Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
One of the beautiful things about Gracefully Truthful is the vulnerability required to write each Journey studies. From the beginning, we have strived for authenticity, as our desire has been for other women to know we are walking the reality of the Journeys we write.
Rarely do I write from distant experience,
I write what the Lord is revealing in my heart moment by moment.
It is messy, I cry many tears as I write,
and I trust that the Lord will somehow use my scattered words to bring Him glory.
With that transparency I tell you, sisters, I am walking through an incredibly dark valley.
My future is uncertain.
My dreams are shattered.
My heart is broken.
In the midst of this valley, the Psalms has brought comfort, putting into words prayers I haven’t known how to pray. I’ve spent days sitting in one Psalm drawing as much truth and comfort from it as I can hold before moving onto the next.
It is beautiful to see how the Bible has so many dimensions!
The same verses I clung to as a little girl learning the Lord is my shepherd, are the same verses God used to makes me lie down in green pastures.
Today, those same verses remind me I will never walk alone.
The Bible never changes.
But I change.
Because of that, the Bible will always be relevant.
God spoke through Psalm 6, meeting me exactly where I am.
But His word is ready to meet each of us in every circumstance
because His Spirit makes it come alive!
Women trying to conceive can pray these words back to the Lord.
Mamas grieving loss can read these words as the Spirit ministers directly to their souls.
Soldiers may feel as if this psalm was written just for them, finding solace in His rescue.
God’s Word is relatable, bringing us life!
His Word is for each of us!
“Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am weak;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking;
my whole being is shaken with terror.
And you, Lord—how long?”
My heart echoes amen and amen.
And countless hearts down through the centuries do the same.
Our beings shake.
Be gracious, Lord!
And Lord?! How Long??
The older I get, the more I realize how incredibly messy life is.
Even in the beautiful seasons, there will always be trials to face.
Every single person reading this page has faced a trial of some kind,
so we can all draw comfort from His Word.
“Save me for the sake of your steadfast love!”
Oh sisters, how weak I have felt in this valley!
How deeply I’ve begged, “Save me for the sake of your steadfast love!”
I’ve never experienced the shaking of my bones quite like I have lately.
Often, I find myself crying out to God,
“How long? How long will this season last? Surely this valley can’t be any deeper?”
Are you weary from your groaning?
Is your pillow drenched every night?
Do you wait until your kids are in bed, then let the tears flow?
Do you hold them in for as many days as you can, until they just burst while you’re driving?
Take comfort in this, Dear One, the Lord sees every single tear that falls.
He catches those tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8); He knows the source of those tears.
He knows the heartache, the grief, the loss, the suffering, the anger, the disappointment.
Are your eyes swollen from grief?
Does your head throb from the overwhelming thoughts running through it?
Does your body ache from exhaustion as you long to sleep just one night without the interruption of horrible dreams or racing thoughts?
Does your jaw hurt because of the constant clenching?
He knows each thought, each dream, and your aching body. (Matthew 11:28-29)
He longs to give you rest.
As I sat in my counseling session sharing with my therapist the anger I was feeling, he explained that my grief will come like the tide, sometimes it will roll in and come further up on the shore before descending back down, but like the tide, it will surely come.
The beauty of grieving, he explained, is that I am able to understand even more deeply the devastation caused by sin, and therefore, grasp the need for a Savior even more than I ever have before.
But I do not have to walk through grief alone.
As I enter into a new phase of grief I can bring it to the Lord,
transparently asking Him to walk with me.
The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping!
He hasn’t turned a deaf ear to my pain.
He hasn’t blocked out my mourning or allowed it to become like white noise mixing with the sounds of weeping across the globe.
He has heard each individual cry.
Yours. Mine. Your neighbor’s. Your child’s. The hungry child in Honduras.
The mourning father in Guam. Each and every wail is heard by the Lord.
And the Lord accepts my prayer.
Not only has He heard.
He listens. He accepts.
I look forward to the day I can write a Journey like this from the other side.
But I’m not there yet, and I won’t be for a while.
So, I sit in the peace that is offered in Psalm 6 and throughout the rest of Scripture.
The Lord knows my pain. He knows my tears.
He knows exactly how long this season will last.
And He will walk with me every step of the way.
This Bible study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
Jesus deserves our worship.
He deserves our praise.
As I worshipped God just last Sunday, He revealed Himself to me in new and intimate ways.
He called me to offer something I wasn’t sure I could offer.
But when I did,
it led to an encounter with God I’ve never quite experienced before.
As I worshiped in song, I sang because I knew the reality of all He’s done for me before.
I sang because I know what He will do for me in the future.
I sang because I have walked through dark valleys, and I know He has never left my side.
Jesus paid it all for me, and because of that, I owe Him my everything.
But what if I wasn’t feeling those things?
What if I’m walking through a valley and I feel incredibly alone?
What if I can’t remember what He’s done for me in the past?
Does He still deserve my worship even then?
EVEN THEN Jesus deserves our worship and our praise.
EVEN WHEN we are in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death….
EVEN IF He doesn’t answer our prayers like we want….
He still deserves my worship.
Why worship God when we don’t feel like it?
Paul shares why Jesus not only deserves our worship,
but will one day receive everyone’s worship.
Philippians 2:6-11 is a hymn written, not necessarily by Paul, but reiterated by him as it was circulated and sung throughout the early church.
Imagine yourself there with me.
A small house, packed with 15-20 bodies. Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, women, men, and children. All declaring the beauty of Christ together as one body!
Voices raise, a simple, repetitive tune takes shape, and truth is preached as hearts are knit together by the incredible beauty of the Lord Jesus!
“Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
Who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.”
He didn’t need equality with God, because Jesus IS God.
He was God in the beginning and He is God even now.
The divinity has always been His.
“Instead, he emptied himself
By assuming the form of a servant,
Taking on the likeness of humanity.”
Jesus willingly emptied Himself of His exalted position and laid aside His divine privileges to become a human being. A human! And while we are created in His image, we are completely incomparable to God. The humility and love it took to lower Himself from dwelling as God to dwelling with humanity is utterly incomprehensible.
Jesus didn’t just become a human, He came as a servant.
The Lord came down to serve those which ought to be serving Him.
“And when he had come as a man,
He humbled himself by becoming obedient
To the point of death –
Even to death on a cross.”
Jesus Christ, who IS God, humbled Himself enough to become man, then humbled Himself even more to become obedient to all that was required of Him. Though Jesus retained His divinity even as He walked this earth, He didn’t rely on His divine powers to save Him, make His load easier, or remove Himself from the grip of death. No, He WILLINGLY died.
Jesus didn’t die quickly. He didn’t quietly pass away in His sleep. He died a death reserved for foreigners and slaves, a death that was torturous and degrading.
As God of all, He never had to die, but He chose it.
“For this reason God highly exalted Him
And gave Him the name
That is above every name,
So that at the name of Jesus
Every knee will bow -”
Because of Jesus’ great humility, His obedience, and His choosing to die sacrificially, God exalted His name above all names. Salvation is found in His name alone!
His Name holds all authority for all eternity.
“In heaven and on earth
And under the earth
And every tongue will confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father.”
When time has ended, and the final battle between God and His archenemy Satan has been won, every knee will bow.
Every angel, every woman, every child, every man, every demon,
all will declare that Jesus Christ is the Lord!
Not all will be saved for eternity, that window will have passed, but all will recognize His rule and reign as King of Kings!
All will sing His praises!
And all of this ultimately brings God glory!
So, my dear sisters, why do we worship even when we don’t feel like it?
EVEN WHEN we doubt God’s goodness?
We worship because Jesus is Lord.
We worship Him EVEN THEN because we will all bow before Him one day,
whether we choose to give our lives to Him now or not.
Let your worship be rooted in the truth of Christ’s character, not your fleeting feelings.
Because the One you worship is LORD of all!
If this Sunday you don’t feel like you can worship Him
because of the valley He has walked with you through,
or because of the way He has provided for you,
worship Him simply because HE IS GOD.
He deserves our praise EVEN WHEN.
This Bible study is property of Gracefully Truthful and was first published there as well. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Peter 1:13-16
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8
2 Timothy 4:1-5
Ever since writing for Gracefully Truthful, I’ve been continually amazed how the Lord perfectly aligns Journey Studies I write alongside my spiritual journey with Him.
We choose our Journey assignments months prior to writing,
and even longer before they ever go live on the website.
the Lord always leads me to write specific Journey Studies He knows in advance He will use to transform my heart.
This journey through 1 Peter has proven, yet again, God’s incredible timing and His miraculous voice through Scripture.
As Partners at GT, we committed to read through 1 Peter many times before we even began writing. Two weeks ago (which was months ago as you read my words today), I sat down to read and the tears began flowing as I fixated on the first chapter detailing birth into a living hope.
What I didn’t know when I chose this Journey was when it came time to write,
I’d be swinging from days of great hope to days that left me utterly hopeless.
Hopelessness has been hanging heavy here, Sisters.
But as I sat weeping with His Word, His Spirit breathed, and I was reminded of LIVING hope that is mine in Christ Jesus! Hope that is moving and breathing and actively working because of Jesus!
Our trials will result in “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ!”
(1 Peter 1:7)
And because of that hope, sisters, that massive, freeing, and life-giving hope,
we land at 1 Peter 1:13…
One powerful word; don’t miss it!
Therefore means that “hope” doesn’t stop at “initial salvation”.
Yes, our salvation is certain and sure and these Scriptures that proclaim this glorious gospel are fully reliable because they are the very words of God that will not pass away. (1 Peter 1:25)
Yes! Hope is found here!
But “therefore” means it doesn’t stop there.
Therefore. Because of. For that reason. Consequently. It Continues…
Because our hope is so assuredly solid, we are called to prepare our minds for action, and take an active role in this living hope!
Our salvation, grounded in hope, is meant to catapult us forward into living with hope
as our inner minds shift.
At salvation, we surrender all we know of ourselves to all we know of the Savior, trusting Him not only to save us from Sin and Death, but to save us for the fullness of life. That radical transformation where we begin moving into life, comes as a result of an inner shift. A moving away from conformity to the ways of the world, and a moving into surrendered transformation as the Spirit remakes us into the image of Christ Jesus.
Transformed into holy.
Just as He is holy.
We can never earn holiness, Sisters.
It’s no secret you and I would never, ever reach the perfection of the Almighty God by our own effort. One little lie, one little lustful thought, and we are sinners.
We are justified and made eternally righteous once we choose to make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
We grow in our like-Jesus-ness through daily surrender as we keep our eyes fixed on eternal hope. This is sanctification through the work of the Spirit. If Jesus is ours and we claim His incorruptible inheritance waiting for us in Heaven, then we are called to conform to this gospel, and His holiness, leaving the ways of the world in the dust.
That means the TV shows we watch.
The movies we go to.
The people we spend most of our time with.
The places we hang out.
The way we think.
The way we conduct ourselves at work.
Everything about us should be different because of the therefore.
Because of certain hope in the trustworthiness of the Savior.
Our relationships should look different.
The way we dress should look different.
Our marriages should look different.
Our language should be different.
Not different because we’re trying so hard to look like Jesus.
Different because when we chose Jesus, an inner shift happened, hope grew,
we were made new.
We long to look like Him more than we long to look like
that cute mom we adore on social media.
For me, that’s a hard pill to swallow because I idolize, yes, idolize, other mamas.
Her hair is perfect, her kids look so put together, her house is clean, she’s so talented, AND she loves Jesus?! For a long time, I wanted to look more like her than I wanted to look like Jesus (sometimes I still do). I focused on transforming myself to become more like her instead of my King. Maybe that’s you too?
Eyes on holy.
When we say yes to Jesus, the radical inner shift begins.
I was about five when I asked Jesus to become my King; that’s when my inner shift began. Small, yes, but it was there. My focus changed from inward to upward, and I became passionate about others meeting Jesus! Hope grew the fruit of a transformed life.
Hope of salvation is not the end.
It’s the therefore that doesn’t stop there.
If He gave His life for me to live forever, surely, I can give my life to serve and love Him.
We have incorruptible hope.
It’s solid enough to anchor my everyday life and transform my heart toward holy!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For other Bible studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Samuel 1:10-19
“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods, and I’d look up into the sky – up -up – up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness, and then I’d just feel a prayer.” ~Anne Shirley
I’ve been reliving my childhood fancies lately; escaping into the ever-magical, imaginative world of Anne Shirley. After a difficult upbringing by incredibly strict grandparents, author Lucy Maud Montgomery married a Reverend and wrote many books, including my all-time favorite, Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery’s bold theological statements often pointed out how reverence and worship aren’t what we tend to make it.
Since re-reading Anne’s quote about feeling a prayer, I’ve done just that many times over.
My life feels a little as if it’s spinning out of control right now.
I’ve tried to paint a perfect picture of my life for the outside world to see,
but inside, a tornado rages..
Many days, I feel like I can’t even think what to pray.
So, I’ve closed my eyes, imagined myself in a massive field, and just felt my prayers.
I’ve felt the glory and wonder of God and what He has created.
I’ve felt the loneliness and instability that quakes my soul.
I’ve felt the insecurities and I’ve felt the joy.
And I’ve felt myself releasing it all and giving it to Him.
All without saying a word.
How is that even possible?
Because God knows.
He knows my every thought and every feeling.
He knows me.
The Spirit Himself prays for me. (Romans 8:26)
In this blessed assurance, I’m free to saturate my chaos with intimate moments of communion with my Savior, while He calms my storms and brings peace.
I feel the tornado slowing.
The tension is leaving.
Because of prayer.
Not perfect, holy, well-thought through words.
But connection, groanings I lack words for, shared to the ear of God through the Spirit who dwells within me.
Centuries ago, Christians practiced the discipline of prayer through “Daily Offices”. Believers marked off specific times throughout the day, generally the third, sixth, ninth, and bedtime hours, dedicating them to prayer. At each interval, they put aside their daily tasks to spend time saturating themselves with the Lord.
Prayers of praise.
Prayers of worship.
Prayers of joy.
Prayers of need.
Prayers of longing.
Prayers for others.
Prayers for themselves.
Prayers of confession.
Prayers of angst.
Intimacy and relationship.
What if we prayed like Hannah?
She bitterly wept before the Lord, thinking her prayer,
unable to even audibly speak!
She was heartbroken with infertility. She poured out her soul to the Lord, all of her deep anguish and grief.
What if we surrendered our deep anguish and grief all throughout the day?
Suppose we told Him our ache for a lost brother, or the way our arms feel empty for the child we’ve never held, or how our soul feels crushed from the weight of a seemingly hopeless marriage?
Enter into that intimacy with the Lord, Sisters.
Hearts are changed here.
What if we prayed like David?
King David had an affair with a married woman, yet with the deep convictions of his heart, he cried out to God to wash him of his iniquity and cleanse him of sin.
In prayer, David begged the Lord to restore the joy he’d once known.
What if we recognized our great sins and ugly failures, confessing them to the Lord multiple times a day? Would we become more aware of our pride, quickly confessing and running from it? Would our hearts begin to grieve as we recognized and confessed our lust again?
Enter into that intimacy of giving the Lord your sins, Sister.
Hearts are changed here.
What if we prayed like Mary?
With the news of her pregnancy, and the coming Messiah,
Perhaps she knelt to sang. Maybe she danced, rejoicing loudly while exclaiming the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise! She celebrated her worship!
Sisters, imagine if we were to take intentional time to thank God, celebrate Him, and declare His name throughout the day!
EVEN IF we don’t feel like it.
EVEN IF we have difficulty believing what we say.
Imagine how the thanksgiving we surrender will grow in our hearts, overflowing onto others, and shifting our perspective as we praise the Lord throughout the day.
Enter into that joyful intimacy with the Lord, Sister.
Hearts are changed here!
What if we prayed like Daniel?
Nothing could stop Daniel from praying throughout the day.
Not even the LAW or the threat of his LIFE.
Daniel met the Lord three times, everyday, windows open to the world, unashamed of his God.
What if we said no to distractions having priority over prayer?
What if we paused our lives several times a day to approach the throne of God.
Even WITH kids screaming in the background.
Even WITH a messy house just beyond our closed eyes.
Even WITH a meeting that will last all day.
What if we kept the conversation going on road trips, on business trips, in the grocery store, in the car.
Oh, let’s go there, Sister! Enter into that precious intimacy with the Lord.
Hearts are changed here. Yours and those around you!
I want that in the middle of my messy chaos.
Join me in my Prayer Challenge:
Choose 3 times a day for your phone alarm to go off.
I’m doing it right now setting it for 9 AM, Noon, and 3 PM.
When those timers go off, we pray.
Even if all we can muster is our deepest feelings, a groan, or a cry.
Let’s specifically, intentionally, prayerfully, enter into deeper intimacy with our King.
Watch out, Sisters.
Our hearts and lives are about to change!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was originally posted. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Simon, do you love me with a love that is selfless, pure, and passionate?
Do you love Me most?”
My eyes lifted from my hands, meeting Jesus’ gaze. His question lingered, as the juice from the fish dripped down my forearms, my heart pounding.
I couldn’t stop the scene playing out in my mind’s eye as I recalled the darkest moment in my life…
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” she asked as I walked into courtyard where Jesus was. I quickly shook my head, “I’m not!” But guilt consumed me.
I am. I am His disciple.
But I didn’t want to die.
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” I was asked again. “No!” I insisted.
“But I saw you in the garden with Jesus,” another said.
“No, you didn’t! I do not know this Man!”
The rooster crowed. Just as He’d said it would.
I had denied my Lord three times.
“Lord, You know I love you as a friend and brother,” I respond quickly, my focus returning.
Yet, my heart would not be stilled.
How could I say I love Him selflessly?
How could I say I love Him most?
I denied Him when He needed me most.
But Jesus continued,
“Feed my lambs, Simon.”
His words brought a new scene to mind. It was winter, and we were listening to Jesus as we walked the grand colonnade of Solomon’s temple. His words, as always, had arrested my wandering attention.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers… The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:1-10)
Feed His lambs? But He is the Good Shepherd.
Besides, I’m a fisherman. What does this mean?
I still can’t look Him in the eyes.
He knows me, He knows I denied Him three times, He knows I turned my back on Him.
How could He even ask if I love Him?
Jesus was speaking again, insistently, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me with a love so strong you will put Myself before you?
Do you love me with a love so passionate, you would protect My truth and build others up with it?"
My heart flew to another impossible invitation by the Lord as we’d stood by the Sea of Galilee.
It was my fishing boat, my empty nets, and His winsome offer…
“Hello, Peter. Would you do me a favor and let me get in your boat?”, Jesus asked.
I noticed the crowd of people behind him, moving closer and closer to Him.
His only other option would have been to stand in the sea.
“Yes! Of course. I haven’t caught any fish anyways; my boat is empty.”
He asked me to row out, then He stood and began speaking to the people. I tried to listen as He talked, but I’d been awake all night fishing, exhaustion was setting in.
Suddenly, He had my full attention as He’d turned His gaze on me,
“Put your net out to catch some fish.”
I was embarrassed; I’d caught nothing after an entire night’s worth of work, but who was I to say no?
“I’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, but I’ll try it again for you,” I shrugged and tossed the nets overboard. After a moment, my nets began to tug and tear! Fish flooded my nets! I whistled to our boating partners, and with all of our might, we pulled loads of fish into our boats.
There were so many we began sinking!
I’d been wondering how I would make money today and this Miracle Worker brought in enough fish to cover my wages for days!
It was then I knew, I knew He was Lord!
I fell to my knees, fully aware of my unworthiness and utter sinfulness; I’d begged Him to leave. How could He even associate with me?
“Do not be afraid! From now on, you will be catching men.”
I caught those fish that day, but I gave them to another local fisherman.
Instead, I chose to follow Jesus… this man who was Lord.
The same one I later denied…
“Jesus, You know I love you as my friend.” I dug deep for a response to His incessant questioning, my sorrow continuing to burn hot in my belly.
I loved Him with everything in me. But how could I convey it?
Before I could attempt a better response, He instructed.
“Tend my sheep.”
Or was it an invitation?
Either way, He knew exactly the story His words would bring to mind.
“Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost? And on finding it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing.”
Jesus would leave ninety-nine sheep just to go after one.
He would do that for me, for anyone.
He loved the wealthy and the poor, the Jews and the Gentiles, the adulteress and the leper.
He was more than Jesus Christ to me, He was my Lord, and my friend.
Jesus saw my eyes return to His, my fish breakfast long since forgotten.
“Simon,” He questioned slowly for the third time.
“Do you love me as your friend and as your brother?”
This time it was different.
This time, He knew the answer, and my heart was shattered.
What’s more, I knew the answer.
I knew I just simply loved Him, and that was enough.
Wherever He took me, whatever it cost, whatever the task, I loved Him.
“Lord, You know me; You know everything. You know I love You.”
Again, He invited and commanded, “Feed My sheep.”
“Simon, the cost of following Me is your full surrender. You may lose physical freedom, but you will truly be free. FOLLOW ME.”
Our eyes locked and I knew the depth of this invitation.
I was forgiven.
He trusted me with His sheep.
I was to make fishers of men, continuing to extend the invitation I’d been given.
Why would I say yes?
I loved Him.
He loved me.
Simon Peter’s life is one of transformation and sanctification that we get to watch transform through the pages of Scripture. From the quick and wordy fisherman who was called by Jesus, to the wise and heroic martyr and was an essential piece of the founding of the Church, Peter shows us that even when we fall, even when we deny Jesus, He isn’t finished with us. God’s plan for us is deep and wide. We can accomplish His purposes because of His unconditional love.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
Sisters, the more I study the Bible,
the more I write these Journey Studies,
the more vividly aware I become of
how little I know about God and His love letter to us.
Familiarity with His Word will do that….make you hungry for more of Him.
Transparency is central to all of us at Gracefully Truthful, so,
know that we are right here with you, journeying and learning more of our Savior together.
What we share on these pages….
you’re glimpsing our hearts,
you’re seeing Jesus with the same fresh eyes that we are.
These aren’t just cleverly crafted words to us,
These are the result of hours and hours of pouring over His Word that we might know Him better.
This precious Word, intricately crafted by the Father God as He wove together every single word to declare His love, making known to us the way of salvation and intimacy with Him.
No detail lacks intentionality.
Even the parts we think are boring.
Just a few months ago, I didn’t even know that each portion of the tabernacle symbolized anything. I feel completely unworthy of sharing what I’ve learned with you, but the beauty in this is a reminder that
we don’t need to be a certain age to study the Bible,
we don’t need a degree in Theology,
we don’t even need to be a follower of Jesus for a certain number of years.
The first time I read the Bible cover to cover was in fifth grade. Even today I remember dozing my way through the Old Testament, specifically Leviticus and Numbers.
Boy oh boy were those books a bore! I wondered why God even included them in the Bible!
What did they really have to do with ANYTHING?
In books and movies, the most fascinating characters to me are those who, being incredibly intelligent, are able to map every little detail of their lives. Their knowledge of every supporting character is so thorough, they know exactly how to evoke the intended response. Sometimes you may be confused by their response or action, but as the story unfolds, you realize that every action was part of a well-intentioned plan.
I didn’t sidetrack there!
That is a picture of how God wrote the Bible. The more we study His story, watching it unfold, it becomes evident that even those incredibly boring books, full of instructions and lists, are all part of His well-intentioned plan.
The Day of Atonement is also known as Yom Kippur.
One day a year, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies (the most sacred section of the Tabernacle) to offer a sacrifice on behalf of the people that God would forgive them and remove their sin. Throughout the year, people would offer sacrifices for their individual sins, but this one was corporate as a whole nation before Yahweh.
Two perfect goats were selected for the annual sacrifice.
One goat would be slaughtered and the spilt blood would be sprinkled in the Holy of Holies to “atone” (Hence, “Day of Atonement”) for the sins of the people.
A second goat, a scapegoat, would be sent into the wilderness to “remove” the sins from off the people, carrying them away. The High Priest would place his hands on the scapegoat’s head, symbolizing all of Israel’s sin for that year being transferred to the goat. Then the goat would be sent into the wilderness,
never to return again.
God specifically set up the Tabernacle,
the intricate details of the sacrificial system,
all the feasts and countless minutia we will never fully grasp, to paint a picture with deep, beautiful strokes.
A portrait of all the coming Messiah would be for us, both at the cross and beyond, into eternity.
Jesus is our High Priest, giving us access into the Holy of Holies that we might have an intimate and close relationship with the Holy God of the Universe.
Jesus is our sacrificial Passover lamb, offered up to free us from sin, just as Israel was freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
Jesus is the Scapegoat of the Day of Atonement, taking our sin, being crucified “outside of the city” (Hebrews 13:11) and removing our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west”. (Psalm 103:12)
Jesus is the fulfillment, the perfect fulfillment.
Every picture painted in the Old Testament, finds its beginning and ending in the heart of God as He very intentionally invites each of us to be partakers in the life that will never end.
The delicate detail put in place hundreds of years before Jesus came, long before prophets even began prophesying of His coming – Is incredible!
The Lord does NOTHING without a specific and perfect purpose.
Nothing about Him or His love is reckless.
How incredible it is to know that He loves us THAT MUCH!
He had a great plan to redeem us, but it wasn’t a simple plan.
The more I learn this, the more I realize I will never be able to grasp the great and mighty Love of the Lord.
And the more I learn that,
the more I fall in love with Him.
Leviticus and Numbers,
and every “boring” book or chapter in between…all have a purpose.
They all point to His redeeming plan and incredible love for us!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“I have a gift for your girls! Are you home?”
“Yes! Come over any time.”
“Wonderful. I’ll be there soon. And Kendra? Do not clean a thing!”
I sighed with relief as I looked around at my lived-in home. There was always laundry to be done, diapers I forgot to throw away lying around, and toys scattered about. It used to bother me much more, but when company comes over my stomach still turns a bit when they see…
This is what my “real life” actually looks like.
That sweet friend came, armed with presents for my girls, and conversation about her days of young motherhood. With her son in college, her days of picking up toys are long gone.
As I showed her my twin toddlers’ infamously messy room, with books and dolls strewn about, she laughed and told me something I will remember for the rest of my life.
My friend is known for her immaculate house.
Her Christmas presents are wrapped in October with large, gold bows tied with precision.
So, I was stunned to hear her tell me this:
“Kendra, if I had it to do over again,
I would spend less time worrying about how clean my house was,
and more time with the people who came to visit.
I can see now that I may have made family members and friends uncomfortable with my constant running around and picking up.
I wish I hadn’t cared so much about how clean my son’s room was.
I wish I would have just spent more time playing with him.”
I smiled as I let her words run over me, knowing I would return later to process what she’d shared.
I began to think of Martha and Mary, the sister duo who welcomed Jesus into their home when He came to visit.
Imagine Jesus literally knocking on your door.
What would you do?!
I would probably pass out, which is totally biblical so that reaction would be justified.
Then, I would honestly welcome Him in,
while apologizing for my house being such a mess.
I would excuse the clothes in the foyer, still needing to go into storage.
I would laugh off the toys on the stairs.
I would explain how I still needed to paint the top of the wainscoting we added.
Then I would invite Him to sit on my couch, while laughing about the fact that I was actually going to clean the cover tonight, so that’s why it was dirty.
How do I know how I would respond?
Because that is literally what I say any time anyone comes over.
But sisters… Jesus doesn’t even care!
How do I know?
Martha’s story. She began serving Jesus as soon as He stepped in the door.
Which sounds totally acceptable!
Except… she spent so much time serving Him, she wasn’t actually being with Him.
She offered Him coffee (Or chai or whatever they drank… Wine?)
She asked Him if He was hungry.
She swept up after Him, hurriedly cleaning,
and getting herself in a tizzy.
Soon, as it usually does, that tizzy turned into frustration.
“Jesus! Don’t you care that I’m working so hard to make You comfortable?
I’m working hard and Mary just sits there!”
Jesus turned compassionate eyes on her, telling her she was getting herself in a tizzy.
He said she was anxious and worried and frantic and none of it even mattered.
He just wanted her to sit and to be.
THAT was her best service.
There’s an age-old saying (which, incidentally, is not in the Bible!), that became popular thanks to Martin Luther:
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
But is it?
A pure heart, washed in forgiveness by the God of all righteousness?
Absolutely; that IS godliness!
Having a clean home? Being a clean person?
Not. A. Chance.
Honestly? Jesus was probably a pretty filthy man, physically speaking.
Barely bathing and walking everywhere, mixing sweat with dust will do that to a person.
(And you can’t get more Godly than Jesus because He IS God…so…)
Having a clean home says nothing about your godliness.
Only the status of your soul determines that.
We will NOT get to Heaven and be drilled for those seven loads of laundry we didn’t do.
God will not ask why we didn’t put away that bin of clothes before our guest arrived.
Instead, His Spirit is ready to prompt us now, just as He did with Martha….
Why are we spending so much time cleaning, serving, running, and doing
that we have a hard time slowing enough to listen to our guest?
Why not take the time to pray with them or show them HOPE?
Why work ourselves into an anxious tizzy (I’m clearly loving that word today)
by expecting perfection in our own appearance,
when the Lord has always cared only about the contents of our heart.
God cares about our hospitality, NOT our house.
Whether brick and mortar or skin and bones.
I am so guilty of this, guys!
If Jesus came today, I would be Martha.
Trying to prove my worth by the appearance of my home and my ability to serve Him.
I would completely miss the opportunity to actually be enthralled with Him.
Cleanliness is NOT next to Godliness.
Cleanliness can get in the way of Godliness.
The need to clean, the urge to perform, it can fill our minds, consuming our actions,
even becoming our idol.
And that isn’t godly at all.
Don’t let pressure and performance hinder you
from investing in people and being at peace with Jesus.
*In my struggle to spend more time with people rather than focus on performance, I’ve found the app “The Fly Lady” to be a helpful reset. Give it a try!
This Bible study first appeared on Gracefully Truthful and is property to Gracefully Truthful, as well. For further studies similar to this one, check out Gracefully Truthful.
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Peter 2:9-10
The word adultery makes me shudder. In my lifetime, I’ve watched so many marriages crumble, and all too often, an affair is the the last straw that completely destroys a marriage.
“Not me.” I’ve thought, more times than I’d like to admit.
“I will never be an adulteress.”
But sisters, one thing I’ve learned, is that… I am.
I am an adulteress.
When I chose to give my life to Christ and walk in the grace that has been given to me, I entered into a covenant with the Lord. The theological definition of covenant is: an agreement that brings about a relationship of commitment between God and His people.
In the Bible, covenants were a legal contract, and they were so extreme that blood was spilled to seal the covenant. Abraham sacrificed animals when entering into a covenant with God. (See Genesis 15:7-18 and this Digging Deeper Study)
When I entered into a covenant with God, there was also bloodshed, but it was Jesus’.
At the Last Supper, Jesus held up the cup of wine, symbolizing His soon-to-be-shed blood on the cross, and said, “this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
When I accept Jesus’ sacrifice to forgive my sins,
I enter into a covenant relationship with God.
Not based on my works or ability to maintain good standing, but based on the shedding of Christ’s perfect blood. In the covenant relationship of marriage, the adultery of giving one’s heart or body to someone besides their spouse, breaks the covenant.
When I give my heart or body to something besides the Lord.
That is adultery.
And I hate to admit this…
but many things have captured and held my heart more than the Lord.
I know that He is never going to be the one to leave me, hurt me, walk away from me…
I have His full attention all the time.
He will always uphold His side of the covenant.
But I don’t. I haven’t. And I’ll probably fail again tomorrow or the next day.
I am an adulterous.
Some days, my phone and social media has my heart more than God.
What is the first thing I check in the morning?
What is the last thing I do before I fall asleep at night?
Sometimes, motherhood has my heart more than God.
Not my kids, but the act of motherhood; the busyness and craziness of it.
Sometimes trying to uphold a certain image has my heart more than God.
My appearance and my home.
Everything needs to look shiny and wonderful on the outside.
They are damaging.
They fill me with envy, greed, low-self esteem.
They make me feel unworthy and incompetent.
They catch me in the trap of comparison.
Inside of them, I give my love away to other, lesser things.
Never being satisfied with my lesser loves, I find myself feeling miserable because I’ve completely broken my covenant with God.
And yet, God never stops loving me.
He never stops pursuing me.
I am His, and I will always be His.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)
He is alluring me, calling me back into the wilderness, reminding me that He is present.
Always here, always loving.
Hosea’s love for Gomer and God’s pursuit of Israel, is a side-by-side comparison of His great love and pursuit of His people, of us.
Hosea and Gomer entered into a covenant with each other when they got married and their children were fulfillments of promises God was making despite Gomer’s adultery.
God has entered into a covenant with me, despite my adultery.
He knew I would run just as far and as fast as Gomer, but He pursued a covenant relationship regardless.
In Biblical days, when someone broke their part of a covenant, they could be put to death by the other person they were in covenant with. The sacrificial bloodspill of an animal when a covenant was made symbolized the two parties agreeing, “If I don’t uphold my end of this vow, then let what is done to this animal, be done to me.”
Israel didn’t uphold their end of the bargain.
They deserved death.
But God was gracious and merciful and continued to pursue them over and over again.
Gomer didn’t uphold her end of the bargain.
She deserved death.
But Hosea was gracious and merciful and continued to pursue her over and over again.
I have not upheld my end of the bargain.
I deserve death.
But God is gracious and merciful and JESUS died FOR ME.
Jesus died for me because there was no way I would ever be able to uphold my end of the covenant.
I am an adulteress.
And yet, God still loves me,
He longs for me,
He is jealous for me,
He pursues me.
He still takes my hand in His,
pulls me into the wilderness and speaks tenderly to me.
And just like Israel,
Just like Gomer,
I will come back.
I am redeemed.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com.
Read His Words Before Ours!
She doesn’t even know how loved she is.
She doesn’t know her value.
She doesn’t know her worth.
Hosea was alone, once again. His emotions a mix of anger, hurt, jealousy, and sorrow.
She gave herself and her love to every man except him.
They had joyful and sweet moments, but then, she was gone,
chasing other fantasies….other men.
And Hosea was alone.
Heartsick, worried; He missed his wife.
And this, he knew, was how God felt over His unfaithful people.
The Lord had saved Israel time and time again, He had loved her, pursued her, provided for her, yet Israel gave herself and her love to everything but Him.
There were times of joy, sweet worship, and surrender, but then,
just as it had happened before, they were gone…
Chasing other nations and bowing before other idols,
brazenly loving another.
In Hosea’s emotion he saw the Lord’s heart for Israel.
A burning jealousy for his bride.
A steady flame in his belly, slowly growing until it became a lion within that had to roar.
“Hosea, have mercy on your wife.”
The Lord beckoned to Hosea.
Yahweh, have I not done that before? She had already been loved by many men when I married her, and yet, I gave her all of me, and that wasn’t enough. I am not enough to satisfy her.
Hosea, allure her. Bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
Give her beautiful things. She will know you again.
Let her come home, shelter her from the wars raging inside of her soul.
Give her rest.
How do You do this, Yahweh? How do You endure this?
I see your people, I see their sin! I feel your agony! How can you pursue us still?!
Because I love my people. They have forgotten my ways, ignored the blessing I set before them, broken our covenant. The more they grow arrogant in their independence, the more they sin against me, and I will punish them for their ways because I want them back!
They have forsaken me.
They have left me… just as Gomer has left you.
I am enough for them, but my Bride would rather believe lies.
She forgets that I AM the One who has saved her and lavished gifts on her.
All Israel has is because of Me.
I give her value.
I give her worth.
I’ve fought for her.
Yet, she still forgets me.
Together, their hearts broke.
The Lord’s broke for His children.
Hosea’s broke for his wife, and with fresh eyes, he saw Israel’s faithlessness and he was broken for their sin as a people against the Lord.
As Hosea spoke the Lord’s prophetic words to Israel, his voice broke and the tears poured.
God was speaking to the Israelites, but Hosea was speaking to his wife.
I led her with cords of kindness, with bands of love.
I worked to ease her burdens. I’ve provided for her and given everything to her.
How can I give you up, my dear one?
How can I hand you over to another man?
How can I let you destroy yourself?
How can I let you feel like you are not worthy?
How can I treat you like a whore?
My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
I’m angry, but I will come after you.
I will fight for you.
I will take up my job as your husband and you will come back to me.
Hosea found his wife, who had, once again, been loved by another man.
The love that went far beyond emotion began to billow out as he ROARED:
Return to me, your husband!
No one else can love you the way I do!
I will love you freely, I’m not angry at you anymore!
Come back and live with me, let me protect you, and you will flourish,
you will see your true value and worth.
COME HOME WITH ME. I WANT YOU. I LOVE YOU.
AND I WILL NEVER STOP LOVING YOU.
He paid a price for her and brought her home.
He stared into her downcast eyes and prayed,
Yahweh, let her see her worth. Let her know her value. Let her know how loved she is.
Gomer’s eyes slowly raised and met his, and there she saw love.
There, she saw redemption.
Sisters, the Lord’s heart breaks when we give ourselves to anything and anyone besides Him, just as Hosea’s broke when Gomer gave herself away to other men.
Gomer willingly abandoned her family and husband to pursue something
she thought was better.
She didn’t know her true worth to Hosea.
She couldn’t fully grasp the kind of love Hosea had lavished on her.
The Lord chose Hosea to deliver His messages of coming destruction to Israel,
but the Lord knew that Hosea would be able to deliver these messages in a way no other prophet could… because Hosea lived out heartbroken love in his marriage.
God used Hosea’s heart, his marriage, and his life to showcase His own love for His people.
Sisters, never doubt the trials God is asking you to endure,
because He may just be softening your heart to reach people.
And never doubt the great love God has lavished on you,
because, just as Hosea deeply loved his wife, the Lord deeply loves you.
This Bible Study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is also property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
I had to sit and meditate on this verse for a long time.
I read every commentary you could imagine.
I read and reread the entire 23th Psalm.
I thought about it all throughout the week, and still, I hadn’t had that, “AHA!” moment.
But I think I’ve started to figure out why.
As I sit at my favorite table at my favorite cafe just a few blocks from my house, the Spirit pokes at my heart… “when have you felt the Lord make you lie down in green pastures?”
What moments in my life can I look back, and without a doubt, say there, He made me lie down? As those moments begin to flash in my memory, I realize that for some of those, I didn’t want to lie down. He literally had to make me.
When my twin daughters were born, six weeks premature, and spent two weeks in the NICU, it was one of the most trying times of my life. If you’d told me God was making me lie down in green pastures, I would’ve snickered and rolled my eyes.
But, almost three years removed, I can look back and say that He was there,
holding me, making me lay down and rest.
Providing for me.
Being my sufficiency.
I had hours upon hours to sit and hold my sweet girls, without being interrupted by the daily demands of trying to keep a house clean, prepare meals, or follow a newborn schedule. And while God never wants to His children hurting or suffering, sometimes He allows it.
The very good God allowed my babes to spend time in the NICU, and in it, He showed His goodness by making me lie down.
When my youngest daughter was hospitalized twice last year, again, I was forced to rest and be in the moment. Jesus was making me lie down in green pastures. I wouldn’t have seen it then. I’m not sure I would’ve seen it a week ago. But I see it now. Had I been offered those chances of rest, I wouldn’t have taken them. Which is why He had to MAKE me lie down.
But the other part of that verse is just as crucial as the first… “in green pastures”.
He wanted to feed me, good and nutrient-rich food.
The Bread of Life.
Who is essential for life.
God was giving me that time to be fed, to learn to fully rely and trust in HIM, to take Him in, and soak in His promises of love and protection.
It reminds me of one of my favorite songs, “Blessings” by Laura Story.
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family
Protection while we sleep
We pray for healing
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much, to give us lesser things.
What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re here?
What if trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise?
And here I am, crying all over again as I think about the trials I’ve faced in my life. What if God used the moments created by this fallen world, to show me His blessings, His mercies, and to make me lie down in green pastures?
As I think about this coming year for me… a year I’ve dubbed my year of living “simply”.
Simplifying my wardrobe.
Simplifying the amount of things in my pantry, closets and drawers.
Simply serving more by writing more notes and preparing more meals for people.
Simply reducing the input I receive from social media.
Simply eating a more balanced diet.
Simply finding joy in the little things.
Every time when the Father was making me lie down in green pastures…
He was helping me simplify my life so I can spend more time with Him.
As I’m striving for simplicity, I now see myself as trying to lay down in those green pastures. Maybe this year, God won’t have to “make” me. Rephrase that to… prayerfully, if I listen to what God is calling me to, He won’t have to make me lie down because I already am.
Ready for the rich and nutrient-filled grass that I can freely feast on when I’m in green pastures.
And there it was… my “AHA!” moment.
It came as these words flew from my fingertips because I was writing what the Lord was speaking to my soul…
an invitation to come away, feast on Him, and know Him more deeply.
Not overrun or overruled by my busyness.
Rather, an invitation for me to lie down and rest.
It is so simple.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
From Bible studies to blogs, articles to musings of the heart, Kendra's writings are unbarred and raw - exactly how she speaks.