Week 42 – Where Are You Running?

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Hebrews

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source, and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2

This year’s Bible challenge has been an incredible journey. It’s reminded me of all the different ways there are to read and study scripture, but it’s also reminded me of all the ways God uses scripture to breathe life into my soul.  I can’t believe there are only 10 weeks left in 2017. I’m already thinking and praying about how God is calling me to read through the Bible in 2018, but until then. . . .

As we have seen throughout this year, sometimes it’s an old lesson God reminds us of, a new Bible translation, definition of a word we have passed over, new Bible commentary or life situation that leads us to new and deeper understanding of God’s word. But sometimes, it’s a message He has given someone else that has been brave and bold enough to share with us. This week, I couldn’t help but think of an amazing Sermon Jam I watched by John Piper on these exact verses. (Thank you, Laura, for teaching me about sermon jams!) In a nutshell, he says that when we ask the question, “Is it a sin?” we are asking the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking ourselves if each word, action or deed makes us run. Even if the Bible isn’t specific about the particular action or deed, does it make you run to Christ, does it draw you closer to Him and the person He desires for you to be? John is an incredible man of God, pastor, author and leader. I hope you will watch this 3-minute sermon jam of his sermon message on these particular verses from Hebrews. I believe he says it better than I ever could.

Running – John Piper Sermon Jam

 

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

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Week 41 – A Rare Gift

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Friends - Proverbs 18

A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Sometimes reading Scripture takes us back to a time in our lives that God used our circumstances to teach us. Often, He will gently remind us of lessons He has already taught us. These moments are a wonderful reminder of His presence, love & desire for us to continue to grow in Him.

This verse from Proverbs quickly brought my mind back to a blog I wrote in 2009. I’ve reposted it below. Although these times of remembering can be bittersweet, I never want to forget the lessons God taught me through trial and tears. It is those lessons that are the light in the darkness, the joy that comes out of sadness and the good He can provide out of the worst situations.

We are all guilty of it. Taking our problems, our concerns and complaints to others before we take them to God. He is the one we should go to first when we are seeking wise counsel.

God drove this point home to me in 2008. It had been a tough few months. Everything seemed to be falling apart. My friend Shannon’s cancer had spread to her brain, my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I had a disappointing birthday and oh, how the list continued, but I will spare you. It was summer and all my friends were traveling, busy with camp, the pool, etc. When I tried to talk to them everyone seemed distracted. They were out of town or running out the door to the next activity or obligation. Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of the same thing. We get in a hurry and fill our schedules to the brim so there is no margin for the things that might pop up.

After the fourth attempt to talk to a friend and getting nowhere. . . it hit me! God spoke to my heart and I realized I needed to be taking all of this worry and concern to God. God, who is my friend, is always closer to me than anyone, and who knows me better than I know myself.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying we don’t need to seek the counsel of our friends. God has put friends in our lives to support us, love us, give us solid Christian advice and hold us accountable. I praise God for my girlfriends every day!

I think God was reminding me that above all else, I should first seek Him. He is always available and “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). He is never on the way out the door, swim team practice, Target or the grocery store. We have a God who craves a relationship with us and desires for us to seek Him daily. This rare gift is beyond our comprehension and understanding most days, but it exists and is very real. Next time you are troubled, have a concern or problem, talk it over with our Lord and Savior first. Seek His counsel, comfort, and direction. Pray that He provides you with a solution or answer in any way He can. He may speak straight to your heart, send a friend or put you in a circumstance that will give you the answer or peace that you need. He doesn’t promise when or how, but He blesses all those who seek Him.

If someone asks him: What are these wounds on your chest?—then he will answer: I received the wounds in the house of my friends. Zechariah 13:6

“Friend,” Jesus asked him, “why have you come?” Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him. Matthew 26:50

You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:14

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 40 – One and Only

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John 1-14Image2

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

This one verse is packed with beautiful and awe-inspiring details of our Savior. First, He was born and lived among us taking on the “likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). But in spite of taking on our likeness, He was still “full” of grace and truth showing us that He brought all of His divine qualities with Him.

But there is one word that caught my eye this week that I wanted to dwell on ~ residence.

Residence: a person’s home; the place where someone lives

This Greek word is skenool, which literally means to pitch or live in a tent. At first glance, we might think it’s referring to the Lord’s temporary “camping out” here on Earth among us. Which is relevant, but it goes deeper than that as we dig deeper into scripture.

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 (NCV)

We know that our body—the tent we live in here on earth—will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands; instead, it will be a home in heaven that will last forever. But now we groan in this tent. We want God to give us our heavenly home, because it will clothe us so we will not be naked.

God took up residence among us in His tent (His earthly body). These verses from 2 Corinthians go on to talk about how we will groan and be burdened in this tent/body until we reach our heavenly home. We understand this clearly because this tent we live in here on earth is all we know. We know the pain, tears, sadness, and heart-break that comes with this tent we now dwell in. We can only imagine how amazing and breathtaking our eternal home will be. But God knew! He knew and He left all the glory, perfection, joy, magnificencesplendorgrandeurmajestygreatness, and nobility of Heaven behind to come be with us and live in a human body that experiences and endures pain, suffering, and heartbreak. And for what? For you and for me and because of His GREAT love for us. Only the most loving Father and Creator would give up everything to come and live in this mess we call home for now. 

In churches, small groups and Bible studies all over the world, we talk about how God sent His only Son to die on the cross to cover our sins so we access to eternal life with Him. But sometimes, I think it’s said so much, we begin to overlook the deep truth of the sacrifice He made and the love it must have taken for Him to do so.

This week, my prayer is that we all take some time to reflect on the intense and profound love our Creator and Heavenly Father has for us. May we bask in His glory and respond with word, action, and deed.

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 39 – Find Mercy

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Mercy - Proverbs 28The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

From the Garden of Eden, when Adam first confesses to God they had eaten from the Tree of Life, all through the Bible to the book of Revelation at the final judgment; the acknowledgment of our actions and confession of one’s sin is talked about in scripture. It’s a vital part of the Christian faith.

As I pondered over this verse for the week, I considered how much time Christians spend confessing their sins to God (1 John 1:9) or others (James 5:16). I remember as a child laying in bed at night and talking to God. As I got to the confessional part of the prayer, I would say, “And God, please forgive me of all my sins. I don’t think I did much that was bad today but forgive me just in case.”

From attending church as a child, I knew that confession was important, but what sin was didn’t seem as clear. I would focus on those big Ten Commandments and what I knew of them. In my mind I would go through them with God and say, “I didn’t kill, or steal, adultery was off the list (since I was 10 years old), I didn’t take your name in vain or even cuss, I don’t have any little golden statues to worship and I did what my parents asked me to today.”

It’s interesting, these conversations with God are still so clear in my mind and memory. I can even picture myself in my bedroom with pink walls struggling with this part of my prayer time as a child. As I’ve grown older and spent more and more time in the Word of God, I no longer have this problem. I’m able to write a daily list of all things I need to confess, and actions I should have taken that I felt like the Holy Spirit was prompting me to take, but didn’t.  The words that were said that shouldn’t have been and words that should have been said, but weren’t. Thoughts that raced through my mind I would never want to be played out publicly.  We have to go beyond the Ten Commandments when it comes to confession.

I don’t think the church always does a great job of explaining this to the body of Christ. They say we should confess, but often when we first begin our walk with God, the “what” we should confess, isn’t laid out so clearly.  This proves a VERY important point. We can’t just count on the church and our pastor’s to guide and teach us. It’s imperative that we each open the Word of God and seek His truth, mercy, and love for ourselves.

And the good news is, that any sins, from stealing and killing to disobedient thoughts, are always forgiven by our Creator if we ask with a humble heart that seeks Him. His mercy and grace are never-ending and Satan’s hands are tied when we put all the unspoken sin out into God’s healing light and glory.  Today, my prayer for all of us is that God will make known our sin so that we may confess it and live in the glorious freedom He offers.

 

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 38 – Your Attention, Please

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Deuteronomy 6-Image 2

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Deuteronomy means “the second law” and although the name of the book includes the word “law”, the overall theme of the book could be summed up in two words: love and obey. I always tell our children to “listen and obey.” I think love and obey is much better and such a sweet reminder of our Heavenly Father.

He [God] revealed His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel. Psalm 103:7

Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy. I feel as if this is very important to consider because he actually spoke to God. I’m not sure how you feel, but that makes Moses pretty credible in my mind. This wasn’t simply a good biography someone decided to write based off of research and interviews of others who knew God. Moses knew God personally and had a face-to-face meeting with Him on Mount Sinai. That gives Moses some “street cred” in my book! So, let’s dig into these verses from Deuteronomy 6.

This first word grabs my attention, just as it was meant to when these words were spoken so long ago to the Israelites. When I’m speaking to my children, a group I’m leading or sharing with and I need a statement to stand out from all the rest I’ve said, I say, “Ok, Listen up! Pay attention! This is important! If you don’t hear anything else I’ve said today, hear this.”

The first word (Listen) is our first clue to pay close attention to these two verses because they hold significant value and truth to be learned. Our second clue is that this same truth is repeated in scripture and was spoken by Jesus Himself. He told a scribe (Mark 12:28-31) that to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength” is the first and greatest commandment with “love your neighbor as yourself” coming in second.

I know many of us have heard this verse over and over again in our days of church and Bible study. Sometimes, when we have heard scriptures repeated over and over again they can lose their power and depth. I feel as if this verse is one of those. So let’s sit and pick it apart a little.

Verse 4: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

Israel was full of idol worship at the time and needed a little attention grabber, a reminder of who the One, true God was. This is still very relevant for us today. Although we don’t make little golden statues to worship, sometimes we begin to place other desires and self before God. This is also idol worship. Anything we put a priority on above God is an idol. Even if it’s our children, worry, money, career, friends, etc. No matter how long you have been a Christian, as long as we are in this flesh, we will struggle with keeping God front and center in all we think, do and say. Staying in the Word of God and in communication with Him through prayer is the way to tackle the weakness of our flesh.

Verse 5:Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

I want to look at this from a little different angle. It’s my heart’s desire, in life, to be ALL in for God, but often I’m not using all my heart, soul and strength to love God. However, it is usually easier to love God than it is some of His children. Am I alone here? Sometimes, people make it so difficult to love them. God is growing and strengthening this muscle in me. I strive to offer everyone, despite their actions or words, the grace, and acceptance that God grants me because we can’t love God and hate His children.

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40

Our son came home from school the other day and told me about a child in one of his classes that has been working hard to grab the attention of the others in the class. “Mom, he’s so annoying and I try to talk to him some, but he interrupts my conversations and it’s so distracting.” I used this opportunity to continue growing my own “love others” muscle as I explained to him the young man was probably feeling left out and just wanted to make new friends but wasn’t sure how to do it.  And then I told him my secret for loving God’s people when they make it so difficult. When I’m struggling to love another child of God, I say to myself, “Jesus died for _[insert name of challenging person to love]___ on the cross, just like He did for me.” Sometimes, it’s all about perspective!

May God richly bless you this week as you seek Him and His glorious ways.

Deuteronomy 6 - Image 1

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 37 – The Days are Evil

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Eph 5

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17

Maybe it’s because we have one child who just started high school and another one that started middle school a few weeks ago, but the phrase, “make the most of time, because the days are evil” really stood out to me as I read this verse from Ephesians.

I understand that Paul wasn’t talking about how fast our kids grow up and reminding us to enjoy every minute with them because it goes by in the blink of an eye. Today diapers and tomorrow college orientation. However, he was reminding us of something just as important (maybe even more). As Christians, we are not to waste any of our time here Earth. It will go by fast and we should make every effort to follow God’s will for our lives and walk through each day showing others that we belong to Christ. No one should have to question who we serve.

If a woman walked through Target with her golf clothes on and a golf bag over her shoulder, we assume she was a golfer without having to ask. It should be the same for us all as Christians. I will admit that as I type those words, I’m very convicted. I know that there are many times when I don’t respond in a way that points others to Christ.

My amazing Dad will be 89 this year. He is a hard-working, praying, stubborn, honorable, and generous man. I know he understands and appreciates the fact that the days are evil, moving fast and time is running out. Since his 80th birthday, he has said, “Well, Allison. . . I’m just circling the drain at this point in my life.” He says that and most certainly feels it, but he has never stopped living, fighting, giving generously, praying and spreading the good news to others and he’s still going!

I pray we all make the most out of our time here for the Lord and His will because as that old Steve Miller Band songs says, “Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping . . . ”

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, N.C. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.

Week 36 – Your Life-Breath

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Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your lifeDaniel 5:23

In this verse, Daniel is in the middle of giving Belshazzar (the young and prideful king) a little lecture and history lesson about his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. He reminded him of how God caused the downfall and ruin of Nebuchadnezzar when he became prideful and points out that he is headed in the same direction because of his own pride. When we know better, when we know the truth, and still choose the path away from God it causes our destruction.

However, the reason I chose to have this verse as part of my 2017 Scripture challenge was really just for the last 19 words in this long verse.

. . . the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life. Daniel 5:23

This is one of my favorite descriptions of our Heavenly Father. We call Him many things: Counselor, King, Redeemer, Savior, Warrior, etc. but there is something about imaging God holding my breath in His hand and controlling the course of my life. It brings me to my knees in awe of His great power and love.

I wanted to read more about life-breath and found it right at the beginning in Genesis 2:7.

Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

and then again when Jesus has risen from the dead and commissions the disciples. .  .

After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

and then again in Revelation when the witnesses are resurrected at Christ’s return.

But after three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them. Revelation 11:11

That’s our God!!! The breath of life is even woven into His written Word (the Bible) for us from start to finish. The hand of our Heavenly Father and Creator is in every detail, every breath and every moment of our lives. The One who loves, adores, and created each of us is in control. May we give thanks every day for His love and promises and keep our eyes on Him as we anticipate and trust His great plan with joy and courage.

 

Blog Art is provided by my friend and sister in Christ Polly Jo Green.  She is an artist based in Cary, North Carolina. Visit her website at pollyjogreen.com.Her art ranges from doodle creations to mixed media pieces. In addition to commissioned original art, her art is available on notecards.