Know the Word

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

When my husband was in seminary in Dallas and in graduate school in Virginia, we were part of different small groups from our churches. We would sometimes be studying a passage of Scripture or a pertinent biblical topic. I rarely prepared by reading my Bible beforehand. I was always ready though with an answer and to share what I thought! This was based on what I had been taught or on my own logical interpretation of the subject in that moment, not from what I had studied on my own.

Read more

My Testimony: His Strength in My Weakness

Have you ever wondered if you matter?

Have you ever wondered if you can be sure that you are “saved” (rescued from sin by Christ’s death and resurrection) and have eternal life?

Those were questions that plagued me for most of my life.

In December, I was invited to give my testimony.  It was recorded, and I share it below.

I would far prefer to write. Public speaking takes me out of my comfort zone. In fact, I told my husband on the way over it felt like I was going to surgery!

The title for my testimony was “His Strength in My Weakness” which I again experienced that night. That truth (from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)—and that we live this life by the power of His Spirit working in us—is my life song. Weakness is my platform. That’s really all I have to bring—nothing in me, all in Christ.

At my husband’s encouragement, I’m sharing it here. This is not an easy thing to do. I offer it with only a desire to point to Jesus, and a prayer that it might somehow be used for His glory.

“His Last Words” Bible Study

14725639_10208970490434126_2694064041060376600_nYou may have noticed through some of my recent social media posts that I’ve been part of a launch team for a new Bible Study, His Last Words, by Kim Erickson. It’s part of a new group of women’s studies published by Moody Publishers which is being officially released tomorrow.

I am thrilled to see these kinds of biblical studies being produced for the growth and edification of women in the church. It’s not full of fluff, superficial, or written to appeal to our sense of humor or to tickle our ears. It’s sound doctrine, focused on the Bible and biblical truth, recognizing that we need to be fed on the Word of God and know this truth that will change our lives.

Kim Erickson has an incredible story of how God brought her to salvation in 2008 through the death of her 3-year old son. She has come to love God’s Word and to know its life-changing impact.

Kim has written a unique study. While you read a short section in your Bible to begin the day’s lesson, she then has the verses listed out one by one, every verse. It gives an opportunity for us to see in each verse what it says about God and His character and who He is. I loved this verse by verse approach, which works particularly well for this study on Jesus’ last words in John 13-17.

When we study God’s Word, approaching it with humility and in prayer asking for His Spirit to guide us, it’s amazing the treasure we find. Sometimes, we can hear the gospel message so often that the sheer wonder of it ceases to amaze us simply because of its familiarity. Opening God’s Word each day, approaching it to worship God, to see who He is, and who we are in light of that, safeguards us from losing our zeal and love for God as He re-awakens in us the truth of His Word.

One example of this was going through the first week’s lessons on John 13 at the Last Supper where Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. He stooped and set aside his place in this act of service, a picture of His far greater sacrifice on the cross (Philippians 2). Through the study that week, our Facebook launch team made all sorts of observations that we shared with each other. We thought about Judas who could be so near to Jesus, and yet not know Him, who would moments later betray the One who had just stooped to wash even his feet. We thought about Jesus’ great love for them and for us, that loved them to the end.

At the end of the week, I went to church where we had communion that Sunday. What was a normal Sunday for me, the worship of God in the fellowship of believers, suddenly became much richer because of this study. While the elements were being distributed, I opened my Bible to John 13, and all that I had been studying starting rolling through my heart and mind. I found the tears flowing, so alive and awake from the study, to partake of communion remembering all Jesus has done for us, his death on the cross for our sins, His body broken, His blood poured out for us. 

I was unprepared for the response, but isn’t this what God’s Word does? We don’t realize all it’s working in our hearts day by day, and then one moment it hits in all the deeper places realizing all it really means. It awakens us from our sleep, it draws us to God and His ways, it exposes where we are going wrong, it draws us to repentance, it strengthens our faith, it revives and changes us.

Praise God for His Word, so readily available to us today. I pray we won’t take this gift for granted, but will instead treasure it and share it and use resources such as His Last Words to equip and spur us on in our faith. It’s a great time of year to commit to reading the Bible each day and the study of God’s Word. It will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).

Happy New Year 2017

The clock is ticking. Midnight is approaching. A new year is about to dawn.

Pressure. I’m already feeling pressure. I haven’t composed a list of resolutions or reflected on the past year while looking forward to the new one. We are just back from 10 wonderful days in Montana for Christmas with my sister’s family. I am thankful for a flexible job that allows me to pick up and miss so much time any time I ask, even nearly last minute! I rushed home from our trip, though, anxious to catch up at work, catch up at home, and catch up on life.

Catching up. I’m already playing catch up as the new year begins. I feel the need to slow down and breathe. To take a moment to sit and be still, to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He holds all things in His sovereign care, in His powerful arms, and I can simply rest.

Rest. Do you also need that already, before the new year even begins? His yoke is easy, His burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30). Bring your cares before Him, casting all your anxieties upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

It’s not too late! There are two hours left before the clock strikes midnight. I’m going to pause, grab my Bible, journal a little bit, reflect on my word for the new year (that I do have, as I like to have a theme for each year), be still, remember what God has done the past year, look forward to what lies ahead, and pray.

Pray. I today remembered a couple who invited us over to their home several years back to bring in the year with prayer. We didn’t know any of the other couples there, but it was really a sweet time. What a great thing to do to pray in the new year!

In our coming year, one child is wrapping up high school and thinking about college. The other is learning to drive. My husband is writing new books, and I am involved with several events and projects at church. Why not take time to pray for these forthcoming new things, the things set before us, to commit our ways to the Lord and trust in Him to act (Psalm 37:5), to pray for His will to be done in our lives, families, friendships, schools, and workplaces.

After 10 adventurous days away, we didn’t have much planned on our New Year’s Eve calendar. And the night is turning out just right. How is your 2016 ending?

I wish you a happy New Year as we welcome 2017.

 

Highlights from the Week

Just need a place to capture some encouragements from this week.

I was invited to share my testimony at Koinonia House National Ministries‘ Radical Time Out (RTO). RTO is a weekly dinner and Bible study. It was humbling and such a gift to share. My mom, husband, and friends gathered at the end to pray. This was a special time I pray God uses for His glory. So much is represented in this picture to me, more than I can describe. My heart is full. Thank you, Lord, for being my strength in weakness.

15419595_880907778229_3913958754451057831_o

Then this song has ministered to me this week. I don’t want to forget.

Then lastly, these verses offer me hope, encouragement to trust in the Lord for the coming days even as I wait on Him. He gives strength to the weary, new strength to those who wait, trust, and hope in Him.

Isaiah 40:28-31:

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Gifts of God

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Good Gifts

Late on Thanksgiving Day, after a long day of activities, I began to think of sleep. With all the cooking and preparing that morning, though, I had not spent time reading my Bible. During a day significant for giving thanks, I hadn’t paused to give God thanks.

I sat down with my Bible and thought of the words of James 1:17:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 

I began to think of the gifts in my life, to name them and write them down, to be thankful and to recognize they are from God.

This listing of gifts caused me to wonder: are there specific gifts of God named in Scripture? I looked up “gift” in the concordance at the back of my Bible. Here are four that I found:

Salvation

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What have we been saved from? Earlier in that passage, it describes our trespasses and sins in which we were dead (Eph. 2:1-3). But God, rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ, and gave even so much more (Eph. 2:4-7). Saved by grace through faith—the gift of God.

Eternal Life

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Along these same lines, Romans 6 also talks about being dead to sin and alive to God. It concludes with the contrast of death and life, of being in sin or being in Christ, and the amazing free gift of eternal life for those who know Christ.

Holy Spirit

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

With salvation through Christ and the assurance of eternal life with Christ, we can also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, God himself within us. This is a wonder too great to imagine! Other parts of Scripture explain the role of the Holy Spirit, and we also understand this reality more clearly as we experience it through faith in Christ.

Spiritual Gifts

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

1 Corinthians 12 and following talks about spiritual gifts given to believers. Each one is given and empowered by God and has a necessary role in the body of believers.

Other Good Gifts

This morning I took a more comprehensive look at “gifts” in the Bible, doing a little more study than I previously had with my simple concordance. I saw that God is the giver of many other gifts. This could actually be a much greater study. But there is one gift that is greater than all.

The Gift of God Himself

Though God gives us many gifts, the gift of God Himself is the best one. The gift-giver is the ultimate Gift. We find Him when we put our faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. As we go on, it might be easy from time to time to long for other good gifts He can give and forget that He is both the Giver of the gifts and the Gift we most need.

Receive the Gift

Do you know this Gift? The Gift of God Himself?

Have you received the free gift of salvation that He has made available to us through Christ, through grace? Do you have confidence of eternal life in Christ? Are you experiencing the Spirit-filled life and exercising the spiritual gifts that God bestows on those who believe in Him?

If not, pray and tell God that you want to receive Him through faith in Christ, to be forgiven of your sins, to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and to believe that God raised Him from the dead. Call upon Him, put your faith in Him, repent of sin, receive the free gift of salvation, and rest in Him.

No fancy words are needed, no advanced level of understanding is required—just simple faith in the amazing God who made you, loves you, and died to redeem you.

And then begin to read the Bible to get to know Him more. Start with the Book of John or Romans. Go to a Bible-believing church that can help you begin to grow as a new believer. Tell a friend of your new life in Christ so they can encourage you. Keep seeking Him in prayer that He might show you the way to now live. And thank Him for the free gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ for those who believe on Jesus’ name.

As we enter this Christmas season, I can’t think of any better gift to receive. Thank you, Jesus.