Study to show thyself approved

Does anyone else feel like Bible study gets a bad wrap these days? Like we can’t even say those words without people running for cover? I totally get that there is a concern that too much study OF the Word and not enough intimacy WITH the Word is a very real temptation. After all, we can know the Scriptures backwards and forwards and not really KNOW the Lord, meaning we don’t have an intimate relationship with Him.  Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39-40:

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Ouch! But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, we should look at 2 Timothy 2:15:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Look at the King James version for extra effect.

Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not be to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Study…

A group of ladies and I are studying the life of Samuel and wow! At first glance, it seems as if the accounts are so far removed from us, that they may not even be worth reading. Ummmm…. Wrong. Last week, we ran out of time because our discussion was so rich.      1 Samuel 2 recounts the story of some wicked priests who were dishonoring the Lord in His place of worship Literally, we talked about how Phinehas and Hophni (don’t you just  love Old Testament names?) stole animal fat from the sacrifices. Sounds like a real nail-biter, huh?

From this one passage, we talked about God’s mercy and justice, the seriousness of worship, the importance of disciplining our children, the danger in just going through the motions in serving the Lord, the great responsibility on our church leaders, how the Levitical priesthood points to Jesus, how we ourselves ARE His priests….. Do y’all see what I am saying?? This is just what I can remember off the top of my head. And now, a week later, I am still thinking about 1 Samuel 2 and trying (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to respond in obedience.

But we had to study to get there. I can’t speak on the ladies’ behalf, but I had to spend some time with my head in my Bible, asking, “Lord, what in the world does this mean?” I had to read slowly, looking at the cross references at times, flipping back to Leviticus of all places, breaking it down, using other study tools, and trying to get to the heart of the matter. Why did the Lord leave this for us in His Word? What is He revealing to us about Himself? What can we learn from a couple of corrupt priests stealing some fat?

It turns out, a whole lot… And I would have missed it if I hadn’t asked the Holy Spirit to teach me along with putting in the effort to study. At times it felt like work. At times I didn’t feel super “spiritual.” But I kept asking Him to teach me, to show me, to guide me, and He did. And I can’t even tell you how cool it was to meet with a group of women and hear how the Lord spoke to them as well.

The Bible is not just a book; it is the living Word of God. Literally, it is His Word to us. ALL of it (even Leviticus) is useful for us, so that we “may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16.) But if you are like me, you aren’t going to just pick up Leviticus and skim through it in your quiet time, immediately understanding what it means. It’s going to take some digging and studying to correctly handle the book of Leviticus. And yet the beauty and truth nestled in that book is so unbelievable, I could cry just thinking about it.

God has given us this amazing gift. Will we take the time to study it?

Natalie

 

Once a Year

Tomorrow we celebrate Easter. The tomb is rolled away, Christ is Risen!! And everyone, even those from other religions, find a church. Because you can’t miss Easter in the South…It’s the hottest show in town.

If we aren’t careful, we can make a mockery of Easter. When Christ actually rose from the dead, it was a scandal. The disciples didn’t believe the women who said the tomb was empty. Many hid for fear of being arrested.  The government tried to cover it up for goodness sake. Some to this day still deny it. I don’t say this to diminish Easter, I say this in hopes of adding some sense of reverence to this day.

It is not just a day to put on pastel dresses and show up to church for the first time in a year. (Although my sky blue sheath is ready for tomorrow.) If Easter is the only time you go to church, I am so glad you do!!! But I hope you ask yourself why you are going. Why bother with this Jesus just once a year? Why pretend to follow Him if He’s only worth a day of your time?

I say this with no condemnation but with a heart full of jealousy for our Lord. Tomorrow is His day. But so are all the others. If we don’t even make an effort to worship Him the other 364 days a year,  maybe we should be asking why we bother to show up on this one.

With Love,

Natalie

 

 

 

Delighting in the Undelightful

This blog is called the delighted heart based on Psalm 37:4. (My very first post explains why.)  I want to be transparent with y’all, always sharing what the Lord is teaching me through His Word and Holy Spirit in real time, not just what He has taught me in the past. Even when it is isn’t that delightful. And although being delighted in the Lord absolutely can be a happy, sparkly thing, I would be a liar if I told you it was like that all the time.

The past few weeks, I went through an intense time of enemy attacks, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced before. (Don’t worry, I lived to tell about it! God is faithful!)  I found myself going back time and again to 2 Corinthians 12…If you haven’t read it you should. The apostle Paul is so transparent, talking openly about a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan that has been tormenting him. I have read this chapter so many times throughout my life, but as I was reading it this last time something jumped out at me… Look at 2 Corinthians 12:10:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Did you catch that? Paul delights… I think we could say that Paul had a delighted heart while going through some major trials. He even delighted in those difficult circumstances. Woa.

The very last thing I want to be is weak or go through difficulties. I can be somewhat vulnerable with y’all because I am behind a screen typing, controlling what I am telling you. But to be weak in real life? To lose total control of my circumstances? No. No way. Not interested. Definitely not something I would delight in.

But for Christ’s sake I can. Because that is when His power shines through us. When we are weak, He is strong. Shouldn’t that be our greatest delight? To glorify Him and exalt Him whatever the cost, even if it means being weak sometimes?

The past couple of months have not been all rainbows and sugar cookies for me but guess what… my heart is ABSOLUTELY still delighted. Possibly, even more so than before, because the Lord has showed me, as Paul said, that His grace IS sufficient for me. What more do I need? My heart is delighted in the LORD and He is giving me the desires of my heart, more than I could have ever imagined.

Is your heart delighted in Him?

Natalie

You are beautiful

Ellie hair

My daughter needs a haircut. Her hair is LONG, but oh so beautiful, a pretty golden blonde that I want to bottle up for myself. She always wants to wear it down, but I usually put it up in a ponytail to keep it out of her face, because it tangles so easily. The other day, I surprised her and told her to bring me a headband instead of a ponytail holder. I brushed out her beautiful hair, put on the headband, and told her that’s how she was wearing it to school. She looked in the mirror, her face lit up, and she said, “I love myself mama.” Her words caught me off guard because they were so innocent and pure so I asked her to repeat them. ”I love myself.” Then she skipped out of the room beaming. I wanted to cry out of love for her.

Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves? I am not talking about a narcissistic, obsession. I mean an authentic acceptance of who we are in our own skin. Almost all of us struggle with so much insecurity, sometimes spilling over into self-loathing. I would imagine that even the most gorgeous women in the world have things they would change and even many who seem to love themselves so much are compensating for something. And yet, despite what the media tells us, or what others around us say, we are each so beautiful. I cannot tell you the joy it brought to my heart hearing my daughter say those words.

It made me think how our Father must desire that we, his sons and daughter, love ourselves. Psalm 139:6 says,

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it well.”

We see in Genesis 1:27 that we are each made in the image of God. And yet for most of my life, I have thought I am too this, or not enough of that. I look back and am saddened over the hours wasted obsessing over the things I don’t like about myself. And if I am honest those still creep in. How sad that must make the One who created me and looks on me with love.

This is not a post to pump up our egos. This is about what God Word’s says. And once again I was reminded of truth Through the eyes of a child. There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves, but when we allow it to contradict what Scripture says, it becomes a stronghold in our lives that steals our joy. I don’t want that for my daughter, and God doesn’t want that for me. The next time I see new wrinkles and those wiry gray hairs, I may just look in the mirror and force myself to say, “I love myself!  And then make an appointment with my hair stylist to cover up those grays 🙂 Or maybe I won’t! Either way I am thankful that God’s Word tells me my inner beauty is more important than the external, and that my King thinks that I am beautiful. Isn’t that what matters most?

Natalie

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The God who sees me

desert

Mommy are you watching? Do you see me? If you are a parent or have ever been around children, you know that this question is often on their lips. Children want to be seen by us, to know that they are important and noticed. And as adults we are not much different. Perhaps one of the most important times that we yearn to be seen is when we are hurting, when we feel as if the walls are closing in around us and pain is unbearable. And isn’t it true that in those times we can sometimes feel the most invisible?

I am going through the book of Ruth with a group of precious women, and this past week we talked about affliction or suffering. At the end of Ruth chapter one, Naomi is in a deep depression. She has lost her husband and her two sons and feels empty, alone, and even believes that God’s hand has turned against her. If we are honest, haven’t we all felt like that at one time or another? If you have read the book of Ruth, you know that God has not forgotten about Naomi and indeed has a plan for her. It is one of the reasons the book is so beloved. But before Naomi, there was a woman named Hagar, who went through her own type of affliction.

Look back to Genesis 16. God had promised Abraham a son to carry on his name and give him numerous descendants. The only problem was his wife Sarah was barren. So they took matters into their own hands, as we often do. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant Hagar to produce an heir. The plan work and Hagar got pregnant, but soon after Sarah became jealous and mistreated her. (No surprise there!)  Hagar decided to run away from Sarah into the desert.

Hagar probably felt pretty invisible huh? She was the lowest on the totem pole. She was bullied by THE matriarch in the camp, and probably felt helpless, alone, invisible. She was about to find out that she was anything but. The Almighty God sent an angel out after Hagar in the desert. In Genesis 16:11 (ESV), the angel said to her,

Behold you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.

This is the first time the word “affliction” is used in Scripture. Thanks a lot Sarah!!! Not a great to start off women’s relationships in Scripture ha! In all seriousness, my favorite part of this story is what happened in verse 11.

So [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly I have seen Him who looks after me.”

Is that not incredible?! Hagar the maidservant, gave the God of Israel a name, El Roi! And that is still one of His names today! He doesn’t change. Don’t you think if God pursued Hagar in the midst of her affliction, that He still pursues us? He sees what you are going through; you are not invisible to Him. Even if you feel as if no one else care, He does. Pour out your heart to the God who Sees and let Him comfort you with a peace you only He can provide.

Natalie

 

 

 

Stretched

gumby

Lately I have been feeling a little like Gumby. Not physically, although I really need to get to the gym; I probably can’t even touch my toes anymore. Ha!! I am talking about spiritually. It seems like the Lord just won’t let me get comfortable. Just this week, I got that familiar burning in my chest, coupled with anxiety when a thought popped in my brain that had all the characteristics of coming from the Lord. My immediate response was ABSOLUTELY NOT! No Way! Unfortunately, I am starting to learn that when that’s my knee-jerk reaction, it often means that I will absolutely be doing it. Can any of you relate?

There are many examples of individuals being stretched in Scripture. Aren’t you glad we can read their stories? One of my favorites is Moses. In Exodus 3, he is minding his own business tending sheep out in the wilderness, when he sees a random bush that is on fire but not burning up! Turns out, the bush is none other than Almighty God Himself who begins talking to him. Crazy! Moses has no idea what is ahead of him. He is about to be stretched big time. And his first response was no, nope, no way, yada, yada, yada… I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to Moses’ response. He gave God about as many excuses as he could, but ultimately, He took on the task of being Israel’s deliverer. And the rest is history.

When I was reading over this story again, I noticed something. In Exodus 7:14, When Moses went before Pharaoh, God told Moses and his brother Aaron 8 times to stretch out their hand so they could perform miracles before Pharaoh, that would show His power ultimately leading to the Israelite’s deliverance. It was God’s power at work, but Moses physically had to stretch his hand out in faith to perform the miracles.

The more Moses stretched out his arm, the more God displayed his power and glory to the Egyptians and the Israelites. He does the same way with us. We stretch outward, but at the same time we stretch upward to Him, because He is our strength. When we step out in faith and allow him to take us out of our comfort zones, He will lead us places we could never go on our own. It’s usually scary and uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, it is always worth it.

And when all was said and done, and God had delivered the Israelites, Moses never forget that it wasn’t by his strength. I’ll leave you with his own words to the LORD after the Exodus.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. Exodus 15:11-12 (ESV)

If the Lord is calling you to stretch out, do it! His power is at work in you! You just have to obey.

Natalie

 

Don’t Miss the Boat

One of my favorite traditions at Christmas is going to the Enchanted Forest with my mom. This year, my kids wanted to do the scavenger hunt, so they spent half an hour running around looking for obscure objects like 3 red scarves and a blueprint. ( I kid you not! The Enchanted Forest doesn’t play around!) Ellie and James were having a tough time finding some of the things on the list, so mom and I jumped in on the nightmare fun. I was assigned “toy boat.” Earlier I had spent ten minutes looking for firetrucks that ended up being tiny toys hidden on shelves, so I just knew the toy boat would be hidden in that section as well.  As I scanned the other toys, I didn’t see one. My mom came over and said, “Natalie, do you not see that boat?!!!” I looked to the left and saw this.

boat

A BIG, TOY,  BOAT! My mom and I laughed so hard we cried! I was so sure it would be a small one that I completely missed the big one right in my face. I missed something so obvious because it was not what I expected.

How often do we miss what God is doing in our lives because we have a preconceived notion of what it will look like? God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). If that’s true, why do we try to keep Him in a box, expecting Him to work only in ways that WE think He should?

Maybe the best example in Scripture is Jesus Christ Himself. The Jewish people had been anxiously waiting for God to send their Messiah, but they had their own idea of what he would be. They expected a magnificent, stately, political king. But Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53: 2) Jesus didn’t fit their mold of an earthly King and yet He was (and is) the King of all Kings. So many of them missed the promised One, because He didn’t line up with their expectations.

As we go into 2018, many of us will set goals and resolutions. And these aren’t bad. But if we are only focused on our own ideas of how things should work out or how this year should go, we may miss out. This year leave room for God to have His way, for Him to do some new things. Ask him to open your eyes to what is right in front you, to the unexpected ways He is working.

Don’t be like me and miss the boat 🙂

Natalie