Nuggets: How to Rest

Most of us know we’re sleep deprived, or at least over worked and stressed out. (Come on, it’s the modern curse that this is actually a badge of honor!) At the same time, most Christians are fully aware of God’s call to rest. If nothing else, in the 10 Commandments, we learn that God modeled a Sabbath rest for us.

Wouldn’t you like to take a rest?

It requires more than you think. Resting is costly.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”… Matthew 11:29

The prerequisite for rest, for truly letting your guard down, giving up control and walking with the Spirit is ultimate humility.

Yep. Rest might cost you your reputation, your wealth, your esteem, your drive and more.

True rest is found beneath the yoke of Christ. Look at Him. He tells us to learn from Him about rest and He certainly wasn’t taking a lot of long naps!

No, spirit-deep rest is found in surrender, gentleness and humility. But I have a feeling, that when we learn these traits from Jesus, we’ll find a supernatural rest that even affects us physically and mentally.

 

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“Excellent” Wife–Fighting Words?

Ever gotten hung up on the idea of submission? I hope you don’t feel I’m beating a raw topic, because I know we’ve discussed it here before on Going Beyond Belief. But I’m forever surprised by the infinite and multi-layered ways that God reveals Himself to us, and consequently, made in His image, the multi-layered ways He wants us to reveal Him to the world through our lives. 

Proverbs 12:4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.”

An excellent wife. 

Who doesn’t desire to be one? What does that mean to you? In what ways do you fall short of this or how are you succeeding?

But what if the original meaning of the word “excellent” got lost in translation? 

The Hebrew word for excellent in this instance is chayil, meaning: “might, efficiency, wealth, army, strength, ability, efficiency, force … “

Probably not what you were expecting, right? Not the quiet submissive type we often imagine the excellent wife to be. In fact, this is the word God used to describe Gideon when He was commissioning him to go into battle against the Midianites with a measly army of 300 men. In Psalm 8:32, it’s translated strength: ” … the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”

In Psalm 60:12, we are reminded it’s a God-given power and excellence: “With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.”

It’s a fighting word. It’s a battle-ready, fully equipped, clearly-thinking, humbled, powerfully-dependent word that, ironically, does not contradict God’s upon a wife to submit to her own husband.

Excellence, in the sense of strength, ability and might, is another way that God desires for women to express His complete nature first in our homes and marriages and second to the world at large.

What Are You Afraid To Lose?

The woman dreams to become pregnant, a prayer that God gave the childWhat are you afraid of losing?

Everyone is afraid of losing something–a loved one, a job, their reputation, sanity, safety, peace, hope … Or perhaps we’re afraid of something being taken from us; the anxiety is the same regardless of how this one (or more) precious thing is wrenched from our grasp.

Almost a year ago, my husband and I lost a baby. We had never expected to be parents, and after 13 years of marriage, not only resigned ourselves to this fact, but completely accepted it with peace. Until I got pregnant. Suddenly, God opened wide the doors of longing, excitement and anticipation. A whole new world brightened on our horizon. We wanted that baby more than anything. However, I miscarried at 11 weeks. The doctors assume the baby died a few weeks earlier and my body took a little time to realize the loss. My heart took much, much longer.

FINISH READING THIS POST HERE …

Would a Proverbs 31 Woman Have Time for the Gym?

Would a Proverbs 31 woman have time to go to the gym?

If you’d posed that question several years ago, I’d have popped my headphones back into my ears and continued repping to my favorite worship music, or pounding the pavement to the lively voice of a good preacher. I certainly would not have wanted to answer you. I didn’t have a problem; I had a healthy addiction to being “healthy”.

I accepted Christ as the one true God and my personal savior at the age of seven. Since then, growing in a godly home, I was taught to aspire after the mysterious Proverbs 31 Woman. But through the tangled years of adolescence, a different god warped my thinking and I began to pursue the idols of beauty, strength and thinness, all the while professing the risen Christ and devoting (my spare time) to Him. Let me share the short list of what it cost, or almost cost me …

Finish reading this post at: Proverbs31Woman

The Prayer That Works

It’s a wonder I still believe prayer works.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do believe prayer is powerful and effective. It can change the course of history. Earth is still spinning 24 hours behind where it should be based on the creation timeline—ever since Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still. People have walked the planet who never would have without prayer—think of Samuel and Joseph and the Shulamite woman’s son. Peter might have died in prison if a whole horde of people had not been praying for him in the house of a woman named Mary one dark night.

So yes, prayer works, but I have personally prayed for many things that never happened, for blessings that never materialized, healing that took forever and sometimes never came.

One might find comfort in the empathy of Mary and Martha. You remember them, the sisters of Lazarus and good friends of Jesus. Their brother fell sick; they knew he was dying. How they must have frantically scribbled the note; no time for frilly affections or casual comments. They simply wrote, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

But Jesus didn’t come in time. Within two days, Lazarus had died. The sisters wrapped him in fragrant cloths and buried him. Then, Jesus showed up.

It’s a fabulous story—one of perfect love, death, miracles, passion, sorrow and elation. But you probably already know that story. Even those who didn’t grow up in Sunday school have heard it and know it contains the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

I’m searching for a new lesson in this story. I’m search for a reason to pray, a way to pray. Because, even if I took some comfort in the fact that Jesus seemed to ignore Mary and Martha too (it’s not just me) ultimately, He not only responded to their call of distress but performed a miracle for them. What did they do?

For years my most persistent prayer was, “Lord, please heal me of this eating disorder! Take it away! I love you God, I love you with all my heart. I want to be obedient. Help me to put this idol behind me and to live for you alone. Help me Jesus!”

Now, there’s nothing ultimately wrong with that prayer, but I heard a pastor say recently, “Nothing moves the hand of God like the love of God.”

Look at their prayer again, or better yet, see if you remember it. What did they say to Jesus?

Compare their petition to mine.

Me: “Lord I love you, please help me!”

Mary and Martha: “Lord, you love Lazarus! He needs you!”

What drove Jesus to respond to the sisters; to come and resurrect Lazarus, was not their love for Him, but His own love for Lazarus!

It’s time we re-worded our prayers. More than that, it’s time we rewired our hearts. It’s a false belief, but nonetheless the underlying motive most of us employ when seeking God’s favor—that if we love Him more, if we convince Him that we are completely “sold out”, He will capitulate and favor our request.

God doesn’t need His ego stroked. He does not bend His ear to earth because we are radically devoted to Him. God bends low to hear us because of His love for us, his unwarranted, unprecedented, deadly, life-giving love.

Psalm 25:4-7 says, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”

God’s love is so unbounded that it overrode my theological errors. Although I often pleaded for healing based on my love for and promised commitment to God, He reached out and healed me for the sake of His Son Jesus, whose radical love cost Him His life in order to reconcile the whole world to its Creator.

Now, I am praying again; I am praying differently. Now I am praying for healing for others, for broken bodies, broken marriages, aching hearts, physical needs and more. Some of those I’m praying for do not love Jesus, and oh the wonder of the truth that their lack of love is not the deciding factor in God’s answer.

Even those of us who love God, only know love because He loved us first. If the answers to our prayers hinges on the veracity of our love for God, we are doomed. Thanks be to God, that the prayer He hears, the prayer He answers, a worthy prayer cries, “Lord, I am the one you love!”

A Play by Play of Forgiveness

Misty Moring

Forgiveness is not some cosmic brain dump.

Neither is forgiveness an arbitrary scribbling over of the past.

While it’s wonderful to relish in the relief of God’s forgiveness toward us, it makes sense that should know exactly how it works, because God commands us to forgive as we have been forgiven. (Eph. 4:32)

One of my favorite Psalms actually gives us a play by play description of forgiveness. Forgive the simpleness of this short Bible study. I promise it’s nourishment for your soul!

Check out Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). This is a list of the benefits of knowing God. But in truth, none of the benefits of knowing our Creator-Father would exist aside from the forgiveness through Christ that enables us to reconcile with and have a relationship with our majestic God.

Fittingly, David starts with the benefit of forgiveness.

  1. Forgives all your iniquities: Here God pardons sin. Pardon is another word for absolution. As far as God is concerned, sin is gone. (Check out verse 12 of the same Psalm.) We say things casually like “pardon me” and hope that before he’s taken another two steps, the guy we just ran into with our grocery cart has forgotten what we look like. That’s pardon.
  2. Heals all your diseases: Okay, so diseases here is the English word, and it works but doesn’t cover all the ground of the original Hebrew. This word is comparing the effects of sin in our lives with disease. Not only does God forgive and pardon our sin, but he restores favor (or health). He puts us back in good standing, in good health. All his right anger toward us is replaced with favor.
  3. Redeems your life from the pit: This word means to ransom or avenge. To this point, God’s grace toward us has taken place between us and himself. However, the moment we sinned, we signed an agreement with the devil. We chose to do things his way (“all wrong doing is sin” James 5:17, “if you’re not for me your against me” Matt. 12:30) The moment we sinned, Satan had rightful claim to our souls, but God (through Jesus) steps in here. He avenges our wrong and ransoms us from certain death.
  4. Crowns you with steadfast love and faithfulness: Think of a crown of glorious jewels encircling your head. Then, imagine being encircled by a protective wall. This word “crowned” means to surround like a protective wall, with steadfast love and faithfulness. Not only do these wonderful attributes adorn you, they surround and protect you.
  5. Satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s: Within the comfort and protection of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, ransomed from evil’s vengeance, in perfect health and completely pardoned, all our longings and desires are satisfied. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we realize all that has been done for us, it delights us! It fulfills us. It is enough–more than enough. All of our longings, desires, hopes, dreams and needs have been met in the benefits of God!

Listening For Footsteps

Ever feel like a spiritual ant?

I’ve been swimming in theology lately, neck-deep in books by historical and modern spiritual greats: A.W. Tozer, Dallas Willard and Brother Lawrence. And I’m learning, I’m learning just how far I’ve yet to go, or better said, how deep I’ve yet to fall into Jesus.

Though I’ve called Jesus “Savior” for 28 years and spent time in His Word, attended church, even taught and written Bible studies, apparently, there are infinitely more levels of relationship with this, our Awesome, Amazing, Unparalleled, Personal God. “Who on earth is a god like you?” (Exodus 15:11)

Brother Lawrence’s book, Practicing His Presence, is the most revealing title of the books I’m reading. It sums up the monstrous concept I’m trying to grasp, the overwhelming experience I’m desperate to have.

We’ve had an unusually white winter here in Tennessee and just in the last 48 hours has the sun decided not only to grace us with her light and warmth, but to evoke gratitude in the hearts of us People of the Cross.

“He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” Psalm 147:16-18

As I tip-toed over the rivers of melting snow in the church parking lot, I suddenly caught a momentary glimpse of His presence. It was in the world around me, in the collision of His Word in my heart during morning devotions and His beauty in the world around me—His own Word melting the snow, creating the wind, sweeping away the puddles.

It was glorious! In a split second, I knew that I wanted to dwell in this presence constantly. I wondered, “What must I do to feel this all the time?”

I would say this presence lingered, but more accurately, I was rapt. I could not, or would not, walk away. In meditation, and digesting the wisdom of the aforementioned authors, I’m coming to understand how my prayers must change, my reading of God’s Word must change. If I want this new and deeper relationship with my Father, I must approach Him differently, meet Him in a different way and be prepared to walk with Him farther—out of my comfort zone and familiar disciplines.

I want to feel Jesus. I am tired of mere intellectual study and measured application of His Word. I am tired of praying: “Show me what you want me to do! Let me see what you have to say to me in your Word! How does this apply to me? Help me to see myself as you see me!”

I want to ask different questions. I want hear more than an answer, and enough about me already! I need this relationship to go beyond long-distance communication. I want to go beyond words, beyond hearing, to engaging God with all my senses—experiencing, practicing His presence.

I hear Jesus asking me: “What if you look into my eyes and not simply out from them? What if you pray and read the Bible not only for instruction on life and solution to problems, but instead you look into it to see me—stop looking for what I have to say to you and start looking at me personally?

If you listen for me and not only to me, perhaps you will hear me walking right beside you. Instead of only hearing my voice, you will hear my footsteps. “

You Remind Me of a Horse

Running Horses Hooves

“I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.” Song of Solomon 1:9

Few of us would swoon if our husbands compared us to a horse. In fact, using today’s connotations and implications that might get your man slapped!

Today, however, I heard an interpretation of this little verse that changed my perspective not only on being horse-like, but on the biblical concept of being a helpmate to the leadership role of my husband.

Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage offered an explanation that I’d never heard before. Apparently, mares were rarely harnessed to a Pharaohs’ chariot. Generally, because speed and power were desirable, Pharaohs used the brawniest stallions to do this work. But they found that when they harnessed a mare among the stallions, she produced in them such a frenzy that they drove harder than ever.

What do you bring out in your husband? When you spend time with him, work beside him raising your family, speak to him–what character qualities and attitudes do you cultivate? Does he leave your presence more determined than ever to be a servant leader or a committed father?

Does he feel stronger, more confident, more capable than he did before?

Women, we have a lot of power. To listen to the culture, you wouldn’t think so. Collectively, we clamor for more power and equality. But I think this tactic is evidence of the way we often wield our power–manipulatively, subversively.

This calls for extra care–prayer–in our words and deeds.

Next time you are tempted to blame your husband for something or harass him for failing to live up to your expectation in some way, consider first what attitudes, qualities and actions you have cultivated in him.

You are his helpmate, harnessed alongside him for a good purpose. Your mere presence can multiply his power and productivity in life. Don’t take this lightly.

 

A Teachable Heart, Humility and BIG News

I have BIG news!

I’ve kept quiet for about as long as I can … we’ve passed 14 weeks now and so (drum roll please … )

We are expecting again! Yes! Praise God, He’s gifted us a baby girl! She’s due on August 21, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! So far, all her little black and white pictures are perfect; labs are just as expected and we’re anticipating her arrival with all the jitters that might be expected. I’m not sure if I want time to fly (or if it is) or if I wish it would take a deep breath and slow down.

I’ve been praying for a long time that God will continue to soften my infantry officer husband’s heart. His job is such that it reinforces discipline, structure, stoicism everyday, but I long for the gentleness he shows at home (sometimes) to take root and flourish within his strong, stable personality.

And as I’ve added a new little one to my daily, desperate prayers, I’ve heard God whisper to me, “You’ve asked me to soften his heart. She is all a part of the plan.” But that’s not all God said:

“And if I’m going to soften his heart, I’m going to humble yours.”

Umm … well I have to be honest, I’ve asked God to do that. But am I ready for this? I’ve tried to adopt a more humble heart, to identify selfishness, self-righteousness and slippery, undercover arrogance, but I was not prepared for God to highlight my pride in the way that He did.

Anyone who’s been pregnant can tell you–advice is instantly flying from every direction, at all times, with all kinds of conflicts, in all form of tones, with all manner of conviction and from individuals with all levels of experience–from none, to aged to those not so much more experienced than myself.

Now, I’m not one to internalize all of this and find my head swimming and panic beneath the onslaught of suggestions. I have specific people that I ask specific questions of, and blessedly, I have a doctor I greatly respect. I’m covered. But …

Does God care how I answer those who offer unsolicited advice?

On several occasions lately, and one specific one even today, someone I dearly love and respect has offered advice that I didn’t not ask for nor require. My immediate response was one of coolness. At the time, my hackles raised invisibly. I tried hard to keep my bristling hidden.

“You know, I really think you should … ”

“Did your doctor tell you that … ”

“I’d advise against that … ”

Their advice, while sincerely intended, addressed things that I have already thought through and come to a conclusion regarding them in my own pregnancy. And I said so.

“In all due respect, here’s what I think … ” (And basically, I think you’re wrong.)

God let me get away with it in the moment. But when I sat down this afternoon, God brought to mind His precious word.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

Abby, I didn’t say you have to apply their advice, but as you pray for humility, my word instructs you to receive it. Don’t counter with your own opinion; receive well-intended counsel and seek me for wisdom in prayer at home. 

I don’t think my response to these individuals was disrespectful. I do love these people and worked hard to hold my tongue. But, I can’t say that my heart wasn’t railing with frustration and indignation at their assumption that I might not know something. And then God concluded His whispers with this reminder:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2

No matter my words, expression or the impression I give to others, God knows my heart and He judges my intentions. It is for my heart that I’m held accountable.

Oh Lord, give me a humble and teachable heart!