Tuesday, December 04, 2018

A Reminder as Advent Starts

Has it ever seemed like a rug was just ripped out from under you, and you are flat on your back looking up? Maybe a relationship ended or someone you loved dearly died. Or maybe you lost your job or received a health diagnosis that will change how you live. Having the rug ripped out from under you really messes up your plans.  

This week I was thinking about plans as my daughter is in the process of trying to get a job in California where she wants to move to be closer to her husband to be.  She has a great plan.  It is even a doable plan but not a sure plan.  An interview that she was supposed to have two weeks ago has been delayed for different reasons.  She is in a waiting pattern but also looking at other options.  What do I tell her?  I can't tell her that things will work out because they might not.  Her next months might look different than she had planned.

Also this week we learned that friends of ours will be leaving the field soon due to a lack of position here for the husband.  On top of that, their son has pneumonia and they have strep throat.  To be sick and not know what is next is not a fun place to be especially at Christmas.  What do I say to them? How can I encourage them?

This week my student was reading the story of Joseph being sold as a slave by his brothers to me out of his Bible reader.  Truthfully, I may have been half listening until he ended his story with "but God was with Joseph."  Something about those words "but God was with Joseph" made my ears perk up.  Genesis chapter 39 shares that God was with Joseph as he was a household slave.  He was with Joseph when Joseph was successful in that household,  but God was also with Joseph when he was falsely accused and thrown in prison.  God was even there in the prison as it seemed that Joseph's life couldn't get any worse.  

We often rush ahead to the ending of the story where Joseph ends up being second to Pharaoh and saving his family from famine.  We clearly see that God worked out everything for good.  That is great and all, but what about the now?  The now is that God is with us.  He is with us in our highs and lows.  He is with us in our what ifs and our waitings.  He is with us in our joy and pain.  We don't have to know the end to know that God is with us now in this season and this situation.

As we begin the season of advent, we are reminded that God is with us.  Matthew quotes Isaiah in saying
Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel which is translated "God with us." (Matt 1:23)
Jesus, God with us, came first into a world that was full of political unrest.  He gave hope by his presence.  Now because of him, we too can say that God is with us.  Jesus is there in our waiting, in our restlessness, and even during the craziness this season can bring.  God is with us. 

What will I tell my daughter?  I will remind her that God is with her as He was with Joseph.  I will say the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 31:8, 
And the Lord is the one who goes before you.  He will never leave you or forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.
I will encourage her and let her know that she is in my prayers hourly during this time of uncertainty.  We might even talk about our time in Central Asia when things seemed bleak and we didn't know what was next, but we knew God was there with us in that place.  Our school had closed.  Friends had left.  BUT God was with us.  He will be with her in this new thing.

For our friends, I will be praying for them but also be looking for tangible ways to be there for them during their last days in West Africa. 

So now matter what your situation or season, my prayer is that you will find peace and hope in God's presence.  At the beginning of this advent season, may you remember that God is with you.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ephesians, Rooted, and Grace (November Reads 2018)

It has been a long time since I have dug deep verse by verse into a book of the Bible.  The past few years my studies have been more looking at the  big picture of the Bible or going through a book a chapter at a time.  This fall I went through an online study of Ephesians with Stacey Thacker at Girlfriend's Guide to the Bible and enjoyed the in-depth look.   The study followed her book When Grace Walks In.  

Our first week Stacey encouraged us to read through Ephesians daily.  I don't know if I made the daily part, but I did manage to read through Ephesians in a few different versions that I have.  Have you ever just sat and read a book of the Bible out loud to yourself?  It is a powerful thing hearing the word of God spoken even if it is your own voice.  As I read, the themes of Ephesians became more clear, and I began to see it more as a letter from Paul to dear friends than as just a bunch of really great verses.

Each we covered a chapter of Ephesians along with a chapter out of Stacey's book.  Stacey would do a facebook live giving highlights, bible study suggestions, and what she was learning.  I loved the accountability and being able to interact with others about what I was learning.

During the study, I ended up going through these four books with one more on my to-read list.  Here are my reviews.

1. Ephesians by Paul

Since there are so many good Bible study books out there, I think it is so easy when we go to study the Bible to forget that our focus is God's word. Sometimes what we really need to do is just immerse ourselves in God's word.

I loved Paul's writing as he tells the Ephesians of how he is praying for them, how much God loves them, and most of all, how all we are and do is wrapped up in who Christ is.  The great thing about this book is that you can read it in one sitting in under 30 minutes.  

In her book, Stacey walks through the book of Ephesians using scripture and personal stories to help the reader better understand  what Paul is saying.  As you can tell from the title, grace is a major theme that she highlights.  I think this quote from When Grace Walks In, chapter one gives a glimpse of what the book is about.
"Knowing what God says about us will make a world of difference in how we view ourselves, as well as how we live out our stories the way he planned from the beginning of time.  But first we must shift our focus.  This is no small thing.  The answer to the question "Who am I?" isn't bound up in you at all; it's a treasure buried within the heart of your father."
This book can be read alone but would also be really great to read through as part of a ladies' bible study.

3.  Rooted: Going Deep into God's Transforming Love  by Lara Williams
I found out about this book through this youtube video.  The video is a discussion between Stacey Thacker, author of my second review, and Lara Williams, the author of Rooted. Stacey's book focuses on Grace whereas Lara's book focuses on love.  I loved listening to the discussion of their books about the same book, Ephesians. 

In her book, Lara takes the reader through Ephesians one chapter a week by looking at a few verses each day.  I like how each day she has the reader read the assigned scripture first and then to ask what does this tell me about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and humankind before her commentary on the verses.  Then she ends the day's reading with a few questions that relate to those verses and her comments.  Each day's reading takes maybe 15 to 20 minutes.  This book is great for personal study but would also be good to use in a weekly study to discuss each chapter of Ephesians.

Here is a quote that stood out from chapter 6 of her book
"The diagnosis comes.  That person betrays.  Our child rebels.  Life takes our breath away.  And we forget.  We forget where Jesus sits.  We forget He holds all power.  We forget that He's in a real, live realm holding everything together, including our lives."

4. Union With Christ by Rankin Wilbourne

As I read through Ephesians, I kept noticing the phrase "in Christ." What does that mean?  Then I remembered a book on my kindle called Union with Christ.  Even though it wasn't specifically on Ephesians, it was a great resource of what it means to be in union with Christ.   The author describes what union with Christ means and why we need it as well as how we can apply it to our daily lives.  Union with Christ is a topic that we don't hear a lot about but is vital to living out our faith.  The book was well researched and easy to read.

Up next... Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer.
This book was recommended by Stacey Thacker in her chapter on prayer.  Because of the content and reading style, I know this book will take some time and concentration, but I am sure it will be worth it.

What have you been studying or reading?  I would love to hear about it in the comments.  For other book reviews, check out Modern Ms. Darcy's Quick Lit.  TJ

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fall Links 2018

(photo credit: My honey)

One of my favorite things each week is getting all comfy in my chair with my computer, notebook, and a glass of ice coffee.  For a few minutes which sometimes grows into an hour, I catch up on reading different blogs that I enjoy.  The topics range from recipes to Christian discipleship to book reviews.  One thing I love about blogs is that you can engage in conversation even though I am not very good at leaving comments.  It also gives me a chance to see life from a different point of view.  Sometimes I am challenged, and other times I am encouraged.  Sometimes I laugh, and other times I cry.  

Every once in a while, I like to step back and take a second look at the posts that still have me thinking about their words.

Here are some reads from the last few months....

A New Way to Look at Things That Matter: A guest post by Jessica Turner at Ann Voskamp
I love the illustration of the rubber and glass balls.  What are some of your glass balls?

Also at Ann Voskamp, Staci Eldridge talks about How Can We Have Joy No Matter What Life Brings Our Way
"I am learning that it is not in living without pain or emptiness or longing of any kind that I will find joy.  It is not.  No. It is in His presence that I will know fulness of joy."
High-Waisted Jeans and Emotional Muffins Tops by Kristin Strong over at (in)courage.  Don't you just love the title?  And the message was what I needed for this season.
"Sometimes we must wade through the uncomfortable waters of unfamiliarity to dive deeply into God's rest and healing."
Need a yummy soup?  Try this one from the Girl Who Ate Everything.

It was both easy and delicious which makes for a great combination.

Last but not least, Linda at the end of each month always has a great collection of odd and ends.  Here is a glimpse of October's Loose Ends.  This month I especially enjoyed her pictures of fall since that season is missing here.

What are some blogs or articles that you have enjoyed this month?

Blessings, TJ