Archive for the ‘Beth’ Category

LIT: An Event for Women in Their 20s & 30s with Fire in Their Bones to Teach, Speak or Write

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I’m ecstatic to announce an all-day Saturday event on February 11, 2017 specifically designed for women in their 20s and 30s who feel called by God to serve this generation through teaching, speaking or writing. The passion to do this event welled up in me continually as I wrote the Bible study on 2nd Timothy called Entrusted. (Released September 1, 2016) The final words of the Apostle Paul, penned to his beloved son in the faith, sketch a relationship on the sacred page of stunning mutual love and support between two generations. Over the course of five weeks, the curriculum holds the spotlight on doctrines imparted and dynamics shared between those two servants of Christ, inviting us to step into the paradigm they represent. If God ordains the order of each generation from the beginning to the end of time, and Scripture says He does, then we can safely assume He also has purpose in the generations He causes to overlap. Each generation – the younger and the older – has the privilege to profoundly impact how the other flourishes.

God timed the writing of Entrusted after two decades of publishing experience and three decades in active ministry. The Paul-Timothy paradigm threw open the door of opportunity to share some things I’d learned, often the hard way, in my journey with Jesus. I’ll echo the same disclaimer here: There is so much I don’t know, so much I don’t have, but whatever is mine to give is yours to have if you want it.

Because I wrote the study to apply to Jesus followers with any spiritual gift mix, I tried to avoid the trap of overemphasizing the ones most familiar to me. All the gifts are vital and all believers are called. I kept wishing along the way, however, that I had a little extra time with young women who feel led by the Holy Spirit to speak, teach or write simply because those are the areas of my exposure and experience.

And that’s where the idea for Lit emerged:

Making the most of a Saturday – from morning through evening – to pour into women in their 20s and 30s who have completed the 5-week study Entrusted and desire to zero-in specifically on speaking and writing gifts. I’m going to have to ask you to trust my motive here. I’m not trying to sell you a Bible study. I have a couple of different reasons for making it a requirement. First, space is limited and I want to insure that those who come are serious about the Scriptures and convinced they want to press on and pay the price of self-discipline to grow into their callings. I’d rather have 100 with fire in their bones than 500 who are mostly just curious. Nothing is wrong with curiosity. It’s just not what this day is set aside to satisfy. Secondly and most importantly, making Entrusted a prerequisite means that we come together on the same page. We can hit the ground running on that Saturday morning and make the most use of our time. Entrusted involves the fundamentals of becoming a mighty servant of God, of grasping the gospel message and using our diverse gifts to share it. If we all come together with those basics already in our arsenal, we can launch straight to the next level.

And we’re going to have a blast. I’ve asked my friend, Christy Nockels, to lead worship and invited a cross-section of my speaking/teaching/writing friends and colleagues to join Christy and me that evening for a panel and Q&A. I love and respect so many female teachers and authors serving our generation and wish we had a week to expose you to all of them. The ones who will serve on our panel that night were sought out because each brings something different to the mix.

Before I give you instructions for our first-come, first-serve registration, here’s a glimpse of the schedule so you can see if it appeals to you:

Our very special guests joining me that evening for the panel are Jennie Allen, Christine Caine, Melissa Moore, Christy Nockels, Priscilla Shirer and host Amanda Jones.

REGISTRATION OPENS Friday, Nov 25th at 9 a.m.   Cost $25.00 (to help cover expenses).

Space is limited and our aim will be to fill the room evenly with young women in their 20s and in their 30s.  But please don’t delay, if either decade does not fill up by December 1st, registration will open up the remaining space.

Requirement: 5 week Bible study Entrusted completed by that day and brought with each attendee as her ticket for admission. Please no exceptions. (Both workbook and DVD sessions recommended but only the completion of the workbook is required.)

The registration page will include hotel information, along with a full FAQ section to help with any questions you might have.

I can already tell you this will be one of the most fun gatherings I get to be part of all year. I cannot WAIT.

I believe strongly in what God wants to do with you young women.

So much love to all of you. I’m honored to be your big sister and servant.

Beth

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A Huge Thank You & the LPL Chinle AZ Recap to show fruit of your prayers!

Living Proof Live Chinle 2016 | Recap from LifeWay Women on Vimeo.

Beloved sisters, no words can convey the depth of my gratitude to you for countless prayers and thousands of scholarships that God used to make Chinle LPL a reality.  My four days there, face-to-face with so many Native American women – hearing their stories, their hurts and their hopes and getting to hold some of them in my arms – landed on me in a way I never want to get over. God is stirring up the dust in that native soil. I deeply hope He has plans for LPM to continue to invest in the faith of  Native American women. If the statistics we heard over and over are accurate, the reservation is only 5% Christian so the harvest in plentiful. We want to be part of seeing to it that the workers are not few. Women came from all over the reservation in Arizona but they also popped in from other parts of the United States all the way to Florida. I did a roll call during the first session to see how many tribes were represented in the room and, after about ten different names were yelled from the audience, I finally just said, “On the count of three, everybody shout the name of your tribe!” The sound stood the hair up on the back of my neck. I’ll never forget it.

The women we served stole my heart. They would have stolen yours, too. You would so love these sisters. And the best news of all is that, out of the bounty of Christ’s grace, we had many more sisters in Jesus when we left than when we arrived. One of the churches offered to have outdoor baptism for anyone who desired and even had changes of clothes and towels (well, and pastors!) ready and waiting right after the conference. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever beheld in my life.

You helped make it possible. Keep that in mind as you take a few minutes and watch the recap.

I love you so dearly. You women are my entire ministry life. I want so much to serve you well. Please pray that I will. Please pray that I’ll please Christ and continue to grow in Him and love Him more than anything I can see or touch in this temporal realm. May He continue to capture all of our hearts.

Beth

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God’s Audacious Kindness: Let’s Give Away 40 More

 

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***CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS***

Comment #543– Nanette Price

Comment #190­– Caity

Comment #292– Lacey

Comment #426– Paula Rockwood

Comment #299– Sandy

Comment #236– Nita McAdoo

Comment #158– Anna Deaton

Comment #151– Karen

Comment #326– Dodi Timbrook

Comment #320– Vicki Clement

Comment #161– Susan Beckman

Comment #300– Debbie M

Comment #329– Louise

Comment #121– Jenn Nahrstadt

Comment #347– Pamela

Comment #512– Karen Burton

Comment #253– Hernsa

Comment #367– Stephanie

Comment #227– Donna Shrader

Comment #6– Sarah Stevenson

Comment #52– Geri Fitzgerald

Comment #240– Heather M

Comment #136– Leslie Jordan

Comment #323– Candace Ottoson

Comment #508– Sharee

Comment #346– Laura Zielke

Comment #421– Carol

Comment #435– Kelli S

Comment #413– Debra

Comment #427– Susie Ashworth

Comment #463– Karen Pope

Comment #141– Olivia

Comment #280– Kelly

Comment #216– Lisa Suit

Comment #278– Janet

Comment #108– Rebecca M

Comment #196­– Kym

Comment #572– TPM

Comment #109– Lauren

Comment #68– Pamie Peterson

Hey, you guys! My good friend Jennifer Lyell (trade book publisher at B&H Publishing) got word to me yesterday that Audacious had just received this award. A lump instantly jumped in my throat. I want so much for Jesus to get glory from it and to woo some hearts searching far and wide for a love that lives up to its press. I’ve never once written a book that meant little to me but a few of them were born out of such peril or passion, they are particularly dear to me. This is one of them.

If I just got one shot at saying what I think makes life here on this rocky planet worth all the heartache and worth pushing past the fear, the message tucked in this short book is what I’d want to say. We’ve given away more copies of this book than any we’ve ever placed on a shelf at Living Proof because it’s just straight to the point.

Jesus.

He is everything. Worth everything. To be swept up in the bold love of Jesus is life as we were born to live it.

So, it just seemed fitting to us to celebrate this grace by giving away 40 more copies: 20 hard copies and 20 audios. If you haven’t read Audacious but would like to, please by all means leave a comment to this post as your entry in the drawing. If you’ve read it but know someone who hasn’t and you think it’s worth recommending, tell her to hop on here and enter the drawing. You can’t beat free!

We’ll do a really fast turnaround because it’s just more fun that way. We’ll only leave the post open for comments until 3:00 CST today (Tuesday) then we’ll close it, do the random drawing and post the winners by 5:00 CST.

We love you guys and have a blast serving you!

Beth

 

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What the Cross has Meant to me

My assistant, Kimberly, passed a message to me from TBN at the end of last week asking if I might be willing to share what the cross of Christ has meant to me personally. They weren’t requesting a teaching. They were requesting a testimony. I couldn’t remember ever being asked for precisely that in those exact words.

Beth, what has the cross of Jesus meant specifically to you? 

Since I would have been writing a post for Holy Week anyway, I decided to try to articulate my response as best and as briefly as I could. What I know for certain is that my finite mind lacks the elasticity to stretch without snapping to the bounds of what the cross has meant to me. A vertical log with a reach “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” A horizontal crossbar with a stretch “as far as east is from west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Who can estimate this side of the cloudy sky all He has saved us from and saved us for? All He has fought for us and won for us? And not the cross itself, of course. Our faith has no reliance in relics. Those two pieces of wood possessed no personhood, no atoning power. It was Jesus alone, hammered beyond recognition and nailed to them.

But within the limitations of my understanding and the language of story, what has the cross of Jesus meant specifically to me?

I have no memory of innocence. As young as I can remember, I bore an indefinable but unshakable sense of shame, guilt and anxiety. I do not know exactly what happened in those earliest days to bring such a cloud over a child so young. It was not until I was victimized a little later in my childhood that I was bombarded with silent horror by a sickening sense of familiarity.

Green kids

I have no memory of Jesus-lessness. The custodian of First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia, Arkansas rarely unlocked that east entrance to the public that the Green family, party of eight, did not pile out of a blue and white van and walk through them. We went to Sunday school and worship service on Sunday morning. We headed to choir late Sunday afternoon then stayed for Sunday night church, where our pastor delivered a different message from the one he’d given earlier. On Wednesday late afternoon, we headed to church after school and attended world mission classes (in our church a child’s first words would have been ma-ma, da-da and the-Great-Commission) and afterward we skidded down a linoleum floor to Wednesday night supper in our fellowship hall. I can still picture just exactly how that food was arranged on that plate: sliced ham (anemic pink) with a side-slice of deep red cinnamon apple. Same circle every time. Perfect hole where it had been pre-cored. Next to it were approximately 27 green peas – a little wrinkled but still well able to roll off the plate and onto the floor where all glad congregants could wear them home on the soles of their shoes – and a barely-browned dinner roll that split right down the middle like Baptists have a mind to do.

The moment Wednesday night supper was swallowed, prayer meeting up and followed and right there in that same fellowship hall. The plates clacking loudly in the kitchen became rhythmless percussions and the flatware, musical spoons, to an overture of the same deep, familiar amens voiced somewhere from the back. Strange how a disembodied voice could bring considerable comfort. In a world of disturbing undependability, we could depend on certain things around there like Brother Humphrey’s seven syllable a-a-a-a-a-a-mens. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer where my mother always served and, by the sixth grade, I helped in this class or that. We suddenly picked up – lock, stock and barrel – and moved to Houston, Texas when I was 15 and I continued the same pattern at a nearby church and would not miss a summer of VBS until I was 37. And lo, how it pained me to break that record. If I were given to lying in a testimony, I’d lie right now and tell you I hadn’t missed one yet. A person with my background wants in the worst way to have just one perfect record to humbly boast.

I accepted Jesus as my very own Savior around eight years old – Lord, how I wish I knew the exact date – and made it public before my church at nine. We stood up front in those days when we made decisions like that and congregants stood in line to shake our hands. I cried like a baby, face as red as a beet, caught completely off guard by the humiliating eruption of snot and tears. Those Arkansas gray-hairs, though. They understood. I know that now by the way they nodded their heads and smiled warmly at me. “Yep. We get it,” maybe the women were trying to say with the lipstick bleeding in the cracks of their mouths. “You’ll feel that way a lot of times and, by the way, this will be the best decision you’ll ever make.” Yes. I’ll give a thunderous seven syllable amen to that.

Our family had yet to suffer our peak years of instability. Those would come when I was in junior high and high school.

Madness.

This was my life. This parallel existence, tiptoeing, knees shaking wildly, on the tight rope hung between love and lunacy, where I was too terrified of heights to guess which way I would fall.

But fall, I did. At first just into occasional ditches. Then into an abyss so deep it seemed to have no floor. I tried to will myself into a reversal of gravity. I tried to repent my way into a reversal of gravity. Though I was utterly repentant and miserable and spotlessly forgiven by a merciful God, I continued to freefall, limbs flailing, and sanity teetering. I knew no other way. My theology had yet to collide with my reality. The belief in my heart had not yet jumped to life in my bones. I had been sorry before. Truly sorry. But I eventually returned to the same defeated pattern. I had a heart for God. I’d been mesmerized by Jesus since childhood. But I had a mind bent with torment. My battle would not have been obvious to most observers. I had been a successful student and an overachiever in endless organizations through both adolescence and young adulthood. But a reckoning had come. My past had come to reckon with my present and it would have a titanic effect on my future. How, as I free fell further and further into that black canyon, only time could tell.

I no longer knew who I was. If this Alice could have peered into a looking glass, the person she would have seen bore no resemblance whatsoever to the person she thought she was. She was dying. My infirmity, vulnerability, weakness and sin had joined forces and done me in. Life as I had known it was over. I, as I had known myself, was dead.

Hopeless.

And that’s when it happened. With the hardest jolt of my life, I fell with a deadweight thud into the arms of Jesus.

The person I had been before would twitch here and there for just a little while like there was just a little life left in her but, like a hen losing its head to a farmer’s ax, the old me finally gave up the protest, accepted she was dead and dropped to the dirt where she belonged.

Many years have come and gone since then and life has never lost its sharp, mean edge but I have lived adventures – some that are none of your business – with the One who caught me. He fought and won His bloody way to the incomparable love of my life and is, to date, the solitary good that dwells in me. He is a greater reality – this unseen Savior – than any human form I can see with natural eyes or touch with the skin of my fingertips.

I thought and, in many ways was taught, that the power of the cross was only for the lost. And I praised God for it and was awed by it and deeply thankful for it. I am still unspeakably grateful for it. Life with Jesus begins no other way. The lost must be saved. The sin-wrecked must repent. Eyes blinded to the Gospel must, by the work of the Holy Spirit, come to see. This is death to life for us all. Those who come, come this way alone.

But, the power of the cross has only begun to have its full sway when a man or woman is born a second time and, not by natural means but, by the Spirit. I got up again this morning by the power of the cross. I opened my Bible this morning and received the living, breathing word of God by the power of the cross. I prayed this very morning for impossible things to happen and had the guts to thank God in advance for miracles by the power of the cross. I came to my feet and proclaimed his greatness and his holiness and his power and his favor and his future over my family by the power of the cross. I kissed my husband of 37 years for the umpteenth time this morning by the power of the cross. My children love me and do not think me a fraud and, I promise you, only by the power of the cross. A few days ago I hugged a total stranger, a young mom named Lisa, tightly like she’d been my kin for years on end, right there in a grocery check-out line by the power of the cross. She told me with tears in her eyes how many times we’d  studied the Bible together. My memory of sin completely intact, the divine wonder of it was not wasted on me.

office verse her many sins forgiven

 

 

This coming Sunday at my church, by the power of the cross I will walk to the front and receive the elements from a man and a woman holding them out tenderly, accessibly.

Miss Beth, Christ’s body broken for you. Miss Beth, Christ’s blood shed for you. And I will want to cry. And  probably will.

I will sing what He has done for me. I will proclaim that I once was dead and now I live. And I will do so by the power of the cross.

Any and every victorious moment I ever experience is by the power of the cross. That the enemy did not and still has not destroyed me is by the power of the cross. The power of the cross saved me as a child and it saves me as an adult. It will save me in my death and, through its crimson gate, His glorious resurrection will raise me in God’s presence.

There I will see the face I long to see. There I will see the arms that caught me. There I will see the scars that saved me. There I will see the Lord’s Christ and know as I’ve been known.

Oh, that my words were recorded, 

that they were written on a scroll, 

that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, 

or engraved in rock forever! 

I know that my redeemer  lives, 

and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 

And after my skin has been destroyed, 

yet in my flesh I will see God; 

I myself will see him 

with my own eyes—I, and not another. 

How my heart yearns within me! 

Job 19:23-27


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Want to Chime in with Questions to Work into 2nd Timothy Series?

Hey, you guys! I bet you can guess what my head’s down under right now.

Commentaries

 

Oh, man. It’s a ton of work but I love it so so much. Researching then writing in-depth Bible study curriculum is still my happy place. I’ve never gotten over it. Every few days I get a tweet from somebody who has just started or finished A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place and I think, often with a lump in my throat, what an invasive virus I caught from that very first journey. There in the pages of Exodus and in the detailed construction of that Old Testament Tabernacle and then in all that flipping to the New Testament to see it fulfilled, I fell so in love with Jesus and the Scriptures that I knew I’d study them in pursuit of Him for the rest of my days. Gah, I love it. I know so many of you do, too. The divine brilliance and beauty of the Bible still slays this woman right here.

The series I’m working on right now is on 2nd Timothy and will carry the title Entrusted. It will hit the shelves in September of 2016 so it won’t be a long wait at all. You will be so glad to know that Melissa is jumping in on this one with 2 articles a week like she did in the James series Mercy Triumphs. She also has a huge stack of resource books for her part of the study but the difference is, neither you nor I can read most of the titles of her books. I mostly point at her resources and say, “Man, that must be a real nail-biter.” But, boy, do I love what she does with them.

We won’t complete the written part of the series until June but the taping for the six sessions I’m teaching takes place next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I cannot beg your prayers loudly enough. Please ask God to pour out His Spirit on every part of the taping and on every participant and upon me as I serve and teach. WE WANT JESUS. We are seeking such a powerful and fresh work of His Spirit in this series. We’re looking for an Ephesians 3:20. Please intercede for us!

One of the concepts we will develop throughout the series is the profound connectedness between generations so poignantly illustrated in the relationship of Paul and Timothy. Our effectiveness for the sake of the gospel dramatically increases when our journeys overlap and our spiritual gifts converge and we learn with one another and from one another. We will be challenged to become vastly more deliberate in equipping and encouraging one another, on cheering one another on, and helping each other navigate difficulties and get back to our feet when we’ve been thrown on our backs. These things are invaluable in the journey of faith. They can be the difference between us staying the course and quitting.

Needless to say, our biggest objective will be to thoroughly study the verses of 2nd Timothy, deliberating on each exhortation and taking note of the process of connectedness between Paul and his son in the faith. But as an older woman who gets a huge charge out of seeing what Jesus is doing in fellow servants my age and watching Him raise up mighty servants in younger generations, I’ll also be weaving in whatever I have to give from my own experiences and my own journey where it seems appropriate. Things I learned the hard way. What’s been hardest and what’s been the most gloriously rewarding. Lord help me, there’s so much I don’t know and much I did wrong and much I can’t offer but, what I have, I want to give to this study. This is where you come in if you’re willing. I don’t just want to share aimlessly. I’d love to know what you wish I’d address.

So, here’s what I’d like for you to do. Think about what you wish you and I could talk about if we could grab a Starbucks together. Form it into a clear question – just one – and present it in a succinct blog comment to this post. You might even tell me very briefly why you’re asking. (For instance, I’m a 22 year old who feels called to…) Your question can be about walking with God in general or about leadership in particular or about teaching or communicating or about navigating ministry or family. What would you, a person of faith, ask of a woman of faith who’s been around the bend a few times? Anything’s game if it’s genuine and I’ll consider questions from brothers in Christ, too, if any feel like pitching one my way. I will carefully go through your questions and answer as many of them as I can through the process of teaching and writing this study.

If you read the comments and see that someone has already asked your question, tell me that you wanted to ask the same one. That will make it stand out in my selection. I’d love to be able to mention your first name and the city you call home when I share your question and my response if that’s okay but, if you’d rather I pose the question anonymously in the series, just say so and I’ll gladly do that.

Sound like something you’d like to take part in? I’d be so grateful! I want to serve. NOT JUST TALK. I want to know what you’d find most helpful from a woman of my sort, whatever that weird sort may be. This blog community proved absolutely invaluable in the Esther series (The Red Book!) and in So Long Insecurity through the surveys I offered to fit those themes. Your input would be solid gold in this one.

I’m so grateful for your help! Honored to serve you. Please pray for me as I prepare for next week’s taping! Bless you today!

Beth

 

 

 

 

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Scripture-Prayers for Overcoming Food-Related Strongholds

Hey, Everybody! I promised you this blog post after asking for testimonies late last week about freedom in Christ from areas of bondage. I was teaching on the subject in a television taping the next day and wanted fresh stories to build up the faith of people who feared they’d never be free. As I compiled the list of strongholds, I shook my head over the goodness of God and the immeasurable reach of His grace. People testified to freedom from heroin, meth, alcohol and pornography addictions and being released from strongholds of anger, rage, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred and insecurity. The list went on and on. The common denominator? Every person testifying believed beyond a doubt that Jesus alone had set them free. Some had been set free instantly. Others took longer journeys to freedom. Some were in support groups, others were not. Some went to counseling, others didn’t. The routes to freedom varied but the end result was the same: they’d all been set free by Jesus and those who described the process of their liberty almost without exception named the crucial role of Scripture. As I jotted down all the strongholds mentioned, I tweeted how everything under the sun had been mentioned.

THEN, I sat and stared at the list for a moment and thought, “Wait a minute. I don’t see any food-related strongholds!” I followed up with another tweet saying no one had mentioned it and asked if anybody had a testimony. Several stories of freedom came though but my feed was swamped by responses of people struggling with bondage to and unhealthy relationships with food, whether they manifested in overeating or under-eating.

I am no expert but I stick by a philosophy of serving based on the words of Peter to the lame man begging for alms in Acts 3:6. “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give you.” I don’t have impressive training and expertise with food-related strongholds – those voices are out there and please seek them out – but, in the meantime, anything I have is yours. I’ve studied freedom in Christ for 20 years, holding it close to my heart as part of my life-message because Jesus saved my sanity through rewiring my mind with Scripture. I am convinced to my bones, if He could rescue me and set me free, He can do it for anyone.

When I need a breakthrough in a really tough area, I find no approach more power-packed and effective than combining prayer with Scripture. That’s what the book Praying God’s Word is all about. With my publisher’s permission, you’ll find 31 Scripture-prayers from various chapters of the book below. I am so grateful to my beloved coworkers, Kimberly McMahon (K-Mac) and Nancy Mattingly, for gathering a cross-section of them and typing them up meticulously for you here.

You’ll notice quickly that the prayers are not only about moderation and care of the physical body. There’s a good reason for that. Food-related strongholds aren’t just about appetites. They are often about real-live needs and wants that have gone unmet and unanswered. They can be about loneliness and emptiness. Those are the kinds of issues to talk to godly counselors about but I want to make sure you know this here and now: whether or not you are free from a stronghold has absolutely no bearing on how loved, accepted and chosen you are by God. This is about your liberty. Not about your worth. Your value is not wrapped up in this. In fact, accepting your inestimable value to God in advance of a whit of victory will be the single biggest leap toward freedom you will ever take. Beating yourself over the head with your Bible will never set you free. It will only bruise you. The Word of God bringing life and truth into the heart and mind of a follower of Jesus sets you free. These are the mindsets for demolishing strongholds based on the charge in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (“to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”): Choosing to believe and confess that God is well able, that you are well loved, that you can do anything He calls you to do through His power at work within you and that no sin or stronghold has the right to master you. That’s why the prayers below are a cross-section of professions rather than a compilation strictly about eating.

Use the prayers below anyway you want but say them aloud as often as you can. It will build up your faith which will build up your strength. After you get the general idea, go dive into your Bible where you will find no end to the verses that you can turn into prayers to profess the power and greatness of God, His love for you and His promises extended through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 8 alone you’ll find such a wealth of promises that simply reading the words out loud as professions of your faith will start snapping chains and quaking concrete floors where you feel imprisoned.

We love you. We share your battles. Now, let’s share some victories. Jesus, do what You do.

 

1. My Father, great are Your works! They are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are Your deeds, and Your righteousness endures forever. You have caused Your wonders to be remembered; You, Lord, are gracious and compassionate. (Psalm 111:2–4) The works of Your hands are faithful and just; all Your precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. (Psalm 111:7–8)

2. Father, so often I feel like the boy’s father who first exclaimed, “I do believe!” then in a flood of sincerity cried out, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Please help me to overcome my own unbelief, Lord, so I can start taking You at Your Word.

3. Father, I don’t want to be like the ancient Israelites who were not able to enter the Promised Land “rest” because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19) Help me to believe You and follow You to the place of Your promised land in my own life.

4. Father, Your Word says that if Your disciples believe, they will receive whatever they ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22) Lord, as you mature my faith, also teach me how to pray and what to ask of You in prayer. I have so much to learn. Keep teaching me, Father.

5. Christ Jesus, You said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) Lord, I cannot see Your visible hands, but if I’m willing to really look, I can see the visible evidences of Your invisible hands. Help me to stop doubting and believe!

6. Lord God, You don’t want me to be persuaded just by the wise and persuasive words of men. You want me to be persuaded by the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that my faith will not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4–5)

7. Lord God, You have said that Your righteous one will live by faith and if he shrinks back You will not be pleased with him. (Hebrews 10:38) Lord, I want to live a life that is pleasing to You. The life that pleases you is also a life that You so readily bless. (Hebrews 11:6) I don’t want to miss the great adventures You mapped out for me by shrinking back from a walk of faith.

8. Father, I desire to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

9. Father, according to Your Word, in his pride the wicked does not seek You; in all his thoughts there is no room for You. (Psalm 10:4) Please help me to always make room in my thoughts for You, God. Don’t allow me to continue on in pride that stops me from seeking You.

10. Father, You have promised that if Your people, who are called by Your name, will humble themselves and pray and seek Your face and turn from their wicked ways, then will You hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) Please help me to understand that corporate revival begins with personal, individual revival. Help me to humble myself and pray and seek Your face and turn from my own wicked ways. Thank You for hearing me from heaven and forgiving my sin and bringing healing to my heart.

11. Sovereign Lord, Your hand has made heaven and earth, and through You they came into being. Your Word says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2) Father, I can hardly imagine being someone You esteem, but I sincerely want to be! Make me that kind of person through the power of Your Holy Spirit, Lord.

12. Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long. (Psalm 25:4–5)

13. My all-powerful God, enable me to stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around my waist and with the breastplate of righteousness in place. (Ephesians 6:14) Help me to understand that without the girding of truth, I am defenseless against the devil. Truth is my main defense against the father of lies.

14. Lord, without You I would be foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. I would live in malice and envy, being hated and hating others. (Titus 3:3) I don’t want that kind of life, God! I want to live life in the power and fullness of Your Spirit.

15. Father God, You command me for my own good not to merely listen to the Word but to do what it says. If I only listen and do not obey, I will undoubtedly deceive myself. Help me to comprehend that the Word of God is my perfect law of liberty! (James 1:22, 25 kjv)

16. My Jesus, according to Your Word, whoever has Your commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves You. He who loves You will be loved by Your Father, and You too will love him and show Yourself to him. (John 14:21) O, God, please help me to live obediently and have the joy of seeing You revealed in all sorts of marvelous ways.

17. Lord, according to Your Word, what a man desires or craves deeply is unfailing love. (Proverbs 19:22) Every other use of the words unfailing love in Scripture is attributed to You alone. You are the only one capable of perpetually unfailing love. Help me to understand that my deep cravings for someone to love me with that kind of love were meant to be satisfied in You alone. Thank You, Lord.

18. I praise You, Lord, with all my soul, and I desire never to forget all Your benefits—You, Lord, are the one who forgives all my sins and heals my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion, who satisfies my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s. You, Lord, work righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:2–6)

19. Lord Jesus, You asked Your Father to give me a Counselor that would be with me forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But I know Him, for He lives with me and is in me. You have not left me as an orphan. You came to me. Even though the world does not see You any more, I can see You through the work of Your Holy Spirit. Because You live, I also live. Help me to realize that You, Jesus, are in Your Father, and I am in You, and You are in me. (John 14:15–20)

20. Father, Your Word says that a person who lacks self-control is like a city whose walls are broken down. (Proverbs 25:28) Sometimes I feel like there is so much rubble, I can’t rebuild the wall. (Nehemiah 4:10) Your Word claims that You are the Repairer of Broken Walls, and the Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:12) Please introduce Yourself to me by these wonderful names and rebuild the rubble in my life.

21. For I know that my old self was crucified with You, Christ, so that this body of sin might be done away with, that I should no longer be a slave to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:6–7)

22. “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I desire not to be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12) Lord God, help me to recognize and discern what is not beneficial for me. Help me to see that authentic liberty is being free to do certain things and free not to do others.

23. Lord God, I acknowledge that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free. Your desire is for me to stand firm, then, and not let myself be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1) Help me, Lord. Empower me.

24. In view of Your mercy, Lord, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You, God. This is my spiritual act of worship. I desire not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what Your will is—Your good, pleasing, and perfect will. (Romans 12:1–2)

25. Lord, though I live in the world, I do not wage war as the world does. The weapons I fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. Your power can demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of You, God, and take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3–5) Enable me, Lord! Help me not just to read it and say it, but to believe it and do it!

26. Lord, I have too long given the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27) Please help me to stop offering him so many opportunities to bring defeat into my life. Your plan for me is victory.

27. God, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which You have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14) Help me to forget all past failures or even achievements and to focus on pressing forward with You now.

28. Lord Jesus, I can do everything through You because You give me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

29. Lord, I can find great encouragement in knowing that many believers, weak in their natural selves, have walked faithfully and victoriously with You. (Hebrews 11) Therefore, since I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, help me throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and help me run with perseverance the race marked out for me. Help me fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of Your throne, O God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)

30. Lord God, Your divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of You who called me by Your own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

31. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. (Psalm 142:6) Lord, an important part of my victory will be admitting that without Your complete intervention, my oppressor is too strong for me. I am unable to be victorious without You. Come and rescue me with Your mighty hand.

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Jesus Got Me Thinking

I had an interesting moment with Jesus a few days ago and I can’t quit thinking about it. It followed these three related entries I’d posted right in a row on Twitter:

(1) “I don’t care if it sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, if they say, ‘But we need your answer right now,’ it probably needs to be NO.” (2) “One of the opportunities I most regret taking was a snap decision over the offerer’s insistence on an answer NOW. No time for prayer? Uh, NO.” (3) “Gah. If I can save you the pain in the neck that decision has continued to be to me for a solid 10 years, please let me.”

I meant every word. Still do.  Good grief, it’s been a pain.  A lot of people hopped on board in response to those tweets and my misery found some good company and, in turn, a few good laughs. Man, I love when that happens.

A few hours later while I was on a walk in the woods, a deep and specific conviction of the Holy Spirit welled up in me unexpectedly. It was a conviction of gratitude: the leading of the Holy Spirit for me to, right then and there and henceforth, give no small thanks to God over the very situation that had been such a pain. If I had to wrap English language around a conviction of the Holy Spirit, it would go something like this:

“You really ought to thank Me for that.”

Sometimes the conviction of the Holy Spirit comes so unexpectedly in an area that we are taken aback. I know. I know. You’re wanting to quote me 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I get it. And I know it by heart. But we can read those words, quote those words and believe those words to be absolute truth, absolutely appropriate and even restorative and yet have a treacherously hard time applying them to situations that have nearly perforated our stomach lining. Circumstances get infinitely harder to be grateful within than the one I’m talking about in this article. Still, call me superficial but I can’t say I’ve thrown my back out with cartwheels for a thorn in the flesh that got stuck in my skull from diving headlong into an instant yes. It’s been a gift that just keeps on giving.

But that’s just it. I think God wanted me to stand there in those piney woods and consider what a gift that situation had been to me. Of course, for the sake of humility. Nothing’s wasted if it works humility because nothing will get us into deeper trouble or set us up for a steeper fall than pride. We have no greater obstacle to our divine callings than our egos. But that pain in the neck also offered me a second gift. It taught me a lesson I’m pretty sure I won’t soon forget. It seeded a hyper-phobia of snap decisions made under human pressures. These days I can’t shake the word “no” out of the word “now” to save my life.

Pain is the superglue that makes a lesson stick. That’s nothing new. The most basic one-word synonym for “disciple” is “learner.” Maybe you need to know today what I’ve needed to know so many days: learning, for a follower of Christ, is still a mark of discipleship even if you learned some lessons the hard way.

Or the excruciating way.

Or the embarrassing way.

Or the exasperating way.

Or the explosive, expensive or excessively long way.

If it attached you to the Teacher, if it marked you with Him and caused you at all to imitate Him, that’s the beating heart of discipleship.

Here’s the thing. The lesson wasn’t to try hard to dodge controversy. That’s not character. That’s cowardice. Those early followers of Jesus were nothing if not controversial and not just to the world but also to the religious establishment. The lesson was the idiocy of doing anything like that without taking the time to seek the will of God. It sure seemed like something that would be His will. And the folks needed an answer right then. And goodness knows everybody around me was all excited about it.

“Therefore do not be foolish,” Ephesians 5:17 says, “but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Because that’s the game changer. If we know – I do mean KNOW – we are doing the will of God, if the step we are taking is – to the best of our prayerful understanding – in obedience to Christ, the fallout falls into His very capable lap. We walk in the shadow of the Almighty wherever Jesus leads us. We may still get hit. We may still be hated. For Christ’s sake, we could lose our earthly lives. Jesus did the will of His Father from first breath to last and was hit, hated and crucified. But He was resolute. He knew nothing He could lose would compare to what He’d gain. What we’d all gain. Nothing could stop Him. No demon. No disciple. No dread of death.

There is a key word in this segment of Matthew 16 that stands out to me on the page every time I read it:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Of course, there’s always somebody close by who will try to talk you out of doing God’s will and with good reasoning and excellent rationale.

22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

The “learner” part of the disciple Peter might have suffered a few developmental delays but the lesson took. Here’s one way we know. From Acts 4…

17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us (rulers, elders, scribes) warn them (Peter and John) to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

We’re not Jesus. Ours is finite understanding. We can’t always discern the exact will of God in every detail of a drastic decision. We’re not Peter, who, in his own words was an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty and heard “the voice” of “the Majestic Glory.”  (2 Peter 1:16-17) But we are Christ’s followers now, called to pore over the Scriptures, to seek the beautiful face of God and the saving will of God. And, then, to the best of our understanding and with the fullness of our God-given ability, to DO the will of God.

Gravity holds the soles of our feet to a spinning blue globe. Because all authority has been given to Christ, we can exercise the audacity  to “go therefore into all nations.” With the wide waistline of this globe, why would Jesus send us to the same places with the same gifts to do the same things the same way? Part of His perfection is His pure practicality. He calls this one there, that one here, this one to do that, that one to do this. Mind you, audacity out from under authority is lunacy. But Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit for the purpose of leading us from the inside out. He makes His will known if we’ll seek Him with all our hearts.

I’m going to be straight with you here after thirty years of ministry and a heap of observation. If you make your secret goal to sidestep controversy and to keep everybody liking you and nobody misunderstanding you, you’re going to lock yourself into such a jail cell of stale air that you will suffocate every last breath out of your calling. Your soul was made for more than three square inches of breathing space. If you’re trying to avoid a label, good luck with that. Social media has sentenced us to label hell. And, since there’s not much changing that, this is the one label we Jesus-followers can try to avoid: disobedient.

Whatever your calling is, it takes guts. Jesus didn’t call us to follow Him to the chaise lounge. We’ve got a globe to cover. Not a couch.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re here on this planet to do one thing: the will of God in the spread of the gospel. So am I. We must take the time to seek how. Then, with some hint of clarity, we must do it. Come what may. Whatever others say.

And there we’ll find protection in the secret place of the Most High. There we’ll have confidence even should it get brutal or controversial. There we’ll have comfort when it hurts. There we’ll have fellowship, entering into Christ’s own experience until we make it safely into His arms. There we’ll have the pleasure of God. And nothing is like it. A lifetime of man’s approval can’t compare with a single moment of God’s.

So, you see, that was the missing factor in that ten-year pain in the neck. That was the frustration. I forfeited the confidence and comfort and companionship that would have come with knowing I’d followed Jesus – the best I knew how – where He wanted me to go. Those things would have carried me. Given me peace. Been worth any criticism. Every inconvenience. Or the thousandth explanation. I know that because they’ve carried me other times. They’re carrying me now into entirely new territories that would have terrified me before.

And they’ll carry you because they’re bound up in the heart of Jesus and He, Himself, carries us. Let’s be terrified of this: of missing Jesus. Of missing His will. Of putting the soles of our feet on a safe tidy path undisturbed by His valiant footprints.

Anyway, I’ve got a new outlook on that old pain in the neck. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. Maybe God used it to save me from a dozen other missteps. In fact, maybe – God help me – just maybe, for the very first time, I’m the least tad thankful for it.

Be brave out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Creative Keepsake From LifeWay that I will treasure forever

Hey, you guys!

I can’t even put into words how you’ve flooded my mind as LifeWay and I commemorated the graciousness of our God in 20 years of Bible study partnership. Without you sitting on the other side of that page and that screen, the first study would have become a hideous purple and yellow dust collector at your neighborhood LifeWay Store and the second study wouldn’t exist. For every minute of those 20 years, God has used you to drive me to a blank word-document and type in the words Week One: Day One. Picturing us both – two women (you younger, older, married, single, Black or White, on your 1st study or 15th) trying to live this faith thing out in the harsh world – with an open Bible between us, studying, seeking, praying, page-turning, thinking, discussing, maybe not even always agreeing, laughing, and crying together with one preeminent goal: to love Jesus more when we closed the workbook than when we opened it – this is what God has used to keep me at it.

To share the Scriptures with you. To pursue Christ with you. To run the race with you. To hear Jesus speak through His Word with you. THAT has been ministry to me. I am a girl in the Scriptures who wants to see girls in the Scriptures. That’s it in a nutshell.

I have no vocabulary poetic enough, no font large enough, no volume loud enough to say thank you the way I want to convey it. My heart is nearly sore from all the emotion that I have felt in the last several days as I have glanced back over my shoulder with my beloved man, my two daughters, my son-in-law, and my ridiculously adorable grandchildren. God’s grace has been poured out in scandalous proportions to me because of the cross of Christ. God got us through. And He is getting us through. And He will continue to get us through.

I got on here to show you something else which I’ll get to in just a moment but bringing up my grandchildren makes me think of the picture that Amanda clicked of the kids and me when we were all leaving the hotel for the LifeWay Bible study team celebration dinner Tuesday night.

The kids

Come on, now. Jackson was so handsome in his suit that I could hardly stand it and don’t get me started on Annabeth and her purse that her Aunt Melissa gave her for Christmas. Y’all please forgive my hair. I’d already anticipated that the team was going to have terribly embarrassing pictures of 20 years of my huge hair at the celebration dinner and, lo and behold, if it was not as big that night as it had ever been. Poetic justice.

But here’s what I’m trying to tell you about. At the LifeWay chapel service on Wednesday morning, Dr. Thom Rainer (LifeWay president) took a drape off of a breathtakingly beautiful picture (so much prettier than it appears from a distance)…

IT

 

…then told the audience and me the story behind it. The creative image is comprised of bits and pieces of all the covers of the Bible studies throughout the 20 years plus some cuttings from various pages within the workbooks. I was floored. It will hang in my home for the rest of my days as one of the dearest keepsakes I own. To this former pit-dweller, it is fluid grace stuffed into a frame.

Which brings me to the catalyst for this post. At lunch today I told my staff about the picture and showed them some photographs of it on my cell phone so that they could grasp the idea. They’ll see it in a few days when it arrives but I knew they’d love hearing the backstory Dr. Rainer told the audience. My staff here at LPM also knows that the gift was even more significant and fitting because, throughout the years, I’ve hung a picture in my office to represent each of the studies. For instance, this depiction of Moses hangs on my wall to represent the tabernacle study, A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place.

AWH

And this one depicting Peter and John running to the empty tomb represents Beloved Disciple.

Beloved Disciple

This one of Daniel in the lion’s den is one of my very favorites.

Daniel

You get the idea. So, nothing on earth LifeWay could have given me to represent 20 years of Bible study partnership would have thrilled me more completely than a gorgeous conglomeration of them all.

I got back from lunch and walked into my office and pushed the button on my new coffee maker. While I waited impatiently for it to fill up the cup, I checked Twitter. I could not believe it when I saw that the place of business LifeWay commissioned to create the picture had tweeted me with a link to a blog post about how they did it. I read it, slack-jawed.

Some of you are so creative that I thought you’d get a charge out of seeing how it was done. They took great pictures of the process and you’ll also see the end result. If you like this kind of thing, here is the link.

I could write for hours, telling you how much it meant to me to commemorate these 20 years with my beloved family. They’ve given so much to it. The grace God has shown me through Keith, Amanda, and Melissa for 30 years of ministry and 20 years of publishing  is staggering. My heart has been wrecked with love and gratefulness to them in these days of looking back. Rich, our LPL photographer, was there this week at the celebration and, as soon as I get some pictures from him, I’ll do a picture post instead of overloading you with words. I’m trying to accept that most people don’t read long blog posts anymore.

I love you guys. The honor of having served you and presently serving you is a privilege that I can hardly wrap my mind around. I do not take it for granted. You are noticed here and loved here. I’ll be in touch soon. AND, we have our SSMT post coming up in just a few days!

Hold tight to Jesus, Girls. He is everything.

 

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One of Your Very Creative, Valiant and Delightful Sisters in the Faith…and Her House

I am about to do something I have loved like crazy on other blogs but never done on this one. I am about to take you on a house tour. More importantly, I’m about to introduce you to one of my favorite people on the planet and a hero of the faith in every sense of the word. I met Janice Meyer about 10 years ago when I was on Life Today with James and Betty Robison for the first time. She has worked for them for 30 years and, when she’s not globetrotting for their missions’ ministry, she floor directs on the set during tapings. I liked her immediately because she was warm-hearted and a ton of fun and we shared a connection through several of the Bible studies she had done. Then, through all the years of serving with James and Betty, we truly became good friends and faith-sisters. You bond with the person who stands guard over you in the bush in Africa while you try to talk yourself into being able to tinkle under a tree in a part of Angola where old land mines are believed to still be buried. That was a lot of words in one sentence but it was about as succinctly as I could put it.

 

Here she is, so you can picture her before I escort you through the front door of her house:

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Janice is the international photographer for Life Today. (James and Betty’s whole ministry is called Life Outreach International but, to keep from confusing you, I’ll stick with the name of their television broadcast because that’s what will be most familiar to you.)  She has been to 64 countries on behalf of their ministry and not to sight see. Two things drive her all over the globe: desperate need and full-on crisis. Because pictures say so much more than words, she goes to the most horrid conditions you can imagine so that viewers don’t have to take their word for it when they say that people are suffering terribly on this planet and, jointly, we can help.

Here’s the deal about Janice and one reason I want to introduce her to you. She has seen more suffering with her own eyes – more starvation, malnutrition, life-threatening thirst, sex trafficking, oppression, and corruption – than any person I have ever known in my life. And she has as much joy and delight and hope and faith and unwavering belief in the Scriptures as anyone you will ever encounter. At times, I don’t know how she does it. The grace of God splashing over her is the only explanation because she has never grown hard-hearted and desensitized. She doesn’t endure it because she’s gotten used to it. There is no getting used to what Janice sees. She endures it because she is called by God to do it. She compiled this book from the multitude of pictures she’s taken around the world and laced them with her very moving commentary. This sits in my den. (If you are interested in knowing more about this book, see janicemeyer.net.)

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Here are two reasons why you who are active in this community can feel a particular connection to Janice. She’s an active reader on our blog and she participates in our Scripture memory team. In fact, when I was there last weekend, this was one of the first things I got to see.

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I stay with Janice when I am in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a Life Today taping. No hotel on earth I’d rather stay in. She has a tiny little guest house out in her backyard and one thing I particularly love about being there is the good company that comes to my door. She is one of the few people I know as obsessed with dogs as I am. That Golden’s name is Traveller. I have known him fur a long time.

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OK!!!!!!!!!!! Now, on to the house tour! I’m taking you to some spots around her house because she is so incredibly creative you are not going to believe it. And I might add, she accomplishes every bit of this on a very tight budget. This is a small, modest home and just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Here are a few highlights:

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Surely you can tell but, just in case you can’t, it is suspended from the ceiling. This Vespa was completely rusted and leaning up against the side of a building when she found it.  She sanded it down and put paint on it, fixed his lights and named him Rusty.

This tractor grille came from a farm equipment junkyard she could not pass up in Colorado. Who does this???

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This is an old ski lift from Snowmass.

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This wall was made from a stack of throw-away wood she happened on. She painted, cut, and arranged all the pieces herself.

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This piece may be my very favorite. She also found this in a farm-equipment junkyard and turned it into a table that sits between her couch and a chair in her den. Come on now.photojanice9.JPG

These are the drawers in her bedroom. Yep. A chicken coop.

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This is the bedroom in the tiny guest house. Please enlarge this picture and see that she hangs a chalkboard over the bed so that she can write welcome messages to her guests, complete with pictures of their loved ones she’s printed out. Unbelievable. I have never known anyone – on ANY budget – with more hospitality.

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And lastly, a picture of Janice and me. Well. A close rendering. It really was taken at my house in the country. I so hope you guys enjoyed this! Now since I’m solo on the blog, I may be throwing all sorts of random posts at you. Every single one of them will come your way with a ton of love. Be encouraged today, my dear sisters! There are a whole lot of us out there who love Jesus! And we’re blood kin. Know this day and then again tomorrow that you are not cast out into these cultural elements alone. We have mighty good company among us. Janice included.

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Scriptural or Experiential: Can the Categories Never Coexist?

“She’s (he’s) gone over to the experiential side.”

 

I’ve been accustomed to that terminology since my first Bible doctrine class at 27 years old. The language might be dated for many of you but you get the gist. My teacher (in the presence of the Lord now) whom I loved and whose passion lit a fire in my own bones often used the delineation. Something was either “Scriptural” or “experiential” and ne’er the two could meet. It made perfect sense to me.

 

For a little while.

 

I’ve never lost my esteem for my teacher. I could get tears in my eyes just thinking about him. He taught under a powerful unction of the Holy Spirit and with a love for the Bible that I had never seen. I suppose some 90 percent of what he taught me I still believe with all my heart. No one made a deeper investment in my love for the Word of God.

 

But I’ll share with you the teaching in that first Bible doctrine class that I couldn’t accept for long. I couldn’t accept that a believer must fall cleanly into one category or the other: the Scriptural or the experiential. Of course, that’s why I had critics counting me among the experiential crowd 15 years ago but I’ll be forthright with you. The criticism, no matter how mean-spirited it got, was worth enduring because I was not about to let somebody convince me that Scripture and experience were always mutually exclusive. I wanted them both. I wanted to thrill to the Word of God with everything in me AND I wanted to experience the presence of Christ as palpably as He’d permit me.

 

I would not deny for a moment that there are people in the wide stretch of Christendom who rely strictly on experience and rarely if ever open their Bibles. I also have no doubt that many study their Bibles but never have what they’d qualify as an “experiential” encounter with the Holy Spirit. But there is another category and it is chock full of people who have devoted their entire lives to the study of Scripture and could also testify to rich experiential encounters with Christ. They are not the either-or’s. They have known both.

 

They are people who would not dream of giving their experience the same weight as the Scriptures. They know full well that it doesn’t mean everything. But must it mean nothing??

 

Does the Word of God itself not validate experiencing the presence of God?

 

Every time the living words of Scripture seem to leap off the page into the reality of our present challenge, are we not experiencing God?

 

Every time our pastors or teachers bring a word that causes the blood to flow hot through our veins –  in the terminology of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” – are we not experiencing God?

 

Every time we are overwhelmed with fresh conviction and we experience true repentance, are we not experiencing God?

 

In those moments when we’re brokenhearted and bewildered and we suddenly feel embraced by His love and assured of our chosenness, are we not experiencing God?

 

In our worship when we feel moved inside with the sense that His thick presence around us in that place is a greater reality than anything we can see or touch, are we not experiencing God?

 

When, after striving and seeking and praying, we suddenly know with astounding clarity what God wants us to do in a situation or relationship, are we not experiencing God?

 

When we have encounters with people that only God could have ordained and had appointed conversations that become pivotal to our callings, are we not experiencing God?

 

Was the Holy Spirit Himself not given to us so that we could continue to experience the presence of Jesus on this earth??

 

And do we not keep our Bibles wide open and study them all our lives and every day so that we can even recognize what could be a valid Holy Spirit experience?

 

No story I’ve ever told publicly has gotten me in more trouble than the one that occurred in an airport many years ago when I felt a profuse stirring of the Holy Spirit to go over to an old man in a wheelchair and brush his tangled, matted hair. Nothing has thrown me into the “experiential” category with my critics more than that story. But here’s the ironic part: I had my Bible wide open in my lap actively memorizing John 1 at the exact moment the Holy Spirit moved on me to stand up and walk over to that man. In fact, I was nearly annoyed by the inconvenience of having to get up and go serve somebody while I was busy with my memory work. They weren’t two separate things. They were happening simultaneously.

 

Despite the discouragement that being stereotyped can bring, if I thought I’d “experienced” God for the last time, I’d be ready to pack up this whole earthly existence and go home. I live to experience God – in my Bible study, my worship, my restoration, my personal revival, in the laughter of my family that has endured against all odds, in the burst of color in an autumn sunset, in a praise song blaring from the speakers in my car, in church service after church service, in the love I still feel for one man after 36 years, and in a walk all by myself in the country.

 

I write these words to you today who have devoted your lives to the study of God’s inspired Word and make it your daily bread. You don’t have to choose between the Scriptural and the “experiential.” You can have a devout study life and esteem the Bible more than any other tangible possession on this earth and you can also validly experience the presence and palpable activity of the Holy Spirit. You don’t need human permission to do so. You have the Bible’s permission.

 

Don’t let anybody take that right from you.

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