Because my Bible tells me so

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You are my secret hideout! You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of rescue! I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go. I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you. ~Psalm 32:7-8 (CEB)

I have a pretty Bible that I carry with me to church. It has a nice compact size that fits well in my purse making it easy to carry with me.

My study Bible isn’t compact. It’s big, bulky, heavy and looks like it has seen some better days. When my son was 6 he knocked over a water bottle and now some of the pages are wrinkled. It is marked and written throughout with thoughts I have had and even some questions that I asked. It now holds a lot of memories. It has memories because I started reading it.

I began really reading my Bible several years ago because I started having questions like, “What does God expect of me?” I got this bright idea that maybe somewhere in my Bible I might find out what God wanted of me. As I read I underlined scriptures that I felt answered this question. Eventually I even found a verse in Micah 6 that actually says “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

As I read the Bible looking for what God wanted me to do and how he wanted me to act, I discovered scriptures that talked about his love for me. Psalm 139 is my favorite of all the psalms. It tells me that He knew me even before I was born. Before my mother even knew me, God loved me. I marked verses that talked of God’s love in pink.

Another thing I noticed when I read the scriptures is that the phrase “Do not fear” repeats over and over throughout the Old and into the New Testament. Whenever I would see the phrase “Fear not” or “Do not Fear” I would put a box around it.

What started out as simple curiosity lead me to discover answers to questions I didn’t know I yet had. “Does God really love me” “where is God when I am scared?” “Can I be angry at God?” “Is it okay to be sad?”

Reading my Bible has taught me when the world seems bigger than me and my problems are too many that God is not just with me but fighting for me. During times like this, I am reminded of my very favorite verse from Exodus 14:13 “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

Dear God, Thank You for Your Word that lives and breathes in me. Thank you for being bigger than my questions. Thank You for steadying my steps and fighting my battles. Amen.

To be present with You

Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone show asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. ~Matt 7:7-8 (NRV)

Praying was something I always felt that I did not do well. I still have a lot to learn and I don’t do it as often as I should. It is interesting to note that the disciples never seemed to ask Jesus how to preach, teach, communicate or how to multiply loaves. What they did ask Jesus was to teach them how to pray.

Why would the disciples ask this question? Perhaps the disciples saw the special relationship that Jesus held with his father and they longed for such a relationship in their own lives? I too long to have the confidence, peace, security, and love that Jesus had with God. Jesus also modeled how important prayer was; in fact his whole life seemed to be built around praying. Often Jesus slipped off to talk with God, especially in stressful times. Jesus wanted to have time with God and even enjoyed being with Him.

Just what is prayer? “Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence, even enjoying the Presence. The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it.” (Everything Belongs, by Richard Rohr)

How important is praying? “If action is missing and there is prayer, the Church lives on, it keeps on breathing, but if prayer is missing and there is only action, the Church withers and dies.” (Letters to Dolcidia: 1954-1983 by Carlo Carrletto)

Does God even listen when I pray? “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jer.33:3 NRSV)

If I do not knock, God doesn’t reveal Himself to me. If I don’t ask, He will not answer me. But God is always present, even when I am not, even when I cannot feel this in reality. The one condition that precedes every kind of prayer is my being present to God with conscious awareness. Present where I am.

Heavenly Father, I long for relationship with you. I long for Your confidence, peace, security and love. Help me to be present with You in this moment. Help me to feel your Presence. May my every moment be built on prayer. Amen.

Response

Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty- handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” ~ Matthew 1:46-55 (CEB)

Jesus says that our load should be easy and our burden light… but there was a time that I couldn’t understand what this meant. My load was not easy and my burden was anything but light.

I had found myself in a place where I knew I had been saved but I was working hard for everything else. Life shouldn’t be about trying-hard. Seeing who Jesus is is not to make us try harder but to help us learn to let go. What happens when we let go of trying to live right? What happens when we learn to let Jesus work through us?

My  response to understanding what it means to remain in Christ and to letting him work through me is that I grow in faith and overflow with thankfulness. When I let Jesus be who he is through me I find I don’t have to try so hard. When I allow him to work through me the work I am called to do becomes easier. Remembering what he has done for me makes me thankful and gratitude lightens my steps.

The acting and the struggle are in the letting and remaining. When I dare to believe what is truth and decide to live out of that truth, faith and thankfulness are the natural response. If I search in the Bible for an example of how this might look, I can turn to the story of when Mary was told by the angle that she would be the mother of Jesus. We don’t see Mary worrying about what she will do or what people will think. Instead we see that Mary’s response is praise and worship.

I want to live continually in a time and place where I am so in touch with God that I can sing God’s praises as easily as I breathe out air. I want to be so sure of the truth that I cant help to sing of God’s glory. I want a faith that looks like Mary’s.

Heavenly Father,thank You for examples of what faith looks like. Thank You for examples of how to be Your vessel. May Your praises always flow through me to lighten my step. May my knowledge of Your good news lighten the loads I am called to carry. Amen.

Praying for boldness

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin. Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief. Sending out the disciples Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching. He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them. ~Mark 6:1-13 (CEB)

How can I in my own life speak with boldness? In 1 Jon 5:14-15 (NIV) it says, “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”

Two situations that I feel most uncomfortable is with a group who have known me most of my life and the other is with a group of people who do not know me at all. But when I feel my weakest God says, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

In Mark chapter 6, even after Jesus didn’t receive a good reception from his home town, he still tells his disciples to go out and to be confident in their work, to go out in boldness. And they did. Verse 16 says “So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.” Their boldness was shown by their works.

After Jesus’ resurrection the disciples were threatened by the government, but instead of backing down when they were told to be silent they prayed, “Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30) So when the disciples felt threatened by the work they were doing their response was to pray. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31)

Christ came into a multicultural world. In a world of many beliefs it might be understandable that the disciples may have been fearful to even mention their faith in Jesus Christ. In a time when loyalty to the official religion often was required, it would have been simpler to go along with the crowd. In such a dangerous time where the promotion of any new religion was perilous, they would have been safer to hide any evidence of faith in Jesus Christ.

Instead of running, conforming or playing it safe the disciples prayed for boldness to speak up about the gospel. They didn’t ask for security, relief from persecution or the demise of the opposition. They asked for boldness to continue in the work that Jesus called them to do.

How often do I even remember to ask for boldness to do God’s will? What difference would it make in my life if I did remember to pray for boldness? When the disciples prayed for boldness they found it gave them the wisdom, the faith and the power to live faithful and effective lives. When I continually pray I find my life transformed from one of “knowing” to one of believing. With believing I find boldness to go about the work of Jesus Christ.

Father in Heaven, whether in groups I am well known or in unfamiliar places I ask for boldness to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. May I not back down when I feel uncomfortable but remember that despite my weakness your glory can shine through. Amen.

Long time coming

Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him.  A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed. At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it. The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” ~Mark 5:21-34 (CEB)

There are times where we find ourselves completely powerless. In the beginning we received sympathy and support but when things get drug out we find people starting to drift away and even begin to avoid us. We search many places looking for healing only to find no help. When we find ourselves alone after all we have done to try to heal ourselves we, like the woman who didn’t want to bring attention to her wounds, try to sneak in our healing. We want this to be just between us and God.

Jesus didn’t want the woman to remain behind her mask. If he allowed her healing to have remained secret she could not have been restored to the community. She would have remained taboo to her friends and family. Jesus wanted her community to see that she was healed and restored to wholeness. He wanted her to step out from behind her mask of sickness. He wanted her to be restored to Life.

There are times we feel that Jesus has passed us by when prayers have been sent up for healing. Maybe things don’t unfold as quickly as we wanted or through the means we had envisioned. But we need to have the faith and hope of this woman. We need to be open to the possibilities.

Heavenly Father, when answers don’t come as quickly or in the way I would like for them to come, please give me the strength to continue walking with faith and hope. May I have your strength to hold on until your healing comes. Amen.

A sheild

All God’s words are tried and true; a shield for those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

God knows we need places to hide. Not the masks of “I have it all together” but a shield of “I know I don’t have it all together but I know the One who does”. It seems the psalms are riddled with poetic lines that sing of safe places of rest and shields from the troubles that surround at all sides.

But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. ~Psalm 3:3

God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. ~Psalm 7:10

The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety. ~Psalm 18:2

God! His way is perfect; the Lord’s word is tried and true. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:30

You’ve given me the shield of your salvation; your strong hand has supported me; your help has made me great. ~Psalm 18:35

The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. ~Psalm 84:11

God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. ~Psalm 91:4

God is my loyal one, my fortress, my place of safety, my rescuer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, and the one who subdues people before me. ~Psalm 144:2

This Shield protects us while we figure out how to move on in our journey. It protects us as we try to move on in our lives. Life happens, someone dies, tragedy strikes, illness occurs, a court decision doesn’t go the way we think it should, a spouse falls back into addiction, a child has been arrested. God wants to provide us with a safe place while we struggle with questions of why and how to continue on. God gives us a resting place in him while we struggle with learning the Truths and until we are able to embrace them

How do you continue forward when your heart is breaking? I have asked this a lot…

Maybe it is in the little things: a smile at my son when I feel like crying, a walk with my husband though I want to be alone, a laugh with my daughter when there is so much to do, a cup of coffee with a friend despite a busy schedule, reading my Bible even though I am mad at God…

Maybe it is in the daily tasks: of doing laundry when I’d rather stay in bed, fixing my hair when I’d rather put it in a ponytail, cooking a meal when I’d rather not eat, dusting when I’d rather just read… It amazes me how much better I feel after doing these simple acts of life.

God shields my heart while I go through the act of living until it feels right again, one smile at a time, one task at a time, a gift of normalcy not meant to be a burden but a way for us to carry on.

We are supposed to ever move on. It is the nature of living.

Heavenly Father, shield my heart this day as I take this day one step at a time. I thank you for Your love and peace that passes my present understand. Be with me in all I do and say this day, may it ever be a reflection of Your love to those I meet. Amen.

Self-relience

The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it– even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash– along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant– dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ– God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. ~Phil 3:3-11 (Message)

Self-reliance is living in selfishness, flesh. What does the Bible say to us about living in the flesh?

“People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit.” ~Rom 8:5 (CEB)
“The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” ~John 6:63 (CEB)
“A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do.” ~Gal 5:17 (CEB)

The spirit and the flesh are in opposition. This struggle robs us from our true identity found only in Christ. Jesus doesn’t care about our good reputation; he cares about building our good character. Anything we do to get life and identity outside of Christ is idol worship, even service to Christ. Self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-effort and self-reliance rob us of a life of freedom and victory.

Our definition of sin, the bad stuff people do, the heart breaks people cause, the poor decisions people make… somehow our desire to be our own little god is left off the list. Instead of looking to God to provide what is needed, do we roll up our sleeves and take on responsibilities that were never meant for us?

How many times do I see a problem, put my limitations on it and decide what I think the solution should be? Do I miss out on a miracle because I am depending on myself? I want to live like I have a God that knows what He is doing.

It isn’t about my doing God’s work; it’s about my trusting God to do the work in me. God doesn’t want my service, he doesn’t want my independence. He wants me.

I need to live more than just believing in God, I need to live from God. I need to step out from behind my mask of self-reliance and walk in faith.

Lord, Help me in my struggle to be self-reliant. I know that when I walk in faith and live like You are in control I can see you working in my life. May I live in freedom and victory. Amen.

The tree of knowledge

The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’” The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. ~Genesis 3:1-6(CEB)

There are two trees in the garden. The Tree of Life represents a life dependent on God. The Tree of Knowledge represents a life dependent on self. Eve’s initial mistake is entering into conversation with the liar. The following mistake was reasoning with the truth.

Two lies snuck in the garden that day. One is the lie that we have to do something to be something. Remember the act of eating the fruit? The second lie that slips by us is that this performance will make us more like God. In Genesis 3:5 Satan tells the woman that by eating the fruit she will become more like God, more righteous. In her conversation with the lie she forgot the truth. In Genesis 1:27, God had already made her “in His image.”

So what does this mean? Somewhere along the way we forget that love is a gift, we begin to believe that it must be earned. God gave us the Tree of Life so that we might truly walk with him. Walking this road in life with him brings freedom. But if we choose the Tree of Knowledge aka the “tree of independence”, we are bound to ever try to earn love and acceptance. We are trapped in the lie of performance.

The fact is God already loves us. He loved us first before we ever did anything to earn that love, it already existed. Adam and Eve forgot the love they were given, in fact they wanted more. They wanted to be independent and ever since humans have been born separated from God (Rom 5:17). God has been calling to us since the garden trying to remind us that His love is here free for the taking. We don’t have to earn that love. God doesn’t want us to remain in darkness, our self-reliance. He is calling us back to Truth. He is calling us back to the Tree of Life.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to bring us back to the Tree of Life. Help me to fight this streak of independence that lives in me. Help me to live in the intimacy you gave us in the garden. Amen.

Out of the darkness

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied: free me from my anguish. ~Psalm 25:16-17 (NIV)

As many as one if four people may suffer from the disease of depression at some point in time in their life.

The news about Robin Williams has crushed my heart. I have known friends and family who have struggled with depression. There have been times that I even worried that they might take their life. With odds as high as one in four we all know people who are struggling, whether we realize or acknowledge it. Maybe you at this moment are in that dark pit.

What breaks my heart further is when someone feels that if they were just “stronger” or had “more faith” they could just pull themselves up out of the darkness. Even more painful is when they refuse to get help because it is a “sign of weakness.”

I know that the brain is a complicated organ. As I have watched family members struggle and have tried to help them seek relief, I know there is no quick fix and sometimes we have simply found a band-aide. For the moment.

Hearing about Robin Williams has stirred up panic in the very depths of me. If it has happened to him. It could happen to someone I love dearly! The news also takes me back six years ago to a pit of my own. I remember that feeling of reaching out to God to pull me out only to still be in that darkness. It took time to turn that pit into a tunnel that eventually returned me to the light. When I didn’t have hope, friends hoped for me. They believed even when I couldn’t.

The best thing you can do for someone you care about is to simply hold their hand so they know they are not alone. To hope even when they can see no hope. And sometimes to say…. “I once was so very lost, and I eventually found my way out…. ”

Heavenly Father, open my heart this day to those who might need a kind word or a hand to hold. Calm my own fears about those I love who are surrounded by darkness today. May they feel Your presence in that darkness and help them move through that darkness into Your Light. Thank You for reaching down to sit with me in my own darkness. Thank You for not leaving me alone, even though I may not have felt You, You were there. Thank You for seeing me, for knowing me and for loving me. Amen.

Words

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. John 1:1-5 (CEB)

“Words are important.  Without them our actions lose meaning.  And without meaning we cannot live.   Words can offer perspective, insight, understanding, and vision.  Words can bring consolation, comfort, encouragement and hope.  Words can take away fear, isolation, shame, and guilt.  Words can reconcile, unite, forgive, and heal.  Words can bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude.  Words, in short, can carry love on their wings.  A word of love can be the greatest act of love.  That is because when our words become flesh in our own lives and the lives of others, we can change the world.

Jesus is the word made flesh.  In him speaking and acting were one.” ~Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

May the words I speak this day bear in mind the power that is in word. When my son asks for comfort may I not spout it lightly, when my daughter asks for love may it not be thrown out carelessly. This day may I take a moment and remember that once words take flight they can never be brought back, only forgiven. May my words this day bear the love I have for God to everyone I met. May my words bring light, not darkness.

Heavenly Father, through Your words everything came into being. Help me to remember the power of words. I thank You for expressions of love that we can share, I thank You that words can bring comfort, joy and peace. Guard my words in all I do this day, may they always reflect Your love. Amen.

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