Do you want to be joyful?

Joyful are people of integrity,
    who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
    and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil,
    and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
    to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
    reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
    when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations,
    I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
    Please don’t give up on me!

Psalm 119:1-8

The first step to joy is living a life of integrity. How can we apply this portion of Psalm 119 to our lives and the lives of our families? The verse that stands out to me is

Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.

Psalm 119:6

How often do we compare our lives with the ways of the world instead of the way of the LORD? When it seems all of culture has embraced and celebrated ideas that God calls sin, it would not be wise for us as Christians to follow and support that path. This verse tells us how not to be ashamed when we stand before God is for our actions to reflect His ways, not societal norms that disregard His Word.

If this post has been a blessing to you, I’d love it if you’d share with a friend who may need some encouragement in their faith today.

Thanks!
Emily

Read. Reflect. Rejoice! in the Word of God

Have I ever told you my favorite Psalm of all? It’s actually the longest chapter in the Bible and all about the benefits of loving God’s Word.

John Ruskin the Victorian era writer, philosopher, and art critic who had a crisis of faith (later returning to Christianity) said of Psalm 119:

It is strange that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost me the most to learn, and which was to my childish mind the most repulsive – Psalm 119 – has now become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion of love for the Law of God.

John Ruskin

Margaret Ruskin, an evangelical Christian, taught her son to read the Bible from front to back, then beginning again memorizing large portions along the way. Learning God’s word this way had an influence on his adult writing career. He wrote:

“She read alternate verses with me, watching at first, every intonation of my voice, and correcting the false ones, till she made me understand the verse, if within my reach, rightly and energetically.”

John Ruskin

Do you want your kids to have a love for God’s word? Did you know it can start with you? Do you struggle to find the time and desire to daily read, reflect, and rejoice in what God is teaching you through your Bible reading?

I’ve been there! Ask God to wake you up and give you an excitement for His Word He will be faithful to answer and your children will thank you for it later.

God Sent a Prophet

Ever have a week when things are going just fine, but something is just off? Last week, outwardly I was overjoyed with life, with work, with accomplishing long held goals with my art students, but inwardly I was struggling.

I think as humans we expect the big things we will have to deal with in life that complicate things. We prepare as best we can, grin and bear it until the worst passes us by. Yet what has surprised me in recent years is the things that were formerly simple joys are now complicated with no quick fixes in sight.

At the end of a day of racking my brain about things out of my control, I began to pray about the situation. I poured my heart out, giving it to God and looked over to my left to see my Bible sitting there like a warm hug waiting for me. I opened where I left off and right there leaping off of the pages was a word for me that burned in my heart in a way that doesn’t happen every day.

There I was in Judges reading about Israel on the edge of starvation, stuck in a deep hole they’d dug with the consequences of their own sin.

When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites.” Judges 6:7 (Notice they cried out to God because of their discomfort, not because of repentance).

The Lord sent a prophet.

Judges 6:7

A prophet is a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God and in this case this unnamed person was sent by God as an answer to prayer to remind the Israelites of what He had done for them and His instructions to them from which they had turned away.

Matthew Henry tells us, “They cried to God for a deliverer, and God sent them a prophet to instruct them, and to make them ready for deliverance...The sending of prophets to a people, and the furnishing of a land with faithful ministers, is a token for good, and an evidence that God has mercy in store for them. He thus turns us to him, and then causes his face to shine, Ps. 80:19.”

The prophet came first to make them ready for the rescue.

Then after the word is proclaimed throughout Israel, The Angel of the Lord calls the unqualified deliverer, Gideon, who is just a simple man at work trying to hide and preserve food for the starving community.

From the Enduring Word Commentary:

Go in this might of yours: Gideon indeed had might, but not as we might normally think.

· Gideon had the might of the humble, threshing wheat on the winepress floor.

· Gideon had the might of the caring because he cared about the low place of Israel.

Do you also care for the low place of the consequence of sin that America is in right now?

· Gideon had the might of knowledge, because he knew God did great things in the past.

Do you regularly recall the great things God has done in the past and in your own life?

· Gideon had the might of the spiritually hungry because he wanted to see God do great works again.

Do you want to see God do something great in your generation?

· Gideon had the might of the teachable because he listened to what the Angel of the LORD said.

Are you obedient to what God tells you to do?

· Gideon had the might of the weak, and God’s strength is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Do you feel ill equipped but know God is faithful to equip you for what He’s called you to do?

The Enduring Word Commentary continues, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel: Gideon had might to go forth in, but he could not see himself as someone who could do great things for God. He thought of himself as insignificant, from the smallest clan in his tribe, and that he was the least in his own family.”

Are you from a less than perfect person in a shrinking family in the middle of nowhere? Could God use a small, weak you in your corner of the world to change the trajectory of America or even the world for His glory?

“At the same time, Gideon was correct: he could not save Israel. But a great God could use a small and weak Gideon to rescue Israel.

Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man: God’s assurance to Gideon was not to build up his self confidence, but to assure him that God was indeed with him.”

Gideon did not need more self-confidence, he needed more God-confidence.

Enduring Word Commentary

“It is important to know that God has sent us but it is even greater to know that He is with us. This was the same assurance God gave to Moses (Exodus 3:12) and that Jesus gave all believers (Matthew 28:20).”

Finishing Thoughts

When I think on all of this and then think back to my own prayer last week, I am reminded that the root of all our problems in America is a turning away from God’s word and prayer and towards man’s ideas and striving to do things our own way.

I love that this story reminds us that God is showing His mercy in America by keeping a remnant of people who are proclaiming the truth of His word from pulpits and town squares all over this land. (Side note: Don’t let anyone convince you that sharing scripture online is in vain “because it will never change anyone’s mind.” Look at all of the messaging that is sent out everyday trying to change your mind on every issue under the sun, words work and we know “God’s word is living and active.” Hebrews 4:12)

He hasn’t given up on us, yet.

When I think about my daily ministry I’m reminded that I am small, with a small online presence, from a dwindling family, from a small town, with a small family, teaching at a small school, but God willing, He will produce a big in impact in the lives I touch as I walk in obedience to Him for His kingdom and His glory. And He’ll do the same for you.

Don’t we want to see a change in America? Don’t we want to see a Great Awakening Revival in our day?

Emily Cook

As Christians we have a responsibility in our community to shine the light on the truth and chase away the darkness that is pressing in from the world’s skewed view.

We are but Christ’s servants and He is the Savior. We are steadfast to proclaim His Word and trust He’ll do the heart work. Like Gideon our job is just to trust Him. Revival will come.

Be Faithful in the Little Things

In 2011 God placed a big vision on my heart and mind that began in my prayer life. He was calling me to share the gospel with women and children outside of the walls of our church.

At the time I was an extremely shy mom of a newborn and a two year old who feared public speaking more than anything! So as you can imagine I wondered how in the world I could be obedient to His call.

Yet God was faithful to give me enough light and provision for the next step. A large community women’s Bible study began, led by my friend, Lori, and out of it came “Jesus Storytime,” led mostly by my husband and my friends. You can learn more about what God did with that in this video.

When these ministries ran their natural course, serving their purpose for these seasons, I knew God wasn’t through with His purpose for my life. The vision would continue, but some days there were twists and turns and I couldn’t see where He was taking me.

“If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones.”

Luke 16:10

His calling on my life has landed me assisting a small preschool class at church, leading small group studies, assistant teaching 4th grade at church, teaching pre-k at a Christian school, to now teaching Art to every student at our Christian school.

When my principal approached me about leading chapel on Easter week, I immediately said, “Yes!” an answer that would have terrified me to say 11 years ago. Speak on a microphone in front of the whole lower school? My stomach would have been in knots.

So, yesterday it was not lost on me that what God started in my heart in 2011, prepared me for calmly and completely at peace, picking up that mic to confidently share the gospel with a gym full of teachers and students. He gets all of the glory for leading me somewhere I never would have gone on my own and equipping me to obey Him.

My girls led the singing, I shared the Easter story, the kids were quiet and attentive, and it brought so much joy to my heart to share Jesus!

Over dinner (on the square where our ministry started) as I recounted the day to my husband, I told him my only regret was that I couldn’t tell them more about Jesus. He’s too wonderful to boil down into a few words!

So, I want to ask you, what is He leading you to do outside of your comfort zone? What is He calling you to do that seems bigger than you? What is He asking if you that only He can do through you?

I encourage you to take that next step, because it is the pathway to JOY!

“Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

This Good Friday may we all remember what He did on our behalf to pay the price for our sin. Without Jesus we would be without hope.

That Day

I’m typing here today because of THAT DAY.

✝️That day that Jesus died for my sins.

🙌🏻That day Jesus’ heart beat again.

☁️That day Jesus assended to heaven and commanded us to go and tell the world about Him

Because of THAT DAY, anyone, anywhere, any time can be saved and I was when I was 11. Because of that day I live in light of that day I’ll see Him face to face.

Do you know Jesus? Tell your friends about THAT DAY He changed your life. #thegospel

Shine.

I heard a snippet of an Instagram reel the other day that resonated with me so I wrote it down to figure out why.

The audio track says, “I will not be less for you to feel better about yourself.” I realized why I felt those words is because it seems the world tries to tempt us to make the expression of our faith small as to not offend our neighbors.

But John said, “Jesus must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30 And as He increases in us, we will be compelled to speak truth even if it rubs others the wrong way.

Believer, do not stifle the Holy Spirit within you to make the world more comfortable. “Let your light shine in this crooked and perverse generation.” (Matthew 5:16 & Billy Graham)

Your words of truth may lead others to a saving faith in Jesus “rescuing others by snatching them from the flames of judgement…hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” Jude 1:23

This Week in the Bible, Highlights: Cultivating Family, The Long Game

Art by me.

While in the midst of my mothering, God’s call has been loud over my life to spur you onward. This has always felt risky to me, I’ve wondered quietly to God, “Lord, I have the end goal in mind, but I am merely walking by faith that it will be made sight.”

Again and again He points me back to scripture that parenting fads come and go but His Word stands forever and His ways are worthy to be trusted.

While my babies were “tender shoots” taking bottles and laying in baby beds, The Lord had me penning advice, sharing proverbs and wisdom from the Bible.

Honestly some days I have been like “Lord, really? Me? I’m still in the middle of my “farming” season, I don’t even know if my “crop” is going to yield much fruit.”

I live in a small town, so the glass house feeling is real. We love each other well but to a fault we talk about each other, too. Yet I have had to learn that my faith in Jesus is what defines me and being more fearful of what people say about me or my kids than what God has said is sin. I have to be obedient to share the Word, first at home then elsewhere, and He is faithful to do the work.

🌱How Families Flourish 🌾
“Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!..And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Mark 31:8, 20 NLT

His Word promises never to return void and I have been blessed to have been given much of His Word.

“When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Luke 12:47-48

Cultivating Family: The Long Game
It’s 2049 and I look around my dining room and see blessings multiplied, children who grew up to walk with the Lord and disciple their children to do the same. The thought of that inspires me on the harder days to keep leaning into Jesus and pointing my kids to Him.

(The even longer game will be to see the faces of my children’s children’s children at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. That’s the ultimate goal).

A drawing of this crazy map of the garden of motherhood…Live with the end in mind. The end goal of motherhood for me is a crowded table with my children who follow the Lord and their children who follow the Lord.

“And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.

By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19

The way I see it we might as well grow something beautiful while we’re here and leave some seeds to bloom once we’re gone.

Photo: Canva

Plan
What environment will my kids be able to spiritually grow?
Start praying for wisdom before they are born. Commit to home discipleship. Get involved in a strong Bible believing church. Look for a town with a school with a Biblical Worldview or research homeschooling curriculum. Ask God to provide.

Start Small
What age appropriate resources will you choose to point your children to the Lord?
The first night you are with your baby can be overwhelming. I remember us praying over our children in the hospital that God would give us the wisdom to raise them for His glory.

When you get them home sing hymns to them, read the Bible outloud to them, pray over them, and when they are old enough to sit in your lap, read from a Bible picture book.

As they grow you’ll introduce them to Sunday school, the plan of salvation, discipleship, scripture memory, and service.

Prepare
Motherhood is challenging. When we stumble how will we trust the Lord to help us up? We are all sinners, we will make mistakes, they will make mistakes (remember the promise of thorns in the soil and sweat on our brow). Yet through each stage as He’s drawing us to Himself in our missteps, we are pointing them from their sin to the cross of Christ.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall. The Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Plant
What seeds will we plant in the lives of our children according to their bents?
Study your kids. Plant seeds of the gospel in their hearts and also encourage them towards their gifts. Model how to be faithful with the talents we’ve been given and how to share the gospel with others.

Note
Keep a prayer journal when you plant a seed. Mark it down and see how the child grows through prayer and your instruction. Remember the mustard seed, so small, yet its exponential growth is a visual of our faith when we just believe.

Water
Everyday share the water of the word. Don’t drown them or expect them to understand too much at once, but a little bit every day helps grow strong roots. The world is loud, but with faith the Word hidden in their hearts will be louder.

Deal with Pests
You’ll have pests from the outside world and from the inside, too, but how you handle the more irritating issues in the garden of life will help build resilient and confident kids in their faith.

Jesus tells us the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for things chokes out fruitfulness (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control). Don’t imitate the way of life of the world, it doesn’t honor God and it chokes out His work in our lives.

Care
Sickness and sadness will arise, nurture them through it all and be His hands and feet. Love them with all that you’ve got in your heart and ask God to give you even more love to pass along to them.

Harvest
This is the satisfying part, raising fruitful kids who in turn raise fruitful kids. Enjoy the bountiful blessings around your crowded table. “[You] will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.” Psalm 128:3

Propagate
From one disciple come many! Disciples make disciples who make disciples. Just as a cutting from one plant that you’ve nurtured can be a blessing shared with others so can our children bless their spheres of influence by sharing what Jesus has done for them.

What a crazy beautiful life the Christian life is and what a blessing that God chose us to be moms!

Look up and press on!
Em

This week in the Bible, Highlights: God and Creative Work

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.”

The Lord gave me the promise of Psalm 37:4 when I expanded my creative business in 2008. Scared to death to be out on my own, He gave me the courage to take the leap of faith. He has been faithful to help and give me the desires of my heart, even desires I didn’t know I had, like sharing the God’s word with moms and children through my creativity and opening the doors for me to teach.

What will we do when we get all that we ask for? Praise Him!

Day 1, 2/12
Today we see Moses radiate God’s glory by being in His presence. Do we reflect the goodness of God to our community after spending time with Him? What a wonderful thought!

We see God’s command to rest, for our own good. We must take time to unplug each week so we don’t burn out. God knows what’s best for the people He created and productivity isn’t a requirement every day.

We also saw the mob mentality play a role into the crucifixion of Jesus. Google the word Barabas and think how this same scene could play out in our modern day as truth is considered relative.

Day 2, 2/13
Today we see how God placed people in the nation of Israel to specifically use their talents to build the tabernacle. You’ll read about all kinds of skilled workers placed there for that specific time in history.

This is one of my favorite passages in Exodus because it reveals God as Master Designer and the Giver of Artistic ability.

The vision He gives to the variety of skilled workers and the way He placed them there specifically to execute the design makes my artist heart come alive!

What did He put me here in this time to create for Him?

May today’s creatives use their gifts to further the Kingdom of God.

In the New Testament today we see Jesus hanging on a cross from a tree He created, put to death by a people He created and came to save. That put things in perspective for me. I can’t even put into words how Jesus demonstrated His love for us through His death on the cross and the manner in which He didn’t fight back. The thought of the Creator of the World laying down His life so that I could live is too overwhelming to comprehend.

Adrian Rogers signed his books with this verse and I think it’s a wonderful response for what we read in Matthew’s gospel today.

“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

Day 3/ Feb 14
Today we see Jesus ALIVE and risen from the dead giving His followers the Great Commission which is still a command for us today.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” Psalm 34:19

Day 4/Feb 15
Today we see the skills and details needed to build the tabernacle. God loves creatives and uses them in Kingdom work. The craftsmen did everything as God had instructed Moses.

We also see that cloud that is referenced in many areas of the Bible, but here the cloud covered the Tabernacle to show the glory of the Lord had filled that place. Whenever the cloud lifted the people of Israel would set out on their journey. During the day it hovered and at night fire glowed inside the cloud. This will happen again during the Millenial reign of Christ in Jerusalem when He returns after the 7 year tribulation. Isaiah 4:2-6:

“In that day the Branch of the Lord [Jesus] will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in IsraelThose who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.  It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

We also started a new book of the Bible that tells the same story of Jesus but from a new perspective. The book of Mark, Luke, and John is an encouragement for writers. It may have been written or said before, but your words may be the first to get through to someone.

Day 5/Feb 16
Today Jesus showed us his authority over both spiritual and physical realms by forgiving sins and healing the crippled on the Sabbath.

Day 6/ Feb 17
We see Jesus continually referring to scripture to get to the heart of the matter.

Day 7/ Feb 18
“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.”
Psalm 37:5
Whatever God has called you to, He has prepared you for. Dedicate your work, your motherhood, and your dreams to Him and He will help succeed.

A Mother’s Devotion

I recently joined my friend, Mallory, on her podcast “Faithful 31 Moms” to discuss how Hannah leaned on the Lord to answer her prayers and once He answered, she was faithful to dedicate her child right back to Him. Our conversation led us to discovering some ways we can apply her story to our own lives as mothers.

Faithful 31 Moms offers a weekly podcast for moms with real life interviews and devotionals that are relatable and rooted in the unwavering truth of God’s Word. We want to encourage moms to remain faithful in the everyday things life brings, so they can plant seeds of faithfulness into their children. Faithful 31 Moms is a partner of Love Worth Finding Ministries founded by Pastor Adrian Rogers. https://faithful31moms.com You can listen to the podcast here.

Hannah dedicated those young years to nurturing Samuel, knowing her time with him was short. She was devoted to him, asking to stay home with him until he was weaned. Three years or so later, she took Samuel to the temple keeping her vow to give him to God.

The story of Samuel proves this truth that its never too early for a child to be taught to follow the Lord. Trained up in the temple, he shows us that Hannah’s vision and prayer for him was fulfilled as we see him following God in prayer and listening to His voice.

She has full confidence in God to take care of Samuel because He answered her prayer in such a direct way. What He called her to, He will lead her through.

The prayers prayed by a redeemed mother are the prayers that change the world.

He has also called us as moms, not to fear the world our children are growing up in, but to know that His will supersedes it all! Our prayers for our children are eternal and the seeds we plant for the Lord in their lives will bear fruit in time. Through our missteps and theirs there is opportunity to point them back to God and His word knowing our prayers are not in vain.

Do you have  a vision for your children? As mothers, we have the power in our hands to shape the next generation for eternity and we shouldn’t take that responsibility lightly.

We are not perfect, but by His grace God has personally given me vision for each one of my children, even from the womb, that I am to lead them to be His image bearers reflecting His character and training their feet to take the gospel with them everywhere they go reproducing more image bearers in His Name.

We must focus our time and attention, not on the material things of this world, but the spiritual, moral and character building principles that make great men and women of the faith.

Living with vision changes our decisions, our commitments, our lifestyles. This may cause our families to make different choices than other families, but when follow and obey God’s word, He can do more than we could ever ask or think. This empowers us to do things we never thought we could do or would do. It causes us not to care what people think, because we are working as unto the Lord.

Raising our children with a vision cannot and must not be done alone. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide, God’s word to be your inspiration, and His sacrificial love to be your motivation. Whatever He calls you to do as a mother, He has equipped you for.

I don’t want to raise good children, but godly ones. I don’t want to live in fear, expecting them to fail, but in faith, empowering them with God’s truth to live this life with victory. I desire for them to keep a short account of wrongs with God and man, always listening to His voice, being led by His Spirit, in a state of repentance and sanctification. I want the fruit of self-control to be evident in their lives through their actions and their choices. This can only be accomplished through prayer.

I pray this post and this podcast will be an encouragement to you. We hope you can take away something to use in your own walk with the Lord as you raise up your children for His glory.

Have a wonderful day,
Emily