Dear Bible Study Ladies

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This week you had some newcomers in your class, and one of them is my friend.  She is a truly beautiful lady, inside and out, who extends kindness and humor everywhere she goes.  She is also a deeply spiritual person, and came to your class seeking to find what the Bible holds for her.  She felt safe coming to your class because she’s been at your church a little while now, and it seems so alive – surely free of the poison of old, dead religion.  She was excited to come, and I was excited for and with her.

But it seems that you didn’t really know who was in the room with you.  Looking at her, you couldn’t have guessed that addiction has ever touched her life, and after all it was a closed room – “just us girls.”  I guess that’s why you felt free to speak the way you did.  I think you need to see the unlovely picture you have painted of how the Body of Christ behaves inside the Bible study classroom, in her words:

“I am simply grateful that I did NOT walk out in disgust at their inventory taking and put-downs (nice way of saying vicious judging) of everyone from drug users, not to mention addicts, men, women, young people, pastors, the World, ‘gay people’ who they’d mistakenly prayed for… and also their own loved ones who, because they struggle with mental illness, youth, or simple Human Pain, just need hands laid upon them to be healed. Just need to Do It Our Way. Think Like Us. And truly, there is not one thing they have that I want. If I wasn’t pursuing this because I Want To Know God Better, and find Fellowship in Studying the Bible with others, I’d say Save me from the Saved.”

Since she was new to your room, you had no way really of knowing whether or not she was one of those “gay people” you bashed along the way.  Apparently you made your own assumptions, and I don’t suppose that even now you realize what lingering trail of condemnation is left by your careless words.

Another friend of mine was in the room that day too, though it seems you didn’t recognize Him there.  While I’ve never known Him to engage in the kind of conversation you enjoyed among yourselves, I do recall something He said to some religious folks along the way:

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?  For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”   Matthew 12:34-37

Ladies, I want you to know today that I am praying for you.  My prayer:  that you will see your own hearts even more clearly than you see what’s wrong with the world around you.

And while I’m at it, I think I’ll pray that prayer for me, too.

Find original article here:

 

new-years-eve-times-square-11This post from my friend Ken sums up a good deal of my feelings concerning New Year’s Resolutions for myself.

Blessings, mercy and grace to all of you!

Love,
Amy

“When you tell God you’ll do something, do it — now. God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble. Vow it, then do it. Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.” -Ecclesiastes c5 v4-5

While a vast majority of Americans will be making vain and lofty resolutions tomorrow night I have decided it far better to draft my own list of unresolutions. As I land on the canvas of this dawning new year I will remember what God has done in my heart and life the past 365 days. I will reflect on what I can be grateful for.

Where to begin? This year in passing

I have failed again in my own efforts to better me and sanctify myself.

My resolutions to quit, start, change—and do better, do more, and in some cases do less—have all crashed and burned. I have seen more than my share what man can do—it is what God can do that I long to see more of. I’ve had my fill of building my own little kingdom while neglecting the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the abandoned, the forgotten, the tossed aside, the spit upon, the hopeless, the old left to die, and the young denied the privilege to live.
Your Kingdom come in my life.

The new year occasion is a time to pray if there ever was a time.

My wasted promises can starve.

The passing of 2008 signals one less year I have left. May my prayer for this new year consist of more than just bread on my table, but bread for my soul. May I will pray for the unlikely, the far-fetched, the doubtful, and the improbable—the impossible.

God of the new year — Interrupt my plans this coming year that don’t include you, replace my fleeting strength with a never ending supply, shatter my indifference with an undying love, and overshadow my self-pity with an undeserved acceptance. Amen.

-Ken Stoll
aka Recovering Self-Help Junkie 

300_89800

The world is full of messages about self.

You deserve it
You’re worth it
Take care of yourself
Pamper yourself
Love yourself

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:29

I have heard it taught concerning this passage that Jesus assumes we know we already love ourselves a lot – we are self-focused and self-centered and that we should apply the same energy and time we spend on ourselves on loving other people.

Questions

(Apart from the obviously idolatrous worship of self the world revolves around) Does this mean loving myself, as Christ loves me, is wrong? And if it is wrong, how am I supposed to view myself? Most of the teachers I read say something like this:

We are depraved creatures who, apart from the grace of God are nothing. In light of His glory we are worthless. (Or at least that is how is sounds to me.) I have embraced these teachings because it seems good to make much of God and not to make much of me. A Christ-centered gospel is good. A man-centered gospel is bad. I believe this!

But, I am wrestling with the every day battle that wars inside my soul. When I sin (regardless if I repent or not) I feel defeated. I feel that with each new sin I chip away at God’s grace for me and that He sees me as predictable and a failure. This makes me run away from Him for obvious reasons.

Then I think of the prodigal son. The father ran to him when he was a long way off, gave him the robe, the ring and the fattened calf. But what happened when he messed up again, 2 months after the big feast? What then? Was the father exasperated with the wayward, sin-prone son? Did He give up on him?

What about the woman at the well? Did she go back to her lover? Did she leave him only to shack up with another man years later? Did Jesus still love her or was he just disappointed in her failures?

So when Christ forgives me, cleanses me, and his Spirit indwells me, am I still bad and worthless?

How am I supposed to view myself? I am loved by the Creator God, redeemed by His son’s blood, indwelt and empowered by His Holy Spirit…but yet worthless, dirty and depraved? I can’t reconcile this.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” Psalm 139:13-14

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Accepted

The best example I see in scripture is Peter. He failed, repented and was redeemed. He was changed. He now KNEW that God loved him more deeply than he had imagined – historians document the rest of his life as a life of dedication to the gospel and renunciation of self – I think because of his complete abandon to a life bathed in the unconditional love of Christ.

It seems to me easier to forge ahead in my life secure in the fact that I will be completely loved regardless of how many times I fall down!

Cleaned Up

There is so much pressure in today’s evangelical world to look “cleaned up.” My life might be a wreck on the inside but on the outside everyone sees a shiny, happy Amy. If I don’t show this false self to the world, who needs Christ, then I run the risk of “hurting my witness.” The potential guilt of leading someone away from Jesus and on to hell is too much for me – so sometimes I fake it. Yes, I said it 🙂

When a hurting, lost and dying world perceives that I have no problems and am “all cleaned up” is that attractive? Do they want Christ more when I present a false self? I am convinced they do not.

In my experience, the people I encounter feel the need to pretend to be like the false self I am portraying! They guard their speech and never really let me see their inner lives and struggles – that is until they see that I struggle too.

I have come to the conclusion that if Satan is the father of lies, then being someone I am not, even if it looks good, must be evil.

“I am the way, the truth and the life…” John 14:6

I am convinced that I cannot hate my fallen, sinful, depraved self and have a vibrant relationship with God. Self-hatred is self-centeredness that draws me away from God and toward the things of this world. I don’t know what this looks like but I am going to begin by going to my Father and believing that His love for me is bigger than my sin and my mistakes. I am going to believe that

He is not shocked by my failures and He is not deterred in His pursuit of me.

…”being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil 1:6

I want to live like I am utterly loved and accepted and nothing can rob me of that – even my own sin.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

beggar

 I Haven’t Blogged in a While

 …’cause I really didn’t have  anything extraordinary to share. Life is really good and I am grateful. I am about  to be a first-time aunt and my sis and her  husband are finally back in the ‘ham. I  would love to have amazing things to constantly blog about but I don’t. It seems false for me to force it so I haven’t.

 But Today is a New Day

 …and I have something to share 🙂 I have recently been introduced to the writings of  Brennan Manning and he is challenging me  in ways I cannot yet articulate. (but there will be forthcoming posts soon!) Below is something fantastic and raw and I had to share it with you!

Excerpt from Ruthless Trust

“Sensing that if I bare my soul I will be abandonded by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies, I remain in hiding, borrowing from the cosmetic kit to put on my pretty face. I veil my unstated distrust behind a cheerful countenence, mask my fears behind sanguine pretense, and

present a false self that is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing and superficially happy.

Later, I hate myself for my flagrant dishonesty. Who can I turn to?

In what may be the most stunning sentence in the entire Bible, Jesus says, “I call you my friend.

Raw honesty with Jesus about our doubts and anxieties, our lust and laziness, our shabby prayer life and stale religiosity, our mixed motives and divided hearts is the risk we take in the certainity or being acceptible and being accepted.

It is the full and mature expression of invincible trust.

Jesus is the friend who will never fail, the faithful one who will never be lacking in fidelity, even when people are unfaithful to Him, the stranger to self-hatred who estranges us from self-hatred.” 

Brennan Manning  “Ruthless Trust”
pp. 102-103

My Thoughts

I find myself hiding from God because of my own self-disillusionment. I think, “I’ve been a believer for 7 years! I should be “better” than I was when He first saved me, right?”

So I see myself as a failure, the condemnation sinks in and I hide. It is no better when the church I love so much reinforces my beliefs about what my failures mean:

I am weak
I am lazy 
I am an immature Christian
I should have “this” under control by now
I am not plugged in at church
I am not in a Sunday School class
My quiet times aren’t regular enough
I am not filled with enough of God’s spirit
I have not memorized enough scripture
I am not enough
I am not enough 

And when those who have put me on a pedestal see glimpses of my imperfections they in turn become disillusioned. They get angry. Their own fears rise up that if their preachers, teachers, leaders, elders, deacons, small group leaders and other pedestal-dwellers aren’t doing any better than they are then there is no hope for them either. I represent what they fear the most.

So we all end up hiding. We all end up far from communion with God because we believe He is keeping an account of all of our failures. This is the LIE that keeps us from Him, isn’t it? But there is hope in the TRUTH of the the gospel that calls all imperfect, haggard sinners to come and drink daily from the river of life. The Life-Giver who does not hate us as we hate ourselves says, “Come, all you who are weary…” 

The Lies I Learned in Church

I believed that I could come to Jesus initially as a ragamuffin but, later had to come as a Pharasee. After a undertmined amount of time had passed I was no longer allowed to come to Him as the messed up girl he rescued. I had to put on the appropriate clothes, speak appropriate “Christineese”, attend all of the appropriate church events (on time), serve in all of the appropraite ministries that complement my gifts and talents, please all of the appropriate people, meet all of their expectations and

just
sin
less.

The Poverty of My Soul

This, I am finding is a bunch of crap.

I ‘ve been miserable and I am tired of it! I want the freedom to live as a beggar EVERYDAY! I can play the role I was given when I entered the church, be clean on the outside and still be full of dead men’s bones-or I can come as a little child to the lap of Jesus -no matter how much mud covers me.

I am beginning a journey of learning what actually pleases God and not what pleases man. I apologize in advance-I am going to make some of you mad in the process. But I love you 🙂

My hope is that the outcome of authentic Christianity will be a richer prayer life and communion with God and that the overflow of this will be pleasing to him, joyful for me and attractive to a lost world.

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Jesus
Mark 12:28-29 

HE WILL GATHER THE LAMBS IN HIS ARMS.

Isaiah 40:11

“Our Good Shepherd has in His flock a variety of experiences. Some are strong in the Lord, and others are weak in faith; but He is impartial in His care for all His sheep, and the weakest lamb is as dear to Him as the strongest in the flock. Lambs are prone to lag behind, to wander, and are apt to grow weary; but from all the danger of these infirmities the Shepherd protects them with His arm of power.

He finds newborn souls, like young lambs, ready to perish-He nourishes them until life becomes vigorous. He finds weak minds ready to faint and die-He consoles them and renews their strength. All the little ones He gathers, for it is not the will of our heavenly Father that one of them should perish. What a quick eye He must have to see them all! What a tender heart to care for them all!

What a far-reaching and powerful arm, to gather them all! In His lifetime on earth He was a great gatherer of the weaker sort, and now that He dwells in heaven, His loving heart extends to the meek and contrite, the timid and feeble, the fearful and fainting here below. How gently He gathered me to Himself, to His truth, to His blood, to His love, to His Church!

With what effectual grace did He compel me to come to Himself! Since my conversion, He has frequently restored me from my wanderings and once again gathered me within the circle of His everlasting arms! The best of all is that He does it all Himself. He does not delegate the task of love but condescends Himself to rescue and preserve His most unworthy servant. How will I love or serve Him enough?

I long to make His name great to the ends of the earth, but what can my feebleness do for Him? Great Shepherd, add to Your mercies this humble request: Grant me a heart to love You more truly as I ought.

 C.H. Spurgeon

If I had been in the crowd the day Jesus said the following words, would I have walked away? This is how He introduces Himself-by asking people who desired to follow Him to count the ACTUAL cost of following Him:

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up all of his possessions cannot be my disciple.” -Luke 14:33

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. -Luke 14:26

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” -Matthew 10:37-38

Did Jesus really mean what He said? He never said, pray a prayer and accept Him or follow the “roman road.” Declare Him God…even the demons believe and shudder. Are we willing to come to Jesus on His terms and not ours? I don’t think I actually, ever counted the cost and I am faced with the decision now.

The only conclusion I can come to is this: He MUST be worth so much more than what I have!!! He is supremely worthy of all of me and nothing less. This is truth. Will I obey?

Amy

D. Platt’s sermon: “The Gospel Demands Radical Sacrifice”

 

There are so many things today that make my heart heavy The stories out of India of the believers in Orissa having their homes and churches burned by Hindu radicals. The advent of Ramadan and the lostness of 1.3 billion Muslims. My friends suffering overseas in closed, Musilm countries and right here at home a friend’s family being attacked by the enemy.

What makes my heart the heaviest is my lack of prayer for all of them. It is so easy to pretend that the details of my comfortable life are somehow more important than their need of my prayers. God have mercy on my prayerlessness and faithlessness. Awaken my soul to the leadings of Your Spirit and help me to throw off all of the things of this world that hinder. 

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