Week 27 – Reveal Yourself

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“The one who has kept my commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” John 14:21

 

My first book was a devotional called The Whisper of God. It was written around ordinary life events that happened to me that illustrated how God spoke to me, encouraged me, provided and rebuked me. The important part of these lessons always tied back to scripture though. There was no lesson with God revealing Himself to me. Just as John 14:21 says, He will show Himself to those who keep His commands, but it doesn’t say He will do so in a cloud of fire or grand vision. God reveals Himself through His written word – scripture!

I’ve encountered many people along my path through ministry and life. Many who will say they could never believe what the Bible says or that God is real. I always ask them if they have read the Bible. Interestingly, their answer is always no. Those who claim they could never believe haven’t even read the Bible. Those who are waiting for some divine visitation to believe have never opened the scriptures and looked for God in the most reliable place. They have given up and formed an opinion before even examining the facts.

This burdens my heart. I wonder why it’s so difficult for some to trust. Is it a broken relationship with their earthly father, difficult life circumstances they can’t come to grip with, a fear of letting go of control or being loved wholeheartedly?

I’ll never forget one of my first reviews on Amazon, “Sorry, but the inside content doesn’t really help you see God in the ordinary. . . ” That stung a bit until I realized this buyer was probably counting more on me to offer her direction than she was on the scriptures. I promise you that if you look at the “inside content” of His written word, God will never let you down. He will reveal Himself to you. You can read every Bible study written by someone who speaks to thousands or by me who only speaks to hundreds and you will never see God revealed in the way you will if you focus on His written word. The words of Bible study teachers, authors and commentators should only be a guide or an encouragement that lights the path to your face-to-face with God through His God-breathed Word.

If you were coloring your hair for the first time, would you just open the box and hope for the best without reading the instructions? Would you try to remember what your girlfriend told you at your last girl’s night out about how she did it? Or would you sit and read each step before beginning? Don’t get me wrong! Hair is super important! I would probably read the directions 6 times before beginning if I ever even got up the nerve to do it myself. In the same way, how can we keep the commands if we haven’t read them? Jesus is WAY more important than hair – even if I do get too caught up in a bad hair day now and then.

I pray that no matter what person or study you are looking to as your guide, you will use it as a tool to open your eyes to God’s Word and not as God Himself.

 

 

Week 26 – I Slipped!

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Week 26 marks the half way mark of this year’s Bible Journey. If you’re just joining in you can read more about how this adventure started and just what I’m doing in my Outside the Box blog. This is what my pantry door looks like at week 26!

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Now, on with the blog!

If I say, “My foot is slipping, ”Your faithful love will support me, LordWhen I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy. Psalm 94:18-19

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Just in case I haven’t written it lately. . . God is good! I’ve been in a funk this week. Not really sure what’s going on yet. Maybe it’s delays, challenges, or that fact that my kids are growing up so fast. How do we have one starting high school and one starting middle school in the fall? Regardless, I’ve been having a bit of a pity party and then God placed this verse in my hand this week as a tender reminder that when I slip into that pit, His love will support me. He will pull me out and give me comfort that will cover all my cares.

This reminded me of a blog I wrote several years ago about pit dwelling. Thos times when our foot does slip.

We always hear, “Stay out or get out of the pit” it’s a dangerous place to go. Not surprisingly, I have a different angle on the pit. I’m all for the pit, with guidelines. I think we all reach a place now and then in life where we can benefit from getting in the pit and rolling around in our grief or misery. However, you should only go if you know you are able to get out after a few hours. You can’t stay. (If you suffer from depression – this is not for you – stay far way from the edge of the pit) It’s like a mini-vacation. . . . OK, a bad mini vacation where it rains every day and the food is yucky. If you stay longer than that, your misery and pain can become an idol that sits higher on your priority list than God.

Rules of Pit Dwelling: You have to know you are going and ask a prayer warrior to pray for you. For example, I will say, “Ok, Kirsten I’m in the pit today. Having a little pity party for myself and rolling around in my “yuck”, but I’m not planning on staying, redecorating and having cocktails. I just need to sit in this for a while, feel it and embrace it. I’m coming out tomorrow after God and I work through some things, but please pray for me and call me tomorrow and check on me to make sure I’m out”

Singing songs to a troubled heart is like taking off clothing on a cold day or like pouring vinegar on soda. Proverbs 25:20

I don’t want her to talk me out of going. I don’t want her to tell me why I shouldn’t go. I just want her to pray for me and love me enough to make sure I climb out after the weeping. If you have never been in the pit, I envy you. If you have, I pray you can identify when you are in it and can climb out quickly after gaining strength through the Lord. If you ever sit in that pit, I pray you know it’s OK, you are only human and God is beside you, but please ask others to pray for you while you are there and hold you accountable to climb out quickly.

We can go there, but we can’t stay! I’m praying that no matter where you are today that you are feeling God’s presence, His comfort, and His unexplainable joy!

A Shout Out & special thanks to those dear friends who have stood in the gap for me this week (and many other times in my life) and prayed for the stronghold, I had let take root, be removed and joy to return. I couldn’t do life without prayer warriors. I’m sorry I forgot that for a few weeks.

 

Week 25 – Summoned

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No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5

The book of Joshua tells an incredible story. Just like the book of Exodus tells the story of redemption that began when the Israelites left Egypt, the book of Joshua tells the story of redemption that leads them into the Promised Land.

Joshua’s story resonates with me. He was just an average guy who became this amazing leader of the church. He didn’t receive his calling from an angel messenger, flaming bush or other divine and miraculous sign. He just knew this man (Moses), who knew the Lord. That man knew Joshua’s heart and called him to be a leader for God.

I wonder what was going through Joshua’s mind the day he was summoned by Moses. It would be like being summoned by the President of the United States or your bosses boss.

Moses then summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land the Lord swore to give to their fathers. You will enable them to take possession of it. The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:7-8

It seems like Moses knew right away what would be going on in his head and heart because he reminded Joshua of several things:

  1. Be strong and courageous
  2. God is always with you. He has your back.
  3. Do not be afraid
  4. Do not be discouraged

When faced with new challenges that take us out of our comfort zone or a problem that seems as if it’s growing faster than we can climb, these reminders can bring strength and comfort. In fact, as I study this verse it’s a “right on time” reminder for me as I work to tackle the challenges of aging parents and the battle within myself of being torn between two cities. The need to be with my mom and dad and here with my husband and kids. However, when I’m still and quiet I can hear God whisper softly, “Allison, I’m with you and your parents. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Be strong and have courage. I am in every detail and working all things out for good. Trust in me. Lean on me and do not rely on your own strength, but on mine.”

We serve a God who uses sinners day after day to complete His perfect plan. He takes our imperfections and uses them to weave His story of love, redemption, and grace through this broken planet. Now that is an amazing God!

Do you find yourself in a place of fear or discouragement this week? If so, I’ll pray you are able to lean into God’s promise that He will never leave you or forsake you. That you will feel and grasp His great strength and courage for the situation you face. Please pray the same for me.

Week 24 – A Grand Story To Tell

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Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

First things first, I think it’s important to define what the Great Commission is? It’s the instruction from our resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ, to His disciples to go out and spread His teachings to all the nations of the world.

This Great Commission in the last chapter of the book of Matthew was as relevant when Jesus spoke these words centuries ago as they are to each of us today. As Christians, we have a grand mission to share the Gospel with those in our lives and those we encounter along the way. As moms, wives, sisters, daughters, and friends I think we often feel that our sharing has to look a certain way. We think we have to establish a ministry to disciple others and share the Gospel. We feel we don’t know enough to share the Gospel so we don’t speak or we are afraid of rejection or judgment from those we desire to share with.

Sometimes, our greatest and most important ministry field is right in front of us. Our children, neighbors, and friends are just as important as any structured ministry. Every action, word, and deed can lead those around us closer to Christ or farther away. You don’t need to establish a ministry to share the gospel (unless God is calling you to do that, of course).  You already have one and if you know God and He has worked in your life in any way – you have a story to share that can make the gospel come alive for someone else. No one can argue with your experiences and feelings. They are yours. If they reject or judge you, that is OK! That’s on them, not you. All you have to do is share and let God do the rest.

Sharing the gospel may look different every single day or even every hour. From a kind word, a sacrificial offering or an e-mail to answer the questions of a sweet child. In fact, I have a dear friend with two amazing young girls who send me the most amazing and challenging questions about God. They have lived on the other side of the world and now live on the other side of the United States, but we stay in touch. I pray they never stop asking and learning about God.

Here is a portion of the e-mail I sent to them in response to one of their questions:

Kate, I love your questions. You ask better questions than most adults. Maybe adults want to ask, but they are too afraid. Never be afraid to ask questions. It’s the only way to learn.

How many times have I read the Bible? Well, two years ago I read the entire Bible in one year. I had never done that before. I read the Bible almost every day, or at least several times a week. The Bible is full of instruction on how we should live our lives, it offers us encouragement and direction for our actions and words so that when we go out and live our lives each day we are reflecting God. It also reminds us of how much we are loved and adored by God. That He is always with us, even when we are having a “yucky” day and everything seems to be going wrong. The Bible tells us all about who God is. I know that because when we know someone, we can recognize them when we see them. We won’t actually see God with our eyes, but when you know His character and how much He loves you, it will be easier to see Him at work in your life and sense His quiet presence.

This is one of my favorite explanations of what the Bible is. This is the introduction of “The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I like it a lot and will read it often when I’m teaching other women.

“Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

It takes the whole Bible to tell this story. And at the center of the story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”

If you are ever uncertain, need courage, direction or wisdom in how to share the gospel and continue to make disciples of all nations, just open the Word of God. His Word is for us all and He desires for each and every one of us who believe in Him to share with any and all who are still wandering or struggling to find Him, trust Him and have faith in Him.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

Week 23 – Are you Tired? Worn Out?

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“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30  

We see and hear this verse many places. Hospitals, cards, wall art, posters, and jewelry. As I think about how these words Jesus spoke touch the lives and comfort believers all over the world, my heart can’t help but sink and feel sadness rising up in it. A sadness that arises for those who don’t believe, can’t trust, who turn on faith, don’t feel worthy of His mighty love, or may have not even heard about His great love for them.

I think about all the people I know in my life right now who are facing HUGE challenges. Those with little or no faith at all. How will my friend who just lost her dad to cancer make it through her grief without the strength and courage of God? How will the young boy we know make it in a foster care home and heal from the abuse of his parents without God? What about the young couple who just had a child out-of-wedlock? Our friends whose marriage is being tested by betrayal?

I adore how The Message translation puts these verses. And Jesus said,

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Even when we have strong faith in our Lord and Savior, we get tired and worn out! We cry out and beg Him to show up, carry us and give us strength. And He does! Maybe not in the way we imagined or hoped, but He comes and He provides, protects, carries, loves and teaches us along the way.

This week in our journey, my desire is for all of us to join together and pray for those around us who are still searching, still trying to find the courage to be loved by the Creator, still doubting and still searching for faith.  Let’s pray their hearts soften and they turn their lives over to Christ. Let’s pray for those who are still relying on their own strength, courage, and wisdom to conquer their sins, trials, and heartbreak. I have no doubt they are tired and weary. I pray God will open their eyes and they will understand that God wants to come to Him weary, broken and sinful. That He doesn’t ask for anything but belief in Him. He created us and adores us all.

His burden and yoke really are light. He doesn’t ask for anything but belief in Him. He created us and adores us more than we can ever imagine. Each of us, despite our circumstances and level of faith, are loved, cherished and treasured by the Creator of the Universe.

May God open the eyes of those who still need to find Him and may they experience all He has to offer – including rest. And may God use those of use who believe and rely on Him to shine a light on the path for others that lead them straight to our Mighty Savior. Amen.

Week 22 – Slaves to What?

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But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. Romans 6:17-18

Just a few weeks ago, I asked an acquaintance if she would like to come to church with my family and me. From the look on her face, it was almost as if I had asked her to come clean the toilets in our house. She tried to be polite, but the look on her face screamed “Ick, no way!”

“I’m not really big on church. Christian are such hypocrites!”, she said. I looked her right in the eye and I said, “You are right. Christians are hypocrites. We ALL are.  Christian or not, we are flawed, sinful, hypocritical, judgmental people because we are human. Being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you forgiven and gives you are stronger desire to seek God so He changes our hearts to look more like His.”

She wasn’t really sure what to do with all of that information and said, “Well, maybe I’ll come to your church some time. Just once.”

Isn’t this the problem with so many we are praying for to come to know Jesus? They judge us as much as we judge them, but we are the ones who are supposed to show Jesus through our actions so others will desire to know God. Whether we like it or not, as Christians, others watch us more closely, they study our reactions to situations, they may even test us at times.

Most days, I’m grace-filled because the Lord has been working in my heart for many years (and I still have a long way to go), but sometimes when my heart is heavy or frustrated, when I haven’t taken the time to fill up on God’s word and my tank is running on empty, I can fall into that old trap of judgemental, hypocritical, yuck-yuck! Thankfully, as a Christian who relies on God’s word for direction, rebuking and guidance, I know that although being a Christian doesn’t make me perfect and sinless, it does make me forgiven and free to get up and try again with God’s grace and guidance.

With Christ, we can transform from slaves of sin and shame to slaves of freedom who are blameless before our King.

Please don’t miss this important distinction! As Christ followers, we are no longer slaves to sin, but we will sin. We will mess up. We will be hypocritical and judgemental sometimes, but God will tug at our hearts. The trick is to let go of the shame and guilt that can come with messing up when we know we should and want to do better for Christ. Instead of letting those feelings creep in, we need to cling to His tender love and graciousness. We are still flawed, but with the Holy Spirit living within us He will mold and shape hearts and lives to look more like his every day.

With Christ, we are blameless before our King because Christ died to stand in the gap and cover all our sins from the past to the future with His blood and great love for us. Praise God!

 

Week 21 – Now Faith, By Faith

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Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith, we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

First things first! I adore how this chapter of Hebrews starts with the definition of faith. As many of you know, it’s one of my favorite tools for studying scripture. In verse one, our work is done for us.

Because no amount of good works could gain us access to eternal life, the only way to God is through faith. I think this turns some people off for several reasons: 1) people look at faith as weak and ignorant 2) faith feels too easy or 3) too risky.

To them, I say it’s not our faith in Christ that saves us! It is Christ Himself! Our faith must be in the Word of God (Bible) and it should be our foundation. We must strive to honor the instruction, discipline, and lessons God has given us through His written Word. When we read, discover and trust in His Word then faith will come naturally and there is nothing weak or ignorant about that. It isn’t too easy either, in fact, it can be difficult.  For a long time, I struggled with the reality that I was worth it to God. Worth it for Him to send His only Son, Jesus, to die for all my mess and honor me with forgiveness and grace. And as far as risk goes . . . well, I think it’s much more of a gamble and risk to live without faith in God than it is to live with it. I don’t know about you, but I’m sticking with the man who rose from the dead and has an empty grave!

As verse 1 says, Faith equals hope!  Faith doesn’t equal fear, risk or ease.

Those who have gone before us (our own ancestors) like Moses, Noah, David, Abraham, Esther . . . all acted and lived by faith. They weren’t perfect and made mistakes. They didn’t make it to God by their own efforts or good works, but by faith and hope.

Many say they don’t believe God exists because they can’t see Him. I say, if you look for Him, you do see Him. In the sunsets He masterfully paints in the evening skies, the birth of a new baby, the tears that flow from eyes heavy with loss, the embrace of friends, the forgiveness of unspeakable things, the rainbows and majesty of His creation and the mystery of how it’s woven together so perfectly from dust and dirt to brilliant starry skies.

Have you seen Him?