Casting Stones


3 years ago we went through one of the toughest seasons of our life.

I was angry. I was hurt and I was tired.

I turned to Scripture and demanded answers from God. What I got back wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t,

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

and it wasn’t,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

These verses, and promises like them were helpful, but when someone shared them, I wanted to physically harm them. I didn’t struggle with why, I struggled with “What do you want from me, Lord?”

What brought me comfort was wisdom from a King, who was also struggling, who wanted answers to unanswerable questions, and found peace in laying it before God and honestly admitting,

“I am small. You are big. The answers aren’t mine. They’re Yours.”

I found hope in these three words…

A time to…

Ecclesiastes 3 introduces this idea –

God in His infinence gives meaning and purpose to every single month, day, hour, and year. I see good days and bad days. God see days that matter. I see storms and I see sunshine. I rue the storms and want to linger in the sunshine. What if God values both?

What if God sees difficult and declares it beautiful?

What if God loves me just as much when I’m shaking my fist, as He does when I’m lavishing Him with praise?

I wanted to know that this season wouldn’t be forever. That bottom of the pit wasn’t every darn day and that held was a real and true promise, not a made up radio song.

I found truth. I found the Savior’s affection. I found my joy again.

For one of the first times in my life I wanted to know who God really was, what He really valued and not the second-hand version I had settled for.

Then, I realized that my trial was a drop in an ocean of earthly trials. We all have them. We all have tears. We all have heartbreak. We all have triumph. We all have uncertainty. We all have times of wrestling. We all have times to build and times to break down.  We all have times to gather together, and times to cast away.

Casting Stones is my invitation to wrestle alongside, to open the Word and find truth in the trial and the triumph, as well as the ordinary day.

It has devotions for five days of study a week, questions for individual growth and discovery, or to discuss as a group, because community around the Word makes every day brighter and less daunting. Let’s cast together, let’s build up together, let’s wrestle together, let’s plant together.

Discover more by ordering through Amazon

Casting Stones Print or Kindle edition

or checking out our expanded resources on the Studies Available page.

Join us for study snippets by catching the archive on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel. (Prize opportunities through July 9, 2017!)

Casting Stones… we’re in this life together. Every triumph and joy, every affliction and sorrow, He is right there with us.

The patience of Job…or not so much

People who reference the patience of Job have clearly never read the book. Job is a man and, in being such, he only has so much patience. The book of Job is also quite a comfort for someone afflicted with just about anything, because Job was afflicted with just about everything. Let’s hear a little from our friend, Job, and then we’ll get to James.

Job 3:11-13 

“Why did I not die at birth,
    come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
    I would have slept; then I would have been at rest…

Job 14:1-3

“Man who is born of a woman
    is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers;
    he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And do you open your eyes on such a one
    and bring me into judgment with you?

Job 23:2-4

“Today also my complaint is bitter;
    my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
    and fill my mouth with arguments.

This is me, slightly taking Job out of context and that’s not fair. Job vacillates back and forth, just like we do, between frustration and anger, understanding, angst, hope, asking questions, and jumping in with an answer too quickly. He’s a man, not a martyr. He’s a child of God, imperfect, but redeemed.

He’s not in the Bible because he was patient. He’s in the Bible because he was steadfast.

There’s a difference.

Let’s look at where James and Job meet in James 5:8-11. The first part of this passage overlaps where we left off in yesterday’s lesson.

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

The Bible never said that Job wasn’t angry, didn’t have to confront ugly emotions, nor does it say he gave great answers for himself or his friends. He simply gave God an open place to work, and that’s what we can do as well.

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” 

We live an imperfect life with lots of bitter and lots of sweet. Steadfastness is holding fast, clinging to our Faithful Father through both. Job’s story gives us insight about how to cling when life is hard, as well as when it’s wonderful. Look up the following passages from Job and find what gifts God gives us to remain steadfast, even when we aren’t patient.

The Lord remains steadfast.

Job 10:11-13

You clothed me with skin and flesh,
    and knit me together with bones and sinews.
12 You have granted me life and steadfast love,
    and your care has preserved my spirit.
13 Yet these things you hid in your heart;
    I know that this was your purpose.

We read the Steadfast Word.

Job 23:10-12

But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to his steps;
    I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
13 But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
    What he desires, that he does.  

We fix our eyes on Eternity, which is real and steadfast.

Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!

We are given the steadfast Holy Spirit.

Job 27:2-4

“As God lives, who has taken away my right,
    and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
as long as my breath is in me,
    and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood,
    and my tongue will not utter deceit.

Like Job, I say and will probably continue to say ridiculous things in my days, particularly on the hard ones, the bitter ones, and the sad ones, but the Holy Spirit gives me breath and life. God’s Word keeps me grounded, and His Son keeps me fixed on all those blessed tomorrows of Eternity with Him, rather than the struggle of a moment.

James turns our eyes to our Savior. Read James 5:11 one more time.

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Job is mentioned once, but James draws our attention to the Lord by repeating His name twice.

The Lord has a purpose.

The Lord is compassionate.

The Lord is merciful.

Many, like Job, have gone before us that have been steadfast because the Lord is steadfast. Who in your life has lived with eternity steadfast on their heart and mind?

Today, consider them, consider Job, consider the prophets, and consider the Lord. In the bitter and in the sweet, our beautiful Savior is always there.

Hearers, Believers, and Doers


In this week’s video lesson we discuss being hearers, believers, and doers and the difference between each. How do Paul and James intersect on this subject and what does Reformer Martin Luther have to do with it all?

What passive work of Christ and what active work of Faith can be found in hearing, believing, and doing?

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vainOn the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:10-11

This weekend, share ways you hear, believe, and do by the Grace of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Tag #ilovemyshepherd so we can see, share, and be encouraged together!

 

Notes:

No chameleons welcome

When I was young I dated a guy that I would classify as a chameleon. You never knew what you were going to get. I have spent many a night lamenting the choices of my youth, but we each learn and we grow. One thing that God showed me during repeated sessions of repentance and forgiveness, was this…

it takes a chameleon to know a chameleon.

By that I mean, part of the reason I attracted or was attracted to guys who changed colors and shape like they changed outfits, was that when I looked deep down, I did as well.

It’s easy to shift when you’re young, trying on personalities, ideas, and opinions. Part of growing is growing out of our chameleon skin. The chameleon in us is part of what Paul calls, spiritual infancy. See what he has to say about it in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 –

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

We are ready. We have been growing. And we desire to grow more. We are big and brave enough with Christ in and around us to let God flesh out the chameleon pieces still stuck inside. Let’s see what James has to say about being one whole person, rather than a chameleon with shifting and changing fruit.

Look through the following passages in James to get an overview. James addresses this chameleon issue in almost every chapter. Although the passages each address different topics, you’ll see the chameleon effect running through all of them.

James 1:5-8, James discusses how easy it is for us to be doubtful in prayer and what we ask from God. We believe He is capable, but live wondering if He’s capable:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 3:9-10, James addresses the tendency for our tongue to run one way and then another on any given day:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

James 4:8-10, James addresses our failure to admit our sinfulness, while identifying the irony that facing our guilt and shame allows God to exalt us in forgiveness. We haphazardly try to present a version of ourselves to others that doesn’t “need” forgiveness:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 5:12, James calls out the chameleon in each of us point blank. We like to say no when we mean yes, and yes when we mean no. Oh goodness, I don’t know about you, but I am over those games:

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Growing up means looking at the world honestly, but it also means looking at ourselves honestly. Where in our lives do we present ourselves differently than others? Where do we shine God’s light and where do we put Him in a box and forget about Him?

I’m just as guilty as anyone. The good news is that fruit comes from our Savior and His Spirit and not our own whims. We are given the gift of His fruit when we fail. We confess and are forgiven, our hands are cleaned, and then we grow up. We shed that chameleon coat and when it pops back on, we turn to God and ask Him to do the hard work of molting it off some more.

Thank you, Lord for growing us up in You. Guide our hearts and our lives to live in Your salvation. Give us clarity where we need it and hope when we need it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Discussion –

When you were young, did you do anything silly that you wish you would have never done?

Look through James Chapter 2, what in this chapter can you apply to the chameleon effect and God’s good work in us of growth?

What area of your life would you like God to help you grow up more in?

Clay Walks: A life lived in love

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*photo made with the vrsly app, using a pexel.com photo
Are the pages of Isaiah getting easier to turn as we man-handle the pages? My study Bible has these ridiculously thin pages and until a section has been tossed and turned again and again, I trip and I fall around trying to find the right chapter and verse. The pages stick together. I turn them and go six chapters too far. I back track and finally land on the selected passage. It becomes easier as I turn the pages more and more. As I study more, the pages have my fingerprints all over them. A side effect of this is that the pages get just crinkly enough that I can turn them deftly and without all the frustration.

This is how faith seems to work as well. Turn to Isaiah 30:18-22.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.

19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”

Walking, like our fingers moving across the pages of our Bibles, is one of the descriptors of faith in the Bible. In Isaiah 30, we find a fun name for our God associated with this walk – Teacher.

We do not walk alone, girls. We have a Teacher who guides and leads. While this passage doesn’t speak about clay, it fits into our title of clay because clay is moldable. It’s instruct-able. When we say, “Mold me and make me, Lord. You are the potter, I am the clay.” We also say –

Teach me.

Walk with me.

Show me the way.

Isaiah 30 gives us clarity in this picture. As we walk in faith, not in perfection, but simply walking, we grow up into Him, into the Teacher, Christ Jesus. Look at Ephesians 4:14-15:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Look just a tiny bit further in your Scriptures and rest on Ephesians 5:1-2.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Living the truth in love looks a whole lot like walking.

Therefore…walk in love. I so often walk in hurt, in bitterness, in impatience, in discontent, in annoyance, in apathy.

Because of Jesus Christ, I can walk in love. I am instruct-able. I need and I have a Teacher to show me the way, to walk beside me, to walk behind me and cover me in forgiveness when I mess up. He also walks ahead to guide me in the True Light.

When I learn, I’m walking. When I grow, I’m walking. When I trust, I’m walking.

Check out Acts 9:1-2.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Paul, he was walking as God’s clay before he even knew it. He was walking hunting down people. He was walking in destruction. It’s ironic that Christianity is referenced here and only here as “the Way.” Neither right nor left, friends. Jesus is the Way. Paul walked and life changed forever along that Way.

When I am wrong, I’m walking. When I repent, I’m walking. When the breath of forgiveness rushes in, and covers my sin, I’m walking.

He leads. I walk. In His love, in His mercy, through crinkly pages and brokenness into marvelous, inestimable Grace.

Keep walking, friend. Clay walks.

 

Exploration:

What was your first experience with studying the Bible?

 

What group Bible studies have been memorable for you?

 

What is the hardest part of walking in love for you?