Fear God and Brownies

We started a new series with our Life Group yesterday by Frances Chan called “Basic.”  Actually, it is not new and most of people in our group have done some or all of this series before, but it is gives so much great insights into the foundations of Christian living that we thought it was the right time for us to dive into it again.

The first topic is “Fear God.”  You can watch the short film and hear from Frances about this topic below.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Brownies… Well you will have to keep reading!

 

This week I was able to share my story (as some call- my testimony) with our missional community.  It was an amazing opportunity for me to share how Jesus has worked in my life over the past 22 years since I accepted Jesus as my savior.  We then watched this video and discussed what it means to us, particularly in the context of the scripture passage presented.

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Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.  Proverbs 1:7

Frances says that the church today has taken the word “fear” and explained it as a healthy respect and reverence for God. But that is not how it is described in the Bible.  Those people who encounter God were afraid.  They didn’t just have an awe for him. They were afraid when they were in His presence.

BUT God also tells us that we do not need to be afraid.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you, Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41: 10.

Watch the video.  Frances Chan can explain it and teach is so much better and more clearly than I could ever hope to do.

But I truly love this topic.  It is so easy for us to say that God is loving, and gracious, because He is. He has forgiven me even though I don’t deserve it and am not worthy.  But don’t we often walk through life just living and not thinking about how important that grace through His son- Jesus Christ is to our lives. We don’t deserve it and we have been given this huge sacrifice by God.  Think of how powerful He is.  We should fear God. We should think about Him and His almighty power every single day- including the fact that He loved us enough to sacrifice His son so we could go on living these lives of ours with the knowledge that we will have eternity in heaven. We should be grateful for that and show it in our actions and rely on God to lead our lives.

So now on to the brownie topic.

I prayed to God (and still do) that He would allow me to conquer the enemy that I face with food. I turn to it when I am stressed, angry, upset, lonely, excited, and more. I felt controlled by food. God lead me to a meal plan and fitness program that I believe changed my life. I still love food. I love to eat. I love sweets, carbs, and so much more, but now I don’t indulge as much as I used to on the “bad” stuff and when I do indulge, I still try to make smarter choices.  Enter- Clean Eating boards on Pinterest!

After adding more and more recipes to my board that called for coconut products, I decided I needed to stock up.

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I will say that I was very skeptical at first because I have NEVER liked coconut.  You know, the sweet white stuff people put on cakes and cookies.  But I wanted to try it. So about 9 months ago I started using coconut oil in some of my baking and cooking.  I stocked up this weekend with even more ingredients and made my first baked goods using coconut flour.  I even got some unsweetened coconut chips because someone fixed a really delicious trail mix at my chiropractor’s office that tasted nothing like the coconut that I always think of.

I tell you all this, because when our Life Group gets together on Sundays, we eat together and share desserts together. I have been so blessed to be able to host this group in my home and share my love for baking with them.

So next time you are looking for something chocolatey and delicious but that isn’t going to wreck your clean eating or otherwise healthy eating, try this

Chocolate Coconut Flour Brownie (adapted from this recipe)

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBS. organic Coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBS. honey
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 TBS. (50 g) coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (I used Everyday life brand)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line an 8″x8″ glass baking pan with parchment so two edges hang over the side of the pan.(for easy removal and cutting) Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In glass measuring cup, melt coconut oil in microwave. In a large bowl, combine the cocoa powder and the melted coconut oil, and eggs with an electric mixer until combined. Add in the agave (or honey) and vanilla extract. Mix again until combined. Add in the coconut flour and salt and mix again until the batter is thoroughly combined.
  3. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spread into prepared pan evenly.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack and once cooled to room temperature, remove from pan and cut into 16 squares. You can either refrigerate the brownies or leave them at room temperature in an airtight container.

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They were a huge hit and I hope you love them too!

Healthy Peach Crumble

We host a Life Group from our church at our house twice a month. It is such a great time to fellowship and study the Word with others in our community.  We share meal time together and I typically provide a dessert.

I love to bake.  If you didn’t know that already, then I recommend taking a look at some of my older posts where I share some of my favorite recipes!!

But while I love a good dessert just as much as the next person, I don’t like to mess up my healthy food choices on a regular basis.  So this week, I decided to search for a healthier option and found this recipe for a healthy peach crumble.  I want to share this recipe with you as it was so delicious!

INGREDIENTS

4 extra large peaches, diced (or 5-6 medium)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
¾ c old-fashioned oats (gluten-free if necessary)
¼ c whole wheat flour (or millet flour)
2 tbsp agave
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (or margarine)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly coat an 8”-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together the diced peaches, cornstarch, almond extract, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until thoroughly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, flour, and remaining cinnamon. Add in the agave and butter, mixing until completely incorporated.
  4. Spread the peach mixture into the prepared pan, and evenly sprinkle the oat crumbs on top. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, or until the peach juice is bubbling and the oat mixture turns crunchy. Cool completely to room temperature. For best results, let the crumble rest for 2 hours after coming to room temperature before serving to allow the juices to thicken.

 

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You could top this with some Greek yogurt, or for a bigger splurge, a little vanilla low carb, low sugar ice cream!

What is Faith?

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been working through Priscilla Shirer’s study through Ephesians, “The Armor of God.”  I fell a little bit behind and am trying to work to finish before my next study starts this Wednesday.

We have talked about the Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, and Shoes of Peace.  These are all defensive weapons that we need to wear all the time.  But sometimes the enemy is attacking us so intensely, that we need to utilize other weapons at our disposal. We must fight against him!  So pick up the Shield of Faith!

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.” Ephesians 6:16.

The Roman Centurion used a shield called a scutum that was about two feet wide and four feet long– large enough to crouch behind for protection.

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Faith can be used to protect our entire body if we use it.  Faith is not something we simply have, but rather it is something we must use or something we must do.  Faith is an action.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

Priscilla sums this up by stating that “faith is acting like God is telling the truth.”  “It is the process of adapting your behavior, your decisions, and ultimately, your whole lifestyle so that it accords with what God has asked you to do.” Armor of God.

You know what is interesting to me is when people find out that I am a Christian, often times they will pick a particular activity and ask if that is something I can’t do since I’m a Christian, i.e. drinking alcohol or watching violent and verbally aggressive movies.  But what I try to explain is that God has given me guidance on how I should live my life, not because he wants to take any enjoyment from me, but so that I can live a fully abundant life.  I choose not to drink alcohol because I know what it can do to people. I want to always be in control of my actions and not use a substance that will inhibit that.  But I also do not want to let my actions influence someone else.

But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:9

And God didn’t tell me that I can’t watch certain movies or TV shows.  But I feel that it is important for me to be careful about what types of things from this world I let inside my head and heart so that I do not let those things that are not of God seep into my conscience and control me.

When we take up the Shield of Faith in our lives, we are proving to God and those around us that we truly do trust God like we say we do.  But Priscilla cautions us not to think that we have the power to protect ourselves by having some particular amount of faith.

Faith does not control God. It doesn’t make God do something. A better understanding of what happens when we exhibit faith is that it gives us access to what God has already intended to do for us.

It doesn’t matter how much faith you have or how big your faith is, ONLY that you place your faith in the right place- in God and then recognize how big God is! The more you trust Him, believe Him and place your faith in Him, the more you will be willing to depend on Him.

‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,’ the Lord said, ‘ you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you'” Luke 17:5-6.

With all weapons, we must know how to use them.  You need to read the owner’s manual to make sure you know how to work the safety settings.  The same is true with the Shield of Faith.  We need to know the owner’s manual to use our faith correctly.  That means we need to read the Bible to have a firm foundation and understanding of God’s truth in order to use our faith.

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The last time you had to make a decision in your life, whether big or small, it is likely that at least part of your decision was based on how you feel.  But the question becomes, why did you feel that way?  Did God lead you to that understanding through his truth?  If so, then you have made the correct decision.  But if your decision was based solely on your feelings, then you may have made a misstep, and are likely dealing with the aftermath of that misstep at this time.  “Feelings change and are subject to external stimuli. Actions done in faith must be anchored in something more solid and fixed.”  Priscilla Shirer, “Armor of God.”

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Easier said than done right?  That is how I often feel.  But there you go again, I am basing even that on feelings.  When you really think about it, believing that God, the creator of the entire universe, knows what He is talking about, is not as hard as we make it out to be.  He gave us the owner’s manual and rule book for our lives. We just need to read it to know what it says.  We need to use it to guide us and strengthen our faith so that we will be more likely to reach for it for safety and support when we need it.  We need to remember that God is faithful in his love for us and His leading in our life.

The temptations in your life are not different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Those temptations may be alcohol, gambling, adultery, bad language, jealousy, pride, addiction to food, and many more tools (or weapons) of the devil. But with God’s truth supporting us and our faith blocking those tools, we can be protected and able to live abundantly in this life on earth until our eternity in Heaven by His side.

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Easter

This time of year all the stores are covered with pastel colored decorations, candy, and bunnies. You can even go sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap and ask him to bring you candy and toys on Easter morning.  I always wondered how we got to the point where the Easter Bunny has so much importance in this holiday.  Yes, it is fun for kids to hunt eggs and have school parties. It is fun to decorate eggs, give them gifts, put them in their new church outfits.  But it is so much more important to make sure that our children know the truth behind this day.

Over 2000 years ago, a man from Nazareth, named Jesus was murdered. Hung on the cross with nails in his hands, a crown of thorns on his head. They laid his body in an empty tomb. And 3 days later, the tomb was empty!  Jesus rose from the dead to save us from our sins. He suffered and died on the cross after living a perfect life so that we would be able to live eternally in heaven even though we never can hope to live a perfect life.

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” John 20:1-2

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:19-22.

Often times we can let the secular side of Easter overtake the true meaning of this day (same as for Santa at Christmas). While the traditions have gone a little haywire lately, we really need to find some grounding in what we celebrate to place our focus back on Jesus.  Take the Easter egg.  An egg is a symbol of new life.  When you decorate eggs, hunt for eggs, or eat that ever so delicious Cadbury Creme Egg, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God our Father, thank him for sacrificing His son for us and for Jesus resurrection on that third day so that WE may have new life in HIM!

We are blessed to be able to send our son to a wonderful daycare where he was able to hunt for eggs, and have a little party on Friday.  It was fun, but it wasn’t the most important thing we would do this weekend. Yesterday, we had our Life Group over for a celebration of our Savior and living our lives as Christians on mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And we had some yummy little Easter cupcakes for dessert (recipe will be below), but even that wasn’t the most important thing we would do.  This morning, we gave Macon some little treats in his Easter basket. And tonight we will be spending time with my side of the family.

But the most important thing that we did today had nothing to do with bunnies, eggs, or candy.

Today my family went to church and worshiped our Heavenly Father. We thanked him for His sacrifice in sending his son to die for MY sins. I am not worthy. But God created me and loves me so he wants me to be able to live eternally with him.  Macon is so young that he can’t really understand all of this yet.  We sing “Jesus Loves Me” to him everyday. We say the blessing at meals and he knows how to say “Amen.”  He knows when we go to church that we are going to see Jesus.

And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from he love of God that is revealed in christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38.

So while you are spending time with your families today, eating some candy, be sure to focus on the real reason for this day. This Resurrection Day.  Thank God for saving us from our sins, for allowing us to live in this world with the full faith and knowledge that He has a spot saved for us in heaven because of Jesus.  Thank God that He is Risen!

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For our Life Group, I made some mini-cupcakes and wanted to share the recipe with you.  Two of the children who are part of our community are actually allergic to eggs, so I found a recipe for Lemon Eggless Cake that was used for my cupcakes.

Ingredients
  1. Butter – 1/2 Cup (Softened, Room temperature)
  2. Sugar – 1 1/4 Cup
  3. Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  4. Lemon zest – 1 tsp
  5. Milk – 1 1/4 Cup (Room temperature)
  6. Lemon Juice – 3 Tbsp
Dry Ingredients
  1. All purpose flour – 1 1/2 Cup
  2. Baking soda – 1 tsp
  3. Baking powder – 1/2 tsp
  4. Salt – 1/2 tsp

Directions

First preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan with butter or line with butter paper and keep aside. OR line a cupcake pan.

Now take a mixing bowl and all the items listed under “Dry Ingredients” and mix well until combined. You can also sieve it to get them combined evenly. Keep it aside

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Now, in another large mixing bowl, add the room temperature butter, sugar and beat it nicely until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and mix well. Now add the room temperature milk to the bowl and beat well until combined.

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Now transfer the prepared dry ingredients to the wet ingredients little by little and fold it until it gets combined. Do not beat it. (I did beat it and it was fine).  Finally add the lemon juice and fold it to get mixed. Your batter will get slightly fluffy with the baking soda reacting with the lemon.

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Pour the prepared batter into a greased baking pan upto 3/4 th of its height or a line cupcake tin.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely to room temperature before icing.

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Then make the icing.  This is my absolute favorite, go-to, American Buttercream recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (do not melt, just leave on counter for 30 minutes)
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions: In a mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth, gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with milk until combined, add in vanilla.  If desired, add a little lemon zest and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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One tip I have learned for coloring frosting is to put the food color in the icing while still in the mixing bowl and then mix it until combined.  It is so much easier to get the icing completely colored that way.

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I also used packaged fondant to color and make a bunch of little eggs for decoration.

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I tried to decorate the mini-cupcakes using the green frosting as grass with the little eggs on top.  But I had some problems with my grass tip, so then I just turned to an old trusty star tip.  They turned out to be the perfect portion control tiny little cupcakes, were perfectly moist and not too sweet.

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These cupcakes are cute. They are fun.

But most importantly, I was able to use them today as a way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That he died for me, for you, for anyone who will place their faith in Him, die to their self and be reborn in Him!

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17.

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The Shoes We Wear

The shoes we wear say a lot about us.  Most of us wear them all day. For most women, it is the most important part of their outfits.

This lady looks like she is going to work. I LOVE these shoes by the way!

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This lady looks like she is enjoying a nice stroll along a boardwalk at the beach.

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This lady is ready to be active and get some exercise.

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These shoes are all so different, but they do have a few things in common.  They will protect your feet from the dirt and other gross stuff on the ground to get you to wear you’re going.  They allow you to go in public places (No shoes, no shirt, no service!).  They show a little bit of your own personal style.

Have you ever thought about how shoes make you feel? I know that I LOVE to be barefoot but I also love shoes. Some shoes make me feel pretty or sophisticated, maybe more artistic and stylish than I actually am, even homey.

Women often wear shoes that hurt their feet, but they do not care because those shoes are just too adorable not to suffer through the pain. We can never really have too many shoes because there is always that new perfect shoe, that old favorite that you can’t part with, that outfit that just needs a new shoe. And then we spend way too much money on them at times!  They can even be the urban legend dream shoes….

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But have you ever heard of the Shoes of Peace?

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. Ephesians 6:15

If you have been following along with my blog, you know that I have been studying through Ephesians with Pricilla Shirer’s Bible study, “The Armor of God.”

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We have talked about the spiritual armor that God has given us to be equipped for living in this world. So far we have learned about the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness.  Paul, the author of Ephesians, used the Roman Centurion to symbolize the different pieces of armor so that we could easily identify and remember the weapons at our disposal.

The Roman soldier wore shoes called caliga which were very strategically designed. These half boot, half sandal shoes included open designs to allow for good ventilation; many straps for adjustment to fit each soldier’s specific feet; the soles were made of layers of leather; and they were studded with hobnails- or spikes which provided a firm grip into the ground.

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We have discussed how the enemy is a master of deception and out to attack us where we are weakest. He wants us to be unsure of ourselves, always questioning and unstable, in a life of chaos, worry, anxiety and lacking peace.

A life without peace is simply unprotected, crippled, unable to move forward, hindered from maturing and developing in a healthy fashion. Pricilla Shirer, “The Armor of God.

We walk through many obstacles and hurdles in life, have to deal with family, friends, co-workers and others in our life that often result in the instability that we feel. But God has given us a way to stand firm and walk through any terrain we are faced with and to have peace within ourselves and those in our lives.

Therefore, I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united int he Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  Ephesians 4:1-3.

There are two types of peace being referenced in these sections of Ephesians: Peace with God and Peace of God.

Peace with God

Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1.

This one is actually the easy one for us. None of us are worthy.  We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  But, by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, in his death on the cross and resurrection, we can be filled with God’s grace and a peace that no other substitute can provide.  “We need an anchor in our soul that keeps us stable and sound…. Peace with God is the answer. The only answer.”

But what about our lives beyond our relationship with God through Jesus?

We need the Peace of God

At the moment of salvation, we receive God’s spirit to purify us but it also empowers us live out our faith.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

Priscilla teaches that these verses tell us that when we choose to be grateful in prayer, instead of just “wallowing in anxiety and worry,” we are “demonstrating an unwavering trust in God.”

This is how we put on the shoes of peace- we trust and express gratitude. Then, we experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Priscilla talks about the conundrum many women often find themselves in on vacation- we have packed so many shoes, all different types of sandals and dress shoes, but we often forget to take the shoes for activity. As one of her friends said, “All those dress shoes…and no go shoes.”

The shoes of peace are not just pretty little slingback pumps that show off our calves, make us taller and complement that perfect outfit. Shoes of peace are the kind that make us ready for battle!

The HCSB translation of Ephesians 6:15 says “… your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.”  He is telling us we need to be READY to go out and spread the Good News. Not just keep it in our hearts to make our lives stable and peaceful, but to move forward against the enemy. They are not just defensive weapons but also offensive!

We use God’s mighty weapons, not world weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

In addition to taking back ground from the enemy in our own lives, we will want to share what is making us more stable, more comforted, and free!  We will strap on these shoes of peace to bring others into the harmony of loving and trusting in Jesus Christ.

When we been to see the supernatural effects of the gospel- when strongholds are demolished in our lives and we get a taste of true freedom- the result should be gratitude that overflows into action. Priscilla Shirer, “Armor of God.”

I don’t know about you, but the peace in knowing that no matter how much I screw up, now matter how many times I fail, that God has a plan for me and the ultimate point is to live an eternal life in heaven by his side, is more comforting than any outside force!  The peace with God is in me. Putting on the peace of God is a little harder, but I want to win. I want to beat the enemy. I want to be surefooted everyday and not being anxious over things that ultimately do not belong under my control. I want others to experience this peace and the joy that I experience daily in my walk with Christ.

Sharing this Good News is not always easy. But living my life in a way that shows my love for God and being prayerfully grateful of his design and trusting in him is something that I will strap on everyday to win victory over the enemy!

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The Shoes of Peace can be worn with any outfit, for any job, for any occasion and will keep us more protected, more stable, more comfortable, and more ready than any shoes in our closet.  Get your go shoes. Strap them on. And be READY!

Guard Your Heart

“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Wow- is that powerful? Our hearts keep us alive. Without our heart, we wouldn’t be able to pump blood throughout our bodies to keep all of the other bodily functions working properly.  We all know how important our hearts are to living a long life, yet we do things everyday to jeopardize the health of our hearts.  Some of us smoke (not me, YUCK!), or eat foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, salt; let our high blood pressure get out of control; fail to keep our diabetes in check; and lead stressful lives.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men AND women. Certain types of heart disease- such as defect, can’t be prevented. BUT many other forms of heart disease can be prevented with simple healthy lifestyle changes. Yet, we continue on about our lives, eating all the fried and high unhealthy fat foods we can get our hands on, we keep adding additional stress in our lives and make excuses for why we can’t take care of ourselves.

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But what about our spiritual hearts?  We listen to the lies of the enemy; we put things in our minds that affect how we view others, ourselves, the world; we let outside forces (like the world) control us; we lack a moral compass.  We fail to protect our spiritual hearts.

Just like we can eat healthier, cleaner foods, get in some heart pumping exercise, work our muscles to become stronger- all of which strengthen, stabilize and protect our hearts, there are things we can do to protect our spiritual hearts.

In Core of Support, I talked about how in Ephesians, Paul compares our spiritual armor to the armor of the Roman Legionary’s.

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I have been continuing my study on Priscilla Shirer’s “Armor of God.”

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Now its time to look at the breastplate or body armor that the soldiers used to protect their most vital organ, the heart.

“The breastplate was a metal shield (usually bronze), worn over the midsection from the neck to the thighs…And if he was wealthy enough to afford it, he would also don a coat of mail over his breastplate for extra fortification.  The purpose of all these layers was to guard the vital organs, particularly the heart.” (“Armor of God,” Priscilla Shirer)

” Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your guard, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” Ephesians 6: 13-14.

The first thing we need to understand to make sense of this passage is what righteousness means.  Righteousness is defined as morally right or justifiable. But as believers in Christ, it goes a step further, “Righteousness, then, is upright living that aligns with God’s expectations.” (Priscilla Shirer, “Armor of God”)  Our core of support is God’s truth.  Righteousness is living that truth.

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In this section of Ephesians, often referred to as “The Whole Armor of God,” Paul lists out the 6 specific spiritual armors that we have to protect us in God’s mighty power. This is just a summary of things he has already discussed in much more detail earlier in his book.  Looking back at the prior verses gives us a better understanding of what Paul is referencing when referring to righteousness.

You can check out the entire section of Ephesians 4:17-5:9, here. To summarize some of the instructions given, Paul tells us that we can live as children of the light by: throwing off our old sinful nature, letting the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes, putting on our new nature created to be like God, stop telling lies, not letting anger control us, quit stealing, using our hands for good work, letting everything we say be good, helpful and an encouragement, getting rid of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, imitate God in everything we do, getting rid of sexual immorality, impurity and greet, not listening to obscene stories and foolish talk, not being be fooled by people who try to excuse these sins, but instead living as people of light.

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Priscilla summarizes this even further to explain that when the Bible refers to our heart, it means our body, spirit, and soul. And our soul includes our mind (thoughts), will (ambition), emotion (feelings), conscience (moral compass).  These areas are the perfect and exact target the enemy tries to wiggle his slimy self into to penetrate our heart.  When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we will protect our heart from the attacks of the devil.

We are all sinners and can NEVER expect to live righteously on our own and avoid all those things Paul mentioned above. Only God is perfect (perfect righteousness). We can compare ourselves to others and feel like we are doing the right things because we are “better” than them (comparative righteousness). But that isn’t the right measuring stick, because even if what we do is better (in our minds) than other people, we still aren’t meeting God’s standards.

But when we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, that is where Imputed Righteousness comes in to protect us!! Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we are made righteous by faith in Him.

“He sees you through the bloodstained filter of His own son, the perfect Lamb of God. You no longer need to exhaust yourself striving for perfection. You are already completely, wholly, and perfectly righteous because of Christ’s gift to you.” (“Armor of God,” Priscilla Shirer)

The question now becomes, how to we actually implement this in our lives.  Priscilla points to Ephesians 4:22-24 for the answer:

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

We need to practice Practical Righteousness by making a concerted and consistent decision to cast off darkness and put on the armor of light. It involves a choice AND an action. “Righteousness is in you. Now it needs to be on you.”  We can rely on the perfectness of Christ’s Holy Spirit in us to help us make those choices every single day. 

Making a decision to try your absolute best to live righteously everyday and guarding your choices is not as easy as it sounds. We have to understand what God’s perfect righteousness is and be transformed little by little to be more like him.  When we focus on our spiritual health, we will be transformed from the inside-out.

“Meditating on the Word, internalizing its principles, and then implementing them in your actions is what supports the work of God’s Spirit in renewing your soul.” (“Armor of God,” Priscilla Shirer)

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So how will you practice righteousness today, tonight, tomorrow, everyday? How will I? I will try my best to first understand and know the truth and when a decision arises or a choice needs to be made, to consult that truth before taking any action. I want to protect my spiritual heart from the advances of the enemy will put on my breastplate of righteousness by casting off darkness and walking in the light! (Or at least, I will try my hardest!).

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And then I will do a workout, take a hike, go for a walk, or a run, or play with my son to get my physical heart pumping to keep me healthy!

 

 

 

Bake Sale

If you know me, or read my post Cupcake Anonymous then you know that I LOVE to bake.

Since embarking on a healthier lifestyle involving Clean eating, I have been trying not to bake too often and when I do to make sure that there are plenty of other people who will be eating the fruits sweets of my labor.  So this weekend I was given the perfect opportunity to bake, have a little treat, and have other people eat the rest.

A young couple that Jonathan and I have come to know and love dearly over the past several years have been called to become missionaries.  Tyler and Rachel English were married almost 2 years ago while Rachel was still in nursing school and Tyler works at our church with children. What is very unique about this couple is that Tyler’s family was missionaries when he was younger and Rachel has an aunt and uncle who have been missionaries for a number of years.  Several years ago, Rachel had the amazing opportunity to go to Africa for about 6 weeks to serve children and experience the life of a missionary for a brief period of time.  What they didn’t know at the time was that God was giving her a sneak peak of their future.  Then Tyler was able to go to Africa with a missions project where our church has partnered with in Botswana.

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Last year, Tyler and Rachel discovered The Reclaimed Project and knew they found their calling.  “Born from a desire to exalt Christ by fulfilling the Biblical mandate to serve orphans and the poor, Reclaimed Project strives to serve the least of these in our state and around the world. To accomplish this, Reclaimed Project is providing adoption grants to local families, while also launching orphan care centers and creating jobs in Africa.” (To read more about Tyler and Rachel’s mission and plans, check out their blog.

This August, they be moving to Lesotho, Africa to serve as missionaries and disciples for Christ, working with children of an orphanage.  In order to support their time in the mission field, they are seeking to raise the necessary funds. And that is where this weekend’s baking comes in.  A group of people from our church are putting on a bake sale tomorrow morning to raise donations to support Tyler and Rachel.  And I COULDN’T resist the opportunity to do some baking!

I wanted to provide a variety of items to go along with what other people are making. The bake sale is in the morning, so I needed something that could pass as breakfast- sort of.  Enter, Coffee Cake Muffins…

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The recipe was can be found here.

Then I needed something sweet, but not overwhelming first thing in the morning. These little mini cupcakes seemed to fit the bill….

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I used the following Yellow Cake recipe that is my favorite go-to cupcake and can be modified to fit many different taste buds.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

Directions: Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners (or more for mini-cupcakes). Preheat over to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium until well combined. Scrape sides of bowl, beat for 2 minutes more. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternatively add flour mixture an milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among the cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes then place on wire racks to cool.

I used 2 different icing recipes.

  1. My go-to icing recipe is a classic American Buttercream (the pink icing in the picture)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (do not melt, just leave on counter for 30 minutes)
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions: In a mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth, gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with milk until combined, add in vanilla.

2.  Salted caramel buttercream (Adapted from Cooking Classy)

  • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup Caramel Sauce, recipe follows (cooled completely)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
      Caramel Sauce
  • 1 1 /2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream/whole milk

Directions for the caramel sauce:

  • Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed. In a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan, heat sugar and water over moderately high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. Wait 3 seconds then carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow caramel to cool several minutes then pour into a glass jar to cool completely and refrigerate.

Directions for the salted caramel frosting:

  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add powdered sugar and blend on low speed until mixture comes together. Add caramel sauce and vanilla and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

So then….. I decided it was time to give people something to give them a bit of a sugar high, a very decadent and deliciously chocolate dessert.

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I like to call these Salted Caramel Triple Chocolate Brownies and they are adapted from verybestbaking.com.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)  NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
  • 1/2 cup  butter or margarine, ( 1 stick) cut into pieces
  • 3 large  eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 12  caramels
  • 1 tablespoon  milk

Directions: oven to 350° F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.  Melt 1 cup semi-sweet morsels and butter in large, heavy-duty saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in eggs. Add flour, sugar, baking soda and vanilla extract; stir well. Spread batter into prepared baking pan; sprinkle with remaining morsels.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky.

Microwave caramels and milk in small, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring until melted. Drizzle over warm brownies. Cool in pan on wire rack.

I had one of my mini-cupcakes and one small brownie. They were both DELICIOUS! No- they were not clean. No- I didn’t need them. But I did want them.  BUT guess what…?  I am NOT craving more. I actually do not want more. I could feel the sugar within 2 minutes of eating the brownie.  When you have been eating clean for a couple months, it is really amazing the affect going off course can do to you.  Do I regret it? NO.  That is life. I wouldn’t want to go the rest of my life without eating a REAL brownie or REAL cupcake. The difference from today and my pre-Christmas baking is that I had one smaller brownie and one mini cupcake (and well, let’s be honest, a few licks of the spatulas throughout the day), and before, I would have had at least one (if not 2) of the large brownies, and definitely wouldn’t have stopped at one mini cupcake. THEN I would be planning on having more tomorrow.  But not now. In this balanced, healthy, clean lifestyle I am choosing to live, I had my 20% “non-clean” food today and will be right back on track tomorrow. These little “treat” days will NOT derail me anymore. I do not let food control me, anymore!!

Now, back to Tyler and Rachel…..  If you want to learn more about the Reclaimed Project or support them in their mission, please check out the Reclaimed Project, here:

AND if you’re in town tomorrow, come by the Missions Cafe at Cool Spring to get some delicious baked goods (I hear there will be scones, cookies, muffins and more!).

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