bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

His Lifeline of Love

In a surge of anger I hid my 
face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah 
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry 
with you,never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken 
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will
not be shaken nor my covenant of 
peace be removed,” says the Lord, 
who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

I recently stumbled upon these verses while doing a study of Genesis. As you read above, verse nine discusses “the days of Noah” and recounts the covenant God made with Noah after the flood waters receded. Noah then built an altar in remembrance of all from which God had delivered him. In witnessing Noah’s obedience, God established a covenant of peace with Noah, promising him that never again would he wipe out all of mankind in anger (Gen. 8:20-22). 

When God called Noah to build the ark and spared his family from the worldwide destruction, God extended Noah a lifeline of love. Because he had compassion on Noah and truly loved mankind, God created a way out of death by giving Noah clear guidance for surviving the flood.

God showed Noah that while yes, sin had entered the world and man was disobedient, that He still loved His creation. We often get caught up on God’s wrath by sending the flood in the first place. Mass destruction and death seems a bit harsh. But if God was so harsh, then why did he save Noah? He could’ve wiped out all of mankind on Earth and started over, but His steadfast love for Noah and his offspring prevailed. God showed Noah that no matter how bad things got on Earth, His lifeline of love would always be there for those who trust in Him with complete obedience. 

That lifeline shown to Noah, is Jesus. When the Lord states, in Isaiah 54:10, that his steadfast love shall not depart from you – He is talking about His son Jesus. You see, from Noah until now, we as believers all still hold on to the same lifeline that Noah, Abraham, Moses and David held onto.

The covenant God established with all those men was the covenant of His Son. The promise that one day, there would be complete restoration of all sinners who call on His name and that those holding on to the lifeline of His steadfast love, would all be brought into the glories of heaven. 

Though 2020 has seemed like a worldwide disaster – think again. There will be the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord because of the power of God they see all around them. God’s steadfast love for us believers never expires. We have the eternal hope of God’s love forever – into eternity. 

This is love: not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us and sent his 
Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Until then, we hold fast to His lifeline of love. Hold fast to the God that established His covenant with ordinary people like Noah and Abraham and you and me. Through His son Jesus Christ, he once again established his eternal love with us – until the day we see him again. 

God’s love is abundant to those who trust in Him. He cares for us and loves us as His children – are you resting in that truth today?  Have you accepted your side of the covenant?

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Isaiah 43:4
bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

His Amazing Ways

We read throughout the gospels of how amazed or astonished the people were who experienced Jesus’ miracles and teachings during His short physical tenure here among us. But just because He isn’t physically here doesn’t mean He fails to do amazing things every day in our lives.

Join me and my special guest, my daughter Madison Dooley, as we spend the month of November joining those people of old in our amazement of Jesus. From His youth to His death, from His healings to His admonishments, and His teachings to His loving moments with His disciples we will see how Jesus continues His amazing work to this very day.

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Living Amazed

From the first day of Earth to today, God has been doing amazing things in our lives. And when Jesus preached and performed miracles, the Bible frequently says the people were amazed. Each day we get up to start a new day. Each day we put our feet on the floor, have breakfast, brush our teeth, and then go about our daily routine. We do the laundry, wash the dishes, log in another long day at work. It’s so easy to live in the humdrum of every day. But God is still doing amazing things!

I’ve spent much of my adult life being a pessimist. As I grew closer to Jesus it became almost impossible to continue looking at life, people and circumstances constantly from a negative point of view. God transformed me. And that, my friends, is pretty darn amazing.

Join me and my special guest writer as we explore all the amazing acts of Jesus starting November 1 through 29. My hope is that each day we will help you take these amazing Jesus acts and translate them into your amazing life.

Are you ready to explore and enjoy this amazing God-given life through Jesus? Join us by signing up today to receive your emailed posts!

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching

Matthew 7:28

Previous Posts

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Patience, Grasshopper

I’ve told my friends that looking back over my life so far, I really have only one regret.  It’s that I wish I had a closer relationship with Jesus when I was the parent of young kids.  My husband and I attended church fairly regularly.  But I was wrapped up in childrearing worries and stresses and didn’t know how to turn all that over to God.   I could’ve enjoyed many more hours of sleep had I not been such a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” person.  I found myself, during a very long season of self-doubt about my parenting skills, constantly praying for patience.  Literally praying every single night for about two years for patience.  You see, I was so afraid of turning into my mother – screaming at my kids and losing control – that I thought patience was the answer.  One Sunday, our pastor’s sermon was about praying.  He said, “If you keep praying about the same problem over and over and over maybe it’s time to start praying for something different.”   He had a knack for speaking on issues near and dear to me.   So that night I stopped praying for patience and instead prayed for ways to help me deal with difficult situations.

As I’ve grown closer to Jesus, He has taught me a lot of lessons.  He’s still teaching me.  And step-by-step He has moved me closer to my original plea for patience.  You see, I wasn’t ready to learn the hard stuff yet.  He just wanted me to start turning to Him when I was in need, when I was broken.  Patience may be a virtue but it is a heck of a hard thing to have and use regularly.  

You, too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

James 5:8

I first needed to learn what standing firm, standing safely in God’s arms even meant.  I didn’t have the wisdom needed to grasp the joy in hearing that the Lord is coming near.  I heard on a Joyce Meyer’s podcast this morning that God gives us a lot of leeway and grace when we first become Christians.  But once we hear the Word and gain His wisdom, expectations change.  We are expected to act as His children, not as children of this world.  Think about that.  Every time we attend church, do a Bible study, listen to a Christian podcast, see a Christian post on social media we are hearing His Word.  We are learning the nature and expectations of God.  And He expects us to live as He prescribes.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is the one’s glory to overlook offense.

Proverbs 19:11

Wisdom that we glean from God yields patience.  And when we are patient, that glorifies what we have learned from God.  We cannot be steeped in the nature of God without also knowing and acting in patience.  Why? Because patience means love.  It means grace.  It means forgiveness.  Thank God He is patient with us.  I never feel God rushes me to learn a lesson.  In fact, my lesson in patience has taken about 26 years.

I looked up on-line “how to be patient.”  I came across a website that focuses on self -improvement.  Here’s their reasons why we should learn patience.

  1. We make better decisions by assessing situations rather than going in emotional and blind.
  2. We have less stress by understanding some things take longer than others.
  3. Our relationships are improved because we are more flexible and understanding.

Doesn’t that all sound like something God would want from us?  Being wise, giving our stress up to God, and loving and being grace-filled toward others.

They then described a 6-step process for learning patience:

  1. Understand and counteract triggers
  2. Increase your self-confidence
  3. Put on your “positive glasses”
  4. Change your attitude – “why are you in such a hurry?”
  5. Visualize worst case scenarios
  6. Release tension and stress through eating right, exercise, enjoying activities

Now imaging trying to do all that without God.  Here’s my Christian re-do of these six steps:

  • Pray for God to reveal the areas where you struggle with patience (sometimes we pretend we aren’t being impatient and justify our actions) 

John 16:24, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

  • Recognize that God loves you.  Accept He wants the very best for you.  

John 16:27, “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” 

  • Remember that joy can be found in trials.  And most of all that God has delivered for you in the past.  He is faithful. 

2 Thes 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

  • Rejoice each and every day, if not every hour, for all the great things in your life.  

Prov 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

  • To be honest, visualizing worst case scenarios has been helpful to me.  If I’m waiting in a long line at Costco and start getting impatient I think, “Well, what have I got to be impatient for anyways?” or “Well, if I’m late because of this line I can call ahead and let them know.”  

Matt 6:27, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

  • Yes, eat right, exercise, enjoy new and old activities.  And pray.  And pray.  And pray.  Give up all those thoughts, those worries, those fears, those negative emotions to God.  Cry out to Jesus and ask Him to remove whatever negative thought you have right then. 

1 Samuel 2:1, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.  My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.”

When we get closer to God – become fluent in His character – that is when He can work His ways in us.  And God is always patient with us.  My friend and I were having lunch today and she said she is starting to have more moments in her difficult life where she looks up and gives a little smile – recognizing those growth moments God has put in front of her.  As for me, I described for her my process of writing and how I study the topic, pray, and then start writing.  I rarely stop writing one of these posts until I am done.  The words just come out of me onto the computer.  My whole body is focused on getting these words down.  I told her how weird it was that I was interrupted multiple times while writing this post.  And as I drove home from lunch, I was listening to a praise song and it hit me.  Patience.  The topic of this post.  And I had just been tested.  I was not annoyed about the interruptions.  I felt blessed hearing from a few friends.  And normally I would’ve been distracted during lunch, thinking about what else I needed to write.  I would’ve failed my friend who I need to support during this time in her life.

I called my friend from my car and said, “I just got it!  Patience!  I was tested!”  And she said, “I realized that while you were telling me.  And I’m glad it finally came to you.”  Maybe this whole actually studying God’s Word really does work.  Time to look up and smile.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

A Girl Transformed

My youngest daughter is a poster child for God’s transformation.  When she was a toddler, she constantly begged me to buy her bright and shiny things she saw advertised on tv then displayed on the grocery shelves. I left the grocery store many times during one of her meltdowns.  As she got older, I heard on a daily basis of her “needs.”  “I need more shorts (from the expensive store).”  “I need more pants.”  “I need a new straightener.”  “I need a new (fill in the blank).”  And then there were the social status issues: “Olivia’s mom gets her those, why can’t I have that?”  We started calling her the family princess.  My older daughter, who to almost frustration, never asks for anything.  My prayer life was filled with asking for patience.  This beautiful, smart, vivacious, talented, young girl acted like a spoiled brat.  Thankfully, she reserved all the negative behavior for her home life.  Away from home her teachers, coaches, and friends all loved her.  But they didn’t have to live with her.  My husband and I decided enough was enough.  He started planning frequent mission projects for the two of them to participate in.  She taught vacation Bible School.  She got a job.  We knuckled down on all those “needs.”  And then we sent her off to college, waiting for her to start begging us for money each week.

Dad gives her one last hug

James first starts in chapter 1 that we should consider it pure joy whenever we face trials (James 1:2).  I loved my daughter immensely during those younger years.  I enjoyed her humor, her ability to make any situation into a song.  She was a fierce, talented competitor on the field.  She would burst into the house after school and shower me with love.  That’s what I would thank God for, not for when things went off the rails.  Without the hard stuff I might not have fully appreciated the good stuff.  So, when I sent her off almost 2,000 miles away for college my house felt quiet, too quiet.  And for her, she came to realize how good she had it at home.  She faced terrible roommates, crazy coaches, and bored, lazy professors.  But she also was led to a relationship with Jesus, thanks to being invited to attend an Athletes In Action meeting.  Her “needs” became a need to live in God’s love – not the world of earthly desires.  She surrendered herself fully and in turn, found what really matters in life – an eternal love plus the love and friendships that make us better.  Now when she asks, she asks with the right motives.  She asks for God’s will – not her’s.

This amazing, transformed, daughter of Christ has plans.  But they’re God’s plans.  Her creative mind and her earthly tendency to “want stuff” is still there.  It’s amazing to watch her pull it back in.  You can tell that peace dwells more frequently in her.  Before they got married about a year ago, she and her husband went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program.  Having the desire to do it in the first place showed their spiritual maturity.  They both have great jobs after having graduated college.  And they could have a lot of “stuff.”  But they made a plan with God in mind.  My little girl who demanded so much is now so incredibly disciplined.  And yes, she has thanked my husband and I many times over for instilling so many morals and values in her.  But it’s God’s work that fully planted those in her heart.  I truly believe the trials she went through while in college gave her a choice – to go down the earthly path or to turn and surrender to God.

James 4 was a message to my daughter.  

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” (v3)

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” (v4)

“Submit yourselves, then to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (v7)

“Instead, you ought to say, if it’s the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.” (v15)

James 4 is a message to all of us who struggle day in and day out with trying to control our lives.  Trying to get all our “needs and wants” satisfied.  It’s a message to all of us who have put “Self” in front of God.  It’s also a message of hope that when we do what we ought to do, when we submit and surrender everything to God, He will draw near to us.  We have a role to play and unless we take our required steps, God cannot finish the work in us. How many of us who struggle with money are willing to spend the next few months going through Financial Peace University?”

And lest we think “those people” are the ones that need to hear this message, the work God had to do in me with my relationship with my daughter was huge.  When I finally surrendered her over to him, when I finally threw up my hands and said, “Ok, I’ve failed, I’ll try it your way,” I could start mending our relationship.  When I started praying His will, and not mine, great things happened.   The planning of her wedding was God’s gift to both of us.  Had she been the “girl before God” she would’ve demanded expensive, well, everything.  Instead she and her fiancé put together a tight budget.  We made decorations.  We eliminated needless activities.  God sent them people who would make a cake for $60, a free videographer, an inexpensive caterer.  They wanted the focus to be on Jesus.  It was so darn fun.  

God’s gifts to me, my two beautiful daughters, are just that – His gifts.  And like my finances, and my marriage, and my home, I need to be a good steward of His gifts.  So, I pray for His will be done.  And may the devil flee. 

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

Though My Feet May Stumble

About 10 years ago my husband and I were asked to lead a church Bible study.  As these things go it wasn’t because we were so knowledgeable, it was because we were warm bodies.  They said we weren’t to be teachers of the study, just facilitators.  They always say that.  But you and I both know a good Bible study group has a leader that can dig deeper, draw people out into discussions, and glean insight in topics.  True to my character, I jumped in with both feet attempting to educate myself better on each topic that arose.  I found the key, however, when in these situations was to 1) identify the people in the group who were more knowledgeable and 2) know when to say “I have no idea.”  Fast forward to today.  Even right now, as I write this, I fear saying the wrong thing because I realize I’m no “esteemed theologian.”  But I do know I have the mind of Christ (2Cor 2:16).

As usual for my morning routine I got up that morning the first of July, did a couple devotionals, and took my dog for a walk.  We were about four months into the Covid lockdown. I was leading a small Bible study with friends, and in the midst of a Boldness Challenge in which I had invited about 20 people to participate.  The challenge was coming to an end in a few weeks.  As I listened to my Christian music on my walk and doing some silent praying, I heard Him speak.  “Go home right now and start a blog.”  Seriously.  Starting a blog hadn’t been on my radar.  I enjoyed just conversing with folks in my small sphere.  But, feeling challenged by God, I walked in the door, sat down at my computer and typed, “best platforms to start a blog.”  Within the hour I had created Emboldened.  I invited all my Bold Challenge buddies and a few more to follow the blog.  I started praying to the Almighty about what He wanted me to say.  In these situations, I typically find myself praying, “Whelp, this was your idea.  Now what?”

When I hit 200 visitors from about 10 different countries, I had a revelation.  “Oh crud. I have just opened myself up to judgement on a whole new scale.”   I told my Bible study girls that while it was cool it was also terrifying.    Cool because I’m using a number of my God-given gifts to reach people around the world.  Terrifying because I might slip up in my theology and harsh words will rain down. 

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

James 3:1

I wonder if that’s why so many of us are fearful about speaking up when talking about our faith?  Maybe we will be questioned and won’t know the answer.  Or worse yet, we might get something wrong and be harshly judged?  But God.  That’s what a fellow blogger wrote in one of my comments last week.  But God.  That statement works so well in so many situations.  We were talking about God’s mercy.  But if I truly trust God and the direction He has set in front of me, He will guide my words to be His Words.  He will take my failings and trials and make them good.  I don’t believe James is discouraging us to be teachers.  He’s letting us know we need to be prepared to speak the truth of God’s Word and in doing so we will face opposition, sometimes very cruel opposition.

“We all stumble in many ways.  Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

James 3:2

There’s only one person that was perfect – Jesus.  I find comfort in knowing that every single person from C.S Lewis to Charles Spurgeon and Peter to Paul and Joyce Meyer to Rick Warren stumble.  We all stumble.  But think of stumbling this way – it is a result of walking forward and not watching where we are going.  James 3 is about stumbling and refocusing our eyes on God.  When we don’t watch our tongue, when we envy others we stumble.  But when we re-focus on God we find ourselves making peace with the most unlikely people and submitting ourselves fully.

I’m glad you are on this journey with me.  When I stumble help me up and I will help you too.  No judgement, just a loving hand.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

The Law of Love

Even though I can pretty much talk to anyone at anytime I don’t particularly like to talk to people when I’m coming home on an airplane from visiting my daughter.  I only get to see her about 4 times a year and when I leave her, I’m sad and contemplative.  I prefer to put my headphones on and read a book.  On one trip home, I sat next to a man who immediately started talking to me.  I’m not sure how we got on the subject of God, the Bible and faith but he was prepped.  He was ready to make sure I knew how much he knew about the “truth” of the Bible.  He could quote any scripture that would back up his point of view.  The trinity was false, according to him, because it promoted multi-theism.  And on and on he went.  When I would disagree, gently, he peppered me with more questions for which he already had answers.  He was looking for ways to “catch” me with improper theology.  It didn’t bother me.  I’m always interested to hear more about the Bible.  And I’m sure he wasn’t completely wrong.  He just seemed to be taking scripture out of context.  Towards the end, he started telling me about his church journey.  He jumped from church to church based on obscure theological differences.  He went from a large church, to a medium one, to a small gathering.  He finally landed on his perfect church – the church of one.  He called himself a “sabbathist.”  He didn’t practice the sabbath on Sunday.  It had to be Friday through Saturday.  So, if you were thinking you could join his group of one, you’d better make sure you worshipped and followed the rules on the right day.  

When we arrived in San Diego and exited the plane, I had one thought.  I had just met a real life, modern day Pharisee.  I had one regret.  I realized, squeezed into that packed airplane there had to have been multiple people hearing our conversation (or at least him talking since he did most of it).  The opportunity I missed was to stop talking doctrine and scripture and ask him the most important question, “But do you love Jesus?”    In that 3 ½ hours on the plane he never spoke of being a true disciple of Jesus.  He only spoke of following the Mosaic law.  I missed the chance to introduce him to the Royal Law – the Law of Love.

Pharisees cared more about strictly following Mosaic rules than they did about the idea behind God’s Word

This week James takes us through additional, difficult subjects: favoritism (yes, we all do it), loving our neighbor (even the gay couple), mercy (we all want it), and deeds (without being a “church lady”).  He recognizes that when we try to live by Mosaic Law alone, it’s like playing a game of “whack-a-mole.”  When we stop doing one thing another sin pops up.  We can never feel fully successful at living a sin-less life.  But what we can do is love one another.

Warren Wiersbe says this about James 2 and the steps we are to take to go from being a “baby Christian” to a mature Christian:

“Immature people talk about their beliefs, but the mature person lives his faith.  Hearing God’s Word and talking about God’s Word can never substitute for doing God’s word.”

Warren Wiersbe, New Testament Bible Commentary

Each of last week’s topics — trials, wisdom, listening, and living a clean life — were the personal building blocks for what James calls us to this week.  Without faith that God is ever present in our trials, without wisdom to discern what God calls us to, when we don’t listen to God, and when we give into immoral situations we continue to live by this world’s standards. 

“Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith BY my deeds.”

James 2:18

James tells us we are called for something better.  We need to be living outside the box, not trapped inside.  First up tomorrow we will delve deeper into what following Jesus’s Law of Love looks like when we treat people like God does – equally.

Have you ever met a modern-day Pharisee?  What was your reaction?  Do you find yourself trying to adhere to scripture but forget that one of the most important commandments is loving others?

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

Oh, To Be Wise

They kept begging me to run for PTA president.  Having served on a PTA nominating committee I know how difficult it can be to fill two key positions – president and treasurer.  At least the treasurer can hide from people, but the president must stand in front of rooms filled with either at best bored or at worst annoyed parents.  My children attended an elementary school with almost 1,300 students K-5.  We put on large community events.  And our parents and teachers were very demanding.  On top of this, our school was about to go through a few major changes.  I told them “no.”  Actually, what I told them was: “You don’t want me to be your president.  You won’t like how I will clean up the ‘old boys’ way of doing things.”   But they kept asking. 

Eventually I caved.  I recall clearly after I said yes, I finally prayed for the first time.  “Lord, help this not to have been a mistake.”   I did that a lot many years ago.  You know, make a decision and then beg God to make it turn out ok.  I’m pretty sure King Solomon didn’t write a proverb saying, “Decide, then pray for your will be done.”

I should’ve watched Harper Valley PTA before I said, “Yes.

As I moved along on my Christian spiritual growth chart, I realized that order of things was a bit backward.  With each switching up of the order of prayer vs. action, I was getting closer to the concept in Ephesians 5: 15-16, “Be careful then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity. 

James 1: 5-8 challenges believers to wise decision making.  He gives us the action we must take (asking God for wisdom) and the result of not accepting and acting on that wisdom (double mindedness).

‘’If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you;  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

James 1: 5-8

You see, had I prayed to God in the midst of being asked to take on such a large role as PTA president I would’ve acted in God’s name, not mine.  If he told me to do it, I would know I had His strength to aid me in difficult times because it was His will not mine.  If I was told to not do it then I would’ve been able to clearly and confidently say, “no thank you.” And importantly – not feel guilty about it.

There are two ways to seek wisdom – spiritually and earthly.  While we can take both paths together, if we only use earthly knowledge, we live without an anchor to truly define what is “right” and “good.”  That is the Humanists’ approach.  They make decisions more based on what feels right or good or what society deems worthy or correct.  But God is immovable.  His Word never changes.  When we use that as a touchstone for our lives, we know we start our wisdom journey on solid ground.  God has all the solutions — while we can usually only see them in a narrow, protective framework.  

Charles Spurgeon once said, “How foolish would the believer be who would lay up his treasure anywhere except heaven?”  In other words, you only have one life to live.   It’s precious and what you create, such as children, are precious.  Why would you ask the world how to live your life, raise your kids, invest your money, use your time, instead of God?   He went on to say, “Change is written on the forehead of nature so don’t put your trust in earthly things.”  This reminded me of a friend I had at an old job.  She had her kids in the 1970s.  With her first child she was told by the nurses to absolutely not breastfeed her child.  It was imperative that women not be tied down to a child and instead be free to do whatever she pleased.  When her second child came along the winds had shifted.  She was encouraged to breastfeed.  She cried as she told me what she realized she missed out on with her first child – the bonding and loving moments breastfeeding affords.  She was angry she had let a nurse decide for her what was right and good. 

Warren Wiersbe defines God-given wisdom this way, “Wisdom keeps us in harmony with the principals and purposes that the Lord has built into His world so that as we obey God, everything works for us and not against us.”  I don’t know about you but I’d like to know more about how to get things to work for me and not against me!  

Step 1 for gaining that sort of wisdom – praying.  

But not just any praying.  Praying for His will to be done, not ours.  Praying for wisdom and good discernment means asking God to light the way for us.  He alone knows ALL the possible solutions and outcomes.  We can only know a limited number of solutions, based on our limited knowledge and emotions.  We can’t possibly know the outcomes.  When we pray to God for our will we need to be careful He might just give us what we keep asking for – and that can frequently be exactly what we don’t need.  God tailors our teaching based on where we are in our spiritual growth.  He might give us a little leeway or He might admonish us.  But we will definitely learn a lesson if we listen and pay attention.

Step 2 in our wisdom growth is listening.  

James 1: 19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this, we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  After we’ve prayed, we need to shut up and listen.  He will speak to you.  But if we keep yammering on to him, our friends, people we don’t even know on social media, we will assuredly miss His voice.  We need to be like Jesus – slow down and hear from God.  Instead we frequently start worrying and researching and talking and fretting and more worrying.  In my study group we asked the question: “What are some challenges that come with obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit?”  We all agreed that discerning whether it is God or our own voice (or worse, Satan) speaking is the greatest challenge.  The solution is knowing the character of God.  Thankfully, there’s a complete autobiography about God at our fingertips – the Bible.

Step 3 is reading His word.  

I’ve heard people call Christians “sheep.”  The assumption is that we don’t need to think for ourselves once we turn our lives over to Christ.  But we don’t put our minds on a shelf and stop thinking.  In fact, we must turn our lives to more active thinking and discernment when we become Christians.  One of my BSGs (Bible Study Girls) and I were talking the other day and she told me she was glad the Bible can be read at different understanding levels.  She says she has always had a more difficult time delving deeper and between the lines – not just when it comes to reading the Bible but any literature.  She appreciates those of us that have that skill.  That is the beauty of the Bible and God’s gifts.  One friend of mine sent out a text that said, “The Bible is the only book that as you read it, it reads you.”  Amen to that! 

There are a few books in the Bible considered “wisdom books” but the most recognizable is Proverbs.  The words “wise” or “wisdom” are used 125 in this book.  Its wise words are made to be memorized since the people of that time didn’t have access to books.  One liners can be easily remembered such as:

“Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it, resist them.” 28:4

“Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.” 29:1

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” 21:9

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife.” 17:1

Then there’s longer, deeper instruction such as Proverb 1: 32-33

“For the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me (wisdom/God) will live in safety and be at ease without fear or harm.”

And Proverb 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all ways submit to Him and he will make your path straight.”

I wish I had read that one before deciding to be a PTA president.  From day 1 the bickering and strife and lies and hurts I faced were almost unbearable.  I cried to the Lord for help.  His help came in the form of wisdom – how to pray first, listen second, and read His Word third and then act.  

In my Bible study library I now have Bible commentaries, devotionals, books about prayer, apologetics books and more.  When I read a passage in the Bible that either seems confusing or sounds like a message I really need to hear, I pull out various other tools to help guide me, in addition to praying over the verse.  This has expanded my study time from about 15 minutes to about an hour.  It centers me for the day ahead and places my feet on His path.

Praying, listening, reading.   These steps help us to gain God’s wisdom.  Without taking these steps it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish God’s plan for us.  I love what Proverbs 8 says, speaking as God’s Wisdom:

“Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.  All the words of mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.  To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.  Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

I am issuing a challenge today.  Take Proverbs and create a “Wise Words” list.  Create categories that each 1 liner falls into and place it in its category.  Some of the proverbs are repeated so you don’t need to write them again – but you might put a tick mark by the verse to show how many times it is mentioned.

For comments today, let us know a time that either 1) you didn’t pray and got yourself into a mess or 2) you heeded God’s word and realized what a blessing it was!

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

Message Received

I’ve long found it fascinating when I hear people say they’ve never heard from God.  In a previous church Bible Study, where the majority of the women were over 70, it actually saddened me to listen to woman after woman say she loved God but never really felt His presence or heard Him speak.  As I delve into a deeper relationship with our Lord, I keep hearing the same message from Him – you can walk up an aisle, stand when called, or raise your hand when asked if you want to receive Jesus, but until we seek out a personal relationship with Him our faith remains unfulfilled. 

I recently was reading about a centurion man named Cornelius in Acts 10.  He was not a Jew yet was devout to God.  His family was considered “God-fearing.”  He gave generously and prayed regularly.  But He did not know Jesus was His savior.  The Holy Spirit came to him one day.

“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.  Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.”

Acts 10: 4-5

He immediately obeyed.  What was to unfold was discipleship at its finest.  Trusting God’s word, obeying even though it seemed unreasonable.  In the end, thanks to the actions of many, Cornelius and his family became the first gentile Christians – paving the way to you and me.

If you have ever watched the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you will surely get the message of our interconnectedness.  We so often think we are small and insignificant, while strangely also thinking everyone needs to know our opinions.  But it is the actions we take – led by the Holy Spirit – that cause ripples of which only God truly knows the effects.  My current Bible Study Girls are studying Charles Stanley’s, “30 Life Principles.”  We’ve started to joke about if all Mr. Stanley wrote were the words, “obey God,” the book could’ve been much shorter!  In fact, five of the 30 principles specifically use the word “obey.”  Many of the others are really just variations of the idea.

To obey something is to first know what that something is or wants.  Which means listening.  Which means paying attention.  I’ve challenged many friends and Bible study participants to take my “Coincidence Challenge.”  For 30 days, every time you hear just the right song, see a sign that says the right thing at the right time, or a friend calls when you need to hear a friendly voice, don’t call it a coincidence.  Call it God. When you do, you’ll find he isn’t silent.  In fact, He is babbling away at you, desperately trying to get your attention.  

The Book of James calls us to that personal relationship of listening and obeying God.  His message is to those of us who already call ourselves Christians.  It would be unfair to hold anyone else to the standards of which he writes.  Many of these standards are difficult and challenging.  And we are unable to meet these standards without a faith in God.  God alone is our strength to keep us on the narrow path.  At times it seems James is shaking us out of our Christian sleepiness.  Calling us to wake up, pay attention and serve God with all our heart, mind and soul.  James is the proverbial “bad cop.”  But sometimes we need admonishment.  We need correction.  

I was having lunch with a good friend the other day and she said she needs friends who can call her on her “stuff.”  If we are surrounded by “yes men” we struggle to improve our lives.  It can lead us down destructive paths when the standards held by the majority of whom we associate with are “almost right” or just plain anti-Biblical.  But when we have people who love us, want the best for us, and call us on our “stuff” based on Jesus’ standards, we grow to be our better selves.  James is that friend.  More importantly, James reminds us that God is that same friend.

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

John 15: 14-15

This week we will be talking about James 1.  Trials, temptations, wisdom, listening, and action are on the plate.  So, buckle up.  We are about to strip down to some hard truths.  But remember too, that God is a merciful, loving and thankfully forgiving God.  That same friend who said she needs friends to call her on her “stuff” also said she’s worried that a study in James will be painfully convicting.  Let’s right now agree that if God shines a light on an area that needs work in our lives He does so out of love.  He wants more for us.  He knows what the future can bring us.  So, we need to lean in to the stripping away of our old selves so that we can live in His plans for us fully.  

Do you regularly hear from God? Tell us of a time you were asked to obey and it seemed unreasonable yet you took action.   If not take the “Coincidence Challenge!”

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement

Proof of Love

“With our tongue we praise the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:9

Sound familiar?

Join me starting September 7 on a five week journey through the Book of James. Follow to receive your daily emails!