snow… Anna has been a lifesaver, of sorts. When Mitch and I first got married, we moved into an apartment with another couple, who happen to be our best friends, and Mitch was without a family pet for the first time in his life. He got depressed, we started bickering over little things, and he just wasn’t happy… Every time we would go back over to his parent’s house, he would play with their Aussie Shepherd, Copper and he was himself again. I decided we needed a dog; Mitch needed that companionship. He needed that unconditional love and bond that only comes from man’s best friend.

I started scouring every classified section in all the news papers I could find. We did endless research on what breed, size, and energy level would be best for us and our lifestyle. About that time, we saw an ad in the paper for 6 border collie pups about an hour away from us in Missouri. I called the number and asked about the pups and we arranged a time to go down and meet them, and gauge their personalities. I was unable to go, but Mitch and my mother-in-law went down and looked at all the little fuzzies.

I’ve always considered Mitch to be somewhat of an animal whisperer, because he is able to connect with animals that generally hate everyone (for example, his parent’s sunshine conure who abhors me…) He tells me that when they pulled up to the address given by the breeder, there were at least 8 adult border collies chasing in circles around the house after their leader, who was holding a tennis ball. The puppies were in a kennel, sleeping in two separate piles. It was the middle of July, so it was blazing hot, but there was one puppy sitting apart from the piles who were sleeping in the shade: our little Anna. She was alert and focused in on Mitch as she sat between her brothers and sisters. Mitch knew instantly that she was the one.

When I got home from work late that night, I fell in love with her sweet little face! HOW COULD YOU NOT!? she was our baby! I loved the way Mitch just lit up when she would play with him. I loved how he spent the nights sleeping beside her crate so she wouldn’t cry, and how while I was getting ready for work in the mornings, she would sneak up on to the bed and they would snuggle. Ever since we got Anna, she has been a huge part of our lives, especially Mitch’s. He has a special bond with her.

When Mitch went away to boot camp, Anna was devastated.

Anna, the day Mitch left for Pendleton

She literally sat in the corner and cried for days on end. I just wasn’t the same as her daddy, and she missed him; we both missed him. Anna is very emotionally sensitive and she picks up on our emotions. I started to really bond with her while Mitch was gone. We were sad together, we went hiking together, we played frisbee, we went on runs, we took drives. We did almost everything together! She was there for me in a comforting way that I can’t explain. I couldn’t be sad because she needed me. Anna depended on me to take care of her, and I honestly believe that having something dependent upon me for their health and well-being really forced me to choose faith and hope over depression and sadness.

I think about what our lives would be like without her, and it brings me to tears. We love Anna! She is our first baby girl! She keeps us strong and joyful! She comforts us when we are sad. She comes up and licks my face when I’m crying as if to say, “I’ll get rid of those tears for you, mommy.” She KNOWS us, and she loves us.

That is why seeing her in such discomfort and sickness hurts me. I don’t have children of my own, but I do have Anna, and she and Cyd are my baby girls.

Anna and Cyd both have veterinary appointments tomorrow, but I would appreciate your prayers that she holds out until tomorrow; that Anna will be able to sleep and drink so that she doesn’t become more sick. I felt a little silly this morning as I prayed for her, because yes, she is just a dog. But then I found Proverbs 12:10… Anna isn’t just a dog. She is MY dog, and I love her. If you can get over the “silliness” of praying for a doggie, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers for my baby girl. ūüôā

Updates

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Updates

“She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” Proverbs 31:18

So far at our new house, I haven’t really done anything to make it “mine.” I did repaint the bathroom in the master bedroom, which I feel is a vast improvement solely based on the fact that the color no longer distorts the lighting when I do my makeup. Three cheers for NOT looking like a clown on Sunday mornings. It actually wasn’t that bad before, but the periwinkle/lavender with chrome and white accents it has going on now is much more my style.

We are discussing/planning to replace the sliding door to the back yard and build on a deck/patio area! This is a major project- the first one we have encountered as a married, home-owning couple thus far so I pray God gives us the resolve to finish it, as well as the finances to complete the project and do it well, and that God just destroys my pride so that we can get through the building project without putting a strain on our marriage… We’ve built things together before for our shows in college, but the infamous “Sweeney Todd Wagon” was just down and out an almost relationship destroyer… or at the very least, it tested us both in patience and communication.

Also, when I start making Thanksgiving and Christmas posts respectively two months early, I’m not crazy, it’s just that with the deployment looming ever nearer, I’ve decided to mega condense all of our holidays as the NC Elstons, so that we get to celebrate them ALL together.

That being said, I need to start planning my Thanksgiving dinner! (And figure out some way to have some football on since we don’t have cable TV) Football aside, I have never cooked a turkey before so this will be an interesting experience. I DO however have wonderful friends who are foodies and HAVE gone all out and made the whole spread before, so I’m looking forward to learning from their expertise!

Lately I’ve been in to the whole DIY thing with making my own cleaning/gardening supplies without using so many harsh chemicals and going toward more of a natural/non-toxic route. May I just say that baking soda and white distilled vinegar are my new favorite things!

Here is a recipe I used for my version of Windex:

  • 1 tsp. Dawn dish detergent
  • 6 Tbsp. White distilled vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Jet dry solution
  • 1 empty Febreeze bottle; fill the rest of the way with water. Shake before each use
  • I got the original recipe from Pinterest here. I tweaked it to add the jet dry for a streak-free shine. Making your own household cleaning products is far and away cheaper than buying the brand name stuff from the store, and I liked this particular recipe because it was free of ammonia, which frequently irritates my eyes and my lungs. I’ve been finding/using lots of helpful cleaning tips found via Pinterest and you may follow me by searching “edenelston” on the site.

Anyway, that’s my update of sorts. Check back to my page entitled “Home Repairs” for more hints, tips, and pictures of our work on our new home!

Thanks for reading, and God bless!

And They’ll Know We Are Christians…(2)

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And They’ll Know We Are Christians…(2)

“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” Romans 3:3-4

Yesterday I shared with you my take on how to reconcile the bits and pieces of Christian belief/tradition with the fact that we, as Christians, have received salvation not by anything we physically do, but by faith in Christ alone. Let me add to that statement by referencing 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says that ALL scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction. That means that nothing in the Bible is at all contradictory. The contradiction comes when believers and non-believers alike take scriptures out of context and do a “copy and paste” version of “faith” that will either cater to their comfort zone and lifestyle, or completely turn them against the Gospel. That’s not how the Bible is intended to be read or used.

That being said, I have some more thoughts on the subject of faith and our actions as a result of our afore-mentioned faith. I’ve heard the same story, multiple times throughout my life, of a man (or woman) who believes that God exists. The person has faith that God created the universe, and that His son, Jesus, was sent to die once for the sins of man. This person in question, however, refuses to be baptized, or go to church- in short become a Christian- because the individual is not yet ready to let go of his or her current lifestyle, which he or she does in fact believe to be contrary to the Gospel because of not wanting to be seen as hypocritical.

This story always makes me think hard on my life, and the book of Romans always comes to mind each time I hear it.

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:7-8] Think about that… Think about your best friend for a moment. Think of what that person means to you, and how your life would be poorer if they were no longer a part of it. Now think of all the things that your best friend does to annoy you… think of your arguments… think of the struggles you know they face… think about all the dirt, sin, and failure that surrounds them… Would you still sacrifice your life to save the life of your friend? Would you abandon everything you have- husband, wife, children, career, wealth, success- just to save that person from their own despair? God did. God did that for us before the world ever recognized Jesus as the Messiah. For crying out loud, the Jews denied Jesus as the Messiah! GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE WEREN’T ABLE TO ACCEPT JESUS AS THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S PROMISE! It seems hopeless if you think of it that way. If the people who God set apart from the beginning to follow Him failed, how are the rest of us supposed to stand a chance? That is the beauty of the Gospel! “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:23-24] We aren’t bound by a lifestyle of sin. In fact, sin is not even a valid reason to ignore the call of God to repent and be baptized.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” [Romans 1:18-20]

See? The Bible makes a point of saying that there is no valid excuse for acknowledging God but refusing to follow him. God KNOWS we’re sinners. That’s why he sent Jesus to the world in the first place. He knew that we were a hopeless rabble. The beauty is that although we WILL fall short, we have still been given the gift of salvation. Therefore, we must TRY to be obedient to the word of God and the teachings of Christ. Repentance isn’t code for give up everything you enjoy because the Church wouldn’t like it. It’s about choosing to be close to God instead of marred by sin, which separates us from Him. It’s not an instantaneous thing, but a lifetime process. Being in a relationship with God is about daily deciding- yes, you have the choice to decide- whether you will sin because it feels good for a moment, or whether you will turn from sin and cling to righteousness because it will lead you toward an eternity of joy and salvation.

John Wesley is quoted as having said, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” I see truth in this statement. From the looks of things, the generations before us tolerated confusion and misinterpretation of the Christian faith, because now it is rampant. Somehow over the course of the past 2,000 years, being introduced to someone as a good, Christian individual now has a negative connotation associated with bigotry, hypocrisy, commercialism, judgment, hate, and scorn. WHAT!? What happened to being the body of Christ? What happened to Christianity being synonymous with love, and compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and grace?? I find it absolutely appalling that people feel ashamed to wear the label of Christianity, not for fear of being seen as “Jesus Freaks” but because society has demanded tolerance of sin, and thereby embraced it, creating generations of politically correct hypocrites who don’t know what they believe anymore. The fact that people would honestly cling to the belief that it is better to be seen as a sinner than to be viewed as a Christian simply tells me that Christians have been doing it wrong for generations.

Let me take this time to be completely transparent with you. I drink alcohol. I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying a beer with a few friends over dinner. Drunkenness is not okay in my home, however with moderation, I see no issue in a casual drink. Is it necessary or healthy? No. Science has proven that, but I’m human, and I legitimately enjoy the taste of Yuengling. I also cuss sometimes. You’ve done it, be honest- you clumsily turn the corner and you stub your toe on the table, or the couch, or that bumpy thing that holds the carpet down in the threshold of the doorway to your living room, and you let one slip. We are human! We mess up! We do things that we might not want our preachers to know about. OH- in fact, there is a Women’s Circle at my church that up-front told one of our pastors that they didn’t want her to come to their circle’s meetings because they will occasionally discuss the scriptures over a glass of wine! Now I, personally, find that more messed up than not going to church at all because they feel like they have to pretend they’re better than they are! Paul leveled the playing field for us in Romans chapter two, verse one when he wrote, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”¬†

There! It’s out! Someone finally said it! WE ARE NOT PERFECT! And that’s okay, because why? Because Jesus WAS perfect. That’s not saying we have a license to sin, because Paul addresses that also in Romans Chapter three, verses seven through nine:

“Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’ Why not say- as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say- ‘Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is deserved.. What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all!”

Living by faith isn’t about becoming perfect overnight, or magically not being enticed by those things that were a large part of your life before you accepted Christ. Living by faith is acknowledging that you are flawed and that the only thing that can reconcile that flawed nature is a relationship with Jesus Christ, through daily prayer, meditation, and reading of the scripture. Little by little, the things that used to have a hold on you will start to fall away. How? Why? Because when you draw close to God, it is inevitable that your heart will begin a transformation that will make you more and more like Christ as you grow deeper in relationship with him. The closer you get to the Lord, the more your heart will chase after things that are Christ-like, and the more easily you’ll be able to abandon the things that had previously been binding you to sin. It’s so simple, yet so complex at the very same time! The simplicity is that all it takes for us to reconcile ourselves with God is to openly admit that without Him as the leader of our lives, we will fail, over and over again. The challenge comes in choosing something that may seem like abandonment of pleasure at first, but will ultimately lead to the greatest treasure for us; a life of joy lived in perpetual worship with our Savior in Heaven. Amen.

 

And They’ll Know We Are Christians…(1)

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And They’ll Know We Are Christians…(1)

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ” Romans 1:17

I was doing some thinking this morning. There are a couple of things which all major religions share in common, for example, a deity, and a destination, or heaven, nirvana, Shangri-La… But the one thing that sets Christianity apart, other than our Savior dying for us, is that salvation is achieved not through any action of our own, but through faith in Christ alone.

Take a few minutes to really chew on that… Nothing we do, however spiritually impressive could ever get us in to Heaven on our own, without faith and submission to God.

As I thought about how freeing and wonderful this statement is, that we’ve been ransomed as sinners so that we might BECOME righteous, I started thinking about how I would convey this message to a non-Christian. And I have to admit, other than quoting exactly what the Bible says in Romans 1:17, Habakkuk 2:4, or Hebrews chapter 11, I am seriously having difficulty in describing how this concept actually works. My biggest “hang-up” is how I would explain things such as baptism to someone without it sounding contradictory to “by faith alone.” If salvation is achieved through faith alone, then why must a Christian be baptized? It’s not that I don’t understand the significance, it’s simply that I’m having difficulty breaking it down into its simplest parts to explain it to someone who has virtually zero background in the faith.

Maybe my brain is over-thinking what “by faith alone” actually means. Does it mean by intellectually believing that Jesus is the Christ, who died once for the sins of all? Is it more than that? Is it the relationship? Or does it mean that because of your faith, here are the next steps you need to follow?

I guess the confusing bit to explain is the whole, It’s not about what you DO to receive salvation, except that you must repent and be baptized, or take communion, or adhere to Jesus’ teachings, or go to church, or be in fellowship with other believers… How would you reconcile those things to a non-Christian?

The best explanation I’m coming up with is as follows: that when you believe in God, and you profess your faith in Christ, your life will change. You will WANT to be closer to God, and in being closer to God, you are innately moving farther away from sin. The symbolism of the things Christians do, such as baptism and communion are things that help us turn from our old lives of sin, and turn toward our new lives in Christ. By being baptized, you are acknowledging your sin, and dying to the old you, and raising up again in the new you that is redeemed by Christ. By taking communion, you are observing and commemorating the Last Supper, and there by bringing Christ and the Holy Spirit to dwell within you. When your life becomes centered around God, you will begin to do things out of love. That love is the source of the transformation that will take place within you as you move from sin to righteousness. Because you feel the love of God when you turn toward Him and the teachings of Christ, you will inevitably leave behind sin as you progress toward the Lord. That’s not to say that you’ll be a perfectly righteous person from the moment you’re baptized, or that you won’t make mistakes. It’s just that you will now feel convicted by the Holy Spirit, who dwells within you, to repent of your sin when you DO inevitably fall short, and God’s forgiveness will be waiting for you.

That’s the best way I can come up with to describe it… Please, I encourage all of you to leave feedback, and input. The clearer we make Christianity, the easier it will be for people to fall in love with God. I believe it is our job as “amateur¬†apologists” to remove as much doubt and mystery as we can and present the Gospel to non-believers in such a way that is true to God’s word and win over non-believers with the TRUTH, not fancy words or speeches.

Powerful Prayer

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“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

How wonderful is it when you can tangibly experience the power of prayer and God’s Holy presence working in your life?? I say it’s pretty amazing. First, I’d like to point out that I’ve reached the point in my life where I can now navigate my hard copy Bible- yes, I mean actual leather bound book with paper pages- faster than I can the Bible application on my android. I don’t know whether to be excited that I know the scripture that well, or upset at my lack of interest in technological advancement… either way, I have some incredible stories to tell.

So as I’ve been writing since April, my husband and I decided to purchase a home- our first- and we finally were able to close on it last week! Praise God! That’s some incredible news that has been a long time coming, for sure. But, that’s not the best news. The best news started out as some awful and gut-wrenching news…

…I was going through the last stages of preparing for closing on the house. Because we purchased from the owner without using a realtor or realty service, we- the buyers- were responsible for all of the closing costs. Well to make a long story slightly shorter, I was checking my email like a fiend, waiting for the final HUD, or statement of closing costs so that we would know how much money we were responsible for at the time of closing. Our date was set for Friday morning, and it wasn’t until Thursday evening I got the email that said our closing costs came to a total of over $4,000, because I had not yet paid the insurance premium. I swallowed my tongue a little… T0 a couple who has only been married and on their own for 2-ish years, that was a SIZABLE chunk of change, and most of our bank account. Guess what I did after I read that email? For those of you who guessed panic and cry, you are correct. After THAT, I began to pray. I prayed with tears in my eyes. I texted, called, emailed all our closest friends and had them start praying too… We prayed and thanked God for allowing us to find the perfect home and be able to live in it 4 months prior to closing so we weren’t homeless. We prayed for God to handle the financial situation, as we had asked Him from the beginning of the whole process.¬† We prayed, and prayed, and prayed. [1 Thes. 5:16-18]

After I paid the insurance premiums out-of-pocket, the closing cost rounded out to just about $3,000… Thursday evening passed with more prayer, and more reading of scripture to ease my worrisome mind. Friday morning came. With a rock in my stomach, Mitch and I gathered our thoughts and prayers and went to get the money orders made out before closing that morning. We walked in to walmart and stood in the line. Just as our turn in line came, I got an email notification on my phone. Out of habit more than anything else, I checked it immediately. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I felt like my body was about to perform every function it knew how right there not the least of which was wetting my pants with joy and surprise. It was the FINAL revision of the HUD, and it was over $800 less than the amount we were about to verbalize to the cashier who was waiting to print up our money orders! HOLY COW!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn’t believe it! I started to cry and got all flustered. Our prayers had been answered! God had made sure we had enough money in our account to cover closing costs, as well as allow us to eat for the rest of the month! It was at that moment I realized the value of good Christian friends and family who will pray for your needs. It wasn’t¬†until later that I marveled at how God didn’t increase our wealth, He simply made what we already had to be enough. That was what really touched my spirit. The words of Philippians 4:19 echoed in my mind as well as the words from a song that goes something like, “…His grace is enough for me…” Hallelujah! How true that is! God’s word is alive and thriving people! It is relevant! It touches my life every day. If this isn’t proof, then I don’t know what is.

With this whole little “financial miracle” as I like to call it still fresh in my mind, I pondered a devotional I read this morning. It brought up Psalm 90:15, and how the closer we walk to the light, the more clearly¬†we can see what is around us. Amen to that. Those times when I feel so lost and out of control are always the times in which I’ve gone days without any devotional time, or prayer. And I’m discovering more and more that I AM growing in spirit and in faith because where I used to have to slide back into depression to feel God pulling me close to¬†Him,¬† I can now sense that I’m chosing God more often than not, and I’m chosing prayer where I used to choose worry, anxiety or fear. I read somewhere that¬†fear is simply lack of faith. What I’ve learned is that either I believe God is who the Bible says¬†He is; who He’s proven Himself to be in my life, or I don’t. There isn’t a halfway. And the more I look at where I have been, the more I understand where I am now, and the more I want to continue to grow closer to the Lord every day for the rest of my life. My faith is¬†stronger, my marriage is better, my friendships are more genuine, and my life is overall more joyful than ever before. The reason Christianity has survived¬†for over 2,000 years is because it is¬†the truth; the ONLY truth. If I¬†ever I was shaky¬†in my faith¬†in God’s provision, I’m more¬†firm in¬†believing that¬†He’ll sustain me than I ever have been.¬† I hope this experience is an inspiration to you who read this to draw close to God through reading his word and heart-felt, sincere prayer and praise to God the Father.