Archive for the ‘Beth’ Category

SSMT 2017: Verse 1!

Hey, Everybody! Drumroll please! Welcome to the 2017 Siesta Scripture Memory Team! The entry of your Verse 1 selection acts as your registration. Please read this brief post before you leave your comment so you’ll know exactly how to do it. We are not legalistic about much around here but I am a drill sergeant about the precise way we accept comments for SSMT verse entries. One perusal through the first several hundred comments and you’ll understand why. It’s such a powerful sight you will almost want to cry. Or shout. Or throw your head back and howl your loudest hallelujah. It just all depends on how you process a fresh glimpse of divine revelation. You’ll have before you a feast spread out lavishly on a huge banqueting table.  Keeping the comments to the bare minimum makes Scripture itself stand out on the page. If we add a lot of other verbiage to the comment, the verse is more likely to get lost in it.

Not only will your soul be fed by the entries of others, you’ll discover verses you didn’t even know existed and get ideas for future selections. Any time you can’t decide what verse to memorize, jump on the comments and see what resonates with you. Any time you feel bone-dry or downcast or distracted or discouraged or just plain directionless, open up the comments on any SSMT post and behold the words of the Lord. It’s so powerful I could slap my desk thinking about it.

OK, this is how the information should appear in your comment:

Name (first is fine), city: verse, reference, Bible translation.

(Don’t forget your translation! People love knowing exactly which translation your selection came from.)

So you’ll have a paradigm for how it looks, here is my entry for Verse 1 and you’ll see at the end of the post where I made a slight little addition to add some soul-deep conviction if you wish:

Beth Moore from Houston Texas: “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow worker.” Philemon 1 ESV

You get to choose your own verse according to what you need most right now, what resonates with you in your present circumstances or what God just simply seems to land you on. This year I feel like He’s leading me to use my 24 entries to memorize the one-chapter book of Philemon. It contains 25 verses but the last one is easy so I’ll throw it in with my 24th verse as my final entry. I’ve done stacks of spirals full of unrelated Scriptures for my memory work in previous years. Other times I’ve done several different chunks or one solid chapter. There is no wrong way to do it. It just all depends on what the Holy Spirit seems to be energizing us to do. If something about chipping away at one chapter through the course of the year rings your bell, you are so welcome to join me or you can look through the Scriptures and choose a different chapter of similar length. I so loved memorizing Psalm 25 several years ago. I recited it as recently as yesterday. It has 22 verses ready to go if you’d like to consider it. You’d only need to tag on 2 separate verses after you memorized the psalm to fulfill your 24-verse goal. Jude is another one-chapter book I memorized. It contains 25 verses but I will warn you in advance, take that one on only if you like a challenge. It is pretty wordy.

Let’s just add two little words this time to the front of the entry of our first verse: I commit! And go right ahead and add that exclamation mark at the end of it for the sake of some very appropriate enthusiasm. What you’re about to do bears FRUIT. God’s Word does not return empty. He sends it forth with accomplishing power and divine purpose. That’s worth anticipating with excitement. (In fact, Isaiah 55:11 is a fabulous Scripture to memorize if you’re still searching for a great launch verse.) I think we ought to add those two little words because I keep reading how allergic we’re growing culturally to making commitments of almost any kind. I’m sure you’ve read the same thing. But here’s the deal. We will never be mighty servants of Jesus Christ, alive and awake in the Holy Spirit, bringing glory to God the Father all while standing against evil rulers, powers and principalities without commitment.

Ain’t happenin’.

Nothing was tentative to those early New Testament believers about following Jesus. They didn’t fulfill their callings by being scared of commitment. They gave Him their lives. They bore His name. They testified to the death. Let’s do this thing, Sisters. Let’s do it deliberately. We’re not destined to be weak-willed women. We’re called to be stunningly strong willed about God’s will. So, here’s my official entry for verse 1 of the Siesta Scripture Memory Team challenge of 2017!

I commit! Beth Moore from Houston Texas: “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow worker.” Philemon 1 ESV

Your turn, sisters! Try to make each of your entries within 24-48 hours after the posts go up around the 1st and the 15th of each month. Also remember not to worry if you don’t see your comment posted for a day or so. Wait a while before you post the same verse a second time. We moderate all comments to filter through spam and trash and general nastiness so the process can take a little time. Here we go! I’m beside myself with joy. Thank you for the privilege to store up the very words of God with you. They are life and breath to us. Iron in our blood. Steel in our bones. So much love to you.

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My man and me

Thirty-eight years tomorrow.

The organist played the wedding march and I stood next to my Daddy in the foyer with my heart pounding like clapping thunder in my chest and wearing an ever so slightly off-white, nothing special wedding dress so as not to be a total fraud. We’d rented the dress for $65 and it never even occurred to me to mind. I come from very modest means and there was no world in which I expected my parents to spend several hundred dollars on a dress. They didn’t have it. And, except for the monthly stresses of bill paying in our home and overhearing my mom on the phone with bankers about overdrafts and loans and mortgages, we didn’t care that we made it by the skin of our teeth. It was normal to us and, for that matter, normal to most of the people we knew.

The congregation of about 200 came to its loud feet with the prelude and almost that many faces looked straight back at me and Daddy. My eyes darted up the middle aisle of that small Baptist church, shifting back and forth from smiling face to smiling face, many very familiar to me despite having been there a few short years. I served wherever I churched because that’s what I was raised to do. Never considered not. That day at Spring Woods Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, my wide-eyed gaze also fell on a few faces of those who filled the front aisles. Family members. And, trust me when I tell you, they weren’t smiling. Every year around our anniversary, Keith and I recount the whole ignominious scene with one another and mock the family scowls and laugh until our sides split. Nothing could have been less humorous on that particular day but the thought that we spited all of them by making it this long brings Keith and me no small glee. We were both in long term stable relationships when we met. I was engaged. He was soon to be. Each of our families loved our significant others. And, in a way I won’t go into trying to explain, so did we.

I’m not sure Keith and I ourselves completely understand why we dropped everything dependable and remotely stable in our lives and flew headlong into one another with all the tranquility of a pair of cymbals. The best explanation is that clamor attracts clamor and baggage attracts baggage and, boy, did we each have some. And then there was just pure chemistry. Had we been married to other people when we met, God help us, I trust we would have either ignored or resisted it or, by that time, never met but the fact was, we weren’t married, we did meet and we did not remotely ignore nor resist one another.

The words “wedding planner” weren’t even in my vocabulary or that of anyone I knew. The woman standing in the foyer with Dad and me on the day of the wedding was one of the very same women who brought a green bean casserole or jello salad every Wednesday night to fellowship supper. When the organ piped up, she nodded her head, touched my shoulder and said “Now.” She’d told us to go slow and Dad and I had practiced the night before but, for the life of me, I was either going to run down that aisle to that man in the tux or my hind end was going to flee to the parking lot where I’d holler like a wild hyena until somebody picked me up and hijacked me to Mexico.

I cannot say that it did not help that Keith Moore was the most beautiful man I’d ever kissed in all my life. Dad and I flew so fast down that aisle that my veil nearly took me to the wind like the flying nun.

A thought which carries impressive irony.

In seconds it seemed, the pastor said to the congregation, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Keith Moore.”

And, just like that, the wedding was over.

Let the drama begin.

And I guess in a lot of ways it’s never come to an end. It’s just a different kind of drama these days for the most part.

I’ve been asked many times if I’ll ever write a book on marriage. I don’t expect to. I have no intention of setting us up as some exemplary couple. Keith and I have not had a great marriage. But, somehow, in recent years, we’ve managed to find ourselves in a pretty good one. And I guess it’s fair to say you’ve never met two people happier about being pretty happy.

We don’t just kiss on our anniversary. We high five.

I’m really reluctant to do what I’m about to do because what if he and I get into the biggest fight of our lives tonight and I maniacally hurl all his fishing gear and deer heads and forty pair of unders in the front yard? I’ve never done that before but I’ve always known I had it in me. I’ve always kept my pitching arm in shape for such a time as this. And what if one of the neighbors videos us and I end up on the YouTube cussing? I’ve never been one to cuss much but, if I’m ever going to have a cussing conniption, it will be my luck to have it on the YouTube. One time I did try to leave Keith and he said, “Go right ahead. Leave me. But you’ll look in your rearview mirror and there I will be and not because I like you any better than you like me. Because I don’t. But because we are married and married we’ll stay.” Keith never was a great Catholic except about the one thing I wished he’d been more Baptist about: splitting.

And so, like somebody pulling teeth, I’m reluctantly going to tell you with little commentary a few of the things that have kept us at it, every single one of which is nothing but the dripping grace of Jesus. We can’t even take credit for the things that have actually worked. So here goes and then I’m closing this post and publishing it before I change my mind.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to do this backwards and start with the bottom line because everything else comes back to this: We have both and each been willing, many times through bitter tears and against our human-hearted natural preferences, to choose to love each other again. Over and over and over and over.  After some really harsh things.

We had Amanda nine months and two weeks from our wedding day after being told I’d need surgery to conceive. Liar, liar pants on fire. We may as well have named her Elmers. She was the glue God used to hold our first few years together. Then came Melissa, who was a dyed in the wool daddy’s girl. We still wouldn’t have made it even with them to consider, I’m sorry to say, if not for that one bottom line above.

We developed compassion for one another. We were both messed up and we each understood why. And, I really don’t know a better way to say it, we felt sorry for one another and started trying to help each other get better.

The fact that I could sob as I write this next one is fittingly ironic. We each think the other is hilarious. The only thing Keith and I have done as much as fight is laugh. I don’t know why we got that gift but we did. We even laughed at times in the terrible years. We tried not to but we couldn’t help ourselves. We are each the most absurd person the other has ever met. We are a cartoon strip and we know it.

One last thing. I told Keith before we were engaged that God had placed a call on my life at 18 and, if he didn’t think he could handle it, he better run for his life. Having no other paradigm for a woman in ministry, he looked at me with a measure of horror and said, “Are you going to be a nun?” (We’d made out for the better part of the last hour so the absurdity of this one makes me rub my forehead with no small delight.)  No, I said, to which he responded, “Then I’m in.” And he has been. For somewhere around 15 Bible studies, numerous other books, 23 years of Sunday School lessons, many years of Tuesday night Bible study and two Friday nights a month with me on the road. Unwaveringly. And not as a weakling but as the strongest willed man I’ve ever met. Nobody need wonder who wears the Wranglers in my family. And you may as well not go to seed feeling sorry for him. He’d have to lie to say I ignored him and then I’d have to hit him with my purse and, considering all the lip glosses in it, it would hurt considerably. Him, not me. He just wasn’t the kind that would be ignored. When we were at home together, we were at home together. I didn’t hang out on the phone all the time doing ministry or study my commentaries in front of him – I did that while he was at work – or flip through magazines. To this day, if I’m messing around on social media on my phone when I’m with him, he’ll say, “Pay attention to me!” And I’m glad he will. And I do. Or we’d have nothing.

And, finally, after many years, I returned a certain spiritual favor after all he’d done to be supportive of my calling: I just accepted him like he was and quit trying to turn him into a deacon or some big spiritual beacon. He didn’t want to be one. Doesn’t want to now.

Thirty-eight years tomorrow. This one man and me. We’ve decided to stay in this dance a little bit longer.

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Because, ladies and gentlemen, smilers and scowlers, we are Mr. and Mrs. Keith Moore.

 

 

 

 

 

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Proverbs of Ashes in a World Burning Down

In my Scripture reading early yesterday morning, I chased a rabbit trail that landed me in a cul de sac with Job 13. I got so preoccupied I was late for work then, once I got there, still couldn’t keep my thoughts from circling around that curb. In the corner shadow of more substantial themes, the Book of Job gives impressive credence to the adage, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” God bless them, they started out well but time took its toll and the temptation to offer explanation for human suffering became intolerable. When in doubt, after all, what better coping skill could there be than dogmatism? To the reader’s measurable relief, chapter 13 marks the spot where Job indelicately invites his friends to shut up. Unroll the scroll to verse 5.

“Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” Then a little further down to verse 13, “Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may.”

The show stealer in the chapter is the temerarious declaration the pummeled mortal makes in reference to his God. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (13:15 AV) The HCSB says it like a boxer spitting blood from a busted lip through broken teeth: “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.”

But one of the things I love best about Spirit-breathed Scripture is that the Spirit reserves the right to animate a passage that has never attracted our attention before. For me yesterday morning, it was the first half of the 12th verse. Job, to his friends:

“Your maxims are proverbs of ashes.”

For all we know the man made the statement sitting in a heap of ashes like he’d positioned himself in Job 2:8. Of course, it’s easy to miss the ashes in that early scene because we’re too disturbed by him scraping his loathsome sores with a piece of broken pottery. When these words come out of Job’s mouth in 13:12, one commentator suggested he may have gathered some ashes in his palm and blown them into the wind in case his observers were inclined to miss the point. Ashes symbolized loss, grief, mourning and death to the ancients and at times were the wares of sorrowful repentance. The idea probably germinated with God’s words to Adam after the fall in the Garden when death was born.

“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Mourners commonly practiced demonstrating their profound grief by wrapping their waists in skin-rawing sackcloth and covering their heads in ashes. At least it showed. Don’t you sometimes wish our shattered hearts would at least dignify our suffering enough to show up? Tamar, Mordecai and Daniel displayed their anguish with ashes but here’s the irony: so did Job’s three friends. Yep. At the very first glimpse of him.

And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:12-13)

 But then Job opened his mouth and released his lament and they opened theirs.

And their maxims were proverbs of ashes.

I never noticed the wording before because maxims had yet to be promoted to our primary means of communication. Shoot, a good maxim today could bring you a whopping ten thousand likes. We’ve developed such an appetite for maxims, we’re bored to oblivion by actual messages from our pastors. We demand twenty minutes of strung-together maxims or we’re staying home and surfing podcasts. Give us tweetables. Quotes we can stick on a picture and post.

And I’m neck deep in the middle of it splashing around in my floaties while people are down at the bottom of the lake drowning. This is not a rant for more meaningful maxims. It’s just a reminder to me today that my aphorisms don’t mean a flying flip in a frying world. Nobody’s likely to thank me in heaven for that life-changing tweet. I love Twitter. Good grief, I love all the things. And, man, do I ever appreciate a good aphorism. It’s fun. Quippy. Can even make people think.

For five seconds.

Mind you, five seconds is better than none. But let’s take it for what it is then get to the real business of ministering to the mournful. They are crowded around us, blinded by the darkness, flailing, feeling around in thin air for somebody’s warm-blooded hand. And sometimes the mournful is you. Me. Sometimes the mournful zips itself up in our ruddy skin and makes it hard to get out of bed. And, Good Lord, no wonder we’re depressed. We’ve turned social media into a spiritual discipline. We’ve made a diet of cheese puffs, bloating our souls with air and calling ourselves healthy.

Ashes.

The thing is, I can’t get the Oakland warehouse fire off my mind. That’s where this whole thing started. I don’t want to get it off my mind right away anyway. That community and those terror-stricken families will need prayer for a long time. I know that because my family has lived in the ashes of murderous flames for decades. I know that because the evening before the news broke out about the fire in Oakland, my husband brought up the fire in his childhood garage over supper with our daughters.

We know the story by heart. I knew it by our third date. Keith and his big brother were knee-high, plump-faced preschoolers playing in the garage when a slender river of gasoline rolled underneath the water heater and ignited. Both boys were burned. Both boys rushed to the hospital. Both admitted. Both treated for several days. Both desperately prayed for. Both were impossible to imagine living without. One went home with his mommy. The other went home with Jesus.

A couple of years ago, Keith and I were sitting with his parents at a picnic table on the porch of a burger joint we often frequented. The men were sitting on one side of the table and we women were facing them from the other. When Keith got up to fetch our order from the carry-out window, my father-in-law leaned across the table and, in a tone dripping with tenderness, said to me, “Baby, today is the anniversary of Duke’s death.”

My eyes immediately shot to my mother-in-law. She did not say a word. She couldn’t. Even all those years later. She reached in her pocket for a tissue and blotted her wet eyes. I can hardly write these words without doing the same. I hugged her, squeezed her hand, picked at my food like she did then sobbed all the way home. Every loss etches an absence. But tragedy threatens to carve an abyss.

Especially a fire. Its destructive force doesn’t just dent, cut or bruise. Fire has the capacity to consume. It has the capacity to take something teeming with life and vitality – a church, for instance, or a home or, God help us, a life – and reduce it to ashes. Something weighty into dust in the gust. I think maybe that’s what makes such vivid imagery of ash: its cold reduction of something to almost nothing.

Forgive me for being so graphic. I don’t do this often. But, the thing is, we are the Body of Christ commissioned to flesh Him out through the ministries of His Spirit to this graphic global darkness. We flip on our screens or open our feeds daily to news of tragedies somewhere on this aching orb. Unless we’ve let our hearts grow cold to shield us from the harsh elements, we shake our heads and shed some tears and at times drop faces to palms and sob. We summon Jesus to hold the hurting and to comfort them in a way that is otherworldly. In a way that is deeply personal because, if we possess a whiff of wisdom, we know that no two hearts process loss the same way. In the wording of Proverbs 14:10, each heart knows its own bitterness.

No two losses are exactly the same. And not all tragedies are equal. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for the pain-ravaged.

Our maxims are not only a waste of breath. Of electronic space. They are offensive to the suffering. Sometimes even things we know to be true are better left unsaid for a long, long time. In the presence of those suffering, we say less and do more. We still our tongues and loose our hands. We mute our volume and vacuum their dens. We save our words then spill them like a dam breaking before God. Because He’s the only one whose feet don’t fail in a tidal wave of suffering. He’s the only one who really knows the whys and hows and wheres and whens. And He won’t tell us now. But He’ll tell us then.

Yesterday morning it was the word “ashes” that took me on that rabbit trail. I kept thinking about what I’d read in a news article about the first responders carefully, “reverently” removing the ashes from the Oakland warehouse. “Reverently.” That was the description the writer used and I appreciated it even if it made me want to wail. So I looked up every time ashes are found in the Scriptures. I found this among them.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

…to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes.

(Isaiah 61:1,3)

This section had long-since been dear to me but that’s the beauty of research. That’s the beauty of looking to scholars God has equipped with spiritual gifts of knowledge. You learn something brand new. I’ll let Dr. J.N. Oswalt tell it to you the way he told it to me in New International Commentary on the Book of Isaiah: (emphasis his)

“In 60:17 the prophet promised the best (gold) for the better (bronze), but here the Servant/Messiah promises the best for the worst…The picture of the mourner, with ashes on the head, wrapped in sackcloth, with a spirit crushed by despair, is replaced by the picture of a party goer with a beautiful headdress, smelling of costly oil, and wearing a garment of praise.[1] 

 There is a wordplay in the Hebrew that makes it especially spectacular. The peʾēr, “beautiful headdress,” replaces ʾēper, “dust.”[2]

If anybody at all is still reading, I’m almost done. Just take this part of Isaiah 61 in one more time.

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.[3]

Instead of, instead of, instead of.

I want to be there on the scene for at least a few thousand rounds of “instead of.” Sometimes we see those things happen right here in this earthly realm but other times it’s too late. Their tragedies took their lives. I want to see Jesus replace the ashes on the heads of the grief stricken in this lifetime with the headdresses of deliriously happy party-goers. Yes, party-goers. Don’t even try to talk me out of that. I want some parties when I get to heaven. I want to see some people shake a leg who’d suffered paralysis here. People dine in style who’d starved to death in squalor here. I want to see Jesus unwind the awful sackcloth from those who’d mourned on this earth and spin them around in garments of praise.

That’s what I want. I want to see my mother-in-law in a party hat laughing her head off. And I want to meet my brother-in-law. And sit cozy by a fire and never get burned.

Because this life is the hint of hell for a whole lot of people. But there is a God in heaven weaving eternity from an endless string of insteads. No proverbs of ashes from His lips. Just straight up promises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (p. 567). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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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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