Favorites of 2016

I’m a words person.

My Christmas list, birthday requests, favorite surprises, etc., all have to do with words. The Lord’s Word is dear to me. I treasure phrases and conversations. God uses words to teach me, shape me, and grow me in Him.

So it’s no surprise when I think on 2016 that some of my favorite, most memorable gifts from the Lord have been comprised of words like these (in no particular order:)

Favorite Blog Posts

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Clarify Your Calling by Micah Maddox

What the World Needs Now From Christians by Lisa Whittle

When You Need to Make a U-Turn by Debbie Wilson

Why Stuck is a Good Place to Stand by Joy Williams

Hope for the Heavy Seasons by Lois Flowers

Jesus is Not Your Cheerleader by Melissa Kruger

Transitions: When He Shapes, Molds, and Orchestrates In the Middle of the Unknown by Christine Duncan

Waiting for Breakthrough by Lesley 

Books

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Peace for a Lifetime by Lisa Murray

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

Soul H2O by Sherry Stahl

Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman

A Foreign Devil in China by John Pollock

What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers

Song Lyrics

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Oh My Soul by Casting Crowns

Thy Will by Hillary Scott

Just Around the Corner by Martina McBride

Be Still and Know by Hannah Kerr and Mark Hall

Dear Younger Me by MercyMe

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I know whom I have believed and am fully convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. –2 Timothy 1:12

Be still and know that I am God. -Psalm 46:10

The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes His steps. –Proverbs 16:9

He must increase, I must decrease. –John 3:30

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him and He will do this. –Psalm 37:4-5

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen – Hebrews 11:1

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? –Hebrews 13:6

The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding –Job 28:28

What words has the Lord used in your life this year?

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

 

 

 

His Word Works in Me- The Word Works Series

The final post in The Word Works Series! I’m so thankful!

Over the past two months, some amazing, gracious guest bloggers have written to encourage, exhort, and testify to the power of God’s Word at work in their lives.

God Himself testifies to the abilities of His Word.

For example, Scripture tells us that the Bible:

I can testify to the work of God through His Word, too.

So many stories to choose from…let me just tell you about 3 ways the Lord’s Word has worked in my heart and my life.

The Word Has Worked in Me:

  1. By Anchoring Me in the Truth

No matter how much time I pour into reading Scripture and participating in fellowship, I am forgetful. Charles Spurgeon explains that Christ told us to have communion in remembrance of Him because we need to be reminded to remember Him! Spurgeon encourages us to “tie a heavenly forget-me-not around our hearts for Jesus.”

Deuteronomy 11:18 echoes:

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

After really regretting that I did not remember to turn to God throughout several days, I was convicted to take this charge more literally.

I began writing a verse on a small slip of paper each morning. That little note from the Lord is tucked into my pocket for the day. It comes out every time my cell phone or my wallet does.

That way, the Word is bound to me the same way my clothes or my other daily possessions are.

The result?

I am anchored, bound, held, by the truth.

firm and secure

When I pull my phone out to communicate with someone, I’m reminded to listen to the Lord first. If I reach in to spend, His Word has a say. I have His word to think on when I’m sitting, waiting. As I go about my day, His Word is accessible enough to constantly comfort, challenge, and correct me.

It’s a little bit harder to accidentally stray from the truth when the truth is literally on my person.

I value that anchor which fixes me in my place- before the Lord!

  1. By Drawing Me Nearer to the Lord

Why is it that when we’re angry or hurting or doubting, or even happy, we don’t just reach for the Bible? It seems like reaching for the Bible, for most us, is something we tend to do just because we know we should.

How ironic that we often feel we’re not hearing from God or like the truth is unclear! Humbly and sincerely turning our hearts to the Word results in us drawing near to our Lord. This brings us nearer to Him, where His words are audible more clearly. This is where He speaks directly.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

A godly life is a life connected and obedient to God! One of the greatest gifts He has given us- and one of the most powerful- is His divine revelation recorded in Scripture.

As an avid reader, the Bible is a very personal gift to me from God and one I easily enjoy.

Not so for everybody. If just reading through Scripture is tough for you, consider:

  • Praying through Scripture
  • Listening to it on audio CDs or the web
  • Participating in Bible Studies that walk directly through Bible passages
  • Studying with a partner so that you hear it spoken
  • Posting verses around your spaces
  • Memorizing verses
  1. By Making Faith Personal to Me

Fact: Scripture can seem impersonal. God can too. Part of sin is distance- between us and our God. Christ bridges that gap for us. But often we still feel the expansive gulf beneath our feet when we step out in faith along the narrow way.

The narrow path opens at my feet and promises safe passage. I see that it is my path, ordained by the Lord. He has gone before me, as His Word describes.

I try to remember as I open the Word that God didn’t just give it as a rule book or to speak to people long ago. He speaks through it today. To me.

When I get into the Word, believing it to be alive and active, His word grips me.

In His Word He has anticipated my questions, doubts, and needs. Just like He did with those He spoke to back then.

Have you visited His Word and listened? The time with Him is precious.

Get into His Word, get near to Him. As so many can testify- and God Himself says- there is no better, no more secure a place to be.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: In

Seriously? A word study on a preposition? Yes and more yes!

Here’s why: “in” occurs twice in this verse:

“But you, dear friends,

by building yourselves up in your most holy faith

and praying in the Holy Spirit”

Jude 1:20

But each “in” is different.

(1) The first is a definite article of speech. AKA, this “in” is just highlighting the subject: the building of holy faith.

(2) The secondin” is indeed a preposition, and it pointedly explains our position in prayer.

To be “praying in the Holy Spirit” is to be

(a) in the condition of

(b) in realm of

(c) inside of, alongside of, within

When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we pray in the position of one whose condition is defined by that same Spirit. We pray from alongside the Spirit the Lord sent to help us. As we interact with God by praying in the Holy Spirit, we connect in the terms of His realm, His kingdom, and His will. That’s what Ifeoma was talking about in her post earlier this week.

Praying in the Holy Spirit isn’t so much a long distance call as it is sitting beside our Lord and simply conversing.

This “in” preposition is the same used to describe:

  • People being baptized in water = immersed in
  • A winnowing fork in the hand of God = held by
  • Sickness in people = filled with
  • Where God resides in the heavens = dwelling in
  • Speaking in parables = formed in
  • Having the Word sown in the heart = located in

Just take the verse and fill in with these italicized examples. For instance:

“Praying immersed in the Holy Spirit.”

in prayer word

In” is a basic word, but it speaks volumes about prayer and our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

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Praying that we would be so willing to let the Holy Spirit change our heart condition, set us in place, and come alongside us as we interact with God!

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: Satisfy

To have enough. What a mind-boggling concept. We live our days on “more,” not “enough.”

Our time is spent seeking more time. Our appetites are never appeased for long. Our work earns what it takes to get by- but never enough to meet all of our needs and desires.

We are the unsatisfied. And often, we’re proud of that fact. Accomplishing more and gaining more earn us praise and make us successful in this world.

But Scripture says this:

“Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?”

Isaiah 55:2

We prefer to seek and seek and seek. To spend and gain. It’s no surprise, though, that this prodding toward satisfaction is found in the same chapter as the well-known word from God that His way is not our way. That His way is higher than ours.

Our way, our focus on “more,” is ever-changing and expanding. But God’s is complete. Whole. Contented. Full.

His way -His self- is enough.

You can breathe that sigh of relief now.

“Praise the Lord, my soul…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:5

Satisfy is a beautiful word.

In this verse Michele shared in her earlier post about memorizing the mind of God, we’re reminded of what satisfaction accomplishes: renewal and praise.

Yes, that’s right. Satisfaction accomplishes something.

Without satisfaction, we’re in the loop of “more.” We’re trapped in a cycle. But satisfaction says “enough.” Calls us full, and marks the completion of something.

Satisfaction means that what was intended has been fulfilled.

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That fullness gives glory to the Lord. It shows the fullness of His plans and demonstrates His faithfulness.

When we are satisfied, we admit that the Lord is all that He says He is and give Him the ultimate praise: that there is none other and nothing more. That He is the standard, the good, and the end we seek.

Satisfaction proclaims that our God is indeed perfect.

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Another mind-boggling concept, I know. But praise Him!

For being so complex, the truth is quite simple: Why spend on that which can’t satisfy? Praise the Lord: He does satisfy. To find what is enough and complete, look no further than to Him.

This post is being shared on:
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Memorizing the Mind of God- The Word Works Series

There’s always something to learn on Michele’s blog Living Our Days because Michele is a true learner. Writing frequent book reviews, commentary on Bible studies, and posts on lessons she’s learning, Michele is a sit-at-His-feet writer. Eager to plop down and dig in with her today!
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“I want to keep it handy in case I need it,” she said, matter-of-factly.

She wasn’t talking about a flashlight.

Not a package of tissues.

Not a cell phone – they hadn’t been invented in 1978.

She was talking about Isaiah 55.

I liked it,” she went on.  “So I memorized it.”

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

The words poured from her lips, because they were, indeed, handy, and although the pale yellow V.W. Rabbit continued on its way south down Route 1, I had been stopped in my tracks at the miracle of memorization.  My friend had captured for herself the treasure of thirteen verses of exquisite beauty and stunning promises — mountains and hills bursting into song and trees clapping their hands – all for the LORD’s glory and renown.

There is no way she could have known that my view of Scripture would be forever changed on that bumpy pot-holed ride, for I saw clearly that, in my friend’s mind, the Words of God were a banquet — all delightful — and she would have devoured them all given the time and opportunity.      

I decided to start in the Psalms, words of praise to fill a mouth that was unpracticed in the exaltation of a majestic God.  I knew that I was supposed to “appreciate His attributes” and “thank Him for His blessings” in prayer, but a dusty list of multi-syllabic theological adjectives caught in my throat and felt forced, unnatural.  However, borrowing the words of Psalm 103, thanksgiving pours from my heart even today, because God:

“. . . forgives all my iniquities, heals all my diseases, redeems my life from destruction, crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies and satisfies my mouth with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s”

Tired and empty, I find that Psalm 63 frames my soul’s thirst “in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, to see [His] power and His glory. . .  because His lovingkindness is better than life.”

This is more than just having good theology or thinking God’s thoughts after Him.  Memorizing Scripture forces the mind to turn over the words, to consider their order, to linger over their meaning, and to recognize patterns and parallels.  This is allowing Truth to change the folds and creases of my gray matter so that my every thought is impacted.  Could this be what my wayward heart needs in order to stand with Paul in “bring[ing] every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ?” (II Corinthians 10:5)

When I go for a walk, it is not unusual for me to carry a few 3×5 cards in my pocket so that I can review verses that I am working on, because even my pocket isn’t near enough when my thoughts need adjusting, when my outlaw heart starts hammering itself an idol out of scraps and trinkets, or when I hear the hiss of lies about the basis of God’s love for me.  When this happens, the Truth that holds me in the faith is a reset button to “set my mind” on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5), on things above (Colossians 3:2).

Like any spiritual discipline, memorization creates space in my life for God. It heightens my awareness of His scandalous grace, deepens my listening to the voice of the God who has spoken into space and time, and puts my mind into a posture of intent to obey and to follow.

Living and powerful, His thoughts sift and winnow my own,

revealing motives that I would rather not see.

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Through Scripture, I am able to absorb the intimate vocabulary of worship, the raw expressions of lament, or the wisdom of instruction that sets me on a right path – not because I’m racking up points on an “Extreme Discipleship Scorecard,” but because in the process of memorizing Scripture, I find the true meaning of learning the Truth by heart.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

Lessons from a Lobster- The Word Works Series!

Glad to have Niki and her candid, humorous storytelling kick off this series. Niki’s blog My Story, My God, is a brave place. There you’ll find frank, funny stories that point to the author of the One story we’re all a part of. She also offers a free eBook called Hearing God’s Voice - A Short Practical Guide. I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

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Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken… Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

-Psalm 62:2 & 6

Have you ever wondered how a lobster grows? How a small, baby lobster gets to be a big, strong lobster with a shell of steel?

Since their tough, rigid shells don’t flex or grow along with their soft, and might I say rather delicious, muscular bodies, growing as we do isn’t really an option for these mouthwatering invertebrates. Despite my penchant for devouring this tasty crustacean with copious quantities of melted butter, I’ve never really taken the time to fathom this mystery of the deep.

As it turns out, the lobster grows inside its shell and its body starts to push against that inflexible steel-like shell. Pressure builds up for our poor little lobster friend signaling that it’s time to go in search of a safe place to hide. Instinctively the lobster seeks out a nice rock or deep crevice, where it’s safe to shed its protective shell.

For a few short hours (which probably feel like a lifetime to our little friend) until his new shell grows, he’s naked and vulnerable, yet safe under the rock.

A few years ago I had no choice but to be a lobster and seek shelter in God, my rock, because I was diagnosed with cancer; rectal cancer. It was just six short years after I’d held my mum’s paper soft hand as she passed away from lung cancer, and a mere six weeks after I’d cradled my sister’s hand as she’d lost her battle with the same disgusting disease. My world was rocked and the ground fell out from under me. During the long months that followed, I hung onto this Psalm. These two verses smudging together to form, what I now fondly call, my “mish-mash verse”.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

I repeated these words at every turn. As I was scanned, scoped and waited for results.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

As I lay awake at night, alone in the hospital, with nothing but a morphine pump and IV for company.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

When we told our children that, like their grandma and auntie, I too had cancer.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.”

And now, as I deal with the after effects of a cancer like mine; always requesting an aisle seat near the loo, never leaving home without my Immodium, and learning that sometimes, when the bottom falls out of your world and the world falls out of your bottom, that it’s good and healing to laugh in the midst of the mess.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and my strength.” <ClickToTweet>

When I was faced with such overwhelming pressure that threatened to drown me, I had no choice but to seek comfort, love and peace in God’s presence. Looking back now, I see how my relationship with God, my faith and peace grew beyond measure.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually grateful for that pressure and that journey. <ClickToTweet>

Now, as the stresses of life have eased off, I catch myself relying on other more worldly, less reliable, things when the pressures of life build up; my emotions, other people, food, myself worth. Sadly, these provide little protection from prowling predators and my faith starts to stagnate and I don’t grow.

So I wish I were more lobster-like today as I deal with the pressures, stress and discomforts of life.

The lobster-like me would instinctively understand that as soon as I feel squeezed, pressured, overwhelmed, and about to burst, that’s my signal to hunker down under The Rock. Under the safety of the true rock I am protected and safe to discard the emotions, beliefs and lies that are holding me back. Protected from the enemy I am safe to be naked for a while and free to grow.

When we feel the pressure of life, if we are willing to seek protection and safety under The Rock and be exposed and vulnerable for a while, He will grow us and give us all we need to go back into the world more like Him.

Lobster-therock

When we seek shelter in God, who is our one true rock, He saves us, strengthens us and protects us. When we look to the world for our strength and our salvation we find a paper-mache fortress that is quick to blow away, leaving us at the mercy of the storms of life, unprotected and unable to grow into all that God has for us.

Lobster-looktotheworld

Let me invite you to set your inner lobster free! Or, rather more spiritually put; when you feel the squeeze and pressures of life, seek cover in The Rock, who will save you, strengthen you and protect you in His fortress.

Then you’ll be free to grow into the person (or lobster) He created you to be.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

THE WORD WORKS

A simple “I love you” can take root in a person’s heart and change them. Hearing “I believe in you” or “you’re special” makes all the difference to children- and confident adults. Likewise, disparaging words can wreak havoc on anyone’s life.

Our words are powerful. How much more are His?

Over the centuries, people have used God’s Word for many powerful purposes. Some have seen it as a rule book. There are people who find it so unlike any other book that they won’t approach it without an intercessor. People have used it to punish, dehumanize, build up, excuse, justify, and permit any number of wrongs.

On the other hand, many have found God’s Word to be a valuable self-help book. It has been used in diverse and plentiful ways to teach morality. The Bible has informed cultures and governments. On a more personal level, it has been used to encourage and to build up.

But Scripture isn’t a tool for us to use and mold as we find convenient.

God’s Word- breathed by Him upon us- is alive and active.

His Word is at Work.

A weapon we wield, a light for our path, a refuge we run to, Scripture does more than work for us. God’s Word works in us. <<click to tweet>>

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul thanks God:

“because, when you received the word of God…you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

As Christians, the Holy Spirit uses the God-breathed Word to breathe new life into believers. His Word works in us to:

Equip us. Correct us. Teach us. Train us.

Guide us. Bless us. Grow us.

Free us. Transform us. Exhort us. Sustain us.

Flow through us.

(all those links are to Scripture- breathe it in!!)

We don’t always feel like God’s Word really works in our culture, our circumstances, or our lives. But He does- and it does.

I’ve experienced this in my own life and study of Scripture. I know many others have too.

For several upcoming Mondays, some wonderful bloggers will be sharing posts in this series reflecting on how God’s Word Works in their lives. Each Wednesday, I’ll reflect on a particular Word from His Word related to each blogger’s post.

We would love for you to join us as we praise the Lord and rejoice in His Work in our lives through the Word! 

Join in this multi-week series of bloggers sharing how God’s Word has worked in their lives! <<Click to Tweet>>

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

Listening In Clarity

Sometimes I think we’re more accustomed to noise than we are to quiet. The loud must be important. We think that if it is said often enough, it must be valid. In fact, our culture is so tuned into hearing everyone’s opinions that even competing views are now considered relative truths.

Although we might often listen through the noise and the static in our lives- I still wonder how much of the quiet truth we actually absorb. Sure, we might hear it, but…

Listening to a still, small voice doesn’t always feel powerful.

Clear, simple answers don’t always feel sufficient.

The more straightforward a word, the harder it is for us to find it relevant. We tend to overcomplicate things, including the Word of God and the truth.

Before the better-known verse in Romans 1 about our being without excuse, we find this truth:

what can be known about God is plain to them,

because God has shown it to them.”

Romans 1:19

We’re included in that “them” as those who have been wicked and ungodly. Even as those who are saved and redeemed, we know that:

“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”

-1 Corinthians 14:33

There’s a reason that even children can understand the Word of God, listen, and obey. A part of childlike faith is listening in that way –without confusion or complication. We are to take Him at His Word: simply and clearly.

Grandiose speeches and lengthy explanations are not methods God uses. The Lord does not need to compensate with volume or bombardment to make His Word more relevant or true for us. His Word, like Himself, is sufficient, all-powerful, and here with us for our good. Believe it.

My prayer and challenge lately is that when we hear that still, small voice, we’ll listen and obey with as much clarity and simplicity as the Word He has given us.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

24. BEHOLD: The Merry

Merry Christmas Eve! Have the festivities begun? Are you making merry? Do you know what “merry” is all about?

The dictionary tells us:

merry def

Scripture also uses the word.

we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead,

and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Luke 15:32

The Greek word for “merry” is “euphrainó.” Interestingly enough, in its definition, alongside have a cheery outlook and being glad, is the idea that merriment is the kind of gladness that comes because of a sense of victory. Within the definition of merriment is also the word feast.

“All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”

-Proverbs 15:15

Merriment is like having a feast before you. The cheery outlook of being merry is the perspective of seeing not just the glass full, but the whole table!

Is there not a sense of victory in that alone? Everything before you is full, abundant, enticing. The fullness of the table ahead offers certainty that you, too, will be full.

Anyone who has prepared a feast or attended one knows the delight and warmth of a full table. Especially one full of food and loved ones. That’s the sort of celebration thrown all throughout history when a victory is had.

At Christmas, we gather around our tables, our trees, and our trays of cookies. We gather with loved ones. We gather to revel in and celebrate the full victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Born a king. Born victorious. Sin and death never stood a chance –not even before the least of these, a newborn baby.

The Lord uses the weak and the little to triumph over the strength of the powers of evil. Through that victory, God uses this time of year to fill our hearts with the fullness of Christ and the assurance that we will filled in Him forever.

Behold, the victory of the Merry Christ.

Behold, the merriment born of the fullness of Christ with us.

Behold, the merry heart that looks on us as ones to share the feast and fullness with.