The Lies the Devil Tells Me (That I bet He Tells You, Too!)

The Lies the Devil Tells Me (That I bet He Tells You, Too!)

If these lies sting when you read them, then I bet you have felt them, too. Felt them within the very deep parts of your being. Felt them, have heard them, and feel like you are powerless against them.

 I’m learning that we have to battle these lies with God’s Truth. We have to battle the Devil’s whisperings with God’s proclamations. We have to battle these thoughts with God’s thoughts. We have to know who we are in Jesus.

 

I Didn't Plant This: Ways that God Creates New Life

 I didn’t plant this:

Outside our kitchen window, bordering our white pasture, Wisconsin fence are vines. Vines upon vines of pumpkins and gourds extending among the grass and weeds.

These vines are beginning to bloom and morph into centerpieces and porch adornment. Simple, natural, beautiful, home-grown fall decor.

But, I didn’t plant these.

Evangelistic Trousers| How Being a Humble Servant Opens Doors to Share the Gospel

I like to take things in. I soak in conversations, emotions, occurrences, and life. I watch the details. I reflect on what is beneath other’s feelings and actions. And I stay rather silent.

I’m not the life of the conversations, nor the person with all the great advice.

I listen. I see. I think.

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So when someone says something that resonates with me and that I feel the desire to genuinely weigh in on, share gospel-laced truth, and dive in deep with Biblical guidance, I often shrink back and remain quiet.

 

I’m not sure if it’s discernment or fear.

 

I suppose, in some cases, it’s discernment that just right now isn’t the best time. This is too heavy. It’s a bit out of place… but,  wait, are those actually fears?

 

Recently, as a couple of coworkers and I were discussing the weight, the tragedy, and the walking-between-death-and-life in our role as Pediatric ICU nurses, one of my co-workers said something profound. She said, “A friend of mine keeps telling me that we are doing God’s work.”

 

And there was silence.

 

Amidst the silence was a mix of uncertainty, faith, wonder, amazement, and lingering questions.

 

And so, as I desired to boldly seize the moment, pull up my evangelistic trousers, and offer encouragement, I boldly professed; “If anyone ever wants to talk to me about any God or faith things, I am absolutely open to discussion. I love speaking about that!”

 

And… it fell a little flat.

 

I now have processed a myriad of options that I should have tenderly said, something like:

 

“Yes, I truly believe that.”

“Yes, I find so much comfort in knowing that God has a plan and purpose for our lives, even amidst suffering.” 

"It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? But I’ve learned that there is truly so much hope for those who trust in Jesus.”

“God is working boldly through your life.”

“Amen, sister!”

 

Ugh.

Anything but what I self-promoted and self-declared. I wasn’t really pointing to the Gospel, but I was highlighting my knowledge of it. I was pointing to myself.

 

And as I recall that conversation, I recall God’s grace. I remember His mercy. I can almost imagine Him now; as I slumped a little lower in my work chair, among the sliding glass PICU rooms and with the constant hum of alarms chiming in the background, as I utterly felt defeated and silly for even saying anything. “Lord, help me.” I exasperated in my mind.

 

It was as if I felt Jesus tenderly lifting up my chin. “It’s okay, dear daughter, I have another message for you.” He whispered this to my weary, self-proclaiming instead of Him-proclaiming heart…

 

And so later that shift, as my nursing tasks were in a lull, and my rather-stable patient was sleeping, I heeded His call.

 

The conversation that followed with a different coworker is too intimate and sweet to share, but it was gospel-packed, life-giving, kingdom-opening. All glory to God!

 

And Jesus said something like, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. For even in the air of your failures, I’m there. Trust me and I will help you to do great things for my name, and I will be the one to lead others to me. You just have to humble yourself, exalt me, and obey.”

 

If anyone else has ever had a foot-in-mouth Gospel moment, try again. Listen for the Lord’s call. Pray for Him to give you the opportunity, and then boldly and humbly listen, respond, obey.

 

We all will fail.

And it's okay.

He gives us grace for even that.

 

We all will proudly pull up our Evangelistic Trousers and show off instead of humbling ourselves to be a servant messenger and herald of our Most Gracious King.

 

Praise the Lord that He is greater than our failures and He will complete His assignments when we allow Him and His Truth to be the focus, and not our smarty-pants self!

The Heart Behind Unaltered Grace Podcast

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Hello!

Thank you for taking time to hear the heart behind Unaltered Grace Podcast!

 

You all have no idea how excited, nervous, and overjoyed I am that you have decided to check this out. I’m humbled by each and every person who would have enough faith or curiosity to give this a go. This intro is really so that you all can learn a bit about the who, what, why’s of my heart for this and for what I believe God is going to do through it.

 

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Who I am:

 

I’m Rachel, your podcast “host”. I’m 26, a wife, mom to a baby boy, pediatric ICU nurse, and seminary student. My husband, Steve, is a police officer and we live in my super teeny hometown in Wisconsin. We met online and God certainly placed Steve in my life at the perfect time to usher me back to God and to tangibly show me Jesus’ never failing and forgiving love.

 

I’ve always grown up in Church, had said the sinner’s prayer at a young age, and then over and over again throughout my life. I’ve wholeheartedly believed in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for as long as I could remember. My life has ebbed and flowed with seasons of being devoted to God, and seasons of turning away and following whatever my own heart desired. I found a lot of success and gratification in high school sports, relationships, and popularity. In high school I prided myself on always following my parent’s rules, staying out of the party scene, and generally putting on a front that all way okay. Amidst some personal struggles that I faced, I remained strong on my own, without really leaning on the God whom I had professed to have given my life to.

In college, I no longer prided myself on always remaining outside of the social norms, lost my ‘success’ in running collegiate cross-country, had to relinquish my control of situations that had gone on in my life,  and my patterns of leaning on relationships and seeking love from guys came to a train-wreck as I ended my engagement three months before I was planned to be married. I realized God was ever-present when, as I was silently seeking a reason to end that relationship, my four-year-old brother at the time walked up to me as I had came home from college and said, “Sis, (Blank) is not supposed to be your husband. God has another husband for you.”

If that wasn’t a clear sign from God, I don’t know what is. Still, I blindly sort-of leaned on the Lord, all the while remaining in my sinful patterns and seeking “love” from others. I sank into a deep depression that lasted almost a year and a half. I cooped myself up in my upstairs bedroom, would sleep all day until I had to go to work or to school or perform any daily function. I cut myself off from friends and became all-too content with being and remaining alone.

I would have fits of anxiety and panic-attacks, so much so that I thought I most certainly was having physical heart issues and went through a myriad of medical tests to tell me that my body was perfectly healthy. I had times where I broke down in my car as I cried out to my mom that I thought I’d need medication to get me out of it. I had the unwanted, overcoming thoughts of ending my life, because I truly believed that no one would care anyways. What good was I to anyone, really? Although my heart was physically healthy, my emotional state of my heart was withering away and sick. My mind and soul was desperate to be saved.

I knew, all along, that the answer was Jesus. Yet, as I reached and grasped for Him, I reached and grasped for my sin and held so closely to the things that so easily trapped me. I basked in my depression and anxiety and developed a “woe is me” attitude. I did this quite alone. And I really did it quite well. Not many people knew the slightest of what I was going through, and I successfully put on a front. God saw through that front. As I cried out to Him, and became utterly broken before His throne, He began to radically show me what true love was. God broke through to my weary soul and reminded me that He created me for a purpose, and that in all things He was working out good because He loved me. I began to dive deep into the Bible for the first time in my life, began to pray, find fellowship with other believers, and I then met my husband.

While “the rest is history” really can’t sum up where God has led me these last four years- because it still and will always be a process-, I can sum it up in this: I once was lost, but now I’m found. I’m found by a Creator who knit me in my mother’s womb and has ordained all of the days of my life, I’m found by a Savior who, being fully God and fully man, suffered more than I could ever fathom, laid down His life, died a gruesome death to ransom me from all of the wrong I’ve ever done, all that I’m doing, and all that I’ve yet to do solely because He loved me before I ever would willingly love Him back AND He overcame death by rising up to life. I’m found by the risen, living, active Jesus. He has placed His mighty counselor and Spirit within me to empower me to seek Him, live for Him, and desire for others to know this God, as well.

 

He truly has lavished His Unaltered Grace upon me and He wants to do the same- abundantly- in your life, too. He loves you.

 

Why I’m starting this podcast:

 

I’m starting this podcast because I desire to be more transparent about my own walk with Jesus. Recently, a family member was really surprised to hear that I had ever struggled with anxiety or depression; which made me wonder what other sorts of façades that I have been portraying that really don’t do the Lord’s story in my life justice. I believe God can be glorified in our testimonies and in His stories of redemption in our life. I want to speak about His unaltered grace and the reasons why I care so deeply about others to know the Lord in the way that He has designed us to know Him. I crave deep conversations and leap at any opportunities that God gives me to talk and discuss more about Him. However, I find that in real life these opportunities often come few and far in between. So, that’s where this comes in.

On a personal note, I feel called to be in some sort of ministry role and this is one of the most feasible way to create a ministry in this toddler mom-life, working, wife, and master’s studying, season of life. Plus, I just couldn’t wait to start something any longer!! You all, I’m beyond excited about what God is going to do.

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What I’m praying it will accomplish:

I’m praying that these conversations will inspire, equip, and implore you to live every area of your life in light of the Gospel and with your eyes fixed on Jesus. I’m praying that, wherever you are with knowing or maybe not knowing Jesus, that these talks, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will help you to know God’s heart a little bit more and will cultivate the desire to seek Him, open up the Bible and pray for a deeper relationship with Him.

I don’t want this to point to me, or to my guests, but to Christ alone. You guys, He is so worthy and I promise that this Christian life is better than either you or I could ever imagine. There is so much in store for us.

 

What we’ll talk about with guests:

We are going to hear from Christian mentors whom I know in real life, and whom I’ve been connected with or inspired by in other various ways.

We’ll talk about anything and everything in between- from practically getting into the Bible, to praying, to sexual sin, to eating well. The Gospel changes it all!

Our conversations will be about an hour long, and we will dive deep into the topic we are discussing with our guest.

 

We will always end with these three questions:

·      How do you live practically for the Lord day in and day out?

·      What resources are you loving right now that help cultivate your heart for God?

·      What area of your life has God specifically lavished His Unaltered Grace upon again & again?

 

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So, for this intro I will quickly answer them before we wrap up:

I practically live for Jesus every day by:

 Looking at all others as being created by God. This sort of mindset allows me to not be quickly grieved or hindered if someone has done wrong to me, and it also lets me love my neighbor well.

I read Bible verses on my phone, and try to dive deep into reading the Bible every day, although I don’t do that perfectly.

I try to think of Jesus and say Hi to Him throughout my day; no matter if I am overwhelmed, tired, or perfectly joyful.

Lastly, you’ll most likely see a smile on my face and cheery attitude because I live in constant awareness that I have been utterly redeemed, that the God of this universe loves me, and that Jesus is with me throughout every waking and sleeping moment of all my days.

 

Resources I love:

Podcasts! (Which is a huge reason why I wanted to start this one!)

My ESV study Bible and CSB version Bibles

Fellowship with other believers and with my husband is one of the best “resources” God could ever give me

 

God has specifically lavished His Unaltered Grace in my life again and again by:

 

Always orchestrating moments and opportunities and relationships in my life to weave a beautiful story of His love for me and by ever so diligently chasing my wayward heart no matter how many times I strayed again and again.

 

You can find Unaltered Grace on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean & Overcast! I'm beyond excited you're checking it out and am praying and praying that it will bless you and your family and friends.

Pondering the Excellencies of God

 Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

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Pondering the excellencies of God renews our joy in the everyday moments. 


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Let's be honest, not every moment is one that is "instagram-worthy." In the same way, not every moment would we desire to go on our highlight reel of life. But, every moment is precisely a moment that we have the utterly blessed opportunity to glorify God.

In the toddler screaming tantrum? (That happened an hour ago, mind you.)

Yes.

In the scrubbing of the pots and pans?

Yes.

In the mundane and in the ordinary and in the glorious and in the exciting and in the routines, we, my brothers and sisters in Christ, can glorify God.

We can glorify and point and position our hearts, minds and souls to yearn for God in the mundane, to seek God in the ordinary, to praise Him in the glorious, to acknowledge Him in the excitement, and to know Him in our routines; and to practice each and every one of those in each and every other circumstance and in any circumstance unnamed. 

We are created to worship God. We are created to know Him. We are created to be His image-bearers.  And we are created to be in a beautiful community with Him.

He has graciously created us for so much good.

However, since our fallen creation isn't living in the perfect state that God so desires and that He is ever-presently and ever-powerfully redeeming in His perfect time- for we know that He will redeem  His creation & has redeemed us through Jesus- we have the choice to glorify God in our lives or not.

When we choose to glorify God, we are submitting to His ultimate authority over us and His creation, and we are acknowledging that He is Lord. We can acknowledge this by giving Him space to move and be seen in our lives. We can talk with Him, we can marvel over His creation, we can offer thanks and praise and joy and our love.

Essentially, we ought to simply listen to God call to us in command and reassurance,

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

 


So, then, why don't we choose to glorify God? Perhaps we are so connected with virtually anyone that we don’t embrace our deep calling to be in connection with God? Do we even acknowledge what Jesus has done so that we may draw near to God? (I'm beyond guilty of this.) Do we fully understand that we have the Holy Spirit, as born-again Christians, living inside us and compelling us to draw closer to Jesus?

 

God, overcome us and remind us of who You are. May we sit in awe of the truth and the gravity of Him and may we perceive the holiness of our Most High God- HE REIGNS! 

 

He reigns over our circumstances,

He reigns over our lives, 

and He reigns over the little moments and the in-between. 

Our God surely reigns!

Are we submitting to His authority and are we submitting ourselves to be still and know that He is God? Are we allowing our hearts to ponder the excellencies of God in any and all and every moment? Although we will never be able to perfectly do that 100% of the time this side of Heaven, we can be assured that God is delighted whenever we do. Let's find our joy in Him and the joy of His presence, goodness, and sustenance in everything everyday.

Seeing, acknowledging and praising Him in the ordinary, the mundane, and alike- in the glorious and the beauty around us can be a way, I feel, that we can more obediently and abundantly submit to Him as our Lord.

He is worthy to be glorified and His excellencies to be pondered.

Join me as I pray for further practical applications in how to do this daily. Jesus, meet us here.

Forgiven but Unforgiving: How to Model Peace in Marriage

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Matthew 18:23-35 (ESV)

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[e] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”


 

In marriage, I can so easily feel and act like the parable of the forgiven but unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. As we remember the parable and reflect on this servant’s actions, we recall; his master has forgiven him much, but he goes out, has little mercy, and gives no forgiveness to another (namely, in my case, how I often act to my husband) who has a far lesser debt to pay. While our marriage, by God’s grace, has far-and-few-in-between times of conflict, I found it especially enlightening and to be a wise moment of correction from God to my forgiven but unforgiving self to happen to be in a conflict with my husband yesterday; as I was ironically peering and studying over this book, The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Wow, Lord. May I also add in that it was my husband’s first Father’s day. Lord, please help me.

 

As I sat and pondered on what was going on between my husband and I, I was in the unknown of thinking: “What went wrong today? What did I do or say? What did I not do nor say? What should I have done or said?” So, I looked to the principles I have been learning from Ken Sande, the four G’s of peacemaking.[1] These are: 1) Glorify God 2) Get the log out of your own eye 3) Gently restore 4) Go and be reconciled. After I prayed to the Lord for guidance in how to practically walk out these steps, I sat at the edge of our bed and gently asked my husband if he would please talk about what was wrong and what went wrong. What had I done or said to make him upset? Was it… xyz? Which, it became apparent was too surface level of an inquiry. Mind you, this “gentle” step came after the myriad of prodding questions that I had tried to employ before I had prayed and before I had consulted Sande’s book. One of these unloving, unhelpful, and accusing questions was, “What is your deal today?” Lord, forgive me. Steve (my husband), please forgive me, too! Anyways, when I offered better questions that could glorify God and allow time for opening up, my husband unloaded what was wrong.

 

We were both very adeptly speaking the language of the accuser.
 

While the details of our minor conflict and day of sifting through a tangible tension between us are unnecessary, it is worth mentioning that our minor conflict certainly had some deep wounds and deep issues, or debts, that are prayerfully needing to be Biblically resolved and worked through. Things like: How can we be better parents to our son and focus more attuned attention on him? How do we say “no” to some things that we enjoy doing, but that aren’t feasible nor beneficial in this busy time? What do we even begin to say “no” to? How do we cultivate greater intimacy in our lives together and how do we better listen and share one another’s passions so that it does not seem like we are both pursuing our separate desires? In other words, we began to have a conflict on things that are important in our lives as a husband, wife, father, and mother. However, this originally came out in the conflict in statements like: We have nothing in common. We just switch our son back and forth between each other. You don’t care about my passions. And so on and so forth. We both were very adeptly speaking the language of the accuser. And not the language of our Father, nor the unspoken body language of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of the Spirit.[2] Sande reflects on the nature and works of the enemy, or accuser, in regards to peacemaking,

Since peace and unity are essential to an effective Christian witness, you can be sure that there is someone who will do all he can to promote conflict and division among believers. Satan, whose name means “adversary,” likes nothing better than to see us at odds with one another. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b).[3]

 

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In God’s wisdom, I was able to go and prayerfully reflect on what deep heart issues were actually going on between our marriage, and what the conflict really was about. Moreover, God graciously showed and convicted me that these were issues that need to be resolved by His strength, and some sin issues that were creeping between us. In this, I was able to glorify God and glorify all that He was working out for our good. I was also able to fully see what the log was that was in my own eye, and how to humbly remove it. After some time, I went back up to our room and tenderly restored my husband’s fears and questions that surfaced during this conflict. I attempted to explain why I often do not seem to care about his passions, and how God has been showing me the idols that were in our respective lives. Throughout this conversation, I recalled what Sande said, “God provides this  strength to all Christians through the Holy Spirit, who plays an essential role in peacemaking.[4]” And, with a tender note left on the counter from my husband this morning, reconciliation took place and will continue to form. God has allowed me to open my eyes and think about how He lavishes His goodness on my marriage, even amidst conflict.[5]

 

Throughout this, albeit small and short conflict, God has unearthed the qualities that I have as a wife that do not align with His Word, nor with maintaining nor fostering peace. I have a real hard time of not allowing a root of bitterness to spring up between my husband and I. Whereas I regularly model overlooking small offenses and giving grace because of being aware of how much grace I, myself, have been given by the Lord; when it comes to our marriage, even the slightest deviations from my husband’s normal Christ-like character and attitude unnerve me. I almost expect him to be perfect and unwavering at all times; an expectation I know no one can live up to, and one that I only place on my husband (which, I suppose is both a compliment to him and a supreme disservice). The point of overlooking small offenses is recommended in many scripture passages.[6] Sande exclaims, “When we overlook the wrong of others, we are imitating God’s extraordinary forgiveness toward us.[7]

 

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Friends, I recommend that book. I further implore you to dive deep into the Bible and to model what Jesus has done and has commanded us to do in the way of navigating through conflicts. Moreover, I am thanking God that, although repentance and reconciliation are not easy matters, they are oh so sweet.

In His Unaltered Grace,

Rachel


Lastly, here's a practical takeaway: 

The Four G’s of Peacemaking

By: Ken Sande

Glorify God: How can I please and honor God in this situation?

Get the log out of your own eye: How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?

Gently Restore: How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their contribution to this conflict?

Go and be reconciled: How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God and encourage a reasonable solution to this conflict?

 


 

[1] Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 38.

[2] Galatians 5:22-23, ESV.

[3] Sandy, 50.

[4] Ibid., 39.

[5] Ibid., 84.

[6] Ibid., 82. Ken Sandy highlighted these Scripture passages in relation to overlooking minor offenses: Proverbs 19:11, 12:16, 15:18, 20:3, 17:14, 26:17, 10:12, 17:9, 1 Peter 4:8, Ephesians 4:2, 4:32, and Colossians 3:13.

[7] Ibid., 82.

The Bible Studied. Simply

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Bible Studied. Simply.

 

 

I think there are two ways to approach the Bible:

1)    To simply read it & allow God to speak through His words.

2)    To engage your mind deeper and to study it & allow God to speak through His words.

 

To simply read it gives you a great “birds-eye” view of the Bible and allows you to grasp the general narrative as God does what only He can do and speaks to your heart, mind and soul.  God will certainly also speak to you as you deeply study His word. To study the Bible is like getting dirt under your fingernails and mining out treasures in the ground. Those treasures are so worth finding.

 

I’m hesitant write this because often I think that Bible study isn’t so simple. Then, when I really face this hesitation, I realize that it seems difficult only because, until this last year, I didn’t know ways to study God’s Word. I, for all too long, thought that Bible study was boring and unproductive. My thoughts have done a 360, and now I find Bible study to be exhilarating! (Anyways, now that we’ve established my dorkiness on a whole new level) Let me help you to learn how to study the Bible easier.

 

There are many ways to study the Bible and I encourage you to find a way that works best for you to best understand the Bible.

 

 Here is my personal process:

 

1.     First and absolutely foremost, PRAY. I always pray that the Holy Spirit would absorb my mind into the words of scripture and would de-clutter the thoughts that inhibit my focus. Also, I pray that God would speak to me through His Word and that He would give me supernatural understanding and joy from it.

2.     Sit still and in awe of the fact that God divinely wrote this book as a means to teach us about Him and to proclaim, prophesize, and enact His grand plan for all of creation. Don’t read over this point too quickly. Our God is greatly to be praised and stared with our jaws dropped and hearts poured open.

3.     Train your eyes to find Jesus in ALL of the Bible-  Plastered across the entire Bible is Jesus and the grand plan of His redemptive work He has and will do. Also, pay attention to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible, too.

4.     Start at the beginning of a book. (Like Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Luke, etc.) I’ve found that I can more easily understand when I commit to studying an entire book- not just a chapter of the Bible here, and then another chapter there. I first implemented all these study principles on the book of Genesis, and it changed my view of the Bible completely.

5.     Learn about the context of the book: (This is such an important step! Don’t skip it!) Who wrote it, when, why, where, what is the general theme of the book, what type of writing is it. To find this information, I love to start out reading the introductions that are in the ESV Study Bible I use. Also, a really important addition to my studies lately has been watching a Bible Project video about the book in their “Read Scripture” series. They are animated videos that really break down these “W” questions. I frantically scribble down notes of practically all that they say. There are many great Bible commentaries out there, too. I just haven’t quite dove into them a whole lot yet.

6.     Start reading! I’ve heard many Bible teachers suggest to read a book of the Bible in its entirety before studying it. In some cases I find this to be tough to read the whole chunk. Therefore, I like to focus on a chapter or two, or maybe even just a paragraph or two. Once I determine how much of the book I’m going to study at that time, I then read it over a few times.

7.     Take notes! I’m definitely a note-taker. Which makes me a highlighter fan. Which then adds a whole nother’ piece to this Bible study puzzle—Basically, I highlight in set colors: 1.)Verses about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit 2.) Verses that could be great prayers 3.) Verses I should specifically apply to my life 4.) Repeated words or phrases that I notice 5.)Verses that stick out to me (or that I just particularly love). I’ve said before that structure gives me the heeby-jeevies, so this highlighting method is in no way a dictatorship. If I feel like highlighting something, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. When I am diligent enough to highlight the passages, I do find that it helps me to comprehend the passage more, and to be able to remember to apply or pray the verses.

8.     Back to the note-taking: I write ALL OVER my Bibles. I enjoy keeping my thoughts and revelations about God right in the Bible and to write down anything and everything that my heart is pondering or joyously dancing over. Sometimes I just re-write out a scripture verse in the margin. Other times, I will circle some of the words of the Bible and draw a line to a big fat question mark on the side. Often, I write out definitions (which brings me to my next point)

9.     Look up the definitions of key words that you don’t know and words that you think you know. Bible scholars, when translating the original Biblical language to our English language, went through great depths to choose the word that most corresponded to the original language. Looking up definitions of English words that I thought I knew has been nearly mind-blowing to my wonder and understanding. Seriously, it seems so simple, but it is so good. Merriam-Webster has an app for that. (I haven’t learned how to look up the definitions of Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic words yet, but I hear that that also proves to be a wondrous tool)

10.  Follow cross references. Those are the little itty bitty letters and numbers in the Bible that point to other scripture passages. Often, the Bible writers will even quote another passage of scripture, or will talk of a prophecy being fulfilled—go follow that scripture or prophecy and read the surrounding paragraphs and the verse in which they were referencing to. (Goodness, maybe even take your Bible study onto those passages and re-start at step 4)

11.  Always train your eyes, heart, and mind to KNOW THAT THE BIBLE IS A BOOK ABOUT GOD. It is not a book about us. It teaches us about our Creator and draws our hearts closer to His. Sure, we can-and should- apply the Bible to our lives, but we need to first ask the question of, “What does the Bible teach me about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit” before we can ask, “What does the Bible teach me about me?”

 

Lastly, enjoy! Also, understand that the enjoyment will build as your knowledge and awe of God builds. We better love when we better know. You aren’t going to always feel like it, but it will always be eternally beneficial to you and to the others around you who will automatically be able to sense that you have been in the presence of God.

 

Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s God’s:

 

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing which I sent it.” –Isaiah 55:10-11

 

Know that, even if you don’t feel like your Bible Study was awe-dropping or mind-blowing, God is storing up scripture in your heart and He is able to do more of a work in us than we can imagine. He promises that His Word shall not return to Him empty, but that it will accomplish in us what He purposes.  

The Bible Read. Simply

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The Bible Read. Simply.

 

 

I always over-estimate my abilities.

Like when Steve and I figured we would be able to kayak seven miles instead of three.

Or when we hiked 23 miles in two days the first time I had ever seen mountains.

Like when I thought I could completely cut out sugar from my diet for, well, forever.

Or when I ran on about three hours of sleep each night for Isaiah’s first three months of life.

 

Can you guess how many New Year’s Resolutions I have kept in the past?

Need. I. say. more?

This year, I’ve chosen a word to base my year on versus half-hearted attempting another over-exaggerated resolution. (My word is obedience. More on that some other time.) As this New Year kicks off, I feel refreshed in my spirit and eager to establish obedience. I desire obedience to saturate many areas; including the basic eat healthier, lose the baby weight, exercise routinely, enjoy life more, etc. However, my most desired routine change for this year is to be reading and studying the Bible daily.

When February rolls around, I always end up feeling defeated.

Whenever I establish a new daily goal (especially during this New Year’s time), I always succeed… for the first week or so. Then, I have a day where I slip up, don’t make the time, don’t feel like it, or whatever and I immediately quit. Once I break the routine for a day, it is just plain ole’ over for me.

Ugh. Do I have any comradery in this?

So, for this goal of mine to be OBEDIENT to God and to read His Word daily, I’ve been searching for that perfect Bible reading plan. There are numerous good ones out there that are structured amazingly well (there's even many already at my fingertips in devotionals,the back of every Bible I own, and in the YouVersion Bible app.)

The problem is, I’m just not really a structured person (So if you are, I do VERY MUCH encourage a Bible reading plan for you- I subscribed to the YouVersion Chronological Bible app on my phone so that I can encourage myself to scroll through the Bible first versus social media. But that's another story). Sometimes structure scares me. I practically get heart palpitations when I glance at the Bible reading plans and all the little check boxes next to the readings for the day… Genesis 1-2. Psalms 1. Mathew 1-2. Intimidation extreme. To-do list mentality. Not what I want my daily time reading God’s love letter to be.

Another hurdle I need to overcome to be obedient in reading the Bible daily is this: I enjoy diving deep into a small passage of scripture and studying it versus simply reading the Bible. I like to be digging into the meaning of words, the cultural contexts, following rabbit-trails of in-text scripture references, and really digging into the word to learn all that I can about God. However, that type of reading and studying takes time and more intentionality than I often am able to muster every day. I need to cultivate a love for simply reading the Bible. I know there is value in reading the Bible from a bird's eye view and getting the whole narrative picture. 

 This year, in 2018, I’m just going to do it. Starting at Genesis 1:1 and reading straight on through to Revelation 22:21. That’s the plan. I’m going to read the Bible every day, for as much as I can, for as long as the Lord keeps my heart in attention, and for as much time my six-month old gives me.

God desires us to read His Word and to know Him deeply, but, He gives us grace upon grace to do it.

So I’m going to read the Bible this year. As simple as that. Who knows? It will probably be more freeing and I might just read it through twice this year instead of once. 

I encourage you- whether you would thrive on a reading plan- or, if you're like me and maybe wouldn't- Just simply read the Bible this year. 

"All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." -2 Timothy 3:16-17 

P.S. about the 'ability' thing, yes, yes, I know: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13---- I'm believing this one with all my heart as I lean on the Holy Spirit's power at work in me. God will most certainly prod, nudge, and implore me into actually reading the Bible. Because, boy oh boy, do I sometimes have no interest to at all! 

I Believe in Jesus... So Now What?

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I believe in Jesus... so now what?

 

For the majority of my lifetime, I’ve lived in this, “Now what?” predicament. I have believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember, but I haven’t (until maybe a year or two ago) known what to do next. I even have lived in the trenches of questioning if I said the sinner’s prayer correctly, or if I did it ‘right’ in asking Jesus to be my Savior. I’ve asked Jesus again…. and again…  and again to be my Savior- just so I’d be sure that He really was. Oh goodness, tell me I’m not alone in this?!

 

Here comes an over-generalization but, in my experience, I believe the Church does a great job of leading people to Jesus, but lacks in the area of giving the next steps that should come after that. This leaves people with questions like: What actions should I now take? How do I grow in faith? When will I start to see God working in my life? How do I have that transformation people talk about after being saved by Jesus? How do I begin to feel differently? Why don’t I desire to know Jesus more? How do I have a “relationship” with God? How do I even read the Bible without it boring me to death? Who is the Holy Spirit?  

 

In other words; What. Do. I. Do. Now?

 

The thing of it is: God’s unending love and grace, and Jesus’ sacrifice extend so boldly to us that we truly don’t have to do anything past belief. When we believe that Jesus Christ is God’s son and that He died for our sins so that we could live, WE ARE SAVED from the punishment of death and hell. We go to heaven when we die, we rejoice with our loved ones who have also believed that have gone before us. However, if we truly truly truly believe, shouldn’t there be more devotion on our part than just that? Sure, going to heaven is an amazing future to look forward to—but if that’s it to this Christian thing, doesn’t that seem like just a ‘check-list’ item to do in life?

 

Get saved. Check! Have a great career. Check! Get married. Check!

 

Don’t get me wrong, we need to pass on the gospel. People NEED to be saved by Jesus Christ.

But once we are, there should be more to it than just that. However, not more because we need to earn anything or because we need to secure our own salvation. For we cannot earn our salvation one teeny tiny bit- God bestowed His power and humbled Himself to become a baby and live on this earth and die for us- He paid the ultimate price. Therefore, we cannot earn it at all. Subsequently, therefore, we cannot undermine Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and somehow void it with mistakes we make in our life. Once we believe that Jesus’ blood covers our sins, our past sins, present sins, and future sins are all paid for by Him.

 

So, I get it Church, there is nothing more required for us to do. Jesus paid it all.

 

Alright, finally moving on. You want more.

 

What to do next is:

 

1.     Let the truth of the gospel sink into your heart. Think about it. Dwell on it. Sit quietly before the presence of God and allow your emotions to get swept away in how amazing God’s salvation plan is. This absolute belief and realization about how important God really is in your life will draw the desire for the “What do I do next” question to take place. It’s so easy to just let your mind gloss over “Jesus died for you”- I do it ALL the time! Even as I type this, my mind glosses over these deep, life altering, this-is-the-reason-why-we-live truths. Taking time to still your heart and mind and just really think about these profound things does wonders to grow your love and desire for God.

 

2.     Read the Bible. This one is obvious. But I could bet it is the one that we sweep under the rug the most. You guys, the Bible is the most vital part to what we need to do as believers. You may not understand it all at first, it may seem boring at first, you may have no desire whatsoever to read the Bible at first. The good thing is, this ‘at first’ stage won’t last long once you dive in. God will utterly, entirely, change your apathetic heart concerning His Word. You’ll find Him there. Jesus is the Word. (More on that phenomenon later). Moreover, the Holy Spirit will ‘translate’ the confusion to you and will teach you as you read. Ahhhhhhhh. The Bible. It’s SO good. (More posts on How to read the Bible, different methods to boost your understanding, how to find the right ‘way’ to get into the Word, how to not feel condemned if you don’t read the Bible; all coming soon.)

 

3.     Pray. (Another ‘duh’ one) If we have direct connection to the Creator of everything through Jesus at all times, why do we talk to ourselves in our heads so often? Might as well carry on a two-way conversation with God, right? That seems a lot less crazy than me just talking to myself all day. Prayer can do wondrous things. God hears us. He knows what is best for us, and He will answer prayers according to His will. We have to talk to Him. Plain and simple.

 

4.     Find more resources to saturate your life with knowing God more. I, personally, love podcasts, Christian worship music, Instagram stalking fellow believers, reading Christian books that complement understanding the Bible and foundational topics, etc. (Some of my favorites are on the resources tab up above.)

 

5.     Find a local Church that you love. Seek fellowship with believers who are in similar stages of life as you are. Find mentors. Be a mentor. Ask questions that you have with people who can give you Biblical wisdom. Do life together.

 

6.     Get baptized. Declare to others that you believe in Jesus. Don’t be ashamed of your faith.

 

I know that these all seem so easy. That you may have tried them before. That they didn’t ‘work’ for you back then. That there’s so much more to it than, ‘just read your Bible and pray’. Hang in here with me and I’ll try to give more tools, Bible references and Biblical ways to implement all these things. It’s a process. But wouldn’t it be boring life if it weren’t?! This really is just a preview of what to do next. I’m honored to help show you all how to do it. If the answer to this question were simple, I’d be able to contain it in just one post of these run-on sentences. Thanks be to God that there is so much to learn! Be encouraged and excited about it.

 

Friends, if you’re asking the “Now what?” question, God is most certainly doing something big in your life! Love Him for it. Ask GOD what to do next. For He will show you the steps to take 100 jillion percent better than I ever could.

 

All from Him and through Him and for Him,

 

Rachel