There is so much to fear in this world. If we let it, fear can paralyze us and render us useless. And rendering us useless in God’s battle plans is exactly what Satan is hoping for. He is a master at sidelining us. Sometimes we do not even recognize it.
For a long time I let fear paralyze me. Once I realized that fear was a problem, it took months to identify and deal with the different fears that were haunting me. The fact that I completed writing and publishing the ELIJAH study is proof that God is bigger than all our fears.
What do you fear? We worry about everything from our health to natural disaster. We worry that we can, that we can’t, that we will get hurt, that we will hurt others, that we will fail, that we will succeed. Our lives are filled with “what-ifs.” What if we followed Paul’s instruction to the Philippians?
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Paul tells us not to be anxious. Instead we are to make our requests known to God. This is more than just listing our problems for God. It includes prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. We are to talk with God, sharing our wishes with Him—that is prayer. We are to ask for His help—supplication. We are to do it all while thanking Him.
The Greek word used here for everything is pás. It “means ‘all’ in the sense of ‘each (every) part that applies.’ The emphasis of the total picture then is on ‘one piece at a time.’” When we are anxious, worried, and afraid, we feel torn apart, and our loyalties become divided. Paul encouraged the Philippians to place each part of each fear into God’s hands.
That’s exactly what I had to do. Now it is your turn. What are you afraid of? Take time to analyze your fear. Is it really more than one fear? Identify the different parts. Take a few minutes to place each of your fears into God’s hands. Do not forget to thank Him for all He is doing.
When we place our fears into God’s hands, God will replace that fistful of fear with His peace. Surpasses is the Greek word huperechó which means “to hold above, to rise above, to be superior.” The kind of peace that we will receive in exchange for placing our fears into God’s hand is a peace that rises above our fears. By holding us above our fears, God guards our hearts and minds. So as you place each part of each fear into God’s hands, allow His surpassing peace to hold you above your fear.
We would love to hear your stories of overcoming fear in your life with God’s all-surpassing peace!
Today’s post was adapted from ELIJAH: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another by Trisha L. Knaul (Week 2, Day 4).
Do you see what is in front of you? Or what you want to see?
Several years ago my daughter-in-law and I went on a trip with Kids Around the World. On our way to our destination, we had a long layover in Paris and took the opportunity to visit the Louvre.
After roaming the halls filled with beautiful artwork for several hours, we came to a crowded room. At the end of this room, surrounded by people taking pictures and selfies, was the Mona Lisa. We didn’t even try to get through the crowd for a close look. I remember thinking it is smaller than I expected (a common first impression, apparently) and it isn’t anything special (sorry, art lovers).
What really blew me away though was what I saw when I turned around. On the opposing wall being virtually ignored by all those Mona Lisa worshipers, was a massive painting (22′ 3″ x 32′). Impressive in size, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese depicts Jesus’ first miracle where he turned water into wine (John 2:1-11).
While I won’t get into the historical accuracy of the painting, it is a beautiful work of art. Much more impressive that the Mona Lisa. Yet, people flock to the Louvre to see her and have their picture taken with her. Then, the vast majority of them walk out of that room giving Veronese’s work little or no notice. The whole scene (in the room, not in the painting) just struck me as ludicrous. People were so intent on a tiny painting of an average woman that they couldn’t see (or didn’t care about) the larger painting.
The scene in that room at the Louvre made me wonder how often I do the same thing. Do I only see what I want to see about God? Do I focus on some tiny, unimportant detail in my life? Do I miss the larger picture? Do I miss Jesus in the midst of the big picture or the problem? Do I fail to see what He is doing because I’m hyper-focused on some detail that really isn’t all that big? Or do I take time to sit and look at Jesus and wonder at what He is doing within the larger painting of my life?
Luke tells us of a time when Jesus visited Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). During his visit, Martha was distracted by all the things she had to do for Jesus and his disciples. Mary took time away from those very same preparations to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Mary was totally focused on Jesus. Martha was more than a little put out because her sister wasn’t helping so she went and complained to Jesus. Jesus recognized that Martha was worried and upset, but he also let her know that Mary’s priorities were right–only one thing in that home was necessary. Jesus.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [the things you need] will be give to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Like Martha, do I get so caught up in the details of my day that I forget Jesus? Or am I like Mary who focused on Jesus and his words? Do I focus on the things of God first?
How about you? Do you only see what you want to see about God? Do you focus on some tiny, unimportant detail in your life? Do you miss the larger picture? Do you miss Jesus in the midst of the big picture or the problem? Do you fail to see what He is doing because you are hyper-focused on some detail that really is not all that big? Or do you take time to sit and look at Jesus and wonder at what He is doing within the larger painting of your life? Do you seek the things of God first?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of God’s creation, especially plants that bloom! My family moved into our current home sixteen years ago. It sets on approximately ¼ of an acre. At the time we moved in, there were lilac bushes bordering two sides of the property, spirea bushes along the front and back of the house, a 16’ length of fence with blackberries, and six fifty year old trees (three pine, three maple). To most people that would be more than enough, but not for me! I have transformed our property to include fourteen flower beds, a 48’ x 24’ fruit and vegetable garden with an arbor wall, a pergola, and a 7’ x 20’ pond (4’ deep). My husband says that’s enough every time I add something new, but he is always amazed by the beauty and enjoyment it brings.
All of the beauty in our yard is always dependent on the weather. As I’m sure you know, the amount of precipitation, sunlight, and nutrients determine the growth of the plant. The environment that the plants are exposed to directly affects the end result. Each plant has its own needs in order to thrive. Some need dry soil, some need swampy, and yet some need a perfect blend. It can be a delicate balancing act that you ultimately have no control over. It is hard (sometimes impossible) to recover the growing season once the plant has been exposed to the harsh elements. A succulent that gets flooded and sits in soggy soil for extended time will just rot. A delicate impatient that is baked in the hot sun with no water for days on end will most likely shrivel and dry up to a crisp twig. Both will be lost forever.
If all the conditions are right in early spring, the Bearded Iris will begin to sprout from the rhizome sitting on top of the soil. The straight, blade-like leaves will grow up to 18″ tall. In a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see a stalk rise above the leaves, and buds will poke through and swell with glorious anticipation. Then one by one, as the air warms each bud’s petals, they will show their glory with a sweet scent. Weeks of growth comes to a beautiful climax that lasts just one day. That’s right, each iris bloom lasts just one day. Then, it begins to shrink and curl up. Thankfully, there are multiple blooms on each stalk giving you many days of beauty. But, sooner than later all of the blooms are gone and the greens wither away.
I watch my favorite flower go through this process year after year, and I am always amazed at God’s intricate attention to beauty. The hard, brown, ginger-like root produces one of the most delicate flowing petals bringing beauty to the garden. I would be remiss if I didn’t bring this back to the beginning when I spoke of the conditions needed for blooming and how this is so different from our ability to bloom in God’s glory.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.” ∼1 Peter 1:23-24
In God’s garden, we are preserved for eternity. Adverse conditions won’t inhibit us from blooming, and we don’t shrivel up after one bloom. In fact, God often uses those adverse circumstances to bring the most beautiful blooms of His eternal glory. In order to bloom in God’s garden of glory, the first mandatory requirement is that we are born again believers. Once God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit, then he can bring beauty to any of our circumstances in His will. He gives us nourishment and everything we need to flourish.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” ∼John 15:16
Second, we must listen and obey. The lasting and meaningful fruit in our lives are not of our own accord. Have you ever tried so hard to make a situation thrive or recover it from despair only to find yourself busted and frustrated? Or, when we start to see it work just the way we want it, we see it wither away to nothing. In order to grow in God’s grace, we actually have to take in His living word and live by it.
God is the only one that can work blessings from hardships—blessings that will grow for eternity. Let me share how God tilled his grace into the garden of my life during some of the harshest conditions. My husband and I have been married for more than twenty years, and it has been a journey of love, joy, and adventures. But, like most marriages, it has had its fair share of trials, sickness, death, and despair. I became a born again Christian five years into our marriage. My husband grew up in the church but chose not to have a relationship with Christ. Our marriage was not created on the foundation of God and, until I became a Christian, neither of us cared.
I must have believed on some level: how could God fix something that he’s not fully a part of? My belief was full of unbelief. My fears continually won over my faith. A couple of years ago, we almost ended our commitment to each other. We had worked so hard through the years to save it by attending seminars and counseling and participating in exercise after exercise. None of our efforts made any lasting changes, until God stepped in when I finally stepped aside.
In my unbelief, I used to secretly ask God to give me an out. “Please, Lord, just make this long suffering end!” I longed for it to be over. I was so weary of trying everything known to man to save a relationship that seemed doomed from the beginning. Then, in the beginning of 2017, I had a complete breakthrough with God. I finally believed without a doubt, leaving no room for fear, that God loved me. This broken, bruised, tarnished, and tattered soul was actually whole, beautiful, blessed, without blemish, and strong. The circumstances in my life could not change it. No matter the outcome of whatever it is I face, I know that God has my best interest at hand. My Heavenly Father would not leave me.
So with this said, the night that my husband forced me to leave our home I had first thought, “Well, this is my out.” But was it? I was not even completely out of the driveway when I felt this sinking feeling in my gut that said this was wrong. I knew I was not to be leaving. I felt it at the core of my being. I knew that I could not just turn around and walk back in, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be forever. The very thing that I had been begging for to end my marriage was going to be the one thing that healed it.
Within the next few months, God brought women into my life who were going through similar struggles. We started meeting weekly as a group to encourage each other, pray for each other, and support each other. We cried a river of tears and laughed so hard we cried again. We began seeing blooms through the ice as pictured in Isaiah 35.
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” ∼Isaiah 35:1-2a
Joy and gladness returned where there was only sorrow and strife. But what changed? Our circumstances were still the same. Our lives were full of the same struggles. Then what made the difference? It was our obedience to God. God used a group of five broken women to bring blossoms of beauty in the most arid of desserts.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ∼Galatians 6:2
I encourage you to join me in God’s garden. If you allow him to give you living water by his word and feed you with his Holy Spirit, I can promise you that you will be blessed. The blessings may not be exactly what we want, but if we look between the thorns, we’ll see the beautiful rose blooming for all to see.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. ∼Psalm 31:24
In my family we have experienced four broken arms, a broken finger, a broken hand, and even a broken skull. We have also had over a hundred stitches between us. There have been multiple x-rays and the occasional CAT or MRI. Sometimes we rush to the immediate care or emergency room. Other times we postpone the trip far longer than we should because someone is in denial about the severity of their need. As a general rule, however, when we feel as though something is broken, we seek medical attention.
As humans we treat our souls much the same way. We rush through life, never dreaming we might need to ask for help. Eventually something happens to cause us pain. Many times we recognize that the hurt is because something within us is broken. Occasionally we seek help. Yet, more often than not, we wait until the pain of our brokenness is unbearable before we seek the attention of the Great Physician–God Himself.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. –Psalm 51:1-2
Psalm 51 was written by King David when his sin of adultery was confronted. He was broken. He didn’t seek God until his brokenness was made obvious. In this psalm, David cried out for mercy and healing. His brokenness led him to God.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. –Psalm 51:10-12
David didn’t just ask for healing. He asked for restoration. He knew that God’s salvation would bring joy–in spite of his brokenness. He recognized that he needed God’s help.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. –Psalm 51:13
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. –Psalm 51:15
When David asked God to heal his brokenness, he wanted both joy born of salvation and a willing spirit to sustain him in the future. With that sustained joy and willingness he would then teach other broken people about the Physician who could heal their brokenness, too.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. –Psalm 51:17
David’s sacrifice–the thing he would give to God–was his brokenness and newly humbled heart. With those he pleased God. With those he received healing. With those he would share God’s salvation with others in need.
Read Psalm 51.
Are you feeling broken?
Are you in denial about the seriousness of your need?
Have you taken your brokenness to God?
Are you experiencing the sustaining joy of salvation?
Are you willing to be used by God to tell other broken people about the God who can heal them?
Lessons on God and Godly Living
from One Flawed Human to Another
by Trisha L. Knaul
I have met with woman after woman who struggles with the same issues that brought me to a personal study of the life of Elijah. Many times I was approached by women who thanked me for being vulnerable and for the lessons they had been studying, especially in the areas of identifying their idols, of exhaustion (depression) and burnout, understanding their value and purpose, and recognizing the God who is in control. I was truly overwhelmed by the response.
People are hurting, are burned out, and do not recognize their value. Through this study I hope to help them recognize their Enemy’s lies and walk in the truths they learn about God and themselves from Elijah, “a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17, ESV).
This is a 6-week Bible study with 5 individual lessons per week and designed to be discussed in a weekly small group setting. Topics include: identifying and tearing down personal idols, discovering what God can do with flawed humans like us, returning to and walking with God, trusting God to provide for our needs, getting our priorities right, recognizing God in our circumstances, serving God by recognizing His gifts and using them, dealing with exhaustion and burnout, our identity and purpose, the value of our work, and more.
Visit here for more information on Elijah: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another.
Stay tuned for ordering information!
Subscribe to the Bible Study Journey blog to receive a free sample lesson (PDF).
In my opinion, the word that captures my relationship with God better than any other I know is “redemption”. I love the words to that old camp song:
I’ve been redeemed – I’ve been redeemed By the blood of the lamb -By the blood of the lamb I’ve been redeemed- I’ve been redeemed By the blood of the lamb-By the blood of the lamb I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, filled with the Holy Spirit I am All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed
But, what exactly does it mean to be redeemed?
The Greek word “lutroo” is commonly translated redemption, and means gaining release by the paying of a ransom. In ancient Greece, during war-time, men of importance held hostage as slaves until a bounty was raised, and paid to the victor to redeem them from bondage.
That is exactly a picture of our lives, right? We are held hostage by our poor choices and the sin in our lives. Then Jesus steps in and pays the ransom for our freedom. Peter says it like this:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ” I Peter 1:18-19
Here is a little exercise you can try with your kids or grandkids to help them better understand redemption. I suggest you use it with older children. Choose something of great value to the child in your life, perhaps their favorite stuffed animal, or maybe a video game, or even (gasp) their phone. Take it and hold it hostage. Set the redemption price high. Make it money, or chores, whatever is appropriate for your child. Don’t return the item until the ransom is paid, then have a discussion using some of these questions:
How did you feel when your important item was taken away?
How do you think God feels when sin takes you away from Him?
How high of a price would you be willing to pay?
Read I Peter 1:18-19 together.
What does that tell us about the value God puts on YOU?
Watch this little video “Twice Owned” it brings a picture of redemption in an old story to life.
From our earliest days watching cartoons we’ve known that sin is bad. Watching that little devil, dressed in red, with horns and a pitchfork talking the innocent hero into doing wrong, we knew in our hearts, that sin is bad.
Now you’re a bit older. Maybe you have a little “cartoon watcher” of your own, and you realize your view of sin could use to grow up some too.
Take a moment and do this little exercise. Find a few pieces of paper. Now wad them up into balls. Go set your trash can across the room. Next throw your paper balls into the target. Did you make it? Great! But if you fell short, then you just demonstrated the word we translate “sin”.
Hamartia is the Greek word for “sin”. It means to miss the mark. It was an archery term. The very center of the target is called the “Mark”, today we call it a bullseye. Any arrow that did not hit the “mark”, or the Bullseye, anything that fell short, or flew too far, or missed even a fraction of an inch, was Hamartia…sin.
So, if sin is to “miss the mark”, then what is the mark for my life? What is the target or the standard? The Bible gives us some insight into God’s standard for our lives:
I Peter 1:16
“Be Holy because I am Holy”
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Sin in our lives extracts a terrible price. There can be physical consequences like anger, addiction, violence, broken relationships. There are always spiritual consequences, Paul says in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death” – Sin separates. Like death separates us from those we love, sin separates us from others and from God himself.
You see, God by his Holy nature cannot have anything to do with sin. It is like light and dark. When you turn on the light in a dark room, where does the dark go? – I’s just gone. This is how God and sin operate. Sin cannot exist in the presence of the Holy God. And if sin is there…God is not.
Well then. If God won’t be where sin is, what hope is there then for my life? I certainly don’t live up to the standard Jesus set. I do things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I know I should. Both of these “miss the mark”. So why even try?
Because at the heart of the Good News , we learn that Jesus paid the price of our sin. One perfect gift for us all.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I know when we look at sin and then at our own lives, it’s so easy to become discouraged. But DON’T STOP READING our definitions. Trust me, as you look at more of those mystery words we use in church, you will find a freedom and joy you never imagined possible.
Summer is a wonderful time of the year! I especially love the picnics where everyone shows off their very best recipes. I bring my Mother-in-law’s famous strawberry pie. Well, I bring it if I can keep it unmolested until it’s time to eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found a little hole in the perfect red surface, evidence that someone has plucked a strawberry from its nest of yummy goodness. Luckily some well-placed whipped cream has covered a few sins now and then.
Over the years I’ve gotten smarter and now I make two pies. One is for our immediate enjoyment, and the other is set aside, with a note that says Hands off! Reserved for the picnic!
I tell this little story because it paints a good picture of a word we use in church, and over the years have lost sight of it’s true meaning… Saint.
Most of the time we use the term Saint to talk about someone who is perfect in their behavior, a character who might be “holier than thou”, but the term actually comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to “set apart for a specific purpose”. Hagiazo shows up in scripture in a variety of forms:
As an Adjective– we translate it Holy
As a noun– we translate it Saint or Holy People – that’s YOU!
As a verb– we translate it sanctify, make holy, or consecrate
So you see, being a Saint is not about what you DO, it is about who you belong to.
What does all this mean? YOU are God’s strawberry pie! Set aside for a sweet relationship with Him, with a sign for the evil one that says “Hands Off! This one is mine!”
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy (hagion) nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Pet 2:9
God has this thing about the spoken word. When you get right down to it, words are what God uses to actually create things.
Go back to Genesis, and we learn:
”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit God was hovering over the waters. And God SAID “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1)
What did God use to create? – Words. Over and over the phrase “God Said” is repeated.
What God wanted, expressed out loud with words, brought all of creation into being.
If we fast forward to the Gospel of John, and read the first part of the first chapter.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made.” (John 1:1-3)
What God wanted… expressed out loud, in the person of Jesus, brought all of history into relationship with Him.
You see, God has a thing about words. And if God thinks words are important, then we should too.
I understand, it’s hard enough trying to figure what’s going on today when you’re ‘earjacking’ your ‘hipster’ ‘boomerang child’ making a ‘duckface’ wearing her new ‘kicks’ while she’s ‘chillin’ with her ‘bestie’. And yet, we expect ourselves to fully understand what a middle eastern, nomad who lived over 3,000 years ago, meant when he wrote part of the Bible! Don’t be so hard on yourself! It takes work, and time, and often a friend to walk alongside you.
So let’s go on a journey together.
Over the next few weeks we’ll feature common “religious” vocabulary words and take a deeper dive into what they mean. We’ll look at how they are used in scripture and sometimes even outside of scripture. We’ll try to look at things in simple terms and stories, so whether you have been in church your whole life, or are just starting out in your God walk, you’ll find something to help you.
Hey, drop us a line if there is a word you want us to explore. We want to hear from you. After all, we’re on this journey together!
This poem was written by dad (Ralph Snyder) on December 31, 2008 as he looked toward our family gathering the next day to celebrate New Year’s Day. At that time he looked back over the past year and saw the path that he and his family had traveled. 2008 had seen many challenges in our family. However, he also made sure to look forward. His focus was putting Christ first. His desire for himself, my mom, his children, and his grandchildren was for each of us to focus on God no matter what paths our life journey took us on. Through the highs and the lows, he wanted to make sure we prayed. What better way to keep our eyes focused on God than to pray to God, seeking Him first and foremost in our lives.
What better way to face a new and unknown year than to pray to the One Who is the author of that year. He is our Creator and the One Who knows what is going to happen. Why not give all of everything over to Him and give Him control
Make sure this year to take time to pray, pray, pray.