This is Me

Since it’s my birthday, I thought I would share some of my favorite verses with you and why they are special to me.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the account of Dorcas in Acts 9 – for obvious reasons, but also because we both loved to sew. But I love it more because Dorcas, by her life and death and return to life, was an evangelist without even saying a word. The Scripture said that because of her and the work of the Lord in her, her story “became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42). That’s what I want my life to be about. She has been my life-long inspiration.

I find myself returning again and again to another verse that gave me hope through many years of infertility and through many more years of struggling as a parent: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last there is life and Joy” (Proverbs 13:12). My hope was and is in God and His ability to “call things that are not as though there were” (Romans 4:17).

God used three verses to call me into this teaching and writing ministry: Isaiah 51:16 – “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand.” and Jeremiah 15:19 – “If you utter worthy not worthless words, you will be my spokesman.” From these two verses, He began to refine my words and their content. Then I came across Ezra, of whom the Scripture said, “The gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees in Israel” (Ezra 7:9,10). God called me to study His Word, live His Word, and teach His Word. He sent me to seminary with Jeremiah 1:17: “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.”

Finally, my life verse: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13,14). I have been on an almost life-long mission to seek God, and He has shown Himself over and over in my life. It is a mission I will continue to my last breath. So this is who I am as I’ve been and continue to be shaped by the Word of God. Thank you, Beloved for your love and encouragement in this ministry. You are a blessing to me

This is Why I Write

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“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” (Matthew 10:27).

The truth is, what you see in me – or read in my words – is not all there is.  I may look wise and together on paper, but it’s not the full picture.  I wrestle daily with depression; it has been my constant companion since I was very young.  It has taken me to some deep, gloomy places.  It has cost me a great deal in my relationships, health, time, money, and hopes, and dreams.   I’ve tried many things to keep it at bay. Medication, Scripture, and prayer have all been effective and helpful tools. But they haven’t made it completely go away. 

Do I really believe the things I write about God breaking through despair to bring hope?  Yes – because those are the very same words that God speaks to me – His continual stream of goodness and inspiration that keeps my feet steady and my head lifted.  They are His constant reminders of love flowing through His Word and His Spirit and shining in my darkness.  He knows me.  He knows that I can’t make it one day without the hope He gives.  So He speaks to me.

Then He tells me to speak to you.  Because He knows you too.  He knows that some days are so hard you don’t even want to get out of bed.  He knows that you are lonely, grieving, hurting, fearful.  He knows that you have been disappointed, forgotten, rejected, passed over – and so He tells me, “Take the words that have spoken over you and speak it over them.”  That is why I write.  It’s so you can grab onto the same lifeline God threw out to me.  Because I can’t keep this comfort and encouragement to myself – it’s much too big and wonderful for just me.  It’s for you too.  It’s a warm blanket we can share in a cold world.  It’s a quilt of encouragement

Beloved, come join me in the sweet, blessed comfort of our Heavenly Father.  Hear His words of hope, peace, encouragement, and Joy.  Let the warmth of His love wash over you.  We’re in this together – you and I – and the God of Heaven and Earth.  We’re gonna make it—He told me so—and then He told me to tell you.

Bitter or Better?

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I don’t know much about Josh Shipp, other than he had a rough start to life. Abandoned at birth and passed from one foster home to another, he was on a self-destructive path until a foster family intervened and invested in his life. I don’t know his faith story – of if he even has one, but I love his quote:

You either get bitter, or you get better.

It’s that simple.

You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down.”

For something outside of Scripture, that is a powerful truth. His words immediately took me to a familiar verse: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Both of these speak volumes, especially for those of us who have had to struggle in life. Like my daughter-in-law who is preparing to start college this fall. She wants to be a child psychologist. She wants to be for other children the person she needed in her childhood. She could let the hard things in her life make her bitter, but she’s put them in God’s good hands and is determined to let Him use them to make her better. And make other kids’ lives better too.

It’s a story repeated often in Scripture and in human history. Difficulty + God + time = purpose. Ask Joseph. Ask Ruth. Ask Paul. Ask me. I grew up the butt of everyone’s jokes at school and at home because I was naive and often said and did dumb things. My sense of self-worth was shot. I was stupid. So I determined to keep my mouth shut and learn so that when I said something it was well thought out, sensible, and would build others up. In the process, God built a fire in me for the Bible. The words you’re reading now are the product of God taking bullying, shame, and abuse and turning it into a ministry of The Word and words.

Beloved, whatever hard thing that has happened in your life can either make you bitter or, placed in the hands of God, become the mission and ministry of your life. It’s your choice. Choose the better path.

This is My Passion

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“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly hands the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)

I’m taking a writing course and the first lessons are on understanding my “writing style” and my passion. As I’ve pondered the passion question: “What burns in my heart?” the answer always comes back to “rightly dividing the word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

In the modern Western church, we are taught the Christian faith in “soundbites,” a story here, a parable there, Noah and David and Jesus. But those disjointed Sunday School lessons fail to teach the beautiful continuity in the Bible and the seamless work of God throughout human history. Worst of all is a verse pulled from it’s neighbors, sitting out all alone. It makes for a nice wall plaque, but do we know why this verse matters. What is its context? What is its backstory? What is the heart and principle within?
Jeremiah 29:11 is the “graduation verse” in every church, but do we understand its context? Do we know why God spoke those words and to whom? Do we understand the history of Israel and how that verse was such a source of hope to them and how it can be for us as well? It’s a great verse, but it’s even better taken in its full context.
John 3:16 speaks eloquently of God’s gracious love, but the greater context in chapter 3 also speaks powerfully of the condemnation of the human race and the reason why God sent His one and only Son. It’s the breadth and width of the gospel and it makes the truth of His love shine as brightly as a diamond on black velvet. We need to know the whole Bible, not just a verse here and a passage there.
That is my passion. That is what I long to give to the church. That is the seed God planted in my heart. It’s why I write and teach. It’s who I am.

What does it mean to “Believe in God”?

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“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

Humankind has been wrestling with the concept of belief in God for thousands of years.  The most brilliant minds from every side of the issue have argued for and against belief in God.  Lately the voices against have become louder and more widely accepted and belief in God is considered antiquated, foolish and a cause for scorn.  But for a person of faith belief in God is the starting place.  Everything else springs from this crucial point.  Without God our worldview – our understanding of the universe, of life, and of ourselves changes completely.  So, we must nail this one down – What does it mean to “believe in God?”  

Our key verse declares that faith believes in the existence of God and there are evidences all around to prove He does exist.  God has first revealed Himself through His creation.  Romans 1:19-20 says “What may be known about God is plain to [men], because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made; so that men are without excuse.”  David said “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  (Psalm 19:1, 3).  The world around us professes to the reality of God.  When I was in seminary, I had to take Biology – which I saw as useless for a Biblical/Theological degree.  But the more I leaned about the science of life, the more I saw God in creation.  Gaze into an astronomer’s telescope to the farthest reaches of space and God’s handiwork is there.  Look through the most powerful microscope at the most miniscule parts of cellular life and God’s fingerprints are all over it.  There is too much intricacy to the greatest and smallest details of everything that exists to deny the work of a creative Designer.  People of faith believe that the universe and all life was not created by some “cosmic accident” It was created by God. The foundation of faith is the belief in the existence of God as evidenced by everything that surrounds us.

So, is that all there is to it?  Is believing that God exists enough?  Not according to the Bible.  “You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19).  If the demons of hell profess to the existence of God, then there must be more to faith than simply saying “Yes, I believe there is a God.”  Let’s revisit our key verse and the claim that we must believe that God exists.  The word “exists”  holds a deeper meaning in the original Greek than just being; it carries the impression of acceptance, companionship, belonging, involvement.  It means relationship.  To believe in God is not just intellectual assent, though we cannot miss out on that first vital understanding.  Believing in God means investing all I am in a relationship with my Creator.  It means that I am His and He is mine.  That’s the difference between how the demons believe and how faith believes.  Faith – genuine faith – is both mind and heart – recognizing the truth of God’s existence and making it personal through a relationship that impacts every aspect of our lives.

 I believe in God – and this is not just a rote statement I declare, it is the deepest conviction of my heart and it changes everything about my life.  Beloved, do you believe in God?

 

 

 

 

A Second-hand God?

“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:42
I have been a Bible Study teacher for more than 10 years, it is my passion and my calling from God. I take very seriously the responsibility to “correctly handle the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). I take very personally the care and feeding of “my sheep” as Jesus charged Peter after His resurrection (see John 21:15-17). The spiritual health of those God has entrusted to me is my constant prayer. So last night, when one of my “lambs” called me to share a revelation from God as she meditated on the material we are studying, I was overcome with thanksgiving and my eyes welled up with tears of joy! There is nothing that blesses any teacher’s heart – whether a Bible teacher, school or college teacher or even the master craftsman training his apprentice – like when your student “gets it.” When the bell rings in their heart and the light goes off in their head – and the lesson taught becomes a truth received.
Take a few minutes to read John 4:1-42. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you here.
This account of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is rich with so many wonderful illustrations, one could write a book from all the treasures in this just passage of Scripture. And I may just do that someday. But I want to focus on verses 28-30 and 39-42.
This woman, with her sinful track record and obvious disregard by her neighbors, went back into the town and told the people to come and see this remarkable Man, “who told me everything I ever did” (v. 29). She wondered aloud if this was “the Christ,” the long awaited Messiah of the Jews. They came, because of her testimony and her witness of the Man. Verse 39 says “Many of the Samaritans…believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.” But verse 40 tells us that they didn’t just take her word for who this Man was, but they urged Him to stay and they listened to His Words. And the beautiful result is in verse 42, our key verse. “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  They spent two days listening to Jesus, and they came to a personal knowledge and a personal relationship with Him.
Too many of us have settled for a second-hand relationship with God. We go to church every Sunday and listen to the words that are preached. We may go to Sunday School and hear the lesson brought by the teacher from the material of a writer in another place. We may even go so far as to attend a Bible study class and listen to the leader, and read the lesson. But we don’t make it our own. We settle for what someone else tells us about God, and we wonder why He is not so real to us.
God created you that you might have a deeply intimate and personal relationship with Him. Jesus came to interact personally with people, and He sends His Holy Spirit to live in us in the most intimate way. Bible study and listening to godly teachers and preachers is vital to our spiritual growth, but if we don’t take those Words and make them personal, we have full heads and empty hearts.
God knows your heart and your needs, and He has a Word just for you. He has a purpose just for you. You won’t find it anywhere else but at His feet.
I will teach the Word of God for as long as He gives me breath. There is so much to learn, and so much to share, the Word of the Lord never gets stale or boring. But the ultimate goal of every teacher to teach ourselves out of a job – to stir in our students a hunger and passion for the Word, and the God who wrote it. I pray that you make His Word your own, and that you never settle for a second-hand relationship with the God who created you, loves you, and died for  you. I pray that you will be able to say, with Job, “My ears had heard of you  – but now  – my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
Holy Father, thank you for godly teachers and preachers who lead us into the riches of Your Word.  Lord, be real to me today. Speak to my heart of intimate things. Draw me to You so that I can know You for myself.  Amen.