Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When Your Plans to Read the Bible Fall Through


Have you ever read the whole bible in a year? Or tried to?

You know what they say about the best laid plans...

The Plan


In January 2015 I decided that I would read the Bible in a year. It is easy to miss the richness buried in infrequently read books (Obadiah anyone?), and reading right through the Bible is a fantastic way to get the whole picture.

So in addition to various Bible studies I was working through, I planned to listen daily to an audio Bible plan that would take me straight through from Genesis to Revelation.

The Reality


But life isn’t always “straight through," and guess what? I didn’t read the Bible in a year. In fact, I am still working my way through now, twenty months later.

I am going to read through the Bible in two years. :-)

Failure?


I could focus on the fact that I did not read the whole Bible in a year. Better yet, I can celebrate that I am reading the Bible! Yay! Hey, I could even cheer because I am going extra fast on a read-the-Bible-in-three years plan. ;-)

Here's the thing: this is not the first time I will read the whole Bible, and it won't be the last. I will be reading this book until the day I meet my Lord face to face. And the enemy of my soul would love to discourage me from reading it by whispering: You failed. You got behind. What's the point?

Sister, any bit of the Word you can get into your heart and mind today will be expanded mightily in your life by the God of all creation Who loves you beyond reason. Any little bit.

Like this:


That right there is half a verse. Half! Believe me, if you spend a little time meditating on that half verse while you fold the laundry, I guarantee God will fill your heart. 

That is the point.

Whose Expectations?


Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard. If you fail to meet expectations, take a moment to ask whose expectations they are? Yours? Someone else’s? God’s?

Yes, there are times when we are being wayward or rebellious. If you have fallen behind in your reading or studies for this reason, it will be a great blessing to you if the Lord convicts your heart!

But so often (especially for we first-born, type-A sorts) the demands we labor under are put on us by ourselves. Not by God.

Are you in a season of mothering small children? Probably not the time to plan to spend an hour reading your Bible every day. But you can read a passage. You can listen to the Bible app while you do the dishes. You can do something.

You don’t have to do everything.

There are seasons for the reading the bible in a year. This may not be the season.

Your Love Letter!


The Bible is a love letter from the Father. You and I have the astonishing privilege of living in a time when we can pick up a Bible at any time and read. Every word is for strengthening, blessing, and growing us.



You can choose to hold yourself to hard-to-attain standards. Or you can choose to be held.

Drink from the well of His Word in sips or gulps... no matter how much you consume at a time, you will be nourished.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A People Pursued {A Bible Study Giveaway From HelloMornings}

One of the amazing blessings of being still and listening for God's will is that you get to do some really cool things - things you might not have seen coming.

A few months ago, when I was still in the throes of I-just-can't-blog-because-I-am-barely-surviving mode, my dear friend Ali asked me to pray about contributing to a HelloMornings Bible study.

Ali and I are close real-life friends (we met at our daughters' homeschool theater class) and she knows all the mess that has been my life. We also write together at DoNotDepart.com. I had continued writing there, but it was just by the skin of my teeth. So she knew that the answer might be no. Honestly, my first thought was, "Impossible."

http://www.hellomornings.org/portfolio/but-we-see-jesus/
But I prayed.

God showed me exactly when I would have time to write, and got me more and more excited about digging into Hebrews. So I said yes, with great anticipation. The fruit of that was But We See Jesus, a study of the first half of Hebrews, written with five other women. God's fruit is the best fruit, isn't it?

When Ali told me that the next HelloMornings study would be on Hosea and invited me to write again, I was intrigued.

Hosea the prophet can sound at first pass like an Israelite Debbie Downer, let me tell ya! He was the very last prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel before they were taken into captivity, so it is not surprising that his words come across as a last-ditch effort to a doomed people. They kind of were.

But when you take the time to dig into the book of Hosea, it is amazing how love and hope shine through. There is so much Jesus in Hosea! 

Intrigued? I hope you are, because HelloMornings has just released A People Pursued, their new study on Hosea, and as one of the authors I have the privilege of giving away a copy to one of you!

And this is super cool: not only will you get the reading plan, commentary, Bible study questions and worksheet, you'll also get a full audio of the entire study! If time is short you can just turn on the audio and listen while exercising, driving to work, folding laundry - wherever it fits into your day.

HelloMornings is one of my favorite ministries. It is a great help for growing in being intentional about spending time with God, planning your day, and exercising. The next session starts on August 15. Check it out!

I just have to come back to this: sometimes when you stop and ask God, He ends up leading you somewhere you wouldn't have planned. Writing Bible studies this summer was not on my calendar. I had pretty much decided I had failed Him. And all the while He was waiting for me to let Him keep my calendar.

This giveaway has ended now. Congratulations Tammy!!

Now on to the giveaway! *cowbells ring and confetti falls*

Just enter through the cool Rafflecopter widget below. I will contact the winner first thing on Sunday morning so you have time to download the study before the session begins. Yay for giveaways!

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

This giveaway ends on Saturday August 13 at 11:59pm CST. Huge thanks to Kat Lee and HelloMornings for making it possible!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Still Not Perfect, But Oh So Loved


I have spent my whole life trying to be good.

When I was a little girl I would lie in the dark each night and tell God all the things I had done that I thought I shouldn't have, then I would ask Him to make me a better person the next day. 

Each night I would ask the same thing. Make me better. Make me better. Please.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and actually read the bible that I began to grasp the problem. Sin. It was there and always would be. 

I spent a season in my twenties wrestling with God about the verse “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) 

It seemed downright mean. On the one hand I knew I couldn’t be perfect because of sin, but on the other I was being told I should be? It didn’t make sense, it frustrated me, and honestly, made me a little angry. So I argued with God.

I have never felt squashed when I have wrestled with God. I feel no condemnation, and don’t feel dismissed, even though I imagine my questions and strugglings are ridiculously small.

I know in my core that God gave me my intellect to be used.  After all, He says "Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18a). I can’t say I'll ever fully understand Matthew 5:48, but I believe God has helped me to grasp some of it.  

Jesus is perfect, and when I am hidden in Him, I am covered by His perfection. My spiritual self, my eternal self, is abiding and hidden in Christ.

But my earthly self, the girl stuck on soil, needs to know what to do. God's perfection is what I try to walk toward in my daily life (I won't get there)… and really, what that means is that I am walking toward Jesus, toward being more like Him.

It’s always all about Jesus, isn’t it?

Funny how we can know something but our actions don’t show it. I knew that spiritually I was hidden in Christ. But every day I was sweating and striving. I was exhausted from striving.

Yep, I know all about grace, but clearly I have a very hard time accepting it. 

I am forty seven years old now. I am no longer the nine year old who lay in bed asking God: Please make me better. 

Now I am asking Him: Please make me more like You. Open my eyes to the need. Help me to bless someone. Forgive me for being selfish.

And I still struggle with trying to live the Christian life in my own strength. I still fall asleep determined to do better the next day. Because let’s be honest: to walk the dying-to-self road can be painful and hard and sometimes just plain lonely.

I have experienced the trouble with trying to soldier through, head down and focused. When the slightest twist in the road comes, I get completely off course. Fists clenched, determined to walk the path I think I should as a loving daughter of her Heavenly Father, I suddenly find that in my haste and determination I am slogging through a muddy ditch because I was so set on my direction, I didn’t see the road veer off.

Ugh. Here we go again.

I am slowly accepting my desperate need for God’s grace, not just in theory, but in practice. No amount of determination will change the fact that I still have the heart of a little girl. I need to be able to rest in my Father’s lap and be held by His arms. Not for any reason other than that laps are where little girls belong.

We have had a hard few years in our family. And most of the things I wanted to do for God, the plans I had for how I was going to use the gifts He has given me… most of those things have not gotten done. So on top of the pain I was working through because of those hard years, I felt a heavy burden of guilt. I felt like I had failed the One Who never fails me.

He is such a good, good Father. When I took the time to stop scurrying, to be still and ask Him to show me what He wanted from me, He poured out nothing but love and grace over me - even though I had not done all those things I was so sure I had to do to please Him. I didn’t finish any of the books I had started writing, I didn’t blog here or on our other blog, all I did was survive, and try my best to love the people right in front of me each moment.

What I want more than anything is to please Him. Like a little girl helping her Daddy paint a wall and getting paint all over the floor, I want to do the things that make Him proud of me, yet I mess up. Over and over I can’t paint that wall perfectly.

Here God, let me help You with that...

And He bends down and strokes my hair, sees my heart and says “I love the wall. I love that you want to help. I love you."

My tender Father.

It is time to add one more thing to my night whispers: Please help me to accept Your grace, Abba.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

God Shows His Love for Us...



God gives gifts in different measure. One of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 is the gift of faith. It sure seems like we all need faith, right? But He gives an extra measure of faith to some of His children.

For those who have not been given that special helping of faith, doubt is occasionally, and sometimes often, a source of challenge. It is not like we can reach out our hands and touch God's face. We don't hear him audibly.

Yes, I know, His hand is everywhere, and He speaks to us through His Word. But when things are hard, we waver.

I think that lack of concreteness, combined with an endless stream of challenges this side of heaven, is what causes so many people to wonder if God cares about them.

Have you ever wondered, "Does God really love me? After all I have done?"

The answer, of course is yes. You and I can know this is true by what He has done for us. For broken, stumbling, still-making-mistakes you and me.

What has He done for us? Read more about God's Ultimate Demonstration of Love in my post today at Do Not Depart....

 
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