Tuesdays in II Timothy Chapter 1:12-14

Introduction

Who do you trust with your life?  This Tuesday with Timothy reveals the foundation of Paul’s strength and motivation to shamelessly suffer for the gospel, the only truth.  Paul entrusted his life to Christ.  He handed it over to the One who conquered death.  He exhorts Timothy to do the same so that he can get on with the good work deposited in him.  Last week Mary reminded us that Timothy was struggling with embarrassment and Paul gave him an injection of courage to stand up for the gospel.  This week Paul reminds us of why we can stand in confidence.

Scripture

“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

Observation – what does the passage say?

  • Paul is suffering as a prisoner facing execution for the gospel.
  • Paul is not ashamed because of his great confidence in Christ’s ability and faithfulness to usher him from death to life.
  • Paul is imprisoned by powerful men on earth but empowered by Christ though the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul can’t save his own life, but he knows Christ can and believes that He will.  He has entrusted his life to Christ.
  • Paul urges Timothy to hold fast to the gospel as the only pattern of sound teaching, so he won’t be influenced by other doctrine fighting against the truth.
  • Paul warns Timothy he will need the help of the Holy Spirit to guard the good deposit.

Can you find a few other observations? Please consider sharing them in the comment section below so we can continue to learn from each other.

Interpretation – what does the passage mean?

Paul’s journey is coming to an end, but Timothy must carry the gospel forward.  Paul is warning Timothy about things Paul has endured and learned how to overcome: suffering, shame, fear, and unsound doctrine.  Timothy will have to stand firm with his eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of his faith. He will need the help of the Holy Spirit to guard the truth deposited in him through Paul, his mother and his grandmother.  Like Paul, Timothy will face persecution and death but there is no reason to fear because the One who called Timothy conquered death and the shame of the cross.

Paul’s key to overcoming is “entrusting”.  It is used twice in the passage.  Entrusting what to whom? Let’s go to Strong’s translation found at blueletterbible.org.  Search 2 Timothy 1:12-14, select KJV and click on the box “STRONG’S”.  The original Greek word “entrusted” means “a deposit, a trust or thing consigned to one’s faithful keeping”.  Paul entrusted his life to Christ who entrusted a “good deposit” of truth into Paul on the road to Damascus.  When Paul was pierced with and blinded by the light of Truth by the very One he had persecuted, he was convicted of his sin, repentant and called to carry the gospel to the Gentiles.  Paul’s life was saved, and it was no longer his own.  It was entrusted to Christ.  Paul deserved death in that very moment but was saved to serve.

Take a few minutes to follow the link to read an online commentary called Sonic Light by a Dallas Theological Seminary professor. Include a few sentences in your notes describing the meaning of the passage after reading the scripture and gleaning insights from the commentary. Consider sharing your insights describing the meaning of the passage in the comments section too.

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

When I entrust money to a bank for safe keeping, I expect to get it back out, ideally with interest.  When I entrust my child to a caregiver for safe keeping, I expect to receive her back, healthy and happy.  When I entrust my life to Christ, do I hand it over in the same way, with the same confidence and expectations?  Like the bank deposit and child drop off, do I confidently go about God’s business knowing He’s got me, no matter what?  I’m convicted to confess that I am more like Timothy than Paul.  I check on my deposits, I call the sitter, and I ask God where He is and what He’s doing with my life when things get tough.  “My” life is His.  That’s the core issue.  Paul understood his life was not his own.  I want to fully entrust my life to Christ like Paul.

Who do you trust with your life?

Is it possible to entrust your life to Christ and keep it as your own?

What are you willing to fully entrust to Christ?

Thank you for going on this journey through II Timothy with us this Summer.  Like, Paul, let’s be vulnerable and share our hearts with each other.  We can’t wait to hear from you.

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi

Tuesdays in II Timothy 1:8-11

Introduction

Does the gospel embarrass you? This Tuesday with Timothy exhorts us to throw off embarrassment and embrace suffering for the gospel. After his fourth missionary journey and during his second imprisonment, Paul writes to encourage Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel. Last week Laura reminded us that Paul, like a spiritual father and dear friend, spoke truth and love to encourage Timothy at time when He needed it.

Scripture

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.” II Tim. 1:8-11 (NIV)

Observation – what does the passage say?

  • Paul writes to encourage Timothy not to be ashamed to testify of our Lord or of him.
  • Paul exhorts Timothy to join in the sufferings for the gospel.
  • Paul reminds Timothy that God saved and called them to live a holy life, not by works.
  • Salvation is by grace alone based on God’s saving plan before time through Christ Jesus.
  • Jesus destroys death and gives life and immortality through the gospel.
  • Paul is appointed a herald, apostle, and a teacher of the gospel.

Can you find a few other observations? Please consider sharing them in the comment section below as we always learn so much from one another.

Interpretation – what does the passage mean?

Out of deep love for Paul’s dear friend, he encourages Timothy to not be afraid to speak up and stand up for the gospel for fear of persecution. He reminds Timothy that he felt no shame as a prisoner because the Lord had placed him there and he viewed himself as Christ’s prisoner (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; Phile. 1, 9). Rather than feeling ashamed, Paul exhorts Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel, not by imprisonment but by proclaiming the gospel boldly. Recounting the gospel (saving sinners from the penalty of sin) Paul hopes to encourage Timothy to live a holy life by God’s grace not by works (Eph. 2: 8-9). Paul also desires that his dear friend will feel privileged and thankful just as he does to share the gospel.

Take a few minutes to follow the link to read an online commentary called Sonic Light by a Dallas Theological Seminary professor. Include a few sentences in your notes describing the meaning of the passage after reading the scripture and gleaning insights from the commentary. Consider sharing your insights describing the meaning of the passage in the comments section too. Your thoughts are a blessing to everyone. We will be using this commentary throughout our study, so it might be good to bookmark it or save the link.

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

  • Presently, I am recovering from a head injury, so this passage reminded me that suffering is a part of the Christian life. Through this physical pain, the Lord is giving me more compassion for people who suffer from an illness or physical pain particularly those not visible to the eyes.
  • Secondly, I will thank Him that He works good from suffering and ask Him to help me rely on His strength to see me through this suffering.
  • I will continue to pray for an acquaintance who experienced a head injury recently and I’m hopeful I can be an an encouragement to her.

After sharing how God’s Word is impacting my heart, let me ask you:

  • How can you encourage a friend to not be embarrassed by the gospel?
  • If you stand up for the gospel, you will suffer. How are you suffering for the gospel currently?
  • How has God’s grace carried you through suffering?
  • How can God use your suffering to encourage others who are also suffering?

As I mentioned above it would be a great encouragement to everyone to hear what God is teaching you from this passage in the comment section below. We are so excited that you are studying II Timothy with us this summer. Thank you for sharing what God is teaching you through this study. We love you!

– Mary Carmen

Tuesdays in II Timothy 1:1-7

It’s Tuesday June 5th which means time to kick off our online study, TUESDAYS in II TIMOTHY through September 4th. Sacred Sisters, I understand it can be intimidating to study the Bible. Let me start out by reminding us that it does require effort and discipline. Yet I am confident as we lean on the Holy Spirit, God will reveal rich treasure from His Word as He equips us to study. I am so glad you are taking the journey as we need each other’s encouragement. It’s easy to avoid putting our heart into the Word and default to things that “suck our time” like TV and Social Media as well as conversations and pursuits that distract us.

The great thing about Tuesdays in II Timothy is that we are studying the Bible using the Inductive Bible Study Method. This process helps us work through the passages of Scripture as we digest one of the most personal letters Paul writes in the New Testament one bite at a time. For an overview, look at Kaye Arthur’s explanation and/or a longer description in Walk Through the Word. I will also describe the flow of Observation, Interpretation, and Application below.

Take a minute to pray with me for God to enlighten our hearts as we study.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” I Tim. 1:1-7 (NIV)

Introduction

We are studying the first 7 verses of II Timothy today. Think of visiting the apostle Paul in prison and asking him, “I’ve heard about your friend and fellow laborer Timothy. Tell me about him.” After we look at this portion Mary Carmen will guide us next Tuesday the 12th through verses 8-11. I am eager to hear her reflections so get a jump start by reviewing the verses for yourself!

Observation – What does the passage say?

Observation means we are looking at the text for the obvious, what is stated. It’s tempting to skip over observation to Interpretation and Application but the accuracy of our interpretation and applications depends on carving out time to observe.

When observing, make note of the 5 W’s and the 1 H question: who is speaking, what is the subject or event, when did this take place, where did it happen (or will happen), why is this being said and how is it to be done?

Observation also involves noting repeated words and phrases, contrasts and comparisons, themes, cause and effect, terms of conclusion (therefore, finally, for this reason, etc.), timeframes mentioned, and lists.

Here are 7 Observations I came up with along with the verse:

  • Paul is writing to Timothy (2)
  • Repeated- Christ Jesus, 3 times (1-2)
  • Paul is telling Timothy how grateful he is for him (3)
  • The writing of the book takes place around 66 AD (according to my study Bible)
  • Comparison -sincere faith in Timothy’s mother Lois and grandmother Eunice and Timothy (5)
  • Comparison – constantly remembering you in prayer, long to see you, recalling your tears (3-4)
  • Cause and Effect – seeing Timothy will cause Paul joy (4)

Now your homework is to find at least 3 more observations – it would be a boost for all of us to hear one another’s finding so consider leaving a comment below. Your thoughts are a blessing to our study.

Interpretation – what does the passage mean?

Interpretation flows out of your observation as you seek to discern the meaning. When determining what the passage means, take the context into consideration. First, look up cross referenced Scriptures usually found in the margins or footnotes of your Bible to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. You may also look at Bible dictionaries and commentaries to gain more insight. A couple of questions to consider are, “What is the author’s intent in this passage? What is one principle or lesson the writer/God is trying to communicate? What was the author saying to the people of his day?”

Based on what I explained above, I am going to share several sentences about how the meaning of verses 1-7.

*Paul considers Timothy a dear friend and spiritual son since he chose him to accompany him on the mission and discipled him in the faith while doing ministry together. (Acts 16:1-3) Through shared experiences and trials the two men have forged a deep friendship where there is connection emotionally and spiritually. Paul is incredibly grateful for Timothy and as a spiritual father, he affirms Timothy’s conversion to Christ and calling to ministry. Paul exhorts Timothy to resist fear and choose to live with boldness and confidence in the Lord. (Romans 8:15)

Your homework is to follow this link to read the online commentary called Sonic Light which is written by a Dallas Theological Seminary professor. Make note of the insight you receive and write several sentences in your own words to describe the meaning of the passage. Be sure and keep this link handy through our weeks of study!

Application – how does the meaning of this passage apply to me?

The final step in the Inductive Bible Study Method is to ask the Holy Spirit how He desires for you to apply the passage. The actual application of the Scripture occurs when you are confronted with a truth from the Scripture and respond in obedience. At times I think of an application and then fail to carry it out. The goal in this process is to consider an application and a plan for carrying it out if needed.

Questions to ask when thinking about application: What is the Holy Spirit saying to me? What am I challenged to believe, receive, or do? What will I stop doing, begin to do or do differently as a result of studying this passage?

  • As I think about application for this portion of the letter, I think about the importance of having friends in my life who are ahead of my faith journey in experience and then friends who I can come alongside. Like Paul, I am beyond grateful for the younger women in my life who encourage me to stay the course and will reach out to one of them and share my gratitude.
  • I also think about where I can be tempted to fear and timidity instead of trust and boldness. I am praying daily this week that God will give me boldness with family, friends, and those I meet spontaneously as He opens the doors for me to speak about His work in my story.

Now that I’ve shared how God’s Word is impacting my heart, let me ask you:

How can you be intentional about cultivating friendships and doing ministry with faith filled women you can learn from as well as women you can nurture and disciple in the faith?

Consider the reactions, environment, or attitudes that tend to make you feel fearful and timid about your faith. How can you depend on God’s Spirit to resist conforming to the world or giving into silence?

We’ve talked through the Inductive Bible Study Method and looked at the first 7 verses of II Timothy. Our stories will never be the same. I’d love to hear how you are encouraged, insight you are gaining, and any questions. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at laura@sacredstoryministries.org. Study on sister!

~Laura

Tuesdays in II Timothy: June 4th to Sept. 4th

Hi sacred sisters, we are excited to spend time with you on the blog this summer, diving into the book of II Timothy! Every Tuesday for 14 weeks, kicking off June 4th with this introduction through Sept. 4th, a member of our blog team will share insight on the book of II Timothy as we enter into a verse-by-verse study.

If you’ve thought about studying the Bible on your own or equipping others to do the same, you will gain experience of how to do so. We will draw from the inductive Bible study method of observation, interpretation, application when looking at the passage of Scripture which allows us to learn a transferable way to study the Bible. As a review, here are a couple of articles, overview article by Kaye Arthur and a more detailed explanation of each step from Walk with the Word.

We welcome your prayers for our first online study with the Sacred Story community. We also value your input on each post as we grow together. Consider encouraging a gal pal or two to sign up to receive the posts in her inbox and take time to connect about what you are learning through God’s revelation from Paul’s letter to Timothy. Friends can subscribe on the right hand side of the home page, “subscribe via email.” You may also want to memorize selected verses, whether on your own or with a sister(s).

Summer sizzles and so does God’s Word. I look SO forward to digging in to II Timothy on Tuesdays! See you tomorrow as I introduce our journey.

~Laura

Secure Connection Through Prayer

“If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:13

More than five years ago, during a season of life when I was knee-deep in changing diapers, making meals, and keeping three little people alive, my prayer life was pretty dry— nonexistent, really. Studying God’s Word and filling in blanks on a Bible study was something I could handle, but prayer seemed like one more relational task for which I didn’t have time or energy.

But a challenge from a friend changed all that. I got a glimpse into the ordinary, daily rhythms of her prayer life and her commitment to pray for others, my family included, on a consistent basis. And more than anything, I saw the fruit this woman’s prayer life was bearing. Quietly and in a behind-the-scenes kind of way, this woman was affecting an entire neighborhood and group of people by the work of her hands and the prayers of her heart.

So, because of her example, I decided to start praying as well. The first few years of prayer were more like checking off names and items on a to-do list before the Lord than experiencing real relational intimacy or internal change.

But then we adopted our youngest daughter, Mia Grace, from an orphanage in China when she was 17 months old. And adoption changed everything, for her, of course, but for me as well. As my husband and I began the long process of helping Mia Grace securely attach to us, I saw myself in our daughter. Legally, she was our child, and we had the court documents to prove it, but in many ways, she still acted like an orphan.

But the primary thing that began to change her orphan habits into secure, confident behavior was sensory connection. When she hurt herself, we taught her she could cry out, and we would be there to comfort her. When she woke up in the morning or from her nap, we taught her she had a voice and could call out, “Momma, I’m awake!” and we would come to get her. When eye contact and intimate touch like hugging, rocking, and holding were difficult for her to receive, we taught her by slow degrees that she had permission to be dependent instead of independent and nestle into our arms and laps. When she sat at the table and refused to eat anything that did not come from her own hand, we slowly taught her that mommy and daddy were there to help her body receive the nutrition it needed and craved.

And through daily, repeated attempts at secure sensory connection, her defenses and orphan habits slowly and surely came down through the touch of our hands, the look in our eyes, the sound of our voices, the taste of our goodness as her parents, and the constancy of our presence.

Through this process, I began to see myself in Mia Grace. I, too, had been adopted by a Father, but one who, unlike me, was good, perfect, and loving in every way. Yet I often acted like an orphan. I pushed away the touch of His hands, demanded to feed myself the food of my own choosing on my own plate, nursed my own hurts and wounds instead of calling out for comfort, and spent more time looking down and in instead of up and out as the secure, confident daughter He created me to be.

And gradually, I realized that if I, as a very imperfect parent, could change certain orphan habits in Mia Grace through secure, sensory connection, then my perfect heavenly father could certainly accomplish secure, sensory connection with me, His beloved child, through the regular practice of prayer.

So, instead of seeing my prayer life as a to-do list to check off, I began to see it as necessary face-time with my Heavenly Father who heard, saw, touched, comforted, guided, led, and invited me to taste and see His goodness. And little by little, I saw how persistent prayer slowly changed—and is still changing—my independent orphan habits into the dependent, trusting responses of an adopted, secure child.

So if you, like me, act more like an orphan than a beloved child, take time this summer to slow down, and come to the table of prayer.  Allow God to rewrite your story by telling you His story, through the lens of His Word.  And sit down at a feast where you are regularly invited to taste, see, talk, listen, and receive the healing grace of a good Father who knows exactly what you need and longs to have face- time with you, His beloved child. Secure connection is waiting.

Sacred Story is honored to have Susannah Baker as a guest contributor this month. Susannah’s prayer guide and accompanying prayer journal, Secure, will be released this summer.  To learn more about these resources and to read Susannah’s blog, you can visit her at www.susannahbaker.com.

God Sees Our Need for Encouragement

“Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Did not realize how sensitive the head is until I experienced a head injury a few months ago. I have hit my head a number of times on taxi doors and my car but not until a cold night in February did the impact of my head against the doorframe bruise my scalp so bad to cause nerve damage. Thankfully, I did not blackout and do not have neurological damage. But, over the past few months, I have struggled with pain in my head, light sensitivity, and nerve pain particularly on my forehead and other parts of my face and behind my ears. While I am so thankful for the lessening of the nerve pain and my doctor saying the nerves will heal, it has been incredible frustrating to “feel off” and not be able to complete the book that I am so close to finishing.

During this time, God has led others to encourage me in the moments when I needed it and taught me that I need people regularly praying for me so that they can fight for me in the spiritual realm. I know that the Lord allowed this injury and want to learn what He desires to teach me during this time. The enemy has used this to delay my writing and put pressure on me through pain and his voice of discouragement. But, I have felt strengthening through the prayers of a few friends and family members. With head injuries, your head feels heavy, so the lightness that I have experienced as I continue to heal feels heavenly. The burden of this pain feels so much lighter as others help carry my burden through prayer.

 Hearing the voice of preachers say since I was a teen about receiving nourishment through the Lord’s Supper has made me want to experience that more. With nerves quite active one Sunday evening, I sat on the back row of my brother’s church. During the Lord’s Supper, I experienced more of the fullness of that nourishment in ways that I have never experienced- the warmth of God’s presence smoothing the pain and lightness in the form of joy not just on the inside but I felt like my whole body was alive. I walked out of the service feeling like I had been to a doctor. This happened at a small PCA church during a normal Sunday service. My point for saying that is: God meets us in our daily lives in extraordinary ways.

It has not been an uphill climb with my progress as there have been some dips. One Saturday, a headache hit me harder than I had ever experienced. Then on Tuesday though it was much better, I did not realize since I have a high endurance factor and positive attitude how I needed to let God more into my pain. In a safe space with a loving friend and physical therapist, I allowed myself to release the pain built up on the inside. I did not know this was a common experience a part of facilitating healing for a head injury. I laid it all out on the table with God that day, and then the next day God showed me that He sees my pain and need for encouragement. Someone reached out to my about an opportunity that could be very rewarding and make a difference in other’s lives and further God’s plan for my book.

Often we think that God will do big things when we are feeling strong and doing well. But, in our weakness He is strong. I realize that I will have to rely on His strength to finish my writing enduring nerve pain. He sees all of this and allowed me to finish my writing pushing through pain with His strength. There are many more things that God will teach me from this experience. The number one thing that He wants me to tell you today is: God sees you and will encourage you through your pain.

– Mary Carmen

The Faith Test

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45 NKJV

Thank you for going on a faith journey with me this year. Now, it’s time for a faith test.

Do you really believe that all you are working for will work out?  It seems like an easy yes, but look a little deeper.  When you work hard for something you assume there is a possibility that it will work out.  Otherwise, why would you invest the time and effort? I thought my faith was soaring at a 10 out of 10 until until something actually worked out and I was stunned.  Why was I stunned that the highest and best possible outcome actually happened?  Do I pour out my life with the expectation it won’t go well?  Then, why all this effort?  What good is faith if you don’t walk in the peace of true expectation.

When the angel appear to Mary and told her she would be the mother of the Savior of the world, her reaction was pure belief.  In my speak, she responded, “Let’s do this.”  Her faith was a 10 out of 10.  I get her.  At the beginning of a recent journey where I know I hear the Lord call me out into a new season far beyond my expectation and own ability, I believed.  I acted on it.  Then, the journey got long.  The initial excitement of the new adventure morphed into work, a lot of work.  I began working out a God-sized dream in my own strength, and apparently my expectation faded.

Now it’s time to test everything I claim to believe.

  1. Do I really believe in heaven?  The answer is in my view of death. Do I fear it, or not?
  2. Do I really believe the Lord works out all things for my good and His glory? The answer is in my worry, or freedom from it.  What am I worried about?
  3. Do I believe “there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told [to me] from the Lord?”  The answer is in my restlessness, or rest.  Am I at rest in His great peace, or wrestling with myself?

How will you respond to good news?

Take the faith test and continue the great adventure!

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi

 

 

Preparing for the Impossible Part II

 “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” II Kings 4:3-4

We began reflecting on Preparing for the Impossible Part I in April by looking at the story of the precious widow in II Kings 4 who finds herself unable to pay her debts. A creditor is demanding she turn over her sons to be his slaves. She needs a miracle and appeals to the prophet Elisha to help since her husband faithfully served his ministry.

Elijah instructs her to borrow as many empty jars as possible from her neighbors. Then to go into her house, shut the door, and with her sons help, pour her single flask of olive oil into the multiple jars, being sure to set each aside after each is filled.

What?! Elisha, did you not hear the inventory of what is in the house? That would be only ONE flask of olive oil. Maybe Israel’s spiritual state is causing you to go over the edge?

Let’s also think about the possibility of awkwardness or even ridicule. This precious widow approaches her neighbors asking them for empty containers. The nosy neighbor down the way inquires, “What are you doing with the container?” “Oh, I have a flask of olive oil I am using to fill up more containers.” “But if you transfer the olive oil from your flask to this jar, what’s the point? I know you are distraught over losing your husband. Perhaps you need to talk to someone.”

When I ponder about how God is about to do the impossible in her story, I see several ways the widow made room in her heart and circumstances for Him to do so.

*Belief that God operates in the realm of the impossible. When Elisha directed her to go to her neighbors and fetch the containers, the widow did not shut him down or search for another plan. She remained opened to unusual results from ordinary actions.

*Belief that God will work through people around her to bring about the impossible. The widow enlisted the help of her neighbors to lend her the containers and her sons to help fill them. Notice that God gives her sons the joy and awe of seeing the impossible as she exercises faith.

*Belief that God will take care of her reputation even if others respond with misunderstanding, doubt, or laughter. She doesn’t have control over how others respond and so she surrenders how she looks in the situation.

Like the widow I can resonate with being in financial distress at times as God gives me the opportunity to trust Him by faith. My salary and ministry expenses are met through donations from faith filled believers to Sacred Story. Thankfully I have not found myself facing the stress of creditors coming after me! However, there are times I look around, only seeing a “flask of olive oil” and think, how am I and the ministry going to keep making ends meet?

During these times I look to God, offer my small flask of faith and pray for Him to come through in ways that only He can. I can testify to many impossible financial situations becoming possible over the years. People’s generosity toward the ministry are like the gifts of containers from neighbors. Then God uses the joining of generosity and faith to overflow blessing to those who receive the oil of the Holy Spirit’s encouragement through the ministry.

Almost half way through the year, I am looking at the ongoing financial needs for the ministry for 2018. It feels impossible right now and yet I continue to offer my “flask of olive oil” by faith, however weak my faith may be. I also let go of how people view me; sometimes that’s more easily said than done.

Have you received encouragement from Sacred Story through the blog entries, women’s stories, materials, retreat, equipping for your sharing your story and/or connection to others? If so, will you prayerfully consider giving a “container for the oil of hope” to reach others by making a financial contribution? I am looking to the Lord for about $4500 for the remainder of the year. As you feel prompted follow this secure link to donate online. All gifts are tax deductible.

I’ll be honest – when I began writing this post, sharing about financial needs was the farthest thing from my mind; however, as the Spirit leads I sense Him asking me to take the faith step of doing the “normal” or “familiar” thing by asking you to consider giving. I am trusting Him to make all things possible once again in the financial area. Thank you for thinking about this and praying for God’s provision!

Like our sister in II Kings who trusted God may we continue to offer our faith and obedience to the One who delights in doing the impossible.

~Laura

Learning to Read the Bible Again: Thoughts from a Recovering Legalist

“…Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4

Some time in my twenties I made the decision to read through the whole Bible. I found a plan and I checked the box each day I read a chapter from the Old Testament, a chapter from the New Testament and a Psalm or Proverb. I got off track several times and had to make up days when I didn’t read my assignment. Sometimes (a lot of times) I found myself skimming passages just so I wouldn’t fall far behind in my reading. Needless to say, I finally finished the “plan” and completed my Bible in about 18 months.

When I look back I readily admit my reading through the Bible was mostly from a sense of obligation mixed with pride. Bless my heart. Legalism never produces joy and I was clearly motivated by works and approval, from both God and man.

Twenty years have passed and I have studied many books of the Bible mixed with periodic attempts of reading through the whole Bible again. I have tried a few daily reading plans and checking boxes. Usually somewhere around Leviticus I fade out and eventually give up.

In more recent years I have pondered the bigger question: why should I read the whole Bible? Is it something I need to do as a Christian or is there a grander purpose? Is it okay to just continue studying specific books of the Bible (in women’s Bible study or in church sermon series) without reading through the whole Bible?

Seeking to turn from legalism, I thought about these questions and prayerfully came to some conclusions. I truly want to know the Lord more deeply–His ways, His character, His wisdom, His truth. The best way to know Him more fully is to read His entire Word. It is easy to keep going back to the books in the Bible where life application is obvious and I don’t have to think so hard and wrestle with the challenging aspects of an infinite God. But I know there are things the Lord wants to teach me in Obadiah, Nahum & Leviticus.

Reading through the whole Bible gives me the broader perspective on each of the individual books as I study them. It all fits together as one story and if I leave some of it out, I’ll miss out on understanding the bigger picture of the Lord and His purposes.

God’s redemptive story of reconciling a broken, sinful people to Himself through Jesus is seen through every book in the whole Bible, not just in parts. In some books it is not as obvious. It takes thought and time. Like any good story, one part builds on the next. In order to fully appreciate the New Testament books, we need the backdrop of the Old Testament books.

As I thought through these conclusions I began observing how my husband was going about his Bible reading. Almost every night when we got into bed he would pick up his Bible and read. Some nights he read several chapters. Other nights he would read just a couple. He would miss a night here or there but–get this–there wasn’t a plan. He just read what he could and there was no pressure. No boxes to check. No getting behind or ahead.

Once I discovered his genius non-plan plan, it was like a light bulb went on and I realized this was the answer. Isn’t this the way we read every other book? We don’t sit down with a book and a plan to get through it. We read as much as we want or can at the time and enjoy it. Obviously the Bible isn’t just any book. It is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12) which is an excellent motivation to read it. It is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproofing, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It is the only book that has the power to set men free (John 8:32). It can change lives, make them wise, revive souls! (Ps. 19:7). It is the only book that gives comfort, life and hope (Ps. 119:50).

This is how I read my Bible now. I read the Bible whenever I can for as long as I can. I started reading Genesis again earlier this year but I don’t know the day. It’s freeing to not care (no box to check)! Currently I’m in the book of Deuteronomy. I am also trying to read a psalm slowly and just take a few verses and meditate on them after I read the longer chapters I’m going through. Currently I’m meditating on a few verses Psalm 86.

My hope is that this will be my routine for the rest of my life. Once I finish Revelation, I plan to start back with Genesis again. I’m thankful for a wise husband  who demonstrated for his legalistic leaning wife a grace-oriented way to approach the Scripture. To be clear, however you choose to read your Bible, reading plan or not, God blesses the reading of His Word. May the Word of God dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16) and may His Word thoroughly equip you for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:17).

~Courtney

 

 

How am I? No, I AM.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

At the turn of the new year, the Lord asked me “Will I find faith in the earth?” I knew faith had to start with me, right here in my own heart. He then showed me how faith acts Resolutely Now because Faith Forges Ahead. After all these messages you would think fear is a thing of my past. Truth is, fear still creeps in disguised as control. Here’s how.

  • I want to be a great mom.  What can I do for each of my kids that gives them what they need in this season of life?
  • I want to be a great leader.  What can I do to motivate everyone to their best?
  • I want others to know the great love of God. What can I do to reach them?

These are all noble pursuits, but there is a fatal flaw in my approach to each one. Can you see it?

Did the Lord call me to be a good mom, put me in positions of leadership and tell others about Him?  Yes.  Did he tell me to figure it out on my own from here? No. Consider the Israelites after they entered the promised land. Did they inhabit it in their own strength?

“We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.” Psa 44:1-3 NIV

It was not by their own strength, determination, grit and weaponry, but by God’s strength and great love for them.

God calls himself the great I AM. He has never changed.  His great love for the Israelites then is the same love for you and me today. It is present and active.  His strength never fails. It is present and active.  Why do I take one step of faith and try to figure out the rest without Him?

How will I figure out how to resolve this conflict?  No, I AM.

How will I make financial ends meet?  No, I AM.

How will I ever trust again? No, I AM.

How will I finish my degree?  No, I AM.

How will I conquer this disease?  No, I AM.

How will I love my enemy? No, I AM.

How can I make my life matter?  No, I AM.

I AM, by my right hand, my arm, and the light of my face, that is turned toward you, because I love you.

Lord, you called me across the Jordan into the Promised Land of your very presence.  You gave your life for me.  I give my life to seek first your kingdom and you will bring victory. You never let the righteous fall.

What care can you cast on Him today?

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi