September 17, 2015

Five Verses to Claim Today When You're Worried About Tomorrow

"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister, called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.' " (Luke 10:38-41)
I feel a deep affinity for Martha in this Biblical account.

I know she was a crazy mess, running around like a mad woman, trying to feed everyone, and muttering under her breath about how her sister wasn't pulling her weight. But I've been a guest in homes where there wasn't a Martha, and sometimes I felt like my hosts were not actually aware I was coming. Also, I felt hungry.

But that is a post for another time. (Working title: "This World Has Room for Both Mary and Martha" maybe?)
Today, I hear Jesus' tender, loving voice when He said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things...but Mary has chosen what is better."

Today, as a worrier, I hear Him say to me, "Elizabeth, Elizabeth, you are worried about many things. But I want you to choose what is better."
What is the better way when we're worried? 

Mary showed the answer when she camped out at Jesus' feet, drawing close to Him, giving her attention and devotion. She focused on the Logos--the Word made flesh. Until we can do the same and camp out at Jesus' feet near His throne in heaven, we can focus on the Word.  

We can affirm the truth of it. We can claim it.

How do we "claim" God's Word and the truth it conveys? Here's one process to try out.

1. Read it silently to yourself.
2. Read it out loud. (This really gets the enemy, by the way. He can't read our minds, so he's not laid low by what we think. But the Word of God spoken out loud? That's slaying the dragon, sweet girl.)
3. Write it out.
4. Memorize it. (Need a way to do this? Click here for a printable plan.)
5. Repeat it.
6. Share it.
7. Act on it. Act like it. 

God's Word is rich with anti-worrying promises and precepts that lead us along the better way. Here are 5 to start with today if tomorrow is weighing heavily on your mind and soul.
Click here for a printable version of these cards.
1. Joshua 3:5 ~ "Then Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.' " When we "consecrate" ourselves, we set ourselves apart for God's use. Other versions of the Bible translate the original Hebrew word qadash as "make holy" or "sanctify." When the Bible talks about something or someone being holy, it means it or they are reserved, apart from the ordinary, for a special purpose. I need to dedicate myself today to being ready for what God will do with me and for me tomorrow.

2. Psalm 16:7-9 ~ "I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure." These were my favorite exam-anxiety defense verses in college. I loved the idea that God was working on me even while I slept. And many times, in my dorm room before the test, I'd be yelling, "God is at my right hand! I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN!" I also pictured Him sitting to my right during the exam, literally steadying me as I wrote. Okay, I was a total GPA-worshiping, neurotic freak. But this verse is powerful for any worry-worn situation. Seek God and His wisdom. Check His Word for guidance. Pray about "it." Ask faithful (and faith-full) friends for counsel. Do what you can. Then go to bed and "rest secure" and let God do His thing while you sleep. (He never does sleep, BTW...see Psalm 121:4.) You might also want to try, "declaring," "God is at my right hand! I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN." If nothing else, the enemy will hate it. (See #2 in the "how to claim God's Word" list above.)

3. Philippians 4:6,7 ~ "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I look at this verse as a path from worry to peace. Click here to print a road map for this path.

4. Psalm 27:13,14 ~ "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." I always thought "the land of the living" referred to heaven--the place of eternal life. I looked at this as a promise that no matter how bad now gets, I WILL see God's goodness then in my eternal home. But recently, I learned that "the land of the living" in the original Hebrew refers to life on this earth. In spite of the sin and destruction and evil and heartbreak we experience ourselves and see around us, God is still here. He has not abandoned us. And if we wait for Him, if we are strong and "take heart," we can confidently expect to see His goodness here and now, not just then.

5. Isaiah 43:2 ~ "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Whatever is worrying you is possibly--probably?--very real. I LOVE that this verse doesn't pretend we're never in deep waters or hot fires. When you pass and walk, God says, not if. The Great I AM knows about the floods and the flames. But He declares a couple truths here: 1)He's with us IN them; 2)they will not consume us. They will not destroy us. With God's help, we can and will come out on the other side. 

My mom's favorite quote about worrying is from Corrie ten Boom: "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." Claim the strength God offers you in His love letter today, sweet one! Then, expect His amazing things, His security, His peace, His goodness, and His protection tomorrow.

September 14, 2015

Who is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have to Do with Fruit? (Part 4)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like patience.
What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

The Backstory: 
Alright, precious girl, let's get right to it. Reread the Hang-Onto-It Verse, above. Which of the "varieties" of the fruit of the Spirit would you say is your biggest area of challenge? 

I hope I'm not alone when I say that patience is IT for me. 

I want to act now. I want to do something now. I want to figure this out now. I want resolution now. I want an answer now. I want "it" to happen now.

And while this is clearly MY issue before God, the split-second speed of our modern society doesn't support patience. If a webpage takes two seconds to load, we get irritated. We (okay, I) get annoyed if we (okay, I) have to wait a beat before the car ahead of us moves when the light turns green. We've got drive-thru dining and call-ahead seating and same-day delivery and instant-everything.

I also feel like patience carries with it a stereotype of passivity. Picture a patient person in your mind. What mental image are you painting? 

I've got a vision of someone who's sitting still, not doing much of anything, and not wanting to do much of anything. I'm thinking of someone who is not bothered by waiting. I'm picturing disinterest and "oh, well, whatever" approach.

Of course (you knew this was coming, didn't you?), this is not what patience is about at all.

Make your way to these verses and soak up the details surrounding the presentation of patience you find in each one.
  • Ephesians 4:2
  • Colossians 3:12
  • 1 Timothy 1:16
  • 2 Peter 3:15 
The Greek word for patience as it is used in these verses and in connection with the fruit of the spirit is makrothumia (mack-roth-oo-MEE-ah). Try saying it out loud a couple times. (Bonus points if you work it into conversation at the dinner table some night. Work it in and tell me about it, and I'll send you cookies!)

According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testamentmakrothumia means "forbearance...self-restraint before proceeding to action." And here's my favorite part: "the quality of a person who is able to avenge [herself] yet refrains from doing so." 
photo credit:

Forbearance means "to put up with." "Self-restraint" very often involves choosing not to say one thing and saying something else...or nothing at all. And being able to avenge yourself but refraining from doing it means that you have the way--and often the understandable why--to get back at someone, but you choose not to do it.

My family shows patience to me all the time by putting up with me. They show patience by (and if your mom taught you never to say "shut up," you might want to skip this part) shutting up and not yelling at me, even when I deserve it. They show patience to me by giving up their right to treat me like I treat them and by treating me with God's love instead. And they do all this because they have mercy on me: they do not give me what I deserve.

Patience puts up, shuts up, and gives up.

Patience puts up with others.
Patience shuts up what it could say and says something else...or nothing.
Patience gives up its right to do what it "deserves" to do and shows mercy instead.

I cannot write this post on patience without at some point going back to my own best
schooling on the subject to date: Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit Bible study. My personal workbook from this journey is underlined, starred, exclamation-pointed, and bracketed! In the video session on patience, Beth says, "Patience is not only about what we do but about what we don't...patience waits when it wants to wack."

The Take-Away:
We absolutely know what patiently waiting instead of justifiably wacking looks like: it looks like mercy. And we know what mercy looks like: it looks like God. The Creator of the universe--the Great I AM, the High King of Heaven--sees people declare that He does not exists every day. He sees governments and courts make laws that directly oppose His good and right ways. He sees evil and wrongdoing and sin and wickedness thrown in His face. Why does He not take the action that will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that He is Lord? (Philppians 2:10,11)

2 Peter 3:9 puts the answer to that question so powerfully. Look up this verse and fill in these blanks: "The Lord is not slow in keeping His ___________________, as some understand slowness. He is _______________ with you, not wanting anyone to ________, but everyone to ___________ to ________________."

This is why God puts up with us! This is why He does not avenge Himself--yet--even though He has every right to do it. This is why He does not speak judgement--yet. 

Because of His love. Because of His mercy. Because of His patience. 

The Truth in Action:
What person or situation in your life do you need to apply some patience to? And what will that look like when you do it? 
  • What will you say--or not say? 
  • What will you do--or not do? 
Usually, for me, patience looks like closing my mouth. Also, not slamming doors. I'm not saying this is what I do--or don't do. I'm just saying this is what it would look like if I "did" patience better and more often.

Patience, like every other spiritual discipline, takes practice. And you know what they say: practice makes perfect." Well, actually, no. There is always somewhere further we can go with God. We are always striving to model the perfection of Christ, but we are not there. But, practice does make possible. I can get better at patience. I can practice it so that the next time I need it, it's possible for me to show it.

And remember, the most important part of The Truth in Action for every part of this Fruit of the Spirit (FOTS) series is going to be the same: ask the Holy Spirit (H.S.) to give you His fruit! Listen up, precious girl, you cannot come up with the FOTS on your own. You can't will yourself to be patient, especially when you feel like you have every right to take some action and you have every right to take it now! You can't just grit your teeth and make this FOTS thing happen. You have to ask the H.S. to fill you up with His power every day. 

The great news here is that God will always say "yes" when we ask for something He wants to give (on His own perfect schedule, of course). And we KNOW He wants to give us patience and all the rest of the parts of the FOTS. You can ask for a fresh fill-up of patience to get you through your day and feel confident God is going to be all over that request. So ask! 

Ask the H.S. to give you His supernatural power, because people can't literally see God's Spirit in you, but they can see patience. And remember, you're not doing this hard thing on your own. I'm not doing it on my own. That's why it's not called the Fruit of Elizabeth or the Fruit of (your name goes here). It's the Fruit of the Spirit

His Spirit.
His fruit. 
In you. 
"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

What does practicing patience look like for you? 
Share it in a comment, on Facebook, or in an email!

(Looking for Part 3 of this series? Find it here.)