So today is the day to look back on the study and find your own “take home message”. What has God been speaking into your heart about strength? We were asked to find the Bible verse that was most meaningful to us. Without a doubt, for me it was: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2, ESV). I have heard it so many times in the past, but recently I found a new version that really speaks to me. I like it in the New Living Translation best: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2, NLT).
Here’s why I love this verse…Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. We are reminded that we are a people set aside for God’s purposes: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Rather than “A people for his own possession”…the King James Version says that we are “a peculiar people”. When we are not conforming to the world or copying the behavior and customs of the world, we are bound to feel different sometimes, like we don’t quite fit it…this is a feeling that is hard to get used to, but it is not as bad as it sounds to our hearts. Feeling peculiar takes me back to junior high school – the awkwardness, the sense of something not being right. Most of us were born needing to assimilate, wanting to fit in. Followers want to follow the crowd. Leaders want people to want to follow them. But there is a separateness about living this holy life, about being wholly His. We are following Him, wherever He leads and that takes us away from the way of the world.
Here’s why I love this verse… Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. “Let God”, not “twist yourself into knots”, not “try, and fail, and do it all over again tomorrow the same way”. I think that what we get wrong so many times is trying to accomplish this walk, this journey, in our own strength…of course we are unable to make ourselves holy, this is futile. Jesus’ sacrifice would be unnecessary if there was another way. But instead, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). To “Let God” is to yield to His Hand in your life, in your spirit. Yield is a powerful word, there are many nuances in its meaning that also convey spiritual truth: it means to give over possession, surrender or admit your own defeat (as in a battle); it means to give way to pressure or submit to something more powerful (as in physically yielding under pressure or verbally yielding in an argument); it means to give up your place to someone more superior or out of deference to them (as when one is speaking publicly and allows someone more important, or with something more important to say, to have the rest of his time); it also means to produce what you were made to produce, be productive (as in sown seed yields a crop); it means to generate profit, to produce a return on an investment; it means the energy produced or released by an explosion, especially by a nuclear explosion (TheFreeDictionary.com). Power and energy and harvests of crops are produced by yielding to God. To be productive, we must yield to God. Power is created and production occurs and fruit is produced by submitting to, surrendering to, and deferring to, God and by admitting to our own defeat. Yielding is not the way of the world – mutiny, power grabs, hostile takeovers, “nice guys finish last”…this is the way of the world. God’s way is better. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Is 55:8-9).
Here’s why I love this verse… Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Promises of newness are a welcome relief in this tired world. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Cor 5:17). While the world is temporal, temporary, our transformation is eternal and infinitely significant. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:7). And, while the process of our sanctification, being made more and more holy and pleasing to God, is gradual, Jesus’ redemption of us is immediate: Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:3-5).
Here’s why I love this verse… Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Our thought-life is a spiritual battle ground, our lives cannot be renewed unless our way of thinking changes. We must protect our hearts and minds from worldly influence. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Eph 6:10-13). Yet we are given power and strength to accomplish this task. God provides His Word for us, studying it can protects us from our own thoughts. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb 4:12). And He also freely give us His Spirit who acts as both our advocate and teacher (John 16:7 and John 14:26). And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Here’s why I love this verse…Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. I am a planner. I have learned the hard way that my plans do not always match up with God’s, especially when I am seeking my own will rather than His. Sometimes I forget that the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Prov 16:9). And God’s plan for me is good. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer 29:11). God’s plan is for me to do good. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). But to know God’s plan for me, I must learn to listen to Him, otherwise I live in confusion or worse, disobedience. God always speaks to me through His Word so that whatever I need to know is found there. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). But while, reading and knowing God’s Word helps me to know His will for me, in order for me to do His will, I must yield to it…submit, surrender to Him. Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:24-25).
The biggest revelation to me in the last few years was that, contrary to what I thought I knew, God’s Way is the easier way. No, it is not easy as the world sees it. God calls us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Heb 12:1-2). This sounds impossible some days! On days when those sins do entangle us, threaten to strangle us…so that we are weighed down by our choices and our guilt, God seems to be at the top of the highest mountain while we are struggling in the valley. But in a moment, with one word, we can choose life and peace and wholeness. Yes to God (no to self). Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:7-8). It is our rescue, our remedy, our resolution – the laying aside of our will and the seeking of His, and of Him. His will is usually at odds with our expectations. We will not usually get what we expect. God specializes in daring rescues, unforeseen solutions, counterintuitive strategies. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27). That is why we must wait upon the Lord – because we just can’t know what He is planning or how He wants to approach things; we must simply trust that, whatever it is, His way is best. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov 3:5). He is an innovator and, of course He thinks outside the box – He invented the box! See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Is 43:19).
My strength? My strength comes when I allow Him to transform the way I think so I can learn to surrender, to yield.
justAgirl…just like you
Do you know someone whose love language is giving? This person love, love, loves giving gifts and the ultimate joy for them is you, eyes wide, smile beaming, and stammering, “Wow…Thank you! How did you know? It is more than I ever expected! I just can’t say thank you enough!”
My question is…what has God, the giver of life, done for you that leaves you shaking your head in amazement? Astonished? That grateful? If you can’t think of anything, think again! Your heartbeat, your eyesight, your creativity, your Savior, your family, your world…the list is endless. We get pretty immune to it, though. We all forget, from time to time, that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). All the good stuff comes from the Lord. This includes the good stuff you are able to do – your “gifts”.
God entrusts us with many gifts, among them: our ability to dream, our talents and our opportunities. He longs to be gracious to [us] (Is 30:18). He weaves events and time and people together to accomplish His plan – we know this well. But think of it…simultaneously, in His infinite wisdom, He is working out a plan for our good…in each one of us who loves Him. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28).
This study has been about seeing our gifts and using them. Today we are reminded to be thankful for our gifts and to enjoy them. His love language is gift giving and He is pleased to bless us. He is for us – who can be against us? (Rom 8:31). He delights in us…He rejoices over us with singing (Zeph 3:17). He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He makes plans to prosper [us]…to give us a future and a hope (Jer 29:11). Think of it! Isn’t it simply amazing that the God of the Universe loves you so dearly and wants to bless you? Doesn’t it leave you feeling humbled? Grateful???
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:3-6)
This gratitude compels us. He has blessed us to be a blessing to others (Gen 12:2). He has gifted us, so we can share our gifts with others. Where do your gifts lie? Are you “good with kids” or super organized? Do have gifts in music or a heart to serve others? Are you a wonderful cook? God can use all of these skills and abilities to minister to His people and to reach out to “the least of these” (Matt 25:40). Our lesson todays ends with this:
When we use our gifts and talents in service of Him, giving of our time and resources to further God’s influence in another’s life, we are celebrating our strengths. - pg. 71
justAgirl…just like you!
But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. Gal 5:22-23
One of my favorite verses…today’s post really follows Monday’s post well! The author of our study makes an excellent point: Have you ever considered that these gifts, the Fruits of the Spirit, are gifts we already have been given by God? How often do we pray for patience or self-control, joy or peace? In another post about peace, I mentioned a Joyce Meyers message about peace, but I didn’t explain how I came to hear it. I was going through a difficult period in my life. I was under spiritual attack by a “friend” at church and I had been disappointed by those closest to me. As the Psalmist writes in beautiful Psalm 42, I was downcast in my soul. My husband had left for work already, early as usual (“o’dark-thirty” as my Dad would say). I was just finishing up my workout DVD, and as I turned it off, the TV came on to a Joyce Meyers program – on TLC – that right there was a miracle! And I had been in such turmoil that morning; already I had prayed and prayed about my worries. The message by Joyce Meyers that day was about peace. Joyce said she thought it was amazing how many people go through life searching for peace when God has already given it to us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). Jesus bequeathed peace to us…He left it to us as an inheritance, as children of God. It is like money in the bank…and yet we live like paupers sometimes – how often are we desperate for peace, joy, love?
We often apply a worldly understanding to the things of God and this is a big mistake. We think that our godliness is a reflection of our own hard work. I used to think that my spiritual life was another part of my overall plan for self-improvement. Want to lose weight? Go on a diet. Want to get stronger? Work out. Want to learn to cook something new? Get a recipe and just do it! But spiritual growth is never a result of our own work – there is no “self”-improvement in a spiritual sense. Any move toward greater spiritual maturity results from losing “self” and gaining Christ. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:20). Our “self” must decrease and He must increase.
Jesus Himself showed that we are misled when we strive toward our own goodness. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me (John 15:3-4) It is only by drawing near to Jesus that we may bear fruit. The Fruit of the Spirit is not something achieved by our own human efforts but is a natural outpouring of the Spirit within us. Abiding in Jesus, living a life that is utterly dependent upon Him, is what produces a spiritual maturity that is easily recognizable. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45
The striving to “be a better person” is a trap. It takes our eyes off the real purpose of our walk…to be close to God. It also plays into all of our old insecurities or into our pride in our own goodness (depends on your achilles heel!). God has a plan for us and only He can equip us to carry it out. So today let’s claim our inheritance. Stop striving toward unattainable goodness and worthiness and rest in Him. Fellowship with Jesus is the antidote for anxiety and stress, producing joy and peace instead. Planting the Word in our hearts will help us to respond with love, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control in difficult times. Seeking after God, regularly, grows our relationship with Him and increases our faithfulness to Him and to others.
Remember: He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6
justAgirl…just like you!
As I began this post, I almost typed the title as “Enhancing Your Strengths”…maybe my subconscious brain is working overtime! Today’s chapter is about building strength where you might be lacking. I got to thinking about it. I realized that much of my life I have avoided hard things…not that it made a difference. Hard things found me anyway! But when I was able to choose, I chose the path of least resistance. Not always out of laziness. More like sheer cowardice. I was so afraid I would fail, that often I wouldn’t even try.
I read an amazing book a few years ago called
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The author is a psychology researcher who set out to study failure and ended up with research about succeeding. She identified two mindsets, two ways of experiencing life: the fixed mindset (believing your basic qualities are set in stone) and the growth mindset (believing your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts). Now, this book had absolutely no spiritual component, but God used it for His purpose in me; He used this book to show me that my outlook was hindering my growth. With a fixed mindset, you see yourself as locked into your certain set of strengths. Experiences are seen as the way to prove these fixed qualities to be true. Successes can be written off as expected or as anomalies. Failure can be seen as an indicator, rather than an opportunity. The growth mindset person tends to see failure as a natural part of success. Challenges are seen as exciting, not daunting. Growth minded people are more apt to accurately assess their strengths and weaknesses. ”The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned about improving” (p. 13). The author’s assertion is that mindsets are conditioned and learned. You can change your mindset. You can choose to see opportunity in the defeat. You can choose to see the value in working hard to master new skills or maintain existing strengths. You can choose to believe that we are not static or stuck, or stationary; rather we are always changing, improving, growing.
God has a growth mindset. “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert (Is 43:18-19). And, as a matter of fact, I think I kind of realized something new myself today. God has given me my strengths to use for His Kingdom. And He works through the Holy Spirit to equip me where I am not strong so I can do more for Him. Ok, so all that I already knew. I bet you did too! But what I see now is that God’s plan for me is bound to unfold regardless of what I do, therefore I must be ready and willing to play the part He has for me, even if that requires me to gain strength in new areas. I cannot say to God, “But that’s just not in my skill set.” If I do, the time will still come for me to work in the area of my shortcoming, and I will have chosen the more difficult road to travel, by ignoring His call to strengthen my weakness and prepare for the task. It is my job to tune into the call and simply yield to Him.
Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2).
justAgirl…just like you
Water…we just can’t live without it. We usually don’t drink enough of it (did you get your 8 glasses yesterday?). In dreadful places around the earth, desperate people are crying out for it right now.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the LORD GOD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.
And in that day you will say,
“Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name.
Make known His deeds among the peoples;
Make them remember that His name is exalted.”
Praise the LORD in song, for He has done excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth. Isaiah 12:2-5
Water is a running theme in the Bible. It cleansed the Earth in Noah’s time. It cleansed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. John baptized with it; Jesus walked on it. But to live we must take it in, fill ourselves up with it; and it will nourish and strengthen us.
When we read the story of Aaron in our last Book Club assignment, I noticed that the Israelites seemed to live in constant thirst and distress. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex 17:2-3). God did provide for them. He gave them water to drink and food to eat whenever they needed it, but it was never enough for them. They did not learn to trust in Him. Every time they thirsted but could not see the water, they doubted God and complained against Him.
Jesus told the Woman at the Well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14). Later He attended the Feast of Booths, also called the the Feast of Tabernacles, which was a Jewish celebration commemorating the time when the nation of Israel had wandered in the Wilderness living in tents and worshipping in the Tabernacle, which was actually a large tent. This feast was to serve as a reminder about the way the God provided for them during their time in the desert (bible-truth.org). Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:37-38). There is never a coincidence in the Word of God or in the the ministry of Jesus. He said these words, at this festival, to send a message. Jesus promised to provide the answer to Israel’s thirst in the same way God provided for them in the Wilderness, only these springs of living water would never run dry and would always be available wherever they wandered. And what He spoke that day, to them, is still true today, for us.
The image of the Israelites being rescued from slavery in Egypt, experiencing difficulties along the journey, complaining against God, and refusing to follow His chosen leader is an amazing metaphor for man’s relationship with God. In the end, only those who trusted in the Lord, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Num 14:6-9). Jesus provides for us freedom from the slavery of sin and comfort in the desert times as we travel life’s journey. He gives us the Water that will not run out. He places His Holy Spirit within us. This is the Divine Strength that we studied in this week’s bible study lesson. The relief of our own rescue, the ability to keep on going in difficult times, the nourishment for our souls as they start to feel weary, and the hope of the Promised Land…Jesus is the remedy for what ails us.
Praise the LORD in song, for He has done excellent things; let this be known throughout the earth. Isaiah 12:5
JustAgirl…just like you!
For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Ps 103:14
We are reading A Little Princess (Amazon link) in homeschool this week. I love little Sara Crewe! She rivals Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice (Amazon link) for my all time favorite (or favourite) heroine. As the story opens Sara, whose mother is dead, is doted on by her young and wealthy father, an officer in British India. She lives in relative luxury at a boarding school for a few years before learning of her father’s death. Captain Crewe dies in India, alone, and thinking himself financially ruined. Due to this apparent loss of fortune, Sara also loses her station as the “show pupil”, as the “little princess”, and is relegated to spending her days as an errand girl on the wet, cold streets of London; and sleeping at night in an unheated, rat infested attic. Her change of fortune does not change her heart, which was good from the start. It is when she is pressed the most, that she shines the brightest. Many tears while reading…
Strength in weakness. We see it in the pages of God’s Word as well. God chose the least of these most of the time. Jacob, the trickster, the younger twin, was chosen by God to become Israel, father of the twelve tribes (Gen. 25:23). Moses, the younger, tongue-tied brother was chosen by God to lead those twelve tribes to freedom; he was called a “friend of God” (Ex 33:11). David was the last of his brothers, a child really when he was anointed as king; yet he was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who defeated Goliath (1 Sam 17:50) and from whose line the Savior would come (2 Sam 7:16). Jesus was born in a manger and grew up anonymously, though He was the Son of God (Luke 2). Peter, devastated over his denial of Jesus prior to the Savior’s crucifixion (Matt 26:75), founded and led the early church, fulfilling another prophecy of Jesus’, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” ( Matt 16:18). And Paul, his hatred for Christians driving him to Damascus on a mission of persecution, met the LORD along the way (Acts 9) and became instead a soldier of the Cross (2 Tim 2:3).
Do you feel unworthy sometimes? Overwhelmed by your inadequacies? Me too. Daily. But the Holy Spirit whispers to me when I am discouraged… so I know that I am part of God’s plan. He, who in His great mercy, chose the many unlikely heroes to demonstrate His power. He knew what an encouragement it would be to the rest of us unlikely heroes. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Cor 12:9). It is in my weakness that I see the truth – I can do nothing without Him and yet, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).
I have come to learn, the hard way, that when I feel myself being humbled…that’s when I know God is really working in me. When I see the difficulties, or feel heartbroken, I see His plans for my improvement unfolding and I see my opportunity to glorify Him and, this is my chance…I can take part in the Plan. Not that I always do as I should…but I know in my heart, that He is in it. He is in the fire (Dan 3). He is in the lion’s den (Dan 6). He is in the pruning of the Vine (John 15). He is in the potter’s hands (Is 64:8). He is in me! But we have this Treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor 4:5-8).
JustAgirl…just like you
The chapter for this week is called Unwanted Strength. Are you stuck hosting everything just because you are able to pull together a fabulous meal and tablescape (I think of HGTV’s Sandra Lee here) in less than 30 minutes? Are you dragged into leadership at church because people naturally look to you for direction, when you’d really prefer to just sit in the back row of the meeting? Are you really good at something you don’t enjoy? Then this one is for you!
As for me, I can be very organized and a great mutli-tasker when I put my mind to it. When I am in that mode, look out! And I used to love flying through my to do lists and checking off one task after another. The problem is, I have always struggled to maintain moderation, tending more to “all or nothing” thinking. So if I get too task-oriented, my people skills evaporate. Likewise, it seems that if I focus my attention on people, I cannot get a thing done. We all remember the lesson of Mary and Martha from Luke, chapter 10…people trump tasks. Getting too wrapped up in our work can make us say or do very ugly things. Worrying about waiting on the tables took Martha’s mind off of waiting on the Lord. Her bad feelings of anger and resentment bubbled over and were a good barometer of her spiritual wellness at that point. If only she had remembered the promise that they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). Of course, I know too that a lot of women, like me, have read that story and sometimes thought, Well, the food wasn’t going to make itself! But then again, it was Jesus, so…
Jesus taught, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:21). So what we value is what we will put our hearts into. Some days we must choose happy family or clean house? People trump tasks. On the other hand, the Bible has many scriptures that do encourage hard work. From the very beginning, we were meant to be diligent: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Gen. 2:15). Proverbs often calls us to work: Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense (Prov 12:11). And, From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward (Prov 12:14). Certainly God would have us work hard when we have a job to do. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame (Prov 10:5). But always God would have us remember that whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Col 3:23-24). So the Word of God encourages hard work but not a hard heart. He would have us follow His lead. Serving God’s agenda balances the task/people problem for me. With God’s help, we are able to serve people while we complete our tasks. This is real multi-tasking! Then it is just a matter of following His lead…oh wait, that’s another post altogether!!!
My “strength” of getting things organized and done – I used to really pride myself in it (that’s part of the problem too!). Once I realized that God wanted me to have a servant’s heart, I saw that I needed to build my serving muscles up. When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:12-14). And so I determined to become more focused on people than work; I knew God was calling me to it. This was a process for sure. But sometime after this first “call”, God called me to become a homeschooling mom, which stretches me so much in this area. We have so many things to get done! But my real job is the people, or in this case the peeps, I serve. How I have struggled to learn to do both! My strength had become somewhat unwanted…just like your dominant eye will draw your focus in its direction, so my desire to accomplish the tasks ahead of me can draw my focus away from what I need to do most – love well. But as always, God has the best answer: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Peter 4:10).
Do you have an “unwanted strength”? Can you see how God wants to to use it in His service? Please share!
JustAgirl…just like you!
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Personal Strength is the title of this week’s bible study chapter. The scripture selections highlight the lives of Mary, the mother of Jesus, Job, and some of David’s Psalms. All of these bible heroes demonstrated grace under pressure. Grace under pressure has the connotation of being able to maintain our composure during difficulties. But think of it in biblical terms. What is Grace? Unmerited favor, undeserved love…it is what the sacrifice of Jesus, for our sins, is all about. In a person, grace exhibits itself as patience over frustration, forgiveness over grudges, generosity over grasping. Giving grace while under pressure is a godly attribute. It is what Jesus did when He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When He was pressed, He poured out His blood for the redemption of us and the forgiveness of our sins (Eph 1:7).
My kids have wonderful imaginations. They are nine and seven years old. They love the Transformers (old school cartoons only), and Star Wars, and Batman (again, old school cartoons). Yes, I do have a girl. She is her father’s daughter though, so she loves all of those adventure stories; though she does lobby to get a Batgirl episode in there once in a while. She is just beginning to dip her toe into “girly-ness”, as she calls it. But she loves to play Transformers and legos with her little brother. So these wonderful imaginations have extra time to work in tandem because we homeschool. For those moms of “traditional” schoolers, homeschooling a first and a third grader is like having toddlers at home…it is like pre-pre-school. In other words, they are with me all of the time – grocery store, doctors visits, dry cleaners, shoe shopping, lunch with friends… Believe it or not, this is actually one of the beautiful side benefits of homeschooling; most of the time I love it. I get to see my little sweeties so much more than when they were in traditional school and I enjoy all the facets of their personalities. It is certainly much more of a gift than I had expected it to be – most of the time.
On Monday, I had to squeeze in a trip to Walmart to pick up something Dear Hubby needed for work. I couldn’t waste the time doing something like that when I was planning a grocery run on Tuesday. I don’t have time to go twice in two days. So, on the fly, with my monthly menu in hand, and a scrap of a list, I set to shopping to get it all done Monday. One of these days I will extol the virtues of monthly meal planning – I’m addicted. The Dynamic Duo got right to it too. They started in with Death of Starscream, replaying the cartoon misadventures of Starscream, the devious and disloyal Decpticon who is second in command behind Megatron – all of you moms with boys, please forgive me. I know you know, but someone out there might not! For, what felt like, the longest seventy-five minutes of my life I was assailed by constant chatter, hand motions and an amazing attention to detail while they maintained a complete lack of attention to me. I was going to try to reproduce it for you, but I simply cannot. This is a pretty regular gig for them – they do this all the time. It is Autobot Night at the Improv. The story meanders continuously while they weave in new characters and ideas into an old story. It is a tennis match of plots and subplot and asides. They do sound effects. They finish each other’s sentences. It is really quite amazing. Except that by the end I felt like I had been imprisoned on Cybertron for infinity and beyond. I couldn’t think straight! They had wandered in the aisles while I grabbed a wrist here, the bill of a baseball cap there. It took three tries to get a straight answer to, “Are we out of apple sauce?”. A mock sword fight in the Produce section was my undoing. Basically I snapped. ”That’s it!” I hissed.
There was an immediate response. Apologies, contrition, sheepish looks. It is just what you want you kids to do. But it left me no time to rant or rave. So I did anyway. I didn’t yell. I complained, vehemently, but in a quiet sort of way. In the checkout line, in the parking lot, in the car on the way home. I was like a helium ballon that has come untied. I expounded until I ran out of air, as they mournfully listened. Then it was my turn to apologize. At first, I tried to explain to them that I was like a teakettle that had so much steam built up and it had to released…that I had just “vented”. Immediately, I saw that the apology was pathetic and worse than the rant. I know better. I am supposed to model myself after the best Parent in the world who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (Ps 145:8). My weak excuses didn’t stand up next to His example. They had sought my forgiveness and I had withheld it, so I could “vent”. I am the parent and I should have addressed their behavior long before I “lost” it in the Produce section – I can’t blame them for that. I thank the Lord that He gave me children to teach me about Himself and to humble me. So finally, a real apology, real forgiveness, and hugs all around.
This week’s study talked about integrity as part of Personal Strength. We must be honest about our faults, especially to those we love, to have integrity. We must be moving away from sinful choices and toward a more godly character to have integrity. And we must show grace under pressure, even to Decepticons, to have integrity. Well, two out of three isn’t bad. If you think my story here is nothing to be proud of, you are probably right. But if you could see my progress, like the Lord does, you would know that I am light years away from where I started out. I was a bit of an ugly duckling, spiritually, to begin with. But my hope is in Him (Ps 62:5) and I know He is still at work, trading His grace for my flaws, [His] beauty for [my] ashes (Is 61:3). And any improvement, any Personal Strength, any integrity that I have comes from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who spoke to Paul, saying: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ [To which Paul responded, as I do] Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Cor 12:9).
How about you? Ugly duckling or beautiful swan? Or a bit of both?
JustAgirl…just like you
I really enjoyed this week’s chapter: Domestic Strength. The author starts with “a woman’s home is one of her sacred spaces” which really resonates with me. How about you? Is your home your sacred space…maybe the way it looks evokes a feeling of peace or maybe what goes on there sits well with you? But if you are like most of us, you want better for your house, you want more. I think that is the secret behind the success of media like HGTV, DIY Network, Southern Living Magazine (my absolute fav), and Better Homes and Gardens Magazine (number two), just to name a few. I even love to get the snail mail catalogs for Williams and Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, and Restoration Hardware – they have earned a place in the stack of magazines that sit, patiently waiting for a day trip or longer vacation drive, with my husband at the wheel, and me turning pages, folding down corners, and clipping recipes, dream houses, and project ideas. The internet is amazing too (don’t get me started on the home improvement/decorating ideas and recipes I have seen on Pinterest!), but for me, it cannot replace the soothing feel of slick pages and the whisk, whisk, whisk whispering to me as I turn them, <<deep sigh>>…It is a happy preoccupation for me. It does not leave me feeling discontented like a have-not, just more hopeful like a dreamer.
These magazines, TV programs, and internet websites show us an ideal life – no dirty socks on the floors of the bedroom pics, no cracked/chipped ceramic tiles, no carpet stains or threadbare sofas and absolutely no spills burned onto the surfaces of those professional series 6-burner, stainless steel, Viking cooktops! It’s how we wish we could live today and how we want our homes to be “one day”. We clip or bookmark those pictures to plan our dream houses from the pages of magazines and websites. In the here and now, we might take on a smaller project and try a new recipe. I do all of this, happily! But I got to thinking today, we need to remember what Jesus taught about setting up a home…Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them [italics mine] will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock (Matt 7:24-25). If we want better for our houses, if we want more, we must (1) hear His Words and (2) do them. James says “be doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). I guess I have houses on the brain because this month, I am creating a class to teach at church next month, called “The Family Workshop” where we will put the Word into practice to “build our houses”. As an aside, the word house can be interchangeable with the word family; in the way we see house in the verse: as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 25:15).
The Bible is our best way of knowing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the firm foundation upon which we must build our houses. Like those magazines and TV programs with their “ideal” pictures, the Bible shows us how we wish we could live today (do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect, Rom 12:2) and how we want our homes to be “one day” (by wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established, Prov. 24:3). In the here and now, we might take on a smaller project, adding in a daily devotional or volunteering at church, and we might try a new recipe where we combine the best of ingredients which produces something imperishable, to satisfy the hunger of our souls: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Cor 13:4-8). God’s Word is the source that shows us what our homes should be like, gives us the DIY directions to get it there, plus offers access to free, on-site, Expert Help! The Bible is the most relevant book you have in your house – so let us “be doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
JustAgirl..just like you
For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7)
I love the story of Joseph. This week’s chapter of Embracing Your Strengths opens with a brief review of his resume: Favored son. Slave. First assistant to a high-ranking government official. Convicted felon. Chief Operating Officer of Egypt (p. 15). What a roller coaster!! But somehow, he was able to keep his attitude from turning sour, even during very difficult circumstances. We don’t hear about the details of his personal relationship with God, like we do with David. But we see his response to trials and tests. For instance, Joseph’s main concern when Potiphar’s wife was harassing him was not his reputation, or his job, but, “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God” (Gen 39:9, NLT). Joseph knew that what really mattered was what God thought of him.
Fast forward to today. Whether you have a high powered job, work part-time, or stay at home wiping little noses, you have the same choice that Joseph had: get distracted by circumstances or live to please God. Living to please God is very counter-culture and our flesh rebells against it. Some things never change. Paul saw the same problem 2000 years ago: So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want (Gal 5:16-17). It seems that the “easy” way of living is living to please ourselves and not God – that is why so many people do it! But this is one of the devil’s deceptions. What is easier to live with – death or peace? Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:5-6). God is a good Father. He loves us and wants us to choose life and peace.
The battle field is in the mind. The conflicts we have with other people, the difficulties we face, the circumstances that threaten to overwhelm…they have no power over us that we do not give them. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (1John 4:4). Pleasing other people is impossible sometimes. Being task-oriented leads to frustration and disappointment when things do not go according to plan. But pleasing God is easier and His tasks are more rewarding. He is more forgiving of us than we are of ourselves. He looks on our heart. He knows when we have given our best, even if no one else does – remember the story of the Widow’s Mite? She gave all that she had and Jesus saw it. And He knows if what we have done (for our families, on our jobs, for Him) has not been done with a good heart - remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira? They pretended to give more than they actually did. They lied to everyone about an offering they gave – but God knew. God knows more than our deeds; He knows our intentions. You have searched me, LORD, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, LORD, know it completely (Psalm 139:1-4). This is a comfort to me – He knows us and He knows how hard we try. And when we don’t glorify Him with our effort or attitude – if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). God is better than any other boss I have ever had!
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (Col 3:23).
Oh the Lord works in mysterious ways!! I was all set to start writing this post with one thing on my mind, listening to Pandora on my iPhone, and sitting down to the computer. Nowadays I listen to Contemporary Christian music mostly but I just love, love Randy Travis (thank you for that to my college roommate, Heather, from so many years ago!). So I have a station on Pandora that plays mostly him and other great “older” country songs. Now they don’t seem that “old” to me really, but I think they are starting to get there :) Anyway, a song I haven’t heard in a while came on, just as I started to write, and I had to laugh at the irony! Today we are talking about Relational Strength (and friendships) and the song was, “You Find Out Who Your Friends”, by Tracy Lawerence – click here if you want to watch the youtube video. And if you’ve never heard it, here’s a great excerpt:When the water’s high When the weather’s not so fair When the well runs dry Who’s gonna be there? You find out who your friends are Somebody’s gonna drop everything Run out and crank up their car Hit the gas, get there fast Never stop to think, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Or ‘It’s way too far’ They just show on up with their big ol’ heart You find out who your friends are, yeah yeah You find out who your friends are
So I got to thinking about…who are my friends? Who would come through for me, if I called? Who would I drop everything for? I remembered that, in Kindergarten and Preschool, friends are often called “neighbors”. Mr Rogers came into millions of homes, every day, for years, and he taught about how to be a good friend to other people by word and example (this shout-out to Mr. Rogers is especially for my sister-in-law: I know how you loved him, girl!) and he always asked, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”.
Jesus said we are commanded to love our neighbors and He told us how to do it well. An expert in the law asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” asked Jesus
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (NIV, Luke 10:29-37).
Sometimes, I have been the Samaritan sacrificing time, money, and a little piece of my heart. Sometimes, I have been the one who was abandoned and in desperate need of help. And sadly, sometimes, I have been the Levite, just passing on by. What I have learned, from having walked a mile in each pair of those shoes (sandals?), was best said by Mordecai to Queen Esther (please forgive my paraphrase/”poetic license” of the NIV): if you do not help, relief and deliverance will arise from another place…just think, who knows but that you have been put here for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
For the past two years we have been studying various stories dealing with missionaries in our homeschool curriculum. But what God has been teaching me, personally and painfully, for a very long time is that He has called me to minister right here, to the people that He puts in front of me. Amazing confirmation: our Pastor touched on the very same thing this past Sunday. You, too, are living in your very own mission field. Like a real-life missionary, sometimes the environment feels hostile or, it feels like you don’t have all the resources you need to accomplish the task at hand, and you must rely on God for protection and provision. Sometimes those you serve don’t see your service as the gift it is. And sometimes you wonder why the LORD has such a high opinion of you, that He would think you could accomplish these difficult tasks He has given you. But certainly, He knows better what we are capable of than we do. Mostly, what I try to remember is that Jesus promised: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). He will be with you and give you the answers/resources/strength when you need it. He is the friend we can always rely on, the One who sticks closer than a brother (Prov 18:24). It is important to keep God’s Word in our hearts by reading scripture (the Word) and being in relationship with Him (the Word). I am still trying to learn to be quiet so I can hear Him, be quiet so He can comfort me, be quiet so He can reign in each situation and direct my path. He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (NIV, Micah 6:8).
In Chapter Two’s message, did the LORD encourage you, convict you, comfort you, call to you? Please share!
JustAgirl…just like you!
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2).
To answer question 4 in Chapter 1, first I looked up this verse in one of the most popular Bible translations (New American Standard, NAS). It is such a familiar verse in this version, especially this part: do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. But I wanted to see it in another version, to gain a better feel for it by taking a look at it from a different angle. I LOVED the other translation of the verse (above), especially this part: but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. This is the essence of sanctification! This is how we can be made to be more like Christ. This is the grace of God – what He does for us, what cannot do for ourselves, all just because. Why? Just because. Because He loves us, because He wants to, because He can. Awesome! So I see this verse breaking down into four (totally obvious) parts:
- Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world – We need to remember (and tell our children) that, as Christians, sometimes we won’t fit in with others because we are different. That is a good thing, even if is is hard sometimes. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16). Did you catch that? …when you lived in ignorance…before God transformed your mind and changed the way you think.
- Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think – We “struggle with sin”. How many times have you heard that? I guess, for the most part, the truth is that we are struggling with God. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:22-23). Jesus has defeated sin. And if we belong to Him, He offers to transform us into a new person (therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come 2 Cor 5:17). Sounds good so far. What’s the catch? We have to allow Him to change the way we think. Uh oh. That’s the painfully hard part because we really tend to hold on to our old, comfortable, (wrong) ways. Yet this is what it means to repent: to turn away from sin and go the other way; by letting God change the way we think, by letting Him rescue us from ourselves. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Rom 8:5). God’s way of thinking is a better way and He tells us how to do it. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil 4:8).
- Then you will learn to know God’s will for you - yay! Here is the promise. I love God’s promises. If we let Him change the way we think, we will learn to know God’s will for us. Note: it doesn’t say you will know God’s will for you but that you will learn to know God’s will for you. This Christian life is a journey. Learning to know God’s voice and His will for us is part of the renewing of our mind.
- Which is good and pleasing and perfect – God’s will for us is good and pleasing and perfect. His will is for..our..good. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). The important part to remember is that He knows what is good for us better than we do. Forgetting that leads to all sorts of heartache. “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ (Is 45:9). The only peace is in remembering how small we are and how big He is. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9). Back to thinking again. His thoughts are higher – so who better to transform our minds, to teach us new ways to think?
This Chapter is about so much more. I focused on one scripture because God showed me that I need to do a better job of letting go and letting Him renew my mind. For me, the spiritual battlefield is in the mind – I need to let God change the way I think. But the promise is that He will change the way I think, and when He does, He will transform me in ways I could never do myself. And I will learn to know (and do) His will.
Some of you have finished the first chapter, some of you are starting it…this is the beauty and flexibility of our online study. But in order for it to work at its best, please, whenever you finish the chapter, return to the website and to this post and leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you about what touched your heart (and mind) in this chapter! Thank you for joining me today :)
JustaGirl…just like you
Hello friends! I have been so blessed to hear from some of you, that you will be joining me in our new study, Embracing Your Strengths. If you would like to join, and have not gotten your book yet, there is still time. One of the benefits to our online study is that you can move at your own pace so you can “join the conversation” at any time! The book is available via Amazon Prime with one or two day shipping as well, so you can get it in a day or two and jump right in. I have been working ahead in the book to prepare my heart for the study and I am really encouraged that this is do-able by spending 10-15 minutes per day (about 2 questions each day). Add that to your prayer time and you have a great start to the day. I find that I like the slower pace of moving through the questions a little at a time because it allows me to concentrate on the individual scriptures more and also keep my mind on the study throughout the week. Here are some helpful reminders for getting the most out of the study:
- You can do it all at once, early, and ruminate over it till we are ready to post about it
- You can do it all at the last minute, or even late, and still weigh in on it
- Or, again, you can do what I am doing: 2 questions each morning. Since some of the questions are so packed with bible verses, I can concentrate on them better if I limit myself to two questions. It also keeps the topic in the forefront of my thoughts through the week
- I am using Biblegateway.com Passage Lookup to make my time more fruitful. Some of you are kinesthetic learners and like the soft feel of and whisper of turning pages in your Bible so you can ignore this suggestion! But others of you (like me) find it distracting to flip back and forth between books to find the verses. Here is a godly use for the internet! For example, click here to see how I have entered the maximum number of passages for the first verses in chapter 1 (this is all the verses for question 1 and 1 verse for question2), and hit “Lookup Passage” at the bottom. I just use the answers as I reach them, going through the questions. In this way I have had more time to actually write the entire verse if I want to spend more time on each scripture. Or, on some days, saving time means the difference between doing, or not doing, the study.
- Please get in the habit of checking out the end of the chapter at the beginning of the week (that’s like letting yourself have dessert first!). The last sections are called Strength Training, Ponder and Pray, and Bonus Activity. Sometimes these require you to do something related to the topic throughout the week so saving them till the end of the week would be kind of pointless!
- Please check the Calendar Page or the right sidebar on the Bible Study Page for assignments if you get off schedule.
- Please, please commit to participating in the conversation. God means for us to be in fellowship with each other as we study together!
I am longing to hear from you who are participating. I would love for those of you who are planning to join us to chime in today, or this week, and introduce yourselves to the group. When you post a comment, you are asked for your email address, but it will not be published or used for any other purpose than the bible study. Also, if you prefer to remain anonymous, pick a nickname or pseudonym – I use one! Your comments need not be lengthy or thought-provoking…just a few words are fine. The bottom line is: if we don’t join in the conversation together, we are missing a key component of bible study! So here is what I am asking of you, please, please, please!
- Today, click “Comment” below this post
- Introduce yourself (the first name or nickname that you plan to use whenever you comment) and tell something about yourself – remember it is totally anonymous – you have nothing to lose!!!!
- Tell me where you are in the study at this time – haven’t gotten the book yet, starting tomorrow, finished the first week already…the plan was to post tomorrow as though you all had completed the first week, but I am totally flexible. If the majority of you are starting tomorrow, rather than finishing the first chapter, I am happy to use tomorrow to introduce the chapter rather than wrap it up. Please do respond as this will help me decide how to proceed! Of course I am praying about it too :)
Here are some bible verses about friendship that may inspire you to connect with me and others, here at GirlsGrowingwithGod!
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecc 4:9-12
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb 10:24-25
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. Prov 27:17
See you tomorrow at bible study!
JustaGirl…just like you!
- Please plan to be prepared by completing the first lesson by next Wednesday, January 18
- You can do it all at once early and ruminate over it till we are ready to post about it
- You can do it all at the last minute or even late and still weigh in on it
- Or you can do what I am doing: 2 questions each morning. I am working a bit ahead so I am already enjoying this! Since the questions are so packed with bible verses, I can concentrate on them better if I limit myself to two. It also keeps the topic in the forefront of my thoughts through the week
- Please get in the habit of checking out the end of the chapter at the beginning of the week (that’s like letting yourself have dessert first!). The last sections are called Strength Training, Ponder and Pray, and Bonus Activity. Sometimes these require you to do something related to the topic throughout the week so saving them till the end of the week would be kind of pointless!
- Please check the Calendar Page or the right sidebar on the Bible Study Page for assignments if you get off schedule.
- Please, please commit to participating in the conversation. God means for us to be in fellowship with each other as we study together! :)
So, though we are not starting our bible study, here is an encouraging Word that the Lord gave me today to share with you:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. Isaiah 55:1-3
His Words are life…as we study them together we will find Life Abundant!
JustaGirl…just like you
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Gal 6:8-10
In many ways, I really enjoyed posting Monday-Friday for our last book. I knew it would be good to exercise my writing muscles and keep my mind and heart in the study. I loved getting feedback from those of you who contacted me (mostly through FaceBook but some through the comments). On the other hand, at times it has been overwhelming to fit all the writing into my schedule of homeschooling the kids, keeping house, taking care of my husband, and trying to be available for our family. For the most part, we have been a good distance from family for about nine years. Now we are around two hours away. This is both easier and harder. We are closer, so we can easily accomplish a visit in a day…on the other hand 3-4 hours of driving round trip on a regular basis is exhausting. But because we are “close”, expectations are high. Now that Momma is having her chemo treatments, it seems even more pressing to find time to spend with her…but this has been difficult too. I find myself, at the end of 2011, a bit weary. I know it was good to complete my personal commitment to posting daily with our last book, but I wondered if it was time for a change. I had to ask myself whether I could keep up that kind of commitment and still diligently serve the Lord in the other ways He would have me serve Him. I have prayed about it, and feel like it is time for a new direction for the next 3 months…God only gives me just enough information to get around the next bend. Beyond that…well, I just won’t know till I get there! I feel reassured though that, as long as I seek His will, He is compassionate and will find my offering acceptable.
So here is the schedule I have prayerfully devised. As always, I will try my best, and hope for the best…The next three months:
Mondays: Abundant Living – I will post in the categories Proverbs 31 and Wholeness.
Wednesdays: The Living Word – we will work through our next bible study, Embracing Your Strengths: Who Am I in God’s Eyes (And What Am I Supposed to Do about it?), a Women of Faith study
Fridays: Inspired Living – I will post in the category HERstory, host a book club discussion, or share another encouraging story
So next week, I will post about New Year’s Goals on Tuesday and Thursday and may add some other odds and ends in if I have time. We will start the new schedule above, the following week on Monday January 9. I will be updating the calendar soon to reflect these changes. The first actual bible study day will be January 11 (Happy Birthday to me!), so if you want to join me, plan to buy the book by then…thankfully it is available via Amazon Prime!
Please pray about joining the study. It only takes three or four regular participants who will commit to keeping up and posting comments to really enrich the process for all of us. It would be really encouraging and meaningful to me to have more participation and comments on the website; but really, I know that growing in participation is “Lagniappe”, New Orleans-speak for “just a little something extra”. As always, I must first sow to please the Spirit; so I really write for my Audience of One, rather than to sowing to please my own flesh (which is the part of me that likes to please other people and can be easily discouraged). My overarching theme in the New Year is based on this scripture: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We must be mindful of the ways the devil can distract us from God’s work and we must choose to live in Jesus: The Life Abundant!
JustaGirl…just like you!
Okay, so after some prayer and reflection, I am leaning toward a new format that will allow me to write some of my own things, and continue our bible study, but on a more traditional bible study schedule. I am planning to add to the Proverbs 31, Wholeness and HERstory pages while doing a weekly bible study. Also, I would like to challenge myself by adding a book club aspect. I know – am I crazy?! I am pretty sure I can commit to it for three months – you can do anything for three months, right? The truth is, I never do enough reading and I have lots of good excuses. But I was an English major in college and the saying around our house is “books are our friends!” My husband cannot believe how many of our moving boxes are always taken up by hard backed, soft cover, homeschooling, old favorites, and reference books (just to name a few categories). Lately, I just keep ordering books and not having time to read them. That is like ordering delicious food at a restaurant then and, when it arrives, piping hot from the kitchen, leaving with no doggy bag. So somehow in 2012 I am going to commit to making time for recreational reading. I have realized that the best way of committing to something new is to make myself accountable to others (i.e. YOU). Now, in terms of a bible study, I have found something I just LOVE! Embracing Your Strengths: Who Am I in God’s Eyes (And What Am I Supposed to Do about it?), A Women of Faith Bible Study. We will discuss the study once a week and I will post regularly in the other areas (Proverbs 31, Wholeness, HERstory, book club). Tomorrow: more on goals for the New Year. Sound like a plan? And, now that I have a better idea of the direction we are heading, I will check back in later in the week with our new schedule/calendar. In the meantime, anyone else interested in committing to recreational reading?
JustaGirl…just like you!
So this post is just me, feet propped up of the ottoman, with my laptop. I am listening to bee-u-ti-ful Christmas carols while my hubby and kiddos scuttle around cleaning up the gifts – this is the life! I know this is an act of love by my hubby, who does NOT SEE clutter or messes and famously argued with me for months after we got married, “Why make the bed? We just going to sleep in it again anyway.” I always find it interesting that he is such a dichotomy – at work he is a military dentist and both parts of that job description require discipline and precision. Yet, most nights he leaves a trail of mail, workout clothes, and lunch as he enters the house. How can one person be wholly such two different things?!
I digress. So I am pondering what our next book or topic should be. I am considering a few options and would LOVE to hear from you all with a suggestion. My friend Kelly gave us the gift of Reclaiming Your Joy (now available by Amazon Prime!) so I know there could be a wonderful choice out there! I have been thinking a bit that God wants me to write my own stuff rather than write about others people’s stuff. This pretty scary but it leads me to the place where I must really depend on Him in a different way. I know this is in His plan but not when He will ask me to do it.
For now I am sticking to idea of using a book because I need the excuse to make time for reading. You should see my “to read” list! Here are the top three book ideas for January:
- I am thinking of doing The Bible in 90 Days thing. I did read the Bible in a year, a few years ago, using the One Year Bible which was really wonderful, but I thought that was rigorous then! The Bible in 90 Days is 45 minutes to 1 hour of reading per day – whew – I am not sure I can do that (and do anything else!) but I am praying about it.
- Another option is The Essential Bible Guide: 100 Readings Through the Bible, this is more like the Cliff’s Notes and hits the highlights but allows you to travel through the Bible at a steady pace, seeing the “Big Story” in the 100 readings.
- Then there is a real tear-jerker, the chance to lay bare what is, yet unseen, in all of us. I am terribly drawn to this one, but it would be a painful exploration…One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. It is true-to-life. Pain and hope intermingled but with beautiful writing to express it.
So any thoughts?
JustaGirl…just like you!
P.S. I am going to use this time to update the website with the new versions of WordPress and some other plugins and such. Pray that it doesn’t crash!!!
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
This is the last day of our Journey to Joy – the last day of our study of the beautiful book, Reclaiming Your Joy. We end by taking time to dwell upon the sacrifice of Christ. If joy is the assurance we have, because of our relationship and fellowship with God, then it is only possible because Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission. “I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me— just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father—and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down My life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.” (John 10:14-18). Jesus lived His life with this one purpose in mind: the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He saved us from eternal separation from God through His death on the cross. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:25-26). He saved us from this World, by showing us the way to die to self, so that we might live for Him: He, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Phil 2:6-8). And Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor 5:14-15).
So, in 8 weeks, we have learned that joy does not mean what most people take it to mean – unrelenting happiness, or some ecstatic feeling of inexplicable bliss. Rather it is comfort in spite of uncomfortable circumstances; it is security amidst chaos. Joy comes from knowing to whom you belong: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (1 Cor 6: 19-20a). Joy is knowing you are deeply loved regardless of what others may say, or do, to you…You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8). Please click here to watch a video about just how much Jesus loves you…
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. (Psalm 23)
JustaGirl…just like you!
P.S. I’ll be back next week with our plan for the rest of the year and beyond…Until then, enjoy the birthday of our wonderful Savior and remember He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10b). I wish you and your family an abundant life this Christmas weekend!
When amazing things happen to us we want to remember them forever. We are afraid that we will somehow forget and lose what we treasure – the beautiful memory. So people video record their weddings, take lots of pictures of their children, collect pins from Disney World, keep the stubbs from Broadway shows, add a bead to their Pandora bracelet…these things are what Lorraine Hill would call memorials. She tells us that the Israelites were instructed to make memorials to the times that God showed up big for them…She focuses on two ways that God marked important events and I will add a third:
- Building of altars God instructed Joshua to build an altar of twelves stones (one from each tribe of Israel). He said, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’, tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Jos 4:6-7). Other memorial altars include the ruins of Jericho ( Joshua 6:26), Achan’s body ( Joshua 7:26), the King of Ai ( Joshua 8:29), and Mount Ebal ( Joshua 8:30-31).God also institutes other reminders to the Israelites—feasts, thanks offerings, altars, and even tassels (Numbers 15:37-41). (Pg. 225, Reclaiming Your Joy).
- Institution of Feasts We would recognize these as holidays or holy-days. Here are some of those Lorraine Hill has listed: Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-21), Passover (Exodus 12:1-14), First fruits (Leviticus 23:9-14), Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25) Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43) (pg. 223).
- Renaming a person God renamed people to mark a change or fulfill a promise. Abram became Abraham: No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. (Gen 17:5), Jacob became Israel: Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Gen 32:28). Jesus himself renames his disciple Simon, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt 16:18). Saul who persecuted the early Christians was changed by his encounter with the spirit of Jesus on the road to Damascus. The bible does not say when he was renamed, but some time after this, he began his ministry and also began to be called Paul (Acts 13:9).
Lorraine Hill says we mark milestones in our own spiritual life by baptism, the Lord’s Supper (communion), our trials, our victories and our failings…Memorials? You are reading mine – this website has been a way to remember the journey that God is taking with me. I also have a journal that I keep. It has a prayer portion so that I can list my prayers and God’s answer to them. There is another section that I call “God Speaks”…this is where I write down scriptures that God has given me and what they mean to me in my life at that time. I just started this journal at the end of the summer and I am so encouraged to look back even over just the past few months and see how God has ministered to me with His Word and His presence. What about you? How do you mark your spiritual milestones? I have realized it is very important to mark the memory of God’s work in our lives, because He does so many things each day, that we can forget about them as new challenges arise.
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered (Ps 105:1-5).
What about you? How do you mark your spiritual milestones?
JustaGirl…just like you
We are exploring the importance of gratitude to our work of cultivating a joyful heart. So far this week we have discussed accepting all of God’s choices for us as ultimately good (Monday) and the destructive nature of complaining (Tuesday). Today Lorraine Hill is talking specifically about being thankful for God’s blessings. In 1994, my husband and I had a very small wedding and moved into an apartment with hand-me down furniture. We had one good car and one bad one. Then, while we put ourselves through professional schools, we earned our degrees and a good bit of debt at the same time. Back then when our second-hand washer broke down, my parents bought our new one – we simply did not have the money. Every set back was a crisis. It took us many years to get out of debt and implement our savings plan. All along the way, we have seen God’s Hand providing constantly for our needs. This period of financial instability will keep me forever grateful for the roof over our heads, our full pantry, money in the bank, cars that work and so much more. Additionally, during our marriage, we have been separated by military deployments, had five moves and two children, experienced serious health crises and had many, many “opportunities for spiritual growth” (i. e trials and tribulations!)…more training in gratitude. The times of being a have-not in these categories has helped me develop a real appreciation for the fulfillment of these needs. I look at our life now and see so many things to be thankful for, that I literally cannot list them all (per yesterday’s self-disclosure…I do occasionally struggle with complaining but it only takes a moment of counting blessings to relieve me of that burden).
So I feel very grateful for God’s provision of our many needs, but I have realized that the deepest need met by God has not been physical or financial (though there are not enough words to express my appreciation for these things). Hands down, the greatest gift God has given me is His fellowship – the opportunity to know, and love, and belong to Him. He is the Creator of the Universe who yet has formed my inward parts; [and] knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Ps 139:13). He is the faithful Father who has never given up on me, even when I have behaved as The Lost Son did, who, when he came to his senses, said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:17-20). God sacrificed His only Son to redeem that which would otherwise be lost – me and you! Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed (Is 53:5). He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov 18:24). The Father is a constant gardener – He is not willing to let us languish in our sin. He cuts off every branch…that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:1). He has promised that we will not be alone. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deut 31:8). And Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Jesus has promised us peace and has told us we have no need to fear. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). He has given our lives purpose! For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10). He will always protect us and He has said, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation (Ps 91:14-16).
Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Ps 103:1-5).
God created us to be grateful creatures. It is when we give thanks, that our hearts can sing. Ungratefulness leads us down to the pit. So today, revel in His creation (the birds in the backyard), enjoy your relationships (hug someone special to you), and dwell on the thought that the LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand (Ps 37:23-24). Thank you Lord for everything!
JustaGirl…just like you