Week 5 – Work it!

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Working

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

I love, love, love this scripture! These are words we should read daily as we awake and try to live lives worthy of the Gospel. To begin, I tackled this scripture into three parts. First things first, I grabbed on to the words steadfast and immovable.

Steadfast means you are resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.

Immovable means anchored, rooted, uncompromising and unshakeable.

Second, I pondered what the “work of the Lord” might be. There are many things we can do in this life to honor and lift up His name. Did this mean volunteering more at church, the homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Did it mean going on more mission trips? What about giving more money to the church? When we see the word “work” we think of something tangible and action filled. However, as I dug deeper and looked at cross referencing scriptures I discovered the answer in John 6, straight from the mouth of Jesus Himself.

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:28-38

The work we must do is to simply believe in Jesus, the one whom God sent to us. Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. So, it isn’t the kind of work we automatically imagine. In this scripture, the work we are to abound in doesn’t involve driving somewhere, booting up a computer, putting on a suit, giving a presentation or even volunteering to feed the homeless. It’s work that involves the heart. Having a heart of faith and belief in the Son of God, Jesus.

And to top it off, we are reminded that our labor (belief) is not in vain. Why wouldn’t our belief in Jesus be in vain? Because He is real and God’s promises and declarations will come to pass.

1 Corinthians 15:58 in my own words goes something like this, “Therefore sweet believers, be anchored and rooted in your belief of Jesus. Be strong and unwavering in your faith. He will not let you down. For He is real, He is alive, sitting at the right hand of God the Father and will return for you, His beloved.”

I want to add that when our hearts “abound in the work of the Lord” (a full belief in Him), the result is action/work with our hands and feet. Once you become a true believer of Christ it’s impossible to sit back and not share His love with others in a tangible way.

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, Revelation 2:26

The coolest discovery for me this week was the realization that “our work” is to believe in Christ. If we begin with that one truth, everything else will fall into place. Praying that all of you experience His love and truth this week as you go and abound in the work of the Lord.

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Week 4 – Spread the Word

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and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;  when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13

The verse above, from 1 Corinthians, was the scripture I pulled out of my box this week, but it isn’t the one I ended up savoring. My research into these verses led me to a corresponding scripture in 1 Peter.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9

This is the beauty of studying scripture. You may be headed down one path in scripture and then you are rerouted to discover something you never intended, but speaks to your current circumstances. If you are joining me in this Bible adventure for the year, I hope you will give yourself the flexibility and permission to move as the Holy Spirit directs you, to investigate new paths, and seek deeper understanding.  We don’t go into a conversation with scripted dialogue (most of the time), we let it occur naturally and organically. Just as it should be when we approach our Heavenly Father through His word and in conversation with Him.

When I approached 1 Peter 3:9 this week, the first thing I did was to define revile. Revile means to spread negative information. So, basically gossip. Well, seeing as this is inauguration week of a very contentious election and all the news about “fake” news that’s going around, I felt this reminder was right on time.

If I’m honest, I’m not just seeing “reviling” in the media and the nation, but much closer to home. Even in circles of friends and at church. We are, after all, sinful creatures that have to fight the flesh daily to follow God’s instructions for living. Why is this so difficult for us? Why, even with God in our heart’s, does it seem easier to judge and talk about others negatively than it is to love them and lift them up with encouraging words? I am just as guilty of falling into this reviling trap as anyone and I find it very discouraging.

The scripture says we are to bless others. It says, as Christ-followers, we are called to bless others. By blessing others, we also receive blessings. This statement couldn’t be more accurate. Every time I step up and bless someone with time, an encouraging word, a prayer or kindness, I always feel as if I leave the situation more blessed than the receiver. Being the hands and feet of Christ is a blessing to me. I want this to remain in the forefront of my mind so that when the evil action of reviling creaks up I can push it away. We need to spread the word, but not the negative word, the Word of God. The truth. The light. The knowledge of His grace. His compassion and His love.

Father, today I pray that you will guide and lead us all (especially me) into your light and give us eyes to see the pain we can cause with words. Give us discipline to follow your ways, guard our hearts, hold our tongues and give us discernment to know when to step in and when to step back. We desire to be more obedient followers. Do a mighty work in each of us and light the path for us that leads to You.

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3 – Dynamic Duo

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“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

I’ve always loved this verse. Although, I still get a little “uh, oh” feeling when I read the word shrewd. Let’s be honest, it isn’t right up there with turn the other cheek, love one another and forgive. As I think about it, maybe it’s not even the word shrewd, but the fact that it’s associated with a serpent that turns me off. If it said, “be as shrewd as an owl” maybe I wouldn’t have the same reaction. Just a thought.

Anyway, I digress. Shrewd is defined as having or showing sharp powers of judgment. That’s a quality I admire in anyone who has it. Shrewd is a synonym for astute, sharp-witted, smart, intelligent, clever, perceptive, wise and savvy. Again, all things I strive to be. So, I’ve gone from getting the “uh-oh” feeling about shrewd to having the “oh, yeah!” feeling.  

But, Jesus didn’t just say, “be shrewd”. He said to be both shrewd and harmless. They are like a dynamic duo that need one another to succeed. Like Batman needs Robin and Tom needs Jerry. I have met people who are shrewd but not harmless and harmless but not shrewd. It can be risky and unpredictable to be one, but not the other. Together, however, they are a powerful team that leads to survival in this wild world that constantly tries to rip us apart from understanding and sharing the truth, grace, and love of our Heavenly Father.

Simply put, don’t be gullible, foolish or unsuspecting. Don’t be easily taken in or taken advantage of. Ask questions, seek the truth, respond with wisdom and discernment. And on top of that, do it with an inoffensive and gentle demeanor. Whew! Honestly, that can be a tall order for me some days.

This week, I need to sit down and reflect on the times I’ve responded the way Jesus told me to (being shrewd and harmless). What assisted me in following the correct path? Was it prayer, Bible study, more margin in my day, joy in my heart, a completed “to-do” list . . . or maybe all five. And what about all the times I only responded with one of the dynamic duos? What were my stumbling blocks to following Jesus’s instructions? Had I skipped my quiet time with God, left out prayer that day, forgot fitting in wasn’t the point of my life, packed my day with selfish things I could put off, but wouldn’t?

In this life, we shouldn’t fit in. As followers of Christ we should stick out and be like Salmon swimming upstream, but it can be tiring to fight against the world. As sheep among wolves, we have to constantly keep our guard up against obstacles, distractions, and sin. We must be both shrewd and harmless. We must stick to God’s Word, but with grace, compassion and no judgment. We can’t assume what others say is the truth, but read it for ourselves the Bible.

Following and sharing Christ isn’t easy, but filling up our hearts and minds with His word and instructions will guide, direct, protect and give us the strength and wisdom to make it happen.

Week 2 – Wisdom

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Realize that wisdom is the same for you. (the same as honeycomb is sweet to your taste, Prov. 24:13)
If you find it, you will have a future, and your hope will never fade. Proverbs 24:14

Wisdom is defined as the quality of having experience, knowledge, good judgement and being able to take action by applying those qualities. I like to think that over the course of my years I’ve grown in my wisdom, but as I reflected on this verse and the topic of wisdom a few things occurred to me. Like many people, I can associate living and life experiences with wisdom. I’ve experienced many things that have taught me tough and miraculous life lessons, but I truly feel as if most of my wisdom has come from a growing closeness and connectivity with the Holy Spirit. It is He who gives the wisdom.

If I reflect on all the times I responded to a quiet whisper or nudge to send a card, make a phone call, deliver a present, give a compliment or engage in conversation it’s clear that it was not of my own doing, but that of the Holy Spirit. When something I say touches the heart of another person it’s not because of my own knowledge or wisdom, but because of the prayer I sent up for God to guide my conversation and words. Sometimes, I’ve found myself in front of a group of women going off script to share something I didn’t plan on, only to find out later how meaningful it was to a particular person in the group. How it was an answered prayer from my mouth to their ears. This is NOT me! It’s all God and I’m just the vessel. A willing vessel (most of the time).

This verse says that if we find wisdom “we will have a future and our hope will never fade”. So true, for to find and receive wisdom is to find God. When we find God we have a hope and a future that can’t melt away or be cut off. The definition of find (v.) is: to recognize or discover (something) to be present. When we learn to recognize and discover the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives it opens the door to wisdom we have never known. He will tell us great and unsearchable things we do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).

This reflection on wisdom and the giver of it has been very meaningful to me. I’ll be the first to admit that in the hurry of life I can, without thought, take credit for my actions or begin to take my way instead of God’s. My path doesn’t always lead to destruction, but it does lead to selfishness and the inability to be God’s light in the world. The inability to be the hands and feet of Christ and the errand runner from Jesus to one of His beloved. The more I listen and see God at work and His mysterious results the more awestruck I become. I don’t want to miss out on that and I don’t want anyone else to either.

May we all consider wisdom and the path from which is arrives in each of us.

 

Week 1 – “Outside the Box”

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Welcome to a new year and new Bible exploration. Several years ago I stopped creating new year’s resolutions and decided to come up with a new way to study and explore God’s word for the year. In case you missed my last post, for 2017 I’ve chosen 52 scriptures to study, memorize and meditate on each week. 12 Old Testament, 12 New Testament, 12 Gospels, 12 Psalms & Proverbs, and 4 scriptures of your choosing.

Each week, I’m going to pull one of the scriptures I’ve chosen out of a box. I’ll read it, memorize it, journal it, read it in different Bible translations and the chapter it’s contained in. Approaching scripture in new ways allows it to penetrate our hearts in new and real ways. Experiencing it, living it, and meditating on it while leaning in to hear what God is whispering for us to know and reveal to our hearts is vital to our continued relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I’ll post my scripture each week and a revelation or insight that caused my heart to skip a beat. I hope you will join me and choose your own scriptures to dwell on during the year. I’m excited to see what God reveals.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

I have this amazing friend. We get together once a month and go visit friends we have made in the nursing home followed by lunch together. We share prayer requests, talk about “girl” stuff, doctors, our kids and laugh a lot. We fight over who will pay for lunch and can have up to 30 minute phone conversations about the state of the world and funny things our husbands have done. What’s so strange about this? She’s in her eighties.

Reading this scripture from Isaiah made me think about our friendship. I then realized that my entire adult life I’ve had friends that were anywhere from 10-40 years my senior. In fact, right now, 4 of my sweetest and closest friends are at least 15 – 20 years older than me. It’s funny I never stopped to consider this before. They were just friends who I loved and treasured so who cares about age, right?!

Once I had this realization, I stepped back to consider why I’m drawn to these women who seem “outside the box” because they aren’t relatives,  sitting in carpool with me, attending class holiday parties, or living right next door.

  • Their faith in God and their knowledge of his faithfulness is strong!
  • They have lived lives and seen trials that have taken them deeper in their faith and given them a renewed strength in their trust of God.
  • They have a strong sense of how short life is and don’t have time to beat around the bush. They tell it like it is. They are more concerned about you and your well-being that being cool, trendy or losing your friendship.
  • They aren’t afraid to call me out, hold me accountable and ask the tough questions.
  • They know things. They just know things! There really is a wisdom that can only come from age and living life.
  • They have had problems in their marriage and their children, but persevered, leaned into God and allowed Him to work where only He can and they’ve seen the benefits.
  • They are quick to express how much your friendship means to them and don’t feel funny doing it.

My mom (another amazing friend) always told me to surround yourself with people who will build you up and make you a better person. These women do that. I want to be like them when I grow up! I count all of my friends as blessings (no matter what their age). I’m not saying any of my wonderful friends who are my age don’t have these qualities; just that sometimes friendships don’t look the way they do on TV or in the movies.

Just like God’s ways aren’t our ways, His thoughts our thoughts and ways our ways. His plans are better – even when I think mine are awesome! My hope is that this concept will open our eyes to understanding friendships come in all shapes and sizes – as well as ages! Look for those women who have a strong faith, love, light, wisdom and reliance on our Heavenly Father and not matter what their age –  learn from them. You never know what kind of friendship will evolve and how you will grow to love and appreciate them.

Thoughtfully reflecting on the amazing qualities of these friends as been such a blessing and makes me treasure them even more. I hope you will think about some of the women around you that you may have never stopped to share with, had the opportunity to volunteer with or spent time in deeper conversation.  I pray we will all think outside the box with friendship and other things too. God does, and in my opinion, it’s one of His best qualities.