Redefining Good

We all want good. Bad is, well…bad.

But what is good? Is it universal or different for everyone? Is there a secret to getting what is really “good”?

More importantly, what does God say is good and is it the same as what I think is good?

In this week’s video lesson we’ll dig in to Scripture so we can begin to redefine what is good, based on God’s Word, rather than our own fleeting feelings and opinions.

You can find the video link for the lesson here:

 Good Gifts Live Week 1 Video Link

Share the following meme with friends on social media, during your church announcements, or through a method that is private to share the burdens of life together and offer them up through the Good Gift of prayer.

Earthquakes, prayers, and prophecy


I have been through two earthquakes in my life. They were tiny, but there is something unsettling about the earth shaking beneath your feet. As a child, when the first one happened, I was shocked and unsure. I had nightmares for weeks. If the Earth could shake, what else could happen? This time it was little, but would another one come and swallow my family up? My poor parents comforted my fears brought on by an overactive imagination with incredible patience.

The next one happened shortly after Dave and I were married. I was an adult. Things should be better, right? But that earthquake stuck with me for weeks, months even. It opened questions long left tucked away. If the ground itself moved while we went about our business, how unstable was life?

Yesterday we had the Rock standing strong, today we have mountains quaking. Open your Bibles if you have them to Isaiah 64:1-5 to see where they meet.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
    those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
    in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?

Did you notice the irony? These Israelites are asking for an earthquake. They want the mountains to tremble if it means God would come to meet with them. What I called instability, what created fear in my heart and soul, these people were desperate for, because it represented the mighty act of a God that they thought was all but lost.

So they prayed. These verses and those that follow are a prayer of confession. Repentance and reconnection with a God they loved and longed for. In His absence, or rather in the lifting of His closeness, they found themselves parched, thirsty, and incomplete.

“We long for Your presence, Lord!” is their song. “We need You, Lord. We looked away. Forgive us in Your great mercy, we cry out. Make the mountains shake with Your power and might and Here-ness.”

And God answers. He answers prayers with just that –

He comes here.

Jesus Christ came down from on High to be present with His people. The mountains quaked at His death. They quaked at His resurrection.

The proof is in the pudding, folks. Glance at Matthew 27:50-52 –

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised…

Now check out Matthew 28:1-2 –

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Yes! Jesus does just that. He causes the earth to shake, the foundations to tremble because He, friends, is the True Foundation. He is the only thing we really have to stand on.

Want to see another earthquake? Just one more? Turn the pages of Scripture to Acts 4:24-31. I’ll insert just verse 31 below for want of space –

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Prayer does crazy things. God does crazy things. His power is not of this world and when we pray, stuff happens, namely, loving tender care in relationship with a loving tender God. The earth may not shake when we pray, it could, but even when it doesn’t, earth shaking things happen in our own life because we are molded and shaped by His Spirit instead of our own will.

He is ALIVE. His Spirit works! I would rather lean on that any day than the floor underneath me that fades like fall leaves.

And so we pray…

Lord, make my earth quake with Your presence. Let not my heart trust in anything but You and You alone. We call upon You. We confess our trust in the things of this world, in the foundations of this temporal place that passes away. We look to You, Lord, and the forgiveness You offer. We thank You for Your Grace and Mercy and work in our lives daily, for seeking us out and bringing us to You, Lord. Thank you for Your Faithfulness every day. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen. 

 

Exploration:

Have you ever been through a small or large natural disaster? What was your experience?

What comfort does it give, knowing that God sent His Spirit into your life and you will never be without His presence?

Do you have an example of when Jesus shook your life up, metaphorically (or really!), and you drew closer to Him because of it? Your example may be just the witness that someone else needs, so if you are willing please share in the comment section of the blog.

Clay fades or Letting God be God

Some days I feel like I’m fading fast. I just sent a text to my friend that said, “I know I need to give something up. Something has to give, but what?

Ever feel like that? Some of you nod and whisper, “Every day.”

The reality is that we are fading. We can’t do everything. We can only charge ahead at 100% for so long. We will absolutely burn out. Even with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, we were created for rest, just as we were created for work.

Part of my problem, and I’m guessing this resonates with many of you, is that I’m trying to keep it all together for so many people. I think I’m the glue that holds our life together and if I fall apart, or even if I take a nap, who in the world will keep everyone standing? (And seriously, if I do take a nap living room armageddon does appear to take place.)

No? No? Just me. 😉 We’ll here’s a devotion for myself then…

There is a difference between being all things to all people, and believing people need me to be all things to them.

The first, is living in hope, being willing to share hope, to share the way God has worked in my life in the opportunities He gives me. The second, is believing that if I don’t do it, He can’t. He can’t use someone else. He needs me. Oh girls, He uses me. But He surely doesn’t need me.

Why am I so busy trying to be God?

It’s important for me to understand that clay fades. I am dispensable. I would be missed, but I’m not the only one He can use.

Let’s read Isaiah 40:18-24 to get a better handle on this.

To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
    chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
    to set up an idol that will not move.

21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Building idols…we make an idol of ourselves when we think we are so very necessary to everyone’s existence. We puff ourselves up, in a way. “What would they do without me? Aren’t I so busy and important? This place would fall apart without me.”

Deep down we are afraid to fade.

We are afraid that we won’t have a legacy, we won’t be remembered, we won’t matter.

Without intending to, we build idols of wood and peeling gold by trying to be everything for our homes, our families, our employers, our churches, our friends.

God would never have us forsake a relationship, a commitment, but the question becomes –

What is at the center?

How do we put our children at the center instead of God?

How do we put our marriages and our spouses at the center instead of God?

How do we put our homes and our household chores at the center instead of God?

How do we put our vocations, our successes at the center instead of God?

How do we put our sports teams and our hobbies and our interests at the center instead of God?

These are all things we literally “build” our life around. Isaiah 40:24 tells us –

Scarcely are they planted…

Scarcely are they sown…

Scarcely has their stem taken root…

when they wither,

they are carried off.

The world gives pressure. It says, “hold it together, hold everything standing tall, upright, firmly rooted.” We know it’s not sustainable. We can feel it slipping from our grasp.

Because clay fades.

That is what it does. We only last so long here on this earth and we were never meant to hold everything together, only God was.

So, when you need a moment. Take a moment. Turn it to Him.

Worship Him. Tell Him, “You know I can’t do this, Lord. Only you can hold it all together. Only You. I am Clay.”

I am Clay. I can’t do it all. Only you can, Lord.

Take this burden, Lord. Take it.

And Jesus promises that He does. Remind yourself of His comfort in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

He holds all of it. He holds our life and our children, our homes and our jobs, our health, all of it in His hands. He hands us an easier yoke, a Salvation-shaped yoke of peace and joy and forgiveness and love unending.

I am clay. I can’t do it all. Only you can, Lord.

So, if you find yourself, sitting like me…spent, tired, wondering what’s going to give…print this off. Put it somewhere prominent. Share it with a friend who could use it. Share the struggle of the journey together. When you see it, remind yourself of the truth found in Isaiah 40:28 –

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

I am clay. Only you, Lord. Only you.
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*photo made with the fontcandy app

Exploration:

What kinds of things lead you to the end of your rope? Your job, cleaning, cooking, family drama, etc?

What is your favorite way to turn things over to God? Do you have a favorite prayer or song, verse, or refrain that helps you place the burdens of life back on Your Savior?

To Live is Christ – Sidewalk Prophets

No Longer Held Hostage

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Day 1 – No longer held hostage

Ransomed.

I’m pretty sure this is the name of a movie. If not, it really should be. Doesn’t it sound like “Ransomed: Now playing in theaters everywhere” goes well together? What would this movie be about? Take 30 seconds to let images come to your mind. Create tiny snippets of a screenplay. I’d be so curious to hear what you come up with.

It’s interesting to think about, but Biblically, the word ransom can get really interesting. Listen to this verse from the Psalms, 49:15 –

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.

Some Bibles translate the Hebrew, just as you see above…ransom. In other Bibles, the verse is translated like this –

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.

The same is true for our theme verse of the week, Isaiah 35:10-

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Say these two verses to yourself again, substituting the word redeemed for the word ransomed in each one. See how it works? It still certainly fits.

The Hebrew root for the word ransomed in both passages is padah, pronounced (paw-daw’)*. This root word can mean to redeem, to ransom, or to rescue, so you can see where the back and forth comes in. Hebrew isn’t cut and dry. There’s room for some wiggle.

Both redeemed and ransom have a price tag involved. Someone is going to pay something to get something back. They are both action words. These are verbs that bring someone back, make a situation right, remove a situation where something was once captive in some way.

So, what’s a girl to do when something like this isn’t clear at face value? I dug deeper into the Word, searching verse after verse after verse, and…I asked my husband. 🙂

Do you have someone in your life whom you can talk through questions, like this one? They may seem slightly meaningless. Ransomed, redeemed, whatever. Just pick one. Why does it matter? Questions like these, curiosity, wonder, pondering; This is where Faith meets conversation. Discussing the Word is never meaningless. Time spent trying to understand what God is trying to say to us is always, always beneficial, and you might be surprised how these small conversations can impact your day.

When I hear the word “ransomed” images of kidnappings, hostage situations, and terrorism come to mind. Not pleasant, but also not far off Biblically.

In ransoming someone, the emphasis is on bringing them out of something, rather than where they are going to. The emphasis is on the action- going in, rescuing, being delivered, that action that brings redemption.

Most importantly ransoming means getting someone out.

There is a desperation in ransoming.

Get out.

Get out now.

Get out for the sake of your very life.

In fact, one of the definitions of the Hebrew word padah is “by any means, redeem.”

Any means. Any means.

Turn to Isaiah 53. We’ll settle on verses 3-6 and 10-12, here. Feel free to read the chapter as a whole if you have your Bibles open.

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Go back and highlight any action words in the verses above, or see some of them highlighted below.

laid on him (v.6)

oppressed, afflicted (v.7)

taken away, cut off (v.8)

his soul makes an offering for guilt (v.10)

anguish of his soul, bear their iniquities (v.11)

bore the sin of many (v. 12)

This is the language of ransom. Jesus was willing to bear the weight, to take any action necessary to save us. Any means necessary – for you. In Isaiah 53 we see it laid out in words 800 years prior to His incarnation, the actions that would be required of Him, the walk to the cross that would ransom each of our lives. Beautiful and remarkable.

What does He ransom us from? We’ll talk about this throughout the week. Here are a few verses to whet the appetite. Read each verse and see what God the Father has sent Jesus to ransom us from. Remember that your Bible may say redeemed for any given verse. Read each passage using the word ransomed for our purposes today.

Hosea 13:14 – We are ransomed from death, violence, and our enemies. When the world rages, we know that we have been ransomed. We will not be destroyed. Jesus brings us out of the violence of this world through the gift of eternity, and sometimes in the very real midst of it.

Job 6:23 – We are ransomed from people who are ruthless, from adversaries or those who antagonize us. Got anyone like that in your life? Any frenemies out there? Yuck. It’s good to know that Jesus doesn’t just care about enemies, but that He cares about those people who use us as targets, who are fake friends, and offer sugary sweetness while “keeping us in our place.”

Jeremiah 31:10-11 – We are ransomed from exile, from far off places, and strongholds. God brings us close to Him. He ransoms us from the people, places, and things that keep us from growing closer to Him, the roadblocks to belief, to faith, and to hope.

1 Peter 1:18-19 – We are ransomed from futile ways. Sometimes, we need saving from our own foolish selves. Sometimes we need saving from the generational sins that hold us captive and hold our families captive in destructive behaviors. Sometimes we need saving from sins that keep the devils thumb on us, holding us down, keeping us from growth.

He has brought us out. He has rescued us from whatever held us captive in the past and what we feel holds us captive now. By any means necessary, girls. He treasures you. He would not leave one behind.

You are ransomed.

 

 

Exploration:

What images come to mind when you hear the word ransom?

Who or what in your life has God brought you out of?

Looking for a little more community? Join us for an I Love My Shepherd Facebook Live event – It’s a bonus study!
He Calls you Neighbor, Helper, and Rebel!
October 6th @ 9-9:30pm EST

Check out more on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook Page.

Ransomed Scripture Engagement Tool

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*biblehub.com/interlinear

*photo used from pexels.com

Our friend Ulysses and desperation

Day Two – Our friend Ulysses and desperation

There is this song on Christian radio that I am just not a fan of. I tried. I really did. I tend to be pretty flexible about types of music. I don’t have really critical opinions about lyrics. I try to put the best perspective on each artist’s work. But every time this song came on, it grated on my nerves so much, that I had to turn the station.
It sounds harsh and critical, so I’m not even going to tell you the song, but the chorus repeats over and over again, “I’m overwhelmed…I’m overwhelmed by You.”
I turned to Dave during a Saturday afternoon drive and said, “I figured it out. I don’t want to be overwhelmed. That song may work for some people, but life already feels pretty overwhelming to me most days, and I don’t want to be overwhelmed by anything or anyone else. And I’m not sure that’s even a good character description of God.” 

Dave, who had limited previous interest in my struggle with the song fully supported my contemplations, as a good and caring husband, with a “Hmmmm…that’s good you figured it out. So, about that hockey game…” 😉
You may feel like Dave, a little disinterested in Heidi’s rant about a random song, but I think Solomon might cozy up to the table for a cup of coffee and a contemplative discussion. He tells us in Ecclesiastes 2:20-23:
“So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.”
Solomon was clearly overwhelmed. He tells us his “heart despaired over all the toil.” The toil of life can get to us, it’s completely normal and in the coming days we’ll talk about how it is often “seasonal.”
But to some degree, the struggle and the toil of life just is. It always will be. It will not go away. We can let the anxiety build and become overwhelmed. We can experience depression and we certainly need to seek help in lifting us from the darkness, but I don’t believe Solomon was dealing with clinical chemical imbalance depression.
Solomon was dealing with realization. He discovered that life is struggle. Period. And that is overwhelming. 

Many of us can relate. As we become adults, we begin to feel the often-crushing weight of life and it’s burdens. We have all joy in Christ, and still wonder how in the world we missed how difficult it all was the first 21 years of our life.
Luther’s take on this was so interesting to me and so exceptionally put, that I had to share it:
“Consider the labors of Hercules, the monsters whom Ulysses and others had to overcome, the bear, the lion, and the Goliath with whom David had to contend. Any who are ignorant of this art will eventually grow weary.”
You see, when we are ignorant of the struggle of life, we collapse when we are faced with it. And often times the struggle is a daily realization. 

Children die, captive to poverty and malnutrition, slavery is still alive and well in our world, miscarriages and cancer steal loved ones from us. The struggle is real, even on good and wonderful mountaintop days. We are left realizing that the grass does in fact wither and flowers do in fact fade, life itself is a chasing after the wind where no legacy we strive for or ambition we attempt is enough to leave a true mark.
But again, with God, our perspective changes. The struggle isn’t less, but we can sit in it, live it, watch it swirl around us and not be overwhelmed. The struggle is where we can share the message and see His grace and mercy and salvation. We can live life and live it to the full, not weighed down but lifted up in Him.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10
Thank you, Father! Thank you for struggle and mercy and daily provision. Thank you for Your gentle love and Your perfect justice. To You, O Lord, we lift up our days, our families, and our work. Tend to us with Your care and help us to shine You in all we do. In Jesus precious name, Amen.


Discussion questions:
When in your life did you first become aware that there were struggles?
When you were young what person or people helped you to process the difficult things in the world around you? 
Can you think of any moments that you were able to help someone else through a struggle (large or small!)?

Heart verse:
I perceived that what God does endures forever
                                                               Ecclesiastes 3:14a