Tuesday, October 31, 2017

About this blog:

FYI - the first post is at the top of the list (Intro 1: Do You Want More?), and then you work your way down to "Pieces 10 and 11:  Looking Back and Going Forward."

And ...

Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.®  Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Intro #1: Do You Want More?

Through the Furnace:  Your “Sweetly Broken” Journey

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.

Intro 1:  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 that we are living our lives to the fullest?  Abundant lives?  Vibrant lives?  Eternally-effective lives?  I’m going to suspect that most of us are just hoping to make it through the day, maybe accomplishing one extra chore on our To Do list.  Just so we can fall exhausted into bed, 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, 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?  We desperately want life to be “more”. . . or we just really want a vacation.   

            And the Christian life isn’t very exciting to us, either.  It’s not the joyful journey that we expected it to be.  It feels like work.  We have to smile pleasantly, sing and pray well, serve our time, and look like we have it all together so that we can measure up to others and impress God.  Or . . . we’re just plain bored.  Church is all just monotonous messages, sleepy music, and an hour of trying not to fall asleep.  But at least we had a chance to get our grocery list planned . . . if we managed to stay awake.  And we got our brownie point for the day just by being there.  Right?  

            Where is this abundant, vibrant life that we were promised?  What does that even look like?  Where is the love and joy and peace?  Life is just so hard and discouraging, feeling like it’s all up to us.  Always trying, yet never feeling good enough.  And we wonder why we are so tired and why life is joyless. 

            But it doesn’t have to be this way.  There is a different way, a better way.  The way of brokenness. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Intro #2: Starting the Journey

            Psalm 14:2:  “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”   

            Maybe you’re thinking, Okay, so I am ready to start this challenge.  I want to become diligent in my relationship with the Lord.  I want to draw ever nearer to Him and to live a life that is glorifying to Him.  I want to be humbled at His feet.  I want Him to prune away anything that may be hindering my relationship with Him, so that I can have a deeper, more genuine, more vibrant relationship with Him.  How can I do this?  How can I become Sweetly Broken?       

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Piece One: The Desire to be Broken

            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 would guess that you have a genuine desire to be broken, or at least you’re curious about it.  And the first step to brokenness is seeing your need for it and desiring it. 

            During this step, all you need to do is pray. 

            It does not need to follow any formula or specific words, just tell God of your desire to be humbled.  (There’s a sample prayer at the end of this post.)  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 us to express our willingness to be molded. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Piece Two: Honesty and Transparency

            Honesty with yourself and transparency 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.  Being free from impurities.  Impurities are those things that 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 falsehood and lies.  Hiding from truth and hiding the truth.  Deliberately living a lie or unconsciously agreeing with one.  These keep us from being able to really experience, see, and know God.  But if we will live authentic, transparent lives before God, we will know Him (and ourselves) in a way we never could before. 

            This isn’t so much of a step to go through, but something that we need to commit to for this whole journey.  Well, our whole lives, really.  Honesty is half the battle, because living a life of lies prevents any growth and keeps our hearts closed to God.  And I’m not even necessarily talking here about deliberate lies.  We know when we are deliberately lying to others, ourselves, and God.  And we won’t fess up to those until we want to. 

            But what I am mostly concerned with here are the lies that we don’t even realize we are living or agreeing with.  They could be lies we believe about ourselves or God, or truths that we refuse to see.  And we don’t usually know that they are there.  We just have a vague (or strong, vivid) sense that something is “off” in our lives or our relationship with God.  (Or we are simply refusing to see that things are “off,” which is probably the case a lot more than we know.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Piece Three: 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.”

            That is one of my favorite verses.  I’m working on a goal right now to find my top five “life verses” and that is one of them.  And it’s funny because when I was in high school, I went to a Christian retreat and that was the key verse for the week.  And all I could think was, How boring!  What a boring verse to pick 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 humble person is one who has learned to trust in God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so much that, despite the storms that rage around, they can “be still” because God is God!  A humble person desperately desires to be near the Lord and to bask in His presence, and so they have learned the importance of being physically and mentally still with the Lord at times.  And a humble person also knows that everything is about God’s glory!  He will be exalted!!!

            Oh, I love this verse!!!

            But it took me a long time to learn to be still because, deep down, I couldn’t trust others, not even God.  I couldn’t “be still” before Him because I was too busy and concerned with keeping all the balls up in the air.  And as a consequence, I never knew the incredible joy and delight and peace of resting in His arms.  Of being still.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Piece Four: Radical Obedience

            I would have to say that of all the pieces, I think that this one is the most important.  (If any one of them can be considered more important than the others.)  And I’m not saying this like God necessarily needs our obedience or else He’ll be at a helpless loss.  But because obedience says the most about our relationship with God.  Obedience tells us if we are able to hear His messages and if we know His Word, if we trust Him enough and are willing enough to do what He says, and if we love Him and have really made Him God of our lives.  Let’s take a moment to explore some of what the Bible says about obedience: