ImportanceofBibleStudy, Jesus in Everyday Life, Matthew, My 15 Minutes

My 15 Minutes: Matthew 7:24-27: Sunshine and Thunderheads

rainWe had some of the strangest weather yesterday.

It started out with a constant misty-drizzle, everything was drippy and dreary. Then a few hours later, the sun came out displaying one of my favorite things: sunshine glittering off raindrops still clinging to the grass and trees. Everything looked bright and exciting, fresh and clean, holding the promise of a beautiful day.

Then the thunderheads started to bully their way across the sky.

Continue reading “My 15 Minutes: Matthew 7:24-27: Sunshine and Thunderheads”

Confess, ImportanceofBibleStudy, Jesus in Everyday Life, Repent

When Crap Spews

I love Sunday mornings.

coffee cupI get up before most of my family, start the coffee, and take a long hot shower. Then I go down and grab a beautiful, intoxicatingly large mug of thick, black, strong brew and head back upstairs to finish getting ready for church.

Last Sunday was no different. Well, mostly no different. Continue reading “When Crap Spews”

Devotionals, ImportanceofBibleStudy, Psalm 100, Why We Should Thank God

Psalm 100, Part 1: Our God, Our Creator

Grand canyon

I am in awe of the young woman before me. Over the last several years I’ve had the privilege of mentoring her and loving her like a daughter. And just recently she’s discovered a passion for Jesus that knows no bounds. She’s experienced His grace and healing in profound ways; and therefore, has every reason to give thanks.

“Cheyenne, how do I show God I’m thankful for what He’s done for me? I mean, it’s not like I can do anything for Him that He can’t do for Himself. He doesn’t need anything from me. He doesn’t even need me–yet Continue reading “Psalm 100, Part 1: Our God, Our Creator”

31 Day Challenge 2017, ImportanceofBibleStudy, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 28 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: Importance of Community

New running shoesToday I joined a gym.

Before you ask “How long is this going to last?” Know I’ve already asked myself that at least a dozen times.

I’ve read the Scriptures commanding me to take care of my body more times than I can count. And every single time, I’ve felt the Spirit spur me to action…

  • “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT
  • “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1, NLT

…But I repeatedly drop the ball and don’t persevere.

There have been many times I started to make changes to live a healthier lifestyle and have quit almost as soon as I started. Sometimes life gets in the way and derails my efforts. But more often than not, it’s laziness—my determination flatlines. I get tired of being “good, ” and want to eat what I want. I make every excuse I can think of, unlace my shoes, and buy myself some chocolate turtles.

These are the times I could’ve used someone to keep me accountable.

But I didn’t have anyone because I was confident I could do it by myself. On my own. No one needed to be there for me. I didn’t need anyone’s encouragement. I didn’t need anyone on my back, keeping me accountable. Nope, I’m good! It’s just me and my treadmill—alone. We got this!

And then I’m downing another package of turtles. Feeling guilty. Unhappy in the skin I’m in.

And feeling like a failure—again.

I’ve read the articles on the importance of a trainer. I’ve experienced the success that comes from attending the classes and being part of a community. I’ve built the relationships necessary to held accountable. And I flourished.

But when I went back to school in 2010 I stopped going to the gym. Those healthy habits faded and those relationships ended. The accountability was gone. And I never really got back on track. Nor have I been successful in any of my attempts at physical fitness since then.

Because I was determined to do it alone.

I know my size and fitness level don’t determine my worth. But THEY DO impact my health and my effectiveness for the Gospel because they influence my energy level and stamina in fulfilling the calling God gave me. That is what’s propelling me to make this attempt successful.

Dear One, the same thing applies to our Spiritual life.

We need each other. We need community. We need the encouragement of others. We need the instruction of our pastors, teachers, and friends.

Far too often I see Christians try to go it alone. They have the same attitude about Bible study and prayer that I did with fitness, and they peter out just as quickly.

It takes determination and effort to create a habit that’s critical to your existence; that increases your stamina and enhances your vitality; that changes you for the better and upgrades your health.

Like the sore muscles, strained tendons, and burning lungs I need to push through when working out; we have to overcome the distance of time, variations in culture, and differences in language when trying to understand Scripture. We have to leap over the hurdles of who wrote the passage we’re reading, who was it written for, why was it written, and when was it written before we can consider what it’s saying to us. These things are hard at first, but over time they become more natural—if not exciting.

But as we make that transition, small groups and godly friends are essential to your success. They not only help you understand what you’re reading, remind you to leap those hurdles, and encourage you to apply what you’re learning; but they keep you accountable.

Friends, I had to come face-to-face with my pride in the area of fitness. I had to admit I needed help, encouragement, and accountability to achieve my goals. But now I have confidence I can and will accomplish those goals because I decided to engage in a community that is determined to help me flourish.

And if you need to face pride in the areas of Bible study and being part of a Christian community, face it! When you do I’m confident you will experience a vitality you didn’t know possible, stamina is times of trial, and energy to propel you tackle the purpose God has for you!

Blessings!

 

31 Day Challenge 2017, ImportanceofBibleStudy, Jesus in Everyday Life

Day 2 of 31 Days Of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: The Parable of the Apple Tree

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In Minnesota, Fall is the season to transition from boating, camping, and catching fireflies to snowmobiling, ice fishing, and catching snowflakes.

It’s one of my favorite seasons because it’s a total package: Football, quilts, and apple cider; campfires, colorful leaves, and cooler temperatures; layered outfits, scarves, and cute boots.

But it wasn’t until I met the apple tree that fall began to mean so much more.

This tree’s seasonal cycle gives a powerful illustration of life’s various stages of activity and the need for rest. However, in our task driven society, I have to force myself to employ these lessons all year long, through every season of life, and for each cycle of ministry and writing. It’s these practices that make the difference between finishing strong and burning out; between focusing on God’s purpose and calling on my life rather than the current task at hand; between seeking His glory and my own; between enduring to the end or quitting part way through. I promise not to get too technical, so stick with me. I’m confident you’ll glad you did.

In Spring the tree wakes up. As the sun warms her bark, water begins migrating back into her cells; creating a suction to draw up the nutrients that were stored in the roots last fall. Like our pre-breakfast coffee, these nutrients infuse the tree’s limbs with the energy needed to open the mixed buds (flowers and leaves) before photosynthesis takes over. After these physiological changes occur, the leaves unfurl, and the flower buds swell until there’s an explosion of color and fragrance! Then there’s a flurry of activity as bees flit from tree to tree pollinating the blossoms to ensure fall’s harvest. Then as the rest of the leaf buds open, the petals drop, signaling the arduous summer task of developing the seeds and fruit.

Summer is where the hard work happens. The tree is now in full leaf; it’s actively photosynthesizing while mining for moisture and other nutrients in the soil. There’s a lot of growth needing to happen: The seeds need to develop and mature, and the fruit needs to expand and sweeten. Much of this work is behind the scenes, in the cells of the plant. There’s little to nothing to show for its efforts as time marches on. To the trained eye, however, there’s tremendous progress; but to a layperson, it’s a waiting game to see anything significant.

But Summer is also the time when the tree is the most vulnerable. Storms can be merciless, threatening to strip off her leaves, crop, and branches. Inadequate fertilization and hydration cause stress, inviting insects and diseases to endanger the fruit quality if not the tree herself. Animals and lawn mowers can damage the trunk’s cambium layer, disrupting the flow of nutrients not only needed for the growth and development of the crop but also needed to sustain her vitality. It takes determination and fortitude to see the crop through to harvest as she fights off enemies seen and unseen. But she doesn’t give up. She trusts her Lord to give her the strength, to see His purpose fulfilled.

Finally, it’s time for harvest! The seeds are mature, and the fruit is ripe. All her hard work has paid off. Persevering through the storms and overcoming her enemies has rewarded her with a great bounty. And she begins to shut down and prepare for a season of rest once all the apples are gathered: Photosynthesis slows, she stores nutrients in her roots for the next Spring’s growth, and her leaves turn vibrant colors before becoming a blanket tucked in around her feet. Lastly, the water migrates out of her cells, and she sleeps.

Winter is a time for rest, but not idleness. Many physiological things are happening to rejuvenate her before her next season of exertion. One of the primary passivities is accumulating chilling hours. She needs to spend a minimum of 750 hours between 32-45 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure bud set for the next season. If she doesn’t get it, she won’t bloom. And without blossoms, there’s no fruit. No fruit means no harvest. So she must wait to be fully rejuvenated before she starts laboring again.

Beloved, we are just like the apple tree!

When we start something new, we’re excited! It doesn’t matter if it’s a new semester, job, or calling from God. The possibilities are endless. Our dreams are huge; our goals are lofty. Everywhere we look we see beauty exploding! It’s a fantastic time of rebirth. We’re full of purpose and drive. Our energy seems endless. The fact that our new calling is light years outside of our comfort zone only adds to the adventure. And with God on our side, we feel invincible.

But after some time, we’re discouraged and weary. We’re making progress, but it’s not going as quickly as anticipated. We’re so overwhelmed by the To Do list we neglect feasting on God’s Word and asking His Spirit to fill us. We do enough to get by, but not enough to sustain the increasing needs developing behind the scenes. That’s when Satan attacks. He mercilessly ushers in storms, trying to shake our faith and strip away our confidence. He stirs up our insecurities and questions our calling. He casts seeds of doubt and confusion, tempting us to quit. His distractions slow progress and disrupt plans. But when we join others in prayer he’s exterminated, the damage is repaired, and we can see snippets of growth and change again. And our resolve is fortified.

Finally, the fruit ripens, and the harvest begins! All our hard work has paid off. There’s so much joy in the bounty God has provided that the summer’s storms seem insignificant. As we look back, we can see how God has sustained and blessed us beyond what we could hope or imagine; how He has multiplied our efforts for His glory. Then we fall to our knees, awestruck; and our faith explodes. Once we’ve gathered the harvest, it’s time to wind down; to tie up all the loose ends and prepare for a season of refreshment and rejuvenation. It’s time to rest.

However, in our task-driven society rest has become a four-letter-word. So we tend to ignore our exhaustion and say, “What’s next?” We neglect our time of restoration. We reject our Sabbath and lose the opportunity to be rejuvenation with Scripture and prayer. Thus impairing our ability to set blooms for the next season of ministry, classes, and projects.

Beloved, if the apple tree didn’t rest, her years of production would be dramatically reduced. Likewise, your time of effectiveness for God will be abbreviated if you choose not to relax.

Just as Jesus rested (Mk 6:45-46) and encouraged His disciples to rest (Mk 6:30-31); He invites you to do the same: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)

These verses are my battle cry during the times of intense labor:

  • God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12, NLT).
  • So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9).
Devotionals, ImportanceofBibleStudy, My Story, Reflect

I Was In A Mood

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Ever have one of those days? You know what I mean, those days you wake up…in a mood. The attitude you went to bed with steeped all night to produce a potent concoction. It’s not just a grumpy mood quickly fixed by a cup of coffee. No, this mood has the power to take your inner witch all the way to the other end of the alphabet, if you know what I’m saying.

This was me yesterday. And I wanted to be in this mood. I wanted to roll in it—to let it seep into my whole being. The again-ness and challenges of life had worn me down to utter weariness. I had earned my bad attitude and deserved to let it do its thing.

Right?

I was even avoiding my quiet time. I knew I needed to do it, that it’s what was best for me, that it could renew my mind and give me much needed peace. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want my mood taken away. It was mine! I earned it! Mine! So I put it off for as long as I could.

I read my Twitter feed and tossed out a few tweets of my own. I scanned my Instagram feed and liked and commented on more posts than usual. I went to Facebook and did the same. Then I circled through them again…and again…until there was nothing new.

I looked for more to do. My laundry was running as was my dishwasher. My social media had been checked, rechecked, and checked again. And I’d already published my blog post…My excuses were gone.

I could almost see my Savior’s, “Are you about finished? I’m not going anywhere” expression as He sat patiently, waiting for me to take a seat.

I slumped in my chair and grumbled as I flopped my Bible and journal open. I grouched as I chose my colored pen for the day. I said my usual prayer with no sincerity, enthusiasm, or joy: Open my heart and mind to what you have to teach me today. Give me your wisdom and may it abide in me. Fill me to overflowing with your Spirit.

I was void of my usual anticipation and excitement as I began.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, NLT

Drip

It was like a drop of water splashed my parched tongue. I didn’t even realize I was thirsty. I was now unsatisfied and needed more.

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:11-12, NLT

Drip.

My thirst was now fully awakened. I became desperate to quench my longing.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

Drip.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22 NLT

Gush!

I hit my knees! I poured out my frustrations, sins, annoyances, pride, anger, jealousies, selfishness…everything to my Abba. My tears flowed, purging everything hidden deep inside. Then I threw back my head and allowed His Word and Spirit to undo me, to fill me, to cleanse me. He quenched my thirst and my need.

And In the process, my mood vanished. I didn’t even notice its passing. Nor did I feel the need or desire to hang onto it. My focus changed. My heart recalibrated.

Finally, I felt refreshed. Joy filled. Thankful. And happy. My circumstances were the same. The again-ness was still present. But because the Spirit filled me, I was able to enjoy my kids when they came home, I didn’t feel stressed, and I had an excellent rest of my day.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

Blessing

 

Journal exercise: This photo is of my 3×5 cards. These contain Scriptures I’ve written out over the years for memorization. These are the verses that have blessed me, encouraged me, confronted me, and drawn me closer to my Savior. I’ve recently started dating them and writing on the back why it was so poignant: the circumstance I was in, the timing, the uncertainty it clarified, etc. I encourage you to get some 3×5 cards and do the same. Keep them with you. Memorize these verses. Write them on your heart.

 

 

Deuteronomy, Devotionals, ImportanceofBibleStudy

Deuteronomy 1:20-21: Do Not Be Afraid! Do Not Be Discouraged

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As the old man continues his talk, he turns toward the screen with his arms open wide. His booming voice echoes off the canyon walls. The sound vibrations resonate in your chest as his words invade your heart. You can’t help but look over the horizon. And even though the view is different from the picture on the screen, you realize the words he has spoken are just as viable and relevant now as they were on the day they were first proclaimed. You peer at those around you knowing they felt it too…

“I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’” Deuteronomy 1:20-21 NLT

Bam! You’re there! The Promised Land (PL) is right in front of you! “Go up and take possession of it as the LORD…told you” (NIV). Here it is in front of you. It’s already been given as promised. It’s literally yours for the taking!

What’s going through your mind? What do you see? What are you anticipating? What are you excited about? Afraid of?

My PL is me as a published author of various Bible studies. A speaker at colleges and universities; at conferences, retreats, and churches. I’m sharing the message God has ignited in my heart. I’m teaching students and young adults about the Vibrant Relevance of God’s Word in our daily lives. It’s exciting! Beautiful! And TERRIFYING! Self-doubt and questions invade my mind like the locust invaded Egypt (Ex. 10:1-20). Who am I? Who wants to hear what I have to say? Who wants to read anything I write? What makes me think I can do this? I don’t have experience…and on…and on…and on…

Then God brings His east wind and says, “You can’t. BUT I CAN AND WILL. Do not be afraid! Do not be discouraged!

Why does He say that? Because I still have to do the work—I still have giants to face. I need to write my Bible study, blog my devotionals, finish my website, write query letters, find an agent who believes in me and is willing to represent me, sell my work to a publisher, and speak. This is intimidating and scary. There has been and are going to be many obstacles. BUT God has promised to be with me every step of the way; not to fail me or abandon me (Josh. 1:5). And I confess, there are days I have to cling to this promise as I force myself to move forward through my anxieties.

God’s command to take possession of our PL is a challenge of faith. The Israelites were neither large in stature, numbers, or power—but their enemies were! And they had to fight them in battle before they could occupy the land. We also have giants to face. For me, it’s difficult to break into the publishing world as a new writer. I have to face agents and editors and publishers—oh, my! Am I afraid? Yes! But I choose to trust God. What about your land? Who are your giants? Professors/teachers? Admission staff? Entrance exams? Finances? Bosses? Board members? HR representatives?

However, the most terrifying giants we will face are the ones inside of us. These are the ones that will keep you from entering the land. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Complacency. Laziness. Faintheartedness. Selfishness. Pride. But as God promised to drive out Israel’s enemies, He will “drive out” ours when we’re faithfully obedient to Him.

Another challenge is, we’re lazy and easily discouraged. We want things to be comfortable and easy—but they’re not. Truth is, no one ever said possessing our PL was going to be easy (Jn. 16:33). But lucky for us, Paul unlocked the secret to hardening our resolve: focus on what God has given us to do, not on what we do or don’t have. Paul learned how to be content and thrive in any situation, including prison, because Christ’s strength coursed through him (Phil. 4:10-13).

Beloved, occupying our PL is going to take hard work. There’s going to be tears. You’re going to sweat and maybe lose a little blood. But it’s worth it! If Jesus can take a poor child’s lunch, bless it, and use it to feed over 10,000 people (Lk. 9:10-17); he can use my writing and whatever purpose He’s given you, multiply it, and use it for His glory. Like that small boy, we just have to hand it over to Him—to bless and use. It’s His anyway, we’re just stewards of what He’s give us. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [Him] and are called according to His purpose for them” (Ro 8:28, NLT).

Just so you know, it’s okay to be afraid. But it’s not okay to give into your fears. God has proven Himself to be faithful and promises to be with us on our journey to and in our PL (Exodus 23: 20-33) “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion” (vs. 20-21, NLT). Beloved, our success in fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives hinges on our faithful obedience to Him. Period. But we still have to go through the process of conquering and occupying land. Why? So our faith can explode in growth. So we will KNOW our God is a God of His word, that He can be trusted to protect and guide us through the most challenging of circumstances, and that He has indeed given us a good land.

So I echo Paul’s question: “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Ro. 8:31, NLT).

Journal exercise: Look up Exodus 23:20-33. List the “If You” statements and the “I will” statements. Compare them. What is our responsibility? What does God promise? What did you discover? How does this apply to you and your PL? What is God speaking to your heart?

Blessings

Boundaries, Deuteronomy, Devotionals, ImportanceofBibleStudy

Deuteronomy 1:6-8: Borders of Freedom

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When the next slide illuminates the screen, you see a map of the Promised Land. Not the land per se, but its borders, its boundaries. Your heart slams against your rib cage as you consider this is the land your parents refused to enter, and the land you and all those around you get to possess! It is so massive. So exhilarating. You tear your eyes away from the screen just long enough to peek over the horizon…

When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on. Go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the neighboring regions—the Jordan Valley, the hill country, the western foothills, the Negev, and the coastal plain. Go to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, and all the way to the great Euphrates River. Look, I am giving all this land to you! Go in and occupy it, for it is the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all their descendants.”
Deuteronomy 1:6-8 NLT

About a year and a half ago I was approached by a few of our church staff members to apply for the amazing job opportunity to serve as the admin for our youth ministry. What a blessing and honor to be asked to apply! I thought, this couldn’t be been more perfect: a part-time job working with a ministry close to my heart while serving the church I love. And earning extra cash for our family. Win-Win!

But the more I prayed about it, the more I realized that though this was a fantastic opportunity—it wasn’t a fantastic opportunity for me. But in my Irish-stubbornness, I ignored this, forged forward, and applied for the job. After my first interview those feeling were stronger and I felt a sense of foreboding and dread settle in my heart. I passed it off as nerves, but really it was God telling me to stop this pursuit—it was not His will for me. He revealed that if I took the job, I wouldn’t be able to be His hands and feet in mentoring my small group of girls who had become my daughters and to whom I was committed. He also exposed the limiting factor of time. Between the time this job would require, along with being a wife and a mother of 4 boys, I wouldn’t have time (or energy) to be obedient in His call on my life—writing.

However, I was determined to make it work. I was determined to do it all. I was determined. But after my second interview, I was in despair. Our family could use the extra cash this position would provide—but I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my purpose. So I said, “God, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

I didn’t get the job. And even though I knew that was God’s will for me I felt rejected, passed over, and unwanted. Not to mention embarrassed and angry. There was no reason to feel this way, but I confess I did. And in the midst of my pity party, God showed up and showed me the map of my Promised Land. Not everything in it, but its boundaries. And this job was far outside of those boundaries. Could I have done the job well? Yes! Would I have found joy and fulfillment in this job? No. Even though I love our students, I would have been outside God’s will for my life—and there’s little joy there. Just stress, anxiety, and exhaustion.

What I learned from this experience still resonates with me. I learned God’s boundaries in our Promised Lands are a blessing. They actually enhance our life! They enable us to focus our responsibilities in the area He has gifted us. They free us to conquer the land He has given us and to claim it. Boundaries unfetter us to concentrate our strengths, abilities, gifts, talents, and energy on what God has called us to do. And when we stay with-in our boundaries, we are released from the feeling of needing to do it all and over commitment.

I also learned, when we try to do our thing in someone else’s Promised Land, we rob them of their territory, joy, and opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose for them. See, the amazing woman who got the job is much better gifted and qualified for it than I am. Actually, she’s a ROCK STAR! In chaos, she keeps things calm and organized. She is a voice of reason when things get jumbled. Not me, I would be wigging-out with the best of them. Not good in any ministry. But if I would have been offered the job and taken it, I would have been taking so much more from her, the ministry—and myself. And that, my friends, would have been a colossal tragedy.

We may not get our boundaries laid out in black and white like the Israelites did. But I do believe, those of us who follow Jesus Christ have something better, we have the Holy Spirit. The key is, you have to listen and obey—unlike me.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 NLT

Journal exercise: How are you doing with the boundaries of your Promised Land?

 

Deuteronomy, Devotionals, ImportanceofBibleStudy

Deuteronomy 1:6-7a: Time to Move Out

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As the next slide clicks into place, you shift slightly to ward off stiffness and think, “this message isn’t quite what I expected. I was expecting a pep fest, a locker room rouser—not a history lesson.” But you’re still captivated. Maybe it’s the old man’s cadence. Maybe because you feel like each word is spoken directly to you. Maybe because this is your parent’s history, and yours…

“When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on.”
Deuteronomy 1:6-7a NLT

I love roots. Maybe it’s the horticulturist in me, but I think their interwoven complexity is beautiful. Mesmerizing even. But I also like roots in my life and home. They provide a sense of anchoring—of stability, security, and belonging. And because they don’t move from their central location, their known predictability is comforting. Even on vacation I like to have a home base of sorts. A place to unpack, settle, and comeback to. For me, being uprooted is scary and disconcerting. But sometimes, it’s exactly what I need.

Complacency. Laziness. Apathy. These are names of some of the thieves waiting to steal what God has promised you. They spring up like noxious weeds, choking the life out of you and your dreams. Therefore, God told His Nation (and us) to move before these enemies could invade their hearts and entangle their resolve—keeping them in place and stealing their future. But it’s easier to stay than move to a new place, new school, new job, new friends, new major, new_______ isn’t it? Even when we know it is for our best, it still terrifies us; especially when anxiety whispers, “Here, the unknown is minimized. Out there, who knows what could happen.”

Being a lover of roots, I get their desire to settle down. But if they had settled at Sinai, they would have settled. The Israelites lived at the base of Sinai for a year; more than enough time to get established and scope out the best coffee shops, shoe stores, and parks. These people had spent the last 400 years as slaves and were now displaced and homeless, but Sinai wasn’t their home. It was their respite. A place of restoration. A chance to heal from the brutalities of bondage. A place to discover how to follow and worship God. A place to learn how to live with each other as a community of free people. A place for God to illuminate their inner value and pull it out them.

This was also the year to built the tabernacle, train soldiers, and make weapons. To cast aside of all their idols of self, achievement, success, possessions, sports, GPAs, and everything else they brought with them that takes the place of God in their lives. All the while, children were being born and raised, couples were getting married, and everyone was simply living life. But Sinai was not their land of promise. And it was time to move.

I wonder…when God’s told them to move and if they chose to stay, would God still:
…fed them manna from Heaven’s table?
…provide fresh water from a rock?
…protect them from their enemies?
…bless them?
Somehow, I don’t think so. Because they would have disobeyed and rejected Him and His blessings. And not until the saw the error of their ways and recommitted to Him—again, would they be back in fellowship with Him.

What about you? When God says its time to pack up and head out, are you going to trade the Promised Land for the wilderness of Sinai?

Remember, God has your back. He doesn’t dig up your roots to damage you, but to move you to a place where you will thrive. Where you can accomplish the purpose He’s given you. You are here for a reason. You matter. Your purpose is important. And when we chose not to follow where He leads, we risk missing out on blessings we cannot fathom and wasting our life.

So pack your bags, Dear One. Let’s follow Him to our Promised Land. Let Him bring out the potential and value in you. And let His glory shine!

Deuteronomy, Devotionals, ImportanceofBibleStudy, Reflect

Deuteronomy 1: 5-6a: Reflection, Not Condemnation

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The old man begins to speak, his voice strong and resonant. Everyone can hear him clearly. No one needs to strain. The atmosphere is electric with excitement—you’re finally going to enter the Promised Land! Yet the reality of this being the old man’s Swan Song covers everything with a wet blanket. No one speaks or even dares to whisper. The people are as still as the air around them. The silence sharpens everyone’s attention, including yours. And the first slide illuminates the screen…

“While the Israelites were in the land of Moab east of the Jordan River, Moses carefully explained the Lord’s instructions as follows. “When we were at Mount Sinai…”
Deuteronomy 1:5-6a NLT

Did you catch that? I almost read right through it. That is, until God threw on the brakes and lit it up in neon…“When we were at Mount Sinai…”

Now, wait a minute! I thought the Israelites’ history started with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? What about Egypt? The Exodus? The Parting of the Red Sea?

Yes, this all part of their history as a people—but not as a nation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all had an intimate relationship with God; but for them, a nation with people as numerous as the stars was still a promise yet to be realized. And, even though their numbers rivaled that of modern day Chicago; at the time of the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea, they were still a people group. Not a nation.

They didn’t become a nation until God met with them at Sinai. Here He offered be their God and them His chosen nation. And in order to complete this contract (covenant) the Israelites had to accept His offer, agree to return His love, follow Him, and obey His commands. And they agreed, allowing this group to be born again—to become something they weren’t—God’s Holy Nation.

Some of you need to hear this today. When God calls us to look back, we’re often afraid He’s going to make us relive the time we were in bondage to sin, before we were His. But that’s not usually the case. He typically wants us to review our history as His Child—from the time we accepted Jesus as our Savior AND chose to follow Him.

God does this to encourage and strengthen us—especially when we’re facing transition. He knows it’s easy to allow fear and anxiety to overwhelm us, to keep us from living up to the potential He’s drawing out of us. He’s also aware of the giants and fortified cities in the land. So He gives us confidence in His ability to get us past the gates or through the walls. As for the giants, He promises to go with into battle and defeat them.

How do I know this? Because this is where I’ve been recently. As a new writer trying to break into the publishing world, there are many giants and countless fortified cities I need to conquer in order to accomplish the task God has given me. It’s terrifying. But when I look back at where God has been faithful despite my faithlessness; where He has lead and guided me when I’ve been lost; how He’s blessed me when I wouldn’t dare ask…I chose to believe Him and His calling. I chose to trust His leading and control.

So in this barren land overlooking your Promised Land, take time to reflect. To remember. Relish the moment. Reminisce of when you first fell in love with Him and entered into a relationship with His Son. Be in awe of when the Holy Spirit came on you, indwelled you, and sealed you—marking you as a Child of the King. Then when God exposes your defeats and times of disobedience; take ownership of your sin, repent and rededicate yourself to Him. Then your trust will be made stronger in your future uncertainties, and you will find security in His promises to guide you and not abandon you.

Just so you know, like the Israelites, God isn’t neglecting your past bondage or discrediting it. He still uses that period of their history to encourage many and draw them to Himself. And, if you let Him, He will use your story to reach others with His gospel as well. But this is not that time. This is your time to reflect on your personal relationship with Jesus Christ—The One who pursued you with His unrelenting love, rescued you from bondage, and offered for you to be one of His chosen. How are you doing? Are you learning about who Jesus is and how to follow Him by studying your Bible? Are you spending time in prayer seeking Him asking Him for wisdom, discernment and insight? Are you making wise choices to guard our heart and mind against things you know are outside of the will of God for you? Are you obeying His instructions on how to live and treat others? If you’re not following Jesus as you should (if we are honest, none of us are), accept the gift of this time to repent and rededicate yourself completely to Him.

May Joshua 1:1-9 be the banner we march under as we claim our Promised Lands. Tuck it’s promise and instruction inside our heart for those times you feel afraid—like a soldier taking out a photograph of those he loves. Without taking this time to reflect we will be weak and discouraged. But God says, Be Strong and Courageous! I’ve got your back! I’ve got you! Let’s do this thing!

Journal: What had God done for you? Reflect back. Where do you need to confess and rededicate? Do so now. Let Him fill you with strength and courage.