Why We'd Rather Watch Netflix

Have you ever felt turned around or confused while reading the Bible?

Me too. I’ve skimmed over names I can’t pronounce. I’ve finished entire chunks without a clue as to what I just read. I’ve felt like one truth contradicted another.

Perhaps somewhere along the way we believed asking questions was stupid instead of smart. So instead of asking, we slam the cover closed, shelve the Bible, and go find something we can succeed at, like watching Netflix.

But then Netflix asks if we’re still there and we feel even less alive and satisfied than when we started. Why?

Nothing else can bring us to life other than Life Himself. Jesus says He is Life and His Words are Spirit and life to us.

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Lego & Learning God's Word [When opening your Bible isn't what you expected]

Lego & Learning God's Word [When opening your Bible isn't what you expected]

y four-year-old excitedly opened the box containing his new birthday present — a Lego set. His expression gave away his disappointment with the 144 individual pieces laying in front of him. He pointed to the picture on the box wanting to know where "that toy" was. 

Perhaps you've opened your own Bible and felt more like you're sitting amongst 144 individual pieces rather than "that toy." 

Thanks to technology, we have unprecedented access to the best Biblical teaching through videos, podcasts, and blogs. We get to see and hear a lot of "that toy" but find ourselves frustrated and overwhelmed amongst the individual Lego blocks we come across in our own reading of Scripture.

We have the privilege of receiving what someone else has taken the time to unpack and put back together. What we don't see is their long-time journey with the Word and their own struggle to understand, interpret and apply it. Even the most gifted teacher started with pieces and a set of instructions. 

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Say What? [Spiritual Cutlery: Interpretation]

Say What? [Spiritual Cutlery: Interpretation]

My 20-month old little man is exploding with attempts at communication. 

Some are simple to understand like "wuf" (I see a dog), "dada Acco" (daddy's at work), and "ma" (more), while others require more skill in the interpretive department. 

At mealtimes, he often makes a panting sound like that of a desperately dehydrated out-of-shape person exercising. I've had people look at me strangely, back to the little panting one, and then ask, "Is he okay?" 

I laugh and nod. "That means he wants a drink of water." 

Likewise, when studying Scripture, some passages can be a bit more straightforward when it comes to interpreting. For example, at first glance, "Be kind to one another," (Eph. 4:32) seems simpler to interpret than why 70,000 men died because King David ordered a census (2 Sam. 24:1-25). 

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Is the Bible too hard to understand and too difficult to live out?

Is the Bible too hard to understand and too difficult to live out?

My littlest man has been feeding himself since he was coordinated enough to get a fist full of food in the general vicinity of his mouth.

Recently, he was getting his hanger (hunger/anger) on, so I quickly buckled him into the seat and warmed up his lunch.

My friend scooped up a bite with his spoon and looked at me with surprise and confusion when he objected by turning his face away and pursing his lips closed. 

He wants to do it himself, I told her. 

She put his spoon down and only seconds later, he picked it up and happily shovelled his food into his mouth. He's my littlest big boy.

Recently, women I walk with have confessed to me that they don't know how to study the Word for themselves. This past weekend, we attended a conference together where quite literally, ever single session boiled down to, you need to be in the Word.

They know they need to; but they don't know how.

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C U L T I V A T E : preparing our hearts for Him

C U L T I V A T E  : preparing our hearts for Him

She threw her head back and laughed, then shaking her head, said,  “Mommy, it is God who makes me grow.”

These were the words of wisdom from my 3-year-old daughter when I asked her if she could stop growing up so fast. She already understood that growth was not of human hands. Silly me. 

Yes, God makes her grow. But would she grow and develop as intended if she lacked proper nourishment for her mind, body, and soul? The answer is obvious.

Yes, growth happens naturally, but she will not reach her potential without intentional nurture.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wrestled with what is within the realm of my responsibility for spiritual growth, and what am I to relinquish to God? Essentially, what is my job and what is His?

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The Secret Sauce {The "How" of Bite-Size Bible Study}

The Secret Sauce {The "How" of Bite-Size Bible Study}

“I’m actually looking forward to this,” he said as we drove toward the mountains.

I tried to conceal my excitement.

Of course we always look forward to a weekend away in the mountains, but what he was referring to this time was Family Life’s “Marriage Weekend Getaway” – a marriage conference, complete with all the feels.

After a decade of marriage, it was the first time the words looking forward could be used in the same sentence as “Mike” and “marriage conference.” And it did not disappoint.

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Special Announcement: Brownies & Bible Study

Special Announcement: Brownies & Bible Study

Have you ever ordered the White Chocolate Brownie on Moxie’s dessert menu?

Picture an immense, warm white chocolate brownie hidden beneath two generous scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream, covered by swirls of whipped cream and trails of chocolate sauce. It’s as decadent as it sounds.

Bible study can be a bit like this brownie. We desire Truth and we know we need it, so we order up a Bible study with a dollop of enthusiasm and a drizzle of good intentions. At some point, we find ourselves overwhelmed and we inevitably fall behind.

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Slow Cooker Summer

Slow Cooker Summer

Summer is a wonderful break in our regular rhythms. It is more relaxed and often spontaneous. For me less structure, can also mean less spiritual food if I'm not intentional. There is often a break in face to face Bible study which leaves a great opportunity for an online Bible study. I know summer is BBQ not slow cooker season, but when it comes to being with God in His Word, it's the long term committment, the slow cooker approach, that will shape us. 

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Our Need, God's Want: Mercy & Grace

Our Need, God's Want: Mercy & Grace

Have you ever thought God is sitting on the throne waiting to pounce and punish? It’s our natural tendency to think we’re going to get what we deserve. But the truth is, we don’t get what we deserve because Jesus already did. This is the great scandal of the gospel. God being rich in mercy withheld his wrath from us, and unleashed it on His perfectly holy Son on the cross in our place. It’s not fair. Jesus lived the life we should’ve lived, and died the death we deserved to die. I don’t think we’re able to fully fathom what we deserve because of our sin. In four short verses Paul manages to drive this point home with three mentions of the word grace. In case we still haven’t quite got it, Paul specifies this is not your own doing. Then again, says it’s a gift and then one more time for good measure, states it is not a result of works. Clearly, he was trying to drive home a point.

Why is it so important that we understand this grace gift?  

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Putting Him on Display

The Christmas my daughter was two, she was very into learning Carols. She was also at the age where she often asked probing questions. One day she was belting out Hark the Herald Angels Sing and she sang, “G’ ory to the newbown kin.” She then paused, looked at me and asked, “Mummy, what’s g’ory ”? 
 
In this instance it seemed inappropriate to say, hold on while I get out my Greek lexicon and exegete the meaning of this word for you. I paused, trying to think of how I could communicate this magnificent concept in toddler terms. All I could manage was, “It means… to recognize God for who He is.” She nodded and continued on with her caroling. 


As I read in this first chapter of Ephesians that all we’ve been given might be to the praise of His glory I looked at the definition:


Glory: The appearance of a person or thing which catches the eye or attracts attention, commanding recognition, looking like something; Equivalent to splendor, brilliance, attracting the gaze which makes it strong; 
 
Our lives are to catch the eye, attract attention, command recognition because we look like something.

Better yet, we look like Someone.

We weren’t chosen because our resumes would make good poster girls for Christianity. But I’ve concluded that we are intended to be poster girls for His glory because our lives are meant to put Him on display so He can be seen for who He is.  

When our identities are determined by our belief in Jesus, when we live securely with the seal and promise of the Holy Spirit, when we continually seek God because we know there is always more to Him than we currently know or have experienced, we put Him on display. Our lives are lived to the praise of His glory. Others will see and know of the forgiveness, redemption and hope that is available. 

This excerpt is taken from Walk in Love Through Ephesians. To sign up for this Bible study, or to learn more, click HERE.

Redefined.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:1-14 (ESV)

The spiritual blessings we have received are better than any earthly gift we could ever ask for. God has the final say over who we are. He gives us what we need to be alive, now and forever. We have the opportunity to live life abundantly and we don’t need to wait for heaven for it to unfold.  


He chose you. He went looking for you when you weren’t looking for Him. He initiated work in your life because He wanted you. Not because you were a solid draft pick, or a good poster girl, but because of His great love. He chose you with good purpose. He set you aside for a particular purpose: to be holy and blameless, meaning, to be set apart and significant and free from anything that would make you unacceptable before Him. He adopted you. He decided ahead of time you’d be His. He planned on giving you a position of dignity as His child despite the fact that you didn’t naturally belong.  


You are redeemed and forgiven. That means you are never too far out of His reach. He’s never ready to write you off or surprised by your behaviour. When He chose you, He knew everything there was to know about you. Nothing that you’ve done can’t be woven into the masterpiece of your life by the master Artist Himself.  Sometimes we just want to forget the past and not dig into it or seek healing. However, God can redeem in the present, something that has happened in the past, and use it in the future if we will allow Him to do His work.  


Redemption and forgiveness are not rationed out to us. We have been given them according to the riches of His grace. As in, more abundantly than abundant bacon! There was no running out at that buffet and we will never exhaust God’s ability to redeem and forgive.  
We don’t have to guess what His big plan is. He clearly reveals it to us: “ To unite all things to Him. ” His plan was always to bring us home. And He went to serious lengths to make this possible: the Cross.  


Please don’t miss how this was made possible. Several times in this first chapter you have seen the phrases, “through Jesus” and “in Christ.” Our identity was sealed with the Holy Spirit the moment we heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, and believed in Jesus.  
When we are looking at earthly circumstances through an earthly perspective, it’s easy to fall into the temptation to believe there is much we haven’t received. It’s easy to think we are somehow lacking and good things have been withheld from us.  


But when we start to understand we are not merely physical beings but we live within an invisible but very real spiritual reality, we see that everything we would ever need has already been provided.  

What's your story? 

When did you first hear the gospel and believe in Jesus? What are your memories surrounding the moment that identity change took place. What changed that day? 

What hindrances stand between you and believing and living as though you have every spiritual blessing?   

Tony Evans describes faith this way: “Acting like it is so, even when it is not so, so that it might be so, simply because God said so.”  What would change in your present circumstances if you were to live in a way that reflects the truth of these realities? 

Currently, what spiritual blessings are you most grateful for and why? 

 Share a response in the comment box below!

This excerpt is taken from Walk in Love Through Ephesians. To sign up for this Bible study, or to learn more, click HERE.
 

My "Unanswered" Prayer of Faith

When my dad was sick, at times I thought, if we just pray with enough faith he will be healed of ALS. God could have instantly healed my dad physically but He chose not to on this side of heaven. This was the beginning of God opening up my spiritual eyes to what it means to have faith and what it means to be really be healed.

I thought praying in faith meant putting forth as much hope and belief as I could muster up into my solution to a problem. If I could muster up enough faith then maybe God would answer. God wasn’t limited to just physical healing and He certainly wasn’t limited by my short-sightedness. 

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It's Coming...

My brother-in-law farms canola with his dad. Farming is an incredible process that cannot be hurried. It also offers us a picture of patience. Every May they spend a month seeding many acres of land. Once they seed they must wait for the seeds to take root. Within a couple of weeks, the crops begin to sprout and they can begin to see evidence of the process that’s taking place. While the crop is growing, they spray to keep them healthy and to deter any infestation of weeds and pests. They also maintain their equipment so when the harvest time comes, they are ready. Normally within 3 months, the crop is ready for harvest. Then, once again, it’s time to go to work.

James instructs us to be patient and establish our hearts the same way the farmer waits for the precious crop. Their livelihood depends very much on the crop. Farmers know the process requires time and there’s not much they can do to hurry it up. What they can do is give the crop the best environment in which it can grow and be prepared for harvest time. 

Wouldn’t it seem foolish if after seeding, they stood around grumbling and complaining: “These seeds! They’re painfully slow. I don’t have time for this. I can’t believe God would make me wait like this. Rain? Are you kidding? I only want sun. Ugh!”

Farmers know that there is a process taking place. They cannot escape it or fast forward through it. They have a role; as does nature, and as does God! They know that the rain is much needed. Without it, there wouldn’t be much of a crop.

This is the example James tells us to look to. Be PATIENT. The Lord’s coming is near. His presence is close by.

He doesn’t stop there. His next instruction is “Do not grumble against one another.” Have you ever been tempted to complain about the trial God has dealt you, or the people he’s placed in the middle of your trials?

Then James points us to look to Job as an example. And is Job ever an example! I love the encouragement found in this story. After Job’s livelihood is stripped away, his response was worship. He acknowledged that the Lord gave and took away and in both cases, He is praiseworthy. I love the words used to close Job 1 in verse 22: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”  I recently read a quote that challenged me:

You have the power to influence how you experience your season by what you say about it.
— Stephen Furtick

What are you saying about your current trial? Is joy overflowing? Are you acknowledging God’s purpose in the situation and in the relationship struggles? What you choose to say will influence you towards either thriving or just surviving.

There’s plenty more from Job’s example. After his wife suggests that he curse God and die, his response is, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” An attitude exuding gentleness and submission: “In all this Job did not sin in what He said.”  I’m going to step out on a limb and say that what Job said in his trial, or better yet, what he didn’t say, mightily influenced how he experienced that storm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like He sat around just smiling and waiting. If you read the story, you know that Job had a verbal wrestling match for 35 chapters before God spoke to Him.

But get this, “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of a storm.”  He didn’t give Job a pep talk beforehand, nor wait until the trial had subsided. He spoke through a storm.

At the end of Job’s testing, God made him more prosperous than he had been initially. Have you witnessed someone who went through an intense season of trial and came out more spiritually prosperous? They seem to exude the presence of God. Their faith is strengthened, and His love is now more deeply rooted? God wants to do the same in your life, and I pray so very much that He will have his way in your life.

One of my favorite worship songs is “You’ll Come” by Hillsong. Job could’ve written it. The words encourage me to wait on the Lord with resolve, trusting that He will come to free, heal and reveal in a mighty way. In the meantime, I should keep believing and declaring who He says He is.

Lord, thank you that You’re never finished with me. Thank you for the reminder that the riches of this life are temporary. Change my heart to be invested in eternity and Your kingdom. Thank you for all that you have blessed me with and guard me from any selfish desires. Thank you that You promise the coming of Your presence in my life. I pray that You would strip away anything in my heart and mind that would hinder intimacy in our relationship. Thank You for not just instructing me to be patient, but giving me examples of what that looks like. Thank you for what You did through Job’s life. Grant me a spirit of gentle humility as I wait for You in my circumstance. Guard my heart and mouth and help me to bless Your name in the midst of what I’m going through. Thank you that You promise to bless those who remain steadfast. Help me to obey You. Make me a person of integrity whose words are truthful. 

This excerpt was taken from Journey Through James: A Roadmap for Trials. CLICK HERE to learn more. 

Connect the Dots

God has been drawing lines between James' pearls of wisdom. His instructions seem especially challenging in the midst of trials of many kinds. Here are a few connections I've realized: In times of trial...

1. I need perseverance. It's ironic that this is what God is trying to build in me through trials but it's also what I need in order to stay the course. Do I ever feel tempted to duck out early from the test? Yes, but I know I can't. There is far too much at stake!

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A Vanishing Mist...

James compares our life to a vanishing mist. It’s quite a humbling thought when I think about all the time and money I spend on this life. 

I was recently reminded of the parable of the rich fool found in Luke 12:13-21. Jesus begins by warning the crowd to be on their guard against all kinds of greed. He then goes on to describe the rich man’s “problem."

Basically he has such an abundant harvest that he has no room to store his crops. His genius solution: Build bigger barns. He figures he’s set for the rest of his life and he can take it easy.

There is no beating around the bush. God calls him a fool, pointing out that his life could be demanded from him at any moment, and then what will happen to all his wealth? He cannot take it with him. Jesus warns them that it will be the same for anyone who stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.

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The "S" Word

The "S" Word

Our dog Iggy is about 90 lbs and tall eough that we are often asked if he’s part horse. When he was a puppy, walking him was a fairly easy task as I could out muscle him if he tried to wander from our course.    

One morning, when he was full size and strength, I was attempting to run with him. I had an agenda for that day, a desired distance and pace, which was part of a training plan for an upcoming race. The only problem was, so did he.

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Wherever You Want

Wherever You Want

"And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites." (James 3:4-5)

Every ship is guided. They are large and influenced by the strong wind that surround, yet are still guided by the smallest part. This direction is not by chance but according to the will of the pilot. The pilot has the ability to influence the entire course of the ship by choosing where to steer the rudder. James uses this analogy to help us understand the power in our words.

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The "DO" Kind of Faith

The "DO" Kind of Faith

What is your faith doing?

"As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is also dead." (James 2:26b) 

I used to think my faith would culminate in some major thing, like I'd have an ark to show for my faith. 

It's easy to breeze through this story and forget what a big deal building an ark would've been, quite literally.

Genesis 6:22 tells us, "[Noah] did everything that God had commanded him." At least 100 years of obedience are summarized in this single verse.

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