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How to Diffuse Anger

My phone chimed once, twice, three times (although, not a lady).

I read the messages, trying to make sense of them because when will Apple figure out how to deliver successive texts in the order in which they were sent? I feel like it shouldn’t be that difficult…

I digress.

I read the texts and felt it come over me as if someone had lit me on fire. FIRE, I tell you.

How to Diffuse Anger

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Anger. Hot ire threatening to overflow the boundaries of my heart. And I knew it would fill my mouth quick (or texting fingers, in this case) if I didn’t do something to stop it quicker.

I set the phone down. I breathed in. Out. In. Out.

I prayed between breaths, “Father, help me honor You. Calm me.”

And I talked to myself, “I don’t have to react in anger. Doing so won’t help the situation. I don’t even have all the details. The greatest chance at peace and communication is to calm down and wait to talk about things when my heart can be respectful. This is not about me; this is not a personal attack. I don’t have to be defensive. I do have to honor God.”

The texts kept coming.

We agreed to talk in a couple hours.

My blood pressure returned to normal.

I felt good about myself, proud, even, telling my feelings what to do… not lashing out in anger for once…

Until we talked later. And the anger flared once more, and I spoke but couldn’t listen for all the rage rendering my ears useless.

I hung up the phone and thought to myself, “Well. Clearly, I was not ready to talk about that…”

So I turned to the scriptures to read about anger.

And you know what?

God was angry. A. Lot.

Yahweh was angry with the Israelites every other page of the Old Testament, and Jesus was often angry in the New Testament, mostly with dense Pharisees.

The Bible says God is slow to anger (Psalm 86:15), meaning it takes a lot to push Him over the edge, and He is only angry for a moment (Psalm 30:5), meaning He processes it quickly.

That’s great for God. But what about us? What about me – the woman who is enraged by children spilling milk because how many times have I told them not to play with their cups? The woman who is still angry at bedtime about the offense that happened over breakfast?

Well, the Bible speaks to us too.

Ephesians 4:31 tells us to “get rid of…rage and anger”. It’s okay to feel angry initially, but don’t let that feeling hang around. God doesn’t; we shouldn’t.

And just how, exactly, are we supposed to do that? Perhaps the next verse tells us how?

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4:32).

Huh.

If I’m being kind and compassionate and forgiving, there’s not much room for anger to linger.

But what if I don’t want to get rid of anger? What if my anger is justified? Other than that whole “imitate God” thing (Ephesians 5:1-2), why should we want to get rid of our anger?

“Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” (James 1:20).

It just doesn’t.

Anger doesn’t bear in us correct thinking or spur us onto correct acting.

We want to act right (i.e., how God tells us to act) because our obedience is an expression of love to Him (John 14:23) and produces joy in us (John 15:10-11). 

Anger blocks us from accomplishing those things.

It’s okay to feel anger initially. That’s just being human. (And, apparently, it is a sign we are made in God’s image because God feels angry at times, too).

But once we feel it, we have to learn how to diffuse anger as quickly as possible by being kind and compassionate and forgiving, just as Christ forgave us. That  is how we express affection for God when we feel angry, and that is how our joy is made complete. 

Win, win.

What to do if You’re Unhappy at Your Church

The fact is there are lots of awesome church people out there that have decided it’s not okay for them to leave their churches because they don’t really have biblical reasons to do so.

So they are staying. Right where they are. And, truth be told, they are miserable. They find it difficult to be at their churches. They aren’t happy, and unhappy people have difficulty connecting with others and with God.

What then?

Are they obligated to stay at their churches and be miserable?

No.

God doesn’t want you  miserable at your church. Barring any unbiblical things going on, God wants you happy at your church. 

Read that again.

God wants you happy at your church, not at a new church. 

How do I know that?

a) God loves us and wants us to be happy (Psalm 68:3). God is a compassionate God who weeps with us and rejoices with us and is able to relate to every emotion we have (Matthew 14:14, John 11:35, Hebrews 4:15). He desires for us to feel happy, but that is not the end all be all of our existence, and if our happiness and our growth in Christ are at odds with one another, God will choose to attempt to grow us every time (2 Corinthians 3:18).

b) If there is one thing the New Testament stresses to the church, it’s unity (2 Corinthians 13:11). When people leave their church bodies in search of personal happiness in a new church body, whether they intend to or not, they effectively stress fracture their former body. Whether they leave quietly or recruit loudly as they go, they weaken other believers in that body by taking away their services (assuming they were serving in the first place) and by causing other believers to wonder if they should leave too.

When the body gets multiple stress fractures from multiple people leaving, it becomes so weak it breaks. And when the body breaks in multiple places, it hurts. A lot. For a long time. Ministry is crippled, to some degree, among the remaining church members as they are left to try to salvage the body. Energy and resources have to be focused on healing the body rather than on what the church should be focusing on: spreading the Gospel and discipling believers.

c) Every time we feel like our happiness is at odds with an opportunity for us to grow, we aren’t viewing the situation how we should (James 1:2-3). We need a heart change quick. We should value above all else our conformation to the image of Christ. That should be our chief source of happiness, and being miserable at your church affords you the perfect opportunity to grow. Rejoice.

So, if you’re unhappy at your church, can I gently challenge you to stop waiting for the things around you to change to suit your preferences and to start changing yourself?

If you want to feel happy about going to your church, stop the self-focus – “What am I not getting?” – and train your mind to focus on others (Philippians 2:3-4) – “How can I serve others here today?” If you’re not serving, start (1 Peter 4:10).

Now, the tricky part is we can serve until we’re blue in the face and still feel unhappy about our churches because our hearts are still focusing on ourselves while we go through the motions of serving others. Psalms says God doesn’t value that kind of external sacrifice, he wants our hearts (Psalm 51:16-17). When we serve with the motivation to honor the Lord, others will experience the love and truth of Jesus, and we will gain joy knowing the Lord is happy with us (Ephesians 6:7). 

If you are among the minority of church members who do serve and are others focused, but you still feel unhappy with your church, there is one other area that needs to change.
Consider that everything your church does is not for your benefit. If you’re a seasoned believer, the outreach arm of your church is not trying to make you happy, it is trying to reach unbelievers and new believers and welcome them into the church so they can come to know Christ. What’s more important than that? (Matthew 28:18-19)
Knowing this, seasoned believers should approach outreach times not with an “I’m not getting anything out of this” attitude but with a rejoicing heart that the Gospel is being preached and non and young believers are getting exactly what they need – small doses of scripture and basic truths (1 Corinthians 3:2). Your jobs during outreach, seasoned believers, is to bring non and new believers so they can grow and to pray for the Spirit to move. Rejoice that seekers are being introduced to Christ at your church!
Likewise, if you’re a young believer, the intensive Bible studies that are way over your head are not trying to make you happy, they are trying to help seasoned believers go deeper in their relationships with the Lord (Hebrews 5:14). If you’re in one of these classes, and your eyes are glazing over because you don’t care about the original Greek, your job is to pray that the Spirit would move and grow these other members in their walks with Him. Rejoice that seasoned believers can grow at your church!
This is the kind of perspective change – to value others more than ourselves – that is called maturing in Christ. If you church-hop in this moment, you lose. You lose the opportunity to mature in your faith (Ephesians 4:15). You lose the opportunity to be apart of others coming to know the Lord.
If none of this is helpful, you need to call your pastor, schedule a meeting, and have an open, honest discussion with him about how you’re feeling. Tell him that you are unhappy and that you don’t want to leave, but you don’t know how to get happy, and allow him to speak to the sources of your unhappiness. Some of the very things that cause you the most trouble could be simple misunderstandings. Or they could be legitimate problems that your pastor needs to be aware of so he can redirect the church.

Can Separation Ever Be Good?

The Lord has been trying to get me to agree with Him on something for months… or has it been years? I can’t remember.

Anyway, He finally found a way that even I – the woman who could have been a lawyer – can’t argue with.

If you like your life the way it is, I suggest you close your browser.

I’ll wait.

Still here?

Okay…

So the background I can share with you is I am fiercely loyal. If we ever become friends, we will be friends until I die. When I care (caveat), I care deeply… and forever.

Which can be a problem when life separates us.

I moved a lot as a kid, and I still deeply miss and regularly think about my childhood friends. We don’t interact beyond Facebook, and I have no delusions that we would still be the best of friends today if only we lived near one another… But I’m not surprised when the casualties of moving show up in my dreams… weekly. And I still get sad I’m not 9 anymore.

And then there was high school. I had amazing friends back then – the kinds of friendships that only happen in movies. We were inseparable and forever changed for the better for having known one another. I think fondly about one or more of those people every. single. day.

With a background like this, it’s easy for me to feel like separation is never a good idea. It’s easy for me to view it as an evil to be avoided at all costs.

And I’ve been trying to convince God I’m right for quite awhile… He isn’t buying it.

Because He knows that sometimes separation is good.

Did I really just say that? Me? The girl who goes through the 7 stages of grief when her favorite FICTIONAL TV shows are cancelled?

Yes, I can’t keep saying separation is always wrong and bad… because God says otherwise. And no matter how much I Hate with a capital H that this is true, that doesn’t make it any less true…

Why can’t I just be a post-modern who doesn’t believe in truth?

Sigh.

That’s a different post.

For now, would you like to know what finally convinced me I must call some separation good?

No? Close your browser.

I’ll wait.

Still here?

Okay…

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, were separated… it happened only once, but it happened nonetheless. There was a boundary, if you will, when Jesus lamented from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). It’s hard to say what exactly happened at that moment, but it’s clear the Father turned away from the Son in some way.

Lean in close…

Since God never does anything that isn’t good, we have to conclude this separation was good.

And if separation can be good for the Father and the Son, even just once, we have to conclude there might come a time when it would be good in our human relationships too.

I know.

I don’t like it either.

Truth be told, it terrifies me.

But it helps me to take notice of a couple things about the Father and the Son’s separation…

  1. It was temporary. Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely painful. But it didn’t last forever. In fact, it only lasted three days.
  2. It didn’t change how they felt about each other. Neither the Father nor the Son lost one ounce of affection for each other while they were apart. If they hadn’t already shared the maximum amount of love for one another possible, I’d even say such a separation would have increased their love for one another. Father pride swells when children do right…
  3. It was for the greater good. The Lord redeemed humanity via that separation. Turns out that break was the only way to restore what always should have been.
  4. The reunion was sweet. In the story of the prodigal son, the father’s joy is unbounded when he is reunited with his son. And, so, too, I am confident, was the Father’s joy when He got His Boy back.

I imagine these four characteristics can be applied to any separations we experience in our human relationships… I know they all aren’t always going to be true… and even if they were, the hurt will still steal our breath and wet our eyes as we walk in obedience…

But maybe we can ask the Lord for the faith to believe that maybe just one or two of these ideas will be true in our lives? And maybe they can help us be brave when He calls us to separate from people we love?

All I’ve Ever Wanted

I drank the verses slowly, letting them swirl around in my heart like the velvet coffee in my mouth.

I was warmed by both.

“Remain in me,” Jesus said, “and I will remain in you,” (John 15:4).

It took only moments for me to realize that’s all I’ve ever wanted… from anyone.

A promise to be there.

To Remain.

To Abide.

Not to depart.

To hold me… keep me… continually.

This chronic need for security, it can be met in Him…

…and only Him.

“If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus continued. “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers…” (John 15:5-6).

All I've Ever Wanted

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I have known the withering.

And I have born fruit when I’ve lingered long in the Lord’s love.

But the fruit is not what I’m after, if I’m honest.

The fruit is temporary. Each piece transforms from a seed into its ripened form… then it’s let go… the ministry, the student, the child – all are but momentary evidences of the Lord’s working through us. But they aren’t meant to stay. They’re meant to go and produce more fruit.

No, I am not after fruit.

I’m after the Vine.

I aim to remain in Him so that He will remain in me. I want Him to stay. No matter what it takes or what it costs me, I. Need. Him. Without Him, I can do nothing.

There’s only One person who can be needed this much and not fail us.

There’s only One person who can deliver on the promise to remain with us always.

There’s only One person who can be the object of this degree of neediness in a healthy way.

There’s only One person who can hold us… and keep us… continually.

And that One person? He wants us to do the same for Him.

Jesus wants us to remain in Him… not because He needs us… just because He loves us.

He wants us, whom He loves, to love Him… to abide in Him… not to depart from Him… but to hold Him… to keep Him… continually…

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

You and I in Psalm 106

Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is reamed for failing to worship God the way they were supposed to. Sometimes they forgot. Sometimes they remembered but refused.

You and I are just the latest models of Israel. We may wear better clothes and have superior technology – more bells and whistles, if you will – but underneath we’re the same old thing – prone to wander, prone to run.

So when we read about Israel’s shenanigans in the Old Testament, we can sub our names in the text for some pretty powerful Bible reading.

Take Psalm 106, for example.

It starts out innocently enough:

1 Praise the Lord.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
or fully declare his praise?
3 Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.

4 Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

But then it takes a turn for the worse:

6 We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

We who? We Israel. We you and me. WE have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly. We can all probably rattle off at least 5 ways today we have sinned.

7 When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

This is our story, too. We faintly remember God doing something cool in our pasts… years ago… what was it? We can’t recall… Instead, we rehearse the ways we think He could be doing better by us these days. We feel the indignation stirring up distrust in our hearts.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.

There was a time He saved us. All of us followers of Christ can point to a time or a season in which our initial salvation occurred. He saved us for His name’s sake, and His mighty power was made known. And we believed His promises. We sang His praise… at least for a little while…

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.

My lungs choke on this verse. My spirit surges with adrenaline. I know only disaster will come of this for the Israelites… for me. I want to scream, “NO! Don’t forget! Wait for Him!” as if I could spare them – me – from the disaster that necessarily follows such carelessness.

14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

Their flesh won. My flesh wins. When we choose to sin, we’re daring God to discipline us. We call His mercy-bluff time after time, becoming increasingly brazen, “How far will You let me go? Surely I can get away with this ‘little’ sin…” He may let us have whatever we’re craving… but not without consequence. Visible or invisible, the wasting disease always follows on the heels of our choosing sin.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers;
a flame consumed the wicked.
19 At Horeb they made a calf
and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their glorious God
for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
to keep his wrath from destroying them.

Envy. Destruction. Consumption. Idolatry. Spiritual amnesia. The Lord’s ire. Nothing good follows our giving into our cravings. God said He would destroy us – you and me – had not Jesus, His chosen One, stood in the breach to keep God’s wrath from destroying us…

I still can’t understand that kind of love. I believe in it… but I don’t comprehend it. And despite having been ransomed in the grandest of fashions through Christ’s death and resurrection, on this side of that incalculable forgiveness, my reaction is often no better than the Israelite’s reaction to Moses’ saving them:

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
they did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents
and did not obey the Lord.

I am redeemed. Blessed in every sense of the word. And I still find a way to despise the pleasant land. I treat the cross with contempt when I take matters into my own hands and disobey God. I’m not thankful enough for His blessings. I don’t trust His words. And I choose to go my own way.

26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations
and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.

Israel yoked themselves to their idols… no one forced them into idolatry. They chose to attach themselves like dumb animals to other gods. I chain myself to God-substitutes too. They may not be carved idols, but I give them my heart before I give my heart to the Lord all the same…

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

And Jesus intercedes for me once again, reminding the Lord that the plagues I earn have already been endured by Jesus Himself on my behalf.

32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples
as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

Round and round the sin pattern goes with Israel. On and on the cycle whirls with me. Sin, salvation, sin, salvation. When will it stop?

40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.

God allows consequences for our wrong choices. We experience pain as a natural result of not worshiping the One we were created to worship. You’d think pain would teach us… but we can’t seem to keep our eyes fixed on Him. We’re bent on rebellion, drawn to it like a moth to a flame. And we waste away in our sin.

44 Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
to show them mercy.

Grace. That God would even listen to our cries after all we’ve put Him through. And why? For our sakes. He relents and shows love and has mercy on us not to make Him feel better but to benefit us. Oh, what love!

47 Save us, Lord our God,
and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

He saves. He saves us from ourselves, from the Enemy of our souls, from every threat. And our response must be to give thanks and to glory in His praise – to relish in who He is. Worship.

48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord.

How Could I Not?

I don’t really fear Satan. I believe in God’s power over him and don’t worry that Satan will somehow usurp God’s good plan for me. Satan can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1,2), and I have confidence God will use Satan’s schemes for my greater good and His greater glory (Jeremiah 29:11).

Where I struggle is with the fear that God is powerless to save me from myself. Obviously, God is all-powerful. But when we factor in human free will, I get a little nervous. Because I know myself. I know my tendency to run away from God instead of toward Him. I know my resistance to pain and suffering and all things undesirable – the very mediums God tends to use to accomplish spiritual growth in us…

In light of all these facts, I worry that I might have the ability to choose to resist God. I fear I possess the capability to utterly ruin whatever good plans He may have for me by being disobedient and uncooperative. He isn’t going to force me to do anything I don’t want to do. That’s scary. Because sometimes I need to be forced. I know myself; left to my own devices, I won’t always choose to do the best things. Sometimes I need God to make me.

I was talking to the Lord about all this the other night. And at one point I just asked Him, “Do You get exasperated with me?”

I was thinking along the lines of human parents who get exasperated with their children for asking the same questions a hundred times or for stubbornly refusing to obey certain rules. We get exasperated…

Since God is our Father and we believers are his children, does He experience similar feelings of exasperation with us when we act childishly or foolishly? Or does the whole parent/child analogy break down there? The Bible does say the Lord doesn’t grow tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28)… even of me and my ridculousness?

I continued to think about my children. At the end of the day, when they’ve fallen asleep, I take a few minutes to go in and look at them. I pray over them. But, mostly, I just look at them – their little features, their cute positions, their innocence – it all overwhelms me. It fills me. And I inevitably feel inexplicably blessed that they are mine.

How Could I Not?

Whatever feelings of exasperation toward them I had throughout the day, all those feelings disappear when I watch my children sleep.

That got me thinking about God watching me sleep. Does He have to fight the urge to reach through the heavens and stroke my hair or kiss my forehead? Is His heart overwhelmed with love? Is He speechless that I am His? I think it’s a safe bet He probably is (Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 43:1).

After pondering that image and those questions, I was reminded of a David Crowder lyric in which he says to God, “Thank You for loving me.” And because I was feeling thankful, I said those exact words to God, “Thank You for loving me.”

And without missing a beat, He smiled and said, “How could I not?”

God. Of the universe. Said that to me.

I fought the urge to count the ways to Him that He could not, and I chose, instead, to accept His fatherly gift.

After all, what was God really saying?

He didn’t mean He loves everything about me. I’m certain He’s not real fond of the countless ways I find to sin, for example.

He meant there is something special about our relationship – Parent/child – that endears His heart to mine no matter what I do or don’t do. Just like me with my kids. When they’re sleeping, and I can hardly breathe for their beauty, no matter how many times I felt exasperated with them that day, I can’t come up with any possible reason I wouldn’t love them.

They are mine – I love them – how could I not?

I need this reminder of God’s heart toward me often. Daily. And I figure I’m not alone.

If you’re needing a reminder, too, I recommend Isaiah 43, in which God says to the Israelites, and subsequently, to Christ-followers, “I have called you by name; you are mine…  you are precious and honored in my sight… I love you,” (Isaiah 43:1, 4).

Holy Moments

It’s true what they say: you can’t help people who won’t help themselves. But, oh, how I love to help people who truly want the things of Christ but have temporarily lost sight of how to get to them.

I love the feeling of being in relationships with people who share with me when they are faltering and allow me to encourage them back to Him. Those friends with open spirits, who long for the Lord… It is so sweet to come along side them and support them. And then to see the ensuing victory – that moment when the fog lifts and they see Jesus again! They knew he was there all along…. they kept the faith. And victory becomes theirs. These are holy moments to be a part of.

Maybe I am drawn to relationships like this because so often the shoe is on the other foot - I’m the one who misplaces Jesus.

So many days I can’t remember how to get to Him, but I believe He’s still there… somewhere… And one of these faithful friends comes along and speaks life to me. They encourage me toward Him in love and truth. And, inevitably, the fog lifts. And, surprise! There is Jesus again. My face lights up, and I laugh because He was there all along…. and my friends share in my joy. It’s as if we’ve banded together, two Christians against the Evil One, and we’ve prevailed!

I love those moments – holy moments.

They make me think of our daughters as babies learning to walk.

Holy Moments

They both walked late. Like their mama. We’d encourage them – show them how to move their little legs – put incentives just out of reach. Hold their little hands, then just a finger, then we’d let go altogether, hoping to see them toddle on without us. For a long time, they’d fall. They’d fuss. They’d grow frustrated. They’d insist on holding our hands a little while longer. And we felt those emotions right along with them – frustration, exasperation – waiting with baited breath for them to finally get it, believing that day would come and pedestrian victory would be theirs.

And on the day they finally walked by themselves… we came unglued with excitement and celebration! We ourselves didn’t accomplish anything…. except we had believed with all of our hearts that these little ones would walk one day… And when all those weeks (months?) of persevering in faith came to fruition, our hearts burst with gladness. And then it was on to the next issue to tackle… potty training… learning to read… learning to write… and on and on the issues go.

So it is in meaningful Christian friendships. We encourage. We pray. We listen. We believe on behalf of another who isn’t feeling it. And, eventually, we see breakthrough – glory – in the most literal sense of the word. Grace.

When Moses had to hold his arms up in order for Israel to win a battle against the Amalekites, he grew weary. His friends held his arms up for him, helping him accomplish his purpose (Exodus 17:11-12). And all were blessed by being a part of the victory the Lord gave them.

I’ve had many friends hold my arms up over the years. They are sweet friendships I treasure. The ones I treasure most, however, are those who have allowed me to hold up their arms in their times of need as well. It’s that mutual exchange of hearts and heartaches that births glory-full relationships.

If you want more meaningful relationships, be willing to hold someone else’s arms up, and be open enough to allow them to do the same for you.

There’s something holy about it… two friends united by Christ’s blood, encouraging each other to press into difficulty and grasp the Truth of the Cross tighter still…

Don’t miss it.

New Feature: Podcasts

I’m entering new territory with the How to Study the Bible course I started teaching at my church last week: my classes are being recorded (audio only, whew) and posted on the web for the ENTIRE INTERNET TO HEAR. Praise the Lord I am not being LIVE BROADCASTED like some poor souls (Beth, Priscilla, pastors everywhere, I am in awe).

image via Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image via Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In light of this new development, I’ve added a “Podcasts” page to this website, which you can access via the “Podcasts” tab in the menu above. I will update it weekly with new recordings from my course. I’ll also add files of the worksheets I reference in the recordings so you can download them and follow along if you’re so inclined. Lastly, there is a comment box at the bottom of the page for any questions you have along the way and/or for you to let me know you’d like an email notification when new podcasts are posted.

Thanks for studying along with me. I pray this course will give you a few more tools in your Bible study toolbox and a lot more excitement and passion for studying the Word yourself.

Blessings.

 

The Lord Delights

Two of my favorite concepts in Scripture are the Lord’s unfailing love and His delighting in us. And I think they go hand in hand.

The phrase “unfailing love” appears 39 times in the NIV, and it is only used to speak of God’s love, never man’s. Telling, isn’t it? The Lord loves much more reliably than we do. The security He offers is incomparable. And for someone who is constantly asking of Him and of others, “Do you love me?” reflecting on His unfailing love for me overwhelms my heart.

Psalm 36:7 describes God’s unfailing love as priceless. Yes, God’s infallible love for us is invaluable, and constant access via Scripture to assurance of that kind of love is pretty priceless as well. Namely because we just can’t find unfailing love anywhere else. No matter how well others love us, they just can’t love us perfectly.

Possibly as a result of God’s unfailing love for us, He also delights in us. Delights! He experiences joy on account of you and me.

On some level, God delights in us because He made us (Psalm 149:4). We automatically evoke a flood of love and joy in His heart simply because we are His, just as the thought of your child or grandchild warms your heart. We don’t have to do or be anything spectacular to cause God to generally delight in us…

But on another level, God’s delight in us in inextricably linked to our doing specific things.

  • “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love,” (Psalm 147:11). If we have a healthy respect for God and trust His heart for us, then He will delight in us.
  • “The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless,” (Proverbs 11:20). If we act out of pure hearts, then He will delight in us.
  • “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy,” (Proverbs 12:22).  If we are characterized by consistent honesty and dependability, then He will delight in us.

Perhaps God is experiencing two different kinds of delight – a delight in who we are (His children), and a delight in what we do (the actions outlined above). The first kind of delight is constant. The second kind of delight comes and goes, depending on our behavior.

I rest in that first kind of delight. There is freedom in knowing no matter how thick-headed and hard-hearted I act, the Lord delights in me.

But I thrive on the second kind of delight. I am inspired to do the things God wants me to do because He will feel delight if I am obedient. And knowing I am causing God to feel delighted, in turn, delights me. I’m not sure there is any better feeling. And I love how God designed things to work this way. Win-win.

The Problem with Reading Through the Bible in a Year

Last year I jumped on the band wagon and read through the entire Bible in a year. I’m glad I did it. It forced me to read parts of the Bible I rarely venture into, and it gave me a good overall view of all that Scripture contains.

When I finished, I started over. Mostly because an amazing Bible teacher whom I think the world of told me that she has read through the Bible every year for 30 some odd years. She said it very humbly and without a hint of bragging simply to make the point that, although she has never been to seminary, she has a thorough understanding of the Bible because she spends time studying everyday.

I was inspired. I want to know the Bible inside and out, just as she does, so I figured I ought to do what she does and read through the Bible every year for the rest of my life.

Well… the calender tells me I should be over halfway done with this year’s reading, but I am only one third of the way through. I’m finding myself frustrated with my Bible-reading plan lately, unmotivated to keep plugging along…

Am I allowed to say that?

I’m a Bible teacher and a woman with a Bible degree and someone who loves Scripture immensely… but I’m also someone who wants to quit reading through the Bible in a year…

And I have to ask myself why…

Clearly, I think Bible literacy is hugely important, and the more we read and study, the better we will know God. But trying to cram 5 or 6 chapters into one sitting every single day is leaving me empty. There isn’t enough time to ponder, reflect, and digest what’s being communicated. I am more focused on checking off the chapters I’ve read than on listening to what the Holy Spirit is trying to communicate to me. The reading plan makes me feel rushed and pressured, so my reading becomes rote and dry…

image via Rawich/freedigitalphotos.net

image via Rawich/freedigitalphotos.net

And, really, what’s the point of that? To accomplish some goal I can feel proud of? While it would make me feel good to be 60 years old and able to say, “I’ve read through the Bible every year for the past 32 years,” that’s not why I read the Bible.

I read the Bible because it is the living Word of God, which means God Himself uses the words on the page to speak to my spirit, personally. That is a thrill that delights me more than anything else this side of Heaven.

And for me, the problem with reading through the Bible in a year is that the sheer volume of information doesn’t allow me the time to stop and listen to the Holy Spirit. It’s when I slow down and ponder a handful of verses at a time that I most often hear from the Lord.

So yesterday I shelved my plan. Plans are not bad, mind you. They can help keep us accountable to staying in the Word… but I may exchange my old plan for a read-through-the-Bible-in-three-years plan to break it down into a more meaningful portion.

The Lord affirmed this decision yesterday. I cracked open Psalm 119 and read the first two verses. That’s all. He spoke so intimately through the second verse, there was no need to read on.  He and I thought through and had relationship as a result of my reading just a couple of verses instead of hundreds.

If your current Bible-reading plan isn’t cutting it for you, I hope you feel the freedom to change it up. He wants you; find an approach that will give Him that.