New Year, New Word, New You

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Here we stand, breaking into another new year!  How will we begin? First steps are always a bit tricky. I’m just wondering how you have started in previous years. Are you a resolution maker, a list producer, or do you pray asking God for a word? I had recently heard of this idea and being a lover of words in general I latched onto it with enthusiasm. Because in my world, words have power. So a friend explained that you begin by praying for God to unveil a single word that would guide you as you go through the year ahead. Just one word.

If you are like me, you want to live a clear and focused life for Christ. And let’s be honest, having a neat, precise target lets us breathe a little easier. We are people who long for a plan, a little direction, and the freedom to follow at our own pace. So having just one single, solitary word seems like a good way to get that clarity of focus.

For example, my “word” for 2017 was “fearless”. I felt God was showing me that word over and over in the early weeks of January. So I adopted that word as my guidepost as I journeyed through the year. As the months passed by, I found myself measuring my level of “fearless” living against the lives of those I admire, those I see desperately chasing after Jesus.  I wondered if I was even close to the target I aimed my efforts at for the year of living fearlessly.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to look in the mirror and evaluate your strong and weak places. A little quick glance into that reflection helps us grow, and lean in closer to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sometimes singular focus can lead to a bit of anxiety because it gives me room to compare myself to the standards of my world.

So my friends, this year I am determined to fix my mind, body and soul on a different path. Instead of looking for a word to define the areas I need to reform, refocus and reset, I am determined to simply yield. Every day…just yield.

Are you with me here? Hi, my name is Karen, and I have control issues.

Not only do I like a plan of action, I want to be in charge of the charge!  Sometimes I allow my passion to lead me, and I leave Jesus in the dust.

So what if I fully embraced yielding?  When I looked up the word on my dictionary app, the thesaurus unveiled this stirring truth. Jesus was the living, breathing perfect example of the word yield. And if my intention, my longing, is to live a life like His am I willing to yield?

Here are a few words to turn over and examine.

Yield: to give way…am I willing to give up my way, for His way?

Yield: bend…am I willing to be flexible, moldable, movable?

Yield: let go…am I willing to embrace change, every day, every way, trusting Him?

Yield: surrender…am I willing to resign from leadership of my life, let God run things?

Yield: submit…am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to break me and make me into a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus?

Okay, these are the things I want to carry into the new year.  I want to declare there is no word I can cling to in order to be better, love better, live better without yielding to the One who takes my messy self and molds it into His likeness. Today I stand flooded with gratitude that He is able, if I am willing.

So, as I face a new beginning, I won’t pray for a clear “word” that points to a plan of action. I will pray that yielding to His Word will point others to Him.

 

My prayer for me and for you…

dear Father,

Thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for fresh, clean, do-over days. As we face the starting line, remind us to let you lead. Help us give way, knowing without a doubt your way is better than anything we could possibly dream up. As we face changes in the days ahead, help us to depend on your promise that you are with us. Father, we confess that submit and surrender are not words we embrace. We like control. Help us to relax and release that control into your loving hands. Lord, you have proven over and over you are trustworthy. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus in this journey. Your Word has given us a clear picture of how a yielded heart lives and loves. Strengthen us for the course you have set out for us. Let our declaration to yield to You bring you glory upon glory.

amen

.

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Bible Study for Dummies

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So you’ve made the decision. You’ve taken the gift. You believe God is who He says He is. You want to follow Him. And you want to do it right. Now you are searching for the book titled, “Following Jesus for Dummies” because you have no idea where to begin.

I remember with great clarity my first steps as a Christian. I didn’t grow up going to church like many of my friends. I didn’t go to Sunday school and see the puppet shows about Moses, Noah, Daniel or any other story in the Bible. It’s hard for people who have grown up in the church to remember what it was like to learn how to find their way through God’s Word. As children there’s a common denominator, no one knows how to navigate. So they sit down in a classroom on a level playing field. No intimidation. No one feeling foolish. So how does this 45 year old person who has finally found her way to salvation learn about God and His great story?

When you come to the cross late in life, you struggle with great feelings of inadequacy. You long to know more, understand more and allow truth to mold you into someone pleasing to God. But there’s this barrier constantly tripping you up. It’s called doubt.

You are determined to learn from God’s Word, so you sign up for Bible study at church. The leader starts with prayer. Great. You are good here. Then you are asked to turn to a chapter in the Bible with numbers following it. You look around trying to follow what others are doing. Flipping anxiously through the thin pages of your new Bible hoping no one notices you have no clue where this chapter called Galatians is located. By the time you have found Galatians they are reading from the book and you have no idea what the numbers mean, so you sit completely still pretending you are right there with them. And because you are overcome by anxiety from the search you barely hear the discussion.

And satan has found his way in.

Discouragement is born in moments like this. Disbelief is born in moments like this. And the fear of failure turns us away from what should be an experience of joy and expectation.

Our insensitivity to new followers of Christ and their difficult journey into His beautiful Word has caused many to stumble and even turn away. It would be like sending a child into third grade not knowing how to read. It breeds hopelessness.

Think back to a time when you felt lost and alone? Embarrassed to ask for help? You had to fight every fear. They all came crashing in at once.

If we allow new believers to walk into a Bible study without a partner to share the journey, we quickly become part of an epic failure to honor God. He called us to stand strong for one another in the journey. The whole journey.

My beginning was messy and to be totally honest I pretended a lot when I first started going to Bible study. I kept going because I longed to be around these women who loved God, because I loved Him too. I wanted to understand more about Him. Eventually one of these lovely women recognized my struggle and came alongside. She spent time explaining this amazing Book full of truth, love and promises. She made me want to know more, encouraging me in the times I couldn’t make any sense of what I read. She taught me about grace, and helped me understand growth comes with time.

I live thankful for this lovely friend who saw I was lost, longing to be found. I wonder if I would have turned away believing God’s Word was beyond my comprehension had she not stepped into my journey. Because she was the gift God provided for me in those times,

I feel a deep responsibility for those who are coming to the table hungry for His Word. I long to be the friend who senses the wavering and steps into the journey.

Would you consider joining me? Let’s introduce this magnificent Book full of promise to those trying to find their way. Maybe you believe as I do that it’s a journey best shared. Turning page after page, light spilling onto words of truth and peace and exquisite love. Pure joy grows here in the sharing.