Saturday, March 12, 2011
My new address on the web is:
Come on over and subscribe! You'll find all the old Bread and Water content, plus all the latest information about my new book, Jacob: Journaling the Journey, how to schedule me for a speaking engagement, and more!
And while you're clicking around cyber space, don't forget to "like" my new Facebook page: Michelle Lesley- Author. There'll be sneak peeks at Jacob, contests, and a lot more.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. Psalm 119:133
We'd tell her to come; she'd run away. We'd tell her to stay; she'd run away. Frankly, pretty much anything we told her to do, she'd ignore and run away. Which was all well and good as long as she stayed inside the confines of our fenced back yard. As long as she stayed in familiar territory, she knew where and how far she could run and still be safe.
The problem was that in order to get from our back door to our carport, we had to go through the gate that kept Mathilda in the back yard.
Did I mention she liked to run away?
One day, someone opened the gate, and Mathilda was off like a shot. My daughter was on search and rescue duty that day, so she took off after Mathilda. Unfortunately, Mathilda, with no boundaries to contain her and in unfamiliar territory, got confused and crossed the street at exactly the wrong time-- just as a car was coming. And, sadly, this is where her story ends.
Have you ever heard someone say, "Children need boundaries"? Well, children aren't the only ones. Just as Mathilda discovered, the world can be a big confusing place, fraught with unseen dangers. Even before the Fall, when there were only two people in the world and things were perfect, God didn't just turn Adam and Eve loose to roam the planet indiscriminately. He placed them in the confines of Eden and gave them a one rule boundary. It was for their protection and their joy.
As Christians today, our confines are less visible than the borders of a garden. Our boundary is the Bible. For our protection and our joy, we must stay inside the walls of God's Word. In order to do that, we must:
Know what the Word says:
I will meditate on Your statutes. Psalm 119:48
Study God's Word. Memorize it. Dig down deep into it. Listen to Biblical preaching and teaching.
Obey the Word:
So I will keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever. Psalm 119:44
Often, the problems we experience and the confusing situations in which we find ourselves are a direct result of sin. God's commands are for our good, our joy, and His glory. When we stray from them, things get messed up. And after all He has done for us, is obedience too much to ask?
Go Back to what You Know:
For I trust in Your word. Psalm 119:42
Sometimes, despite our obedience and our love for the Lord, he allows confusing, painful, awful situations into our lives. We don't understand what's happening or why God would allow this terrible thing to take place. It's especially important at these times to stay inside the fence of God's word, draw upon His truths we have memorized and studied, and trust Him. When we're not sure what's going on around us, we can go back and stand on what we can be certain of: God's promises.
God is good, not evil. Psalm 100:5
God loves us. Romans 5:5,8
If we depend on Him and trust Him, God will strengthen us to walk through any situation He sends our way. Philippians 4:13
God can bring good out of any situation. Romans 8:28
Suffering can bring about invaluable spiritual growth. Psalm 119:67, 71, Philippians 3:10, Romans 5:3-4
God's overall greater purpose is more important than an individual's personal comfort. Genesis 50:20, John 3:16
God is faithful and will not abandon us. II Thessalonians 3:3, Deuteronomy 31:6,8
God's comfort is available to us. II Corinthians 1:3-5, II Thessalonians 2:16-17
One day, all things will be set right. Romans 12:19, Revelation 21:3-4
Know the Word. Live it. Breathe it. Stay inside its good and protective boundaries. It's for God's glory and our joy.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I'm so excited to share this with you! This week my publisher, Sheaf House, sent me the cover for my book, Jacob: Journaling the Journey.
It's an exciting women's Bible study on the life of Jacob, and in a format that's refreshingly different from most of the workbook Bible studies you're used to. In Jacob, you'll have the opportunity to really dig deep and discover what God is saying to you, personally, through the Scripture.
Jacob: Journaling the Journey follows the story of this "rough around the edges" Old Testament character as he grows from an impetuous mama’s boy into one of the founding fathers of the faith. Equally important to Jacob’s story are the family members—such as “Manipu-Mom” Rebecca, “Wild Thing” Esau, and Rachel, Queen of High Maintenance—who played such vital roles in his life.
So come join the journey. You'll find that the same God that moved mightily through the life of this rough-and-tumble patriarch can move powerfully in our hearts today.
Jacob: Journaling the Journey will soon be available for pre-order, and will be available through Christian retail stores and on-line this August.
Want a sneak preview? I'm available to speak to your church's women's group, at conferences, retreats, workshops, etc. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or use my regular contact information if you know me personally).
Sunday, January 16, 2011
38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.
39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word.
40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me."
41But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;
42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
I enjoy staging productions and events when I have time and the occasion calls for it. I put together business events when I worked a "real" job. I staged musicals when I directed children's choirs. But the production I enjoyed staging the most was my wedding.
I didn't have a wedding planner. Hardly anyone did back then, and, besides, I wanted to do it myself. I had a ball picking out flowers, shopping for the cake, and taking care of all the other arrangements. But even though I enjoyed those things, on my wedding day, I wasn't immersed in taking care of little details. I was focused on my husband. It would have been silly of me to neglect him in favor of rearranging centerpieces or something like that. And, today, my marriage would be a pretty cold place if all I ever did was fold my husband's laundry and serve him meals without us spending any time just enjoying each other's company.
It's easy to see how those kinds of scenarios would be detrimental to a marriage. But as the bride of Christ, we do things like this all the time. We get wrapped up in serving God and substitute that for sitting at His feet and loving Him. It's like having a birthday party without the guest of honor. Or a marriage without a husband.
Serving God in ministry is important-- after all, if no one put his hand to the plow and served, we'd have no pastors, teachers, missionaries, etc. --but our one on One relationship with God should take precedence over everything else. We get the cart before the horse when our relationship with the Lord is completely tied up in ministry and its results and effectiveness rather than in our own individual relationship with a Person-- Jesus Christ.
I've always jokingly said that God needs Marthas like me, because without us, nothing in the Kindgom would get done. But I'm discovering that's not true. God doesn't need the efforts of any human being in order to get Kingdom work accomplished. He's quite capable of getting the work done on His own. And, frequently, the tasks on my list that I think need to be done are not the same as the items on His agenda.
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." John 6:28-29
He doesn't want my work; He wants my heart.
It's my job to love Him, to know Him, to have an intimate relationship with Him.
'Scuse me, I've got some work to catch up on.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Every year at this time, there's a lot of talk about New Year's resolutions. The new year seems to bring with it a feeling of starting fresh, getting a do-over. I've never really been one for making resolutions, but this year, New Year's coincided with some work God was doing in my life to give me a fresh start.
Sometimes we can get into a rut in our spiritual lives, a rut that's too deep to just step out of by making a few minor adjustments. God has to reach down and pull us up and out of it. That's where I was. Spiritually, I felt dry; as if God were in the other room, and I couldn't quite find the door to get to Him. My Bible study and prayer time were shallow and hit and miss at best, and I was frustrated.
In answer to my crying out to Him, the Lord began to pull me up out of that rut. As He did, what He showed me was that I needed to get "back to the basics" in my spiritual life. This article is the first in a series exploring the basics God is leading me back to.
Grab God's Hand
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. II Timothy 2:5
Looking back, I can see that one of the ways I got into my rut in the first place was some "stinkin' thinkin'". My spiritual life was just beginning to show some signs of dryness around the edges. I thought it was because I was doing my Bible study and prayer time out of habit every day rather than doing them because I felt a supernatural draw to them.
I decided that, rather than have my time with the Lord as a built in part of my every day schedule, I would ask God to give me a hunger for Him and his Word, and that when I felt that longing for Him, I would spend time with Him. I honestly did this with the best of intentions, because I felt myself slipping away from the Lord and wanted to be close to Him again.
Good intentions are a great thing, but if the action they inspire is wrong, the intention is worthless. The action has to be the correct one. Mine was not. John Wesley said, "A fanatic is one who seeks desirable ends, but ignores constituted means." "Constituted means" simply refers to the normal order of operations God has set up. For example, if I want a cake-- a desirable end --I don't hit my knees, ask God to send me a cake, and then go look in the oven to see if it's there. I go to my cabinet, get out the ingredients, mix them up, and bake them. Those are God's constituted means by which I can get cake.
It works the same way in our spiritual lives. Holiness, sanctification (spiritual growth), and hunger for the things of God aren't three wishes magically granted by a genie, even if you call that genie "God". You have to use God's "constituted means" of doing the work to get there.
Paul describes our walk with the Lord as a race or athletic event (I Corinthians 9:24-27, II Timothy 2:5). You don't just rub a lamp, make a wish, and, BAM, you're a great athelete. You get up every day and train and condition whether you feel like it or not. Some days, you'll be excited about working out, other days, you'll want to stay in bed, but you still do it. It's the "doing it" that creates the desire to hone your abilities more, and makes you love the sport more.
Likewise, we will never develop holiness and a closer walk with the Lord just by asking Him for them and then sitting and waiting. As we ask,we have to do the work of study and prayer-- even when we don't feel like it. It is in the "doing it" that God creates the hunger for more of Him. I discovered as I waited and waited for God to draw me close to His side that I was slipping farther and farther away from Him. I was trying to get to my desired end without using His constituted means.
So, when we're down in that rut we can't get out of, we should cry out to God to reach down and lift us out of it, but that's not all. When God extends His hand to pull us out, we've got to reach up and grab hold of Him and hang on, even when we don't feel like it. That's called obedience, and Jesus said if we love Him, we'll obey Him (John 14:23).
There are going to be some dry spells. After all, God didn't talk to Moses from the burning bush every day, now did He? The answer is not to ask God to set the bush on fire, but to hang on to Him in faith when all we see in front of us is a charred pile of sticks.
Keep walking, keep obeying, keep seeking Him. He has promised we'll find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29).