But First, A Word from God

I love books. The fact that I currently have a stack on my bedside table just to read in the next couple of w

I review books as a blogger for a publishing company and I find solace in roaming through bookstores and piles of old books in thrift stores. My library card could have caught fire with how I burn that thing up using it so often.

scripture-and-psychologyBut the problem occurs when I put the words of even well-intentioned Christian authors ahead of Scripture. I can read about getting out of a pit, about loving others through what I do, and realizing the freedom I have in Christ. Yet, if I am not digging into His Word first? Well, then I am robbing myself of actual Truth.

Since Secret Church I have kept coming back to one particular area that David Platt taught on-the goodness of the Bible. And y’all, it is good. It brings us to Him directly instead of us relying upon another to reveal something to us. Just this morning I was really wanting to pour back into the book I am currently reading on friendships instead of the digging back into the book of Acts. Then I realized that I was placing more emphasis on someone else’s words, even a fellow sister in Christ, instead of Scripture itself, God’s very word to me.

There are days when I don’t feel like digging into His word, the hard of it. The messy of it. But it’s His truth, His divine words for me and for you for our lives and for His glory. When I put other’s words ahead of His? Well I start making myself a disciple of that person rather than of Him. (p. 125, Secret Church) I also miss out on the purpose God has for me for my life, because it is right there in Scripture. I give the glory that He is due and give it to that author, that writer, even to myself.

Please don’t hear me say that reading is bad, or that using resources by authors to draw God’s word out is a bad thing. But we first must come to His Word instead of that book. We have to devote ourselves to digging into what He says about Himself to then see how to become more like Him and less like ourselves.

Required Reading

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We had required reading throughout my high school days, most of which I enjoyed. Some of which I truly did not…I am looking at you Cold Sassy Tree and Watership Down. I loved exploring the different genres and literature types, even if I struggled to write the papers on them or even to finish the book prior to summer ending.

I remember being taught allegory and theme, context and metaphorical writing. The entire time I kept seeing the true point of books, the thesis of many writers not being entertainment or story but a broader commentary on life, on humanity and the way we choose to live it out. When I finally got that, I fell in deeper love with books especially my two favorites Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby. 

When you are able to get beyond just a story, the words on a page, line after line, to see the root and heart of the author it changes so much about the story itself and how you digest it.

The same holds true for me in Scripture. When I dig in to passages that are more poetic and allude to something other than what they state, I find the beauty of God revealed all the more. That He knew we’d be a curious lot, one that wouldn’t settle for words at face value and so He gave us beautiful imagery and metaphor to describe our need, our deprivation and His provision.

I stumbled into such a passage this morning in Isaiah (Can you tell I am in the SheReadsTruth Lent study?). Where God is telling the barren woman to sing-a hard thing to do when one struggles with infertility. But when we look back in Scripture, we see the first three mothers of the Israelite nation were all barren-Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, and yet they bore out a nation, fulfilled a promise set forth by God to Abraham at the beginning. Y’all. How beautiful those words of Isaiah 54 become to a heart and to barrenness.

We do not insure our own survival, we never have. God does. He brought forth Isaac in Sarah so that the nation of Israel might be born. He knew they’d turn from Him to other gods, enslaving themselves to idol worship and trusting in a king rather than the King. Then another child would be born, to usher in a new kingdom. To remind them, to remind us, that we are not survivalists.

We see from the barren woman singing that we too join her, because He provides, He makes a way. He chooses the most unlikely way to remind us that we do not do this life alone, that He is the author of our story and the focus of our song.

Maybe you’re having a hard time seeing the context of your situation, circumstances just seem to be coming at face value, but let me reassure you that God has a way of working this story into a song, the circumstances into a poem of beauty and rhyme that He is authoring. We have to be willing to honor His work and not be our own authors, we weren’t made for it. Maybe our lives should be required reading every once in a while so we can see His authorship written across it all, providing the beautiful song of joy for Him.

Curses, Donkeys and Truth

God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Those words from Numbers. Words spoken by Balaam to Balak, a man unwilling to listen. Balak had come to Balaam to curse the nation of Israel, but God has His plans and His words. He used Balaam, who just verses before seemed to be attempting to channel a curse against the people of Israel.

This goes further back to Balaam being summoned by Balak, and thus giving his words to the highest bidder, regardless of their intent or content. Yet God would not allow it. Back in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, God tells him flat out “only the word which I speak to you-that you shall do.” This evolves into the encounter with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord, where Balaam is confronted with the state of his heart on pursuing his own way instead of the one in which God sent him out on.

So we come back to these words here, Balaam’s second prophecy from God to Balak. These words y’all…

I don’t know about you but today my very soul needed to shout them. To myself. He doesn’t lie to us. We may do that to ourselves, but God most certainly does not. And we are really good at lying to ourselves on alot of things that God has never said. Then we turn and look to what He has said and have the audacity to doubt and question if what He said was true. Y’all, I am standing right in this guilt along with you…because we are all guilty of lying to ourselves and then turning the tables on God on what He’s said to us.

I know that there have been times I have put God in human form that is nothing resembling Christ. That I stand in reverence one moment worshiping Him and then turn and act like nothing He has said is true. I don’t love others as I love Him, I don’t honor my parents as I should, I grow jealous of others and their wisdom/platform/ministry. I don’t see the good He’s working in me because I turn my lies into solid truth about all things.

When He speaks, He makes good on it. He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy, faithful and so very good. He cannot be pulled down to human form as we deem it and then question whether what He says is right, good and true. It’s us that needs the work, that has to rectify that while we cannot understand it some of the time, He is able. He is unchanging. He cannot renege on the promises He has given us. It is our responsibility as those who live in Christ to take those promises as truth, conforming and transforming our thinking to view life through that lens and not the human lies and doubt we so often jump to believing instead.


 

What truths do you need to believe from God today? What doubts have you supplanted in your heart, your mind that He’s told you to have no fear in?

These are things I wrestle with still, but know no matter what your heart and mind attempt to tell you that He is not us, He is God. He is good and true. He will make good on what He says and He will do what He says He will.

The Struggle is Real

Do you have those moments where you just know that it’s God talking through a friend specifically to you about something buried deep that you keep pushing back down?

No? Just me.

Oh well good.

Recently with a friend, who did not know what I had been killing and burying repeatedly within me, they brought up the struggle of the flesh with obedience to God’s prompting. I thought it interesting because I wasn’t prepared for that wallop at the time, since I myself had spent the better part of two weeks avoiding dealing with this rising notion of disobedience because of the flesh whispering the very thing it knew would get me, what others would think.

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Most of the time I am good at really not minding what is thought of me, but the grooves of my old self, an approval addict to the very core, found some footing in my heart as I sought to be obedient in what I still feel is God prompting me on about discipleship and women’s ministry. Then this verse came up when listening to a sermon first thing today and I knew it. I knew exactly what the flesh was after and the struggle I had not been fighting but just burying to avoid.

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. -Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

I was right back in my approval mode of life, looking alot like the habits of my old self and wondering what people would think of me if I asked, if I stepped out in obedience. I didn’t realize it in the moment, or over the course of the last few weeks but I knew for certain this morning that I was pursuing the things which I hate-old habits. A life that I had crucified to the cross because I was already approved, loved and adored by the One who went to the cross for me. Who took it all on Himself so that I would not have to worry about such things but live in the abundant approval of the King of the world.

But just because that approval addiction has been nailed to the cross doesn’t mean it still doesn’t wiggle off, limping and broken to come right back to me in the moments when the flesh wants to remind me of what I used to be, habits I left a solid tread mark for in my old self. I didn’t need a CSI team to tell me where those tracks led, but somehow I was willingly off the path that the Spirit had been leading, all too quickly simply out of the worry of approval.

Y’all, let me be the example to tell you that you cannot be living in obedience with God, walking in step with the Spirit and not expect your habits of old self to attempt to distract you. Because they do. They want you off that path, even with the lie as the pastor pointed out this morning, “that you’ll get back in step and on that path later.”

The struggle is truly real, not with our old selves but with those habits that wore deep paths within us from that prior life…ones that are often easier to find than the step in front of us that is with the Spirit. Maybe like me, you needed to hear today that even when we believe we are in step with the Spirit that our habits can distract us, can pull us into an old way that feels comforting and familiar but is blatantly disobedient to where we are supposed to be, where we are called to be by God. But we have the choice to recognize it, to see the old path and know that the outcome leads to death and hurt. So we can then choose repentance, obedience and placing that foot back on the path with the Spirit leading. Back in tune with “the desire to what is good” and knowing “there is no ability to do it” on our own. (Romans 7:18(b) HCSB)

Where is it today that you need to  step out of that habit of your former self to boldly step in the path with the Spirit? To choose obedience and the power of God in you rather than the flesh that reminds you of your old self?

The struggle is hard, but the continual sin of fleshly habits is real. And eternally tethered.

Post-It Note Mentality

post-it-notesI love Post-It notes. I use them for notes to myself, to others, as reminders or lists of things to do or get. They hold places in books and point out interesting parts in other books.

If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it.

I think many of us would agree we do the same. It’s easy to forget things in our lives, with the busyness and pace of life, where we sit in drive-thrus typing out replies to work emails, where while we microwave a lunch we discuss the next project or writing idea. We’ve turned into quite the hyper-speed culture, and it’s causing us to frame up all of our lives in the same manner.

I try to do the same with God and the prayers I bring before Him. That if they aren’t answered in an hour, a day or even a week (oh the torture of 7 days!), that He’s obviously said no or not now and I need to move along. I attempt to put our world’s timing on His work and then live with the fallout of disappointment, doubt or fear…or even hurt thinking I am not in tune with God’s best for me.

But God doesn’t work on our timetable, no matter how we try to fit Him into it. We know this from His word (2 Peter 3:8) and yet we try to microwave our prayers to Him. Hoping for a rushed response to what we lay before Him. There are times when He says no or not yet to a prayer and we do need to accept that response from Him.

I think the bigger issue is though that we’ve become so used to high-speed and self-checkout with no waiting that we expect the same of God and how He works in us.

We are His worksmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

Ephesians 2:10 shows us that we aren’t just his side hustle, devoting pockets of time to us when He can get around to us in parts of the day. We are a continual work of His hand-ever growing and being written out. To be a work, it takes time. It’s not instant art, but works of art. Someone once shared that this word “workmanship” in the original writing was the same for “poem” and that we are to be seen as pieces of art, taking time to write out and ever being rewritten for beauty and glory to Him.

I don’t know about you but I rather like being a poem written out for Him instead of a hastily drawn creature left to my own vices and whims. I prefer the length, depth and breadth of a work of art rather than a Post-it note doodle or task to be quickly marked off. Instead of forgetting something about us, God writes it into our story, over time and with His hand knowing we are more than Post-It note reminders to Him….we are His creation. Meant to live it out in the long-hand of this life rather than the quick texting we have become accustomed to in our day.

Whatever you are praying through, know that He is listening and at work with you in it. Don’t see His work as a Post-It note task to be done speedily but the long-form of a poem being written across time for your good and His glory.

Advent Week: Hope 

This week I broke my first pair of Ripstix, at 5:30am…They are lightly weighted drumsticks used in a fitness class I’ve been taking (I shared about POUND one Friday Favepost) for the last 11 months. It’s a big deal to break them, and it sparked a little hope in me on this well person journey I’m on. 

This week I got asked out. It was unexpected and provided a little hope that I might not be single until death (or The Lord returns). 

This week I saw people chipping in, time and talents, money and spirit to assist those who lost everything in the fires of my beloved Smokies. While lives have been lost, I have seen hope in the eyes of those found and those that made it out. Hope in words and deeds alike. 

Much of this week hope has been very tangible for me. It’s no coincidence as it’s the first week of Advent, the week of hope. While it’s nice to hope in the physical, the tangible, people and things, it’s not where our hope should remain. Our hope should be fully vested in Christ, who is the Hope of the World. A world that needs Him just as much as you and I do right this very minute. 

When I look at hope in Scripture, I see it woven in stories of lament, trouble and heartache. Stories like Ruth, Job, Hosea. I see it reminding us of the praise that is due when we hope in Him from the Psalms. Paul naming Christ as his hope, and ours too, in letters from prison. I am reminded of the truth of Romans 5:5, that hope does not disappoint because of Christ-God’s love poured out. 

Through trials, perseverance and character defining moments we push after hope, hope in the Christ who came thousands of years ago because of us right now. Christ that knew we would need Him, a Hope Everlasting, at this particular time and for this particular season. We hope in One Who is written across the pages of Scripture and lived out fully in our daily lives, calling us to hope in something better than a health plan or a person. 

He is our hope. Then, now and eternally. That hope does not disappoint but instead fills us, knowing our hope lasts when it’s fully in Him. 

Dry Ground and a River

We are in a bit of a drought here in middle Tennessee, and across the South in general, this year. We are close to four inches below where we typically are for this time of year, and you can see the markers of it. Dry, cracked ground…hard soil…plants succumbing to the changing season with sighs of thirst.

I was thinking on this as I read a portion of Joshua recently. The children of Israel were again to cross a river to get to the Promised Land. They were the children of the ones who did the initial crossing out of Egypt with Moses as their leader. Now they listen to Joshua, the main ordained as the leader of Israel into the Promised Land. They didn’t cross by boat, or shear might.

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No, God led them through, with specific plans. It wasn’t on dry land that He showed up, proving once more that He was with them in this journey. While we don’t see much hesitancy here from the people as we do the first go ’round with Moses, I cannot help but think they are calling to mind the stories they’d heard from the prior crossing.

Even when we recall past faithfulness on God’s part, it’s hard to not desire the dry ground to walk on. It’s easier to walk on dry ground, what we believe to be sure footing and stability. We are able to see it for ourselves and know the path before us. But here God is, calling us to the river once more, to walk through the physical representation of Living Water for our lives to reach the Promised Land. He calls us to obediently walk through that water with Him, knowing His strength in it is far more than anything we can accomplish on dry ground.

Because let’s be honest, dry ground is good for nothing. You can’t till it, it doesn’t bear fruit, it’s not fertile and it most definitely will not take seed. But we go after dry ground, we long for it rather than the trust of the river…crossing the unknown with our only surety being that the Living Water is with us, flowing around us.

The more I am called to cross over waters the more I am seeing He is taking me through them to the land He promised. While dry ground may bring stability for a season, the damage of the drought will far outweigh the fears silenced in obedience.