Saturday, December 12, 2020

UPDATED VERSION of Through the Refining Fire: Your "Sweetly Broken" Journey (Introduction)

A heart-and-faith-changing workbook for those who like to read about someone else’s journey, think deeply about their own, ask the hard questions, challenge themselves, and journal.

(A Bible study “workbook” to help you find healing and wholeness in your walk with the Lord.  “Sweetly Broken,” a favorite song of mine by Jeremy Riddle, is one of the inspirations behind this workbook, along with my own life story, found here.  I am updating this workbook to make it a bit shorter, more concise, and with updated questions and Bible verses.  The original version is in 2017, stating with this post, but all of the 2020 posts are for the updated version.  I will be adding the new updated posts as I finish typing them for my relative.  It will take a few weeks.  And the black-to-gray color changes of the paragraphs are not intentional; I just can't figure out how to fix it.)

Introduction:  Do You Want More? 

            In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

            Okay, now, let me ask this:  How many of us really feel we are living our lives to the fullest?  Lives that matter?  Eternally-effective lives?  I’m going to suspect most of us are just hoping to make it through the day so that we can fall exhausted into bed at night and then wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.  We are overloaded, stretched-thin, and ready to break ... or we’re just plain bored.  We feel alone, unimportant, fruitless, and overlooked.  We go through the motions each day without any sense of deep joy or satisfaction or accomplishment.  Does anything we do really matter?  Is there more to life than this?  Where is this abundant life we were promised, the love, peace, and joy?  What does a “full life” even look like? 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Updated Piece 1: The Desire to be Broken/Humbled

            Psalm 51:17:  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” 

            Okay, if you are still reading this then I assume you have a genuine desire to seek humility, or at least you’re curious about it.  And the first step to this is seeing your need for it and desiring it, so you’re already on your way! 

            During this step, all you really need to do is pray.  It doesn’t need to follow any specific words, just tell God of your desire to be humbled.  (There’s a sample prayer at the end of this section.)  He doesn’t need fancy words or long prayers, but He does need us to open our hearts to Him.  He needs our invitation.  He needs our willingness to change.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Updated Piece 2: Honesty with yourself and with the Lord

Proverbs 12:22:  “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”

Matthew 5:8:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  

            Pure.  Free from impurities.  Impurities pollute what is true and genuine and good.  And what pollutes a true, genuine, good relationship with the Lord (and pollutes even our own lives) are deceptions and lies.  Hiding the truth or hiding from the truth.  Deliberately living a lie or unconsciously agreeing with one.  These keep us from being able to really see, know, and experience God.  Because lies are from Satan.  But if we will live honestly before God, in truth, we will know Him (and ourselves) as were meant to.  And the truth shall set us free! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Updated Piece 3: Learning to Listen and Be Still

             Psalm 46:10:  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

            This is one of my all-time favorite verses.  I’m working on a goal right now to find my top five “life verses,” and this is one of them.  And it’s funny because when I was in high school, I went to a Christian retreat, and this was the key verse for the week, and all I could think was, How boring!  What a boring verse to use to inspire, challenge, and “activate” the teens for Christ.  Be still?  Blah!

            But now, this verse has become so dear to me, so I guess I’ve come full circle.  To me, this verse is all about humility.  A humbled person is one who’s learned to trust in God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so much that despite the storms that rage around them, they can “be still” because He is God.  A humbled person desperately desires to be near the Lord, to bask in His presence, and so they’ve learned the importance of being physically and mentally still with the Lord at times.  And a humbled person also knows that everything is about God’s glory and that no matter what happens, at the end of it all, He will be exalted!

            Oh, I love this verse!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Updated Piece 4: Radical Obedience

         Of all the pieces, I think this is one of the most important.  I’m not saying this like God necessarily needs our obedience or else He’ll be at a helpless loss (He’ll find other ways to get His Will done), but because it says the most about our relationship with God, and it totally affects the path our lives take.  Whether we obey or not is an indication of if we listen to Him, if we know His Word, if we love Him and trust Him and have really made Him God of our lives, and if we’ll get His blessings … or not.  

            “But I gave them this command:  Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.”  (Jeremiah 7:23)

            “…‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11:28)

            “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”  (John 15:10)

            “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Acts 5:32, emphasis added)

            “This is love for God: to obey his commands....”  (1 John 5:3) 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Updated Piece 5: The Word of God

            Raise your hand if you feel like reading the Bible is a bit unnecessary. superfluous, like it’s extra-credit, something for when you need a boost or want brownie points with God or need to get out of a mess.  Now, how many of you didn’t raise your hand but should have? 

            Many Christians have no problem letting their Bibles sit on the shelf for extended periods of time.  They pick it up occasionally for a little “God boost,” but they don’t feel a deep need for it.  They read about God in the pages but don’t meet Him in the pages.  They read about other people’s stories in the Bible but don’t see themselves in the stories.  They think the Bible is “good advice” but don’t realize it’s also the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesian 6:17).  And so the Word isn’t as alive or meaningful to them as it should be.  It’s just a “good book.” 

            It’s one thing to read about God in the Bible, but it’s another to desperately reach for Him through it.  It’s one thing to simply read a verse, but it’s another to ask God what it means for your life today.  It’s one thing to read verses about fighting against evil and Satan, but it’s another to speak them out loud during times of spiritual warfare.  It’s one thing to read about the Israelites wandering the desert thousands of years ago, to scoff at their unfaithfulness and ungratefulness, to think “You fools deserved it” when God punished them … but it’s another to walk with them, to stand with them at the foot of the mountain as they trembled at the voice of God, to understand their fears of dying and being attacked by enemies, and to be humbled by the fact that we often do the same things they got in trouble for (complaining, not trusting God, creating our own gods) when we’re in our own “desert” times.  (We’re no different from them.)    

            In our day and age of being too familiar with God and His Word, we have lost the sense of awe (the proper fear) of God, His Word, His Truth.  We’ve heard these stories again and again.  They’re so common that they’re boring.  And in our apathy towards God’s Word, we fail to grasp the truth it reveals about who we really are, who God really is, what’s really going on, and how it applies to us in practical and spiritual ways. 

            If we think the Bible is just a “good book,” then we don’t understand it at all! 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Updated Piece 6: The Importance of Prayer

            (This will be long!  Lots to talk about.  And ignore the gray/black font-color changes.  It wasn't intentional, and I can't fix it.)  Do you think prayer actually does anything?  I mean, honestly, do you think it affects what happens in life or makes a difference?  Or do you think, as many Christians do, that it’s just a formality, that it’s simply to show our dependence on God but it doesn’t really do anything because God’s already planned everything He’s gonna do?

            I used to wonder about prayer: what it was, what it accomplished, how it worked.  I used to think that since God is all-knowing and all-powerful then He didn’t really need our prayers, that He’d just do what He’s gonna do, with or without our prayers.  So what good were they, other than helping us connect with Him and show our reliance on Him?

            Job 42:8“... My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer ...”  This is the verse that cracked it all wide open for me.  In this chapter, God planned to forgive Job’s friends for speaking wrong of Him.  It was His Will, what He wanted to have happen.  But He required Job to pray for it, and He waited for Job’s prayer before He accomplished His plan.  This verse taught me one of the main reasons for prayer: it gets God’s Will done.