Unpacking Treasure in the Word

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I love this verse from the book of Hebrews. It is filled with so many key items, almost like a suitcase after an extended trip. So today I invite you to come along with me as we begin to unpack this verse.

Hebrews 4:16 centers around prayer, which is an integral part of not only our faith but also our relationship with God.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16a)

This means that because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross, we not only have the gift of salvation, but also direct access to God. You and I do not need to speak through someone else. We not only have direct access to God but also can do so with confidence. We do not need to approach like a timid mouse, but rather boldly.

God longs to hear from us – the good and the bad. Just like me with my children. I want to hear about their day and have them talk with me not just when they want something. I encourage you to see prayer as simply a conversation with God. Like any relationship, it will grow with time together and that can be accomplished through prayer and time in the Word. God will speak to your heart.

He makes a promise to us in the second half of the verse: “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Dear friend, no matter what you bring to God in prayer you can rest assured that He will grant you mercy and grace. Just like David in the Psalms, God wants to restore us to the joy of our salvation. However, we must be willing to come to Him and lay our sin, burdens and struggles at His feet and let His love, grace and mercy flow over us.

We also need to view prayer as a preparation for what lies ahead. We can’t see the future. However, God not only sees the big picture, but also is waiting there with open arms. He knows what we are going to go through and uses prayer to guide, equip and strengthen us. However, we have to first come to Him.

Say for example you were heading out on a long trip and a friend said to stop by and he would give you everything you needed for the journey, would you make time to go? Absolutely, we wouldn’t even give it a second thought. You and I would want to be prepared. So why don’t we take God up on His offer? He has everything we need, and so much more all we need to do is go to Him in prayer. Jesus paid the price, our access has been granted. Take God at His Word and approach Him with confidence knowing He will grant you grace and mercy.

 

Your Turn: I encourage you to spend time with God in prayer today. Also, if you have a prayer request, please leave it in the comment section, I would love to pray for you.

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Made for More

 

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It is hard to believe that the Made To Crave study is drawing to a close. Where did the time go? It seems like just the other day I had the calendar turned to January with my journal, Bible and book laid out and ready for the journey. I do not know whether you were a fellow sojourner or not, but I know that this journey is not over. Unlike a 5K or marathon, there is not a finish line this side of eternity. It is a process, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. In fact, if anything, it should give us the drive to keep pressing on.

Over the past six weeks we have learned that our mental, spiritual and physical lives can’t be compartmentalized. They are woven together to make you who you are. Being overweight is just an outward expression of an inward situation. You and I could easily become discouraged and defeated and throw in the towel thinking there is no point of trying. However, God tells us that we were made for more…More than a sugary treat…More than a pack of cigarettes…More than all the world’s treasures…God has set us apart for His purpose and plan.

The real question is whether you and I will make the choice that will draw us closer to God instead of pulling us away. We must choose to give up anything that we crave more than God.

We are all like the rich young ruler coming before Christ. He told the man to sell everything he had in order to follow Jesus. God knew that the man’s money would get in the way of his service therefore he was asked to get rid of it. What is God asking you to get rid of? What is it that you turn to when a problem arises or the storms of life are knocking at your door?

Dear friend, God is asking each one of us to lay those things down because He has so much more for each one of us. Don’t wait another minute; choose today to obediently follow after God leaving everything else behind.

 

 

It’s a New Day

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Lamenations probably is not a book of the Bible that comes up in conversation very often, nor is it one that naturally falls open when flipping through the Bible. If honest, many would have to confess to looking in the table of contents to even find its location. Once we arrive at this book you and I can begin to discover the treasure within this week’s Made To Crave verse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

As I have been thinking and studying about this passage over the course of the week, it kept bringing to mind the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. If you are unfamiliar with their story, I highly suggest reading through it. Anyhow, they were complaining because they didn’t have anything to eat and would rather be back in slavery in Egypt than to be in the wilderness headed to the Promise Land. I don’t know about you, but boy, can I relate. Many times I find myself complaining about where I am instead of relying on God and trusting Him along the way. God heard the cries of the children of Israel and provided manna for them every morning. It appeared like the dew covering the ground in a blanket of white. The Israelites were instructed to only take what they would need for that day – their portion. If they tried to take extra, so as not to have to gather the next day, it would mold or have maggots. God was testing them to see if they would trust and rely on His faithfulness. The same is true for us.

I have found, being a stay-at-home mom, that there are several times that I, myself, would like a “do-over.” My day starts out well, and then for one reason or another I find myself running out of patience with the kids. This generally happens within the time they wake up until they need to head out the door to the school bus. There are mornings that I can hear the following from the kids, “where is my lunch box? Oh, mom, I need more lunch money? I forgot that I have homework due today, can you help me with it?  Did you make snacks for my class for today?  Is my cross country uniform clean and ready for the meet?”  To no fault of their own, some days I simply just lose it. I could blame them for not being responsible enough, or me for not getting enough sleep or not laying things out the night before, but sometimes my patience just wears thin. I end up getting upset with them, and they leave for school wound up. I hate mornings like that. I do not know whether you can identify or not, but it is times like these I would like nothing more than to have everyone go back to bed and start the day over.

Although, I do not have the ability to push pause on the day and rewind it, I do have the opportunity for a new beginning. This is promised to all of us in Lamentations. This passage of Scripture brings me so much encouragement. With each new day, we are given the precious gift of experiencing and discovering more of God’s love. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary explains it wonderfully, The Lord’s great love follows through on covenant obligations. God’s compassion cannot be exhausted.” In the Old Testament, God made covenants with His people. His great love continues to flow through the New Testament to current day. What amazes me is that God’s compassion and love for us have no limits, and there is an endless supply. Keep in mind that God is with us all the time, not just when things are going smoothly. Even when we face struggles, God shows us His mercy. The New King James Version Study Bible goes further to explain that the passage in Lamentations means, “The comforting, compassionate character of God dominates the wreckage of every other institution and office. God remains “full of grace and truth” in every situation.”

Maybe you do not have young children or struggle with the craziness of a busy morning, but I am certain that you have areas that are difficult within your day and you need God’s compassion, love and faithfulness. Do not feel like God’s compassion and mercy are some how confined to particular locations because they are not. God’s grace and mercy are poured out upon us every single day. Just as God provided manna for the children of Israel, He provided His Son for us. Christ is our daily bread, who satisfies our needs. Our portion, like the manna, is laid out for us, but we have to make the choice to take it in. Spending time with God daily is necessary to allow Him to “fill” us up for whatever the day may hold. Never forget that He knows what we need and He will provide.

Take a moment and listen to this song and let the words wash over you today.

Power in Weakness

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Those of you joining me on the Made To Crave journey, this is when it begins to get difficult. We are a little over halfway into the study and the excitement and “newness” has worn off. We have learned that our worth and identity isn’t tied to any type of number. However, many on the study blog are feeling defeated and discouraged. I would like to encourage you today.

Many times in our lives God is going to ask us to give up or let go of something we hold dear. For some it may be that bag of chips you can’t put down, the afternoon bottle of pop, late-night snacking or even a dream you’ve been holding on to so tightly. You see, in order for us to realize God’s power in our lives we have to be willing to let go. These things, though not inherently bad on their own, have clouded our vision. We are craving these and running to them before God.

For me, the mere thought of giving up on a specific goal in my life makes me weak in the knees. I ask myself, why? Why would God want me to give this up? It would reach out and help others, right? I just don’t understand. But then, God doesn’t need to clear His plans with me. He sees the big picture because He painted it, whereas I only see a little sliver.

In the past, I would stress about needing to figure everything out. I have woken up with anxiety attacks and been so deep in despair, I couldn’t see my way out. However, it was at one of those lowest times that I discovered I was going about it all wrong. I am not supposed to figure everything out or fix things and neither are you. The truth is found in this week’s verse.

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The apostle Paul had asked repeatedly for God to restore his health and that is not how God answered those prayers. Paul began to realize the power of God through his physical weakness. God tells us that in our weakness He is our strength. We can’t ever realize God’s strength if we are solely relying on our own. You and I can become so wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t even realize it. Therefore, God has to bring us to the point of weakness so that we will desire His strength, His way and His power, which is complete. But it can only be complete when we turn over everything that we are putting before Him.

You and I may have vastly different weaknesses in our lives, but one thing is evident, we both must chose to trust completely in God and let His power be our strength.

 

Your Turn:

How are you dealings with cravings and weaknesses this week? I encourage you to let go of whatever you are holding on to and allow God’s power alone to be your strength.

A Choice to Make and a Path to Take

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Imagine for a moment that you are standing at a crossroads. The path to the left is flat as far as the eye can see, smooth and lined with flowers. The other path is hilly with rocks scattered along the way. Which path are you likely to choose? Before you answer let me add one additional piece of information, God is asking you to go on the hilly, rocky path. Now, which path will you go down?

I love what Lysa TerKeurst says about life in What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, “Life isn’t about being comfortable and taking the easiest route” (pg. 146). This is seen through the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was going out to check on his brothers in the field and ended up thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, taken to Egypt and put into prison. Not necessarily that flower-lined path is it? However, during the entire time the Lord was with him. The same is true in our lives. There maybe times when we step out for God, we say yes to Him and things seem to become more difficult instead of easier. However, it is during those times that we can lean on our Savior. He will give us the strength, courage and guidance we need. Like Joseph, we must trust God in the good times and the bad.

Sometimes in the valleys of life we become discouraged and defeated and choose to sit along the sidelines just wishing for the other path. Let’s look at Joseph again to see how he reacted during a low point. When Joseph was put into prison by a false accusation, he could have chose to sit in jail and sulk and ask God why his life wasn’t better. However, Joseph did just the opposite. He chose to allow God to use him and his gifts right where he was. Joseph decided to obey God out of love, not duty. God turned around and used that decision to say yes as Joseph’s ticket out of prison years later. I want the same thing in my own life. I want to be used – in the valley or on the mountaintop – to bring honor and glory to God.

You might think, well that’s all fine and good and if I ever get an opportunity to say Yes to God, I will know what to do. But let me remind you that “we don’t have to seek to create opportunities to say yes to God. God has already gone before us and established them. We simply have to respond” (pg. 149). God has the entire tapestry of your life laid out; you just have to decide whether you will say yes to His pattern and His timing. The majority of our most important opportunities come when we least expect them, just like Joseph. However, if we continue to stay close to God, we will be ready when He calls us to say yes.

It is so hard to believe the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study is coming to an end. I pray that you do not leave what you have learned locked inside your notes and book to gather dust on the shelf. This is a journey that will not be finished until God calls us home. Therefore, you and I need to continue to apply these principles to our lives as we daily walk in obedience and say Yes to God.

Exchange Baggage for Rest

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Saying yes to God is not something that you do once and simply move on, like an item on a checklist. One yes to God will take you on a journey that will have additional forks in the road where you will have to choose to say yes and follow God’s leading or go your own way.

Many times I have thoughts I knew best. I knew what I should be doing, the goal in mind and exactly the steps I needed to take to get there. However, I didn’t consult God first before setting out. I thought I had it all figured out.

Having traveled this way more times than I care to recall, I can attest to the fact that I was carrying a lot of baggage on my trip. I am not referring to my clothes and cute shoes; no I mean fears, anxiety, doubt and stress. You see, going out on your own we have to carry the load. This generally leads to discouragement, frustration and being overwhelmed.

Through the course of the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study, I have turned in my excess baggage for peace and rest. This is not to say that my journey is smooth sailing. It just means that I no longer need to let doubts and fears dictate what I will do. By saying yes to God and trusting His leading, I can let go of fears strangling grip and truly find rest in Him.

God has a specific purpose and plan for each one of us. However, we must decide whether we will say yes to His path and leading in our lives.

By giving God command of our lives, we can realize what it feels like to have a heart at rest.

 

What path will you choose? What will you say YES to?

It’s Not All In The Numbers

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Before you close this window thinking it is just another blog about losing weight and it doesn’t apply to you, please stop and read on.

Whether you agree with it or not, numbers are all around us. They describe our friends on Facebook. Followers on twitter, pinterest or instagram. For writers and speakers, numbers encapsulate the dreaded “platform”. Numbers also describe the number of people attending a party you are hosting or Christmas and birthday cards you receive each year. It is all around us, you cannot escape it, but do not let that trip you up because your identity and worth are not tied to any or even all of those numbers and statistics. You see we have been looking at all these numbers, including those on the scale, in all the wrong way.

God, not a number of any kind, defines who we are. Never forget just how much He loves and values you, but don’t just stop where you are because in essence you are limiting God – limiting what He can do in and through your life when you don’t obey.

In my current book proposal, Escape Clause, I examine how we put limits on what God can do in our lives through limiting Him in our prayers. I have seen this and know it to be true. Yet, I didn’t even realize that our obedience, or lack there of, is doing the exact same thing.

You see when we choose to obey God it unleashes the power that it holds. Just like there is no limit to His love; there is no limit to what He can do in our lives. When we choose to obey, we are opening a door for God to reveal Himself. It also gives each one of us the opportunity to get one step closer to fulfilling the calling God has on our lives.

Up to this point, I never really thought of my lack of obedience as limiting God and the calling on my life. This whole idea has put an entirely different spin on things. It has given me a new perspective.

I do not want to limit how God can work in and through my life. I want to be used by Him and therefore, I need to serve and obey where God has me at this point in my life instead of sitting and pouting because it is not how I had it planned out. It is not about you or me – it is all about Him. I need to step out of the way, lay my plans down, give Him a willing and obedient heart and see what He will do.

I no longer want to limit God’s best for my life because of my failure to obey. I’m thanking God for these new “glasses” today to see this all from a different perspective. And I am choosing today to surrender to His will and plan for my life. What about you?

Radical Obedience

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Several people from the Bible come to mind when I think of obedient – Abraham, Noah, David. All these men did what God told them to do. Peter would have to be my New Testament example of radical obedience.

Let me set the scene for you, Peter and some others had been fishing all night without any results. They were bone tired and defeated. This was their livelihood, they were fishermen yet unable to catch anything. Jesus gets into the boat and begins teaching the people on the shore. After he finishes, he tells Peter to take the boat out further and cast the nets again. Peter responds with, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Even when it didn’t make any sense, Peter chose to obey. His obedience resulted in so much fish it filled both boats.

Many times like Peter, we do not get all the information or understand the reasoning. However, you and I are supposed to fully surrender and obediently follow after God’s commands.

Peter discovered several things that day that we can apply to our own lives.

  • Obedience may challenge our pride

Peter, as a skilled fisherman, chose to swallow his pride and obey Jesus’ command. There maybe times in our own lives when we are asked to do something that goes against what we thought we knew. You and I cannot let our own positions get us puffed up and we think we are above what God may ask us to do.

  • God will utilize our experiences to equip us for His calling

Peter was a fisherman by trade and then became a fisher of men. God will use everything in our lives to prepare us for what He is calling us to do.

  • Obedience will motivate those around us

Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Peter’s life that was changed that day. James and John were also fishermen that witnessed everything that took place and decided to cast their nets aside and follow after Jesus. Your own obedience can have the same effect. People will see a difference in you and it will inspire them to say yes to what God is calling them to do.

I want to leave you with a quote from Lysa, “Our calling is revealed as we walk in daily obedience to Christ in the little things” (What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, 117).

 

Your Response:

How can you apply these principles to your life this week? What act of obedience is God calling you to? Lay aside your nets and follow after Him.

Immeasurably More Than We Can Hope or Imagine

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It amazes me how God can take something so small and turn it into something amazing and beyond anything I could ever hope or imagine.

About a year ago, I was assisting Melissa Taylor with email correspondence. During this time, I was noticing a number of prayer requests on the blog comments as well as via email. So, one day I asked Melissa if anyone ever followed up with these ladies and if not would she mind if I took that on. I had such a heart for these ladies that were hurting and I wanted to reach out to them in the only way I knew how. Melissa gave me the go ahead, so I dove in.

At that time, I simply went through the blog comments and made note of any prayer requests. I took those requests and prayed over them and then followed up about a week later through an email. To see how things were going and if there was any additional way I could pray for them.

I really didn’t know what to expect from sending out these emails. The responses from these ladies were simply amazing. It was overwhelming to see how touched they were that someone cared enough to follow up with them. I had no idea that something so small could make such a huge impact on someone’s life.

As the online Bible studies continued to grow, I knew that I was going to need help. Therefore, I had three wonderful ladies decide to assist me during the Stressed-Less Living study. They were able to help me go through all the comments on the blog and make note of the requests. This was such a tremendous help.

When preparing for the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study, I knew that I was going to need additional team members. With my limited vision, I was thinking that doubling the team to six would be wonderful. Well, God had much bigger plans in mind. I am now director of the Real Hope Prayer Warrior Team that consists of 18 ladies with a heart for prayer.

I never imagined that God would take that small nudge I had for these hurting women who were leaving prayer requests, that simply yes, and turn it in to what it is now.

I truly believe that at this point in my life, this is exactly where God wants me and I am so honored to serve in such a way. To reach out to these ladies, a lot of who do not have another outlet. I love that the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies provides that safe environment for women around the world. Not just an environment, but also a community. Connection. The ability to be seen. To be heard. To be prayed for and let the love of God shine through the leaders to the world.

I am truly amazed at how God is working in and through this study. He will take our small yes’s, our little notes, our encouraging words, those little steps of faith and turn them into something amazing. But dear friend, you have got to say Yes to Him and you have got to give Him those small things, and trust in His leading and God will turn them into something beyond anything you could ever imagine.

 

Who Am I? Discovering the “Me” I’m Meant To Be

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We fall victim to societal pressure to believe that our appearance, status and possessions will make our lives better. When we give into this notion, we are letting society construct our identity. The real question we need to ask ourselves is where does our identity come from?

Another way to put this is: What types of things define a person? Say, for example, you were to introduce yourself to someone you do not know: How would you define yourself? Would you define yourself by your family relationships, by a professional title, or lack of one, or by where you live or go to church? People generally define themselves by age, intelligence, education, marital status, material things, and family.

Satan, the Enemy, knows exactly how and where to attack each one of us. He knows where we are vulnerable. As Christians, we need to learn to recognize the lies and replace them with God’s truth. Satan wants us to focus on our flaws and feelings of inadequacy, and then exhaust ourselves trying to hide them. God, on the other hand, wants us to focus on His acceptance, security and significance and thank Him for His promises that remind us of who we are in Him. We need to remember that God is well pleased with us before we do anything simply because we are His children.

God was there from the very beginning. He spoke each one of us into our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), at just the right time to be here now. It was not by accident, nor was it a surprise to God. We need to get rid of any image of ourselves that is not from God. We have to stop believing what others have said or how we have been labeled in the past, and stop accepting how others define us.

This is a concept that I have struggled with for some time. Honestly, it is so much easier for me to believe the negative than the positive about myself. My insecurities about myself and falling victim to the lies started back in the first grade. My teacher’s negative comments stuck with me. Throughout school, I became more swayed by what others thought about me. Before long, I could not even begin to answer the question, Who am I? Because I had no idea. I had lost all sense of “me” and who I really was. It took quite a while to break free from those lies. In fact if I let my defenses down, the lies and insecurities start to infiltrate my mind and try to take over even to this day.

When we let these lies take hold in our mind, we begin to feel as if we have to hide behind a mask. That way, we can present to the world what we think they want to see. In actuality, by listening to others instead of God to frame our identity, we are building a wall that masks who we truly are. With the empowering of the Holy Spirit and prayer, we can start taking down this wall that has been built by others piece by piece to pave the path to victory — our identity in Christ.

When you start comparing others’ outside with your inside, you need to stop and be reminded what God says about you. (identities from Made To Crave – Lysa TerKeurst, 52)

  • Forgiven child of God (Romans 3:24)
  • Set-free child of God (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Accepted child of God (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • Holy child of God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Made-new child of God (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Loved child of God (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Close child of God (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Confident child of God (Ephesians 3:12)
  • Victorious child of God (Romans 8:37)

When the comparisons start flooding your mind, let the words of this song, More Beautiful You, wash over you. You are loved, special and beautiful – just as you are.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you today loaded down with the burden of trying to be what others want me to be. I ask that you take this from me and remind me that my identity comes from you alone. You formed me for a specific purpose and plan. You do not make mistakes. Therefore, help me to daily let my true identity in You shine forth. In Your Precious Name, Amen.