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!


Becky McVey said...

I read the book The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate. This is a fictional account of a woman who dies. When someone goes to clean out her house, they discover years worth of boxes, all dated. Inside the boxes were letters written to God from this woman. They were her prayers formed into letters like we would write to anyone. I thought, WOW! I started doing that this past March. If there is something I want to talk to God about, either good or bad, either praise or questions, either thanksgiving or a crying out of something I don't understand, I writer my letter to God and put it in my prayer box. The idea being, that at that point, you LET. IT. GO. God's got it now. I can quit worrying about it. I try to focus throughout the day on things I want to put in a letter to God. I don't write every day. Sometimes it is several days in between, but I keep a list of things I wrote about to Him. I find that when I am writing, I am totally focused on what I want to say. I know I can just ramble or get very succint because He understand it all. He understands where I am coming from. One time I literally yelled at Him, on paper, for four pages. When I was done, two hours later, I felt so much better. It was like He finally gave me permission to just let it go. My healing over the problem started at that moment.

I, too, tend to try to manage things myself. I am trying to use this prayer box to help me remember to turn to God and turn away from myself. What I've been trying to do for far too long isn't working for me anymore. I also tend to use Facebook as a place to just turn my mind when I want to just veg and think about nothing besides Candy Crush, for example. Yes it is fun, yes it is a waste of time. I have really been trying to spend less computer time lately and more time enjoying nature. I can see God in the nature, and sometimes that also helps me refocus myself. All the moreso as I get older.

Gayla Mckinney said...

My answers:
1. I realize that this might not be easy for some people, and mind you it's not easy for me either, but I have to say that being in His Word before I face the real world in the mornings is absolutely essential to maintaining focus on Him. I used to get really offended when speakers or even mentors would urge me to have a quiet time with Him in the mornings. "I'm not a morning person!" I would think! I would refute that surely God was as potent at night as He was in the morning! However, I have to say that meeting with Him consistently in the morning is the only way to start any day for me. It is the time He speaks most intimately to me and then I experience the day in light of what He has said to me.
2. There are consistently 2 people who hear my good stuff as well as my whining. First is my sweet husband and second is my BFF Mandy! Blake really is an accountability partner to me because I know he wouldn't whine so I'm so convicted when I complain or feel sorry for myself! I also know, as ministry partners, he needs me to be mature and that reminds me to go to God first! Mandy and I have walked life together long enough to understand that,though we can complain to each other about anything, God is not honored by our constant whining. Thankfully, God usually allows one of us to be "up" when the other is "down". She prays for me as I do for her, plus she is quick to send me an email with scripture and prayers and thoughtful questions. I am so grateful for her accountability!
3. So here's an honest answer to this one! Satan has had me in such a jealous state recently over some dear friend's ministries that I've missed my own calling. I have long wanted to speak and write, and I'm blessed to be connected to many many ladies who do this so well and are bearing fruit. I am a mom and a special needs para in the local school system...far from a platform and successful blog! Satan has tried over and over to tell me that I've failed and will never accomplish anything "big" for the kingdom. I'm so weary of this! It's time to grow up! I am so thankful to God who has made me see my own children and their friends as my primary ministry. It's not about being recognized by anyone but God and those who see who I really am!
4. My preferred distraction is food! Oh yes, and sleep!
5. The story of Caleb in the Bible is perhaps the most special to me in the OT. We named our second child Caleb! I love how it says, "Caleb had a different spirit..." That has certainly proved to be true for us as our Caleb is on the autism spectrum and give me the biggest challenge of my life. I claim in the name of Jesus on a daily basis that our Caleb would be as bold and sure of God's calling as the OT Caleb! He continues to teach me so much every day about myself and my faith! Caleb in the OT got to experience the Promised Land because he believed God. All those grumblers and negative goofballs literally died in the wandering because they did not see God as He truly is, bigger than all their problems! I want my son Caleb to always know God is bigger than any issue He faces, and I want him to operate in that reality!

Natalie Curp said...

1. I of course am not perfect at this, but there are 3 things that I regularly do to keep my focus on Jesus. I start and end every day with prayer and I pray as often as possible throughout the day, especially when trouble arises. Even if it's as simple as "help me, Lord", I try to turn to Him as often as I can. I also try to begin everyday in His Word. This is definitely something I've had to work on because it does not come naturally, but it makes a huge difference how I approach challenges and everyday life when I begin my day intentionally focusing on God's Word. Sometimes I'm able to do a full Bible study (30 min-1 hour), sometimes I focus on one verse that I need to incorporate into my day to day living, and sometimes I read a passage of Scripture and look for something new that stands out or how that passage relates to me and my circumstances. The third thing I try to do is reflect on God's faithfulness and how He always provides for me and my family. It's so easy for me to get stressed and focus on a new problem, so I have to deliberately take a step back and remind myself that God has been faithful in the past and He'll be faithful in the present and future so I don't need to stress.
2. I constantly turn to my husband, Brian, and I'm so thankful that He reminds me to either keep praying or start praying. I have a couple of friends that I can turn to and ask for prayer and know that they don't have to have the details, but I can still be confident that they are praying with me.
3. It is so easy for me to fall into the "it's all about me" trap! It most frequently happens when my husband is extra busy with work and I "feel" like I'm having to do so much more work with the boys and at home and I feel like I "deserve" a break and some me time. My attitude can be so ugly and it's really ridiculous how quickly I can feel sorry for myself! Ugh!!! This is where taking a step back and putting things in perspective and recognizing God's blessings and faithfulness is so important for me!
4. In general, I have to try so hard to be focused and disciplined because when I'm not, I fall into BIG traps. I have a very addictive personality, so if I let myself turn to a distraction to forget my problems, I can be hooked on the distraction for a long amount of time. I've watched entire series of TV shows in relativity short periods of time or read through book series non-stop until I finished at the expense of neglecting important things, just because "I needed an escape" and didn't want to face my problems and became hooked on junk/time wasters in the process. I also turn to food to make things better and have had to discipline my food choices many times over the years.
5. What a great example Caleb is for us! I don't think I've ever paid much attention to his story. I love how he had so much faith and confidence in God that it didn't matter what those around him thought or said. It can be so hard to stand up against others, especially if you are in the minority, and I wonder if my boys will stand up for what they believe in as they grow older. Too often I worry about the negativity of the world rubbing off on my boys and changing them and pulling them away from God. But the flip side is that if my boys remain faithful and obedient to God, they can shine for Jesus and rub off on others in a positive way.
Thanks for these challenging and thought provoking questions, Gayla!!