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Month: August 2013

Ladies Bible Study Chapter 2

Ladies Bible Study Chapter 2

Lesson Two

Title: God Knows My Past

The author begins this chapter by talking about her growing up years.  Some were blessed to grow up in a wonderful Christian home.  A place where God was at the center of the home and family and the environment was peaceful most of the time.  Others of us did not have that blessing but rather were taught from an early age to look to God for safety and comfort.

1JOHN 1:5 and 2:11
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
“But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

What is your past?  Have you been rescued from something or did you grow up not struggling with rebellion?

I grew up in a home that was anything but peaceful.  My dad was a very angry man and often abusive in several different ways.  As a young child I remember being fearful the majority of the time.  As I grew into a teenager I was very tempted to rebel.  I hated the home life that God placed me in and I did not understand why He chose our family to be the dysfunctional one.  I remember having to walk to church with my mom and siblings and I was so embarrassed by that fact.  Church members avoided talking with our family minus a select few.  However, God used my youth pastor to touch my heart and life.  I can certainly relate to some of the past the author of this book shares.

She mentions how thankful she is for how God placed a wonderful church in her life especially as she went through some tough years at home.  She mentions that she was raised in government-funded housing and how she saw so many horrible things take place through her childhood on up.  It made me wonder if there were many Christians around her that chose to get to know her.  That knew she lived in government housing and chose to not let that be a hinderance in getting to know her.   When we lived in Arizona we would pick teens up for church and several lived in run-down homes and in government housing and it was at times scary!  There were times I did not want to go pick those kids up simply because of where they were living, yet I knew that at least one day out of the week they had a place to let down and just be a kid.  To be loved unconditionally and they would hear God’s Word in a peaceful atmosphere.

I think that it is easy sometimes to put on blinders as Christians.  We get into our Christian bubbles and are nice and comfortable there.  We focus so much on what is going on in our lives that we fail to see the world on it’s way to hell and also we fail to see other Christians wading through some very real struggles.  We can easily judge, point fingers, and talk about others and how “wrong” they are living/acting because they are not living up to “our” standards of living the Christian life, but because of our blinders we have failed to minister effectively.  There is a song that has meant a lot to me and in it the question is asked, “Does anybody hear her?  Does anybody see she is quickly heading down the wrong road?”  I think sometimes we do see but we choose to stay far away and not reach out to help because it upsets our comfort zone.

This is not how God wants us to live our lives!  He longs for us to be so on fire for Him that we are looking for opportunities to minister to others.  Searching for open doors of opportunity to proclaim the truth and love of God’s Word.  He desires for His children to just get along and put aside petty indifferences and get busy accomplishing His work.

Beth in this chapter mentions the battle she faced as a teenager over wanting to live for Jesus but yet craving acceptance by others.  Isn’t that how we all can be at times?  We love the Lord, we TRULY do love Him, but sometimes our humanness gets the better of us doesn’t it?

Romans 7:15-16 says, “ For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.”   We want to serve the Lord, we want to live for Him, but then our old sinful nature creeps in and we find ourselves doing the things we don’t want to do and not doing the things we know we should do!  This life would be so much easier if we could be perfect, wouldn’t it?

Satan desires to remind us of our failures.  He wants to see us wallowing in regret and reliving those bad memories that have already been forgiven and forgotten by God.  He wants us to feel as if we are useless.

God’s forgiveness is amazing isn’t it?  When I think of Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” I am blown away by the fact that God KNEW what I would be like, how I would mess up constantly, how I would fail Him time and again, and yet He CHOSE to love me, forgive me, die for me!

Is there any part of your past that still hold you back or makes you feel unworthy?

I can see how my growing up years have helped to make me who I am today.  I know that I am quieter by nature but for years having learned to not speak so as not to evoke anger or judgement/rejection, I learned to be silent.  Not that silence is all that horrible, but I know sometimes I don’t reach out to others, even Christians as I should because of fears of rejection or judgement.

God is able to see past what we are now and what we were in the past and He is able to mold us and make us into what He wants us to be!  He sees the potential, even when we don’t see it in ourselves!  I remember when I was a camp counselor we had a guest speaker Tom Farrell come and each night that he spoke he would say, “When I look out in this crowd of teenagers, do you know what I see?  Potential!!”  He saw teenagers that looked like they came from wonderful Christian homes and he saw teens that looked like they enjoyed living in rebellion yet he saw the same thing in all of them, potential!  That is what God sees in all of us!

Now, maybe your past is not one that has many dark secrets, praise the Lord for that!  Maybe your past is full of things you would rather not have anyone know about. Praise the Lord He has pulled you out of the miry clay and set your feet upon a rock!  No matter our past, God wants to use us!

On page 49 the author tells about the events that took place in John 4 how Jesus sat down at a well and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink.  Oh my, that was considered a religious no-no.  Can you imagine the talk that took place?  Wow, what a GREAT gossip story right? “Did you SEE who Jesus was talking to?”  Now even though we do not have those same “religious rules” like they did back then, we can be pretty pharisaical now days too.  We in our Christian circles tend to set up a lot of rules that we expect ourselves and others to live up to.  We almost expect perfection from imperfect people instead of showing grace and mercy.  We have been shown grace and mercy to the extreme by God, so why do we not do the same?

It can be easy to slip into the habit of casually judging others on what they say or do, or even on appearances.  In what ways do you find yourself judging others?

Christ took the “religious rules” that were man-made and tossed them aside.  He got right down to the heart of the matter, this woman’s need for salvation.  He knew she needed His salvation and when the opportunity was there, He took it!  He offered grace, mercy, forgiveness, LOVE to this woman and I imagine this was the first time that she had ever experienced any of those things!  While the religious leaders of the day were judging, the Lord looked at her as a soul in need.  He had compassion.  He knew everything that she had ever done and everything she would do in the future and He loved her enough to sit down with her and share the pure truth of the gift of salvation.  Wow.  How convicting for even me to read that!  How many times have I judged, have I mis-spoken, have I missed opportunities to lead others to Christ because of my own pointing finger?  I am so thankful for Christ and His willingness to forgive and to teach me how to be a better Christian!

Another great example of this is found in John 8 where we find the story about the woman caught in adultery.  Here we see this woman who was caught in the act of adultery.  Think about that, she was CAUGHT in the act of it.  It makes me think that the stone throwers had been watching her, they knew just what she was doing and when because they caught her in the act of adultery.  They looked at her in disgust and saw her sin as so horrible she no longer deserved to live!  They knew if she was to die right then she would go to hell and they were completely fine with that.  Wow.  They brought her to Jesus expecting Him to come to the same conclusion yet His response to them caused them to drop their stones and walk away.  He responded with grace and extended to even this woman the gift of salvation.  He ignored the stone throwers and instead of rejection the woman who needed His salvation, he did just the opposite.

Sometimes our memories of the past can cripple us and make us ineffective for the Lord.  We tend to re-live old memories and often they can make us feel useless.  Song of Solomon 2:11-12 says, “ For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;”  The author was right when she said, “When we hand over our questions, struggles, bad memories to Jesus, they are gone, buried, removed, and separated from us forever!” Praise the Lord!  He takes us out of the mess we make of ourselves and restores us!  He has crowned us with love and compassion!  He is such a great and good God!

Ladies Bible Study: God Knows My Name

Ladies Bible Study: God Knows My Name

I have been doing a ladies Bible study the past 2 months and it has been such a blessing!  Our family had been going through a valley and when this book was brought to my attention I knew that it would be perfect for a Bible study!  It is chalk full of encouragement and God’s Word!

I truly desire to be an encouragement to other ladies and so I thought why not share this Bible study with you?  I have taken my notes, made ’em blog worthy and have them here for you to read, enjoy, and be encouraged by!  We serve a GREAT God who LOVES us and is SO GOOD!  I hope this is an encouragement to you and a real blessing!

The book is entitled God Knows My Name by Beth Redman.  I would highly recommend purchasing and reading it for yourself!  I know you would be encouraged and challenged!

Chapter One

This book was shared with me by a friend who was going through a similar situation that my husband and I have been going through.  When I began reading it I found that it was exactly what I needed to read because it was chalk full of encouragement!  So when my sister in-law asked me to start back up a ladies Bible study I had one of two books in mind and this one was definitely the one I wanted to share with you all.   One thing I do love about this book is that it is full of God’s Word!   I just want to share what impressed my heart as I read the book and how God is using this book to encourage my heart.

Parents are not perfect people.  When we have children we often start off thinking that we know a whole lot more than what we do about child rearing!  The truth is, we don’t know much!  We know that we certainly love these children that start off as tiny babies and as they grow into older children, we begin to grow as a parent.

Beth begins by sharing about her own parents and the hurt that she faced especially with her dad.  The ache that she knew from the rejection of her father was painful.

The point is that though there are many wonderful, caring people out in the world, there are also many that take pleasure in either causing our suffering or watching us suffer.  We all will face rejection of some kind and the pain that can bring is very real.  It can be like a knife searing through our hearts to the very core of our being.  Satan takes pleasure in seeing us suffer.  He enjoys ripping away our identity and making us feel like we are a nobody and have no value or worth.

What a great joy it is to know that even when others reject us or even if our earthly father or mother forsake us the Lord will not ever!  He will never forget us!  I love the verses Beth point us to in Isaiah 49:15-16 which say:

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

I find it interesting that the Lord would use the palms of Hands to remind us that He will never forget us because what is on the palm of His hands?  The scars from the nails bore into His hands!  All of us have scars do we not?  Whether they are physical scars that are visible to us and others or whether they are emotional scars that sometimes are only known between us and our God, we all have them.  They are reminders of things that we have gone through.  I have physical scars that remind me I have several babies who are with Jesus.  When I see those scars I often think about the babies of ours that are in Heaven.  They remind me of the loss and grief my husband and I endured and yet they are also a reminder of God’s grace through some of our toughest valleys.

The scars that Christ bears in His hands, His feet, His side, remind Him of us!  They remind Him of the time He was willing to have His Father’s back turned on Him as He bore our sin.  They remind Him of the agony He went through to purchase us so that we could live for Him!  I imagine those scars are also reminders of how much He loves each and every one of us!  They remind Him, not that He needs a reminder, of our worth in His eyes!

Isaiah 43:1-4 says, “ But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
3 For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”
I learned these verses when I was in high school and I fell in love with them!!  I love how the author of this book points out how God calls us by our name!  Have you ever sat and wondered about what kind of name God would give to you?  He knows us even better than we know ourselves and He gives us a name!
Beth shares that our names mean something and give validity to us.  She shares about the orphans in England and how there was a time when they were not even named.  Very sad indeed.  One of the great joys of expecting a baby is discussing what that precious gift will be named!  My husband and I, just like so many other couples always toss names back and forth about what we think the baby should be named.  Oftentimes when we would toss a name out as an option one of us would disagree because either we didn’t care for the name or we knew someone with that name already and they had the reputation of being an unkind person.  We didn’t want to be reminded of that person every time we called out to our child!

When we name our children we want them to have a name that means something!  We want them to know that when we call their name we love them!  We took time choosing the name we gave them!  When we were expecting our newest baby girl my husband and I wanted to choose a name that represented what was taking place in our hearts when we knew she was on the way.  After loosing several babies both to miscarriage and stillbirth we wanted a name that represented the healing and joy that was taking place in our hearts while we were expecting her.  We chose the name Alyssa because it means Joy, Great Happiness.  We call her our double Joy because her middle name is also Joy!  When God looks at us, what is the name that He calls us by?

God made us, He created every part of our being just exactly how He wanted it to be!Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
He knows how we think, what makes us happy, what makes us cry, He knows our favorite foods and what creepy crawly scares us the most!  We don’t even have to tell Him these things, He already knows!  What love He has for us!  To even take the time to CARE about all the tiniest of details in our lives and about us speaks volumes of love to my heart from my Father!
He not only knows us but God hears us.  He knew that we would all have the need to be heard and to be understood.  Have you ever been misunderstood?  Does it just kill you inside to be able to explain and have the person you are speaking with truly hear you and understand?  What a blessing to know that God listens to us and understands us!
Moving on, the author covers the topic about how God speaks worth over us.  I love the point she makes that after God made us He did not just say “What a great job, how nice!”  No, He exclaimed that His creation was and is “Very Good!” and He longs to have a close personal relationship with us!
I remember when my husband and I began getting to know each other at college. I could not wait to spend time with him each day.  I missed him when we were apart and greatly enjoyed every moment we were together.  The more Chad and I got to know each other the more we loved each other and longed to spend more time together! We wanted to spend time together because we valued the relationship we were building.  That is a similar way to how God feels about spending time with us and developing a relationship with us.  He values us so much that was willing to die for us and rise again, conquering death so that we could have a relationship with Him!  How often it is to take that relationship for granted.  Sometimes when we sit to read God’s Word we forget to really revel in that time with Him.  If we can spout off facts about God’s Word that is great, but if that is all we can do we have missed out greatly on the ability to have a deep and personal relationship with Him!
As we get to know others there are oftentimes risks involved.  Loving others and being loved by them means we are opening ourselves up to potential hurts and disappointments.  However, not opening ourselves up means we could really miss out on wonderful relationships with others.  Sometimes we take this approach with God.  We try not to open ourselves up too much so that we are not vulnerable.  How can we do this?  Well, one way is by not being faithful in devotions.  I’m not just talking about reading through our designated passage but truly meditating on God’s Word and what we are reading.  Another way is by lacking in prayer.  I know God has worked in my heart a lot about developing a better prayer life.  Trying to hold back on a close walk with the Lord is completely pointless, if I can be blunt.  It is pointless because He already knows our thoughts and feelings, fears and worries, so trying to hold back in truly giving them over to the Lord is only going to make us miserable.  A close walk with the Lord brings peace and contentment.  Joy remains even through trials, His will is made crystal clear.  There are SO MANY blessings in having a close relationship with Christ.
Lastly, the author mentioned that God has not forgotten us.  Isaiah 43:2 says, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
In our minds we do know that God will never leave us or forsake us.  We have memorized Scriptures from childhood like Joshua 1:5 where God does tell us He will never leave us and we really do know that He won’t leave us, but sometimes when we are in the darkness of a trial we can look around us and ask, “Lord, have you forgotten where I am?”  Our circumstances make us feel as though we are alone.
Three years ago I found myself truly in the depths of despair.  We were expecting a baby boy and God chose to take him to Heaven instead of keeping him here with us.  The heartbreak literally seemed unbearable.  I remember having to pray and ask God that He would give me the faith I needed to trust Him through that time.  We had recently moved to a new ministry, a new state, no family was around and I literally felt so alone.  Where was God?
He was right there.  In fact there were times I felt like He was literally carrying me through my days.  When I did not have the strength to deliver my very pre-mature baby boy, He was giving me strength.  When I did not have the will power to even desire to get out of bed, He gave me the strength.  I love what the author said, “God is continually at pains to remind us not to be afraid, because He is with us.  If He is WITH us, how can He forget us?”
Matthew 28:20 says, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
No matter where we are in life, no matter what our circumstances, God is with us, He hears us, He places value on us, and He LOVES us!  He is aware of what is going on and He will continue to see us through.  He is good all the time and all the time He is so good!  We can rejoice because God Knows US!