Archives for August 2013

Living in the Shelter of a Sovereign God {New Bible Study!}

Note: If you are reading this via email, you will need to click on the title (which will take you to the web page) in order to view the video.

Shelter AFour a.m. study/writing sessions, a collection of empty coffee cups surrounding my laptop, and a dining room table covered in papers and commentaries can only mean one thing – Bible study starts back in just a few weeks! If you are in the Brandon, FL area I really hope you’ll join me on Tuesday mornings or Wednesday nights beginning September 3rd and 4th. (For those who don’t live in the area I am hoping to be able to provide audio of each session, but the room where I teach is notorious for its technical difficulties. Much prayer is needed . . . haha! I will definitely post the study guide as a free download as soon as it is complete. You can pray for that too!)

Here’s a short “sneak peek” video for the study. If it’s something you’d like others to know about, would you do me a favor and share it? I sure would love to see some new faces in Bible study this year and social media is a great way to spread the word!

 

You can click here to pre-register for the study. (Not required, but recommended.)

And to wet your appetite just a little bit more, here’s the basic outline for each week of the study:

Living in the Shelter of a Sovereign God . . .

Week 1: When your family is a mess (various passages from Gen. 25-36; Gen 37:1-4)

Week 2: When the bottom falls out (Gen. 37, 38)

Week 3: When temptation overwhelms you (Gen. 39)

Week 4: When your hopes are dashed (Gen. 40)

Week 5: When you are promoted (Gen. 41; 47:13-26)

Week 6: When it’s hard to forgive (Gen 42-47:12; 50:15-21)

Week 7: When you have to walk by faith (Gen. 48-50)

Week 8: When you need to see Jesus (Joseph as a type of Christ, various passages)

In case you are wondering – yes, I am really, reeeeeaaaaally excited about this one! In fact, the only thing that could possibly make me any more excited is seeing your face as I teach. 🙂

 

When It’s Been Too Long and You’re Bone Dry

Surviving a Spiritual Funk ImageThis morning was the first morning in two months that I have gotten up before my family, sat in my big green chair and spent time with the Lord. That’s right – the girl who has a blog called “marinate”, whose passion in life is to help believers live Bible-saturated lives, who is scheduled to teach an eight-week Bible study to 200+ women in less than a month, who regularly gets messages and emails from people seeking insight into God’s Word, who believes with all of her heart and soul that time spent with Jesus is the most important part of any day . . . that girl has gone almost an entire summer without any meaningful time in the Word.

I’d like to tell you that this morning when my alarm went off I was eager to get back to it. The truth is the only thing I was “hungry” for was more sleep. Well, a donut then more sleep. Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps that is true in human relationships but it has never rung true in my relationship with the Lord. Absence from Him always makes my heart grow colder, dryer, and numb. That’s where I was at 5:30 this morning. Cold. Dry. Spiritually numb.

I suppose there are an infinite number of things that can lead to such “leanness of soul.” Sin is obviously first on that list. There have been many times when I have caused my own dry spell as I have willfully chosen my will over God’s. Repentance is always a part of getting our hearts back where they need to be. In most cases it’s the main part.

But this time my dry spell didn’t start with sin. It started with sickness – pregnancy sickness. Nearly two whole months of all day nausea, regular migraines, extreme fatigue, volatile emotions, and an all-around feeling of “I think I might die today.” If I were to write an essay on what I did this summer it would read: “I laid on the couch, dry heaved, ate carbs, and kept my 4 year old alive (which mainly consisted of feeding him processed food and changing the channel back and forth between Disney Jr. and Nick Jr.). The end.”

Please know that I am not beating myself up for failing to maintain a vibrant devotional life for the past several weeks. You can’t feel that badly for that long and it not impact your spiritual life. The One who made me certainly understands that! I’m not writing out of a sense of shame. If anything, I am more aware than ever of God’s grace which has indeed proven sufficient each and every day of this first trimester. Yes, even the days when I dry heaved so violently that I full-on wet my pants. True story.

You may find yourself right where I am today. Don’t worry – you’re probably not pregnant. 🙂 But maybe your summer has been crazy busy. Maybe you’re walking through a really hard trial. Maybe there is strife in your family that has made it feel impossible to get quiet before the Lord. Maybe you are dealing with depression. When we find ourselves in in a place of spiritual dryness, the most important thing is not analyzing how we got there. What matters most is taking those first steps to get out. Regardless of how we got there, we can’t be okay with staying there. In light of that, I thought I’d share what I’m doing to rekindle my passion for God and His Word.

1)      I’m asking people to pray for me.

A few weeks ago I sat and cried my eyes out at a dear friend’s kitchen table. In between sobs I shared how hollow I felt. How hard the past few weeks had been. How unprepared I feel to teach Bible study this Fall.  Then, she prayed for me. Like, really really prayed for me. The kind of prayer that leaves you with a nice mixture of snot and mascara all over your face. In that moment I was reminded how much I needed that. Since then I am trying to be more intentional about asking others to pray for God to restore my joy and it has made such a difference. It amazes me how God leads these prayer warriors of mine to send me little notes of encouragement just when I need it most. He’s so good like that!

2)      I’ve recommitted to having a daily quiet time.

Spiritual checklists have a really bad reputation and rightly so. If our only motive in reading the Bible, praying, going to church, etc. is to get it done and receive some kind of gold stars on our heavenly behavior chart, we are sorely mistaken and are pretty much walking hand-in-hand with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Habits without heart are the breeding ground of hypocrisy.

There are times, however, when spiritual duty is our lifeline to a renewed sense of delight. Times when those habits are the primary means by which God will restore our hearts. Times when you have to sit in that chair and read your Bible not because you want to, not because you feel anything, not because you feel madly in love with Jesus, but because God said so – because He has ordained that the one and only way to restore a malnourished soul is to abide in Jesus (John 15).

I thought that when the pregnancy sickness started to go away my desire to have a quiet time would automatically return, but that’s not what happened. I didn’t want to get up this morning. I didn’t want to read or pray or journal. I just wanted to sleep. While my ultimate goal is a renewed sense of delight in the Lord, right now my priority has to be discipline. There are no short cuts to personal revival. I keep reminding myself of that over and over again.

I can no longer tell myself that I should get up and have a quiet time. The truth is, I must have a quiet time. If I want a heart the beats with fiery passion for the glory of my Lord and Savior and a life that puts His beauty on display a daily devotion is not an option, it’s a necessity.

Just a side note – as you get back into the Word try starting out in your favorite passages and using your favorite devotional. Even if you left off 6 months ago in the middle of Leviticus or Ezekiel, you may want to put that on hold a bit longer and start reading in John, Philippians, or some of your favorite Psalms.  Build those spiritual muscles up a bit before you get back to the heavy lifting.

3)      I’m resting in the goodness and grace of God.

It can be discouraging to walk around my church knowing  that most of the people around me assume I am having these amazing moments with God when in reality my Bible is sitting on my desk collecting dust because all I have had the energy to do for two months is glance at my Spurgeon devotional a few times. Worse than that is knowing that while others might assume I’m doing great, God sees that dusty Bible. He knows all about my prayerlessness. He’s well aware of my lack of desire for Him and His Word. Nothing is hidden from Him. But here’s the amazing thing . . .

God isn’t mad at me. In addition to being all-knowing, He is an infinitely loving, gracious, and faithful Father. I have a High Priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses and beckons me to come before His throne in order to receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need (Heb. 4:15, 16). His perfect sufficiency is more than enough to cover my lack; His strength is more than enough to cover my weakness; His faithfulness is more than enough to cover my failures; His grace is more than enough to cover my sin.

This morning as I was telling God about this barren wasteland of a place I feel like I am living in right now He spoke to my heart and reminded me that what matters most is not where I am, but where He is. And He’s right here with me. Always has been. Always will be. His presence is enough.

4)      I’m praying very specifically for personal revival.

One thing that always strikes me about the petitions of the Psalmists is how many times they ask to be revived, renewed, or restored. As I read their honest cries for deliverance, I am reminded of the truth that every day with Jesus is NOT necessarily sweeter than the day before. Some days are hard. Some weeks are grueling. Some seasons are full of nothing but one hardship after another.  While those are the times we usually grow the most, they are also the times when we feel it the least. Before long we often find that our ears don’t hear His voice as loudly, our eyes don’t see His hand as clearly, and our hearts don’t sense His presence as intensely. In those seasons we basically have two choices: we can dry up or we can cry out. Today I choose to cry out!

As I pray, several verses keep coming to mind (Ps. 119:36, Ps. 86:11; Ps. 51:10, 12; Ps. 19:1-14; Ps. 119:88), but nothing quite summarizes the desire of my heart like the words of Psalm 143 (I’ve added some of my own thoughts in italics):

“Answer me quickly, O LORD, my spirit fails;
Do not hide Your face from me,
Or I will become like those who go down to the pit. (Powerfully manifest Your presence in my life! I want to see You!)
Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You; (As I seek You, continue to remind me of your faithful, steadfast love for me!)
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul. (Direct each and every step I take!)
Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies;
I take refuge in You. (Rescue me from selfishness, depressed emotions, shame, anxiety, laziness, etc.)
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God; (Reveal Your will to me and enable me to walk in it!)
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Fill me with Your Spirit and grant me the consistency and stability that I currently lack!)
For the sake of Your name, O LORD, revive me.
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. (From the inside out – REVIVE ME LORD!)

 We pray for so many things but all too often we pray the least for that which matters the most – our own hearts. If there is anything we can’t “fix” on our own, it’s that! So however dry the ground beneath you, choose to kneel there and cry out to the One who made everything out of absolutely nothing. You’ll be amazed what He can do in the most desolate of places that are soaked with the tears and fervent prayers of a child who longs to once again experience fullness of joy in the presence of her Heavenly Father.

This day is almost done. The “auto brew” on the coffee pot is set. My Bible, pen, and journal are in their place. My alarm is on. A day full of new mercies is just one night’s sleep away. I may not feel like it, but tomorrow morning I will get up. I will pray. I will read.  I will be still. I will listen. I will obey. For I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that somewhere along the way my joy will be restored. My passion will be rekindled. My heart will be revived. In His presence is fullness of joy; in His right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). That means it’s flat out impossible to fervently seek Him and stay dry. I love that!

However long it’s been, it’s never been too long. However dry we feel, we’re never too dry. However far we’ve wandered, we’re never too far.

So today I choose to take those first steps. I choose a fresh start. I choose obedience. I choose joy. I sure would love for you to join me.

Cultivate my heart, Lord, so I may catch every word that falls from heaven- every syllable of encouragement, every sentence of rebuke, every paragraph of instruction, every page of warning.  Help me to catch these words as the soft, fertile soil catches seeds”.  – Ken Gire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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