My Father’s will

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 6:35-37

TODAY Do not harden your hearts

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice,8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion,

Hebrews 3:7-8a | NIV

15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

Hebrews 3:15 | NIV

In my Bible readying today, I opened to Hebrews 3. I never noticed this before, but the exact same phrase is mentioned twice within 8 verses of each other. Usually, that means “pay attention”

As I googled to find an image of this scripture I learned it’s in Psalm 95 also!

15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your heartsas you did in the rebellion.”

And then I saw another picture of scripture, also in Hebrews

God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts.”

Hebrews 4:7 | NIV

What?? 4 times ! In Old and New Testiment?!

That REALLY means pay attention!

Lord, let my heart be softened. Let us hear Your voice today!

Blessings,

SB

What you really really want…

Just when I thought I couldn’t hear God’s voice, I’m hearing it in bits and bytes from all directions.. in messages from church, in podcasts, in testimonies shared by friends, in blog posts…

Perhaps it has something to do with a 60 degree day after record-breaking cold has crippled much of the country, but I feel like today is a much clearer day than I’ve had in a long, long time..   at least for me….

At lunchtime, I tuned in to my YourMove AP to catch the latest from the weekend (my dog slept all night on Saturday – YAY!).   I expected Andy to be onto another series since last week was part 3 of a series, but as it turns out, this week was part 4.

Over and over again in this series, Andy has reiterated that a lot of times what we think we want (immediately) is not what we really want (eternally).

I’ve been praying for clarity, and I’ve been bombarded with images of scriptures (from Facebook feed, devotionals, etc) about TRUSTING GOD, knowing His plan, obeying is will.  Truly God is everywhere, and speaking to us, but often times we have not tuned our ears to hear him.  The problem most definitely lies with us, not with Him.  I know this is true in my case, and I’m asking Him to help me focus clearly on Him.

Listening to Andy Stanley today – Your Move Thinking it Through…the scripture verse was Romans 12: :1-2

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-… “present yourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord.”  surrender your life to God without question…   actually as irrational as it sounds. “this, putting yourself on the altar, this is your true and proper worship…” interpretation… surrendering yourself to God, being a living sacrifice to God is actually the most logical thing you can do in light of God’s Mercy – for a God who is FOR YOU is to be everything for God – this is the response that is the most rational thing we can do…   actually refusing to surrender is the least rational thing to do..   “and do not conform any longer (italics for some translations, which, for me is an important distinction – this verse is telling me to STOP doing something I’ve been doing, and it gives me the freedom to change without being condemned for what I’ve done – this is God’s grace) to the pattern of this world”..   don’t be pressed into the mold of the world – God has a plan for you that is much much bigger than that…   “be transformed by the renewing of your minds”…  metamorphosis, there is a process.. if you will engage in the process of being transformed… over time, he will perfect his plan in you…     This is the whole thing…  Renew your minds to begin to think more like God…   see what God sees … in people…. your spouse, your friend, your children, yourself… and you have a different perspective..

Paul knows we can’t just go out and change our behavior…   he knows we are too weak to do this… (I can attest to that!) so he tells us to focus on the way we think, not on our behavior…. when we see things as God sees them, we are more likely to do as God says to do….   this is why church is so frustrating for so many of us… because church tells us how to behave.. don’t ask questions… Paul says, “ask questions”…

“as you begin to renew your mind and see as God sees, it will be far easier for you to discern what God’s will is…  his good, his pleasing, and perfect will” … it’s ultimately what you want.. fulfilling for you…

this is how you will discover what you’re made for…

To hear the whole podcast:

Thinking it Through

Be blessed, my friends,

SB

 

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Domino’s

Recent series of events in my life have utterly confused me and I’ve been looking to see God’s purpose in them. Having seen the way God has worked other things in my life, I am convinced that these events have a meaning and a bigger purpose than me, though I have not figured it out yet, and they’ve really thrown me for a loop.  I’ve been told to simply keep being obedient to what God is asking of me and it will eventually become clear.  I am doing my best to be obedient, though, in truth, have sometimes failed.

For the past few weeks, our pastor has talked about knowing the will of God – how perfect under the circumstances (Coincidence?).   Yesterday, we continued the series.  There were several passages we explored, but overall, it was a light bulb moment for me. Here’s the crux of the message.

Seeking to do God’s will leads to Gods will being done in the lives of others, which leads to God’s will being done in the lives of others, and so on, and so on.

One of the passages we read was the story of the woman at the well.   You can read the story yourself here: Woman at the well story but for those who prefer a summary, Jesus (a Jew) came into the town of Samaria and sent his disciples away to get food.  In Samaria, at mid-day, he found a woman drawing water from a well and engaged in conversation with her – this was not socially accepted since he was a Jew and she was a Samarian and because she had a bad reputation, which is why she was drawing water at mid-day.  Despite all of this, Jesus asks her to give him a drink of water, and tells her that and tells her that He can give her water so that she’d never thirst again.  He asks her to bring her husband back and she replies that she has no husband.  He tells her he knows she’s had five husbands and living with a man who is not her husband.  She realizes he is a prophet and goes to tell the town she has seen the Messiah, and they begin to come out to see Him.   Just then the disciples returned and asked Jesus what he was doing, and ask him to eat some food.  John 4:34 Jesus replies, “My food is to do the will of the Father who sent me”.

In another passage, in John 9, Jesus heals a blind man, and his disciples asked whether it was his parents who sinned or he who sinned that cause his blindness.

John 9:3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

By Jesus obeying the will of the Father, this man was able to fulfill the work that he was designed to do.

And in hearing this, I am more convinced that my purpose right now in several lives is to help them fulfill Gods purpose in their lives… “maybe that’s why the devil works so hard to keep us from it”

Wow. That’s heavy

I see my failures before me and know that the devil doesn’t want me to do God’s will because he doesn’t want God’s will to be done by others.  I am laying all of it down at the feet of Jesus, asking for forgiveness for my sins, seeking His will in every aspect of my life.

I would like to ask all of you who are reading this blog now to pray for me and with me – for me to be obedient and to not allow the devil to confuse me and my purpose; with me for the people who God has placed in my life to guide, so that the will of God might be done in their lives also.

Blessings,

SB

 

If you’re willing to pray with me and for me, please comment, or send me a message, text, etc, to let me know – I would really appreciate it.  Thank you.

 

 

Oh. My. Goodness.

Hahaha. If there’s ever a time I begin to doubt what God is doing in my life, smack me upside the head.

My subscription to Audible provides one credit a month to purchase an audio book.  I started listening to books about a year ago, while I drive or bike or other monotonous activities.   I never quite know what to call “experiencing” an audio book – do you “read” them?  not exactly… .do you “listen”? well, yes, but somehow that isn’t a complete description either…   at any rate, this is where I have experienced Mark Batterson’s books.  (In a pit with a lion on a snowy day, Lion Chaser, The Circle Maker, etc).  I thought I had seen all of his titles, but when perusing the library this morning looking for a new book, I came across a new one, and it’s title captured my attention immediately. Soul Print. It reminded me of Erwin McManus book, Artisan Soul, which is another life-defining book for me.   Since I have 2 credits right now, I looked for a second title and came across Francis Chan, Waiting on God, which I thought was appropriate in my year of WAIT.

As I climbed on my bike a few days ago, in my F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G cold garage to conquer some miles, I looked at both titles on my ap.  In my head I was thinking, I really should begin Waiting on God, but for some reason, my heart was telling me to start with Mark Batterson, so I followed my heart.

How God knew I needed to hear the words penned by Mark is a testimony to what an awesome God He is.   I wish I could simply post the entirety of Chapter 1 here, though  I’m not even sure it would have the same impact on you as it did on me today.  All I can say is.  Holy.  Cow. What a wonderful, wonderful God He is.

God is at work here, for a purpose that is soooo much bigger than me. soooo much bigger than you…   sooooo much bigger.    we are a part of it.

I’ve been thinking about what to study next, and thinking about how many things I’ve messed up on in my life, just like David, who God calls a man after His own heart. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the Bible is full of people who have screwed up royally, but God uses in powerful ways to further His Kingdom and His Sovereign will.  I’ve decided to begin to study more about the life of David and his Psalms to understand how he could have messed up so badly, yet God loved him so much and used him so much. I haven’t started yet. Woven throughout the book,  Soul Print? Stories about David – the things he did well and the things he didn’t.   How funny is that?

For me, starting this book is affirmation that God is leading… I am following. I truly love God and want to do what He wants. I’m laying my entire universe at His feet right now, trusting in what He says!

I mentioned the phrase that I’ve read in some of Batterson’s other books in my previous post – that God wants to get us where God wants us to be more than we want to get where God want’s us to be..  and it was repeated several times in Soul Print.  However, in addition, Mark added a new phrase that stood out to me in this book:  God will not put us where He wants us until we have become who He want’s us to become.

“Your uniqueness is a testament to the God who created you.  There is nothing that God cannot do in you and through you if you simply yield to Him.. All of you to All of Him.   You were created to worship God in a way that no one else can, but living a life that no one else can.. You play an irreplaceable role in God’s destiny – but it starts with understanding your true identity.   Our true identities get buried under the mistakes we’ve made, the insecurities we’ve acquired and the lies we believe.  We’re held captive by others’ expectations and spend too much energy trying to be who ewe are not.. and we forfeit our spiritual birthright.  It’s not that we are lying to ourselves; somewhere along the way, we lose ourselves… if you are still breathing, God has not given up on you yet, so don’t give up on yourself.  It’s never too late to be who you might have been. ”

“The key to fulfilling your future destiny is in understanding your past…. while you live forward, God works backward… all of your days are ordained by God and it’s your responsible to discover your God-given destiny.. despite humble beginnings and huge mistakes, David fulfilled his destiny. … in the pages that follow, we will dissect David’s life in such a way as to help you find your destiny.”

“I don’t know how long you’ve been stuck, but I know that God wants to move you.  We are held captive by so many things… by our imperfections and insecurities, guilt and anxiety, expectations, and lies, and mistakes. Jesus dies to set us free from all of the above, not just to set us free from who we were but to set us free for who we were intended to be.”

“God’s primary concern is who you are becoming – the character of Christ being formed in you until you are more like Jesus – as a revelation of who God is.  You won’t find yourself until you find God.  You are made in His image.  To become like Christ is to become unlike anyone else.”

Mark Batterson, Soul Print

I’ve finished listening to the book (the advantage of spending hours on a bike and in a car this week!).  I’d encourage you to read the book – you can find it here… Soul Print

Be blessed, my friends!

SB

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Life is complicated

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook the other day – it was the picture and caption that first caught my attention – it said, “I quit Christianity when I found out my pastor was banging his secretary and stealing money.”    Of course, that intrigued me to read more…  it went on to talk about all of the judgmental Christians who had tried to impose “rules” on the author – and very often those who were preaching it were not infallible, and, in fact, had committed some pretty big sins even by non-Christian standards.

It went on to talk about how he then met two individuals who changed his opinion forever – people who weren’t afraid to be real about their struggles and their failures and didn’t pretend to have all of the answers. When he saw their authenticity, he wanted what they had….   not a perfect life, but a relationship with a loving God who loves them 100% where they are and is patient with them as they fail time and time again. My favorite quote in his blog was this: “So why am I a Christian?  Because I know I’m a train wreck in a dumpster fire. But I also know that God loves me 100% as is, right now, in the midst of the burning carnage that is my life…..  God is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down.  Where I see failure, He see’s an opportunity for growth.  Where I see addiction, he sees an opportunity to take a step.  Where I’ve given up, he whispers, “you can make it'”

One of the things I’ve been wrestling with lately is living up to expectations…   in my year of WAIT, I find myself going over and over in my mind the many times I have failed and sinned… and think about the burning carnage that is my life.  Sometimes I think about how ill-equipped I am to work with others to show them Jesus when I’ve failed so many times myself, and then I remember that is precisely the reason God send Jesus to us, and I feel like the Christian in this article.

Last week in our youth group we studied the passage in Matthew 18:21-23  – Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘How many time should I forgive my brother or sister who sin against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven, but seventy times seven”

His answer wasn’t a literal 490 times, but figurative to mean that we are to continue to forgive those who sin against us just as God continually forgives us who sin against Him. Being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect – not by any stretch of the imagination – it only makes us forgiven.   Sure, we try to live a life that is pleasing to Him, but He already knows we are imperfect, and loves us every time we fail.

Every time we fall down, He is there to pick us up, dust us off and say, “let’s try this again”

For me, that is the picture of Christianity I want to follow  – i have messed up plenty. His grace is greater. I am forever thankful for a God who has never given up on me… and will never give up on you.

Blessed beyond words,

SB

You can see the whole post here:

Benjamin Sledge’s Post – Why I’m a Christian

Chasing Lion’s

Years ago, I shared a life-goal with a friend of mine. A lofty goal and a seemingly crazy idea, I dreamed the dream and quickly dismissed it – only to have the idea resurface many times over the past ten or so years. Last year, in a flurry of activity that could have seen my dream realized (at least partially), I reached out to that same friend to get his opinion on some of the things that were going on, partially to validate my thoughts and partially to have someone objective evaluate the circumstances. His response to me was this:

“You are a lion-chaser”

I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or not. He recommended a book to me, called, In a pit with a lion on a snowy day.  At first, I thought the title ridiculous, but bought the book anyway. After the first paragraph, I was hooked. Since that book, I’ve probably read seven or eight more of Mark Batterson’s books, including The Lion-Chaser, The Circle Maker, and Whisper, among others.

In a Pit starts with a reference to an obscure passage of the Old Testament, 1 Chronicles 11:22, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, he slew the two’sons of Ariel of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow.”

Mark Batterson describes in detail the courage and tenacity Benaiah had to chase a lion into a pit.  He drew it out with tremendous suspense the way a great author would, leaving the reader feeling like they’re watching a suspenseful movie, anxiously waiting to see who emerged from the pit, cheering loudly when they see it’s Benaiah.  The subtitle of the book is, “How to survive and thrive when opportunity roars”   Most of Mark’s books deal with having Jericho sized dreams and seizing opportunity to achieve them. 

Here’s an excerpt:

“God is in the business of strategically placing us in the right place at the right time – a sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ; God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go – but here’s the catch – the right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time”.

“God is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities, but those opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions – how we react to those lions will determine our destiny – we can cower in fear and run away from our biggest challenges, or we can seize our God-given opportunities.   The greatest opportunities are the scariest lions. “

One of my favorite lines from his book – and I believe it’s been repeated in several of his books is this: “God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go.”  It sounds like a strange statement, but when I step back and look some of the experiences I’ve had, and experiences that friends of mine have had, and realize the wisdom gained from those experiences that wouldn’t have been gained without going through them, I can see God strategically working things out, opening and closing doors, to get people where they need to be. 

It is exciting.   And terrifying.  And fun.  All at the same time. 

I’ve thought long and hard about my friends’ statement over the past year.  I decided it was a compliment to be called a lion-chaser, and believe there is some truth in his statement; however, there are a few things in my life holding me back just a bit from being “all in”.   Some of those things I’m able to articulate, and some I’m still discovering. Risk is a lot easier to take when you’re the only one involved – but I’m in an interesting life-stage right now with both children and parent depending on me – most practical people would say now is not the time to take a risk – but maybe in a few years when two of the three kids are out of college…   and then I re-read the quote above (“the right place often seems like the wrong place and the right time often seems like the wrong time”) and I wonder if I’m missing the opportunity. 

Last spring, as I was reading Mark Batterson’s books and working through some of my details, I sent an email to Mark Batterson to thank him for writing the books he had, never expecting to hear anything back. To my surprise, I had several email exchanges with his administrative assistant in which I shared some of what I was going through – she put me on the prayer chain of NCC Church in Washington, DC, where Mark pastors over 6,000 people, and has reached out several times since just to check how things are going.  What an incredibly humbling experience. 

When God asked me if I was willing to tell my story (summer of 2017), I immediately responded with, “Of course, I am – but wait, what story?  I don’t really have a story.”  Since that first step of obedience saying I’m willing to share my story, I believe He is giving me a story to tell.   It’s not quite done yet. But one thing’s for sure – it will be amazing when it is..   

I truly believe that when God sees we are willing to step out in obedience to Him, he blesses us in ways we could never, ever, imagine in 100 million years.  I am living proof of that.  I am 100% confident that God is still in control and He is preparing some wonderfully crazy things for my life and the lives of those who love Him.  I’m learning to enjoy the wait. (ok, “enjoy” might be a strong word….  how about “embrace” the wait… ?)

Be blessed, my friends, be blessed.

Thanks for stopping by!

SB