Freedom Friday: Tools for the Journey, God’s Word

I talk about trusting God a lot.

I mean a lot a lot 🙂

I was talking to a friend last week about something and, of course, I was sharing about choosing to trust God. “Just like you say in your blog,” was the response I received.

Yep 🙂

As I’ve shared before, I write what I know. I write what I’ve lived. I write what I’ve experienced, what God has shown me, or is showing me.

I don’t write about it if it hasn’t already begun to pulsate in my blood.

I write about this because I hear from people, at least on a weekly basis, that they don’t know how to trust God. I hear from people who have been Christians for decades that God is confronting them on the fact that they don’t really trust Him.

They may trust Him for salvation – but they do not trust Him with their daily lives. They don’t really trust Him for provision or healing or freedom or any of the other things they desire or need.

Why don’t we trust God?

There could be a million reasons. There may have been a time He didn’t come through. He didn’t heal a loved one. He didn’t give us that job we really wanted. He didn’t come through with that miracle.

He didn’t provide – or at least not in the way we wanted Him to.

Trusting in God isn’t just about trusting that He is going to do certain things for us as His adopted children, or that He will give us certain things because He loves us.

It’s about trusting in His character, that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do.

Ultimately, I think one of the main reasons we don’t trust God is because we don’t know Him. Yes, we have been adopted as His children through Jesus’ gift of salvation, but we don’t really know Him. We have unrealistic expectations of Him. Yes, God can do anything, even the impossible – according to His perfect will. Yet our method is to come up with a plan, and expect Him to bless it and carry it out in our timing.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

We need to grow to know His character, His attributes. We need to know His heart.

We cannot surrender our struggles to and grow to trust someone we don’t know. The primary ways we get to know God are through spending time in His Word and in prayer.

Let me pause and clarify. Lots of people (and I do mean lots) who have life-controlling issues (and especially relational brokenness issues) have been told that if they read the Bible and prayed more, their problems would go away. I’m not saying that at all. There is a reason that “Spending Time with the Freedom Giver” is only 1 of the Freedom Steps in my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series. It’s only 1 step in the process, but it’s an important step.

BUT I think those of us who have been indoctrinated with this “try harder, do more” mentality of “read the bible and pray more” sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water, as the saying goes (um, and being a parent, what a strange saying!).

Since we’ve already “tried harder” and it didn’t “work”, we don’t invest the time & energy needed into having a regular, set aside time with God and His Word. I fell into this trap for a while. I continued to read some Christian literature, sometimes a devotional book, but I did not spend much time studying the Bible unless I was preparing to speak (kind of embarrassing to admit that!).

There was just so much baggage attached to the Bible for me. I had to get over that. I had to release that baggage and those misconceptions to God and recognize what I’d already experienced the truth of: when I read His Word consistently, I walk away changed.

Now I can’t live without the Word of God in my life.

If you feel lost in how to begin studying the Word of God, here are a few ways you could start digging in.

1. Start with a gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are the 4 gospels in the New Testament, 4 accounts of Jesus’ time on earth. They are all very different. Mark is a shorter book with rapid-fire description of what Jesus did here on earth. John is slightly longer, but it provides a fuller picture of the person of Jesus, with quite a few of His longer teachings and speeches, as well as an intimate look into His time with the disciples.

2. Get a study Bible. Ask a friend (or friends) what study Bible they use. Go to a book store and check a few out. Currently, I’m reading the “Life Recovery Bible” which is the New Living Translation and includes thoughts about recovery and the 12 steps. I generally read the NIV (I have a Serendipity Bible from my campus ministry days that has thought-provoking, and sometimes silly, questions to ponder) or the NASB, so I wanted to read something a little different.

One word of caution: even if you are using a study Bible, you don’t need to always be reading the little boxes and interpretations of the passage. You can simply read the Scriptures and work through them yourself (see #3 for some suggestions). If you tend to rely too heavily on other’s thoughts about the Bible or trust too much in others to interpret Scripture for you, you’re likely better off with an old-fashioned “pew Bible“.

3. Use a study method. When I was a student, I used the PROAPT method.
Pray: Begin your time of study by praying for God to open your eyes and your heart to what the passage might be speaking to you today.
Read: Read the passage you’ve chosen for the day.
Observe: Simply observe, by asking the questions how, who, why, where, what & when, what is going on in the passage. Who are the characters? What are they doing? Where are they? When is this happening? What are they feeling and experiencing?
Apply: Apply the passage to your life. What might this passage have to teach me today?
Pray: Pray again that God would make what you have read have His life breathed into it.
Tell: Tell someone about what you have learned in your Bible reading today.

Another similar resource is often referred to as “the Navigators Word Hand“. The “Word Hand” shows five methods of learning from the Bible: Hear, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate.

A friend of mine likes to take Scripture and put it in his own words by writing his thoughts out in his journal.

4. Think outside the box. Your “quiet time”, as it’s often called, does not need to look the same every day. Mine doesn’t. Ask God to help you figure out what works best for you. Be creative. Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, has some great suggestions.

There are lots of options.

Next week, I will share more on this topic 🙂 See you then!

Freedom Friday: Practicing Gratitude

Last week, my husband & I went to see a documentary on modern-day sex slavery.

It opened my eyes to the challenges, economic, political, emotional and spiritual, of addressing this type of slavery. My heart both broke and soared at the victories and obstacles in the real-life stories of women who are trying to come out of prostitution.

Yesterday morning, I read the blog post of a woman named Sarah Lenssen. She started the Ask5for5 campaign in an effort to help families suffering from famine in the Horn of Africa. Two of her children were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought that is causing millions to go hungry.

Sarah brought tears to my eyes when she said:

If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

I have NEVER once opened my cabinets and found nothing to eat for my children. Never. In fact, my cabinets literally overflow with food. Roy & I will adopt a child at some point (we are homestudy-ready and waiting). Is our child (or children) out there going hungry right now? I wept and prayed at the mere thought.

After reading this, I headed to a moms group I attend. A member of this group died of cancer on Tuesday. She was 36, married, with 2 daughters, age 5 & 12.

I didn’t know her, as I joined this group a year ago when she was already in intense treatment. But I’ve been praying for her. Yesterday as the moms group gathered, there was much pensiveness, gratitude, and grief.

It all makes me thankful for every breath. We’re not promised another.

I have been praying for many sick relatives and loved ones this week, people facing unfathomable challenges. On Monday, I happened to pick up a little book off my shelf that was recommended by a relative. This book talks about the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances. I can’t say I completely agree with some of the author’s theological conclusions, but his thoughts encouraged me to search the Scriptures for myself.

Upon study, I found the Bible implores us over 60 times to “give thanks”, as translated in the NASB. Over 60 times, God commands we give thanks!

Here are a few examples:
1 Chronicles 16:34
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 7:17
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 9:1
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.

Psalm 54:6
Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good.

Psalm 100:4
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

Psalm 109:30
With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise Him.

Psalm 139:14
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

I think Paul summed it up when he said the following:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks in everything? Really? I should give thanks when I get sick? When my car breaks down? When my bank account is empty?

The answer is YES.

I gave this a try today when I suddenly had a bad headache. It was time to get my younger son down for a nap, and he was not giving up without a fight!

The best I could come up with was this: “God, thanks that I have a head. If I didn’t have a head, I wouldn’t have this headache right now. I’m really thankful I have a head.”

I know, I know, kind of pitiful. But that’s a start!

Honestly, I have a good life. It’s hard at times, but I have SO much to be thankful for.

Gratitude flows naturally when I compare my present circumstances to the challenges others are facing. Gratitude causes us to get our eyes off ourselves for a minute. It challenges us to look at the bigger picture, to ask for God’s perspective, to get a glimpse of His tender heart for us and others.

It’s God’s will that we give thanks in everything.

What are you grateful for today? What can you praise God for? What difficult circumstance can you thank Him for?

Today, I’m thankful for breath. I’m thankful for my boys, who keep “interrupting” me as I try to write this. I think I’ll end with that and go hang out with them!

Aren’t they sweet?

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7

Freedom Friday: Finding Peace

Ladies & gentlemen, we are leaving this afternoon to travel to a conference where I will be speaking. I can hardly contain my excitement! I know that God is going to do something amazing in the minds & hearts of the men & women attending the conference. That’s just who He is.

I’m just going to leave you with a short thought today.

I’m struck more & more by the fact that peace is not external. Even after a challenging day with the kids, a difficult conversation with a friend, a phone call with painful news, I can still have peace.

Jesus said in the gospel of John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you.” He has given us peace. I once heard a speaker say we don’t need to pray for peace because we already have it. That’d be like praying for a chair you’re already sitting in. It’s more accurate to pray that the peace Jesus left you with would rise up within you and give you a sense of calm, no matter what is going on around you.

Let’s look at the context of Jesus’s words: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The world will always give you things that have the potential to frustrate you, worry you and trouble your heart. When that happens, you have a choice. You can choose to embrace those worries and frustrations and let your heart be troubled. Or you can choose to turn to God. We can ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to remind us of everything Jesus has taught and given to us. We have a choice to let our hearts be troubled – or not. We have a choice to receive Jesus’s peace – or not.

Later in the same talk that Jesus gave to the disciples, He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Take heart! You can choose internal peace today, no matter what is going on in your world.

Ask God to teach you about maintaining a peaceful heart.

Freedom Friday: Who is Your Strength?

This is going to be short today! It’s been a crazy week, and my desktop computer is being temperamental. Today, it won’t turn on, so I’m typing to you from my super-slow, barely functional little netbook.

An exercise in patience, for sure!

I am still reading through 2 Samuel and the Psalms, and earlier this week, I read through Psalm 59.

“You are my strength; I wait for You to rescue me, for You, O God, are my place of safety.” Psalm 59:9 (NLT)

God is our strength.

The Hebrew word translated as “strength” here is also translated as fortress, loud, might, mighty, power, stern, strength, strong, or stronghold.

Stop & think of a moment this week when you needed strength. What source did you draw on? Friends? Coffee? Food? Untapped energy reserves?

I wrote in “The Freedom Found in Brokenness” about Paul’s realization concerning God needing to be the source of His strength. When we’re doing well, feeling pretty free, experiencing some victory, we can slowly forget who our source is, who the giver of strength should be.

Verse 16 says, “But as for me, I will sing about Your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of Your unfailing love, for You have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress.”

This verse struck me on this particular morning because I had not gone running, but had attempted to sleep in (and failed). Instead, I was sitting on my chilly porch, shivering in the early morning hours, hoping to get some quiet time in before the kids awoke. I decided I should stop, read that verse aloud, and (quietly) shout for joy!

That word “power” is the same word translated in verse 9 as “strength”. We are encouraged to sing about God’s power, His strength, and His might.

If we are going to learn to walk in freedom, if we are going to become who God created us to be, we will need to learn to continually rely on God, to draw from Him as our source of strength. It comes much more naturally to me, as a sleep-deprived mom, to rely on coffee! But Gods’ strength is much more effective than caffeine 🙂

The Psalm ends with this declaration: “O my Strength, to You I sing praises, for You, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”

Say that with me today. Stop for a minute, take a deep breath, open your heart and allow God to be your strength.

Make Paul’s declaration your own: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Freedom Friday: How Did We Get Here?

Lots of exciting things going on over here at Living Unveiled 🙂

I’m not sure if I shared that I’m turning my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series into a booklet that we will hand out at the ministry I direct. I hope after that to convert it to an eBook for sale.

I did the “final” edits about a month ago and was quite excited to be done. Then I got into some discussions with two of my unofficial mentors/really cool guys who have eye-opening things to say about recovery, addiction, and how to become free. Those 2 guys are Bob Hamp and Russell Willingham. Yes, I talk about them a lot. Yes, you should really, really go check them out if you haven’t already. Like, right now. I even provided links for you.

I decided after those discussions I should do one more read-through.

Something (or some “things”) was missing. Something big.

After hearing Bob Hamp speak at the Exodus Freedom Conference, I felt I needed some clarification of my freedom step #4: Think like a free person. Bob’s take on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 intrigues me (he uses the NASB translation, whereas I’ve always used the NIV), so I asked him to further discuss this with me.

Herein lies the moment where I crack myself up.

So….my short 21-page document has now become 24 pages. I still have 3 more sections to re-read. And I haven’t even rewritten the original section that spurred many of these questions!

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I want you to read the information I added to the intro of my booklet.

For those who have read the “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series, the following excerpt now comes after “What is Freedom? Part 2“.

How Did We Get Here?

It’s important if we want to walk in freedom that we understand why we don’t walk in freedom now. In order to understand how to get free, we need to know how we got bound.

I don’t mean we need to dig deep into our past and find out the root causes of our struggles. That can help, of course.

What I mean is we need to have a foundational understanding of how we all got to be the way we are, and how to get back to how God created us to be.

As believers, we can get hyper-focused on the “eternal life” aspect of our faith. Before you dismiss me as a heretic, hear me out.

Jesus did in fact come so that we may have eternal life. Most of us know the oft-quoted verse, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I believe this is only half of the equation. Too often we see in the church people who have eternal life but are not walking in freedom. I was one of these people.

There is another very important reason Jesus came. He states it clearly in John 10:10 (NASB): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The Amplified Bible states it this way: “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

Is that the current state of your life?

Jesus was not talking about eternity there; He was talking about our life here on earth.

Let me explain this more fully by going back to the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 1:26-27, the Bible talks about the creation of mankind: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

God created Adam & Eve in His image and likeness. His characteristics, His attributes, His image were within Adam & Eve. As if this wasn’t amazing enough, we read this in Genesis 2:7: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

God not only gave them life through shaping and creating them and giving them His image and likeness; He went a step further and breathed His very breath into them.

He was, quite literally, their source of life.

In the Garden, God walked with man. He spent time with man. But that all changed when Adam & Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they ate from this tree, not only did they pass down the bondage of sin to generations to come, even more significantly is the fact that they became disconnected with their source of life.

Remember John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” This is exactly what the serpent did in the Garden. He stole their freedom from sin, he killed them in the sense that they would now age & die, and he destroyed the deep connection they had with their source of life.

Jesus certainly came to give us eternal life. This is important. But I believe we don’t fully understand the ramifications of what Jesus accomplished on that cross.

He came rectify the problem of slavery to sin in our lives, by becoming the perfect sacrifice on the cross, and by being resurrected – brought back to life. He does this, rectifies the killing, stealing and destroying of Satan, by reconciling us to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19) – in other words, reconnecting us with the ultimate source of life.

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV1984)

Eternal life is one piece of the puzzle. It’s the first piece, and it’s an important piece. But so is learning to live an abundant life here on earth.

God is thus our source of life and ultimately the source and the giver of our freedom through Jesus Christ.

If you want to hear more about the more practical side of learning to walk in the fullness of the freedom that is available to all of us as adopted children of God, start here.