Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Goliaths and Greater Things

In my last post I pointed out that David was faithful in his everyday, ordinary life as a shepherd, guiding and guarding the sheep, and sometimes fighting lions and bears at great personal risk. It was there, in his everyday life, that he grew strong wielding the weapons of his trade—the staff and sling and stones—and he grew strong in faith in God. He knew God and could confidently say, “the LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear …”

We too live ordinary, everyday lives. We too face our lions and bears, those trials and difficulties that come into our lives, perhaps threatening our livelihood, our health, our families or even our very lives. These are the enemies that come to defeat us, enemies that threaten to destroy us.

Prayer

Are we being faithful to fight them with the weapons given us—prayer and praise and the Word of God? Are we becoming adept in their use and growing in strength, growing in our trust in God? Can we say as David did, “the LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear …”?

 

Praise

It is only in our ordinary, everyday lives, faithfully facing the enemies that would destroy us—our lions and bears—that we learn to fight, becoming skilled and strong to defeat the enemy.

Word of God

Ordinary life is where we learn to know and trust the LORD, bringing him glory as we fight our personal enemies.

This, too, is where we learn to recognize another kind of enemy: Goliath.

Goliath wasn’t David’s personal enemy and he isn’t ours, though most of us have heard the story in those terms.

Considering the biblical text (I Samuel 17), Goliath is a different sort of enemy. Goliath comes against and defies the armies of the living God; he defies the LORD of Hosts, the Lord Almighty.

Goliath is anything that is contrary to the person and purposes of God and he must be fought with weapons, not of this world, but weapons that have “divine power to demolish strongholds … and everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God …” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). What are these weapons?

Prayer and praise and the Word of God. The same weapons we use in our everyday lives. Powerful weapons that we only become skilled at using by fighting our lions and bears, the trials that come to us in our ordinary, everyday lives.

The power of these weapons is spiritual, not of our flesh or the world, not originating with us but with God’s Spirit who lives in us.

Unlike David, who refused to wear the armor given him by King Saul because it didn’t fit and David hadn’t tried it to become skilled in its use, we do have full armor given us by God. It fits us; it is powerful and effective when we become used to using it in our everyday lives. Paul outlined this armor in Ephesians 6:10-18 (TLB):

10 “Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.

14 But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval15 Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17 And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.

18 Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere.” (Emphases added.)

When Jesus was on earth he fought many Goliaths. When he was about to leave earth and return to his Father in heaven he said to his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. … And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. … For he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:12-17, emphasis added).

Jesus obviously expected that we too would fight, not only lions and bears, but Goliaths. All over the world. Else what did he mean by saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)? (Notice the triple “and.” We as God’s people are to be witnesses  in Jerusalem, and …, and …, and ….)

Or this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)?

The Spirit was given for specific purposes. He gives us strength to combat our bears and lions in our ordinary lives. And he empowers us to bear witness to who Jesus is, what he has done, and teach others what he taught. Fighting Goliaths. The Spirit fighting for us for God’s glory.

The questions we must ask ourselves are:

  1. Do I recognize Goliath when I see him? He defies the armies of the living God. He mocks God to his face.
  2. When I do see him, do I have the spirit of David that says, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
  3. And do I have the chuztpah to reply to the naysayers as David did, drawing on his experience of trusting God and finding him faithful to deliver, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:34-37, emphasis added).”
  4. Do I have the jealousy for God’s Name that makes me willing to put “skin” in the game, my skin, for his Name and glory?

The greater works we are to do, that Jesus expects us to do, are waiting to be done. They are there waiting for us to step forward, as David did, in the Name of the Lord Almighty, that the Father may be glorified in the Son—through us.

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands’”(1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV, emphasis added).

Let us get stronger every day wielding the weapons of our warfare—prayer and praise and the Word of God—fighting our everyday lions and bears so that we may be strong in the Spirit and fit to recognize and fight Goliath—doing those greater things—for the sake of his Name, for the glory of the Father.

Let us fear God more than men.

How have you fared with your lions and bears? Are you growing stronger and more confident in the Lord through your trials? Have you discerned the Goliath, who defies the living God, that you should be challenging him for the sake of God’s Name? How is it going?

Send me your questions and comments about this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Scriptures from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Living Bible (TLB) The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures copied from https://www.biblegateway.com

Photo credits:

Photo of woman praying at a conference, Centerpoint Church, 2017

Photo of man (Praise) by Oleander IMG_5787

Photo of Bible by pt1wzi-by-jclk8888-img_7190_p.jpg

Adapted and reposted from original blog post of November 3, 2015.

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The First Step to Building a Bible Study: Making a start

Not all the ladies who had been invited could attend, but we made a start. It was our first meeting to “build a Bible study” based on my book Brokenness to Beauty.

A few months earlier, when I first sat down to begin writing a Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty, I wondered how in the world I could write a Bible study for a chapter in a book that is rather like a portion of a memoir. That’s what the first chapter of Brokenness to Beauty is. It is “my story,” my life story in a nutshell. How do I make a Bible study to go with that?

About that time I’d been reading Psalm 145 in my daily Bible reading. I had camped out there for a week or so, reading and rereading that psalm every day. There was so much there, I just couldn’t move on.

Then I came to this question of developing a Bible study for the book’s first chapter about my life story.

When those two separate thoughts converged in my mind–my story and Psalm 145–it suddenly made perfect sense to develop a Bible study of Psalm 145 to go hand in hand with my life story. It would make perfect sense for every woman’s  story. I began writing.

This became the draft of a Bible study for Chapter One of Brokenness to Beauty that I used it at our women’s retreat in April. I did some rewriting on that first draft based on things I learned from the women as we worked through the study during the retreat.  This was exactly what I knew I needed: the contributions of differing perspectives, insights, comments and questions; and seeing the lesson in action. I learned so much in April.

It was this rewritten draft I handed to my friends gathered around my table on this first day of a “Bible study to build a Bible study.” As we also worked through the study, I made more margin notes as comments and insights were shared by my friends. Then followed more rewriting, adding and deleting as I considered the comments and suggestions given me that day.

This past Tuesday more ladies were around my table for our second Bible study to build a Bible study. Once again I handed out a rewritten draft of the study for Chapter One, plus a partial draft for chapters two, three and eight.

Progress.

I value these times with these women, and the perspectives and suggestions given me to ponder and pray about as I craft this Bible study. I wrote my book alone. I cannot write this Bible study alone. I need other women’s input.

Photo by Gaborfromhungary

Photo by Gaborfromhungary

 

My desire and goal in writing a Bible study to accompany Brokenness to Beauty is to provide women with the tools to help them grasp truths from God’s Word that will give them the strength to go through their tough times.

It won’t be my words that help them so much as my pointing them to the Words of God, who alone is our “very present help in trouble.”

 

 

Are you struggling with a burden that seems too heavy to bear, a trial that threatens to drown you? Do you wonder how you can make it through these dark days?

front cover

 

Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life was written for you.

Pick up your copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or WestBow Press Bookstore today.

Send me your comments or questions and I will prayerfully consider them as I craft a Bible study companion to the book.

 


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The Right Time-Today

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’

But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.’” (Matthew 16:21-27)

This passage is worthy of a campout, metaphorically speaking. We need to set up our camp chair, pitch our tent (ok, maybe an RV), build a fire pit and settle in for a stay.

If you are a fisherman you take your chair down to the lakeside and cast your line into the rippling waters. Let it sink down into the depths of the waters, into the world of the fish, a world quite different from our world of air. You sit in quietness patiently awaiting your prize, a big fish for dinner.

If you are a hiker and explorer, you put on your hiking boots and gather your supplies for a day hike into the surrounding countryside. Your eyes are keen to see every sight; you don’t want to miss the smallest plant or bird or animal. Your ears are alert to the call of an eagle, the delicate and joyful songs of the forest birds, the rushing of the river waters and the wind in the pines. You breathe in the fresh, invigorating scents of the out of doors. Rounding a bend or cresting a summit, you thrill at the vista before you. Your heart expands with the beauty and wonder of it all. These are the treasures you anticipate and spend your energies for.

Camping out in God’s Word can bring us panoramas and thrills and joys in a deeper, more profound way than even the most treasured moments of our favorite activities.

So how do you camp out in God’s Word, exactly? First of all, when you go camping anywhere, you have to carve out time to do it. The camping trip becomes a priority.

We must become the masters of our time, rather than Time being our master. It is a fact that we will do what we want to do. We will find a way to do whatever is important to us. We will: That is simply what it is all about, a matter of the will. Do we want to know God more deeply by spending time with him? And are we willing to do what it takes to make that happen?

I struggle with this very thing. I want to spend more time in God’s Word, really hearing him in the words so I can learn from him. Personally, I require solitude, or at least quiet, to do that well. That’s just how I am.

On the opposite pole is a dear pastor I know, a wonderful and gifted teacher of the Word, whose favorite place to write his sermons is the neighborhood McDonalds! I find that unbelievably funny because there is no way I could accomplish writing anything in a noisy, bustling McDonalds! Yet it works for him, and he is a witness for Christ to the patrons and workers while preparing spiritual food for those of us who come to church on Sunday.

I find it amazing and wonderful how God has made us all different. He is loving it too, I’m sure, when he sees us pursuing him in all our differing ways.

Anyway, back to our will to master our time in order to spend time with God, reading and studying his Word. We do what we want to do, when we want it badly enough.

Want to have more faith? Want it badly enough to make time to read? Because faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). Need encouragement? That too is found in the Bible; encouragement comes from the scriptures (Romans 15:4). Need instruction for living and examples of what not to do and be and also what to do and be? Guess where to look: the Bible (I Corinthians 10:11).

I want to have time to write more, so on many mornings I get up earlier to be able to do so. I snatch times later in the day to focus my thoughts and energies on writing. I also want to read the scriptures more, so I make that a priority for my mornings. Somewhere time can be found. Somewhere in my own 24-hours-a-day allotment of time.

One of my friends listens to scripture on CD when she drives. Another listens to it when she is working around her home. Talk about multi-tasking! They are making time and technology serve them.

We can creatively make time our slave, rather than be a slave to time. We can use technology to serve us, furthering our goals to spend time in God’s Word.

There, in God’s Word, we can increase our faith. And find encouragement to press on. And gain instruction and examples for living in this world.

Master (your) Time. “‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds’” (Matthew 16: 27).

“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts …” (Hebrews 3:13-15).


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Chapter 3: On Prayer–Personal Petition

Do prayers affect outcomes? We wouldn’t pray if we didn’t believe they did. From the testimony of scripture and my own personal experience, I can say with absolute certainty, yes, prayers make a difference. I whole heartedly agree with James when he said:

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.” (James 5: 16-18, The Message)

Praying for Oneself

            “Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.” W.S. Bowd

As I drove away from the doctor’s office yesterday I felt like crying. And I did a little. I had just been to the cardiologist who gave me the results of three heart tests I had done two weeks ago. I already knew I have irregular heartbeats and was put on …          medication but the tests also showed my heart is weak and functioning at 35 % [ejection fraction] rather than a much higher percentage. So I was also put on another heart med .… So I felt my throat tighten up and I silently cried out to the Lord as I drove away …. My cardiologist said she doesn’t know if the weakening of my heart is related to the chemotherapy I received (there are two drugs which I did receive that can cause heart problems). Before my cancer surgery last February I had heart tests done and they came back normal. My current test results are being sent to my oncologist …. I am not overburdened with this news but I am saddened. A feeling of mild sadness lays on me. I think it is similar to what the psalmist may have felt sometimes when he would say, “How long, Lord?”  I really can’t describe my feelings. I only know how I respond to my feelings, and that is to cry out to God, who hears. Sometimes I don’t even have words; I don’t even know what I am feeling to be able to form words. But that is ok, because he listens to my heart. I don’t need words. He gives me peace. I am praying and asking God to heal me of these conditions, strengthen my heart and regulate the beats. (http://jacquesjourney.blogspot.com/  brackets and emphasis mine).

Somewhat different from intercessory prayer which focuses on praying for others, is prayer for our own selves, asking God about things which are dear to our hearts or for needs which are sorely felt. How often I have cried out to God for myself!

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time—waking and sleeping. It does not change God—it changes me.” Attributed to C.S. Lewis.

I pray.


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Chapter 2: Importance of the Bible–Wholeness for Bits and Pieces

When I began blogging my book, Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life, I stated I would be blogging only portions of my book manuscript not the whole of the book; that is reserved for the published version.

This post is the final part of my second chapter, The Importance of the Bible. The next post after this one will start the chapter I designated for Prayer. But let me now wind up my thoughts on how important I believe the Bible is to our movement from brokenness to wholeness.

I had begun chemotherapy and my husband, Randy, and I were contemplating a weekend away in San Diego to celebrate thirty-five years of marriage before he flew back to West Virginia. I wrote in my blog of us and our relationship to God and His Word:

God has been our “traveling companion” all these years. Where would we be without Him? We shudder to think. So how crazy would it be to look anywhere else than to Him for continuing the journey? He alone has “the words of eternal life”, as Peter so aptly put it so very long ago.

I believe the Bible is vitally important as a foundation for our lives and as a stabilizing factor in our times of trouble. It played a major role in my life by pointing me to the Lord, encouraging me in times of fear and uncertainty, and giving me perspective and hope in the midst of the upheaval of my circumstances. Through regular reading and study of God’s Word, with the goal of putting God’s truths into practice in my life, I have been able to maintain balance and wholeness mentally, emotionally and spiritually during times of physical and emotional distress. I have experienced over and over again the exchange of fear for peace: my fear for the peace of God. I maintain this is available to all who look to the Lord in the same way.

At all times, but especially when we are hurting, whatever the source of that hurt, we need that which is beyond and above ourselves and our human limitations; we need the God who spoke and still speaks today through His eternal Word. His words minister life and hope to us. This whole world will pass away, but God’s Word will last forever.


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Chapter 2: Importance of the Bible–Building on the Foundation

If I am to build a strong life on this foundation of God’s Word, I must build well. It matters how I build my life and with what materials. I am convinced the Bible must hold a place of high priority in my life. I must make time to get into the Word, reading it, thinking about what I read and studying it, with the goal of putting it into practice.

As a young adult I made decisions to study the Bible for myself and grew in my understanding of God and His dealings with people. I learned, and am still learning, from my own study of the Word of God.  I also benefit from the good teaching of men and women of God. Study goes beyond simply reading the Word. How often someone, tasked with preparing a Bible study to present to others, has commented on how much they learned as they prepared. They put much more thought and effort into the passage(s) of scripture than those who come and only listen, and they benefitted the most for their own study.

I am no Bible scholar, to be sure, but having learned some basic Bible study methods and tools (Bible study helps) to use, I have been able to glean important truths and applied these to my life over the years. This knowledge-translated-into-life has helped me stand stronger when hit with the storms of life.

Like my dad and uncles who learned how to properly wield the tools of carpentry and construction so they could build solid, lasting structures, so I have been learning to build a strong life by reading, studying and doing the Word of God. It is a lifetime pursuit. And the storms haven’t flattened me yet! From my cancer blog:

            Waiting on the Lord. I am again reading through the book of Isaiah (I highly recommend it) and today read chapter 40. Wow. These passages are so amazing and powerful. They feed the soul, build one’s faith. We neglect the reading and study of the Word of God to our own detriment. God had these words written down for us! I am so thankful He did that. I pray we will always be able to have the Word of God and that those who do not now have it, will be able to get it. I pray that we will eat it as food and be changed by putting into practice what God has said.

I encourage others to also form the habit of making time to spend reading and studying the Bible, listening to what God has to say on a regular basis, not just sporadically. Jesus said it is the one who hears and does his words that will be the one to make it through the storms of life intact. That person will not simply make it through by the skin of his teeth, but will thrive in the midst of suffering and struggle.


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Chapter 2: Importance of the Bible–Time to Breathe

I remember one especially difficult juncture in my cancer treatment. I did not have enough information to feel comfortable with the direction I thought the cancer surgeon was going, in fact, I had a lot of fear, so I postponed the decision until I looked into it further, with much prayer. Here is where putting into practice what the Bible says played a big part in getting me through a distressing time. When the issue was resolved, I wrote in my blog:

And as to fear; fear will come. It is how we deal with it that is important. I went to the Lord (Phil.4:6), recognizing the fear and anxiety rising up in me. I cried out (to God) for help, wisdom, direction, knowledge. I turned to my most trusted confidante and wise counselor, my husband Randy, and we talked and prayed. His insights and encouragement helped me work through a very difficult situation. I sought out others I respect for their counsel, especially those who have gone through these same waters. I continued to seek sound medical advice.

It is agonizing going through the trial, feeling the suffocating fear, the desperate need. But God has proven Himself once again to be compassionate, and faithful to hear our prayers. He gave the information we needed. He gave it within the time frame I asked.

I have found the scriptures to be true and trustworthy. When we put them into practice, those things we cannot do on our own, God does! When I was overcome by fear, but gave my fears to God, I got God’s peace instead, just like He said (Phil.4:6). He guided me to a wise decision. This is just one example. There are so many more.

The issue of how to deal with troubles and suffering in life is spoken to in the Bible and if we pay close attention we can learn to transform these ugly, hurtful things in life into beautiful things which lift up and encourage us and others, and bring glory to God.