Devotion

Illustration of God’s Truths

After a week of being gut punched by the enemy to the point I couldn’t pray or worship, the Holy Spirit’s reassurance that God is still in control, Jesus’s blood still covers, and He is still working on our behalf for our good.

I will admit this week has been one of the hardest, if not the hardest, moments in my life. I spent most of it sobbing, gasping for air, and pleading for God to just work, just work. I had no other words, just sobs.

These moments are crucial decision moments where we can either lean away or lean into God. Tho I felt abandoned and hopeless, I told God I would lean into Him and what He has revealed to me over the last two years: He is there even though I can’t see Him; He is working on my behalf and on the behalf of those involved even though it doesn’t look like it; He loves me even though it doesn’t feel like it. Then I stood on the promise that it will all work out for good, and if it’s not good, it still being worked out.

Today’s devotion from Hebrews 3:1-6 shored up my legs for the inevitable battle that is right around the corner.

“Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. He is work was an illustration of the truths of God would reveal later.”  Hebrews 3:5

Moses was faithful to God in his servanthood. He never stopped serving when he got the air knocked out of him. He leaned into the Lord. Because he was faithful, everything he did – his work and life – showed the world, then and now, the truths of the God he served.

Moses was a faithful servant. He sought the presence of God, listened to God’s voice, and adhered to His commands to the best of his abilities. Those three decisions were the most important to Moses: seeking, listening, and obeying. The illustrations of the truths of God were in addition to what Moses did. They were a natural outcome of his seeking, listening, and obeying. there was nothing else that could have happened but the truths of God being revealed through is life.

One cannot constantly seek the presence of God, listen to His voice, and obey and then show anything else.

Were there be painful times? Yes.
Were there frustrating times? Yes.
Were there times when he had the air knocked out of him and he felt dismayed? I am most certain of it.

Moses didn’t have it easy, but through all of it, he continued to stay in the presence of God, and through all of it, God’s truths were revealed, illustrated, and written down for all to see.

“But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. and we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.” Hebrews 3:6

God’s house is not a building, but it is us, you and me – His followers, those who believe on Jesus’s sacrifice and accept is as our atonement.

When I was at my most vulnerable this last week, I did the only courageous and confident thing I could do. I leaned into God and asked Him to work for me. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t eloquent. It was amid deep, guttural sobs and loads of snot. The simple words were vomited out of a painfully contorted mouth. It was ugly and sad, and I felt broken and empty. It was all I could do.

When waves of hopelessness began to wash over me, I’d do it all again: “Just work, God. Please, just work.” It was a plea, not a command.

If didn’t feel courageous or confident at the time, and I still don’t if the truth be known. Relying on the fact that I am of the house of God and leaning into Jesus when devastation hits me may not look, on the outside, courageous or confident, but it is. It takes courage to lay down one’s pride and run to Jesus. Asking Him to help showed I was a part of God’s house. Knowing He would and will continue to help is revealing my confidence in the only One who can split the darkness and redeem the situation.

It didn’t feel good, but it doesn’t have to.

I am now confident that God is going not only going to reveal His truths to me and my family, but as I continue to seek His presence, listen to His voice, and obey Him, He will use us as an illustration of His truths.

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Devotion, Inspirationals

Trust in the Lord

Sometimes I have to remember exactly what it means to trust.

I not only forget what trust really means, I forget what my part I play in a trusting relationship with God.

Trust is a verb. It’s an action. It means to place a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Think on that.

Trust is firm.
Trust is a firm belief, a conviction.
Trust is a firm belief, a conviction, in God’s reliability, his quality of being dependable.
Trust is the conviction in God’s reliability, his quality of being dependable, His truth, what He says is fact and is real.
Trust is the conviction in God’s reliability, in His words being fact and real, and in His ability, His possession of the means to do something.
Trust is the conviction in God’s reliability, in His truth, in Him possessing the means to do something, and in His strength, the ability to withstand great pressure or the power to move something heavy.
Trust is the conviction in God’s reliability, truth, ability, and strength.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. See His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

Trust that He speaks the truth and has the ability.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) says, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Hold to the conviction that God possesses the power to move what is heavy in your life and that He will withstand the great pressure for you. He will give you the ability to get through it.

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Cling to the conviction in God’s reliability, truth, ability, and strength.

God is the One Who makes me to be strong.
God is the One Who makes me to soar.
God is the One Who makes me to run.
God is the One Who makes me to walk.
God is the One Who gives me courage.
God is the One Who helps me.
God is the One Who who makes me victorious.
God is the One Who shows me the path.

I seek Him in all I do.
I trust Him with all my heart.

God’s hands are on the circumstance.
My eyes are on God.

Trust mean removing my eyes from what’s before me and placing them on God, and God only, resting assured He’s got me.

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Devotion, Inspirationals

Just call me Talitha Cumi

The tiniest, most insignificant word can change the perception of and insight into scripture.

 

Take for instance Mark 5:35-42 (cf Luke 8:49-55) the narrative of Jarius, the leader of the synagogue, coming to Jesus for help because his daughter was dying. While Jarius is making his request, he is told that his daughter is dead and nothing can be done.

Enter Jesus.

This is the point where we all get excited! We know something mind-blowing is going to happen when Jesus arrives on the scene, and of course, the narrative doesn’t disappoint. Among mocking laughter, Jesus raises Jarius’s daughter from the dead.  Who’s laughing now?

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This portion of scripture is a wonderful example of how we should trust in Jesus no matter the dire circumstances nor the scoffers surrounding us, but those are not the only mind-blowing, perspective changing lessons to learn here.

Look closely at verse 41 and 42:

“Then [Jesus] took the [girl] by the hand, and said to her, ‘Tabitha cumi,’ which is translated ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked[.]”

Look at Jesus’s command to Jarius’s daughter more closely.

Talitha (Tal-ee-tha) means young girl in Aramaic.

Cumi (Coo-mee) is the Aramaic command to rise!

Jesus is literally saying, “Young girl, rise!” Because Jesus doesn’t specify where she is rising from or rising to, we may add the metaphorical (or figurative) interpretation which opens to far-reaching implications.

There are the literal interpretations to rise from the bed, from sleep, or even to rise to a standing position which have many interpretations when read figuratively; however, metaphorically, Jesus is also commanding her to rise from the grasp of death, rise to a new day, rise to new life!

Jesus is holding the girls hand when he commands her to rise. In essence, Jesus is saying “Little girl, get up! Death has no hold on you, for LIFE has your hand!” And she responds immediately. Immediately. She has to! Just as Jesus commanded “Peace, be still” and the water obeyed, Jarius’s daughter had to rise. She had no choice, for when Jesus took her by the hand there was no more room for death. She had to come alive!

When the hand of Life itself touches you, you must come alive!

I have no parents to weep over me, but I can take these words and remind myself exactly Who is by my side and Who holds my hand! I can hear Jesus command me, “Talitha, rise! Death has no hold on you. Where My Spirit is, there is freedom. You are saved by My blood, empowered by my Spirit, and guided and held by My hand – the very hand of Life! Get up!”

That is my command – to rise!

That is your command – to rise!

If death cannot hold us in the ground, it certainly can’t lay claim to us while we are walking in the land of the living.  That means we am more than our circumstances. We am more than our mistakes. We am more than our consequences because the very Breath of Life is not only holding our hands, but is also LIVING in us!

Whoop! Let’s have a Holy Ghost party up in here!

My friend, the life giving hand of Jesus isn’t just for Jarius’s daughter, and it isn’t just for me. Jesus’s life-giving hand is for you!

You are a child of the King of Kings. That means your are a daughter (Talitha) or son (Taley) to the Most High God. Whatever death has laid claim to in your life, let Jesus touch it and then RISE! Stand up! Begin living victoriously in your new life as a child of the King! You can life isn’t directed by your circumstances. Your identity isn’t found in your mistakes. You are not held down by the consequences of bad decisions because the One Who breathes Life is not lonely holding your hand, He is LIVING in you!

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Devotion

Studying the Bible, Part 3

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: there is no right way to study the Bible. If you are opening the Bible, reading it, thinking (meditating) about it and trying to apply it all day, and then gaining some insight from a Bible teacher, study notes, etc., then you are on the right track.

Studying the Bible is about getting it into your mind, letting it sink into your heart, and allowing it to flow out of you. If you want to use books by others to help you until you feel a little more confident, then I encourage you to do so. However, I also encourage you to set aside all the study helps and delve into the Bible by yourself and let the Holy Spirit speak to you directly through the scriptures.

Howard Hendricks once said, “There is no jewel more precious than that which you have mined yourself.” 

As you mature in your faith, you will need more in-depth study of the Bible to explore concepts, ideas, and even words. The inductive approach is ideal for such times, and let’s face it, books are expensive.

The S.O.A.P. method of studying your Bible works well with the inductive approach because it prompts observation and application. (If you are looking for other ways of studying inductively, I recommend Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible. It’s an oldie but a goodie.)

Tools:
a concordance or your Bible’s chain reference
notebook
writing utensil (you can use highlighters if you’re feeling fancy)

  1. Topical/Subject/Concept Study:
    A concept study give you a well-rounded understanding of what the the Word of God has to say concerning a specific subject, topic, or concept.

    For example, your pastor asks the congregation to participate in a corporate fast. This piques your interest, and you begin a concept study.  Using your concordance or your Bible’s subject index, find the first mention of fasting in the Bible. Read the entire chapter in which it is found to gain context and then start writing.

    Scripture:      Write down the scripture that jump out at you.
    Observation: Using the who, what, when, where, how approach, jot down what the Holy Spirit shows you in those scriptures.
    Who was fasting?
    For what were they fasting?
    When were they fasting (for how long)?
    Where was the fast taking place?
    How long were the people (or person) fasting?
    Application:  Make notes about how this passage answers your questions about fasting. How can you apply the new insights to your current fast?  How does this information fit with what you already know? How do you need to adjust what you think or believe about fasting?
    Prayer:

    Because you will not be able to read every portion of scripture pertaining to fasting in one sitting, meditate during the day on what you have learn. The next day, read the next place fasting appears in the Bible and apply the same S.O.A.P. method, synthesizing what you discover with your pre-knowledge and what you learned the previous day. Keep this up until you have worked your way through every instance of fasting found in the Bible.

  2. Character StudyCharacter studies, a close reading of a person in the Bible, are useful in gaining insight into the relational side of God.

    For example, during your daily reading in Numbers 25, you come across Phinehas the priest and are surprised to find it isn’t the same Phinehas the priest in 1 Samuel 2.  You are intrigued by Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, because he is quite different than Phinehas, the son of Eli, and want to know more about him.  You begin with the concordance or your Bible’s subject index, taking note of all the scriptures, chapters, and books where the character is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. You begin your study with the first reference (Exodus 6), reading the entire chapter for context.

    Scripture: As you read, write down the scriptures references containing notable character traits of Phinehas the zealous priest. Who was in his lineage? How did he become a priest? Why was he considered zealous? What individual character traits did he show?
    Observation: Discuss in writing why these character traits are worthy of being noted. Why is it important for Phinehas to have such character traits? How did he develop these traits (make sure to back up your claims with evidence from the passage. Always be careful not to insert your ideas into the scripture)?
    Application: Note how the character traits of Phinehas gives you insight into your relationship with Jesus. What do you need to do in response to this new information?  How can you apply what you learned about this character to your life today?
    Prayer: Thank the Holy Spirit for showing you the new information, and ask Him to bring it back to your memory throughout the day when you need it most.

    You will not be able to read through all chapters in which Phinehas is mentioned, meditate throughout the day on the insight to the relational side of God you gained from this particular character. The next day, read the next chapter in which Phinehas appears, apply the SOAP method, and synthesize with what you learned the previous day, always finding ways to implement the insight into your relationship with God.

The key to studying the Bible is setting aside the time and making it a priority. Determine in your heart that you will never give it up that time for anything else. Studying your Bible isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. Jesus will meet you there each and every time. Guaranteed.

Questions and comments are always welcomed. I’d love to hear how this series has helped you.

 

 

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Devotion

Studying the Bible, Part 2

I mentioned in my last post the most common question I get from new believers is how to study the Bible (find it here). I usually advise new believers to write down the scriptures their pastor uses in his or her sermon and then read the entire chapter throughout the week to gain context and insight into the sermon.

Eventually, a new believer will no longer be “new” and will need (and hopefully want) to expand his or her reach into the Bible.

That’s when I recommend the S.O.A.P. method. I started using S.O.A.P. after I was given New Hope’s Life Journal , a journal-based study tool that stresses applying the Word of God to our lives, by a friend. The S.O.A.P. method helped me dig deep into understanding the Bible and apply what I was reading to my life which, as you know, makes all the difference. There is no one but the studier and the Holy Spirit.

Supplies:
Notebook or journal
pen or pencil
Bible (preferably one that you understand with little to no help; Part One of this series)

How to use S.O.A.P.

Just like your physical body needs soap to stay clean, you need to use S.O.A.P. to keep your spiritual body clean. To stay free of funky smells, you have to scrub places intentionally. The same goes for your spiritual being; you know the places that need a good scrubbing because your life stinks in those areas.

It is important to have a open and willing mind when using the S.O.A.P. method. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the scriptures and be brutally honest with yourself with what He is telling you. No excuses. Just honesty.

S – Scripture
1. Pray over your time in the word, asking the Holy Spirit to show you what you need to know. I usually say the same prayer over my Bible reading time as I do my meals: “Father I thank you for this (spiritual) food and bless it to my (spiritual) body. In Jesus name Amen.”

2. Using a reading plan of your choice (one is provided in the New Hope’s Life Journal; otherwise, your Bible may have one or you can find one online by searching “yearly Bible reading plan“), begin reading the portion of scripture, making a note of what jumps out at you.
What makes you stop and say “hmmmm, that’s interesting”?
What did the writer mean by that?
Wow! I never saw that before!
Ouch! That portion of scripture kind hurt.

3. Write it in your journal.

O – Observation
Describe why that particular part of scripture grabbed your attention. What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell you through this scripture? You may want to paraphrase (put into your own words) the scripture.

A – Application
This is where you get down and dirty. You have to be honest with yourself and tell yourself the truth about how you will apply what you learned.

P – Prayer
This is the time where you and the Lord have a conversation concerning what He just revealed to you through Scripture. It can be as simple as asking the Spirit to help you apply the truth to your life today, or as involved as repentance and restoration. One thing that it should always be, according to Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Church, is a two-way conversation. Get used to giving time for the Lord to respond to you.

Now you are ready to take your new found knowledge for a test drive. Discover how this faith thing works! You can read about how to play basketball ’til the cows come home. Until you pick up a ball and start bouncing it, you will never truly know how to play basketball. Now get out there and live like a Christian!

The 5-5-5 devotional plan dovetails nicely with the S.O.A.P. 5-5-5 is simply 5 minutes of praise and worship with music, 5 minutes of Bible reading/devotion, and 5 minutes of prayer. Don’t be surprised when this method quickly turns into 10-10-10 and then 20-20-20.

I myself have experienced growth in my knowledge of the Word and my experience with Jesus using the S.O.A.P. method. It is a simple method that is easily tailored to an individual’s needs. It can be used to enhance topical studies as well as word studies.

Try the S.O.A.P. method out and see what you think. I’d love to hear how it has helped you.

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Devotion

Studying the Bible, Part 1

 

The most common question new Christians ask: what is the best way to study the Bible?

My answer is usually the same: whatever is the best way for you to understand it.

Helpful, huh?

Since there are many different ways to study the Bible, I usually start new students off with the most important thing –  a version of the Bible that is easy for them to understand. The next step is just as easy – just read it.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Bibles are expensive, so try out different versions of the Bible through a Bible app (YouVersion Bible App) or website (YouVersion Bible AppBible Gateway) before purchasing one. You don’t want to sink a lot of money into one that is hard to understand. Let’s face it. The King James Bible is just not for everyone. Bible apps and websites have practically every version of the Bible in a thousand different languages. You don’t have to read the King James Bible. Not everyone can understand 16th Century English. It’s difficult. I get it. Begin with the NIV (New International Version), the NLT (New Living Translation), or, for you word junkies, the AMP (Amplified).EPSON DSC picture
  2. Bibles are also deeply personal. The Word of God is alive and active. When you read it, it will speak to you. It has this mind-blowing way of giving you what you need at the right moment whether that be conviction, encouragement, enlightenment, comfort, or praise. Therefore, it should fit you like a favorite pair of gloves. It should sit just right in your hands. Your eyes should move across the page easily. Maybe you need room in the margins to jot down notes. A pastor friend of mine won’t buy a Bible unless it lays flat when opened.  Find one that is comfortable for you and meets all of your needs. Maybe you just can’t afford a paper and print Bible. That’s okay, too! Just use the app!
  3. Start by reading the Book of James or the passages your pastor used in church. James covers the Christian lifestyle, so it is a good place for new Christians to start (and a good refresher for those who have been around the faith for awhile). Start with James 1:1 and read until something jumps out at you, catch it, and think about it all day. Do the same thing the next day, starting where you left off. Repeat, repeat, repeat.Writing down the scriptures your pastor uses in his or her sermon is also a good place to start. Each week day, read a portion of the chapter of the book which was used in the sermon. For example, if your pastor quoted 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) – “In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation” – in his sermon about relying on God for strength in hard times. Beginning on Monday, read 1 Peter 5:1-3 and think about how it connects to your pastor’s sermon. Then on Tuesday read 1 Peter 5:4-6, Wednesday: 1 Peter 5:6-9, Thursday: 1 Peter 5:10-12, and Friday: 1 Peter 5:13-14. Each day thinking about how the scriptures fit together and build on what your pastor said.

That’s it. That is how I started studying my Bible. Eventually, I started taking more detailed notes in church, and then later I started writing down what the Spirit revealed to me during the week. The key words there are “eventually” and “later.”  You can start taking detailed notes and revelations, but that feels like drowning to me. “We’re throwing you into the deep end, missy. Sink or swim, baby. SINK. OR. SWIM!” That’s just a bit too overwhelming, and frankly, most people end up sinking. I don’t want that to happen to you. Start with bite-size chunks that you can process during the day.

First, get acclimated to this new Christian lifestyle. The heavy lifting will come later.

As always, please let me know if this helped you, and I’m always interested in what worked for you. Leave a comment!

 

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Devotion

Finding God’s Specific Will for You

It is cliché to say that from the moment we accept Christ, God doesn’t instantaneously show us His specific will for our individual lives. He leads us to that revelation little by little.

In Acts, Luke explains how the misguided, murdering Saul accepts Jesus’s testimony and sacrifice, and then transforms into the Apostle Paul. Ananias explains to Saul that faith and clarity of will is not instantaneous when he says, “The God of our forefathers has destined and appointed you to come progressively to know His will” (Acts 22:14).

Just like Saul, we too have come to know God’s over-arching will for humanity (“not willing that any should parish but that all should come to repentance” 2 Pet 3:9) over time. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s grace to us over time. None of us accepted Christ the first time we heard. It took time and some convincing.

God’s specific will for Saul/Paul to become the Apostle to the Gentiles wasn’t revealed until after he has had been educated in the Christian faith. Likewise, we come to know God’s personal will for us progressively, over time. As a child doesn’t grow into adulthood in a day, so our spiritual growth has to be progressive. We come to know His will more clearly and more accurately as we follow and trust Him.

How is “following and trusting” done? Well, we need to do what Saul/Paul did – learn.

This may also sound cliché and pedantic; however, there just isn’t any other way to follow and trust God but to read our Bibles and spend time in prayer. There just isn’t any other way. There isn’t a short cut.

God speaks to us individually as we read His word. What jumps off the page at me is going to be different than what jumps out at you. Why? Because my life is different than yours. What I need from God (breaking bad habits that cause huge life problems) may be different than what you need from God (comfort and reassurance).

Each time we read Scripture and choose to believe it and act on it, we become more and more persuaded that what God says is true. This process of becoming persuaded is also known as building faith. As God progressively builds our faith in Him, the more we want God to persuade us that we can trust Him. It is a never ending cycle of persuasion and belief (a.k.a following and trusting); however, it can’t happen if we do not sit down and read the Bible and pray.

I can only know what God specifically wants from me and for me if I spend time with Him. The only way to spend time with God is through reading, praying, and fasting. You cannot know what a person wants for you or from you unless you talk to him or her. The same is true with God.

He will not tell me, nor will I learn, His will all at once. I must be patient and trust Him where I am right now. There are things that He wants to teach me before He shows me how He wants me to minister specifically.

Throw your whole being into building a relationship with God. Invite Him into your everyday, or begin to see how He is already in your everyday. Begin to talk to Him all day long about everything, and you will begin to notice that He talks back. When He begins to talk back, do what He says. From there it will become easier to see what is His personal will for you.

Like I tell my daughter, “Run after Jesus with everything you have, and one day He’ll say, ‘Hey, look over there. I want you to do something for me.’ And then do what he tells you to do.”

Learning the specific, individualized will of God centers around the cycle of persuading and believing, so sit back, take some time, and get to know Him.

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