Posts Tagged ‘Bible

03
Mar
14

why Lent?

Growing up in a Baptist church, I don’t even think Lent was on the radar, at least not on my radar. Christmas and Easter were what we celebrated or at least what I remember anyway. We’d come to church on Easter wearing pastels and singing songs about Jesus being risen from the dead. But Lent? I didn’t even know what Lent meant.

I only started hearing about Lent a dozen or so years ago. We attended a church where people talked about what they were giving up for Lent. At first, I didn’t know what in the world they were talking about. After I learned a little more, Lent became a fun and interesting topic for discussion about what to give up. There was the usual giving up of broccoli or Brussel sprouts or something that you didn’t like or wouldn’t eat anyway. But some more serious Lent challenges, for some of us, were to give up chocolate or sugar or coffee. One year, I made my kids give up something. I used Lent as a bad parenting technique; it didn’t work out.  (Lent in My Belly Button)

I think rituals are important, but for a long time, I failed to realize what the real purpose of Lent was. It became about some kind of willpower, rather than any kind of Jesus significance.

But why give up anything for Lent? What actually is the significance? Why deprive myself for one minute when I don’t really have to? For me, it has become about the waiting, the anticipation of Jesus. I’ve noticed when I have fasted in the past, it’s at that moment when I don’t think I can stand it for one minute longer that that’s the moment when Jesus steps in, and He becomes my strength. All my self-reliance and thinking I have it figured out go out the window. And I lean in hard because I feel like my stomach will eat itself, and it’s at this point that I realize I have nothing in myself. I am physically and spiritually weak, and I really need Jesus. So that’s why I participate in Lent. It makes me realize my utter frailty, my utter lack of patience and self-control, and it makes me realize my need, my absolute dependence on God for food, for life, for everything.

About mid-February I start to think about Lent; I start thinking about what my give-up will be, not just to do something because that’s what you do. But how will I fast in anticipation of Jesus? What will help me see Him clearly and reveal my need for Him the most?

Last year, I cannot even remember what I gave up or even if I did in fact give up anything, but a friend challenged Jeff and me  to read the entire Bible during Lent. So that’s what I did. At first it was a challenge, but then it became something much, much more than that. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was life-changing for me. I felt like I ate His Word, and it became life and breath.  I absolutely could not wait to dig in and read each day, and I would go to bed in anticipation of what I would read and “see” the next day. I couldn’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit revealed Himself and how often He surprised me with His truth and love and hope in crazy kind of places (like Leviticus, and I kind of fell in love with Isaiah).

When I read in Psalm 19 how God’s Word renews our lives, makes the inexperienced wise, makes our hearts glad, makes our eyes light up, is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, I can say a resounding, “Yes, Yes, YES!” When I read the Bible like I would any other novel, I feel like I absorb it into the interior parts of my soul, my head, my heart. I feel it in my bones, and  it becomes a part of me.

I read somewhere (the internet) that Lent is 40 days long and used for prayer and fasting in the time before Easter, but the period between Ash Wednesday, which happens to be on Jeff’s birthday this year (March 5), and Easter (April 20) is 46 days long. So I’m excited to once again have the opportunity to read the Bible from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  This sounds daunting and overwhelming, and it is at times. But I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us all things, and I’m excited to not just know more but see Him and hear from Him in ways that I haven’t yet heard. So I’m almost a little giddy and ready to start today, but I wait. The waiting, the anticipation is good.

I’m not necessarily giving up anything for Lent, except maybe reading other books and giving up watching more DVDs than I really need to. But no matter what I do or don’t do for Lent or any other time, the focus must be Christ. (Heb. 12)

Because of the year that I tried to make my kids give up stuff, I decided that every one should choose their own Lent give-up. It just really works better that way. The stirrings of my heart or whatever you want to call them don’t seem to apply to others the same way they do to me, and I’ve come to realize that the Holy Spirit’s not usually talking to other people in the same way that He’s talking to me. And so I don’t get caught up with pushing my own stuff on people. Not anymore. I trust God to lead me, as well as the people around me, in the places that He wants each of us to go. And that makes it so much more exciting to hear all the different ways that God wakes each one of us up to Him. 🙂

22
Aug
13

where do I even start?

Where do I even start? That’s what I feel like when I write this…it’s been so long, and God has been doing so much that I don’t even know where to begin.  So I’m going to begin with Him. He is good. I know this goodness; I’ve tasted it, felt it, experienced, clung to it. And because of His goodness and knowing His goodness toward me, I started spending more time looking up and looking out.

I’m finally realizing there is no system for this. There are no ten steps to finding God (which is good because by step 3 I’m bored and overwhelmed anyway). But I think this is good for everyone, because there is nothing anyone else can put on you or put on me that ends up becoming a burden and not the easy yoke that Jesus intended.

But as far as “how to” seek Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness, I know it’s happening for me right now, but the way it happens for me may not be the same way it happens for the people around me. I really thought I knew, but I just don’t. Which is good because when I thought I knew, pride settled in and took over.  I know for me He used a camping trip and someone listening to my long story and openness to Him, but I don’t have the answers, and I’m finding He uses different things to open other people’s hearts.

Not long ago, I came across a passage that pretty much said, Love instead of talking about what you know;  and if you think you know stuff, you don’t have a clue yet; and God really knows who loves Him. (my paraphrase, of course).

I know there is openness and yielding and surrender and waiting and leaning in and repentance and belief and laying down your life and “help me” prayers or whatever other words and ideas begin to open our hearts up to a big God, but I don’t believe this is a scavenger hunt to try to find God. He is there, and I don’t have to make it into a ten step program to get Him to pay attention to me. When I do this, when I make knowing God about a “how to” lesson for me and for those around me, the program, the agenda, the formulas always seem to take over, and I seem to lose the very thing I was after. And many times it seems God is nowhere to be seen in all the organization and practicality and boring-ness of it all. And I’m beginning to start to think that God just isn’t all that practical.  I’m not saying God is not a God of order; I know He is; it’s just not my order, and I don’t get to determine the outcome. And He began to show me that I really wanted to be in control, which is really quite laughable.

So this is my story…my finding Jesus or Him finding me in the midst of all of my junk and my self-righteousness and even my formulas for finding God that didn’t work. It’s just a story, not a prescription or a recipe…

In my early thirties, I struggled to know God, only to see small glimpses of Him here and there. I began to taste grace and freedom, but I didn’t seem to pay attention for very long. I knew He was good; I knew He was God. But in the last year, I feel like I’ve been taken hold of by the Master of the universe, and I now know that He will never, ever let me go. And in Him taking hold of me and me surrendering myself to Him (becoming His slave), that’s where I’ve found freedom.

God began by tearing away some of the doubts and the lies I had believed about Him, about myself, about people, and about my marriage (Marriage: Being All In) that I had allowed to seep in over the years. I began being in community with other people and began to really hunger for God which I believe He gave me, and little by little I began to submit to God and the things He wanted for me. Even though these were such tiny, tiny baby steps, I struggled immensely with letting go of what I thought I wanted and allowing myself to fall into Him.

God also began speaking to me through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. I had a thirst for His Word and for Him that was almost unquenchable.  Some of the words that I couldn’t get out of my head that began to reach down and take hold of my heart were:   Stop saying you love people and do something about it. (my paraphrase again) So what in the world does that look like? What does it mean to truly love God and love my neighbor? Because loving my neighbor is loving God. The two go hand in hand.

So, one of the first things He worked on me about was gentleness. And the hardest place for this mom to be gentle? My own home. “Be gentle” showed up everywhere I looked for months. I realized I was powerless to do this in my strength, so what did it look like to do it in His strength? Honestly, I’m not really even sure. It took months for Him to make it go from my head and sink into my heart and gradually I noticed “gentleness” began to really be a part of every day.

Even after God’s gentle treatment of me, I started to think that I knew something or at least more than other people did. So, I got this whole self-righteous thing going on, and it manifested itself in bragging about reading the Bible and pushing other people to do the same. What is it about us humans that want to take the good things we are learning and shove them in other people’s faces? We want to be the “haves” and show the “have-nots” that they don’t understand God’s grace and love. Which again is just laughable, not to mention ironic. But God is good, and He opened my eyes to my sin, and I was able to repent and ask forgiveness from one friend who had taken the brunt of my holier-than-thou attitude.

During that time, God took away every source that I had to lean on, and I learned to really lean into and depend upon Him; I took everything to Him. I had no one else to take stuff to, but I realized in my frantic journaling/praying that He alone could take my stuff and give me peace in the midst of whatever I struggled with at the time. Sometimes my anxiety or anger still threatens to overwhelm me, and giving those things to Him sometimes takes longer than I think I have, but I continue to sit until I am able to walk away in peace knowing that He will take care of my heart much better than I can take care of it myself.

I’ve begun to be thankful for everything, even the things that don’t look so great because I now realize that difficulties are the opportunities to really grow and lean heavily into God more and more. This is no big deal, but our washer broke a few weeks back, and I had been putting off going to the laundromat for weeks. I finally loaded a few basket loads of dirty laundry in the back of the van early the other morning and drove there. I haven’t done laundry in one of those places for close to 20 years, so I was stunned to walk in and see that to use the largest washer cost 9 dollars, and that price did not include hot water!  I couldn’t do it. To use even the very smallest washer was over 3 dollars, and that would have washed about ten items on cold. I walked out. As I got home, my heart did a turnaround, and I realized that this washer dilemma was no longer about me, because God showed me that this is what the poor have to do all the time. They have to go to the laundromat and pay, what I think are, exorbitant prices to just be able to have clean clothes. I got angry, and then I started crying for them. Over laundry. Yep, that’s what God used this time to get my focus off myself and my own dirty laundry.

So that very morning, the washer opportunity led Jeff and me into a discussion about boldness and what it looked like to love our neighbor. So we began to pray for boldness, and three hours later we were driving near our home in north Nashville trying to see if we could help our most recent flood victims. God showed us the needs and directed our paths in a neighborhood that I would have formerly driven through with my doors locked. A day later, our family was able to go back and help these families. The physical part of the job we did was important, but the spiritual aspect of encouraging people who had just lost everything and praying holding hands in circles in their front yards is kingdom stuff. And this is what God does. He takes my shock, my outrage at the poor being taken advantage of, and He uses this to get me off my couch and out of my comfort zone for one moment. And things happen, and my eyes open to His love, His crazy kind of love for me and for all people, and that makes me want to shout for joy and thank Him forever.

I realize more and more that everything God does is for our good and His glory. And, some days, that’s all I’ve got. But it’s enough.

This I know: God is for me. (Psalm 56:9)

14
Mar
13

Loving Our Lent Challenge

For Lent this year, Jeff and I were challenged to read through the entire Bible. Since October, I had been devouring parts of the New Testament. But read through the whole Bible in 46 days? Is that even possible? Jeff went online to find a Bible reading plan, but the shortest plan the internet has is for 90 days. Even the internet people don’t think it’s possible.

But we took the challenge. Jeff figured out how many pages he needed to read each day to complete his reading and was on his way. I didn’t plan it out quite as much as Jeff, and I also started by reading with the New Testament, so that I wouldn’t get stuck around Numbers and call it quits. This has been a fantastic journey, so far.  God has opened my eyes up to Him in His Word like never before.

In reading the Bible this way, like I would a novel, I feel like I’m gobbling His words and wanting more. Most days, I cannot seem to get enough. In Psalm 81, it says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” I feel like a baby bird with her beak open wide, waiting for her daddy to drop in more. And there’s always more. More than I can possibly get in a lifetime.

But in taking on this challenge, there have been things that I’ve had to get rid of to make a space for reading the Bible in this way; I realized I had to have time to stop and soak up God’s Words. And I found that the things that I gave up don’t really amount to all that much anyway.

But His Word, I cannot do without it, and I now find myself running to it when there’s trouble and thinking about it even when there’s not. God and His Words have become life to me, words to trust in, words to obey. When Satan told Jesus to turn the stones into bread, Jesus answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In the movie, The Book of Eli, the main character had the only Bible left on Earth. The bad guy, of course, wanted the Bible because of its power and went to extremes to try to get it. For thirty years, Eli spent his days walking West and his nights devouring the Word of God with his fingers. By the end of the movie, the Bible had been destroyed. But blind Eli recited the Bible in its entirety as someone else put those words on paper. The enormity of this still strikes me…the love of those words…God’s Words.

Your words were found, and I ate them.Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart… (Jeremiah 15)

02
Mar
13

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were afraid to hear from God directly. They saw the smoking mountain, the thunder and lightning and stood far back even though Moses told them not to be afraid. God wanted to speak to them, but they were too afraid to hear what God had to say to them. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20)

In Deuteronomy 5, God said to Moses, ‘I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you.

Everything they have said is right. If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands…’

Jesus says the same thing about the Pharisees in Matthew 15.

These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Something’s up with some of us who call ourselves believers in our culture. Because we don’t really seem to be following the Christ I see in the Bible. And I don’t really think Jesus is talking about following Him by going to church every time the doors are open or even giving money or bringing someone to church every once in a while. These are small, insignificant things that don’t amount to much according to Jesus’ standards.

The Pharisees were doing a whole lot more than this in the New Testament, and Jesus and John called them a bunch of snakes. He knew their hearts; He knew their lives. In Matthew 7, the ones that Jesus says He doesn’t know and are cast out are the ones who prophesied and drove out demons and did  miracles in His name. And Jesus responds to them  ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me…’ I think His ideas for following Him are much, much higher, starting with listening to Him and then obeying.

In our American church culture, lives don’t seem to be changed by the power of God or His Word. Jesus cannot be treated as an add-on, something used to make lives easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable.  He is not here to fix us but to change us into a new creation, which is painful, and I don’t think people really want that Jesus. Following Him requires time and commitment and love, and we don’t seem to be in abundance of any of those things. The Israelites were afraid, but in our culture we’re not afraid; we’re just too busy, distracted, disobedient, self-centered and indifferent to follow Him. He talks about people like us in Mark 4. We’re the people represented by the seed sown among the thorny soil.

...these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

And the unfruitful ones? What happens to them at the end of the age? They’re thrown out and destroyed. Even the ones who did all kinds of things in His name didn’t make the cut. Because Jesus said that you will know those who are His by their fruit.

So what do we do with this? How do we know if we are His and are producing good fruit, fruit that Jesus will recognize? In I John, disciples of Jesus are the ones who love Him, and you see the love they have for Him because they are keeping His commands (not man’s laws or standards, but God’s commands). We begin by loving the people around us.

Some say all the right words and do all the right things but  don’t really know Him, and He doesn’t know them. But there is hope; it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. He’s given us Himself and His Word. And as John and Jesus both said, Repent (turn from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit) and believe; become a true follower of His by listening to Him and by following His commands.

Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil (repent), humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. (believe)

Although the road is narrow, and there are not many who choose to take that road, it is the way of life and truth and real meaning. But His way is also the way of the cross and death: death to self, death to the ways of the world, death to comfortable, safe lives. Jesus says, If you lose your life for my sake, then you will find it. But if you try to hang on to your life, that’s when you lose everything. There’s no middle ground here, no straddling the fence.

You’re either in the process of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, or you’re not. (Philippians 2:12)  We’re all busy following something, someone. And we intently listen to the people we’re following; we follow them on Twitter, on Facebook, on any other social media we can get our hands on. But are you a true believer and follower of Jesus, or have you deceived yourself and don’t know His power or His Word? Are you following Him by listening to His Spirit, by reading His Word? And not books that people have written about Him. Jesus told the Sadducees, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

He loves us so much, not only in how He sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to us,  but also in how He reveals Himself to us moment by moment as we open our hearts, hands and lives to receive Him.  We don’t want to be like the children of Israel who when God wanted to speak to them, they refused to come and listen but rather had someone else (Moses) tell them what God had said. We are deceived when we think we need someone to interpret God and the Bible for us, whether it’s a pastor, a Bible study teacher or Christian author.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true… (I John 2)

We have the Creator of the world who longs to speak with us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. We don’t go to the Bible to find more facts or knowledge or because we’re guilted into it. We go to the Bible so that He would reveal Himself to us in all His beauty and majesty and righteousness. We go to the Bible in order to follow Him in obedience and love.

Pray that He would give us wisdom and discernment and that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. Pray for ears and hearts to listen to and long for what He is saying. Psalm 40:6 says, You open my ears to listen. And pray for the courage to follow Him in obedience to His Word and Spirit. He’s looking for followers. He’s looking for people who will listen and obey. It’s just that simple. The true worshipers worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

According to Hebrews 12, we no longer have to go to the smoking mountain like the children of Israel did. And God is no longer in the darkness. “Instead you have come to the city of the living God…to Jesus. Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks…”

14
Nov
12

act two: on the other side of this wild ride

Last year, my story was the age-old story of walking around and around the wilderness, like the children of Israel, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t leave but trying my best to get out, sort of.  I couldn’t stop wallowing around in my own brokenness and believing the lie that Jesus wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t release the idols that I had begun to think were part of me. And I was thirsty but refused to come to the well. And then, I couldn’t even find it anymore and complained that it had been moved. I felt numb and unable to pray or really even care.

But, enough with the clichés about where I was…

This is act two of my continuing story, and this is the story of freedom and grace. This is a story of the love of God and His marvelous work. This is a story of being set free.

I can’t tell exactly when this happened.  I can’t give a prescribed treatment of how this all started or how to get here. It’s not like I did something. I certainly didn’t earn my way here.  It’s God who led me back to the well. And I can’t get enough. I think God just started breaking me apart little by little. And because of His great love, I slowly began to lean in again.

I’ve been in this spot before. I’ve tasted His goodness. I’ve had my hands open to what He has. But this time, I realized I had people to lean in with. And I think that’s what made the difference. I have this little bitty community covenanting with me to love and good works. Other believers are so very, very important to what we our called to do. We need each other so desperately in the Body of Christ, and yet we don’t act like we do. We’re called to encourage each other daily so that we won’t succumb to the enemy’s lies and sin’s hardness. And as long as I’m grounded in the things of God, others can lean in too, because He cannot be shaken.

For we have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith. (Hebrews 4:2)

So, the  isolation that I assigned and resigned myself to for the last year was not a God-thing. It was my own selfishness, refusing to reach to God and to others for help. I was the one who was needy and struggling, and I was disobedient  and threw a whopping big pity party. I believed the lies. But, I believe, everything can be redeemed.

A month ago, I got on my face, and I repented of my sin of isolation and lack of trust. I trust God, and I’m in process of letting go of everything but Him. It’s uncomfortable at times, but He is making all things new and absolutely beautiful. I’m so thankful for this God, my Abba,  who loves me this much to draw me back  to Himself and to His people.

Go in peace to love and to serve…And take to the world this love, this hope and faith; Take to the world this rare, relentless grace; Go, and go far; Take light deep in the dark; Believe what’s true; He uses all, even you. May the bread on your tongue Leave a trail of crumbs To lead the hungry back to the place that you are from.  -Derek Webb

But we can’t give away what we don’t even possess. So, I’m here. Ready to receive once again from His hands what He has…no matter what. It’s His burden, His yoke, and I’m having the time of my life walking in that, but this time I’m not walking this thing out alone…welcome to act 2.




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