Wednesday, July 2, 2014

God is Able...week 5

Quite honestly, this week has totally gotten away from me.  It would be so sinful for me to complain because He has granted me such memorable times with my family and some dear ministry friends recently, but I have to admit that I've been exhausted for the last 3 days.  I'd read chapter 5 a week ago while on vacation in Chicago, but I often need to process it before blogging about it.  In my "process time", I've been physically tired and overwhelmed by the details of the days.  You know how it is...when you've been traveling so much there's always laundry and groceries and homework and responsibilities to catch up on.  That's where I've lived for the last few days...between naps! 

Here are some silly photos of our family trip and some sweet memories of my time serving on the event team for Living Proof Live in Biloxi with my LifeWay buddies!

How ironic that much of chapter five is about how God cares about the routine everyday details as well as the supernatural big things!  I've come back to this quote from chapter 5 so much in the last few days:

"So don't think the concerns that pop up in today's nitty-gritty are meant for you to bear alone, off grid, as if they're somehow exempt from His spiritual protections, not covered under your fire insurance policy.  The same God who is saving you from hell is also willing and able to save what's left of your nerves and your workweek."

Lord, save my nerves!

Chapter 5 is all about totality!  We are up to the part in Ephesian 3:20 that I often love the most!

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think...

That part is easy to love but hard to grasp.  It includes it all!  The little things, the huge things, and everything in between!

After reading chapter 5 and continuing to memorize Ephesians 3:20-21, consider these questions.  I'd sure love for you to comment!

1.  Don't you just love the stories of Priscilla losing things and asking God to help her find them?  Does that seem shallow to you?  How does Job 28:24 hit you in light of her stories or even your own experience? Have you ever lost something and know that God Himself showed it to you?  Describe that feeling once the item has been found!  Are you currently trying to find something?  Could we pray with you about finding something?

From Gayla:  Every time we have to find our children's birth certificates I panic!  I can't tell you how many times in our moves we've lost an adoption paper or a birth certificate or a social security card! Please don't judge or provide the obvious encouragement to have a special place for them...I know that!  I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying it happens!  And boy does my prayer life become rich every time!  The feeling of relief when we find it (or when the new one we had to order comes in the mail) is a pretty sweet feeling!

2.  Too often we limit our view of God!  This part of Ephesians 3:20 is really a challenge not to limit Him! Priscilla writes (on page 103):

"...sometimes our problem is not that we won't believe Him for the supernatural and amazing but that we don't believe He cares about the routine and everyday."

Do you struggle with this? If so, how do you often limit God?  How does Matthew 10:29-31 expand your vision of Him and His willingness and His ability?

3.  On pages 105 and 106, we are reminded of many verses that speak of the totality of God's ability? Which of those speak volumes to you today?

From Gayla: Matthew 6:33 is such a great reminder to me that when I seek Him first "all these things" are added!  All means all!  I spend so much time seeking all the things, but I'm supposed to be seeking Him, then He adds all these things.  ALL!

4.  Another way we often limit God is by assuming He works like people!  Priscilla says:

"We often limit our expectations of Him to what we've experienced within our human interaction."

How does numbers 23:19 blow that limitation out of the water?

5.  Toward the end of the chapter, Priscilla discusses the fact that God invites us to be involved with Him through prayer.  In the last 4 years I've been overwhelmed by this blessing...that God involves us in His blessing as we pray.  She writes:

"Asking of God doesn't make us pushy, not according to the Bible.  Nor, of course, does it mean He'll give us whatever we want.  But when we take Him up on His invitation to ask for what we need - both the big things and the small things - one of the greatest things He gives us is the opportunity to recognize exactly where our help is coming from.  When we request and He answers, we are enabled to know beyond any doubt that He was the One working in our experience...By inviting us to ask, He is continually connecting His life with ours.  Every blessing becomes another noticeable expression of His loving care..."

I've often said that prayer is like playing "I Spy" with God because when we are diligently praying for something, we will see Him working in ways that we would not have noticed otherwise.  We also will then be ruined for anything less!

What are you diligently praying about?  Where are you spying God at work? How is He working it out in a way that is beyond all you have asked or imagined?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

God Is Able...week four

Exceedingly, abundantly, more than you could ask or imagine...beyond!  

This post will be shorter than most simply because how can you expound on the fact that God is transcendent?!  I love Priscilla's reminder on page 81 that God has always been trancendent:

"He's always been a God of abundance. Is there any reason other than God's beyondness that can explain why, when He decided to create water, He just went ahead and created whole oceans? Wasn't the intense heat and mass and spendor of a single star impressive enough all on it's own? Did He really need to go and create entire galaxies, raging with billions and billions of stars, most of which no human eye will ever see?"

I must admit that if never really thought about it like that!

Go ahead, name your deepest need, desire, aspiration, goal. I'm not asking you to write it down here, though this is a safe place to get it out into the open. But try to do more than naming it. Please offer it as a prayer to our exceedingly abundant, trancendent God. Then, if you dare, ask Him to do it...or even better! 

We can trust His sovereign knowledge of what is best for us as well as His entire Kingdom. And here's why I believe I can trust Him to know best, because He is not only able to Do more, but His capacity to LOVE me is exceedingly, abundantly more than I can fathom! His entire being is exceedingly beyond our comprehension so therefore His love for us is as well. I would do what's best for my children no matter what because my love for them is so great. My parental love is a drop in the ocean compared to God's love for me. It's beyond anything! Beyond beyond! (Suddenly I'm remembering when the boys were little and loved Buzz Lightyear! "To infinitey and beyond!")

Here's my one challenge for you this week in addition to reading chapter 4. Search scripture for at least one instance where someone got way better than what they asked for or imagined. Share what you find in the comments so we can learn with you! We could all share how He has done exceedingly abundantly more in our lives, but I want us to see the proof and precedent in scripture. 


Monday, June 16, 2014

God is Able week 3

Whoa! I needed chapter 3 this morning!  It hit at just the right time as a reminder of the truth that God's dynamite power and His loving sovereignty are a perfect balance and an absolute matter how I feel!  How about you?  You've got to read this chapter!

I've mentioned in a previous post that my "it" as well as my testimony pretty much is always my kids to be exact.  Just about twenty years ago I came up against something that taught me more about God than I had ever before realized I didn't know.  After years of infertility treatment and loss I found myself wondering if God was really able to heal.  And honestly, the worst part of it was that I found myself wondering more so if He was kind enough to heal.  This chapter is about precisely those two questions!

Today I'm raising teenagers as well as a spunky 5 year old so the answers to me should be obvious, but honestly I find myself asking those same questions again sometimes.  Is God able to woo my children enough to make them want to serve Him with their entire life?  And if He's able, why aren't they as filled with His Holy Spirit as some of the other teenagers I see?  Why aren't they living out their faith with passion?  Is God loving enough to protect them and use them? Sometimes I wonder if He holds back His fire on them just to make me stay in His presence begging for their very souls and lives consistently. Parenting teens is the hardest thing I've ever done and it makes me question His ability and willingness more than anything else in my life right now!

Please don't feel the need to answer my questions or encourage me...I really know the answers but I needed the encouragement of chapter 3.  Is there something in your "now" that makes you honestly wonder if God is able and if He is willing?

I can't remember how I even found the verse, but twenty years ago I came across Psalm 62:11-12a which has since been a promise I've come back to over and over again.

"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong and that you, O Lord, are loving."

This verse tells me that He is strong (more than able) and He is loving (willing to do whatever is best). The entirety of chapter three reminded me of this verse. I can trust His ability as well as His tender love.

I mean it when I say that I'm praying for you as you dive into chapter 3 and the following questions.

1.  Priscilla talks about change at the beginning of this chapter.  Are you someone who finds change exhilarating and adventurous?  Or does even the word "change" give you hives?

2.  How does the fact that God never changes encourage you in your current reality?

3.  On the bottom of page 62 and the top of page 63 Priscilla refers to several scriptures about God's ability as well as His love for us?  Why don't you actually look in your bible at these passages, maybe even compare some different translations using or YouVersion or an old fashioned parallel bible?  Which of these passages speak to you in your current reality?

4.  Be honest... do you find yourself wondering if He's able or if He's willing? What makes you ask? If you've come to grips with this, what circumstances did He use to solidify these attributes of God in your heart?

5. What is the Greek verb used in Ephesians 3 for "God is able"? (See page 66!) What is significant about this word and the absolute truth that He's able?

6. What was one thing you underlined in this chapter, one idea that challenged you most? Here's my favorite quote!

6. Rewrite Ephesians 3:20-21 underlining and emphasizing who is able to do so that you might be constantly reminded of this explosive truth for you personally.  

It's your turn! Please please please please please comment if God is speaking to you!

Monday, June 9, 2014

God is Able, week 2

I've prayed for each of you who might be participating in this little online reading of the book God is Able. I never consider myself much of a writer or full of biblical insight, but I do know that my prayers (as well as yours) matter in this crazy earthly experience.  I've prayed for you to sense, in a way that is undeniable, that God is both able to work in your current reality and loving enough to help you know His best plan.  I honestly hope you've sensed something like that this past week.  I am certainly not aware of your day to day experiences with Him, but I do know He is and this study comes at precisely the time when you need it most. I bet I need it worse than anyone!  

Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen!

The past week we've struggled to really grasp the "NOW" part of this verse!  Now is the time He is able and now is when He wants us to acknowledge that.  How have you seen Him sweep into your "NOW" this past week?  My husband loves to ask the question like this:  "Where have you seen God at work this past week?"

This week I pray you will read chapter 2, "Turning..." and answer these questions.  It's just 16 pages, but it's a challenging reminder to focus on Christ in your current reality!  Rewrite Ephesians 3:20 this week and underline " Him..."  Keep this with you and meditate on the verse emphasizing these words this week.

1.  I love this honest quote from Priscilla on page 43:
"People often think of turning to Jesus as being a bit too impractical in terms of spiritual advice.  Turning to Jesus.  Looking to Jesus.  What does that really mean?...Quit staring at your problems!"

What are some very practical ways you foster this turning to Jesus in your own life?  Please offer practices that help you focus on Him in the midst of your day and your circumstances.  Please share the practices and/or disciplines that help you quit staring at your problems. Of course there will be some "churchy" answers and that's ok, but I'd love for you to share some creative ways you've kept your mind fixed on Him.

2.  Priscilla writes very astutely that we sometimes tend to turn to others before we turn to God.  Who do you tend to turn to first when you are stressed or confused or seeking direction?  How can you include that person in helping you remember to turn to God first and ultimately? 

3.  Priscilla also points out that when we are experiencing circumstances that are hard, we often turn to ourselves rather than Jesus.  She says on page 48, "Our enemy is the one who wants us focused on ourselves- on our humanity, frailty, and need."  How has the enemy lied to you recently and made you think it's all about you?

4.  Lastly, Priscilla reminds us that all to often we turn too easily to stuff or junk!  "To numbing wastes of time, if not to shameful lacks of self-control."  Are you prone to try to forget your problems or at least cope with them through anything like shopping, TV, exercise, eating, etc?  Remember there is no condemnation in this little group...we are all sinners in need of the only One who can redeem our circumstances!  I do find that it helps me to identify those things that compete for my focus! 

5.  Here's an extra point challenge this week!  Read Numbers 13-14:35.  What was different about Caleb's focus?  Did he see a different sight than the others?  What happened to those who grumbled as a consequence?  What did Caleb experience because he chose to see things differently?  How can we be more like Caleb in our current circumstances?  What might we miss if we choose to grumble and be obsessed with the negatives?

May I suggest that we commit to memorizing Hebrews 12:1-3 this week?  I know that's three whole verses, for heaven's sake...but scripture memory is one very practical way to turn our minds and hearts "to Him"! I'll be working on it from the English Standard Version! If you don't comment in any other way, I'd love for you to post these verses in your translation of choice! I'll post some of my answers to the other questions in a comment later this week!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1, 2 ESV)

May you sense Him palpably as you turn to Him this week!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

God is Able, week 1

Happy Summer!  I am anxious to kick off this experience of reading Priscilla Shirer's book God is Able, and I'm anticipating seeing God work big changes in me through Ephesians 3:20-21!  I hope you are coming along for what promises to be a crazy fun ride if we let His word shape us.  I've loved reading Priscilla's writing since I first did her Bible study, Discerning the Voice of God.  Having met her through my work with LifeWay, I can tell you that she's as real as it gets.  Because she's a busy working mom like me, I feel a bit of a connection.  However, as much as I enjoy her writing, my prayer really is that I/we will hear God speak as we read.

This book is really just about the words written by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21.  I can honestly say that these are my very favorite verses in all of scripture because I've seen their reality in my life and personal ministry.  These words have shaped much of my ministry in the last 3 years and I could tell you story after story of how God has done far more than I ever thought to ask or imagine in terms of ministry. But I want to see them as reality in my family, in my personal life, and in my "secular" job.  I was to see Him do immeasurable more in my children, in my finances, and in my own church.  How about you?  Do you long to have a fresh experience with His "above and beyond" power in your current reality?  Do you need to be reminded that nothing is impossible with God?  Let's believe it can happen together.

Hopefully you've obtained the book by now.  If not, run out and get it so you can join us.  I hope you will read the first section titled appropriately "First" as well as Chapter 1.  I'll give you a few discussion questions each week and I pray you will actually answer them in a journal or maybe even in your book.  I'd especially love it if you'd comment on this blog or on my Facebook page so that we can encourage each other as God speaks to us! I'll share with you some of my answers to these discussion questions in hopes of spurring some conversation between us.

1.  Here's the obvious question:  What is that "it" in your life right now?  Is there something in your life that has honestly made you wonder if God can do "this"?  I love this paragraph on page 2:

"You'd still like to think He can.  And if you were to spout all your churchy rhetoric, it'd sure sound like you believe He can.  But deep down - down where your soul pulses with doubt and uneasiness - you wonder about that circumstance, that life issue, that dilemma you're facing.  God may be able to keep the stars in the sky, the earth tilted on its axis, and the heavens hung in glorious array.  But can He do this?"

So what's that for you?

For me, it's my children.  Specifically, it's my boys.  I'm starting to wonder if they will ever be serious and passionate about their faith.  I want so desperately for them to live out their daily lives exuding Christ and serious about sharing their faith.  I want them to enjoy church and not just tolerate it because they have to. There, I said it!  I want them to passionately serve God with their talents and abilities.

It's also college.  Will we ever be able to afford it?  Will my two guys get into good schools?  Will they follow God's leading on where to go?  Will they even really consider His plan and pray about it?  Let's just be honest...will they actually graduate from high school without getting into so much trouble?

Finally, will I ever know EXACTLY what He's created me to do?  How could I expect my kids to live out their calling when I'm never really sure if I'm living out mine?  I do love my life, but there's always that goal out there that I've never quite attained.  Is He able to do that, or is that just my goal and not His?

2. If we are going to openly admit that there is something in our lives making us doubt His ability, we really should also remind ourselves of times when He's undeniably shown His faithfulness.  Priscilla shares story after story on pages 6-12 of times when God has outrightly displayed His ability and faithfulness.  Those stories make me get excited about God's obvious ability!  Dear Friend, God is not just able and faithful in Priscilla's world, He moves in those same ways for us!  So, here's the question, do you have a story?  You do, I'm sure of it!  I love the way Priscilla puts it on page 6:

"Time and again, He has proven very plainly to me that He is not held down by what holds us.  He has bowled me over with His capacity and inclination to do the unthinkable, both in my own life as well as in the lives of others.  As surely as He's tested me, He has also given me a testimony.  And it would be a grand cover-up on my part not to tell His part of the story in the same big bold colors."

What's your story of God's ability and faithfulness?

Mine, plain and simply, is my family.  Those same boys that are my "it" are also my testimony.  Fourteen and sixteen years ago God so very graciously allowed us to adopt Caleb and Justin!  God is faithful and able and His plan is unbelievably spectacular!

3.  Please find an index card or two and literally write Ephesians 3:20-21.  Circle the first word: "Now..."
I urge you to keep this card with you all day.  Put it in your pocket, on your dashboard, over your sink, on your mirror, wherever you are.  I'm making it the screen saver on my phone! I also urge you to set an alarm for 3:20pm (or 3:20am if you can't sleep!) to remind you to pray for God to infuse your current reality with His undeniable ability!  Literally pray the verses back to Him.  It doesn't have to be a long prayer, just a minute will refocus and remind you of His ability!

Read several translations of the verse.  Most of you already know this, but a great free app to use for various translations is YouVersion or Bible Gateway.  Which translation of Ephesians 3:20-21 is the most fresh and meaningful for you right now?

4.  On pages 30-31, Priscilla starts to unveil the setting of this letter Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus. What was seemingly impossible about the situation they were in and how God had called them to live?  Does this realization of their reality offer any challenge or encouragement to you?

5.  Where was Paul when he wrote this letter?  How does the term "prison doxology" encourage or challenge you?

It's your turn!  Come on!  Please share with us what God is teaching you through this study!  I'd love for you to connect with us by leaving a comment!  Feel free to share this with someone who needs a Bible study group!

I'm praying for each of us this week to make the choice to connect our "nows" with God's unfathomable ability and faithfulness!  I'm praying you undeniably sense His presence and love even in your "its"!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Book Study

Its 6 1/2 hours until summer vacation! Just hours left of the best job I've ever had with the sweetest little boy in the world! Back in January, when we were covered in snow, an opportunity fell into my lap that has changed life as I know it! I've had the delight to be a one on one para at Longview Farm Elementary, the adorable school 3 minutes from our home where Sarah has attended kindergarten. I've literally taken my sweet little girl to school with me now for 3 1/2  months, seen her in the halls, become good friends with her teachers, and loved on all her little class buddies. I've been responsible for primarily one little boy who is the hardest working, happiest child I've ever met. He has literally NEVER fussed about one thing since I met him. The job has allowed me to use my dietetics background as well as my education background. And I got paid for it!!! Talk about a dream job! But wait, it gets better! I get the summer off! Pure grace indeed! 

So now I'm wondering how I will spend all this free time this summer. 

Ha! Who am I kidding? I have three very busy kids so our summer is packed FULL! However, I want to lead a few Bible studies because, as most of you know, that is my love of all activities! I was unable to lead a true Bible study after going to work, and I missed the comradarie and accountability. I need that in my life more than anyone!

So here's the plan, and it's all Kristi Pinson's idea. (Kristi is my dear friend and role model in ministry who spends her summers doing mission work in national parks. This year she and her awesome husband,Vince, are in West Glacier, Montana! Kristi asked if I was doing an online study so I decided that even if only she and I were studying together it would be worth it! She will probably be mad that I shared this photo of her and Vince, but she can't reach me right now so I'm safe! She's also an amazing photographer. You should friend her on Facebook so you can pray for and follow their amazing ministry this see some gorgeous photos of Glacier National Park!)

I get to lead a daytime Bible study at my church. If you live anywhere near Lee's Summit I'd certainly LOVE for you to join me on Tuesdays at 10am for Beth Moore's "Sacred Secrets" in FBCLS' Fellowship Hall. This is a great video based study that has minimal homework and we meet only 7 times. It's a great local opportunity.

But...I have friends from around the world who can't come to "Sacred Secrets", so I'm offering an online option. I've been reading a book by Priscilla Shirer titled GOD IS ABLE. It is about my favorite verse in the Bible, Ephesians 3:20, which says,

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)"

This verse has meant so much to me for several years! I have been reading Priscilla's book for almost a week and have already been encouraged and challenged by the insight God has given her. 

So here's how this will work. Starting next week I'll post something on this blog about chapter one. I'll ask some discussion questions and pray that you share what God is showing you. It's a great way to be accountable to each other for staying grounded in God's Word throughout the summer. It's minimal commitment, minimal "homework", but leaves room for God to speak to us through His words, Priscilla's writing, and each other's input. 

All you need to do is get the book and let me know you are on board. Feel free to invite a friend! I love it when I get to study with friends from every season of my life! Sometimes we complain about how horrible technology is and how many terrible things come from it, but this is certainly one way to use it to honor God and encourage one another! Please comment either on the blog or on FB or Twitter @gaylabeth to let me know you are with us! I'd love to see a photo of you with your book too! 

Happy Summer, ya'll!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My goals for 2014

I don't make New Year resolutions. I have before , but it's usually a whopping week before I lose interest and move on to something else. I probably have adult ADD, and I'm serious about that! There's just too much adventure ahead in a new year to make me want to focus on a few resolutions. (Most people in my life are appalled by my take on life and common sense organization! Oh well, it works for us and I have a ton of fun!) Anyway, I don't make New Year resolutions.

I do have some goals for 2014 though. (I actually have a ton of dreams for 2014! What I lack in common sense, down to earth consistency and balance I make up for in dreaming! Dreams and goals aren't always the same though, and most of my dreams would seem too far fetched to share with most people!)  I'll share with you a few of my goals for 2014. You likely won't be surprised by these. 

1.  Read these books!
Please notice I didn't say read more! This is "more" to me! 

I'm currently reading The Book Thief on my Kindle. Blake gave it to me for my recent 44th birthday. I really want to see the movie, but we have a very strict rule around here that books must be read before movies are viewed. It might be on Netflix before I finish the book!  

The other books were gifts as well, from sweet young women in my life! Mickey, Sophie, and Megan are all girls who are seeking God. They represent what I wish I'd been like in my teens and twenty's! I will think of them as I read. Again, it might be June before I'm done. ADD, ya know!  SQUIRREL!!!

2.  My other goal is to lose 30 pounds this year. I hate that it's gotten to this point but honestly it has. 

3.  Finally, I am planning to pray for my children and their schools daily. As I've done this throughout the fall of 2013, I've seen God constantly working! Oh He's always been working in them and in their public schools, but He's revealed so much to me that I would have missed had I not been praying! I'm ruined for less, so even with my ADD tendencies I'll attempt to maintain some focused praying in 2014!

Do you make resolutions?