When I started getting more serious about my spiritual walk over four years ago I was very focused on my career. It took almost all my energy just to get done with my daily to-do list. And though I hate to admit it, my husband and children were often another item on the list that needed to be tended to and maintained. And reading the Bible was something I did if I had the time and energy at the end of the day.
Through a Bible study I felt a whisper: my priorities were all wrong and my identity was in the wrong place. I was putting my worth in my professional accomplishments. I needed to put God first. Then my husband (and I needed to respect him, something I am TERRIBLE at). Then loving my children and demonstrated to them how to live a godly life. I’ll be really honest, the thing I was most concerned with demonstrating to my children was how to be a hard-working, driven, successful woman. Demonstrating to them how to submit to God’s will wasn’t on my radar. And demonstrating respect to my husband didn’t cross my mind.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5 NIV
The answer is where I set my mind. The more time I spend reading the Bible, studying, praying, memorizing verses . . . the more my actions change. The more I submit to God. The more I respect my husband. The more I love my children.
I can’t change on my own. But the more time I spend with God the more my life is transformed.
You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp your infinite mercy?
Who can fathom the depth of your love?
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty, enthroned above
And then juxtapose with today’s reading in Mark. Jesus, the Son of God, standing before Pilate and the chief priests, listening in silence while they accused him. In the palace, Jesus stood while the crowds put a crown of thorns on him and made fun of him. Hit him. Spit on him. Laughed at him. Killed him.
All for me.
Mind-blowing, really. But again, so much bigger than my mind can fully comprehend. ACTION
Sit still and absorb the words and scenes in these passages. The words of Job “The Thunder of His Power” and then picture the crucifixion.
Spend time worshipping. Sing a hymn. Praise.
You are beautiful beyond description Too marvelous for words, Too wonderful for comprehension, Like nothing ever seen or heard. Who can grasp your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depth of your love? You are beautiful beyond description, Majesty enthroned above.
And I stand, I stand, in awe of you. I stand, I stand in awe of you. Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of you.
Most days I feel good – positive, happy, etc. But then there are days that I feel overwhelmed. My children don’t obey me. My husband hurts my feelings. I yell at all of them . . . and then feel guilty and like a failure as a mom and wife.
I feel tired and distracted when I read the Bible.
I feel uninspired when I write my blog and muddled when I pray.
But then I read about Job and Peter. These men were facing horrible experiences – the death of children, health issues, prison, murder of friends and more. These aren’t just stories. These were real men. Men who ate, slept, laughed and probably cried. Men who experienced ups and downs in their walks with God. From Job crying out for death and Peter denying Jesus . . . to God restoring Job’s fortunes and Peter being freed from prison by angels.
God had wonderful things in store for these men and plan for their lives beyond what they could have ever imagined. But their lives were far from “happy” and they experienced deeper lows then I have ever experienced. But they persevered. They kept their eyes focused on God. They fought the good fight, even when it was hard.
This is what I am loving about reading through the Bible – meeting these mentors through their words and experiences. Learning from them. Seeing the big picture. And being encouraged to keep up the walk and the faith, even on days when I feel like my head will explode and I can’t do anything right. Just keep walking. Day by day. Step by step.
And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’ Zechariah 7:8-10 NIV
“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. Zechariah 7:11-12 NIV
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 7:13 NIV
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord. Zechariah 8:16-17 NIV
I’ve read parts of the Old Testament previously, but this year is the first time I’ve been reading through the entire Old Testament. Over and over I’ve learned about the character of God. He is merciful. He is good. He is patient. He wants me to do the same.
God’s character doesn’t change – from the Old Testament to the New. He wants me to listen to him; soften my heart toward him. Obey him by loving others.
Right now I am still struggling to soften my heart. I am struggling with a grudge against someone, and I know that by holding that grudge against that person I am hardening my heart toward God.
I can remember a shift in my childhood when I no longer guarded my heart and mind, and at that point I started turning away from God. I gave myself opportunity to think unkind thoughts, which soon led to gossiping. And I liked it because it met some need inside me to feel superior.
I came to a crossroads – to start pursuing God again I had to quit pursuing thoughts that didn’t line up with what God wanted. I had to close the door of my mind to impure thoughts, which I didn’t want to do. When I came to that crossroads – sometime in my early teen years – I closed my mind and heart to God, just like Israel did in the Old Testament.
And I walked farther and farther away from God.
Around 2012, I started an active walk back toward following God, which meant guarding my heart and mind and spending time with God. It meant actively trying to shut down thoughts that don’t align with what God wants. And the main thing he wants is for me to love him and love others. To be patient, kind, unselfish, forgiving, humble, not envious, not easily angered, not holding grudges or bitterness.
These are all things I struggle with and as I mentioned in Forgiving, right now I am struggling with Unforgiveness.
Does holding a grudge against this person and thinking about how they hurt me fill some need in me: Yes
Do I feel like holding this grudge is equaling the playing field of the hurt they caused me: Yes, but it isn’t
Is holding this grudge really helping anyone: No
Is holding this grudge hurting my walk with God: Yes. Not because God won’t forgive me, but because I can’t give myself fully to praising God, praying to him and reading the Bible when I am holding onto this sin
I need to repent of this grudge and give this person to God. Mentally take them off of my hook and put them on God’s. I need to forgive and show mercy. I need to show love. This weekend I will purposely do something kind for this person and, with God’s help, guard my mind against unkind thoughts, selfishness and unforgiveness.
Lord, please fill me with your love. Help me to see “______” through your eyes, Jesus. Show me how I can love them and show them mercy. Please take away this grudge and my anger. Please help me to forgive.
He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”
Luke 11:2, 4 NIV http://bible.com/111/luk.11.2-4.NIV
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11 NIV http://bible.com/111/luk.11.9-10.NIV
Therefore, tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Zechariah 1:3 NIV http://bible.com/111/zec.1.3.NIV
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13 NIV http://bible.com/111/luk.11.13.NIV
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
Luke 11:42 NIV http://bible.com/111/luk.11.42.NIV
So many beautiful instruction and promise instruction, as well as glimpses into the character of God and Jesus. And conviction.
Right now I am struggling with forgiveness. Someone I love deeply hurt me recently. Lied to me and once again broke a fragile trust I thought we were working to rebuild. I am hurt and angry. And I’m using this family members’ sin as an excuse to sin. I am looking at their sin and focusing on what they did wrong . . . and using that to justify my sinning.
I am holding a grudge and not forgiving them
I have been gossiping about this person and putting them down
I have been unkind
And honestly I have been struggling recently in my time with Jesus because of this. I know Jesus wants me to forgive this person and reconcile and love them. But I’m not. Because I want to punish him. I want to hurt him like he hurt me.
I am focusing on my family member’s sin, when what I should be doing is crying out to God, “Father hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”
And if I am truly asking for forgiveness and seeking to forgive, there is another beautiful promise in Luke – God will answer my prayer.
Side note: Forgiveness is hard, and involves much more than just saying “I forgive you”. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t have boundaries or let someone abuse you. For help in this area, I recommend Fresh Start: http://freshstartforallnations.org. They are based in Omaha, Nebraska, but have resources online to help through the process of forgiving.
Today I will focus on praying the Lord’s prayer and meditating on the words of the prayer.
Heavenly Father, you are so mighty and powerful. You commanded the sea to part and shut the mouths of lions. And still you know ME. And love ME. Just like your will is done in nature and in heaven, I pray that your will will be done in my life. Help me to obey you. Thank you for giving me the Bible and all its truth. And I pray I take the time, every day, to read it and be filled with your daily instruction and the bread of life. Lord, I’ve been sinning. I’ve been holding a grudge and punishing “_________”. I’ve put him down to others. I’ve had a bad attitude. Lord, I’m sorry. Please change my heart. Please forgive me and help me to forgive him. Please keep me from the temptation to keep unforgiveness and anger in my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV): As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Making time in my daily schedule for Jesus has always been difficult for me. I’ve usually spent 10 minutes in the morning – reading the Bible or a devotional book and saying a quick prayer.
Checking it off my to-do list.
But then after reading about Martha and Mary something dawned on me. My time with Jesus should be my MOST important thing. I’ve known it, of course. But it never sank in before.
Time with Jesus is more important than TV. More important than Facebook. More important than work. More important than spending time with my husband. More important than spending time with my kids.
My days have always been busy – getting kids ready for school, working 8-10 hours, helping kids with homework, trying to get in a little downtime . . . and I’m sure all women experience the same thing. There isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done.
But here is the thing. I need to make my time with Jesus my most important thing. Seriously. More important than eating. More important than exercise. More important than housework.
Which means something has to give. I need to accept I won’t get it all done.
I have to choose to let some things go.
There is freedom in discovering that we need less clutter in our lives. And more time with Jesus.
I challenge you to decide to let something go. And choose time with Jesus instead. Carve out at least 20 minutes a day. The more the better.
It will be life changing. I promise.
Joshua 24:15 – New International Version (NIV): But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
I belong to “small group” at church of wonderful, funny, broken people who are all in different places on our Journey of faith.
At our 2015 Christmas party we busy playing games, eating cookies and exchanging white elephant guests when it was announced that everyone needed to vote on the next Bible study we’d be doing as a group.
With my white elephant gift in tow – a bag of quinoa and a can of mandarin oranges – I checked out the options:
I voted for the study on parenting. I struggle as a parent. And my husband and I have very different parenting styles.
Also, I’ve already read Renovation of the Heart previously and reading through the Bible seemed like a very daunting task. Finding even 10 minutes a day to read the Bible has often been a losing battle for me.
The group voted and we tallied up the ballots – Reading through the Bible in a year won.
Pinterest to the Rescue
I love Pinterest. I have a huge collection of Pins – recipes to make, places to travel, great cleaning tips, DIY projects and gardening hacks. 98% are pages I like and pin, but never attempt. I’d much rather read about “green” cleaning techniques and how to make mason jar crafts than actually attempt any of them.
January was quickly approaching and my group had yet to come up with a reading plan. I decided to see if Pinterest had any ideas.
Who knew how many great Bible study ideas are on Pinterest? From color-coding your Bible to creating a war room out of a closet, Pinterest had everything! Before getting too distracted by the ideas on creating Bible Study baskets out of shower caddies, I discovered a Pin recommending “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.
The basic premise of the book is that nothing has the power to transform your life like sitting at the feet of the Savior.
The book includes a reading program – I have the app – and use the Life Journal Reading Plan. I also use the SOAP method outlined by Cordeiro:
Every day has been a blessing. What a privilege that I have the opportunity to spend time with a Moses, David, Paul and Peter. I have gotten to know women who have experienced so many of the same highs and lows that I experience thousands of years later. But mostly, I have been able to read a love letter from a man who died for me.
1 Corinthians 2:13 New International Version (NIV): This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
If you are wanted to grow in your spiritual life or are struggling to find a reading plan or Bible study, I highly recommend this plan.
Will you join me in sitting with Jesus and seeing where he leads us?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV): All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Deuteronomy 8:1-3 New International Version (NIV): Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
My husband, daughters and I attend a wonderful church in Gretna, Nebraska called Journey Church. I love everything about it. The music, the sermons, the Facebook community and the beautiful people who make up the church.
We meet in a middle school gym – in the same building where I attended high school. The stage where Pastor Phil preaches about grace and love is the stage I walked across to receive my high school diploma over twenty years ago.
Being a small church that meets in a middle school means we rely on other to churches in the community to provide some of the learning and ministry opportunities for our congregation, which is actually a wonderful way to break out of our church family and denomination mold to meet other Christians in different walks of life.
Over the last few years I attended two different women’s Bible studies at the Gretna United Methodist Church. In both of these studies I learned a lot and felt a very clear tugging from God to make some changes in my life.
GIDEON, by Priscilla Shirer, August 2014
When I read the brief announcement in my church’s newsletter about a neighboring church offering a Bible study, I was interested. The Facebook invite for the study said: “Here is a synopsis from the back of the workbook: ‘God can use your weakness. Do you feel overwhelmed? Inexperienced? Intimidated? Insufficient? Too old? Too young? Too invisible? Too afraid? Gideon’s story involves far more than a wet fleece and a battle won with 300 soldiers. His epic victory actually tells of one man’s struggle with his own weakness — and the One True God who transformed it into triumph. So if you’ve ever struggled with insecurity or had trouble accepting your limitations, this study will help you see how God can use your weakness to unlock His strength. Yes, Gideon can attest — weakness is a gift.’”
I started the study excited to see what God would teach me. I really thought He’d show me some huge mission he had for me to save the world.
But looking back I wonder if I was even listening. Or just looking and walking away without applying it to my life.
James 1:23-25 – New International Version (NIV) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Looking at my handwritten notes in the margins in my study guide, I can see I was asking important questions and gaining insight as God was shining his truth into my life through Priscilla Shirer.
– “I often put my job before God, my husband, kids, etc.”
– “My calling as a wife and mom is NO less important than the callings of Abraham, Moses or Gideon. I need to do it to the BEST of my ability.”
– What realm of life do you think God wants you concentrating on while doing this study? Don’t overlook the ordinary or minimize your role in a larger arena. Let Him Lead your thinking and trust him to equip you for whatever He inspires: “My relationship with God and my role as wife and Mom. I need to prove myself in these areas first.”
– “Life is all about choices and every day we choose who we will serve – God, ourselves or other “gods” that enslave us. A daily, hourly choice. Who will I serve? And every choice has a consequence. We choose the path but not the outcome. I need to be diligent about making a daily choice to serve Jesus.”
– “Quit watching Sons of Anarchy.”
– “I should never make any career choices that impede my calling as a follower of Jesus, wife and mother.”
Hindsight is 50/50.
Reading my notes from 2014 I wish I’d taken more time to explore how God wanted me to apply those nuggets of truth.
At that time I didn’t re-align my priorities. I didn’t spend more time with my husband or kids. I didn’t make Jesus my first priority.
The only real change I made was to stop watching Sons of Anarchy (and believe me that wasn’t easy . . . my secret fantasy of someday being in a motorcycle gang went up in smoke!)
The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst, January 2015
I started The Best Yes study about four months after ending the Gideon life study. My only application/life change from the Gideon study was to quit watching Sons of Anarchy. And, in those few months between the studies, I had also taken on a lot more work. Business was booming.
And the more business grew, the less time I spent with Jesus.
I was actively making career choices that were impediments to my walk with Jesus as I grew more and more busy.
In January 2015, I was again blessed by the women at the Gretna United Methodist Church and the Lysa TerKeurst’s video series they shared. And my questions became more pointed and the answers more clear: – “What is God’s priority for my life?”
– “I say ‘yes’ to work and clients to make money and grow business; but if I get too busy and stressed my children and husband suffer.”
– “If I get too busy and let my priorities slide my walk with Jesus takes a back seat which hurts everything else.”
Even with clear questions and answers, I am a slow learner. Or at least I’m very slow in moving from learning and observing to actually making life changes.
Romans 7:15-20 – English Standard Version (ESV) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
I had written down a prayer in my “The Best Yes” study guide . . . “Lord, please give me an undivided heart. Help me to focus on you in all things and prioritize my time with you above anything else.”
God was listening.
And even though I am slow to learn and even slower to put His wisdom into action, God was at work.
He was starting a revival in my heart and answering my prayers in ways I couldn’t imagine.