The Beginning of His Earthly End

The Bible is at times hard to read. There are times I’m left with emotions of frustration and hurt because I’m asking God, “Why did that happen in the Bible?” “Have you ever encountered things in Scripture that seemed tough or even wrong with harsh judgements that our soft hearts don’t want to consider?” I was in the book of Genesis two weeks ago and it broke my heart to read about some of the hurtful things that happened to women. Also, other examples of scripture that we may have trouble trying to reconcile with includes the “destruction of the firstborn in Egypt in Exodus 11:5 or eliminating the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:17,” as Lisa Harper mentions.

Though we come across passages that challenge us and may seem hard to come to grips with, it’s so important that we understand the biblical context so that we can “appreciate the holiness and goodness of God.” That’s why I love the Bible so much! No matter what we are reading, there is good in it. The Bible is pure, holy, and leads us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” ~ The  Westminster Confession

Let’s take this passage in Mark 11 for example, about the Withered Fig Tree. In week 5 of The Gospel of Mark Bible Study, we are turning the corner and heading into the scene of Jesus’ last week of His earthly life. After Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem on a donkey, the next day Jesus curses a fig tree that He sees.

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11:12-14 NIV

At first glance this is hard to understand. I love how Lisa Harper considers what the disciples were thinking about all of this because the narrative does not mention their expressions. They may have wondered aloud if skipping breakfast had made Jesus light-headed, I mean who would fuss at a tree? However, as we dig into scripture and the context this is what we find:

  1. The fig tree often symbolized Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 8:13, Hos. 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7; Mic. 4:3-4; Zechariah. 3:10)
  2. God’s chosen people had stopped producing the real fruit of relationship with Him through prayer and worship and were instead engaged in the ostentatious but spiritually barren practice of ritual and legalism. By killing a showy yet sterile tree, Jesus was making the emphatic point that our Creator will not allow unrepentant sinners masquerading as spiritual folks to flourish indefinitely. (Lisa Harper)
  3. In all works in the ministry of Jesus, this is the only destructive miracle. God doesn’t approve when there is profession without reality, talk without walk. (David Guzik)

As you study this passage, remind yourself of the goodness of God’s Holy Word, it’s ability to interpret itself, and reveal the holiness of God. Take some time to reflect on the questions below and I will meet you back here next Thursday for week 6. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

The Gospel of Mark Book

Week 5 The Beginning of His Earthly End

Scripture Reference:

  • Mark 11:1-26

Reflective Questions:

  • What are some examples of things in Scripture that seemed harsh or even wrong until you learned more about the context?
  • How have you come to reconcile these problematic passages?
  • What spiritual principles does this passage in Mark 11:22-26 contain regarding prayer and faith?

 

Giving Up the “Right” To Ride Shotgun

We are more than half way through The Gospel of Mark Bible Study by Lisa Harper! Welcome to week 4 and I want to thank you for joining me every Thursday morning for diving deep into the study of really pursuing Jesus! Take some time this week to read the scripture reference and answer the reflective questions below. Blessings and let God be revealed in you!

The Gospel of Mark Book

Week 4 Giving Up the “Right” to Ride Shotgun

Scripture References:

  • Mark 9: 33-37

Reflective Questions:

  • When it comes to humble acts of service – like washing someone’s feet or washing someone’s dishes who’s bedridden with a serious illness – are you more comfortable being on the giving end or on the receiving end?
  • Read Proverbs 11:2. How has pride led to a literal painful stumble in your life? Taking the “painful pride quiz” below is a great way to assess where you are currently.
    • Am I upset if I am not praised for my work?
    • Do I like and even long to sit at the head table in the seat of honor?
    • Do I seek credit for what others have done?
    • Do honorary titles pump me up?
    • Is popularity crucial to my sense of self-worth?
    • Am I a name-dropper of those I know (or pretend to know)?
    • Do I think I have something valuable to say about almost everything?
  • What real life situations tend to provoke your pride-disguised-as-insecurity to come out and play?
  • How are you living a life of service or how will you in the future?

Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you. ~ William Law

Let Choices Lead and Feelings Follow

Help! There’s a tornado whirlwind of jeans, tops, and dresses all over my bedroom! I cannot make up my mind on what to wear so I throw every article of clothing I feel like wearing in every direction of my bedroom. Can anyone relate?? I like the idea of wearing one blouse in my mind but I like how another shirt fits and feels better on my body. So I change. After walking out the door and realizing I’m not dressed for the weather, I change again. Then I feel like wearing different shoes because they look better with the new dress I put on. This probably goes on two or three more times. Then don’t get me started on my food options. I will probably feel three different ways about my lunch today when it comes time to chow down. There are so many feelings, no wonder our culture thrives on one of the scariest ideas floating around – that your feelings are truth.
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feelings faces – bernadinia
Our culture is saturated with feelings! Do not misinterpret this. Feelings are not bad. In fact, they were given to us by God. However, to allow our feelings to dictate what we do and how we identify ourselves in critical areas of our lives is deception and misaligned. Our culture believes that those desires, those urges, and those impulses are who you are. Live how you feel! Do what you want, when you want, and with whoever you want. Follow your heart! This is a horrible existence. The reality is this is not truth. Pastor Judah Smith stated it best, “Don’t follow your heart, question your heart.”

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Don’t follow your feelings. Most of the time we cannot identify our emotions or know what we want. How can we trust the roller coaster ride of our emotions dealing with God, people, careers, etc? Yet, it is a sad reality that the same approach we have towards what we’re going to eat and what we’re going to wear, is applied to other major areas in our lives. One of the best ways to safeguard our hearts and lead a life of decision is to understand that it starts with relationship. Here are three important areas of our lives where we can be a generation of people that choose to live by decision and will, not by emotion and frill. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!
  • Our Relationship with God
    • What if God responded to us out of His feelings? We would not be redeemed today! Someone once told me that they are waiting to feel God before they start following Him. Well, that is the wrong approach to our relationship with our Father in Heaven! Friends, let me tell you that our love for God is an act of the will and selfless surrender of ourselves. It is a decision. (James 4:8)
    • Love is a law and laws have no feelings. Romans 13:8; John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Sometimes you feel like running the red light because you are late, but the law says STOP! (Myles Munroe) God has given us a command to obey, even to the point of loving our enemies. We definitely cannot feel our way to doing that. We choose that!
    • Obey God wholeheartedly – If we think of love primarily as emotional desire and not as active committed service, we end up putting duty and desire against each other in a way that is unrealistic and destructive – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
  • Relationship with our Spouse

    • Andy Stanley said, “Falling in love is easy; all it requires is a pulse, but staying in love requires a plan.” Love is a verb. You do it. You don’t feel it. Love is an act of the will. We think love is some emotional concoction deep in the soul. However, it is a daily decision to love (verb) our spouse. Then those initial feelings we had when we were all googly-eyed during the dating season will return and stay!
  • Living Out Our Purpose and Calling
    • What is that hard thing God has called you to? Did you start out with enthusiasm and emotion but found yourself giving into your feelings of not wanting to do it anymore? Most people start out feeling one way and quit on a “bad” day. Here’s the thing, you cannot rely on your feelings to lead you to greatness. Greatness occurs through daily habits and choices. Commit, follow-through, invest, practice and deliver even when you don’t feel like it.

The Soil of Your Heart

Welcome back to The Gospel of Mark: The Jesus We’re Aching For Bible Study (By Lisa Harper)! We are in week 2. Just a reminder, you can visit every Thursday morning for a Bible Study post on the current series I am in. This morning we are going to focus on a lot of reflective questions. Take some time today and the remaining week to ask yourself these soul searching thoughts. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

The Gospel of Mark Book

Week 2 “Chickens or Champions” (The Soil of Your Heart)

Scripture References:

  • Mark 4:1-20 (Parable of the Sower)

Reflective Questions:

  • How have you seen and experienced the ways Jesus can mend even the most difficult relationships?
  • If your closest friends and family were asked whether you were more of a “doer” or a “talker,” what do you think the consensus would be? Why?
  • What distractions most often prevent you from paying attention to what God is saying to you through both His Spirit and His Word?
  • Describe the last time a tribulation or storm threatened your faith. Did your spiritual roots and foundation hold firm or did you find yourself pulled away from Jesus and shaken to the core of your beliefs? Explain.
  • The size of our fruit depends on the softness of the soil. So how about it? How tilled up would you say your ground (heart) is right about now? How has God faithfully plowed you recently? (Psalm 119:75)

 

 

Featured GUEST BLOGGER 9/14 – Teen, Meet God – Word of the Week – Royalty

This week’s featured guest blogger is Teen, Meet God! Her posts are beautifully adorned with photography that brings the message to life. Check out her blog today and the authentic nature of her writing. Have a great weekend and will see you on Monday! Be Blessed. Be Revealed.

Today’s word was suggested by Efua! Say not that thou hast royal blood in thy veins and art born of God, unless thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy. – William Gurnall Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the […]

via Word of the Week – Royalty — Teen, Meet God

If you would like to be featured as a guest writer/blogger on the website, leave a link of your website in the comment section below or send me a message through the contact page. Thank you!

Power of Believing in Yourself

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In 2008, a first year head coach hung a sign up in his football players’ meeting room which had the word “BELIEVE” on it. The team was going through so many problems. They had not one ten games in a season in 18 years and had not won a championship since 1981. Fast forward nine years later and Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers football program are now your 2017 College Football National Champions. His team needed to believe in themselves, if they were to overcome a record of mediocrity (Schiffer, 2017). “Believe,” Swinney says, “is a powerful thing. Powerful enough to change anything” (Hayes, 2017).

believe

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic of belief lately. We all have things and values that we believe in. Our lives are a reflection of what we believe and the habits we build around our belief system. Believing is so simple, we do not think about it, and often we miss it all the time. However, I want to pose this question to you. What do you believe? More specifically, what do you believe about yourself?

There are very few successful people who are not positive and confident in themselves. In many cases they are even less gifted and less skilled in what they do, they just think differently than others who are not as successful. Believing is the doorway of entry. It is the doorway to hopes and dreams and the future that you imagine it to be. Believing is a process of becoming and growing into all of the purposes and potential hidden inside of you and I. Unfortunately, I think our society has misinterpreted what it means to believe in oneself. The problem is that today, many people think that they can do anything, alone, and without any help from others. There is no such thing as the self-made man and independent go-getter. These people are trying to make a life of doing something, rather than becoming something.

As Christians, we are not only called to believe in Jesus, but we are also to believe in ourselves too. We must see ourselves the way we really are, with the help of Jesus Christ. Writer Gerald Kennedy has a lot to say about this topic. He says, “the more we understand the reality of our own hearts, the more we see the need for Christ; pride is the root of sin.” The world is full of people who feel hopeless and reckless, but they try to build up a picture that looks as if they are strong and can stand alone. I have been guilty of this as well. It is the lust of proving oneself that they are a star, to tell the world how good they are and that they deserve praise. Yet, even the very best of us fall short of the righteousness of God. The difference where we fall short and what God has for us is found in the healthy and pure form of Belief…in oneselfANDin God.

Finally, through Jesus Christ, our eyes are opened and we see the truth about who we are….children of God. We were never meant to do this thing called life alone. We were made in the image of our Father, created for Himself and for His great pleasure. Romans 8 speaks about being God’s children. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). Then in Romans 8 verse 19, it says, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”

Do you realize who you are? You are an heir to God and co-heir with Christ! You are created a little lower than Elohim! You are a mighty warrior! You are a masterpiece, created from the very hands of God the Universe! You are above and not beneath! You are royalty and a citizen of the Kingdom of Majesty! You have the very breath of God inside of you! Do I need to continue? You are set apart, holy, and purposed for great destiny! You are whole, healed and free! You can do more than you think you can and you can have more what you think you can have!

When you understand and BELIEVE who you really are through Christ, only then can you truly be REVEALED.

You won’t get anyone to believe in who you are until you believe in yourself. Break off the old mindset and up your game of self-perception! It is those who know their God that can truly know themselves. It is those that believe in themselves and God that will truly do great exploits.

I can do all things.png

God just wants your belief. God cannot use your unbelief. Look at the countless examples of people in the Bible that believed. Abraham was counted righteous because he believed God. Moses led the people out of Egypt because he surrendered to a belief in himself and God. Esther saved a nation because she believed. The woman at the well in the New Testament believed in the coming Messiah and as a result went to witness to her town about the Christ who was there. So my question to you again is this. Will you simply… just…. believe? Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

 

 

Cloudy and I Know It

Last year was a bit “cloudy” for me. I went through a lot of transitions and experienced some high points and low points. Dreams were put on hold and others came to reality. My faith was tested and my walk with God wavered. Many people believe this myth that because you are a Christian, you won’t have struggles or you do not wrestle with your faith…this couldn’t be further from the truth. I say all of this to say that there were moments I was on Cloud nine. I was blissfully happy and nothing in my surroundings could move me in a negative direction. I saw clearly what life had in store for me and I was ready to dive headfirst into the vision I know that God has for me. Then there were other moments…

…life situations that I allowed to happen and life situations that. just. happened

…and they placed me right in the middle of the clouds and everything became a blur. All I could see was what was right in front of me and nothing made sense anymore. My heart became heavy, my mind stubborn to the Word of God, and I felt myself slowly falling away from God’s pleasing and perfect plan for my life.

Welcome to what I call life. We all have different life situations that will challenge the way we see things. Sometimes we allow those things into our life that we know are not for us…they could be romantic relationships, business partnerships, jobs, excessive social media, etc…and they slowly take our focus from being above the clouds where the vision is clear to suddenly being immersed in them.

Sometimes we allow GOOD things into our life, but it’s not the BEST God has for us.

What’s funny is then we try to justify our actions. We try to make the wrong right, or what we think is right fit into our lives. Let me tell you…it will not work! No matter how bad we desire our own wants, we know in the back of our minds something is off. I guarantee you the Holy Spirit splashed a huge warning sign in front of us at some point but we were so stubborn to follow it because we want what we want so badly. Then I’m sure you get frustrated with the struggles of life because you have no control over it. Well, at least I do. I had a situation that lasted nearly 8 months and it seemed like whenever I fixed one problem, the situation only got worse and was prolonged further!

I understand what it means to feel pain in areas of life that makes you wish you had a huge reset button. (How cool would that be to just reset life lol?!) You’re tired and your strength is weak. You wonder what the future has in store for you. You feel like no one else is going through what you are experiencing. Trust me when I tell you that we all have some giant elephant we are dealing with…some choose to try to hide it which only makes matters worse. Life is certainly not a fairy tale, but I know it is beautiful. It becomes beautiful in its own time. Only when we surrender to God’s will and perfect timing, will we be able to see the beauty above the clouds and even in them.

The serenity about life is that when we mess up…God is still faithful. God is not moved by our conditional behavior. The fact that I fell slowly into the clouds only made me aware how much more I need a Savior that loves me in spite of the filth. It was when I recognized my weakness and vulnerabilities that I could be strong in the Lord. I am not saying that you should accept your shortcomings as a way of living; we are called to be set apart and live a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. However, we are to accept our wrongs as lessons, make them part of our stories that we share with others, as to maintain an integrity and wholeness towards soundness and healing. True healing and peace comes from accepting all of yourself, even the parts you don’t want to; to recognize that you may be on cloud nine or in the clouds. That’s authenticity. That’s integrity. God can only transform what we authentically bring to Him…

Now that the new year is upon us and it is 2017, it is a great opportunity to see clearly what God has for your life. I am joining my church in our annual 21 day fasting and prayer this month which starts today. Why fasting and prayer? It is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all discussed in the Bible. We need our lives transformed! We need results and not talk! We need the power of God! Prayer and fasting is the answer to all of those. I’m believing God for clarity and a clear vision for 2017 and beyond. If you need to get out of the clouds, I encourage you to fast and pray so that your life can be used for Kingdom purpose. I will leave you with 12 things you can expect from a Fast from Lisa Bevere’s “You Are Not What You Weigh.” Be Blessed. Be Revealed.

 

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WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A FAST

Excerpt from, You Are Not What You Weigh, by Lisa Bevere

  • Fasting Creates a New Hunger -(Ezra 8:23) As the initial hunger pangs or longings cease, a new desire is formed.
  • Fasting Works Humility – (Psalm 35:13) – We feel our natural strength waning. In our weakness, we find ourselves more dependent upon God. It is turning away from what we can provide, and turning toward what God alone can give.
  • Fasting Increases Sensitivity to God – (Luke 2:36-38) Anna in the scripture could hear clearly what God was saying.
  • Fasting Chastens or Disciplines – (Psalm 69:10) David maintained his spiritual life by means of bringing his body into subjection.
  • Fasting Changes Our Appetite – (Acts 13:2) God often uses times of fasting and prayer to speak to the desires of our hearts, and to reveal his purpose and destiny for our lives.
  • Fasting Increases Our Capacity – (Esther 4:16) Fasting increases your capacity for self-sacrifice and imparted wisdom.
  • Fasting Brings Answers to Prayer – (Isaiah 58:9) A godly fast will bring answered prayer and it may come through his Word, or as a still small voice, or by a strong confirmation of what He has previously shown us.
  • Fasting Leads to Quick Healing – (Isaiah 58:8) The healing can be physical, mental, or spiritual. Even natural medicine supports this – many illnesses occur in the digestive system. A short fast gives our body a chance to refocus its energies on healing instead of eating. (Please consult a physician before undertaking a fast if you are ill.)
  • Fasting Opens the Door to God’s Protection and Provision – (Isaiah 58:8) God promised to be a guard before us and behind us. A fast renews your righteousness and sends it on before you. Then, as you give God the glory, He returns righteousness as your rear guard.
  • Fasting Looses the Chains of Injustice – (Isaiah 58:6) This fast has the power to loose any unjust chains that bind us. It is not merely for personal liberation, but it represents God’s desire to see us reach out and loose the ties that bind others, and remove the chains of oppression.
  • Fasting Frees the Oppressed and Breaks Every Yoke – (Isaiah 58:6) A fast is a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs; and look around at the oppression and pain of others. In response, we learn to reach out in compassion and help – becoming agents of healing.
  • Fasting Motivates Us to Provide Food for the Needy – (Isaiah 58:7) You are not eating because of a fast, then you are free to share your portion with those less fortunate.

If you would like to follow the 21 day devotions for fasting and prayer, click the link below.

http://21days.victoryatl.com/