Tag Archive | Bible Study

Getting Unstuck from Unhealthy Habits

As I took down my 2019 calendar and replaced it with a new one a couple weeks ago, my heart was heavy. Last year was a very difficult year, and I was struggling to be hopeful about 2020.

It seemed like each time I began making progress last year, something negative popped up to slow or stop my progress. I was grieving the loss of our special-needs son in November 2018, missing David and also his nurses who had been a big part of my daily life for many years. And my health seemed to be falling apart.

I was struggling with a recurring case of eczema, probably caused by the stress I was walking through. After an improvement in my ability to walk, the condition of my left knee suddenly deteriorated to the point where walking even from room to room was agonizing. Tests showed no cartilage left in the knee, and because of the nerve damage in that knee the orthopedic surgeon said I was at a risk that heel replacement surgery would actually make the pain worse. And as the year neared an end, I started experiencing intense pain and inability to move use my left arm, probably from a problem with the rotator cuff.

Throughout the year, it seemed like for each step forward I took, circumstances would cause two steps backward. I felt stuck both physically and emotionally, and had no idea how to turn that around.

Have you ever been at a place like I described above? If so, finding a way to get unstuck is essential if we hope to move forward in God’s plan for our lives. As God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness begins a new focus on RECLAIMING YOUR LIFE (after a chronic illness diagnosis), our first emphasis will be on Getting Unstuck from Unhealthy Habits.

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When our plans don’t go as we had hoped, it can leave us feeling frustrated, disappointed and discouraged. These emotions leave us vulnerable to either forming new or falling back into old negative habits, sometimes even those we thought we had finally gained victory over. We also have an enemy who is quick to take advantage of any doors we leave open to his influence. He knows our areas of weakness, sometimes better than we do, and his purpose is to use them to cause us to lose the victory Jesus Christ gained for us on the Cross.

Getting unstuck from the habits in our lives that are keeping us bound begins with recognizing the specific habits we need to deal with. In essence, bad habits are areas of temptation that we have given into over and over again until they have become our automatic response.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Getting unstuck from unhealthy habits begins with prayerfully identifying the specific habits that we need to change. Here are a few of the habits common to us as Christian women:

FAILING TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME IN GOD’S WORD
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” One of the ways we do this is by making a daily quiet time a priority. If you are a mom with young children or if you have a 9 to 5 job you must go to daily, you may feel you don’t have time for this. Do the best you can. Even five minutes in the Word of God in the midst of a busy schedule helps us to redirect our focus onto the Lord.

NOT MAKING TIME FOR PRAYER
Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Prayer is simply spending time in God’s presence, and Psalm 95:2 says we come into His presence with thanksgiving. Prayer includes sharing the burdens of our hearts with the Lord, then listening for His response. I’ve learned to pray with an open Bible, often using promises of Scripture to guide my prayers.

NOT FULFILLING OUR DAILY RESPONSIBILITIES
As women with chronic illnesses, this can be a tough area to deal with. Pain and exhaustion often limit what we can do. Rest during the day may be needed to just keep our bodies functioning. But all of us have some responsibilities we are called to be faithful in completing. One Bible verse I go back to over and over again in this area is Colossians 3:23, which says “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Some days, “whatever you do” may be one small task such as washing the breakfast dishes. Other days, you may be able to do more. But whether you do little or much, do it with a good attitude, working from the heart to love your family and to please the Lord.

POOR EATING HABITS
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, ‭‭“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Are you doing your best to take care of your body? Chronic illness and the medications we take often make it easy to gain ‭‭weight, so this is not to condemn those who are overweight (this is a problem I’ve battled since childhood, so I understand). But are you doing your best to glorify God in your body, His temple? Or are you using food for comfort when you’re struggling? God’s will is for us to do the best we can in this area, in spite of the limitations our chronic illnesses cause.

Have one of these areas stood out to you as an unhealthy habit where you need God’s help to become unstuck? Or perhaps a habit I didn’t list is making you feel stuck. My suggestion is that you choose the one negative habit, the one you have the biggest problem with, and with the help of the Holy Spirit begin the process that leads to freedom.

The first step of this process is prayer for God to make us willing to change and also to empower us to change.

Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The foundation of poor habits is often believing a lie. For example, if overeating is the issue, you may be using food as an emotional crutch, instead of taking your problems to the Lord and asking for His help.

The second step is to examine your thoughts in the light of God’s Word, recognizing the lies you are believing.

Once you see the lies, those things we are believing that do not line up with our standard of truth, God’s Word, it’s time to begin what Romans 12:2 calls “renewing our mind.”

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Renewing our minds is simply learning to exchange the lies we have been believing for the truth of God’s Word. It is asking what God says about the area you are struggling with and spending some time reading verses that reveal the will of God in this area. Sometimes a specific verse or several verses may come to mind, other times we need to do a search to find verses that apply to our area of struggle. And once we find the verses, use them in a prayer of commitment to God. Recall that self-effort alone won’t result in lasting freedom, we need to power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to change deeply entrenched habits. Take time to pray, asking God for His help in changing this area of my life that is hindering you from God’s best.

Finally, renewing our minds doesn’t happen by simply finding applicable verses and learning the truth. It requires doing this each time we fall back into the habit we want to change. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Getting unstuck from negative habits requires building new habits. It requires practice at living out the truth until you have become a habitual doer of this truth.

As I’ve spent time over this last few weeks setting goals for 2020, one thing the Lord has reminded me off over and over again is to look at the new year as a blank canvas, unblemished and waiting for us to fill with the image He has for our lives in 2020. I encourage you to take some time today and address this first challenge in our new focus on RECLAIMING OUR LIVES this year. Let’s get started on the process of getting unstuck from the habits that don’t serve us well.

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Peace or Anxiety – You Choose!

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When the apostle Paul wrote these familiar words, he was nearing the end of his two years of house arrest in Rome, which ended with his death as a martyr.  Based on a vision in which the Lord stood near Paul and told him he must testify in Rome (Acts‬ ‭23:11‬), Paul’s life took a drastic turn. When he testified in Jerusalem before King Agrippa, Paul appealed to Caesar and was escorted to Rome under armed guard. The apostle Paul spent the final two years of his life chained‬ to a Roman guard, but they were not wasted years. During that time, he wrote the books of the New Testament that we now know as Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, in addition to proclaiming the kingdom of God and boldly teaching all who came to see him about the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I did a study of the book of Acts earlier this year, reading the stories of Paul, Peter and the other apostles, their surrender to the revealed will of God, regardless of the personal cost involved, was something that stood out to me.  These leaders of the early church had a clear understanding of the subject of surrender, and they lived it out in their daily lives.

But Paul and the other apostles were also fallible humans, just like we are. We tend to put these men up on a pedestal, but I can’t help but wonder if before the apostle Paul wrote these words that teach us how to overcome anxiety he lived them out. The circumstances he faced certainly could have caused anxiety. I suspect Paul learned through personal experience how to replace anxious thoughts with the peace of God. And then he put what he had applied in his own life in writing, leaving us clear instructions on how we overcome anxiety.

When I saw Philippians 4:6-7 was one of the three focus Scriptures for this first week of our I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life Bible study, my first reaction was to wonder what these verses have to do with surrender. But as I’ve faced some circumstances that have caused some fear and anxiety about what lies ahead, I’m beginning to look at Philippians 4:6 through a different lens. The words “in every situation” stand out to me. I don’t know what your “every situation” might include, but mine right now feels a little scary.

Since all the options for treating the recent changes in my left knee have led to dead ends, I don’t know what lies ahead. Yes, I know I need to pray, but I’m having a little trouble with the specific requests since at this point I can’t see God’s plan. I’ve been taking time daily to express thankfulness to the Lord, but I can’t honestly say I’m walking in the peace of God. So how do we get to that place when we know something is wrong but we are powerless to change it? When we see no way out of our situation and don’t know what God is doing?

Laura Story tells of struggling with this when she was expecting their youngest son. After several normal ultrasounds, one wasn’t. Something was wrong, and she experienced anxiety about what was ahead. She says, “Now I knew something would be wrong, and I was powerless to change it. What needed to change most was me.”

She and Martin went to talk with their good friend and pastor, Bill. His advice was that this was a time they needed to wait on the Lord.

Laura agreed that she needed to wait on God, but immediately asked, “What steps do I need to take to do that?”

Bill’s answer was simple. “Wait is wait. There are no steps. You just surrender. And then you sit tight.”

When we face a situation that we are powerless to control and God hasn’t given us understanding of what lies ahead, anxiety may be our reaction. So what do we do in this situation? I’ll share how I usually handle this type of anxiety.

  • Surrender is the first step. Turn the reins over to God. He knows the end from the beginning, and He has the power to bring good out of even those situations that have our emotions in turmoil. Our first prayer is a prayer of surrender
  • Be still and remember He is God. He is still in control. Remember your situation isn’t too big for Him to handle.
  • Immerse yourself in God’s Word – read it, write it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it.
  • Then wait. Wait on God and keep waiting until He reveals a step you need to take or your situation changes. Don’t jump ahead of Him, but when He speaks be quick to obey.
  • Finally, give thanks that He is God and in control of your circumstances. Thank Him for the things He is teaching you though this situation, for the work He is doing in your life as you wait on Him.

Situations that we are powerless to control are NOT beyond God’s control. Surrender to His plan, draw close to Him, and wait expectantly for Him to work. Your circumstances may not change overnight, but you will begin to change.

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What Is Surrender Anyway?

For the next five week’s, I’m going through a Faithgateway Online Bible study on Christian worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s newest book, I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life. My normal Tuesday and Thursday posts will be centered on the teaching in this book and the related videos and study guide.

The title for this week’s study: “What is Surrender Anyway?” So today’s post is to make sure we understand the true meaning of surrender.

Surrender is basically a military term. It is what an army does when it realizes their opposing army is going to be the victor and they lay down their arms and give up their rights to the conqueror.

This world is a battlefield. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has ignored and rebelled against our Creator and chosen to walk according to our own desires. In essence, we have joined sides with Satan, who has been called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

There’s one major problem with that – it puts us on the losing side of the battle. Satan hasn’t yet been totally stripped of his power, but he has been defeated by our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The battle was won when Jesus became the spotless Lamb of God, died for our sin and rose again.

If you are a Christian, if you have accepted the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross as the full payment for your sin, you did so by surrendering to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, revealing the truth to you that you needed a Savior. But surrendering to God doesn’t end when we are born again and experience new life. That is simply the beginning. 

In simple terms, surrender is turning the control of my life over to God. Surrendering to God is recognizing His authority in my life and choosing His will over my own. Surrender is not meant to be a one-time decision for a Christian. It is meant to be a daily lifestlyle. It is laying down our desires in order to make pleasing God our top priority. As Laura Story says in our study guide, “Surrendering to God’s will is a learned skill that takes a lifetime to develop.”

The actual word surrender is not used in most translations of the Bible. But the concept of surrender is found throughout both the Old and New Testament. 

  • Surrender is submitting to the Lord. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 
  • Surrender is recognizing the truth of Galatians 2:20, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 
  • Surrender is being a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ. It is believing and living according to Luke 9:23-24, which says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
  • Surrender begins with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, as Romans 12:1-2 tells us to do, the first prerequisite of knowing and doing the will of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Surrender is, as Ephesians 6:6 says, “doing the will of God from the heart.” Sometimes the will of God is clearly stated in Scripture, but often this isn’t true. It begins with us coming to the Lord in prayer and asking, “Lord, what is Your plan in this situation?” And then waiting patiently until we receive an answer and walking in obedience to the revealed will of God.
  • Surrender is yielding to the hands of God as He shapes us into a vessel to bring Him glory. It is making ourselves willing to be molded into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Remember, surrender is a daily choice. It is to choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of every aspect of our lives, seeking His will in every circumstance that we face. It is being who God created us to be.

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The theme song for the “I Give Up” Bible study.

 

 

 

 

Count It All Joy!

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭(from Eugene Peterson’s The Message)

It started on Friday, with another call to my doctor’s office trying to find out why I still hadn’t heard from anyone concerning the home-based therapy my doctor ordered six weeks ago. Finally heard from the office this morning, only to learn the homecare agency had no record of the referral. So the process starts again.

Then on Saturday, car problems were added. My husband just had the car in the shop last week for some routine maintenance, but on the way home from grocery shopping on Saturday, it stopped running. After having a new battery put in on Saturday, it broke down again Sunday afternoon. We had to have the car towed to the repair shop yesterday to get the alternator replaced, and we’re still waiting to get it back and make sure it’s really fixed this time.

In the midst of all of this, on Sunday our internet went out (a broken connection), and this morning our electricity has been going off and on, which didn’t build my confidence that I’d finally be able to get today’s Teach Me Tuesday post written and on line.

None of these have been life threatening problems, but when tests and challenges come at us from all sides, as they have for my husband and me the last few days, I’m grateful God’s Word tells us how to handle it.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is true in the midst of it all. GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL. And in His love, He uses the things we go through, big and small, to accomplish His purposes in our lives. So how do we cooperate with God during these challenging times? Here are a few simple steps.

1. Recognize God is at work in your life through the trials you are walking through, and choose to “count it all joy.” Counting our trials as “all joy” is the opposite of living by our feelings. It is taking control over our emotional reaction to the circumstances and choosing to rejoice. I will count this flood of trials all joy, because God is using it to help me grow to maturity in my faith.

2. Spend time in God’s Word, asking Him to show you any special message He has for you in the midst of this challenging time.

3. Take time to thank God in the midst of the circumstances. In our recent situation with the car, for example, we gave thanks that we had money in savings for all the unexpected expenses, that God sent a stranger over to help Mitch on Saturday so he was able to make it somewhere to get a battery, and that God worked out the details so Mitch was able to get home while the cold items in our groceries were safe.

4. Remember to leave the timing in God’s hands. When we walk through difficult circumstances, the natural desire is to make a way for them to be over as quickly as possible. As Eugene Peterson said above, “don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.” Give God the time to do to finish the work He has started in you.

5. Finally, learn to fix your eyes on Jesus, and to remember how He faced a much bigger trial than most of us will ever face. He endured the Cross by focusing on the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

On this Teach Me Tuesday, let’s remember that the trials God allows to touch our lives are not without a good purpose. God uses trials to make us more like our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But the only way we benefit from our trials is by walking through them God’s way.

What trials are you currently walking through? How do you typically respond to trials? Is your reaction based on your emotions or on your desire to learn the lessons God has for you? Is your focus on present comfort or on the joy set before you as you mature into the person God has called you to be? These are a few questions to ask ourselves in the midst of times like my husband and I have been walking through in recent days. And if your answers show you’re not handling the little frustrations of life the way God desires us to, review the five steps above.

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Transformed By God’s Spirit and His Word

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”‭ Romans 12:2 ESV‬

‭Renewing our minds is such an important Christian discipline! In both our constant exposure to the input of the world in which we live and our emotional response to the difficult circumstances that are a part of life, we need to take time daily to renew our minds in the truths of God’s Word.‬

‭This Monday morning, as I do many mornings, I began my quiet time in the book of Psalms. I found Psalm 27 on my Bible app and began reading a passage I’ve read many times before. But as I came to the final two verses, I heard God speaking to my heart. ‬

‭I read, ‬“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14)

God gently spoke to my heart, “Are you really expecting to see My goodness in this place where I’m asking you to walk?”

Immediately, I knew the honest answer was “No, Lord, I’m not.” And I knew it was time to renew my mind in the truth of the goodness of the Lord.

Life with its many and varied challenges has a way of wearing down our resolve to be doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1:22), but the indwelling Holy Spirit is quick to teach us if we remain open to His voice. Our part is to open up God’s Word daily, with our spiritual ears ready to listen and obey. That’s what happened to me on Monday, as I did a search on my Bible app for verses about the goodness of the Lord and began renewing my mind in this important truth.

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit is able to take our willingness to open the Bible, in whatever form we prefer, and use it to renew our minds to see our circumstances from a biblical mindset. Whether He works by reminding us of some truth about the character of God, as He did for me this week, or He reminds us of some other principle taught in Scripture, the Bible and the Holy Spirit who lives within us as believers in Christ together are God’s agents of transformation in our lives.

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Receiving the Word with Eagerness – and Caution

“Now these Jews (from Berea) were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11 ESV

As I work my way this week through Acts 17, I had an interesting study this morning in verses 10-15. This short section on Paul and Silas’ ministry in Berea included a helpful reminder of the attitude which pleases God whenever we hear a “new” teaching that is supposedly based on Scripture.

We live in a world where so much of what we hear on the radio, watch on Christian television, and hear or see on the internet raises questions in our minds. When that happens, we need to be like the Bereans, who “examined the Scriptures daily” to discern if what they were hearing was truth or error.

This isn’t talking about a casual reading but rather a curious and diligent search by looking at the Bible verse in it’s original context, maybe checking out some cross references and the meaning of some key words, done with sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And this wasn’t something the Bereans did occasionally. It was a daily practice.

Charles Spurgeon compared this to making “a strict, close, diligent, curious search, such as men make when they are seeking gold.” Psalm 119:72 compares God’s Word to gold and silver, and yet so often we approach it casually, based on how it makes us feel.

The following quote from Our Daily Bread, written by Dave Branon, especially caught my interest since I’ve faced a similar situation many times.

“‘A deadly jungle spider has migrated to the US and is killing people.’ This was the story sent to me and to others on my friend’s email list. The story sounded plausible—lots of scientific names and real-life situations. But when I checked it out on reliable websites, I found it was not true—it was an Internet hoax. Its truth could only be verified by consulting a trusted source.

“A group of first-century believers living in Macedonia understood the importance of confirming what they were hearing. The folks in Berea “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so’ (Acts 17:11). They were listening to Paul, and wanted to make sure what he was saying lined up with the teachings of the Old Testament. Perhaps he was telling them that there was evidence in the Old Testament that the Messiah would suffer and die for sin. They needed to verify that with the source.”

Like the Bereans, when we hear teaching that raises questions in our minds, we need to verify what we’re hearing, in much the same way as I’ve learned to verify “news” I see online to make sure it’s accurate and not “fake news.” We need to search the Scriptures for ourselves, check out reliable Bible study resources to gain a better understanding of what was actually being said, and allow the Holy Spirit to give us discernment between truth and error.

Teaching with Questions

Linking up today with Five Minute Friday. Today’s writing prompt: QUESTION

Jesus was a question asker! As you read the gospels, it becomes obvious that was one of His favorite ways of interacting with the people around Him. Questions make us think, they force us to make decisions. And without these important steps, we will never grow.

One of my favorite passages where Jesus asks a question is found in John 6, one of the accounts of the feeding of five thousand. A large crowd had been gathered to hear Him teach, and Jesus didn’t want to send the people away hungry. Verse 6 says Jesus already knew what He was going to do, but this was a teaching moment, a time to impart some truth to His disciples, and He began with a question which the text tells us was a test. He addresses His question to Philip,”Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Philip’s response makes makes it clear that his eyes were on their limited resources. His answer was in essence, “If we use all our money to buy bread, it still wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a bite.” I think it’s easy to see he failed the test!

Andrew was nearby and he responded to Jesus’ question with another question, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Still not the response Jesus was looking for.

At this point, Jesus moves forward with His plan, involving the disciples in the process. The large crowd not only leaves with satisfied stomachs but they’ve witnessed another miracle, a sign that Jesus truly is the Messiah they had been looking for. The disciples left with twelve baskets filled with the surplus, one for each of them to enjoy. And they also left will a clearer understanding of who Jesus truly was.

As I listened to our pastor’s sermon this past Sunday on John 6, and as I read the entire chapter earlier this week, I learned my own lesson. If Jesus used questions so often in His teaching, what better example is there to follow when I’m teaching? Whether in our small group at church where I’m on the teaching team or in the online posts for a Christian chronic illness support group I help lead, I want to be more alert to using this important teaching method that Jesus so clearly modeled for us.