Christmas Craft: Scripture Promises Mason Jar

craft-collageWhat do you give the person who has everything? Here’s one idea for adding a personal touch to your Christmas gifts. The best part is you can make it yourself!

Earlier this year, a friend gave me a gift that has meant so much to me. It was a purple mason jar, adorned simply with a ribbon, and inside were 100 paper slips, each personalized with a Scripture promise and my name.

I kept the jar on my desk by my laptop, and each morning, I would pull out a slip. Scripture is full of promises that offer hope and reminders that God has a perfect plan for our lives.

As the holidays approached, I thought of my readers and, if it were possible, what I would give you. Sure, we all like gift cards and goodies, but if I could give you one thing, I’d want it to be meaningful and last long after the Christmas decorations are down.

So I contacted my friend and asked if I could borrow her idea. Turns out, she shared this idea from Proverbs 31 Ministries. Their website provides a downloadable file with all the Scripture promises, which can be personalized with a friend’s name. (If you have trouble copying/pasting the verses from the PDF into Word, contact me through this site or message me on Facebook, and I’ll email you the verses in a Word document.)

I encourage you to make one for yourself and your friends. Yes, the gift is simple, but it may become the most treasured one you give this Christmas.

Click over to kristenhogrefe.com where this post appears in full. There, you’ll also find a Scripture Promises craft card you can share with your friends and my personal tips for making this beautiful gift your family and friends will treasure.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas!

Kristen

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Problems from God’s Perspective

Recently, I flew to Georgia to see some of my girlfriends and their families. During my first flight, I was sandwiched in the middle seat, but the returning flight, I reveled in my window seat view.

The day was clear, and as the plane took off, I watched its shadow grow smaller and smaller on the ground until it disappeared from sight. Once we cleared the cloud line, I couldn’t see a trace of it.

God is greater than our shadows.

Do your problems seem larger than life? When we focus on how big they are, we often can’t see anything beyond them.

In those times, we need to step back and ask God to help us see from His perspective. Like a plane’s shadow, our problems become smaller from God’s viewpoint, because His power and plan are much greater.

In John 16, Jesus tries to prepare His disciples for His coming death and the persecution they will face for sharing the gospel. He warns them that they’ll have troubles in this world, but He offers them a greater hope.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (I John 16:33 ESV).

What an amazing truth! Yes, as God’s children, we’ll experience trials and troubles, but be encouraged: He’s already overcome them.

God strengthens us in the shadows.

The Lord can even use problems to strengthen our trust in Him. In 2 Kings 20, we find an incredible story of God’s power and presence in dark times.

King Hezekiah was ill, so ill, in fact, that the Prophet Isaiah told him he needed to get his house in order, because he was going to die. Talk about some bad news!

The king wept and pleaded with God to spare him. God heard and answered his prayer, sending Isaiah to give Hezekiah the message he would live another 15 years. However, the king doubted, asking for a sign or confirmation that he would indeed live.

We’re in no place to judge the king for his doubts, and perhaps he was so ill that he felt as though he were dying! Regardless, God graciously strengthened Hezekiah’s faith by giving him a supernatural sign, literally turning back time or “the day’s shadow” to prove His promise (2 Kings 20:8-11).

God may not turn back time today, and sometimes, He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we ask. However, He does give grace when we need it and hope for eternity.

God sees us through the shadows.

I don’t know what you’re facing today (and I certainly hope it’s nothing as serious as King Hezekiah’s illness), but the words of Psalm 23 remain true. Regardless of how dark and deep your problems look, if you’re God’s child, He’s always with you.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me … (Psalm 23:4a ESV)

In youth group, we sing a song by Chris Tomlin entitled “Our God.” Let the words of the chorus wash over you and help put in perspective whatever you’re facing.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God, You are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, awesome in power,
Our God, Our God.

Yes, He is.

If you’re tempted to become discouraged, remember the plane’s shadow. On the ground, it looks enormous, but from the sky, it’s small.

How has God demonstrated his power and grace in your life? What biblical promises help you keep problems in perspective? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Problems from God’s Perspective – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Keep problems in perspective – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Learning to Listen in Prayer, Pt. 2

Are you satisfied with your prayer life, or do your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling back at you?

If we could do a show of hands, many of us would fall into the second category.

Today, I’m sharing the second part of an article I originally wrote for the fall of issue of Girlz 4 Christ magazine on the topic of prayer. My challenge is simple, though not always easy: Instead of us doing all the talking in prayer, let’s learn to listen more.

God has something to say to us, even today. Let’s look at two more ways He communicates.

He speaks through the Holy Spirit.

Did you know the Holy Spirit is our partner in prayer? According to Romans 8:26:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (NASB).

Not only does the Holy Spirit intercede for us, or intervene on our behalf, but this member of the Trinity also teaches us and reminds us of Jesus’ truth (John 14:26). How can He do this if He doesn’t speak?

If you’re God’s child, you can probably think of a time when you felt a pricking in your chest to do something—maybe pray for a friend or check up on an elderly widow from church. Maybe you’ve felt a desire to start a Bible study or serve in a ministry. Maybe there’s something else on your mind and you want to know what God has to say.

I challenge you: Ask Him. Keep your Bible, a notebook, and a pen ready. Be still before Him.

Did not Jesus invite us to “come” to Him and “learn” of Him in Matthew 11:28-29?

If you make a habit of listening for God to speak, He won’t disappoint you.

He speaks through circumstances.

The other day, I was reading Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. Suddenly, I started crying over a circumstance in her life that so much resonated with something I was experiencing. Using the words her father had spoken to comfort her, God spoke comfort to my own heart.

That’s just a small example. God can speak to us whether we’re reading a book, having lunch with a friend, listening to our pastor at church, or simply going about our everyday lives.

We never know when or how God will use circumstances to point us to the truth we need to hear.

Again, the question is whether or not we’re listening.

A challenge for you and me

A few weeks back, my class in youth group finished a Bible study, so my fellow leader and I asked what topic the teens would like to talk about next.

“I’d like to know how to pray better,” one girl said.

Amen, sister!

Oftentimes, God doesn’t give easy answers to prayer, because He wants us to pursue a relationship with Him. He asks us to seek Him with the questions we have, and He promises that when we do, we’ll find what we need (Jeremiah 29:13).

We might not find the answer we wanted, but we’ll find Him. And He is infinitely better, and His ways are infinitely higher.

So will you join me? When we pray, let’s learn to talk less and listen more.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Learning to Listen in Prayer, Pt. 2 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Talk less and listen more in prayer. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Learning to Listen in Prayer, Pt. 1

“Why doesn’t Jesus answer my prayers?”

I looked at the little girl in front of me. If you’ve ever worked with children, you know they can and will ask whatever is on their minds. I’m used to the unexpected questions, but for some reason, this one seemed harder to answer.

Maybe because I’ve asked it so many times myself.

Many of us have heard the typical and truthful responses to this question. Sometimes, God answers our prayers yes, no, or wait. Perhaps He is protecting us or has something far better in mind. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “God’s refusals are His mercies.”

All of the above are true, and yet there is something inside us that still aches.

Perhaps the reason is that we are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking why God doesn’t answer our prayers, we should be asking: God, what do you have to say to me?

Seriously. When is the last time we asked God to speak to us and then actually took the time to listen for His answer?

But, Kristen, God doesn’t speak—not anymore.

Oh yes, He does.

He speaks through His Word.

God may not speak audibly today, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking.

After all, do we not have the Bible, God’s Word? It is as relevant now as it ever has been.

Instead of accusing God of not speaking, we should honestly examine ourselves. Are we spending time in His Word? Are we seeking to hear what He has to say to us? Do we want to know His truth, or are we too comfortable with our “little sins” that separate us from Him?

Nothing is more important than your relationship with God. If some sin in your life is keeping you from Him, forsake it, and get right with Him.

Pray this prayer from Psalm 139:23-24: 

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (KJV).

***

This post first appeared in full in the Girlz 4 Christ fall issue. To learn more about Girlz 4 Christ or subscribe to this free Ezine, click here.

Next week, we’ll look at two more ways God speaks today. In the meantime, how will you listen to God this week?

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Learning to Listen in Prayer, Pt. 1 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The question we should ask in prayer – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

When God Turns Up the Heat

One of my least favorite chores is ironing. Yes, I would rather scrub the bathroom than iron. As a result, some of my favorite blouses tend to be cotton/poly blends which, if you don’t already know, require almost no ironing. That’s today’s free tip, and you’re welcome. 🙂

I’m much more friendly with the flat iron for my hair, which is a good thing, because the 70s happened before I was born.

What do regular irons and flat irons have in common? They use heat to smooth out wrinkles or straighten stubborn waves.

Sometimes, I think God turns up the “heat” in our personal lives to work out some spiritual wrinkles or use the pressure to mature us. Many times in the Bible, we see fire associated with testing or purification, and I want to look at two of those examples today.

Molding Clay

When I was in middle school, my brothers and I did 4-H for several years. I was even elected to the enviable role of Refreshment Committee member, which essentially meant nothing. Our moms organized everything.

One craft was to shape clay, apply a color coating of choice, and then place our creations in the oven to “set.” Going into the oven, my clay design was rather bland. When it came out of the oven, it was still unimpressive–but it was pretty. The heat had transformed the outer shell’s coating into a deep, glossy blue that was smooth and shiny.

I’m thankful God is a much more skilled Sculptor than I am! He’s at work in your life and mine, molding us to be who He wants us to be. He might have to work out some lumps, and the heat might hurt, but in the end, we will come out vessels for the finer.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 NKJV)

Refining Gold

I know little about metallurgy, the science of working or heating metals, but this basic concept I understand: The way to refine metals is to heat them. The heat purifies the metal, burning off the “dross,” or waste product, and leaving behind the metal.

Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived, observed this truth in Proverbs 25:4.

Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. (KJV)

On a spiritual level, God often refines His children. To remove things that don’t belong in our lives, He puts us through the fire. Or sometimes, He simply wants to make us more like Himself. Conforming to His image doesn’t come naturally but takes some fire and time, as a gospel song says.

Molding and refining aren’t processes we wish upon ourselves, but they deepen our character if we respond to them with a humble heart.

Heat Sensitive

Maybe you’re going through a trial right now, and you wish God would turn off the iron for a while. Perhaps life feels just fine at the moment, but you can look back at a time when God brought you through a tough experience.

Either way, remember this: If God didn’t care about us, He wouldn’t turn up the heat. His hand at work in our lives, even in the tough times, is evidence of His unfailing love.

I like what the Apostle Peter wrote in I Peter 1:7:

… that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (NKJV)

Wow! Our faith is more precious than gold.

I may never grow fond of ironing, but I recognize its purpose and place. And I may never be especially eager for God’s refining work in my life, but I know He has my best interests in mind.

Dear Father, thank you for caring more about our character than our comfort. Help us trust you in the fires of life, and may you be pleased with the work of your hands. May our faith be found for your glory. Amen.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

When God Turns Up the Heat – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

If God didn’t care about us, He wouldn’t turn up the heat. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

Do You Know What You Believe? Book Giveaway

You’re playing sports with friends or participating in a summer camp when all of a sudden, someone recognizes you. “Hey, I’ve seen you at youth group,” or maybe, “You’re the girl who goes to that Bible club, right?”

Um, yes.

“So do you really believe that stuff? I mean, about Jesus being God?”

You stand straighter and reply that you do.

“But if Jesus is God, why does he allow these terrible things that are happening?”

If someone asked you that, would you know what to say? Or as we saw last week, could you explain why attending church is important to you or why God’s Word remains relevant?

If you couldn’t, you’re not alone. Many teens and adults have only a basic knowledge of their faith.

The Need to Know

The Apostle Luke wrote his gospel to a man named Theophilus for one purpose: that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:4 NKJV).

Likewise, the Apostle Peter challenged his readers:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear … (I Peter 3:15 NKJV)

Don’t you want to know with confidence that what you believe is the truth? Don’t you want to be ready to share your faith with others?

I do.

When I was a teenager, my Sunday school class did a study on Paul E. Little’s book Know Why You Believe. I still have my marked-up copy and checked Amazon to see if it’s in print any more. It is, along with two other books by Little: Know What You Believe and Know Who You Believe. The What book talks about foundational tenants of our faith including the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, Jesus’ death, people and sin, the Holy Spirit, the church, and more.

A Giveaway for You

I wish I could give you and every teen in my youth group a copy of these books, but for now, I’m starting with one copy of Little’s Know What You Believe.

Between now and Sunday, leave a comment below or subscribe to my newsletter, and I’ll enter your name into a random drawing.

The winner will be announced in next week’s post.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Do you know what you believe? Book giveaway! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway – A classic that will strengthen your faith – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 2

If you missed last week, you’ll want to look back at the first in this two-part series by Tami Myer. In these posts, she maps out a beautiful and biblical perspective on marriage for Christian singles.

Today, we pick up where we left off last time with the fourth thing singles should know about marriage.

If this post is a blessing to you, please leave a comment below-or share it with your single friends to encourage them in their walk.

***

#4. Marriage will not complete you.

Single people are not “halves” waiting for their other “halves” to join them. Two single people are two complete people. But after a man and a woman marry, God unites these two individuals as one married couple. Two people become one flesh and one team.[i]

Christ is the only One who is able to fully satisfy us. Whether we are married or single, Christ is the Lover of our souls who knows us completely, loves us unconditionally, and cares for us perfectly.

#5. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness.

Singles struggle with loneliness, but so do married people. In fact, some people say that the loneliness they experienced within marriage was more intense than the loneliness they felt when single.

Ravi Zacharias points out that the only lasting cure for loneliness is worship.

That may seem like a strange statement unless we understand that true worship is actually an expression of relationship. Worship is not a monologue of verbal praise or a one-person performance. Instead, it is a two-way relationship: we delight in knowing God, and God delights in knowing us. Genuine worship requires that we know God in our spirit (not just as facts in our brain) and in truth.[ii]

Without worship, we experience only temporary relief from loneliness through various distractions. But true worship can be a continual posture of our soul; it becomes a lifestyle. If we live in worship, then we can live free of deep loneliness.

#6. Marriage is an assignment from God.

Instead of looking for a soulmate, listen for God’s calling. Click to Tweet.

Marriage is a calling to serve another person. It is as much a calling as a missionary’s call to Africa or a pastor’s call to preach. A wife is called to minister to her husband’s needs, and a husband is called to minister to his wife’s needs.

If you marry because someone makes you happy, what will you do on the day that he or she doesn’t make you happy? (And that day will arrive sooner than you expect.)

Most of the reasons that people give for marrying then flip into their reasons for leaving: “he was kind, but now he’s not,” or “she was attentive and appreciative, but now she’s not.” However, if your reason for marrying is to serve, then you will never have a reason to leave because you will always be able to serve.

If God is calling you to serve Him as a single now, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

If God calls you someday to serve as a husband or wife, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. (1 Corinthians 7:17, MSG)

The calling is God’s business. Faithfulness to the calling is our business.

 

Notes:

[i] Genesis 2:20-24; Mark 10:6-9

[ii] John 4:24

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 1

Tami Myer is my friend and fellow writer, and every time she blogs about godly marriage, I sit up and take notes.

And I’m not married yet.

So I started thinking: Could Tami share a biblical perspective on marriage for singles that we could apply to our walk now? I mentioned my idea to her, and she graciously agreed to guest blog here.

It’s my hope that Tami’s two-part series will bless you as much as it has me.

***

Why should singles care about the topic of marriage?

If marriage is not on your radar or even on your wish list, you may think that the subject is not relevant for you right now. But regardless of your marital status, you will benefit from understanding the divine design for marriage.[i]

Here are six important things to know about marriage.

#1. Marriage is a profound revealer of spiritual truths.

When we look at the universe, we know that there is a God. And when we look at marriage, we learn who this God is. The created world reveals the existence of God, but marriage reveals the nature and character of God. We learn that He is a God of relationship and that He is loyal and loving.

In the Scriptures, God makes a stunning claim:

For your Creator will be your husband. (Isaiah 54:5, NLT)

God will be our husband? What does that mean? As we study biblical marriage, we learn that a man is to be the protector and the provider for his wife. The husband is responsible for the well-being of the woman. He lays down his interests in order to love her well. His very life is to be a covering of protection over his bride. He honors, nurtures, and cherishes her.

Amazingly, God is eager to be this kind of “husband” to everyone who enters into a covenant relationship with Him.

I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. (Hosea 2:19, HSCB)

As a type of “wife,” we accept God and welcome Him. We take His name as our name. “I am His” becomes our identity. We become covenant partners with Him, and we allow Him to carry the weight of responsibility. We give up being spiritually single. We end our other spiritual love affairs (pursuing pleasure, prestige, or possessions), and we devote ourselves to Him. Instead of being spiritually independent (“I know what is good for me”), we depend on His guidance and wisdom.

We live to know Him and to make His name great. We trust His care, knowing that His goal is our radiance.[ii] Our thriving is His glory.

We abide in Him, and He abides in us. We delight in Him, marveling that He delights in us.

As a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:5, HCSB)

#2. You can have a great impact on others in the area of marriage.

As you interact with people every day, you can be a powerful influence. You don’t have to be married to know what God teaches about marriage. Understanding the Scriptures will enable you to share helpful truth with others.

It has been said that wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. Whether married or not, we all need wisdom in this area because the marriages around us affect our lives. Marriages shape our society and culture.

#3. You may have heard that sexual purity is a gift to your future spouse, and that is certainly true. But purity is also a valuable gift to yourself.

You are far more than physical instincts and chemicals. You are more than an animal, which lacks moral strength or character. You have inherent honor, for you are a man or a woman created in the image of God Himself. Women have the God-given glory of being women. Men have the God-given glory of being men.

Your sexuality is deeply linked to your spirit. If you are abused sexually, there is a deep wounding in your spirit. If you give your body away sexually, your spirit is dishonored and demeaned. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18, NLT)

Perhaps you don’t know how much you are worth. Perhaps you don’t know that you are a person of high value. God says that you are a treasure. You are priceless!

Your body and spirit are worth far more than cheap words and empty promises. You are worth nothing less than someone’s solemn vow before God and witnesses to honor you “til death do you part.” Guard yourself against anyone who says you are worth less than a lifetime commitment.

Sexual purity isn’t just physical. It is also mental. Stay away from porn. It will destroy you. We live in a pornographic society, so it takes strength to fight back, but it is well worth the effort. Porn promises pleasure, but then it sabotages even the ability to enjoy pleasure. It is highly addictive, encourages abusive behavior, creates dissatisfaction, destroys empathy, and causes users to view people as objects.

Pursue sexual purity in your behavior and in your thinking. You will reap great rewards from this, both now and later, whether single or married. Purity will free you to be healthy physically, spiritually, and in your relationships with other people.

Whatever may be in your past, you can embrace purity now because God loves to give fresh starts and clean slates.

To be continued… Be sure to come back next week for the second part of: 6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage.

Notes

[i] One of the best books on marriage was originally written for singles. The Meaning of Marriage is based on a series of sermons which pastor Timothy Keller preached at his church in New York City, where his congregation is predominantly single.

[ii] Ephesians 5:27, NIV

Hold Fast to Your Identity

Since we reached 100 posts here at ThinkTrueThoughts.com, I looked back over the last months and read through some of my favorite posts.

While I can’t say that I have one favorite, “Identity in Christ” would be in the top ten. I want to re-share this post today. (Click on the image below to view.)

More than ever, we as believers need to stand on the truth of God’s Word and hold confidently to our identity in Christ, because we live in a culture that increasingly confuses fundamentals and denies moral absolutes.

So my challenge today is simple: Hold fast to your identity. The world would have you question everything you believe, but Christ is the solid rock on which we stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

Do you have a favorite post, or did a particular topic resonate with you? If so, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

~ Kristen

Not a Vessel More

Smith QuoteEnough. That word is not something our society understands.

The media serves as a megaphone for our culture’s obsession with more. We need the latest makeup product to be beautiful. We need the trending fashion to be popular. We need the newest car to be cool. We need the biggest house, the widest television, the latest smartphone, the hottest widget.

That’s not how God operates. And what a relief that is.

God doesn’t demand more in order for us to be ready for Him to use. He simply asks that we offer Him what we have and in faith, trust Him to use it.

That’s what a widow in 2 Kings 4 learned. She had two sons and no money, so her creditor told her he would take her children instead. She pleaded with the prophet Elisha to help her.

This woman had nothing left but her faith and one jar of oil, and that’s all Elisha asked of her to start. He then told her to borrow her neighbors’ empty pots and fill them with the one jar she had.

She didn’t protest that one jar couldn’t possibly fill many. She didn’t argue that what she had wasn’t “enough” for God to use. She acted – and anticipated the miracle.

When she had filled all the empty jars, she asked her son if there were any more.

His response? “There is not a vessel more” (2 Kings 4:6 KJV). And that’s when the oil finally ran dry.

What she had was enough for God to use in miraculous ways.

I think we can learn something from her story. Instead of complaining to God that we don’t have _______ (You fill in your complaint, and I’ll fill in mine.), we give Him what we do have. Maybe it’s not much. Maybe we can’t even begin to see how He can use it.

But we offer it to Him just the same and trust that little is much when God is in it.

~ Kristen