God Doesn’t Want to be Explained Away

Continued from here.

I am currently reading Lysa TerKeurst’s excellent book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. While I have enjoyed everything I have read by TerKeurst, this book is in a league of its own because it’s so real, raw, and authentic. She wrote the book while she and her husband were separated due to his ongoing affair, and she did not know at the time that God would restore, heal, and reconcile them in the future. (They renewed their vows in December.)

Of course, TerKeurst questioned why God allowed her husband to be seduced by another woman and why their many counseling sessions had not seemingly born fruit. For someone who built her ministry on being a Proverbs 31 wife, this kind of attack on her marriage had to be particularly devasting. One of the things she learned through this extremely painful season, which she writes about in her book, is this:

God does not want to be explained away. He wants to be invited in. ~ Lysa TerKeurst

When we place God on the witness stand and cross-examine Him, we put him in an adversarial position that He never intended. He doesn’t want the barrier of a witness stand erected between you and Him. Instead, He wants you to invite Him in to hold and carry you as you suffer and struggle. He wants to be your safe place to curl up and cry when nothing in your life is making sense. And He wants you to trust that He is working this – even THIS – for good. He wants you to trust His character and His heart when you cannot trust what you see.

I know this is tough to do. I’ve lived it. I wanted God to provide me with answers for why he let a helpless little girl be sold to the highest bidder as her body was exploited by one evil person after another. I wanted Him to explain why He didn’t step in and rescue me from the hands of those evil people for three more years after I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8. Why, God? Why? My healing didn’t come from receiving some magical explanation that enabled me to see how much sense my suffering made in the grand scheme of things. It came when I invited God in to heal my shattered heart by taking the dust of my brokenness and crafting it into something new.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. Courtesy Amazon.]

Will You Spend 15 Minutes of Quiet Time with God Every Day?

no_timeContinued from here.

Now that you know the three most important components of quiet time with God—prayer, studying God’s word, and praise & worship—are you prepared to commit to engaging in all three of these fundamental practices daily? You can start by following the lead of what Lysa TerKeurst shared in a video for her Bible study, Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart: set aside 15 minutes as day to engage in each practice for five minutes. That’s really not a lot to ask. How might getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning revolutionize your life as you dedicate your first 15 minutes to God?

Now that I have begun my day with God for well over five years, I cannot fathom starting my day without doing so … and yet, that’s how I lived my life for decades. Why did I resist doing something so basic as saying a prayer, reading a few passages of scripture, and singing a song to God each morning? The truth is that I did not value Him enough to do it. From my perspective today, I’m appalled that I ever thought that way, but it’s the truth – I valued more sleep, watching TV, and playing games over setting aside a mere 15 minutes a day with the God of the Universe. The sad truth is that I did not love Him or care about Him enough to commit only 15 minutes of my day to Him.

When I made decision in March 2013 to tithe the first hour of my day to God, I discovered how much He loves me, which radically changed me and led me to fall head over heels in love with Him in response. Now, an hour is not long enough – I yearn for more and more time with Him. Activities that I used to view as more important than spending time with God are now meaningless to me. Truly nothing compares to God! I encourage you to set aside 15 minutes a day for God, including the three components of prayer, studying the Bible, and praise & worship and see for yourself!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her hips, saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Quiet Time Component #3: Praise & Worship

worshipContinued from here.

The final component of quiet time that Lysa TerKeurst mentioned in a video for her Bible study, Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart, is engaging in praise & worship. While there are other ways to do this, I am a musical person and thoroughly enjoy using music to help with this. I have a library of over 600 Contemporary Christian songs on my iPod, and I choose a few each morning to guide me through my praise & worship time.

Not every Contemporary Christian song focuses on praise (thanking God for what He has done) or worship (admiring God for who He is). Many focus on the Christian walk or experience. While they have their place, I don’t use those during my praise & worship time because I want my mind focused on who God is and what He has done. As I shift my focus onto God, He grows larger in my mind while my problems grow smaller. It’s not that my problems become smaller. Instead, my perspective shifts as I recognition how the size of my God dwarfs the size of my problems.

Left to our natural tendencies, we are all woefully self-focused. As we focus on ourselves, our problems grow larger in our own heads, like the lens of a camera zooming in so that our problems fill the entire frame. Praise & worship shifts the focus of the camera outward so that God fills more of the frame than the problem. That is the correct perspective of life, but we won’t get there without shifting our focus to God, which is why praise & worship are such an important part of our daily quiet time with God.

Even focused praise & worship time for one song (3-4 minutes) can help shift your perspective, shining hope and life into your life, regardless of how large your problems are. This was an important part of surviving my son’s major back surgery in 2015. I could have easily become self-focused because that was a very difficult season in my life. Choosing to set aside lots of time for praise & worship helped me keep God in the frame and believe that He was in control during a time when everything felt out of control.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace singing and playing a guitar. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Quiet Time Component #2: Studying God’s Word

Continued from here.

A second component of quiet time that Lysa TerKeurst mentioned in a video for her Bible study, Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart, is studying God’s Word. If you want to get to know God, you need to learn more about Him – how He acts and reacts, what matters to Him, and what He expects from us. All of this information is available to you in the Bible.

God’s ways are counter-cultural, and He does not change. Everything that you allow into your mind shapes how you think. If you don’t spend lots of time studying God’s Word, then the culture will shape the way you think, which will lead you farther away from God. Conversely, filling your mind with Scripture – not only reading it but also studying it and meditating on it – will change the way you think to better align with how God thinks.

In addition, Joyce Meyer frequently points out on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, that the Bible is like medicine. For example, let’s say I struggle with anger. I need to meditate on passage of Scripture that teach me how to deal with anger – to pray for my enemies and forgive them. Reading those passages is not enough – I need to actually DO them. If anger is my issue, then meditating on passages re: prosperity isn’t going to heal this area of my life. That would be like putting a Band-Aid On my head instead of taking an aspirin for a headache.

I find Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, to be particularly helpful with this. For example, if I am struggling with feeling rejected, I will pray scripture prayers out of the chapter entitled Overcoming Feelings of Rejection. As I pray God’s Word about how He views the situation, I reprogram my mind to agree with God’s perspective. I cannot emphasize enough how powerful this has been in my personal life and personal spiritual journey.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Quiet Time Component #1: Prayer

prayer2Continued from here.

One component of quiet time that Lysa TerKeurst mentioned in a video for her Bible study, Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart, is prayer. Prayer is a critical component of spending time with God because that’s how we communicate with God. What kind of relationship would you have with your spouse, child, or friend if you NEVER set aside any time to talk with each other?

As with any conversation, your time in prayer needs to include both speaking and listening. I used to only talk … and talk and talk and talk. Actually, it was more like I would complain, beg, and whine. I viewed God as a spiritual Santa Claus who had the power to grant my wish list. If He would only change X, Y, and Z in my life, I would be happy. I did not appreciate that God needed to change ME in order for me to discover joy. Joy doesn’t come from the world bending to my will – it comes from me bending to God’s will. This is one of many lessons I learned through prayer.

When we pray, it’s critical to spend some time listening for God’s response. Many people skip this important aspect because they, frankly, have no expectation of hearing from God. I believe unbelief is the #1 reason why so many Christians fail to hear from God. The Bible is clear that God’s people hear His voice and follow Him. From Genesis to Revelation, God talks to His people. Why would He go through all the trouble to reconcile with us, only stop talking with us?

In my quiet time, I praise & thank God, pray for others, and pray for myself. I then say, “Father, please speak. Your servant is listening” and listen for His still small voice, which gently reminds me how much He loves me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Three Essential Components of Quiet Time with God

I am leading a Bible study through my church by Lysa TerKeurst entitled Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart. It’s a wonderful study that I strongly recommend, particularly if you are hurting. TerKeurst wrote this study amidst a very difficult season of her life, so she is in the trenches with you as she navigates the waters of her pain, seeking healing and wholeness through Jesus.

In one of the study’s videos, TerKeurst shared that when one of her daughters went to college, she connected with a group of godly students who shared a practice of spending the first 15 minutes of their day with God:

  • 5 minutes of prayer
  • 5 minutes of reading the Bible
  • 5 minutes of praise & worship

At first, her daughter resisted this practice. However, she relented and found a deep source of healing for her broken heart simply through prioritizing God daily for 15 minutes.

Setting aside focused time for God on a daily basis is something I have encouraged many times on this blog. I don’t recall if I have shared the 1/3 pattern, but that is one I follow for myself as well, although I do each for longer than 5 minutes. All three elements—prayer, studying God’s Word, and praising & worshiping God—are critical components of quiet time with God. This week, I’ll discuss each component and explain why each one is critical to deepening your relationship with God.

This simple pattern is a great way to ease yourself into focused, daily quiet time with God. If you are too busy to set aside 15 minutes for God each day, I encourage you to consider how seriously you are taking your faith and relationship with God. Think about the least important thing you do in a day for 15 minutes, such as watch a TV show (or sit through 15 minutes of commercials!) or play a game on your phone. Is that really more important than spending 15 minutes with your Creator? If you want to experiencing the many benefits of being in a relationship with God, then you must actually enter into a relationship with Him, and that requires time.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Victorious Living through Victorious Thinking

Continued from here.

Holding every thought captive to Christ is simple: it’s just not easy. It is simple because God has given you the power to choose what you think about. It’s not easy because it feels natural to allow your thoughts to flow freely without questioning them. Victorious thinking takes effort: passive thinking takes none. I choose to challenge and control my thoughts in obedience to God’s Word, which is why I generally live in victory these days. And when I don’t, I know how to get back on track.

I blogged previously about a method I learned about through Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which I shared about here. In a nutshell, whenever I catch myself allowing my thoughts to run rampant, I’ll press the pause button by saying,

God, help me do this right. I know you love me, you are good, you are here with me right now, and you are in control. It doesn’t matter what I see or what I feel; it matters who you are. I know my God is able. You were faithful before; you will be faithful again. Help me do this right.”

This five-step response stops my runaway thoughts dead in their tracks and helps me shift my focus so it includes God.

I generally don’t struggle with runaway thoughts in the first half of the day, likely because my hour of quiet time before starting my day gets me off to a strong start. However, as the afternoon turns into evening and I have been juggling one issue after another, I’m more vulnerable to becoming passive about what I am thinking. When I find myself feeling “off” toward the end of the day, I remind myself that God will give me a “do over” tomorrow. I thank Him that his mercies are new every morning, which helps me go to bed with hope for a better day tomorrow. I do not allow myself to wallow or engage in a pity party. I have been to enough of those in my life, and I know where they lead.

If I can learn how to hold my thoughts captive to Christ, then so can you. It takes time, effort, and repetition, but you can learn how to walk in victory by challenging your thoughts and replacing the negative ones with God’s truth.

[Graphic: Cover of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

Experiencing God as More Than Enough

Continued from here.

If you will take that first step of faith – the first step onto the rickety bridge – then God will be faithful and show Himself to be more than enough in that area of your life. God’s ways really do work, but we must do things His way, not our own. While my own way might be to build another bridge, charter a boat, or find another way to cross the river, His way is to trust Him – to be completely dependent upon him to keep the rickety bridge secure while you cross over the raging river below you. It is when we step out in faith in our weakness that we learn the degree of God’s sufficiency for us.

I have learned this lesson in many ways in various areas of my life, but this doesn’t make the rickety bridges I encounter look any sturdier. No matter how much experience I have gained in crossing rickety bridges, the one I am currently facing always seems like the one that isn’t going to hold. This is why it’s so important to reflect upon all of the other rickety bridges that God has safely led you across. This is my favorite Bible verse for doing this:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 9:4

Every rickety bridge that held me was a demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Because God was faithful before, I can believe He will be faithful again. As I meditate on God’s prior faithfulness, I lift up my shield of faith to block the enemy’s taunts about how this bridge could not possibly hold.

In this season of crossing the rickety bridge of the Christmas season, to avoid holiday depression, I must take a step out on to the bridge and believe that the same God who has carried me through so many other life trials is more than enough to carry me through this one. I am using the plan I designed from Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions to help me keep focusing my thoughts back onto God. I am fully dependent upon Him to keep this rickety bridge secure. My job is to keep walking and trust that God truly is in control, no matter what I feel.

[Graphic: Cover of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

 

Do You Believe that God Will Come Through?

Continued from here.

The situation that led to my being fired last week did not arise overnight. I knew for a few weeks that my position might end in my being fired, so I had weeks of angst over standing firm in my resolve. This tested my faith – Did I really believe that God would come through in this situation?

To help me stand firm in my faith, I used the five-step method from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which I shared about here. In addition, I followed TerKeurst’s advice about resolving to seek the LORD and following whatever He called me to do. She based this teaching on this verse:

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” ~ 2 Chron. 20:3 (emphasis added)

TerKeurst focused on the words alarmed and resolved. Jehoshaphat was alarmed that an army much stronger than his own was coming just as I was alarmed that I was standing up against management, which is much stronger than I am. However, rather than freak out, get drunk, hide, accuse God of abandoning him, or any of the other “normal” reactions that people have to adversity, Jehoshaphat resolved to ask God what to do. I reminded myself of this teaching several times during this stressful experience, resolving to ask God what to do and praying for Him to make His will very clear. The fact that God sent me a year’s worth of “supernatural severance” the very next day reassures me that I did, in fact, “hear” God clearly re: standing my ground, even though it cost me my job.

When I was tempted to dread returning to work after the weekend before I was fired, God reminded me of this passage of Scripture:

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary …” ~ Is. 8:12-14a

God did become my sanctuary during this challenging season. Not for one moment did He leave me alone in my circumstances. He carried me through them, empowered me to do what was right, and continued affirming that I was walking in His will by immediately restoring the monetary value of what had been taken for remaining faithful to Him, even at great cost.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.]

Healing Deep-Seated Anger

Continued from here.

If you frequently “overreact” to life annoyances by becoming angry, I recommend that you pray for God’s wisdom and discernment about the real source of your anger. He fully understands the source of your underlying anger, even if you do not. Invite Him in to heal whatever is driving your anger.

The same advice applies if you are a “stuffer” rather than an “exploder.” That’s how I was for many years. I carried around a lot of repressed anger from the child abuse, but I didn’t feel safe enough to express it. So, I would stuff… and stuff … and stuff … And then, about once a year, I would explode and vent everything I had stuffed over the years. That’s no way to live – not for you or for the people in your life who love you.

I found it helpful to work through my repressed anger with a therapist. He gave me tools to help me express my anger at the source. For example, I used to have an aversion to popsicle sticks because of childhood trauma. I bought a large box of popsicle sticks from a craft store, broke them one-by-one, and threw them at the wall while venting my anger toward all I had suffered as a child. This was a “safe” way to express my anger that did no harm to anyone else and did no damage to anything except the popsicle sticks, which I didn’t care about.

As part of your process in figuring out why you “overreact” to life’s disappointments, you can run through the four steps I previously shared, taking it all to a deeper level:

  1. What do you want that you are not getting? Control over what happens in my life.
  2. Why do you want it? When other people were in control over my life, they hurt me.
  3. What does God’s Word tell you to do in this situation? Trust that God is in control over my life and will work everything, even this, for good.
  4. What should you do next? Pray for God to help me stop trying to control everything that happens in my life and, instead, learn to trust that God is in control, no matter how chaotic my life circumstances seem.

If you struggle with “stuffing” or “exploding” when life doesn’t go your way, I recommend reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. She provides practical ways to invite God into your “unglued” emotions so you can stop allowing Satan to steal your joy. Remember – It’s not about the chocolate!

[Graphic: Cover of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]