Christmas – from Elizabeth’s Perspective

The silence is what I remember.  The horrible silence!  I do not like to be quiet.  I like to talk!  Zachariah always said I talked as much as a houseful of children.  Sweet man.  He never blamed me for our decades of barreness.  Never tried to divorce me as being accursed.  We were happy together.

I knew about the looks and the whispers.  I’m sure people thought I was oblivious because I never responded.  But I knew.  And I wept over them.  In private, when I was alone.  I wept bitter tears.  When I held my sister’s children especially.  But in public, with everyone around I talked.  It was how I survived.  I talked about the weather, the harvest, a new fabric, anything and everything was worthy of commenting on.  A gift from God himself to me, being able to talk to a brick wall.  It kept me sane.

So, how could I survive months of silence when of all times there was so much to talk about!  Zachariah coming home after his service in the temple.  Gesturing to me as soon as he walked in the door.  It took some effort but he finally was able to make me understand about the angel and the message about a baby.  A son!  Told to us by the angel Gabriel no less!

I must admit, at first I found Zachariah’s enforced silence because he doubted the angel’s message quite funny.  I understand why he was baffled.  Why we were a couple of old coots by that time!  It was almost embarrassing to become first time parents at our ages.  My sister’s babies all had babies of their own.  It was no wonder he asked Gabriel for a sign.  I did ask him later though why an angel standing in front of him wasn’t sign enough!

But as time wore on the silence stopped being humorous and started driving me crazy!  Five months of seclusion and no husband to talk back to me and no one else to talk to either.  I’m afraid I chattered on even more than normal to make up for Zachariah.  But I missed his thoughts.  Did he believe the angel now?  How would we keep up with such a young one?  Was he excited?  Fearful?  I wished that Gabriel had come to me instead of Zachariah.  I would have believed him right off!

Then Mary came to see me.  I was overjoyed.  She was a cousin to me but much younger than I.  I had not seen anyone from the family in quite awhile.  I  knew her right away when I saw her approaching the house.  I don’t easily forget a face.  But I had no idea of her own miracle until she greeted me.

My baby leaped in my womb.  Jumped for Joy!  And I rejoiced right along with him.  Here I was experiencing this miracle and Mary was carrying Messiah.  Could it be?  I was seeing the prophecies fulfilled in my time!  What a funny pair to choose.  An old lady and a young country girl!  Somehow it was not what I had imagined!

Thankfully Mary stayed with me until it was almost time to deliver my baby.  Finally, someone to talk to!  I told no one else the miraculous news of my baby or Mary’s.  But all of the village mothers knew how I had longed for a child and so they rejoiced with me that God had smiled on my old age.  I don’t doubt that there were a few snickers as well.  If they only knew the whole story!  But that wasn’t for me to tell.

Then Mary left and the baby came.  A beautiful, bouncing boy!  So healthy & strong.  On the eighth day so many were gathered in our small home I felt at once glad and over heated.  Everyone assumed we would name our boy after his father as was tradition.  But I already knew from Zachariah that his name was to be John.

When I spoke up and announced the baby’s name, you should have heard the pandemonium.  You could see the thoughts on their faces, ‘Poor Elizabeth!  This has all just been too much for her!’  So, they asked Zachariah.  And he wrote, ‘his name is John’.  And that was the act of faith God had been watching for.  His tongue loosened up and he opened his mouth and praised God!  From that day on the whole town wondered at John and saw God’s hand was on him. 

I just enjoyed having that little boy.  He was interested in everything and so curious.  I was constantly keeping his hands from hot coals or his clothes patched and in one piece.  Such a bright boy!  Such a joy to his father and I just as the angel had said.  His babyhood and then childhood went so quickly.  Suddenly he was grown and his father and I had to let him pursue his purpose.

What I marvel at the most is that God had such a purpose for us.  Who were we?  Yes, we were in the priestly family, but there were, and are, other families more distinguished than ours.  There were other families who had experience raising children to adulthood.  Their children stood as testaments to their skills as parents.  And yet here we were, two gray heads, and God chooses us.  It doesn’t seem sensible.

But choose us he did and I praise his name for it.  And the part that astonishes me is that it was fun!  Shocking at first.  Definitely unexpected.  But we had never laughed so much or cried so much or just plain lived so much as when we had John.  I am thankful to have seen this miracle.  And so I sing part of my husband’s song on that long ago day….

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel because he has come and has redeemed his people….he has enabled us to serve him without fear.

Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist

  •  Scripture Reference:  Luke 1:5-23, 39-80;  John 1:6-8;  Mark 1:1-8

Christmas – from Joseph’s Perspective

Remember your first table?  I do.  I’ll never forget it.  It was wobbly!  One leg shorter than all the others.  You were so frustrated.  I knew what happened.  I was a boy once too.  It’s exciting to start and finish something all on your own.  You wanted me to be proud of what you’d done.  You got excited when you were almost finished.  And you cut one leg shorter than the others.

I reminded you of the old carpenter’s truth, ‘measure twice and cut once’.  We laughed, and together we cut the other three legs shorter.

When your mother first told me she was expecting you, I admit, I was shocked and horrified.  I thought I knew Mary.  I felt betrayed and angry with her.  How could I have misjudged her character?  And the crazy story about an angel.  It made me wonder.  Did someone hurt Mary?  Was she trying to protect herself by claiming a visit from heaven?

I was confused.  I loved her.  I knew I always would.  I didn’t want to bring her or her family shame.  I knew she was going to visit her barren cousin Elizabeth.  I guessed she would stay until the baby came and then leave the baby for Elizabeth to raise.  No one would be the wiser and Mary could return to her life.

I decided to divorce her quietly.  Sometimes love just doesn’t work out the way you expected. Everyone knows these things happen.  People would understand and forget in time. 

I, well I could have forgiven Mary anything I think.  But I knew the law.  She would be tainted.  A sinful woman.  A child out of wedlock!  It could not be ignored.  Even if no one else knew, He did, He would.

I wanted the Holy One to bless my home.  I would take the pledge of Joshua, ‘As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.’  How could I raise my children to follow the ways of Yahweh if their mother was separated from him?

And then the angel came to me!  He commanded me to take her as my wife.  Mary was carrying Messiah!  What relief I felt.  Mary was still the girl I knew her to be.  And then I felt panic.  I was going to raise the Messiah?

But here we were.  Two people who knew nothing about regular babies let alone the Son of the Most High!  How could we be parents?  A father is to teach his children.  What could I teach the son of God himself?  What could you learn from me?  You who stood at the beginning of all things.  It was overwhelming. 

And then it was amazing.  Your tiny fists waving in the air.  Your cries in the night.  You needing to be held and rocked and sang to.  Before I knew it you were mine.  That’s all.  My son.

And you grew and I started to teach you just like my father had me.  You were a pest to be sure!  As soon as you could walk you were playing in the wood shavings.  As soon as you could talk you were begging to work with me.  Not yet son, you must wait a little longer I would answer you.

Once when you were three or four I went to fix old Elihu’s roof.  Unknown to me you followed behind.  Imagine my surprise when  – as I stood on the ladder – I felt a tug.  And there you were five rungs off the ground grinning up at me!  My heart almost stopped.  Your mother’s would have.  Elihu’s wife grabbed you up and took you inside for honey cakes and a nap until I was finished.

Finally, you were old enough to be in the workshop.  It was time.  Our first lesson was how to choose the wood.  The right wood for the right pieces.  It’s important that the wood match the task it will perform.  You can learn to recognize a wood even by its smell. 

And you learned.  You listened.  Soon you were working with the grain.  Cutting away any rot and planing a board to reveal its inner pattern.  Experimenting to apply just the right amount of pressure so your cuts would not scar the wood but enhance it.  In the end you were a master at the craft.  Just as I knew you would be.

Growing old does funny things to you.  You begin to look back over your life and recognize how blind you were at times.  I see now that I did not understand your complete destiny.  His ways are unsearchable, blessed be His name.  I was so used to you.  To being your father and the everyday routines that we had that I didn’t spend much time thinking about what might be required of you.  What it meant for you to be Messiah.

I cannot think about how you died.  I am glad to have been spared the sight of it.  In my mind I see you carrying that beam of wood and I think about all of the things I taught you.  You would have known the smell of that tree.  What kind-of wood it was by the sight of it.  What it was best used for.

If I had known, all that would be asked of you I would have fought to protect you from it.  Choose another boy!  Not my son!  Don’t ask this of him!  But the Holy One, his ways are perfect!  Now you are alive, seated at His right hand.  All things under your feet.  There is no authority in heaven or earth greater than yours.  I marvel at this!  It is a wonderful mystery to me!

If I would have just listened to your name in the first place.  Immanuel – God with us.  With us.  With a carpenter and his wife.  In their home.  Eating at their table.  It is good that I didn’t see clearly during all those years.  It is good that I only saw my son. 

Joseph, father of Jesus

*Please note:  Most Biblical scholars conclude that Joseph is already dead by the time Jesus begins his earthly ministry.  This writing assumes that Joseph was there for Jesus’ growing up years but not far into Jesus’ adulthood.  It imagines what Joseph’s thoughts and feelings if he had been aware of the full work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

**Scripture Reference:  Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 13:53-56

Christmas – from Herod’s Perspective

A letter from Herod, King of the Jews

Builder of the Second Temple

Founder of Herodion

You ask about the babes.  Why do a few infants still interest the world?  Their lives amounted to nothing, the same as if they had been allowed to survive.  A few less taxes collected that is all.

When the scholars from the East arrived, I was pleased to entertain them.  My court was always welcoming to the learned and the wise.  Their report to me about the celestial announcement of a king was startling.  None of my spies has informed me of this but I considered it my good fortune to have been told.  Now I could act.

I called in the Teachers.  These scholars and their Messiah!  And when I questioned them about a Messiah, what did they say?  They went on and on about 76 generations since Enoch.  A squalling brat born in Bethlehem.  The ancient prophet Micah.  Blah, blah, blah.  Speaking to me as if I were a boy.  Assuring me that a Messiah was coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  So they said.

Those blabbering experts were laughing at me.  I knew many of them doubted my claims to the throne.  I was on it though, wasn’t I?  Backed by Rome as well.  A few peasant priests and their wishes for the throne of David to be re-established would not be allowed to come to anything.  So ridiculous!  What do these religious types know about ruling anyway?

It is the duty of a king to preserve his kingdom.  It is best for the people he rules.  What kind-of king causes chaos and havoc among those he has in his hands?  I could not allow a challenger to my throne.  Where would that have left me and mine?  Chaos would have ensued.  Civil war would have erupted.  People choosing sides.  Armies forming.  Rome hearing that I was losing control.  I could not allow it.  So the babies had to go.  No Messiahs growing up in my kingdom.

How could I have guessed that you were already safe? That God, or your father – so you claim – had preserved you?  I curse the underhandedness of it all! If you want to challenge a king for a throne you must do it face to face, man to man! 

So, you grew up.  You lived.  No one even thought of you again.  All those silly teachers.  All those weeping mothers.  You were just another carpenter.  Who cared?  No one did.  Until the wine.  5,000 fed.  Blind eyes opened.  Everyone’s heads turned.  Who was this?  Crowds whispering that you were Messiah.  Was this finally the king everyone had been waiting for?

And I could have stopped you.  I was so close!  Your time was in my grasp.  Helpless baby!  What a way to send a king into the world!  Who protected you?  Two wide eyed bumpkins!  Bah!!!  It infuriates me even now. But you got yours.  Those same blathering idiots who stood in my throne room and told me about your coming, jealousy got the best of them.  I laugh thinking of their excitement about a possible usurper of my power.  And then you usurped all of their influence right under their noses.  I hand it to you, that really was a fantastic bit of irony on your part.

In the end what did you do anyway?  Die like a criminal.  Be buried in another man’s tomb.  Leave behind a few fishermen with a tale to tell?  Everyone knows about fishermen and their tales.  You failed to take my throne.  You failed to blemish my name; Herod the Great!  The line of David remains dead.

Recall that I was a builder.  I built the second temple – greater than the first.  My name is engraved in the marble.  The walls still stand.  Generations will see it and remember the name of Herod.  I brought water to the desert towns.  I founded cities where none were before. 

What did you build ‘king of the Jews’?  Where is your temple?  Where is your name engraved?  What did you leave behind for the generations to remember?

I remain, as always,

Herod the Great

  • Please note: This is written from the perspective of Herod who was King at Jesus’ birth. This is not the same Herod who was King at Jesus’ crucifixion. This writing imagines what Herod’s reaction to Jesus may have been if he had seen Jesus’ entire earthly life.
  • Scripture Reference: Matthew 2:1-18

On Dogs, and Purpose

In our house, we love dogs!  I apologize to any of you who are ‘cat people’ but I just don’t get it?  How could you prefer a cat to a dog?  Well, it’s a mystery probably best left unsolved.  Anyway, our current beloved dog is named Georgie.  She is everything I love about dogs.  She’s happy, loyal, loving, playful.  But she’s also just a little bit, well, weird.

Maybe it’s nicer to say she’s quirky.  One of several quirks is that she always has to have something in her mouth.  This item could be something that is officially hers like a ball, rope or bone.  It could also be anything else that she can conceivably carry in her mouth that happens to be nearby.  A brush.  A doll.  A sock.  A shoe.  A t-shirt.  She is not a snob about it.  And whatever she has, whether officially hers or not, she will proudly display it by parading through the house making sure all of the humans notice her prize.  Mostly, this is just amusingly weird, uh, I mean quirky.

I’ve wondered why Georgie has this habit.  (I especially wonder when I’m running late and each shoe from a pair is on a different floor of the house because she’s carried them there.)  Then one day as she was proudly parading around with a t-shirt in her mouth, showing off her find, it dawned on me.  Georgie wasn’t crazy!  She was trying to fulfill her purpose in life! 

She’s a Golden Retriever, a breed that is purposed for hunting.  Georgie was born for the thrill of the chase.  The heart pumping pursuit of game.  The reward of bringing in the catch.  All of her instincts rightfully urge her to fulfill her purpose.  Except she can’t.  Because she doesn’t live with any humans who will take her hunting.  So, she’s substituted her real purpose for the much less fulfilling chase of the shoe.  The sock.  The t-shirt.

How many of us live our lives doing the same thing as Georgie?  Substituting our real purpose for something much less fulfilling. 

Born for the heart pumping pursuit of God – but pursuing the average instead. 

Born for the adventure of life lived according to the Spirit – but living the monotony of life on our own terms instead. 

Born for the thrill of a deep down knowing of the Creator of all things – but knowing nothing except the limits of ourselves instead.

We pursue the temporary. 

The popular. 

The acceptable. 

All the while fashioned to pursue purpose that is beyond what we could ever think or imagine.

Georgie can’t help her pursuit of the mundane in her quest to hunt.  She’s a dog.  Her purpose, though important, is dictated by the humans who care for her.  She is relegated to make do with whatever she’s given.

But you can help what you pursue.  You are not relegated to accepting the limits of culture in pursuing your purpose.  You are formed by a God who knows your name and longs to welcome you into his own.  He designed you with purpose.  Don’t trade it for something less.  A t-shirt is never a worthwhile prize when you were made for so much more!

Who I’m NOT Voting For

Have you registered to vote in the November election? Today, October 5, is  the deadline

This year I have had more people ask me to advise them on politics than I ever have before.  Partly because anyone who knows me well understands that I pay very close attention to American politics because it affects my daily life and I like it.  Yep, I know, how can I, right?  But I do.  Anyway, all of these questions tell me there is something going on that is unique to this year.  And who could ever deny the uniqueness –  to put it mildly –  of this year.  So, as a public service, I decided not to endorse a candidate or publicly proclaim who I will personally be voting for.  Instead, find below who I will NOT be voting for and then happily draw your own conclusions.

I won’t vote for someone who thinks that good leadership is to threaten law abiding citizens.

I expect to be governed Constitutionally.  I am shocked to be threatened in any way by government officials, especially those who are not elected, but appointed.  To use a phrase, ‘C’mon man!’.  I literally have never had a parking ticket but suddenly I’m ordered to stay in my home and when I come out I can only do so in an approved way?  What?  Pardon my confusion here but Americans, by and large, are good people.  We do not need to be threatened with fines or jail time or told we’re selfish for opening our businesses, gathering together, sending our kids to school or any other normal activity.  If we have questions about the information being given to us, we have a right to demand our government answer those questions.  And we surely have a right for our directly elected officials to be called into session when a state of emergency has gone on for months!

I won’t vote for someone who believes in social control over Individual rights & responsibility.

The Constitution guarantees that citizens have rights.  These rights do not go away in case of emergency.  After all, if that were to be true, the rights would not really be guaranteed because anyone at any time could manufacture an emergency in order to do away with people’s rights.  Instead, Constitutional rights must be preserved especially in the case of an emergency.  A free citizenry with rights should be given facts about a situation and then asked to use their rights responsibly.  Never forced to give up their rights ‘for the good of everyone’.  Preserving individual Constitutional rights while expecting responsible action results in good for everyone.

I won’t vote for someone who doesn’t support Biblical thinking.

This does not mean I won’t vote for someone who is not a Christian.  A candidate can personally be a non-believer and still support people like me that do believe.  A lot of the thinking behind what we’ve been asked, or forced or intimidated into doing during this pandemic can’t be supported Biblically.  Telling people not to work but to depend on the government for supply is not God’s way.  Telling people not to worship God cannot in any way be supported Biblically.  Using fear to bully people into submission has nothing of God’s Spirit about it.  Supporting in any way the abortion industry is siding with death, never life.  God is the author of life born & unborn.  I won’t agree or cooperate with any of these ways of thinking because I can’t.  I have to run my thoughts and actions through the Bible first and turn away from any type of thinking that I can’t reconcile with God’s.

Voting is important.  But it can’t be approached like a poll on social media.  Voting matters.  But voting for what matters, matters more.

Simple is Best

bible

I don’t really love to cook.  I do cook, however, because I would rather do that than starve. So, when looking for new recipes to try, one of my top criteria is that the recipe be uncomplicated.  If I’m reading through one and it has more than a handful of ingredients, I immediately dismiss it.  Especially if it contains ingredients that I cannot easily find or don’t already have.  I don’t want a complicated, gourmet experience.  I want simple, nourishing, tasty food.  I won’t be any better fed by a complicated recipe than a simple one.

In the same way, we need to make learning God’s Word simple, nourishing and tasty.  Many times, the simplicity of God’s Word has been complicated (probably by publishing companies or TV preachers looking to sell books.  What??  Did I just say that out loud??).  You don’t need to know the Greek meaning, Aramaic translation or conjugate the verb tense to learn Scripture.  I do not mean to say that studying these things is wrong.  Of course not, they are all valuable.  But they can also be unnecessary complications to learning Scripture.  I want to share with you three simple ways to approach learning Scripture.

Come like a little child

Matthew 18:3  “…I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..”

Jesus is using children here as an example to us of the simplicity of the Gospel.  Think about kids for a minute.  They are very literal.  I used to tell my kids I had eyes in the back of my head so I could see what they were doing in the car even when I was driving.  Of course, this was never true. The reason I ‘knew’ what they were doing is by making educated guesses based somewhat on my own childhood behavior in the car.  But the point is, they BELIEVED that I had eyes in the back of my head for several years.  They simply accepted what I told them and acted accordingly.  Kids think in simple terms.

This concept of childish simplicity is vital to learning Scripture.  Take the Bible at face value.  Believe what it is saying as it’s written.  You don’t have to know the genealogy of every person involved in the story to pick up on the simple truths being illustrated.  Scripture simply means what it says and says what it means.  Approach learning it with this kind-of childlikeness.

Learn Scripture by making it a Filter for your everyday decisions

When we fear we will not understand something, we usually avoid it.  This is a very rational thing to do!  (And why I avoid all math above Pre-algebra.)  God does not intend for us to fear approaching His Word.  What if you looked at Scripture in the following way:

Let’s say you hear or read a Scripture such as the Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 6.  Now, you could find a study that would explore in detail each of the fruits mentioned.  And this would be a totally fine thing to do.  But you could also simply take these fruits (or characteristics) and filter any given situation of your life through them.  For example:  You could ask yourself, “Are these fruits present in my working life?”  Or “Are these fruits growing in my relationships?”  You could take an upcoming purchase that your family is thinking about and ask yourself, “Will this purchase produce these fruits in our family or uproot them?”  You could go through the regularly scheduled activities of your family and ask, “Which of these activities produce these fruits and do any of them hinder the growth of these fruits?”  Then take action accordingly.

This is applying Scripture to your life.  And it is not complicated.  The most complicated part of it is choosing whether you’ll obey Scripture or give in to your own desires and impulses.

If you ever need to understand something complicated, the Holy Spirit will make sure you do

Yep, it’s that simple.  It’s his job.  His role.  It’s what he takes joy in doing.  Depend on it!

John 16:13  “…but when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…”  This is part of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples about the Holy Spirit.  God intends for the Holy Spirit to be our greatest tool in learning Scripture.  Don’t complicate what is intended to be a simple system by adding in extra tools that the Bible really doesn’t.  I totally understand why journaling, inductive Bible studies, concordances and commentaries are good tools.  But ask yourself this, ‘Who taught John, Peter, Paul or James the meaning behind everything Jesus taught?  And who led them in writing these things down in Scripture that we have today?’

That’s right.  It was the Holy Spirit.  And he’s the same today as he was then.

God longs to reveal himself to any person who is willing.  Don’t miss out on this because you were convinced it had to be complicated!  Learning Scripture is just like a good recipe, simple is best!

Christmas Traditions

advent-pictureAs a mom, I love Christmas!  For the most part.  Sometimes it is a little bit overwhelming and frustrating to be responsible for completely redecorating your house for a month with overly shiny, twinkly paraphernalia that I would not normally choose for decoration. On the other hand it is very fun to buy gifts that you anticipate will bring delight and bake yummy things that you know will.  I value our family’s Christmas traditions and I thought I would share one of these with you.

We like to have advent calendars that count the days until Christmas.  Our favorites are the ones that offer a small piece of candy for each day.  A few years ago, I thought I would really like to make sure my kids heard the Bible’s account of what we’re celebrating at Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  And not just the second chapter of Luke, which is familiar to many of us.  I wanted them to also hear some of the prophecies about Jesus, Mary’s response to God’s news to her, and the rejoicing of two old saints upon seeing Jesus as a baby.  So, I went through some Scriptures, typed them out and created an advent calendar of my own.

I print these pages, cut the individual verses into strips and then tie these together with red ribbon.  I place these little scrolls of paper on varying branches of our Christmas tree.  Then we choose one each night and read it together.  I don’t number these, we just choose them at random, but you could number them if you wanted to.

Below you can print these pages of verses for yourself and use them for your family this year.  And if you’re already a couple of days behind, no worries, just leave some of the verses together on the strips when you cut them to make as many days as you need.  I hope this simple advent calendar helps you to lead and teach your kids about Jesus! 

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Advent verses

Dear Target

target

Dear Target:

I have enjoyed shopping at your fabulous stores for many years now.  I hate to bring our relationship to an end but that’s where I’m at.  And it’s definitely you, not me.  I’m still willing to be a faithful customer, strolling your aisles for delightful finds.  But I can’t.  I can’t put my three daughters and myself at risk.  You see, Target, we’re women.  And you have insulted us.  As powerful, free and bold as women are in our day and age some facts remain.  Men are stronger than us.  They CAN hurt us.  They CAN overpower us.  They CAN abuse us.  Now why would you expose women to that kind of danger?  I just CANNOT understand that!  If a man has completed his transition  –  and by completed I mean completed  –  you get the drift?  Everything that made him a male, OFF!  Then I can see why he would use the women’s restroom.  But leaving it up to customers to choose?  Putting women at that kind-of risk?  I wonder how long it will be until you face a lawsuit by one or many of your women customers who will become victims of the abuse you have exposed them to. 

I think you made this decision to be somehow morally superior to all of the supposed ‘haters’ out here.  I’m not a hater.  I LOVE my daughters!  I DON’T want them hurt.  And just like I would tell my daughters NEVER to stay with a man who abused them, hit them, hurt them, I won’t hang around a store that makes that possible.  This is a COMMON SENSE issue!  You have abandoned yours.  So, break-up letter complete. 

Your former customer,

Megan

Battlefield of the Mind (Chapters 12-15)

Here are the notes for my Life Group that got cancelled due to the weather on 2/25/16…

Battlefield of the Mind Chapters 12-15 notes for blog

An Anxious and Worried Mind

God wants us to constantly be casting our cares upon him.  He will give us certain responsibilities in life, but the abilities to complete those and anything beyond them is in his hands.  He gives us his peace and assurance that he is in control so that we can live stable, contented lives full of joy.

What kinds of anxieties or worries attack you the most often? 

Worry and fear are a natural human condition.  But we are not called to live the natural, human life.  We are living supernatural lives through Jesus in us.  It is not ‘normal’ for a Christian to be full of anxiety, worry or fear.  There are two ways satan works at us with anxiety.  One is in the form of irrational fear; panic attacks, taking on worry from someone else’s life, etc.  The other is when we have legitimate things to worry about; health concerns, money, kids, etc.

We have a choice to make when faced with either of these attacks.  We can choose to worry, trying to figure out what to do ourselves, (Joyce with her bills) or we can choose to cast our care and rest in God’s peace.  This is easier said than done!!

READ:  First 4 paragraphs on first page of the chapter

READ:  Portions of Matthew 6 on page 113-114

Jesus is without question acknowledging that there will be daily occasions for us to be confronted with worry.  The solution is learning to cast our care upon him trusting that he cares for us.

What are some obstacles (arguments, lofty opinions) in your thinking that try to stop you from casting your care by making you doubt that God does see you, knows your need and is acting?

We may have strong arguments in our own minds against trusting God.  We may even be able to produce evidence from our lives of times we feel that he failed us.

Casting your care upon God, trusting him, inevitably involves submitting to his answer.

READ:  I Peter 5:6,7  page 116

Have you ever had to accept an answer from God that wasn’t what you thought the plan should be?

Let’s talk about two more areas of this:

How do we enter God’s rest?

READ: Last 4 paragraphs on page 117

What responsibilities do we have in casting our care? 

READ:  Worry, Worry, Worry section from page 118 to bottom of page 119

Some things God’s Word says we are responsible for:

  • Working to provide  (Exodus 35:2, I Corinthians 15:58, I Timothy 5:8)
  • Maintaining good relationships with others (family, church, work, community) (Romans 12:18)
  • Tithing/Giving (Malachi 3:8-10, II Corinthians 8:7; 9:7)

God does want us to carry out our responsibilities.  But He never expects us to do this in our own power or strength.  We can do what God has put in our hand to do and then wait on him to do what we cannot.

A Judgmental, Critical and Suspicious Mind

Judgment is to be left to God alone.  We can realize that someone is living sinfully and even confront that sin in them without judging them.  We must be careful not to allow our thinking about someone to concentrate on their faults and so become hyper-critical of that person.  Criticism will lead us to judge.  Being suspicious is often born out of previous hurt and rejection.  We must allow God to heal us so we can enjoy peaceful, loving relationships with others.

Our culture uses the phrase often and loudly, “Don’t Judge!”  What the culture means by this and what God means by this are two totally different things.  The culture means, “Don’t make a judgment call between what is right and what is wrong.”  This is NOT what God means by don’t judge.

READ:  Galatians 6:1-3 on page 126

God does not want us to judge by putting ourselves in a superior position to someone else.  Like this, “I can’t believe they would do that!  I would never do anything like that!”  Completely ignoring the many other things we have done which have been just as sinful.  God DOES want us to and expects us to make judgment calls between right and wrong using what he has declared in his Word as our source.

READ:  Matthew 7:3-5 on page 129

This is how Jesus illustrated us thinking, “…I would never do that!” about someone else.

READ:  Proverbs 4:23, page 132

How do you think you can guard your heart against judgmental, critical attitudes?

What kind-of life experiences do you think can lead to a stronghold of suspicion in your mind?

READ:  I Corinthians 13:7, page 132

As we interact with people in life, I guarantee 100% that each of us will be taken advantage of and hurt at some point, probably at many different points.  What can we do?  Suspicion tells us to protect ourselves at all costs from the hurt ever happening again.  Love tells us to trust God with our hearts.  If they are broken & hurt He will mend them.  This keeps us healthy and able to continue to enjoy relationships.

Are there ever times when we do need to distance ourselves in certain relationships?  How can we do this in a Godly, healthy way?

READ:  Last paragraph on page 133

READ:  John 2:23-25, page 134

A Passive Mind

When we refuse to take responsibility for our thoughts or only do what we feel like doing, we are dealing with a passive mind.  We may not actually be participating in any sinful behavior by having a passive mind, but we are allowing thought processes that are ungodly to grow in us.  We must be renewed in our minds so that Godly thoughts can stir us to action.

READ:  First page of chapter

Our natural selves are driven by our emotions.  In fact, if you think about it, the 10 commandments deal with a lot of sinful behavior brought about by people giving into their emotions of the moment.  Couple this natural tendency in all of us with a culture that encourages us to be ruled by our emotions and you can have quite a mess.

In what ways do you see our culture encourage our natural sinfulness in the area of emotions?

Have you ever heard yourself saying, “I just feel dead” talking about your spiritual life?  Have you ever connected that to being passive?

Here is a phenomenon I have observed many times in my life.  An exciting spiritual event takes place.  Usually in the form of a revival or camp type experience.  It’s exciting.  There are a lot of people involved.  It’s emotional.  Great things happen.  People are feeling very happy about their relationships with God.  They are feeling like everything is going the way it should, spiritually speaking.  These kinds-of events are good.  Often times, people’s lives are brought to a moment of change during events like this.  But it cannot go on forever.  All events like this will end at some point.

Once the event has ended, some people involved begin to feel disappointed.  It may be a vague feeling at first, but soon they find themselves thinking things like, “I just feel so dead!  I wish I felt like I did during (insert event)!”  After a while, they begin to look around and feel that their church is not as spiritual as it once seemed.  That nothing is really ‘going on’.  They may even drift along spiritually until another large event takes place.  Or, they’ll feel a persistent feeling of ‘un-spiritualness’ because nothing else is really ever as spiritual as that one event was.

This is passivity.  Ignoring or discounting the daily, steady growth God is doing and fantasizing about the one big event that might or might not come again.  It is emotionally driven and can give the devil a place in our lives because we begin to measure God’s work by that one meaningful experience.  God often uses mundane, seemingly small, daily events in our lives to bring about real growth and change.  Events are like Birthday Cake;  great & fun but you can’t make a nourishing diet out of cake.

READ:  Read ‘Overcoming Passivity’ section on pages 140 -142

What did you think of the example Joyce uses from Dave’s life?  Is it easy for you to ignore God’s steady, consistent work in you and be on constant look out for a big, emotional experience?

READ:  Last 3 paragraphs on page 145

READ:  Colossians 3:1,2 on page 146

The Mind of Christ

READ:  I Corinthians 2:16 on the first page of the chapter

READ:  First 2 paragraphs on page 152

Our thoughts and emotions can be good indicators of what may be ministering death or life to us.  Satan is sneaky!  He will use odd, aberrant, random thoughts even activities, friendships, entertainment that seem like they’re no big deal initially.

Have you ever discerned something that was ministering death to you?

I..Think Positive:

Look at pages 154-156.  What are your thoughts on Joyce’s teaching on depression?  What did you find helpful?

There are times in life where depression is a normal response like in a grief situation.  But when depression is ongoing or defining or is present without any real reason, this is not a normal condition.

II..Be God Minded:

READ:  Isaiah 26:3 on page 157

We must spend time with God and his word.  Not around him, or learning about Him but actually with Him.  Jesus talked to His Father, knew His Word, used His Word.  Filling our minds with His Word will keep us focused on Him.  It is literally His voice in our head.

III..Be “God Loves Me” Minded:

READ:  I John 4:16 on page 159

READ:  Page 160

I often find that I believe God loves me or not based on my own circumstances, feelings or performance.  Joyce is teaching something very powerful here.  That we should fill our minds with God’s Word about His love for us.  Then let that inform us.

Is it ever hard for you to believe that God loves you?  Or do you find yourself more often feeling like God puts up with you?

I love my children.  They delight me.  I enjoy being around them.  I want to hear from them.  I want to equip them for life.  I want to see their dreams succeed.  Does God feel this way about me?  Sometimes it’s difficult to really believe, but according to his Word, YES he does.

IV..Have An Exhortive Mind:

Have you ever purposely chosen your words toward someone to be encouraging?  Do you feel like you are as conscience of being encouraging as you could be?

READ:  3rd paragraph on page 164

V..Develop a Thankful Mind:

READ:  Psalm 110:4 on page 164 then Hebrews 13:15 on page 165

Being thankful is a powerful weapon.  We can train our minds to concentrate on and choose thankful thoughts to drive out negative ones.  If we struggle with passivity, we can train our minds to be filled with thankfulness as well.

Can you remember a time when you offered a ‘sacrifice of praise’?  A time when your praise & thanksgiving cost you emotionally?

VI..Be Word-Minded:

Meditate on God’s Word.  Compare your thoughts with God’s thoughts.  Do they match?  Are you spending a lot of time concentrating on something that God considers a waste of time?

VII..Be Submitted

Joyce does not teach on this specifically, but I think it is vital to understand that above all else, Jesus’ mind was submitted to His Father’s will.

READ:  Matthew 26:36-46

Jesus struggled 3 distinct times with God’s plan.  And every time He submitted His will in obedience to God’s.  We must do this as well.  Having the Mind of Christ begins and end with submission.