Power Walking

Reading the beginning of Deuteronomy feels like watching one of those movies where the narrator shows up in the final scene and tells you how all the pieces fit together.

Moses and the Israelites have almost reached the end; he’s about to die and they’re about to enter the promised land. And suddenly he is speaking to the masses, the children of the original cast, reminding them how the story began more than 40 years ago, and recounting the plot twists along the way. He’s tying up loose ends and telling them the lessons they need to hold onto once they (and he) cross over.

These lessons are as relevant today as they were then. They are lessons about walking with God, following him into the exceedingly good places and avoiding losing our way.

Lesson 1 – Stand on the Promises of God.

Moses begins by recounting how God fulfilled all his promises:

  • God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:7: “To your offspring I will give this land.” Moses reminds them of God’s words:

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

  • God promised relationship, “The whole land of Canaan, where you know reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:8 )

Throughout his speech Moses refers to God as “The LORD our God,” “The LORD your God” and “The LORD, the God of your ancestors” (Deuteronomy 1:6, 10, 11).

  • God also promised Abraham: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky…” Moses reflects the exact language of that important promise saying to Israel:

“The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (Deuteronomy 1:10)

Lesson 2 – Faith Walks; Fear Stops.

Jesus warned us that “in this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) And he asks us to walk the hard road: “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Both are scary.

What we learn from the Israelites is that we can either walk in faith or let fear bring us to a standstill. Back in Exodus the Israelites were hemmed in; Pharaoh and his soldiers were closing in behind while the Red Sea posed an immutable obstacle in front of them. Understandably, “they were very frightened.” (Exodus 14:10) In Hebrew the word for “very” is m@`od, which means exceedingly…in other words really, really frightened!

And yet…they didn’t let fear paralyze them. They stepped into the sea…before it parted.

Fast forward 40 years; they are standing on the edge of the promised land. But the enemy this time is in front of their eyes…and BIG…so big that the Israelites lose sight of God.

Moses sees their fear: “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you will fight for you as he did in Egypt, before your very eyes.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31)

He further encourages them with a beautiful image of God’s love adding, “You saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. (Deuteronomy 1:31)

But they freeze. As they lean into their fear, they lean away from God…which results in their worst fears being fulfilled:

You rebelled against the Lord’s command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country. The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah. 

Deuteronomy 1:43

Lesson 3 – Remember How You Got Here.

Over and over again in the Old Testament God instructs the Israelites to tell their children stories of his faithfulness. In my recent post, Stories of Remembrance, I wrote of how these stories seed our children’s faith.

But such stories help us too; they instruct and remind our hearts that it is not in vain to trust the Lord.

Let’s Get Moving!

Applying these lessons to our own walks with God relies less on our feet and more on the Spirit in our step:

When you are afraid — even really, really afraid — will you allow fear to stop you, or will you step out wholeheartedly, trusting the LORD your God to go before you, confident in the knowledge that he is exceedingly good?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and sound judgment.

2 Timothy 1:7

Triple Dog Dare Ya

I would love to be the type of person God uses in miraculous ways in the lives of others.

Someone like the woman I heard call in to K-Love last week. She shared how God told her to pull into a parking lot and wait. She obeyed even though doing so caused her to miss the appointment she’d been rushing to. And then she obeyed a prompting to get out of her car and walk up to a stranger who had just pulled in in his truck, and tell him that God wanted him to know he was not alone…and never had been. It turned out the man had been in a crisis of faith and had been pleading with God to reveal himself. The truck driver told this woman that she was an angel sent to him, and, indeed, in that moment she was.

This morning I heard a story about Beth Moore traveling through an airport and being called by God to offer to brush the hair of an old man “humped over in a wheelchair; he was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that obviously fit when he was at least twenty pounds heavier.”

After much consternation she heeded the call. Once her task was complete, she received the blessing of learning that the man was returning to see his wife following open-heart surgery, and he had been worrying about how he would look for “his bride.”

Years ago I came across a woman who made a habit of saying to restaurant servers, “Before we eat our meal tonight we will pray; when we do, is there some way that we can pray for you?”

How faith affirming!

How miraculous these stories are!

“Oh Lord,” I whisper, “I want you to use me like that!”

As quickly as the words gush out I can hear God’s reply. “Really? Are you really ready to step out this boldly?”

My heart does a flip flop as I rationalize, “Well, I would be if it weren’t so risky…er, um, okay, so embarrassing.”  And I recognize that perhaps the problem isn’t so much God’s nudging, but my willingness to take the leap of faith. The truth hurts.

Playing it Safe

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How many times have I felt prompted to pray with someone — right then and there — and instead offered a meager promise of, “I’ll pray for you” instead?

Just the other day a friend acknowledged his struggle to believe in a higher power, let alone to trust that Jesus actually existed. I let his vulnerable admission float right by like a wisp of smoke, promising myself I’d find a better time to invite a discussion…soon.

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24

When God prompts us to speak into the lives of others, he’s not only working on their hearts, he’s working on ours too. If I fully trust the voice asking (God’s), and the reason (to invite others into a life-saving relationship with him), would I really hesitate over something as petty as potential embarrassment? I don’t think so; in fact, I don’t think embarrassment would be a risk if my focus was only on serving another person in a manner pleasing to God.

What Are You Waiting For?

I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I console myself when I wimp out in such situations is by rationalizing that I’m still maturing as a Christian. One day I’ll be ready for those epic “Beth Moore” moments…just not today.

The problem with that mindset is there is no promise of anything other than today, and there is no timetable for becoming qualified to follow Jesus boldly and bravely.

The apostles spent three years walking with him every day, yet they often missed the boat, sometimes literally. They argued about who among them was the greatest while the only answer to the question was being revealed on a nearby mountain (Luke 9). Peter stepped out onto the water quite boldly, but just quickly lost his nerve and found himself in over his head. (Matthew 14:22-33). And Thomas doubted that Jesus was resurrected until he touched his hands and side. (John 20:24-29)

But following his very first encounter with Jesus, Philip grasped that he was the Christ, and boldly invited the scholarly and more theologically mature Nathanael to come and see the Messiah (John 1:45). A mere criminal, justly crucified beside Jesus, became the first person to put the whole salvation story together, acknowledging Jesus as King and asking to be saved:

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23: 42-43

Do You Dare?

The bottom line is that we get to choose whether to play it safe or dare to spread Christ’s love with reckless abandon.

The truck driver could have laughed at the woman and called her a fool.

The old man in the wheelchair could have cursed Beth Moore for insulting his appearance.

And one of those waiters the woman offered to pray for could have derided her as a “Jesus freak.”

And perhaps those will be the outcomes, sometimes. But those are small risks when compared with the opportunity to lavish Christ’s love on someone who needs it desperately.

When we allow God to use us, as he did these women, we allow him to tell a beautiful story of serving one another in faithfulness to him and of the love that binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

This week I will pray for God to embolden me to dare greatly (and I invite you to do the same). Who knows…the life we save may be our own!

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Stories of Remembrance

Throughout the Exodus God maintains a delicate balance as he raises up his chosen people.

First he seeks to be known, punctuating each display of his might and miraculous provision with, “Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

Second, even as the story unfolds in the back-and-forth struggle of God’s faithful love for a stubbornly faithless people (who bear a uncomfortable resemblance to us today), the Lord is intentional about archiving stories of remembrance for the generations to come.

After they cross the Red Sea and escape the Egyptians God tells Moses that when they reach the Promised Land, the Israelites are to consecrate their first-born sons, and the first-born of their flocks to the Lord as an act of remembrance:

In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Exodus 13:14

When he provides manna in the desert he again preserves a remnant:

Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”

Exodus 16:32

Reflections on Remembrance

God does not wait until the Israelites’ journey is complete before instructing them to capture and share their stories. Our walks with God are never complete. We always are inadequate in our faith, and continually learning and growing in our walks with him.

Our children — and every child of God with whom we engage — need to hear about our journeys, perhaps even more so than the destination.

I tend to shirk this responsibility by leaning on the fact that I lead a pretty ordinary life. God moves in my life in ways that I find to be spectacular, but there is no parting of the sea or manna showing up on my front lawn. Will others be moved by my mundane stories?

The honest answer is, “Who knows?” Faith is a gift of God; it’s not the result of our works–or our stories themselves. God simply teaches us to be obedient in sharing what he has done and is doing in our lives…as it unfolds.

Finally God makes an interesting point of preserving physical signs. God told the Israelites to save some manna so they could show future generations God’s handiwork. This is a little tricky, but it got me thinking about what physical artifacts I can preserve.

Steps to Remembrance

So let’s get practical. If the faith of our children — and our children’s children — depends on these stories, how do we get about it in earnest? What can we do right now?

Here’s a list I’ve come up with; feel free to add your thoughts in the comments to this post.

  • Share your stories. My in-laws rode a tandem bicycle cross-country when they first retired. They arrived home with two storylines, one about the people and experiences they encountered, the other about God’s protection and presence throughout the journey. One of the stories I remember to this day was that they were almost out of water with miles to go, and my mother-in-law prayed from the backseat for God’s help. A few miles later  a random car rolled up, and a stranger offered them water bottles.

Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.

Exodus17:6

Practice spiritual discipline and talk about why. My sister-in-law used to read her Bible on her phone during her morning quiet time. Then she realized that to her children it looked the same as if she was perusing Facebook or reading email. So she reverted to her physical Bible so her children will see God’s Word in her hands each day.

When our children see us read the Bible daily, come to worship with us on Sundays or serve others as a family, it is good and right to talk with them about why we do these things and for whom.

Share God’s Word. My kids tease me about it, but I am shameless in pointing them back to Scripture on questions of right and wrong, problems they are facing or as an encouragement of their infinite value and worth. I write them letters about who they are in God’s eyes, personalizing the verses with their names. I text them verses weekly.

God speaks to us powerfully through his Word, reminding us of his truths, but the seeds must be planted in order to bear fruit.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Keep a journal; write in your Bible. When I study the Bible I make notes in my journal. An effective technique I’ve adopted recently is to read and and then answer three questions (Anne Graham-Lotz’s 3-question study): 1) What does it say? 2) What is God saying? 3) What is God saying to me?

This photo is of the Bible owned by one of the most passionate Bible teachers I know. BibleIt is testament to the truth that, “When your Bible is falling apart, you are not.”

Consider creating a priceless treasure for your children in your well-worn Bible, filled with the record of what God is showing you, even if it means leaving a broken down, dog-eared, highlighted and cross-referenced tome.

Make and preserve symbols of your faith. It took me a few minutes to even think of symbols equivalent to manna in my life, but I have them…so do you. One that came to mind is the wedding band I gave my husband for our 21st anniversary. I had it made because I had come to deeply treasure his faith leadership over our family. Since two of our four children are adopted from Korea, I had the band inscribed in Hangul with the citation “Joshua 24:15”:

As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The ring serves as an instrument of witness for him on a daily basis, and one that I hope our sons especially will preserve and remember as they enter into their own seasons as heads of their households.

The message God teaches us throughout Exodus is to begin today to be intentional about the legacy of faith we are planting in our children.

As a result of Joshua’s bold witness, Scripture tells us he created a legacy of faithfulness:

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua 24:31

Big Dreams

In studying the story of Joseph we can see how — as he learned to use his gift of dream interpretation for God’s glory rather than his own — he received greater blessings than he ever could have dreamed.

He must become greater;

I must become less.

John 3:30

Dream 1: Serving Self

We meet Joseph as a teenager, just 17, the second-youngest in a band of brothers who call Jacob their father, the future tribes of Israel.

Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph, a generational sin that led to big problems in Jacob’s own family of origin, has put Joseph at odds with his brothers. Rather than seeking reconciliation, however, Joseph, full of self, instead plays both sides against the middle.

The first thing we see him do is bring a bad report about his brothers to his father. (Genesis 37:2). His snitching is rewarded with further favor as his father gives him an ornate robe. (Genesis 37:4)

It’s in this unhealthy family dynamic that Joseph has two dreams. The first dream is about 11 sheaths of wheat bowing down to the twelfth, and the second is about the sun and moon and 11 stars bowing down to the twelfth as well.

Why did God give Joseph these dreams if they were only going to cause trouble? Perhaps He offered them as a promise for the future, to encourage Joseph that the rejection he was experiencing in his family would not be permanent.

But this prideful young man has not yet learned discernment. Joseph appears to make no effort to understand God’s purpose or message, and instead takes full credit for his visions, rather naively sharing them with his brothers without considering how they might be received.

“Listen to this dream I had.” (Genesis 37:6)

The result is an ominous deepening of his brothers’ hostility:

“They hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.” (Genesis 37: 8)

By the next time Joseph heads out to the fields their jealousy has reached a murderous pitch.

“Here comes the dreamer,” they mock. “We’ll see what comes of his dreams.” (Genesis 37: 18)

Far from bowing down to him, they put him in a place lower than themselves, literally, tossing him into a well.

Dream 2: Serving Others

The next time Joseph is given an opportunity to use his gift, he has matured into a strapping young man under circumstances that have humbled him and his dreams of grandeur. Imprisoned on false charges Joseph is learning to lean on the Lord, and to use any earthly favor with wisdom.

“The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:21)

This is quite a different Joseph. Now more others-focused, Joseph notices two of his fellow prisoners are having a tough time of it, and he shows concern for them asking, “Why are you sad?” The cupbearer and baker to the Pharaoh tell him they each have had a dream and want to understand the meaning.

Joseph responds, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Tell me your dreams.” (Genesis 40:9)

This time Joseph readily acknowledges God as the source of his gift. He interprets each man’s dream, telling the cupbearer that he will be restored to his position and the baker that he will be executed.

Even knowing God is with him and has full power over his circumstance Joseph still struggles to trust God fully. Cupbearer is a high-ranking position in Egypt, and Joseph knows this man is about to have the King’s ear, so he implores him:

“When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” (Genesis 40: 14)

Yet people and things of this world often fail to satisfy. We learn that “the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23)

Dream 3: Serving the Lord

Two years later, Joseph is still cooling his heels in prison while the cupbearer is enjoying the blessing promised him in the dream, not once recalling the friend who helped him in his time of need.

The cupbearer may have Pharaoh’s ear, but God is sovereign over his entire being. He gives Pharaoh troubling dreams, first of cows and then of grain, the healthy ones consumed by the unhealthy ones. Pharaoh is desperate to learn the meaning of these troubling visions, and consults with magicians and wise men, but finds no satisfaction.

Finally the cupbearer’s memory is jarred, and he says, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings,” and tells Pharaoh how Joseph interpreted his dream so long ago.

Pharaoh brings Joseph out of prison and asks him to interpret his dream. Now Joseph thinks nothing of himself and asks nothing for himself. Instead all he can do is point Pharaoh to God:

  • “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41: 16)
  • “God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (Genesis 41: 25)
  • “God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. (Genesis 41:28)
  • “…The matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” (Genesis 41:32)

Pharaoh cannot help but see God shining through Joseph. While he doesn’t know his God, he knows he needs Him. Pharaoh asks his advisers, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then he says to Joseph:

“Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” (Genesis 41:39-40)

And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.

Genesis 41: 57

Interpreting Joseph’s Dreams

  • What gift or gifts has God given you?
  • Do you use your gift to serve yourself or others?
  • Do you still find yourself longing to receive some credit?
  • Are you faithful in seeking to use your gift for God’s glory, directing others’ praise to the source of all good gifts?
  • Are you focused on the gift or the Giver?

The truth for all of us is probably some mix of each of these at different times.

We know God’s desire is to use us, like Joseph, for the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:21)

 

Let’s pray that, like Joseph, God will help us grow in wisdom and virtue in how we steward the gifts we’ve been given:

Today, Jesus, we surrender all we have to you.

We ask that you grow the seeds you’ve planted in each of us to create a rich harvest. As we become less, Jesus, you become more in the eyes of others. May even those who don’t know you see you and be drawn to you as you radiate, unencumbered, through each of us.

May we use the gifts we have been given for your glory, and may you multiply the power and the blessing of those gifts to your good purpose: the saving of many lives.

We ask this in your name, Father. Amen.

Walking in the Hard Places

Originally published by Deep River Books

The things that matter the most are the hardest to do. Nanette Kirsch found this to be true as she researched, wrote, and released Denial: Abuse, Addiction, and a Life Derailed.

Denial, a novel based on a true story, centers on David Wagner, a married father of five and millionaire entrepreneur. He’s the life of every party and seems to have it all together. Yet the effects of childhood sexual abuse linger, luring him into a secretive double life. His story is difficult but important, and it has already prompted adult survivors of childhood abuse to break the silence that binds them spiritually and mentally.

How does an author even begin to tackle a book about abuse, addiction, and a life derailed? We decided to ask Nanette for insight. Here’s her story of challenge, blessing, spiritual battle, and God’s victory—and her encouragement for writers who, like her, are called to write on topics the enemy would rather we keep quiet about.

Keep reading…the full article is here:

http://deepriverbooks.com/author-on-the-rise-nanette-kirsch/

 

Visit my Website. Follow the unfolding story.

https://DenialBook.com

 

Read more about hard places: The Rock and the Hard Places

 

 

Trust & Obey: A Model for Ministry

God created each of us with a specific ministry assignment in mind. While our assignments are as diverse and creative as He is, they share a common goal of drawing people into a life-transforming, life-saving relationship with Jesus. (Ephesians 2:10)

As the body of Christ we are called to embrace and fulfill our assignments. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) As we are faithful in small things, God will grow our ministries (but also our burdens). (Matthew 25:14-30)

I am reading Exodus, and was struck by five traits Moses modeled in his response to God’s call.

1. Be Present

Moses was tending sheep, having led them to “far side of the wilderness,” a remote location where he no doubt expected to be isolated and alone. God shows up at the most unexpected places and times in our lives.

When God first grabs Moses’ attention it is as a curiosity, a bush burning without being consumed. Moses is attracted to the spectacle, without recognizing its source.

God calls to him by name: “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am,” Moses replies.

When we hear God’s call the first step is to recognize and acknowledge Him.

2. Trust

It’s not until Moses makes the first move to go over to look at the burning bush that God calls out to him. (Exodus 3:4) Throughout Scripture God waits for His people to take the first step:

  • Abraham displays trust in God’s character before God stays his hand from sacrificing his son, Isaac. (Genesis 22)
  • The Israelites step into the Red Sea before God parts it. (Exodus 14:15)
  • God stops the Jordan River for the Israelites to cross “as soon as the priests’ feet touched the water’s edge.” (Joshua 3)
  • And Jesus tells Peter to step out of the boat first, “Come.” (Matthew 14: 22-34)

God always waits for us to take the first step; it’s an implicit part of free will.

God wastes no time after telling Moses of His plan to free His people; He directs him, “So now, go.” (Exodus 3:10)

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3. Repent

As soon as Moses realizes he is in the presence of God he is overcome by his own sinfulness. He hides his face and is afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:6)

In fact, Moses doesn’t even reach his appointment before God deems him to be nearly dead in sin, having failed to circumcise his son–part of the covenantal promise of the people he is being called to lead. He is surprised by his own sin. God does not promise that following Him will be easy or enjoyable. 

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Luke 9:23

If we accept a role of leading others we also must submit to a new level of God’s refinement. James acknowledges this difference in standards. (James 3:1)

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), God uses our ministries to refine our hearts first. Ever mindful of our sinfulness, we then can be humble and faithful in pointing to Him as the source of the good others see in us. (Matthew 5:16)

As we step into our ministry assignments it is important to continually and actively repent as a spiritual discipline, prayerfully inviting the Lord’s refinement:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24 

4. Implore God

Moses had a wife, family and a decent living working for his father-in-law. God was asking him to drop everything for what seemed like a fool’s errand: Demand that Pharaoh free the Israelites, the same Pharaoh from whom he was a fugitive for murder. And, oh by the way, the promised land flowing with milk and honey was also  occupied…by some of the Israelites’ fiercest enemies.

We all have lots of great-sounding reasons to delay and defer on our assignments.

Moses took his concerns to God honestly and openly:

First, he questioned if there might be a more qualified messenger. God simply reminds Moses (and us): “I will be with you.”

Next, he frets that, as a disenfranchised Hebrew, his brethren may not believe that he speaks for their God. God doesn’t choose the holiest among us; He tends to choose the lowliest. It’s about displaying His power and goodness, not ours.

“But what if they don’t believe me?” Moses asks. (Anyone whispering an “Amen” here?) God is sending Moses back to a people who never accepted him as one of their own. Jesus acknowledged this challenge at the start of his public ministry: “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24)

Finally, Moses laments being asked to serve in his area of greatest weakness. “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10) God shows tremendous grace to this reluctant servant, enlisting his brother, Aaron, to help.

Fortunately, we serve a relational God who designed us to strengthen and support one another; we should not be afraid to ask for support.

5. Obey

In the end, Moses obeys God’s call at ever-greater levels with each step he takes.

He quickly departs on a journey with no clear outcome. He trusts that God will be with him, provide for his needs, and use him to bring freedom to others.

If you are awaiting God’s call on your life, preparing for a new ministry or in the midst of a tumultuous one now, remember and embrace Moses’ model for ministry:

Trust and Obey.

“P” is for Prayer

A Daily Rhythm Encouragement

Originally published by Church on Morgan

 

As part of our focus all month on S.O.A.P., “P” is the final letter in this handy method for studying the Bible. If you missed S O and A—covered in weeks one through three—they’re as close as your inbox.

Prayer, a churchy word for talking with God, comes with a lot of baggage for many of us.

And yet without prayer SOAP is nothing but a letter jumble, because studying God’s Word absolutely is powered by prayer.

So how do we pray well? Here are two verses that have helped me grow in my prayer life:

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

And Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

When I am feeling anxious I thank Him for taking care of me and my needs. I ask for Him to take my burden. And when I really do let Him have it I have experienced inexpressible peace in the face of the most challenging circumstances.

I certainly don’t pray without ceasing (yet), but I do try to pray as I go about my day; when I notice the beautiful Carolina sky in the school pickup line or stand for the national anthem at our son’s athletic events. When such things touch my heart I thank God for the blessings of the moment, for beauty, health, joy, etc.

So when does God get a turn to speak? When we read His Word. Prayer in this situation is a simple yet important discipline. When we sit down with Scripture, invite God in. My prayer usually sounds something like this:

Lord, thank you for this time with you. Please clear my mind so that I may hear your word, open my heart to embrace the truth you reveal to me and instill in me the desire to live it out in my life this day.

Thank you for joining me in cleaning up on our Bible study methods with a little SOAP. It’s been a pleasure!

Read from the beginning of this series Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

“A”: Apply Scripture to Your Life

A Daily Rhythm Encouragement

Originally published by Church on Morgan

 

This week in our S.O.A.P-y series we’re focusing on A, Application.

What would be the point of reading and observing truths in Scripture if we didn’t do anything with them? When God speaks to our hearts we are called to act, using what we’re learning to bring light and hope to a dark and needy world.

Reading the Bible as part of the rhythm of your days, weeks or months, creates a place where you can go to hear God, learn about His character, discover how much He loves you, experience His amazing grace and be reminded that “as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

As you uncover truths that speak to your heart, be intentional to apply them to your life and in the world:

Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. (Mark 4:21-22)

With each step forward that you take, standing on His truth, God will likewise be faithful to invite to take yet another step…and another…and another. One of the beautiful things about our God is that we can never exhaust the joy of discovering him, nor grow complacent in our praise as long as we are moving toward Him.

And the really great news is that even when we falter and turn away, he uses his Word to call us back to him:

God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. (Romans 4:12)

What truth is God teaching you as you adopt a rhythm of reading His Word?

Read this series from the beginning: Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

“O”: Open Your Eyes to Scripture

 

A Daily Rhythm Encouragement

Originally published by Church on Morgan

Throughout June we are focusing on the S.O.A.P. method of Bible study. S.O.A.P. stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. (See last week’s Daily for a more detailed overview.)

This week we’ll take a look at Observation…pun intended.

Judaism refers to the Torah, our Old Testament, as a multi-faceted gem, one that reveals new light each time it is turned in the context of our life experiences. Maybe you’ve had the experience of reading a familiar passage and something relevant to your current circumstance jumps out to you as if you’re seeing it for the first time?

As we read the Bible we’re listening for what God is speaking to our hearts; those Spirit-led insights that we can then apply to our lives. (The good news is that He is always speaking…we just aren’t attuned to listening.)

Unlike English class or your book club, reading the Bible doesn’t require parsing everything or even understanding it all. Instead God invites us into a slow marinating process, one that allows His word to wash over us and soak in…maybe just a single word or phrase, an idea or an image of Jesus.

I have collected a few helpful tools I turn to when digging deeper into a passage that you might like to check out:

  • Bible Gateway or Bible.com – Both are easy to navigate by phone or mobile device, and offer myriad translations, from King James to The Message.
  • Blue Letter Bible – Look up a passage to see its root words in Hebrew or Greek, definition(s), and a concordance of places where the word or phrase is found throughout scripture.
  • VerseMinder – a great app for memorizing scripture.

What resources do you like to use in making observations as you study Scripture? Share as a comment and I’ll include them in a round up in the final Daily for this month.

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…

Luke 24:45

Start reading from the beginning of this series: Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture.

Read the next post in this series: “A”: Apply Scripture to Your Life.

Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture

A DAILY RHYTHM REFLECTION

Originally Published by Church on Morgan

I just completed my first S.O.A.P. Bible study, so I considered it a bit of a divine coincidence to be asked to write about this simple and effective method of studying scripture for this month’s Daily Rhythm.

WHAT IS S.O.A.P.?

S – Scripture. Develop a daily habit of reading the Bible. More on this in a moment.

O– Make an Observation. Allow God’s Word to speak to your heart. Record your observation in a journal, share it in your missional community, discuss it a Bible study group…the goal is to be intentional about hearing from God in through the text.

A –Apply what you’re learning in how you work, relate or serve that day.

P—Pray. Prayer is the fuel to each of the steps before it: Pray before you open the Bible; ask God to show you what He wants you to see and also to show you where and how to put it into action in your daily life.

SCRIPTURE

Today’s Daily is brought to you by the letter S, for Scripture.

I considered myself to be a Christian all my life, yet I had never owned nor read the Bible until I was in my forties. Once I finally entered its sacred pages, I was hooked.

Today I think of the Bible like a Verizon network for our souls. As I read, memorize and recall Scripture I can almost hear God saying, “Can you hear me now?”

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Read the next post in this series: “O”: Open Your Eyes to Scripture

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Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.