Tag Archive | Gratitude

A New Month, A New Topical Bible Reading Plan

For a couple years, I have been using the monthly topical Bible reading plans published by Rachel Wojo, and this month’s plan Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus is especially appropriate to where I’ve been walking in recent months. My desire is to do at least one blog post per week during June sharing some of the things I’m learning from this study. If anyone is interested in doing this study with me, here is Rachel’s June Bible reading plan.

In the midst of a time of trying to find answers to explain recent irregularities in my blood tests, walking in God’s peace has been a challenge. It’s been a daily battle not to give in to fear. Last July and again in February of this year, my alkaline phosphatase levels have been elevated. My doctor suspected this was due to a new bone problem, so she ordered a full body bone scan with contrast. The test revealed no new bone disease that would explain the lab results.

Then, she felt the next most probable problem was disease or obstruction in the liver or pancreas. So I had a barium and IV contrast CT-scan done of my liver and pancreas done last Friday. This was especially scary, because my doctor had mentioned the possibility of cancer. But again, I was given a clear report of health from this test. This was a huge relief, but at this point we still do not know what is behind the elevated levels.

Next Friday, I’ll be taking the next step in the diagnostic process, an appointment with my gastroenterologist to discuss the results of the CT-scan in more detail and to schedule a colonoscopy. And the following Friday, I’m scheduled for a bone density test, which my doctor said is due and should be done to rule out the one other possible area of trouble with my bones.

Unlike most of the health issues I’ve faced in the past, this new one isn’t causing any outward problems. But there has been a battle – a spiritual battle in my mind against fear. So this month’s topical study on the peace we find in God’s presence is especially fitting.

Day 1: Psalm 29:1-11 (I’m using ESV throughout this study unless otherwise noted)

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalms‬ ‭29:3-4

‭‭The voice of the Lord – and His very presence – is above the waters that threaten our lives. This reminds me of the first part of Isaiah 43:2.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”

Psalm 29 ends with these words. They are a great reminder that God is still on His throne, that He has been and continues to be in charge.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm ‭29:10-11‬ ‭

Father, today I remind myself that these latest health problems I’m facing haven’t taken You by surprise. You are above these choppy waters I’m going through, still reigning on Your throne of grace and love. Thank You for a doctor who won’t let this go until she rules out all of the major issues that could be causing this irregularity in my blood work. Thank You that the two most likely and most serious problems have now been ruled out. Continue to teach me how to take hold of Your peace and rest in You as I walk through this storm in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Advertisements

Learning to RALLY

Life with chronic illness – or any of a variety of the many trials we face as a part of life on this fallen earth – can be difficult. And poor choices that open a door to the enemy make it even harder.

I’m currently doing a study of Rally: A Personal Growth Bible Study, written by Barb Raveling, with a Facebook group I’m a part of. I highly recommend this book.

“Do you ever wish you could escape your problems? Just jump on a ship and sail across the ocean?” If your answer to this question is yes, this study may be just what you’re looking for.

From the back cover of the book:

“The Bible tells us to count it all joy when we encounter trials, but that’s hard to do. It’s easier when we remember that trials have the potential to help us grow. Unfortunately, we’re often so busy stressing and obsessing that we miss out on growing.”

The focus of this Scripture based study is on learning to “slow down, take a deep breath, and spend some time visiting with God about your current struggles.” Barb gives five steps God’s Word teaches us, which form the acronym RALLY.

R – Renew your mind.

A – Ask Him for help and accept what you need to accept.

L – Let go of your have-to-haves.

L – Let go of “if only” and make a plan.

Y – Yay God! Thank Him in all situations.

Jesus Christ, Our Advocate with the Father

The Greek word paraklētos, translated Advocate in today’s Scripture passage, is used five times in the New Testament, once by the apostle John to refer to Jesus Christ, and four times by Jesus Himself of “another Advocate,” the Holy Spirit.

Advocate is another title for a lawyer, someone who pleads your case before the bar of justice. In modern terms, an advocate is like a defense attorney who pleads the case for a defendant before a judge. The Greek word literally means called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid.

When John calls Jesus our Advocate,” it means that our Savior is standing before the heavenly throne of God, pleading our case before the Father. He is interceding on our behalf because we belong to Him.

It’s important to point out one important distinction between Jesus Christ our heavenly Advocate and an earthly advocate for someone accused of a crime. Jesus’ case as He represents us before the Father isn’t based on our righteousness or good works. His case for us is grounded in the work He has already done to secure God’s favorable verdict.

Even though we are guilty of sin and unable to meet the righteous standards God has set, Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. Or as 1 John 2:2 says,

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NIV‬

But we still have a part in the process. We have to accept this atoning sacrifice as our own through faith in the work Jesus has done. When we do this, the perfect righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is imputed to us. This means Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us by faith and counted as our own. As Matthew Henry wrote:

“The clients are guilty; their innocence and legal righteousness cannot be pleaded. It is the advocate’s own righteousness that he must plead for the criminals.”

I am grateful that, even now, Jesus is pleading with the Father on my behalf, interceding for me to be forgiven. Because I am in Christ, God is no longer the judge who condemns me but rather the Father who has adopted me into His family.

Jesus: The Lamb of God

The whole idea behind the complex sacrificial system of the Old Testament is foreign to our modern western society, but at least a general understanding of its significance is essential if we want to understand what Scripture means when Jesus is identified by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God.

In Genesis 4, we learn of the first offerings mentioned in Scripture, those of Cain and Abel. By the time of Abraham, the people God had set aside as His own were very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. When God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Passover celebration included the sacrifice of a lamb.

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats…” Exodus‬ ‭12:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬

Once the tabernacle was made according to God’s detailed instructions and the priests were consecrated, a daily system of sacrifices began.

“”Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” Exodus‬ ‭29:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬

Hebrews 10:11 tells us that these daily sacrifices lacked the power to take away sins. So why did God give such detailed instructions concerning the sacrificial system? I believe there were two reasons: First, God wanted His people to understand that sin separates us from God and that the penalty of sin needed to be paid. And second, the symbolic offering of lambs was a picture of the single sacrifice for all sins that would be offered by Christ.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:11-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He also is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed during the time of the Passover memorial. By shedding His blood on the Cross, Jesus once of all time made atonement for our sin and restored us to relationship with God. 1 Peter 1 tells us this was God’s plan all along. And the following verses remind us of the difference these truths are to make in how we live our lives.

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV

Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful that You are the Lamb of God, an acceptable sacrifice because You are without blemish or spot. Thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and making a way for my relationship with God to be restored.

I Am the Light of the World

Lights are one of my favorite Christmas decorations, from the lights on the Christmas tree to the lighted star on the top of the tree to the festive candles sitting around our living room. One tradition our family has as part of our Christmas Eve celebration is to attend the Candlelight service at our church, then come home, light the tree and candles, and sit around and eat snacks and open gifts while we listen to Christmas carols. A very appropriate way to remember the birthday of the Light of the world!

When Jesus said He is the Light of the world, He was identifying Himself as the fulfillment of the promise in Isaiah 9:2,  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” As with the last two “I am” statements, Jesus was claiming to be the promised Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Thank You, Jesus for calling me out of darkness and into Your marvelous light when I was a young adult. Until then, I knew about You but I didn’t know You personally. Now my desire is to proclaim Your excellencies to all who will listen.

‭‭

I Am The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Famous last words! Important last words! Jesus was gathered with His disciples during what He knew would be their last gathering before He fulfilled the purpose of His Father and faced the Cross. These very familiar words are part of what is known as the Farewell Discourse, when Jesus gathered in the Upper Room to celebrate His last Passover with His disciples and prepare them for what He knew was ahead of them. Jesus was facing the Cross, and He needed to prepare these men who had walked with Him for over three years for the dark days that lay ahead.

Let’s break down what He said.

  • I AM – This is one of the seven I AM statements of Jesus, probably the best known of the seven. In the Greek language, “I AM” is a very intense way of referring to oneself. In Exodus 3:14, God used the same intensive form (in Hebrew), “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” When the Jews heard these words, they understood Jesus was claiming to be God.
  • THE – By the use of the definite article “the,” Jesus was saying HE AND NO OTHER.
  • THE WAY – The ONLY WAY! Not one way of many. The only path leading to the Father and His eternal heavenly kingdom.
  • THE TRUTH – Again, the ONLY SOURCE OF TRUTH. ETERNAL, UNCHANGING AND LIFE-CHANGING TRUTH.
  • THE LIFE – The true SOURCE OF LIFE. Both A MEANINGFUL LIFE ON EARTH AND ETERNAL LIFE.

In a pluralistic society like ancient Rome, and in our own society today, these were not easily accepted words. Other religions are not the way. Good works are not the way. Jesus was saying He and He alone is the way, the truth, and the life.

Father, today I’m grateful that Your Word so clearly teaches there is only one way to a relationship with You, and it is through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ and the work He accomplished on the Cross. Thank You for showing me this truth many years ago and bringing me into Your Kingdom. Thank You also for the truth in Your Word, both in written form and in the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. And thank You for the confidence that when this life is over I will go to be in Your presence forever.

 

Learning About Prayer

I am the leader of prayer ministries for a large and growing ministry for ladies with chronic illness. I am currently leading a prayer study for the Sunday school class my husband and I attend. So prayer is important to me. But I do not consider myself an expert in prayer. As my responsibilities in the area of ministering to others in the area of prayer have increased, the knowledge that I still have a lot to learn has become foremost in my mind.  I am a learner in the area of prayer.

I shared in a recent article that my husband and I have been walking through some difficult circumstances in our lives. I don’t want to go into the details again, so I’ll share the link for anyone who is interested in this story.        https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/living-outside-my-comfort-zone/

God has been at work through these circumstances in both my husband’s life and my life, but in different ways. In my life, He has had me in what I would describe as theHoly Spirit School of Prayer

During the same period of time, I have been preparing to lead the prayer study in our Sunday school class using The Battle Plan for Prayer Bible Study materials from Stephen and Alex Kendrick, producers of the movie War Room.What I share today is a combination of what God has personally been teaching me and what I’m learning through the study of these excellent materials.

Now I have a more balanced understanding of what prayer includes. Up until recently, when I thought of prayer, what primarily came to mind was confession of sin, lifting our needs up to the Lord (supplication), and intercession for the needs of others. I always felt like I was falling short in these areas, especially in supplication and intercession, because the needs were so overwhelming that it would literally take “prayer without ceasing” to cover all of them daily.

These are important parts of prayer, but prayer is so much more. I knew in theory that worship, praise and thanksgiving were all elements of prayer, but in my mind they were separate things. I had even tried using the A.C.T.S. acronym – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication – during my prayer time, but I saw this more as a formula for prayer, with worship, praise and thanksgiving more as preparation for prayer than as actual types of prayer.

I had also read of the importance of using God’s Word in prayer, but in my mind and on my daily schedule Bible reading and prayer were two separate things. As we have walked through this difficult season, I’ve begun to understand each of these things as a part of true prayer.

At it’s root, prayer is communion and communication with God. When Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are to pray without ceasing, he was not talking about what I used to think of as prayer. He was saying throughout the day we are to stay in open communication with God. The main way God speaks to us is through His Word, so we are to read His Word expecting Him to speak to us. And we are to respond to what He shows us in prayer. Bible reading and study are meant to be a part of our prayer life, not separate from it.

This season of my life has caused a major change in my daily quiet time. Instead of seeing it as composed of a series of things I do, I have begun to see the whole quiet time as a part of prayer. Praise and worship are no longer preparing my heart for prayer – they are prayer. Overcoming discouragement by looking for God’s blessings in the midst of our trials and expressing my gratitude to Him is also a part of prayer. And when I pick up my Bible or open a Bible app on my iPad to begin reading and studying, I do so with an attitude of prayer and expectancy.

One thing that has really helped me gain this new understanding is prayer journaling. I’m not new to journaling. I remember many years ago as a new Christian getting up and reading my Bible and writing in my journal every morning before leaving for my job as a kindergarten teacher. And through the years, I’ve filled hundreds of notebooks and journals from this habit. But again, I saw this as separate from my prayer life.

When we began walking through this season where the cry of my heart daily became “God, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:12‬b‭ NIV)‬‬, I began prayer journaling. I now begin my quiet time with a prayer for God to speak to me through His Word, and as He began to do so regularly I grew into an expectancy that this would happen.

Now, as I read God’s word, I do so with a pen in my hand and my current journal open so I can put in writing the things God in showing me. This isn’t really much different than the journaling I’ve always done, but I no longer stop there. Those insights now become prayers of worship, praise and gratitude to God, of confession of sin, of honestly telling God where I am and asking His help, or of commitment to obey something He has shown me I need to do. Often as I’m reading a Scripture, someone with a need comes to mind and I intercede for them. Or I read a verse that gives a burden for Christians facing persecution for their faith and I turn this into a prayer. Or I read a passage that reminds me of how messed up things are in our nation , and I pray using that passage for our nation. Whatever God speaks to my heart during this quiet time in His presence is turned into a prayer of response.

As a result of this growing understanding of all prayer includes, and of learning to make prayer an important part of my day and not just an add-on to my Bible study time, I have been walking through one of the most difficult trials of my recent life, one where my normal response would be fear and anxiety, in almost constant peace. There have been days when staying close to God was a battle – life as a Christian in this fallen world is like that. But by staying in communication with God by talking with Him throughout my day, walking in meekness and submission to His will and purposes in our lives, and resisting the devil and his lies, I’ve experienced God’s peace and strength as seldom before.

As I was praying this morning about this article, a picture came to my mind of someone throwing a large stone into a lake. When the stone breaks the surface of the water, it creates a ripple effect, with concentric waves of water moving out from the spot where the stone landed. This is a picture of the effect of true prayer in our lives. True prayer isn’t just something we do as a part of our daily schedule, or even throughout the day as we become aware of needs. True prayer is like breaking the surface to enter into the presence of God, and the result has a ripple effect. It changes every part of our lives and even spreads out to touch the lives of others.

IMG_3205