Category Archives: Bible Study Series

So It’s Getting Tougher

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“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”

-Isaiah 40:29

Think it through

I don’t know about you, but this is when it starts to get really hard for me. Easter is still looking pretty far away… but all that Easter candy is staring me in the face whenever I enter a store. I’m not complaining—still smiling!—but it’s a fact that I’m getting tired of giving up chocolate.

This is the time to take a good look at how good we’re really doing with this Lenten fast. Truth always clears out spiritual clutter that’s rooted in feelings!

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Missing Out on Butterscotch

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If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

-Matthew 10:39

Think it through

One Lenten day in 2008 I was at the mall with my kids (only two back then!), ready to redeem my coupon for a free Cheryl’s cookie. (The Library Summer Reading Club coupon sheet comes through again!)

Now normally I’d walk into a place like Cheryl’s and make a beeline for the chocolate. I mean, what’s the point of a cookie that doesn’t even include chocolate chips? And let’s see if we can find one that has chocolate batter as well…

But it was Lent, I’d given up chocolate, and I’d resigned myself to not getting a cookie at all. I’d get the free one and let the kids split it between them, case closed.

Then I spied something called a “Scotchie.”

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Lean on Him

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Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.

–Psalm 119:76

Think it through

I have a hard time staying warm. When I was a child, my dad jokingly referred to me as “snake lady.” (Perhaps this is part of why snakes and I are not friends.) Throw in a thyroid issue that manifested after our third baby was born, and now my hands and feet get so cold they start to turn colors. Even in the summer I shake with chills in air-conditioned areas. Trying to sleep is the worst, because my body shakes so much that I keep myself awake!

For years I’ve sought nighttime comfort in different ways.

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There’s No Substitute

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Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

-I Corinthians 6:19-20

Think it through

As I decided to give something up for Lent, I struggled a bit mentally. Starting with, There’s nothing wrong with a little chocolate. Ending with, I guess I can just have some Reece’s pieces instead. 

Well, now. The Bible says that we should glorify God with our bodies. How glorifying am I being if I switch from sneaking chocolate all day to eating other equally bad items?

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What’s a Little Chocolate?

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And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

-Matthew 6:16

Think it through

I feel like I should tell you that it’s not like me to be all, “Look at me, I’m giving up chocolate for Lent” on a blog. Or anywhere… at least I hope not! Though I usually tell my family what I’m giving up, I try not to talk about it a lot.

Let’s say that I’m going to an acquaintance’s house for dinner and she serves a beautiful chocolate dessert. There are two ways to go about not eating it. One way is to say, “Oh, it looks so good and I’d love to have it but I can’t, I gave it up for Lent…” with a put-upon sigh. Another way is to smile and say, “Oh, no thanks,” possibly adding an “I’m just stuffed” (only if I am, which I probably would be).

Which one would be the hypocrite way—the way that I would have received my attention?

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Giving It Up

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And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

–Luke 5:34-35

Think it through

Ash Wednesday is two days away, so it’s time to think about what I want to give up until Easter Sunday. My sweet momma gives up all sweets (like, even the jam on her toast, Friends). I’ve never been quite that brave!

If you haven’t heard of this practice, it’s basically a modified fast for Lent. Many people stop eating a particular kind of food, perhaps on particular days. Others add an activity, like participating in a Bible study (thus surrendering time).

Lots of people don’t give up anything at all, and if that’s you, I’m in no way calling you out. But I am encouraging you to join me for a Lenton Bible Study Series on Giving It Up… surrendering our hearts to God through the surrendering of something tangible.

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Our Emmanuel is Already Here

Read it! John 21

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

(vs4)

Think it through

Many of Jesus’s followers had a hard time recognizing him after the resurrection. Isn’t that weird?

Mary thought he was a gardener. The two disciples walking to Emmaus were kept from recognizing him until after he broke the bread. The seven disciples on the fishing boat didn’t know it was Him, even with his familiar request to throw their nets to the other side of the boat.

They couldn’t see that their Savior, Jesus, was right there with them!

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Perspective From the Cross

Read it! John 19

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

(vs26&27)

Think it through

I can’t read through the Gospel of John, thinking about perspectives, without pondering Jesus’ perspective from the cross.

He looked down. He saw his mother, his disciples, his friends, and his loved ones. He cared for them. He saw his killers, and he asked God for their forgiveness.

He looked to either side. He saw two criminals. He encouraged the one who would let him: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

He looked up. He talked to His Father, who I believe heard and loved his son despite the separation brought on by burden of sin he bore.   Then he surrendered his spirit into the Father’s hands.

And through it all, he had the perspective of heaven. Even though he was experiencing things beyond my imagining, he knew the people perpetrating it had no power over him (verse 11). He knew that everything had now been finished so that the scriptures would be fulfilled (verse 28).

He knew that God would win in the end.

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Stop the Debate

Read it! John 18

Jesus answered, “…Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

(vs37&38)

Think it through

I imagine Pilate nearly snorting here—“Ha! What is truth?”—like it doesn’t exist… perhaps because I’ve heard that condescending tone before.

Perhaps you have, too.

When I’ve tried to discuss religion with a non-believer (in other words, when I try to share my joy in Christ with them), I’ve had people look me in the eye and tell me I’m elitist, close-minded, and conceited. How could I possibly think that Christians are right and everyone else is wrong? What is truth?

Here’s the thing: there is truth. The Earth and everything on it exists and came from somewhere. We are either here for a purpose, or we’re not. When we die, we either go somewhere, or we don’t. There is reality. There is truth.

Either one religion has it right and the rest are wrong, or we’re all wrong. Saying we could all be right isn’t a choice. You can’t have it more than one way. You can’t say everyone can believe what they want and still be right. That’s ludicrous.

I believe that God created everything, that He gave us purpose, and that if we embrace his son wholeheartedly we’ll live in heaven for eternity. Yes, that’s “just my perspective”—but I know it’s truth in every fiber of my being.

My pastor recently said that we’ll never debate anyone into a relationship with Jesus. What we can do is love people to the Lord. We can overwhelm them with a sacrificial love from a heart on fire for God.  We can show them unexplainable love that points to Jesus like a burning bush.

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Get Organized? Or Let Jesus Handle the Mess?

Read it! John 13

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

(vs7)

Think it through

I love Peter. Peter who walked on the water toward Jesus, told Jesus exactly what he was thinking, and jumped out of the fishing boat to swim to Jesus even faster. Poor Peter who’s frequently documented as getting it wrong.

Even after Jesus says, “You don’t understand what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later,” (that’s The Message version, very direct), Peter says, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!” Passionate Peter.

He meant well, but he wasn’t listening. He saw the Lord with a towel around his waist, kneeling at his feet, and closed his ears. He closed himself to the perspective Jesus was trying to give him, a perspective of trust in The Master.

So often I see the “messy” areas of my life and I think I know better. Like Peter, I’m passionate for the Lord, jumping into the deep water of this ministry and telling the Lord exactly what’s on my mind. But also like Peter, I get it wrong. I want things to move faster and go differently—it seems so obvious to me how things should be!

I imagine that Jesus is patiently saying, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

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