New Directions {#RelentlessStudy Begins!}

When we experience loss, we tend to become more open to new directions and dreams. But in our mourning, we also become vulnerable to new dangers. As we begin the book of Judges, we find the nation of Israel in a time of transition as they’ve just lost their beloved leader, Joshua. Sadly, the next generation forgets all that God has done for their parents and grandparents, and the people become complacent. They fall into hanging out with the locals who worship false gods and commit terrible atrocities as part of their belief system. As they cozy up to the enemy, God’s people find themselves participating in these twisted acts themselves. And soon, they fall prey to the oppression and aggression of the enemy. Sin is always a bait and switch.

In times of transition, we need to pay special attention to the thoughts buzzing around in our heads. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that anger with our brother is as bad as murder and lustful thoughts as bad as adultery. Where our thoughts go, our feet are soon to follow.

While I haven’t lost any mentors or leaders recently, I have dealt with the loss of an ideal. Changes in important relationships in my life started my mind spinning in circles. Taunting questions dizzied me for months. I tried to change my situation by putting pressure on people, letting them know what I wanted. I tried to sift through my thoughts to reason myself out of my pain. I tried smiling and pretending I was happy. All of that was like popping a Tylenol. I’d feel better for a few minutes, or sometimes a few hours. Then the thoughts would come back to poke at me again.

All along, I shared my difficulty with a select few friends who I trusted would preach the Gospel into my situation, and who would pray strong prayers against the enemy’s work in my life. But in the end, the only one who could save me from my downward spiral was the Lord Himself. A few weeks ago, after finishing up final edits on the Relentless Study, I went up to a peaceful cottage a few hours from here and spent three days of quiet with an old pen pal of mine. At the end of our time, I met with a prayer counselor who helped me sit still in the presence of the Lord and experience His joy in a way I never had before. I hope to tell you more about that incredible encounter sometime. The Lord didn’t give me a list of a list of logical answers to the puzzles of my life, but somehow His affection, affirmation, and the pure glory of His presence were all it took to shut the mouths of my questions.

My only hope for moving forward was in practicing the presence of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who endured the horrific suffering of the Holocaust said, “It is certain that we may always live close to God and in the light of God’s presence, and that such living is an entirely new life for us; that nothing is then impossible for us, because all things are possible with God; that no earthly power can touch us without God’s will, and that danger and distress can only drive us closer to God. It is certain that we can claim nothing for ourselves, and may yet pray for everything; it is certain that our joy is hidden in suffering, and our life in death; it is certain that in all this we are in a community that sustains us. In Jesus God has said Yes and Amen to all, and that Yes and Amen is the firm ground on which we stand.” I’m setting my heart on the One who is certain put my uncertainties to rest.

Joshua told his people to “cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.” When we do the work of clinging to the Lord, we allow Him to do the work of carrying us through our loss and the dangers that come with it. If only Israel had listened, they could have opted out of centuries of misery.

{What transition are you facing now? How does Joshua 23:6-8 speak to your situation?}

This week in #RelentlessStudy, we’ll be looking at transitions, family legacies, God’s covenant relationship with His people, unity in community, how to view our enemies, and justice/mercy. Get your copy of Relentless here and join hundreds of women across the country and around the world who are walking through the book of Judges together this season.

 

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An Epic Story…with a video introduction to #RelentlessStudy


I can’t express just how excited I am to have so many friends and soon to be friends joining me in going through Relentless and rooting out anything that competes with our devotion to the Lord. As we study Judges together, will get to know Deborah who mothered Israel and nurtured a spirit of courage in those around her, Gideon who stepped out from hiding to become a man of valor, and Samson whose example shows us that God can accomplish his purposes even through the most flawed of people. We’ll also spend time with the lesser known judges whose accounts all help us glory in the God who saves.

Like many of the best stories in life, this one is long and detailed. Judges is epic. Since this book is story-based, I’ve written each lesson to match the plot line of the text. While other books of the Bible might be shorter and easier to gulp down like a grab-and-go breakfast, this one is like a hot, hearty meal. Continue reading

Relentless

On August 17, HelloMornings.org will release my 6-week study covering the 400-year saga of Israel’s downward spiral in the Book of Judges. Our story starts with a moment of crisis as Israel loses its beloved leader, Joshua. Without a strong personal commitment to God, the next generation forgets God’s mighty deeds and His covenant love. They choose instead to do what is right in their own eyes. Continue reading

Eat These Words {Undistracted Devotion}

I’ve been putting off the week’s trip to the grocery…don’t want to take the kids, but too tired to go late night. One morning I go to the half-bare pantry and settle on what’s left for breakfast…carb-heavy, sugared-up CoCo Wheats. It tastes like childhood, the glory days of processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup, the days before we had a clue that Twinkies were bad for you.

Within an hour, I feel more tired than I did when I woke up. The pillow invites me back to sleep off that sugar crash. But I’ve got kids to take care of, so I muddle through, sighing and shouting out when the sugar gets them too.

All day long, the smart phone is on the kitchen counter waiting on that buzz and chime. And aren’t I eating out of Pavlov’s hand with the way I go for it? The screen glows and so do I to pick up a little morsel of words.

Psychologists say infants need ready response to sense they are known and loved, even to feel they exist. You and me? Seconds after we walk away from the screen, we’re hungry again for something else, cluster feeders crying out to the world, tell me I exist to you.

On the buffet sits the story I’ve been taking in all my life, milk to meat. Page corners turn up like wavy noodles. It’s been five years of flipping through this anthology during meals, words nourishing my boy from babyhood to now, us reading straight through from cover to middle. Today on page 943 of 1694, we find ourselves listening in on the strangest of dinner conversations.

There is this hand outstretched like a platter and it holds a scroll. Eat what you’re offered. Eat this book. We laugh at the menu choice, but Ezekiel doesn’t. He opens his mouth right up and swallows it down like manna straight from the hand of God. It tastes like raw honey.

I don’t have to explain it. Elliot dishes out the exegesis. Ezekiel has to eat the words so God’s words will be inside him. Then he can say God’s words.

I’ve done this before and I need to do it again if I want to give up the sighing and shortness and instead give out words full of grace and truth. I need to lay my Bible open on the kitchen counter like a cookbook, to check it more than social media, to let the soul feed and feel its worth, to taste and see that the Lord is good…all day long, no sugar crash.

{How do you blend a hearty helping of the Word into your everyday? What priority does communing with the Lord have in comparison to your interaction on social media? Comment below to share your thoughts on undistracted devotion.}