Look Back- Remember the Goodness and Grace of God

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

As this year comes to a close and a new one begins, I can’t help but wonder what adventures await us.  2017 has been a blur of busyness and blessings! Sometimes I get so caught up in the present, and excited about the future, that I forget to take the time to look back and remember the goodness and grace of God up to the present time.

It’s important to look back and praise God for his presence, power, provision, and people he’s placed in your life.  Look back at your prayer journal and see all of the answered prayers.  Look back at where you were last January, and where you are now.

How have you grown in your faith, character, and in ministry? What trials did the Lord bring you through? Who were you able to invest in and bring closer to Christ, or who helped you grow this year?

As you look back, remember to thank God for each and every answered prayer, and divinely appointed person who had an impact on your spiritual growth.  Praise him for his goodness and grace.

Psalm 107 is a song of remembrance of all God had done for the children of Israel.  It begins with: O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever, and closes with: Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD, with 41 verses in between recounting the story of God’s deliverance, chastening, provision, and character.

There are two sets of key verses that repeat themselves, and one key word, that I think we can learn from as we look back on 2017.

Four times we see:

  • Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. (v.6)
  • Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. (v.13)
  • Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. (v. 19)
  • Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (v.28) (emphasis mine to show the slight difference in these very similar verses.)

and

  • Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (v.8, 15, 21, 31)

(These four verses imply that the people were lacking in the area of thankful and grateful hearts. They took advantage of God’s goodness and were forgetful of his works.)

The key word is: Mercy

While it only appears as this English word one time in this psalm, the Hebrew word checed appears 6 times as:

  • mercy (v.1)
  • goodness- 4 times (vs.8, 15, 21,31)
  • lovingkindness (v.43)

Checed is goodness, kindness, faithfulness, favor, and mercy.  This psalm perfectly combines God’s character and his conduct.

Even in his chastening for their disobedience and rebellion (and ours), he is at his core and in the very essence of his being, good, loving, and kind.  That’s evident in all he does.

This psalm also showcases God’s sovereignty.  Just highlight all of the verbs related to God in these verses!  Doing so you’ll see that he redeemed, gathered, delivered, led, satisfied, filled, humbled, healed, saved, brought, and blessed (and more).

What action words can you write down to recount how God has revealed himself to you this year?  Maybe you can write your own psalm of remembrance!

As I look back on all of the answered prayers, the miracles, the faithfulness, the love, and the fruit that has come in this year, I can’t help but praise God for his checed.

Did we have some tough times? Of course.  Were there trials and tribulations? Absolutely. Have I made mistakes and missed the mark?  You betcha!  But through it all, God’s mercy endures forever.

Pause to ponder the goodness of the Lord this past year. Look back on the Lord. Even in the heartbreak and hard times, he has been faithful.

He is good and is working all things out for good.

Believe it and move forward by faith, trusting that whatever lies ahead, the same Lord who was with you this year, will be with you in the next, and the year after that until he comes again or calls you home.

~Psalm 107:9~ For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

 

4 Building Blocks to Successful Discipleship- part 1

Here’s the next installment of my biblical discipleship series titled Invest- 4 Building Blocks to Successful Discipleship, part 1- Be an Example.  You can read the two previous posts here and here.

~Titus 2:3~ The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

God is infinitely more concerned with us being godly women than with us doing anything for him. That is why his exhortation to godly character precedes his instruction to teach younger women.

The more mature women in the body are to be an example of:

Sanctified Behavior– “in behavior as becometh holiness”

  • Stand Out from the Crowd!   This church plant in Crete was in the midst of a pagan, idolatrous, wicked environment. The world we live in is no different. The world our girls are growing up in is a crooked and perverse place.  The ladies that come in fresh from the world with no benefit of a godly upbringing carry the baggage of their carnal mindset, just like I did, and need to know what is expected of them as a new believer.  They’re going to need women to look to. They are looking for women like this!

If you read my blog post titled “I’m a Fool!”, you know that when I got saved I was really foolish.  I wanted to be wise and godly so the Lord taught me his word, and gave me a spiritual mentor, a living example to learn from.  I got to see a sober, submissive, Spirit-filled, servant in action.

He didn’t do all that for me just for my sake or the sanity of my husband and children, he sanctified me (and continues to) so that I can be an example to other women.  So that I can disciple and teach from a place of humility, understanding, experience, and God-given authority. And he wants to do the same for you!

Fast Fact: Holiness means uniqueness, set-apartness, or sanctified.

The aged women in the body should stand out from the immature, and the lost, they should be unique.  They should make holiness look good for the younger women, as something they should aspire to.  Psalm 29:2 says to “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”  Holiness is beautiful to the Lord, and it should be to us as well.

Our holiness is dependent on our walk with Jesus, our worship of Jesus, putting in the words of Jesus, and following the ways of Jesus. Ladies should be able to see from our attitudes and actions that there is something very different about us, something they desperately want themselves. The good things listed here that the mature women are to teach the younger women, she needs to be living out in her own life.  Not perfectly obviously, but making progress through her sin issues, always pursuing Christ-likeness. This is sanctified behavior.

The younger women should see that we don’t just read and teach these things, but we actually believe them enough to obey them!  Proverbs 31:10 says “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”  Is it not the same in this world today? Virtuous women are so rare, and so hard to find.  I think it’s time to change that!

  • Stop the Carnality! At salvation the Lord starts conforming us to the image of Christ by pointing out areas in our lives that aren’t holy.  He brings us from carnality to Christ-likeness the more we repent at his conviction of sin, and submit to walk in his ways instead of our own.

~1Peter 1:15-16~ But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Speaking Truth – “not false accusers”

  • Stop Slandering! “Accuser” comes from the Greek word “diabolos” meaning Satan or traducer.  This word is also used as “slanderer” and “devil” in the New Testament.  Proverbs 10:18 says “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.”

Slanderers seek self-elevation and start division.  A false accuser is a pawn of Satan who is being used to sow discord within the body, by spreading lies.

For a biblical illustration of this, read Numbers 12, and checkout my blog post on Miriam- A devilish diva!

The bible says that death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof (Proverbs 18:21).  You have in your words, the ability to speak truth that brings life, or lies that bring death. Slander is deadly to relationships, and kills the unity within the body.

~Proverbs 31:26~ She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 

We are to be the example of sanctified behavior, speaking truth, and of a:

Sober Mindset– “not given to much wine”

  • Stay out of slavery to sin! “Given” means to be enslaved to, to be in bondage to, or become a servant of.  Not given to much wine means not a slave to alcohol.  This is the same instruction given to pastors in 1Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7, and for deacons in 1Timothy 3:8. So the aged women are held to the same standard as the pastors and deacons of the church.

The bible forbids us from being drunk on alcohol.  Ephesians 5:17-18 says “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is, and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

While the bible specifically mentions being drunk on wine, we know that in our world today there are so many more things we can ingest to dull our senses and change our mood and mindset that ultimately bring us into bondage.  We become enslaved to them, and we turn those things instead of to the Lord to help us in time of need. We as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not to be controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit inside of us, and we are not to put anything in the place of God.

  • Start thinking soberly!To change our actions, we must change our thinking. Romans 12:1-2 says “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  Our minds are renewed and we are transformed by putting the word of God in.

A sober mind is a controlled, disciplined, sound mind that filters everything through God’s word.  The only way to have a sober mind is to fill our minds with divine truth.  When trial or temptation comes, we need to cast down imaginations (2Corinthians 10:3-6), and think on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). 

In that moment of decision, stop and ask yourself “what is true?” and apply God’s word to it.  Walk in the Spirit and choose to believe God’s word over how you feel. Contrary to popular belief, you can help it, you do have a choice, and it is possible to be free of emotional instability and bondage to habitual sin.

Pray for the Lord’s help to remember truth, resist temptation, and remain triumphant.  Be intentional to invest in your spiritual growth, be an example to other women by being sober, speaking truth, and having sanctified behavior.  Give them something they will want to follow and learn from!

Biblical discipleship the way Jesus did it is intentional, personal, radical, and fruitful. Stay tuned for the next installment of the Invest Series for building block number 2-Building the Relationship!

Invest

A call to invest…

Psalm 145:3-5~ Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.  I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.  

There are ladies in each one of our generations who don’t know the unsearchable greatness of our God.  There are those in the next generation who haven’t heard of his mighty acts or the glorious honor of his majesty.  If we don’t tell them, who will?

No matter your age or stage of life, your purpose is the same- to glorify God by carrying the truth to the next generation. Investing truth is my passion!

The purpose of Daily His Disciple, and my ministry to other women as a whole, is to encourage women to know the word, exhort them to live the word, and equip them to invest the word.  It’s also the goal of our entire women’s ministry at New Life Baptist Church, where my husband is the pastor.  I recently started teaching a bible study I wrote based on Titus 2, simply titled Invest.  

I thought I would tie in some Saturday Study Snippets from the Daily His Disciple Facebook page, with the lessons from the Invest study, while I work on new content for the blog.

The first Saturday Study Snippet was this bible study tip: When we study the scriptures we need to ask ourselves three questions. (I’ll give you question one and two today, and the third on Saturday, so stay tuned!)

The first question is: What does the text literally mean to the people it was written to?  Basically, establish the historical context.(Here’s the entire post.)

Reading the scriptures this way, thinking about the original audience, will help you to properly interpret and apply the bible. Some great resources for determining the historical context of the scriptures are: Study Bibles, Halley’s Bible Handbook, Blue Letter Bible, or your favorite bible app.

Context of Titus:  The book of Titus is a Pastoral epistle, written by the Apostle Paul around 65 a.d. to one of his Gentile converts and fellow laborers-Titus.  Paul had left Titus in Crete to set up this local New Testament church.  He instructs him on how to select the leadership, warns him of false teachers in the area, gives the character and conduct guidelines of the people within the church, and exhorts them all to maintain good works as they eagerly await the Lord’s return.  The apostle Paul is instructing Titus to establish sound doctrine and sanctify disciples in this church in Crete.

Paul is stressing the importance of investing sound doctrine into every believer so that they are set apart from the wickedness they were in the midst of.

It’s sound doctrine that was needed to counter the false teaching.  It’s sound doctrine that corrects wrong thinking and promotes right living.  It’s sound doctrine that saves the sinner and sanctifies the saint.  It’s sound doctrine that establishes and grows a local New Testament church. 

The second study question is: How is God revealing himself, and what can I learn about God in this passage? Be intentional to look for the Lord!  Write down his attributes and actions, instead of just the principles and promises that pertain to you and your situation. (Here’s the entire post.)

God gave us his word so we can know him intimately and love him intensely.  But if we only read it to see how it applies to our lives or to get some comfort or peace for ourselves, without really seeking his presence, we’re missing out on a deeper relationship with the Author of our salvation.

 

~Titus 2:3-5~ The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Using our study snippet on this passage, we can learn so much about God:

  • He cares about the needs of women
  • He knows the areas we struggle with the most
  • He has a divine design for women
  • He knows we need relationships with other women
  • He is holy
  • He has a holy standard for his daughters 
  • He cares about our husbands and children
  • He is serious about his word

In three short verses we have a better understanding of our caring, holy, omniscient God!  Imagine how well we would know him if we were intentional about investigating the scriptures instead of merely reading them.  I’ll have the next question and more from the Invest study coming at ya later. In the meantime, start utilizing these two study snippets, and see how your knowledge and understanding of not only the scriptures, but also of the Savior matures.

~2Timothy 2:15~ Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Confident in Christ

I am absolutely head over heels in love with the scriptures (and the Author of them I might add)!  Because of this passion for the truth you’ll hear me say “One of my all-time favorite verses” no less than a 1,000 times.  It’s just one of those things you’ll have to overlook as I write, or better yet, let my zeal rub off on ya!

That being said, one of my all-time favorite verses is one that I learned early on in my walk with Jesus.  During the first couple years after my salvation I memorized a boatload of scripture and I am so thankful I did, as it’s harder for me to do that now.  I built up a spiritual storehouse that I’ve been able to draw from several times of the years.

Every scripture strengthens and sustains me for the calling He’s placed on my life.

This is one of those scriptures that I’ve returned to time and time again:

~Philippians 1:6~ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

I’m just going to be honest here.  I have three major struggles with my flesh, and one of them is insecurity. (I’ll talk about the other two in later posts.)  I’ve studied it out, and even taught on having security in Christ, but if I’m not walking in the Spirit those old feelings will creep right back in on me.  Feelings like:

  • God’s done using me
  • I’ll never be as fruitful as those well known teachers
  • I can’t change women’s lives like their writing does
  • I don’t know enough

Maybe you can relate.  If I’m not mindful to think on the truth of scripture in those moments of insecurity, I’ll be clouded with doubt and discouragement for days.  That’s not how God whats me or you to live!

You know, it all boils down to the fact that I’m believing a lie in those moments.  The lie is that I’m not good enough, smart enough, winsome enough.  You could be deceived into thinking you’re not pretty enough, thin enough, funny enough, or wealthy enough.  The world, flesh, and Devil will always be drawing us into discontentment with who we are in Christ.

We have to know and apply the truth to break up the cloud of lies.

Clearing the fog…

  • God started the work in me and he will finish it (Phil.1:6)
  • Comparing myself with others is not wise (2Cor.10:12)
  • I can’t, but Jesus can, and he lives in me (props to my Mom for that one!)(1Thess.5:24)
  • The Spirit of God is my teacher and will continue to reveal truth to me as I study (John 14:26, 2Tim. 2:1)

Looking up these verses, and praying for God to renew my mind and strengthen my heart really helps me to be confident in my calling to teach women the word. I’m far from perfect. I’m not a bible scholar, and I still have a lot to learn.  But God has placed a burning desire within me to teach the word, so I’m just going to keep studying, and growing, and sharing it with you! I’m going to focus on who he made me to be, and walk in step with the Spirit with a sober mind full of the truth of the scriptures.

He doesn’t give me more self-confidence, but Savior-confidence.  The problem with insecurity is that my eyes are on myself and my abilities, instead of on Christ’s.  Apart from him I am nothing and I can do nothing, but with him I can do all things. (John 15:5, Phil.4:13).

If you’re struggling with insecurity, write down the areas you feel the most inadequate. Look up verses that address that, write them out and memorize them. (I use the search feature on blueletterbible.org ) Pray about each one of those things, and let God change the way you think and feel.

Be confident in your calling as a chosen child of the King!  He hand-picked you for his purposes.  

A fantastic way to be secure in who we are in Christ is to make a word cloud from various key words in the scriptures that plainly tell us our true identity.  I did this one at wordclouds.com:

wordcloud

 

It’s not fancy, but it’s truth. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are chosen, accepted, beloved, forgiven, and free daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords.  So let’s hold our heads high and live like it!

If you need help out of the fog of insecurity today, clear some time in your schedule to just sit down with Jesus.  Let him remind you of the truth of the scriptures. Saturate your mind, soothe your soul, and rise up empowered to pursue the passion he has placed in your heart today! ♥