NEW SESSION BEGINNING...

A new session of STAND will begin on Monday, September 14. For more information, please visit www.the52project.com and click on the links for "Stand." Our last session together was WONDERFUL... you won't want to miss this study!

Ready to jump in? Why not take a picture of your rainy day shoes (or you know... boots, flip-flops, bare feet... whatever!) E-mail your photo to the52project@gmail.com And we'll post them with your first name along the side-bar.

Can't wait to study with you!!!
Love, Mary

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday, June 30

Wow… the responses from you all were such a blessing to me, and I'm sure they encouraged others as well. Let me highlight a few of our discussion points:

Mary - Lately I've realized that I'M the one who NEEDS it. I need to say ... and to hear myself say... and to hear other people say... who God REALLY is. To make Him a part of ALL of our reality... and to place ourselves in submission to Him.

Kari - I think a part of praising God with our whole heart would be praising/thanking Him for what we KNOW to be true in our lives even when things are difficult or not going our way. It’s not picking and choosing when we thank Him.

Amy - It provides us with an amazing amount of PERSPECTIVE - yes, I may have a bad day. Yes, bad things may happen in my life. Yes, I may feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, lonely, etc. etc. BUT praise reminds us that God has done (and continues to do) some truly awesome things and that He must be bigger than all those other things!!

Thank you all for you input! After reading through the discussion – I saw that we came to one major point – that we NEED to praise – that it is essential for us to maintain the proper attitude and focus.

[Stop.] Praise God right now for something you KNOW about Him. Ask Him to teach you today. Ask Him to take you deeper than you've ever been before. Thank Him for what you know He can do.

Now…Focus, attitude, perspective. What is that supposed to be again?! Here are a few verses to ponder:Psalm 16:8-9, 11, Psalm 32:11, Psalm 33:1, John 15:11, James 1:2

Question for today: What should our attitude/focus be? How does praise help to "fix" our hearts in that perspective? Lets get the basic foundation laid today… we'll dig deeper tomorrow. [Get your shovels ready.]

Finally… practice your praisin'! Send an email with something you KNOW about God to the5.2project@gmail.com and lets praise the Lord together! And because Mary would indeed kill me for another girly day…

TODAY'S DISCUSSION BELOW IN GREEN:
Our focus should be on fostering our CHARACTER -- as in obedience to God (John 15:10-11), faith and patience (James 1:2), doing what is right (Psalm 33:1), living a holy life (Psalm 16:11), and having the Lord close by our side (Psalm 16:8). The verses Lauren listed also refer to praising God, but notice that the context in which they refer to it -- "BECAUSE He is close by my side, I will not be hurt. SO I rejoice ..." "BEING WITH YOU will fill me with joy." "Sing all you WHOSE HEARTS ARE RIGHT." "Sing to the Lord, YOU WHO DO WHAT IS RIGHT." These verses don't talk about praising God if and when things are "good" in your life. They talk about making the conscious choice to praise God because of WHO HE IS and THE THINGS HE CONTINUALLY DOES FOR US -- things of eternal significance (His being close by our side & protecting us) rather than transient things (such as earthy possessions, etc.). But it's reeeeeeeeeeeally hard to focus on eternal things versus material things, as our world seems to be obsessed with materialism. So what's the solution to that problem? Glad you asked :) I think maybe it's PRAISE ... if we praise how God teaches us to praise (again, back to the the verses Lauren listed) it helps fix our perspective. What an awesome God who built in so many "fringe benefits" to us praising Him! How completely cool :) Thank you, God. - Amy
Last night when I went to bed I was distraught about a particular situation in my life and when I woke up, the first thing I wanted to do was to log on to STAND and be encouraged, put my perspective aright. When I discovered the computer wasn't working I opted to read Psalm 30 and Psalm 130, since today is the 30th, and the following verses were a particular comfort to me: Ps. 130:5 - I should put my hope in the LORD, not in my circumstances or even in the possibility of the situation getting better. Ps. 30:5,11 - God turns weeping into dancing and although weeping lasts a little while, JOY comes in the morning . . .I did see a tiny bit of progress this morning in the circumstances I've been praying about but I'm trying not to put my hope in THAT, but in God, who is bigger than my circumstances. I'm reminded of Paul and Silas in prison . . .while in chains, they just started praising God, and everyone around them was affected. May I have THAT kind of attitude!!! - Lori
These verses are so cool... I love that such a major thing that the Lord requires of us, brings joy on OUR part. What an awesome and loving God we serve! Another verse that came to my mind about perspective is Psalm 121:1 "I lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help... my help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth." We have to lift up our eyes... always above our problems (hills.. mountains... jerks... you know. :) I've found that it's very often impossible to focus on our circumstances when we do this, which is very often why I think we drag our feet. We want to wallow in the here and now. There's a difference between dealing with a change of perspective and a handing off of control to the One who is worthy of praise above every circumstance... and wallowing. They are vastly different.

OR. Um.. it's because we gotta know what we know. Praise entails... LIVING IT. AND sharing it. All... in.. one.

Another cool thing is that praising the Lord and having an attitude of thankfulness is pleasantly "Distracting" to others around us too. What an awesome way to share the Lord then saying why we love Him and why we know He's real?!? Praise brings God to a personal level. It changes our perspective... and through stating it verbally... we take ownership of what we know.

I want to praise the Lord that He loves me. :) I want to praise Him that He is a creator of all things.. of each of us... of our families. I want to praise Him that He hears our prayers, that He sees us, and that He answers our prayers. I want to praise Him that His ways are higher than ours... and that His plans are greater. He is so good!!! Sorry for babbling. Ahem. love, mary

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday, June 29

Good morning, friends! I hope you were as blessed as I was after reading the Psalms this weekend! Mary is traveling this week, so for the next few days, I am your fearless leader. Please… try to contain your excitement!!! I know its Monday. But hold on to your seats… or computer desks… because we're kicking off the week with some talk about praisin' the Lord.

What is praise exactly?! Let me [or the dictionary, rather] define it for you:the act of expressing approval or admiration or commendation. the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship. Why are we discussing praise today, you ask? Well, its all throughout the Psalms for one thing. Here are some scriptures to consider: Psalm 34:1, Psalm 89:1, Psalm 92:1-2, Psalm 96. The book of Psalms ends with this statement: "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord!"

Ready for your homework questions? What does it mean to praise the Lord? WHY do we praise Him? HOW can we praise him?Want to dig deeper? In Psalm 138:1, David states, "I will praise thee with my whole heart." What does he mean by "with my whole heart?" Does it stand to reason that we sometimes praise with only part of our hearts? Is that okay?

[Stop now.] Before you dig in, thank God for who He is to you. Even if you don't know much about Him. And ask Him to teach you something awesome today.

Chime in and let us know your thoughts. Use the comment box on the page, or email your submission to the5.2project@gmail.com. It can even be anonymous. I just want to hear from you. [do i sound desperate enough?!]
So thankful for you all.

Lauren

Now… lets get to praisin' talk! And because Mary left ME in charge…and because hot pink was not an option on blogger...

MONDAY'S DISCUSSION IN PURPLE:
Lauren - You're a blessing in more ways than one. Which is why I'm going to overlook the pink and purple. Ahem. :) I love this girl!!! Thank you for taking over!

PRAISE... lately I've realized that most of my life I've thought that we should praise God for God's sake. Because it helped Him somehow. Lately I've realized that I'M The one who NEEDS it. I need to say ... and to hear myself say... and to hear other people say... who God REALLY is. To make Him a part of ALL of our reality... and to place ourselves in submission to Him.

I also think that of course God is SO WORTHY. I think that part of the reason that we don't see more of who He really is, is because sometimes we don't state enough what we already know, and what He has already done. I've realized before that I'll neglect to thank and praise Him for answered prayers.. but sail on to asking Him for something else. Wow. That's not good.

I also believe that we can praise God with our lives... we worship Him and praise Him through a good attitude when it's not warrented, a kind word when it's not deserved, all directed in thanksgiving to God that we have HIM above our circumstances... and we want to live that way.

Hmm. Got some praisin comin on. :) I want to praise God for seeing answered prayer on THIS PAGE. I want to praise God for the fact that God's word ALWAYS has something new to reveal... and things that dig deep and change lives. I want to praise God for the bond of friendship that I've experienced through this particular study!! I want to praise God for His mercies that are new every morning. I want to praise God for my family as I'm away on vacation and reminded of the PURE JOY of family.... and as I can look back and see what He's done in our lives since last summer! I want to praise God that He has given us the ability to STAND when it doesn't even make sense. I want to praise God that we can ALWAYS have something to praise Him for!!! And herein lies the proof of the need for praise... having just written this paragraph I am tempted to go on for pages... I'm so excited about who my God is... I'm humbled and amazed that
He would love me... and I want to see Him more!!! Please always keep sharing your praise on this blog... throughout the study... as often as you can!! Please make praising the Lord a DISCIPLINE... especially when you can share it with others!!!


I'm so thankful for you guys. :) :) :) love, mary
What does it mean to praise God & how do we praise ---> I think that praise is any form of acknowledging God's acts or attributes. I think we praise can Him through words or actions. I'm better at the words part than the actions part (but as my mother always told me, ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS! :) ... By actions, I mean acknowledging God's power, strength, and awesomeness through things we do and choices we make. Call me strange, but it seems to me that obeying God's commands is one way to recognize and show gratitude for all He does for us - in other words, praising Him with our lives! (something I certainly need to work on ...)

Why do we praise ---> As I'm thinking about this question, several things come to mind: 1) we praise because God is holy, absolutely WORTHY of it (Psalm 96:4), and deserves it! ... 2) It is one way that we can tell others about how AWESOME God is, and they need to know! ... 3) It forces us to reflect on everything God continually does for us rather than never really taking the time to think about it ... 4) It provides us with an amazing amount of PERSPECTIVE - yes, I may have a bad day. Yes, bad things may happen in my life. Yes, I may feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, lonely, etc. etc. BUT praise reminds us that God has done (and continues to do) some truly awesome things and that He must be bigger than all those other things!!

p.s. - Kari - what awesome news! I will be praying for the youth group!! - Amy
Praise is something that I often take for granted. Sure I thank God for things He has done but I overlook so much that He has done, especially the things that don’t go my way. The first verse Lauren mentioned was “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” That was a conviction and challenge for me because that isn’t something I do all the time. Even with the blog I can know something and type it out without actually praising Him for that. Well, this past week I have been praising God and it’s something that ONLY God can do…

We took our teenagers to Gatlinburg for a youth conference (my husband is the youth pastor)this past week and we were kind of apprehensive about it. Drew and I were praying that God would turn our youth group upside down like only He can do. Our youth group is taught about God so often but we don’t see much fruit from their lives. Well, we knew this trip could be huge and sure enough it was. Not only did they actually enjoy praising God by the end of the week (not something we see very often) but we saw them encouraging each other (the group was very split and even a little racist) and have heard of them spending time alone with God (which they have told us they don’t even crack their Bibles open). One of our teens actually was frustrated when she was put into the hospital for an asthma attack because she forgot her Bible when the ambulance picked her up so she couldn’t do her devotions. You can’t tell me that that isn’t a God thing. He spoke to all of our teenagers in a 4 day period. Yup, God was there and He is still with each one of us. Now we can just pray that they remember how awesome it is to be near Jesus and stay there!

I think a part of praising God with our whole heart would be praising/thanking Him for what we KNOW to be true in our lives even when things are difficult or not going our way. It’s not picking and choosing when we thank Him (like I stated above I have a habit of doing), but rather thanking Him constantly for everything in our lives. Because without Him, we are nothing.

-Kari
Another "praise": Ondra and I arrived safely in Roanoke on Saturday night. We have already been blessed and refreshed in our time with family in the past two days and the opportunity to be under solid Biblical teaching at Shenandoah. Thanks for your prayers!!! Another praise - just before we left, Ondra found out he has a job next year at the international school where I teach! This is perfect because we'll be able to commute together every day, saving me a couple hours a day in commute time. Yay! - Lori
Here is a praise: Thank you all for praying! Mom enjoyed every minute of her trip and she tolerated the ride very well! She enjoyed visiting with her family and everyone was so glad she was able to come! Thank you for praying for a good day! I KNOW God is in the details!

-Marlene

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday, June 26

What do you know?


This weekend I want to simply enjoy who our AWESOME GOD IS with you.


All are invited to join… whether you’ve participated in the study up to this point or not.
What is your favorite Psalm? (Or PsalmS?) And why?



How can you know, live and share the Lord as a result of what you read?


Jump in… Yes.. this IS for YOU. Let’s just take a step to praise the Lord out loud together today! Fire away!


Know it. Live it. Share it.


THIS WEEKEND'S DISCUSSIONS BELOW IN RED:
Psalm 25

OK, so I'm just a *little* last minute, but nonetheless wanted to share a Psalm that I really like -

- In Psalm 25, David asks God: "Lord, tell me your ways. Show me how to live. Guide me in your truth." It says: "Are there those who respect the Lord? He will point them to the best way. They will enjoy a good life . . . My eyes are always looking to the Lord for help . . . Look at how many enemies I have! See how much they hate me! Protect me and save me . . . My hope is in you . . ." There's SO much in this chapter! To me, it is a guidebook, so to speak, for where and how to ask for God's guidance. And if we truly seek it, He will surely provide us with it. And Psalm 19:7-9 assures us that God's guidance is beyond comparison -- "The teachings of the Lord are perfect; they give new strength. The rules of the Lord can be trusted; they make plain people wise. The orders of the Lord are right; they make people happy. The commands of the Lord are pure; they light up the way." It's all right there. The only thing left for us to provide is some effort (which we - myself included - often balk at), & we're already assured success before we even begin. - Amy
Psalm 103

"Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul."


This Psalm is one of my favorites because it has reminded me over and over again that no matter what I do or where I go, God is ready, willing, and able to forgive me of EVERY sin I have ever committed. He forgives it all. (v.3) He is always willing to show me mercy. (v.8) He hasn't given me the punishment I deserve for my sins, but rather shown me His everlasting mercy and grace. (v.10-11) He doesn't keep a list of my sins and bring them up later (v. 12)He knows I struggle and He knows I may fall. (v. 13-16) And yet He is still willing to extend to me all the mercy I need. (v.17-18) I love how this Psalm begins by telling me to "Bless the Lord", and ends the same way.

-Brandon
Psalm 8 (1) O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.

Psalm 27 (1)The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27 (4)One thing I ask of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

Psalm 40 (1-5)I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O Lord, my God are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40 (8)I desire to do your will, O my God, your law is within my heart.

Loving Him,
Donna
Psalm 39:1-7

"I said to myself, I'm going to quit complaining! I'll keep quiet, especially when the ungodly are around me. But as I stood there silently the turmoil within me grew to the bursting point. The more I mused, the hotter the fires inside. Then at last I spoke, and pled with God: Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you. Proud man! Frail as breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend. And so, Lord, my only hope is in you." NLT

I can't say this is my favorite Psalm. There are just too many for me to choose a favorite. I would have to say the whole book is pretty much my favorite. :) I do love the above, though. I know it's kind've talking about how time flies and how I need my time focused. I get that and I do daily struggle with being ridiculous busy doing a whole of nothing for eternity. But for some reason, my mind tends to stop on the first part and leads me to something I struggle with at times.

I'm all about justice. I want things to be fair, though they rarely seem to be. I want the mean, and hateful, and greedy, and spiteful to pay for their "crimes." I want the hurt, the weak, the sad, and the tries-really-hard to thrive. What I often forget is that little me only sees the outside, above-the-surface stuff. The mean and hateful are often also hurt and sad; the greedy and spiteful are usually desperate for something just out of their reach. And most upsetting to admit to myself? I am usually every day a shocking compilation of all of the above. How can I be hateful and greedy AND trying really hard? And how can I possibly judge anyone else for their choices when nearly every day I have done something or at least THOUGHT something that I'd rather no one else know. This is why I am so grateful that God is God, and he is in charge.

PERSPECTIVE is one of my favorite words and something that I pray for regularly. With perspective I have no choice but to remain focused on HIM. I am calmer, kinder, and even more hopeful. I am so thankful that my God wants to show us all mercy and grace. - - Justice… ick! Not so much fun when it's pointed in MY direction! - Renee
Psalm 73:23-26

But even so, you love me! You are holding my right hand! You will keep on guiding me all my life with your wisdom and counsel; and afterwards receive me into the glories of heaven. Whom have I in heaven but you? And I desire no one on earth as much as you! My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; he is mine forever!

Now this one is waay up on my favorite list… Do I even need to explain why? THE God of all gods is my ALL in ALL. Yaay God! :)
Psalm 3:4-6

I cried out to the Lord, and he heard me from his Temple in Jerusalem. Then I lay down and slept in peace and woke up safely, for the Lord was watching over me. And now, although ten thousand enemies surround me on every side, I am not afraid.
Psalm 34:1-4,8

I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of His glories and grace. I will boast of all His kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together, and exalt His name. For I cried to Him and He answered me! He freed me from all my fears… Oh, put God to the test and see how kind He is! See for yourself the way His mercies shower down on all who trust in Him.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Psalm 84:11-12

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee."

These verses were a stronghold for me at a time when I wasn't sure which direction my life would take. He was faithful to lead me then, just as He does now!

- MarySusan

Friday, June 26, 2009

Psalm 121

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip. he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

This Psalm is particularly meaningful for me because it is what I comfort myself with every time I fly. With each take-off and landing, I meditate on these verses (I'm not crazy about flying, it makes me nervous, but I know I will be doing it the rest of my life so I have to have some practical way to deal with it!:)). Thinking about these verses reminds me that God is in control and that He watches over my "coming and going". My best friend framed this passage and gave it to me when I left for the Czech Republic several years ago. It sits on our windowsill with a collection of angel figurines as a constant reminder of God's protection and sovereignty over my life. He will give His angels charge over me.

-Lori
Psalm 119:165

"Those who love Your law (word) have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble."

-Michael
Psalm 63:1-8

"O God, you are my God: earnestly I seek you; my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory, Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night, for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."

- Michelle
Psalm 46:10

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
- Pearl Joy
Psalm 36:5, 9

"Your steadfast love, O Lord,extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds...for with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light."
Psalm 139: 1, 7-10, 23-24

"O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me...Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me... Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

I KNOW that God knows me...not on the surface... but really knows me. And He is never leaving... no matter where I go... or what my circumstances are... my God is there and He knows me. AND SO... the Psalmist then dedicates his life to God by inviting Him to search and try His heart.... and rid Him of wickedness...and to lead him. He wants to follow God! That is my prayer too today - search me, refine me, lead me!

-Lauren
Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and roam and the mounatins quake with their surging. Selah.

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

- Will
Psalm 16
Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grace, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

I know my God loves me. I know He is all that I need.
- Mary

Thursday, June 25

ELOHI TSURI
My God My Rock.

For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? Psalm 18:31

"Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any. Isaiah 44:8

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Psalm 61:2-3

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the [Rock of my heart] and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

God is God. He is in control. He is intimate. He is the Rock of your heart.

It is a good day. His character... is so, so very good. Stop and thank Him!


Lauren and Amy summed up yesterday's question so well... if you weren't able to join in yesterday please take a moment to go back to their discussion input. God is always near, but the Psalmist was addressing his very valid feelings. Why then, does God sometimes feel far off? I think Charles Spurgeon expresses an interesting take on it... it hit home for me anyway! He is addressing the Lord's discipline, but I am quite sure it applies to other very difficult situations as well. What do you think?

"Should the parent comfort His child when He is correcting him, where would be the use of the chastening? A smiling face and a rod are not fit companions. God bares the back that the blow may be felt; for it is only felt affliction which can become blest affliction. If we are carried in the arms of God over every stream, where would be the trial, and where the experience, which trouble is mean to teach us?" - Charles Spurgeon

The Psalmist expresses legitimate feelings... but takes captive every thought with what he knows as the Psalm progresses.

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (v.14)

The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from His land. You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (v. 16-18)

Are your feet planted on the Rock? Do you often find yourself struggling to deal with situations... or are you ever aware that the Lord is equipping you now when you seek Him... that He's already equipped you for today? Can you face the reality of your circumstances and combine it with the reality of your God? Do you want to better understand how this can happen? God is real. He is so strong. Yes it is true. Please e-mail me any time for questions or more about how to know Him this way!

I'd like to throw another discussion question out there about a phrase we often read in the Psalms. Please go ahead and jump in here!! These are just thoughts... ponderings... we're all on the same page here! And we'll keep digging until we understand. Please Read Psalm 18.

Then go back and focus on Psalm 18:25-29. Very often the Psalmists express God's blessings on their lives for being "blameless". David... and a former adulterer... expresses a pretty strong word here... and so many times throughout the Psalms.

FOR DISCUSSION: How can we... all born with a sin nature... ever be blameless? What does it mean to be without blame? What are the sacrifices God requires? He is the "Rock of our Hearts." What does He require?

[Jesus said] "Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great." Luke 6:47-49

Today's discussion below... in... uuuuuugh.... PEPTOBISMAL PINK. Just for Lauren. I love her that much. Don't say I never did anything for you. :)
King David is one of my favorite Bible characters:)! David shows us the INTIMATE relationship WITH God. Psalm 10:1 "Why O, Lord, do you stand afar off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" Obviously, David is pouring out his heart to his Master. He was honest to what he felt... and that tells us how intimate David was with God.
Intimate/Love relationship is what God requires me...and you:) God wants my full devotion with Him alone. And I will tell you my friend, I woud never barter my intimate relationship with my God to anything! Never!
Like King David, there are times in life that I "feel" like God is hiding from me and He doesn't hear me...truth is I KNOW He doesn't hide at all! He knows the circumastances I am facing, He sees me, He knows my heart, He hears me...but...why can't I see Him sometimes??!!...maybe I don't trust Him much?!?..maybe there's something wrong in me that is not right before Him...maybe God is teaching me something but I am not open to it..! There are some factors ("sin factors"..."heart factors") why we don't see Him sometimes but God LOVES us so much that He allows us to experience Him more and more..through that experiences with Him we get to KNOW Him more. The more I know who God is.., the more I love Him!!! God is God, God is Good, God is mighty to Save, God is gracious, God is wonderful, God is my Salvation, God is my Redeemer, God is my comforter, God is my hiding place, God is my protector, God is my healer, God is my provider, God is my Rock, God is my Hope, God is my Joy,God is my strength ...GOD IS MY ALL IN ALL!
As I am pondering this week with you all...I just can't stop singing this song. I don't remember who wrote it but this is one of my favorite songs:) May you my friends, TRUST HIS HEART no matter what circumstances you are in right now.... With love and prayers, Michelle
TRUST HIS HEART
All things work for our good
Though sometimes we can't see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when the pathway grows dim
And you just can't see Him
Remember you're never alone.
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
He alone is Faithful and True
He alone knows what is best for you!
- Michelle
I agree with you. God requires us to REPENT because He is Holy and Pure. It's impossible to have fellowship with our Holy God if we haven't let go the things that aren't pure. :)
God has been teaching me:) - Michelle

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mary, I was actually thinking the same thing about David’s claims of blamelessness when I was reading Psalm 18. So I looked at Psalm 51, which records David’s repentance. He says to God: “Wipe out all my wrongs. Wash away all my guilt and make me clean again.” He asks God: “Give me back the joy of your salvation.” I think that Psalm 18 shows just that – David is joyfully celebrating the victories God has brought him & he obviously feels that his relationship with God has been restored by God’s forgiveness. Psalm 18:32 says it all – “It is GOD who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”

… So what does God require? My answer would be repentance. There are SO many references if you do a Bible search on that word. Yes, we need to ask for forgiveness but God clearly directs us to repent, too. It seems like we’ve lost sight in our culture of the difference between those two things. For me, asking for forgiveness is fairly easy – it’s basically feeling a sense of regret and simply asking God to pardon us. What I really struggle with is repenting – which means to turn away from something – CHANGE – do a U-turn – rather than doing that same thing over and over and to just keep asking for forgiveness. I’m not saying that our efforts to do so will be perfect, though, so thank goodness that we have a Rock that we can call on when our heart is faint (Psalm 61:2)!!
Hey guys! I realized that my post might have been confusing or come across as to broad. My question was addressing the way that the Psalmists sometimes seem to refer to their behavior as pure, blameless, and righteous, despite the fact that no one ever completely is. What is our standard then? How can we be considered "without blame?"

Sorry for the confusion! :) - Mary
Psalm 61 has been one of my favorites for a long time, and I cling to this verse often. When I memorized it, I learned a different version…

"When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I…for you have been a stronghold for me."

My heart was feeling overwhelmed this morning, and these verses were SUCH an encouragement to me today! My God. My Rock. My Deliverer. My Refuge. "The Rock that is higher than I…" Wow!!! He wants me to run to Him!

Something else struck me today when I was reading Lori's comment. To move to higher ground… do we have to rise above… to go against the flow? Hmm. Would that be hard and not make sense… but be worth it when we got to the Rock and saw the view from there?
Hmmm.

Operating on little sleep and no coffee, that’s all I got today. So blessed to study and pray with you all. And to be able to run to the Rock.

And Mary, thank you for the gift of pink. [Made my day.] It’s the little things.


Love,
Lauren
I read the first part about God being our "rock" as soon as Mary posted this morning, then I left the rest of the discussion and questions for later and just meditated on that part. The first thing that came to mind were the verses in Matthew which talk about the wise man who built his house upon the "rock" . . .And I was thinking if we have God as our base, as the foundation for our lives, then we have security, surety, a steady frame of reference. I was delighted when I read the rest later to discover that Mary included these verses as well! The second thing that struck me this morning is very practical, actually. We're having flooding in our area (a dam even broke loose) and so even before I got Mary's post this morning I was thinking, if water came rushing towards me, how would I respond? Where would I go for safety? And I thought, "A high place. Someplace ABOVE the water". And if you think about it, that's what rocks are, really. They aren't just SOLID and STRONG, but they also allow us to climb up on them and get a better view of our surroundings and are a place of safety. So, that God is my ROCK means not only do I have a firm foundation, but also I have a better view of my circumstances and can "dwell in safety".SAFETY.SECURITY.
STRENGTH. STEADINESS. That's what I get from MY God.:)
-Lori

Wednesday, June 24

Hey there! How are you today? Any new prayer requests or updates? I've been praying for you... and I know others have as well. Thank you for praying for Lauren and I yesterday. We were able to hand out some information and invitations. Please pray for hearts to be open to just checking out what others know.

Let's wrap up our present discussion of feelings vs. acting today... plant our feet... and see what else God has in store!

Check this out:
He {God} made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel. Psalm 103:7

In Exodus we read about the people of Israel, who had been freed from slavery by God, who witnessed some of the most incredible recorded miracles (manna from the skies, the parting of the Red Sea, pillars of cloud and fire before and behind them as they travelled!!!) and watched them rejoice when they saw a miracle... then whine and complain when things were hard. Over and over and over again. They wandered in circles... not making it to the Promised land until the next generation. Why? Because they only worshipped God for His deeds. If that's all we're interested in.. our present circumstances and personal comfort... we're looking at the water. We'll only see our circumstancs. Not the AWESOME GOD who is in control!

Moses had one of the most intimate relationships with God recorded in the Scriptures. Why? Because He based his decisions and actions on the ways and on the character of God. Read the verses below and notice the similar thought progression between Moses and Peter.. and thank the Lord that you are allowed to read written proof that God answered the prayer of Moses...and the prayers of Peter! They both learned that 1. God knew them... actively and presently. 2. They needed to know who God IS.

Moses said to the Lord, "You have been telling me to lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me [circumstances]. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor in me.' If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people." The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:12-14

Please read Exodus 3:13-15; Pr. 14:12; Pr. 16:17; Ps. 25:10; Ps. 51:13

Thank you, Yaweh, the Great I AM, that you are bigger than our ways, bigger than our feelings. Thank you that in Psalm 1 you tell us to "delight in the law of the Lord." That delight means will... that you are bigger than our feelings and that you desire for us to learn, know, and live the reality of who you are... so that we can see so MUCH MORE of what you do!

Now. Ready for a big question? Please read Psalm 10:1.
Many times, especially in the Psalms, the Psalmists refer to God standing "far off", "not being near", or "hiding His face." What in the world does that mean? Is that figurative... or literal? What has your own personal experience with the Lord taught you? How do these ideas compare and contrast with the intimate God that we've been studying?

Can't wait to dig in more. :)

Plant your feet today my wonderful friends! Stand firm in your victorious, intimate, all-knowing God.


TODAY'S DISCUSSION BELOW IN GREEN:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I think David is expressing his FEELINGS about God's distance but at the same time he seems to KNOW that, in reality, God is not distant. By the latter part of Psalm 10, David is saying that God upholds those who fall, sees trouble and grief, & satisfies the desires of every living thing! That kind of involvement couldn't come from a distant God -- only from a God who has an intimate knowledge of us!

I find it comforting that the Psalmists express those feelings of distance, though. It lets us know that this is "normal" and that we're not always gonna get to rely on "warm fuzzy feelings" when it comes to God.

Sometimes the feelings aren't there & it is then that we're left with what we KNOW. As I've said, I struggle with this. It's so much easier to following our ever-changing feelings. In fact, we live in a society that encourages that by telling us that there are no absolutes & to "do whatever feels right." Hmm ... *lightbulb moment here* perhaps that is, at least in part, what Romans 12:2 is getting at then – "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" & that thinking this way - in terms of what we KNOW vs. what we FEEL - will help us "test & approve what God's will is." This may haven't come out making sense to anyone else, but God has really taught me something tonight. - Amy
Green? I'm still waiting on PINK to make it into the rotation... hmmm. :)

I love studying with you all! Just sayin'. :)

When I read Psalm 10, I see that David is very real about how he feels about the wicked "prospering" [but not our definition of prospering, my friends!]. And that is a comfort to me... he was frustrated that God wasn't reacting to the wicked the way he thought He should. The people in the Bible are real people too! They have justified feelings... just like I do. And its okay to voice those feelings to God as David does (He knows them anyway, doesn't He?!).

But... we read in the other scriptures listed that God's ways are very different from our ways. He sees the whole picture (after all, He is in control). And He doesn't always give us the whole picture... we don't need it. He is the I AM. That is present-tense. He is just enough for me. Now. For where I'm at. I AM. Not "i will be...". I AM. Right here. Right now. Enough. Non-negotiable.

I think I need the whole picture sometimes (okay... I always think I need the whole picture... not gonna lie!). Like the psalmist, I feel like God is far away when I don't see Him working like I would like Him to. But I KNOW He has promised to never leave me... to always, always be here... to walk with me. Whether I feel like He is here or not, He is. I know that. He is the I AM. He doesn't leave... He doesn't stand far away... those are my feelings talking. He is here. He is the I AM. And so...

Love,
Lauren

Tuesday, June 23

It's a good morning. Prayer time. Bible out, reading through my friend's thoughts, knowing that God is right now preparing me for my day... and a HUGE mug of coffee. :) It's a good day.

I am completely enjoying and learning from this present discussion and I'm so glad that Amy brought the topic up!!! If you all have any topics you'd like to discuss with our format on suffering, please e-mail them to me and we'll try to hit each one. mary@the52project.org

If you missed any parts of the discussion from yesterday... please take a moment to go back and read through them. There were SO MANY THINGS brought to the table that are so worth remembering!

Let's break these things down into two topics, one for today and one for tomorrow. I don't know about you but I'm encouraged, and motivated from our discussions. I don't want to lose sight of what I'm learning, so I want us to keep digging and draw out our personal application: "feet planting steps"... to take from here.

The two things we need to understand in order to accurately establish our mindset are:

1. Jesus knew Peter.
2. Peter had to know Jesus to make it.

Sounds simple, right? Like something we hear all the time? That's why we have to dig deeper. There are things that God wants us to understand that are beyond our "knowledge"... that are HIS truth, not ours.

For today: Jesus knew Peter.
Back to Psalms 1:6a For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous...
The Hebrew word here for watches is [KNOWING]. The Lord is [knowing] your life. It's a verb. He's [active]. He's [caught up] on your life. And He's [doing something about it.] Awesome.

"Behold how David here terrifies us away from all prosperous appearances, and commends to us various temptations and adversities. For this "way" of the righteous all men are utterly reprobate; thinking also, that God knoweth nothing about any such way. But this is the wisdom of the cross. Therefore, it is God alone that knoweth the way of the righteous, so hidden is to it the righteous themselves. For His right hand leads them on in a wonderful manner, seeing that it is a way, not of sense, nor of reason, but of faith only; even that faith that sees in darkness, and beholds things that are invisible." - Martin Luther

God knows YOU. He knows ME. He knows our thoughts, our feelings, where we come from, where we're going, what we need, what we want... and what will finally become of all of these things. He knows the whole picture.

Below I'm including another list of the names of God, so that we can better know the One who knows us, so very well. I'm pulling the history of these names from a fabulous Bible study book called : "Knowing God By Name" by Mary A. Kassian
Please take a few minutes to look up and take note of the Scriptures I'm including. They are food for your day, my friend. :)

The God who knows you.. is:
EL RO-I : God sees me.
(You know this one!!!) Gen. 16:13-14; Psalm 94:9
IMMANU EL : God with us
Ezekial 37:27; John 14:16-17
ELOHEY AVOTEYNU : God of our Fathers
Exodus 3:15, Jeremiah 32:38-41
AVI : Father
Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:15-16
EL QANNA : Jealous God
Exodus 34:14; Isaiah 54:5

Now plant your feet.
For discussion: No matter where you are today... you CAN go farther with God. What a priviledge!!! In what ways should it impact our lives that God's view of us goes beyond simple knowledge? Some ways may be scary... other ways are comforting.
As a result... as people seen be a Creator God... How should we live?

One of my favorite parts of yesterday's story of Peter, is that while Peter needed to fix his eyes on Jesus... Jesus had His eyes on Peter. ALWAYS. Even while Peter floundered to figure it out. Do you need to be rescued today? Remember that if you are seeking after Him, God has put you where you are for a PURPOSE. Find it. You might not know the ultimate purpose, but you can seek His face in it for today. His help... His direction... and His protection are IMMEDIATE.

I love the way that we talked about Peter being brave enough to do the impossible... to walk on the water. Somehow, Jesus knew that his eyes still weren't in the right place. I don't think it was possible for Peter to even recognize it... he wanted to walk on the water so badly! Then the wind and the waves came... and Jesus allowed Peter to be stretch further to FINALLY fix his eyes on Jesus ONLY. So... for all of us "Peter's" have a wonderful day seeking the God who already knows you... and let's plant our feet!

Will you please pray today as Lauren and I head downtown to take photos for next month's 5.2 Journal and share the Lord through 5.2 with those we meet? Thank you for praying!

TODAY'S DISCUSSION BELOW IN PURPLE:


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like Lori, I have also found that God knows me intimately to be very reassuring. People will let me down... they will make mistakes. They will hurt my feelings and find fault with me. They will try to change me into someone I am not. They will reject me. This is a reality. Because of this reality, I've found myself sometimes holding back parts of myself... protecting myself from the hurt that comes with allowing others to know me. But God already knows me. He already knows my faults... my thoughts... my desires... my fears... my struggles... my joys. He knows me. Intimately. And He loves me. Unconditionally.

The fact that God knows me intimately should impact how I live. Thats where the "I know... and so..." comes into play. If I know that God knows me in that way... what am I going to do with it? Like Mary said, I need a pure heart before Him. How humbling! He also knows my struggles... just like He knew Peter's struggle. And He has the power to free me from those struggles if I only ask... how motivating!

I am so blessed to know that God knows me, and loves me anyway. And I also need to put my "and so..." with that truth and live my life in such a way that His knowing me brings Him joy.

Love,
Lauren

The fact that God INTIMATELY knows me has, for me, always been a positive thing . . .Perhaps that means I need a better understanding of God and His holiness and to become more aware of how many times I disappoint him (I couldn't help but hear a ring of disappointment in his voice when he told Peter, "You of little faith! Why did you doubt?"). But for me, that I am intimately known and yet completely loved by God has always been a point of deep reassurance. When I'm disappointed by circumstances or people, there is always this one, steady constant - God's loving and intimate knowledge of me.

The fact that God KNOWS me, past, present, and future, also gives me HOPE and a sense of PURPOSE. Lately the verse from Proverbs, "Without vision, the people perish", has been reverberating in my head, and I've been praying very specifically for God to give me a "vision" for my life and also for us as a couple to know what direction we're headed and how God wants to use us in the future. Mary, you mentioned that if we're seeking God, He has a purpose for us for where we are RIGHT NOW. And I need to cling to that because honestly, I don't often feel very "purposeful". I want to live a life that matters, that impacts others, and I think about that almost constantly. If I hold to the fact that God has me where I am right now for a PURPOSE, then I can handle anything, no matter how hard or painful it may be.

When I read the list of God's names and got to "God of our Fathers", I couldn't help but think of the words to the following hymn:

"God of our Fathers", by Daniel C. Roberts

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

- Lori

For me personally, this is what it means that God knows me this way:
It is scary that God knows the sin in my heart often before I recognize it. Even scarier is the fact that He knows when I recognize it and then overlook it! It means that He knows how to save me from it. It means that I have consequences for sin. It means that He forgives me. It means that keeping a clean heart before God... constantly... is vital to my relationship with Him... and with others.

The way God knows me means that He has a purpose and plan for me that He will reveal and prepare me. He's not a God who finds out things we do and then teaches how to clean them up. I've switched my main time in the Bible to first thing in the morning so that my mind is SET on Him, I know that I've given myself to Him first thing in the morning... and I can tell you countless times how I've faced a situation in the day and then known EXACTLY what my quiet time was for in the morning. GOD IS SO GOOD!

The fact that the God of the universe knows me has brought me to my knees. Literally. I've started praying there, especially right when I wake up, to remind myself of who He is. I have so little to offer Him but I can certainly offer Him my reverence. I know it changes MY day... without a doubt. It helps my children also to realize that He's more than a religion, more than a convenience, but that He's our King. It's an awesome thing to start the day on your knees with your kids. Not because we're doing something good. We're not. We're trying to get out of the way... and it always changes our focus.

The fact that God knows me makes me ever mindful that I need to stay in conversation with God throughout the day... to keep my perspective right and because He has promised to direct my steps. If He knows me better than I know myself (which He's proven) He can, will, and DOES give discernment when we ask. The fact that God knows me is helping me to finally realize... I CAN LIVE A VICTORIOUS LIFE!!! I REALLY CAN!!!

The fact that God knows me makes me want to know Him more.
love, mary

Monday, June 22

This morning, I want to dig just a little deeper into the discussion at hand. I'll keep it short. You're welcome. I can't wait to continue to draw this particular discussion to conclusion... because it's such a good one and because of WHO the conclusion of the matter is!!! Oh yeah. I promised to keep it short. Sorry.

Have you started your Monday with prayer? Will you stop and thank Him for who He is this morning? There's no better way to start your Monday.

Please read: Matthew 14:23-33


Peter walking on the water. Lauren referenced it this weekend too. One of my favorite stories. Ever. Please read it and focus on the mindset... just like Donna described it below. Take it personally. Imagine you were Peter. (Because... well, you kinda are.) Here are some things to think about.

What was Peter's [physical] reality? Was it safe? Was it any less real because Jesus was there?
What do you think Peter's feelings about the situation were? Were they justified?
[Just a thought... I think Jesus knew, understood, and had compassion for Peter's feelings. I think maybe that just might be why He wanted to bring him across... to change his perspective... to free him from fear of circumstances.]
What was Peter's mindset?

One more question... what was Jesus' mindset?

It is imperative that we not draw any discussion to conclusion without personal application. Sometimes Satan will give us what is good...to distract us from what is best. If we gain knowledge, its' good. But without living and sharing... our knowledge is idle. It's useless.

So. What do you know?
How will you live it?
Will you share it?

"You should be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have full understanding of every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus." Philemon 6

A Gift for you this Monday: Who is this God we know?

The Lord is in charge.
authority: legitimate power to command or act; dominion; control; the right to enforce rules and give orders.

He is:
Melek Olamim: King of Ages
Melek Yahweh Tsabaot: King Lord of Hosts
Marey Malek: King of Kings
Shophet Tsaddiq: Righteous Judge
Melek Ha-Goyim: King of the Nations.

Hallelujiah! That's my God!

TODAY'S DISCUSSION BELOW IN ORANGE.

Today I watched my 4 year old (Sam) win the battle between feelings and what he had to do. He got out of my father in law's pool, headed for his watermelon, and on the way got a splinter that was TWO INCHES long.. deep.. and completely embedded through his foot. I'm not kidding. That thing was like a BRANCH. :) Poor buddy cried so hard. Thankfully I had a friend who was there to help work on it while I held him for quite some time but to no avail. He cried but he stayed in my lap, he never once tried to get up or tell her to stop. Finally we headed for the doctor... who gave me a not so comforting... "WOW." She told Sam she had to get it out and it was going to hurt. He just said "ok", hugged his blanket, and laid where she told him to. The doctor proceeded to work on him for another 10 minutes of pure agony. When she was done, Sam sat up with his splotchy-purple, tear-flooded face and said "thank you." I was amazed. He got up, proudly put his new sticker on... and limped for the door so he could go back to play. Sometimes I wish I was more like this little man!
- Mary
I think Peter trusted Jesus when he first step onto the water but when Peter saw the waves he was so scared!( when our problems get tougher and heavier we feel sacred). I also think that Peter had in his heart of blaming Jesus for letting him walked on the water. I would also be scared like Peter was!!!:) The same thing with the circumstances I had faced and the circumstances I am facing at the present. Sometimes. the load is just so heavy and complicated that I gaze at it and I even question God about it. There are also times that the circumstances in my life are so confusing but when I STAND of what I KNOW and what I BELIEVE that "God is not a God of confusion but of Peace" (1 Cor. 14:33) I am still, relax, and joyful in the midst of the storm:) There are also times that I can't recognize God's voice. Sometimes I would say to myself " Is this God's voice?...Is He leading me towards this direction or not?...or maybe maybe these are just obstacles that hinder me not to hear Him right???!!? ..." When these ramdom thoughts come up I immediately remind myself that "God is the Prince of Peace"!
I have claimed this promise many times and I am claiming it again right now and proclaiming it. Jesus said in John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
May God's Peace be with you today.
In Christ,
Michelle:)
Do you notice when Jesus asked Peter, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (v 31). Peter had no answer. Jesus had just saved Peter from drowning, but the wind came along, Peter became frightened, taking his focus off Jesus. Isn't that what we do when our circumstances come along? Our circumstances become "the wind". We focus on the circumstances and we sink. Peter didn't answer Jesus when he asked "Why do you doubt?" I think that is a good question to which there is no good answer. But it sure gives me something to think about...how about you? When we focus on our circumstances nothing is accomplished, we just sink down even deeper. Jesus wants our undivided attention, our FOCUS on HIM, just as he wanted Peter's full attention. He wants to keep us from drowning!
Donna

Monday, June 22, 2009

The first thing that jumps out at me in this passage is that (in verse 30) Peter didn't become afraid when he saw the water, but when he took note of the WIND and the WAVES. It's like he had enough faith that Jesus could sustain Him - even on the water - until he focused on the tumultuousness of it. I think we do that alot of the time -- we believe that God is in control & will care for us. But when things get really rough, we start to focus on how "bad" things are getting rather than focusing on the One who is STILL in control.

Perhaps during such times we should remind ourselves of all that is involved for God to be in control, even during the "calm" times. A million things about the earth, the universe, our biology, etc. make NO SENSE and couldn't continue to function & exist without God's constant touch. Yet, when life's situations get tough, we have a hard time trusting Him to handle them! Kinda crazy when you think about it that way, huh?

Yet, I must admit, I am 200% guilty of that. I hate to say it but I'm afraid that Peter may have me beat -- would I have had the faith to start walking on the water to begin with?? - Amy
WOW there is so much in this story... I don't even know where to begin.

Peter's reality was overwhelming. And scary. And intense. And very real. And I think that Peter was probably scared, confused, and maybe even ashamed and embarassed. I think those feelings were all justified - its okay to feel scared, confused, ashamed, or embarassed at circumstances... I think that is perfectly justified. I think that what Jesus was trying to push Peter to see, however, was that... no matter your feelings... or your situation... your REALITY [knowing what you know] doesn't change. Ever.

Jesus walked on solid ground with Peter many, many times. And Peter had his eyes on Jesus. Peter knew who Jesus was. When Peter was in the boat, He knew who Jesus was. He called Him Lord, and stepped forward with courage. When Peter was in the ocean, he took his eyes off Jesus. Perhaps for just a second, he forgot who Jesus was. He felt very real feelings of fear, confusion, embarassment, and shame. He focused on the situation he found himself in more than the Person he was with while in that situation. He stumbled.

Jesus' reaction was one of compassion. And I noticed something in this story that I've never seen before. His reaction was IMMEDIATE. He was waiting on Peter to call to Him. When the disciples called out to Jesus in the beginning, it says He answered them right away and told them who He was. And in the end, when Peter calls out to Him, it says he immediately stretched out His hand and caught him.

Christ wants me to KNOW Him. To fix my eyes on who He is. On the reality that does not change... ever. But that isn't enough. He wants me to STAND on that... to take what I know and live it out - easy or hard - fun or not. Its easy to say that, but very hard to live it out. But I'm also figuring out that it is SO worth it...

Love,
Lauren

ps - sorry i was obnoxiously long today. i know all of this orange is going to make Mary reallllllly thirsty! :)
Obviously,Peter was afraid. At first, he was afraid along with the other disciples b/c they thought they'd seen a ghost. Then perhaps he had a sudden surge of courage - got out on the lake, and right in the middle of it, froze. "What on EARTH was I thinking?" I definitely do that sometimes;I take a step of faith and when things start getting a little shaky I have doubts. What I LOVE is that Jesus IMMEDIATELY told them who He was so they wouldn't have doubts (vs.27) and He IMMEDIATELY reached out to rescue Peter when he started to sink. Jesus' mindset was definitely one of compassion. End result? Jesus was worshipped. Maybe even my moments of doubt serve to reinforce my faith! - Lori

Friday, June 12 2009

And… it’s Friday!!! I hope that makes you smile!

I know that many of you have been travelling, or may be just heading out… so let’s do a quick recap of our current discussion. All of the discussions along with the guides are posted below for those who would like to catch up! We’ve been learning how to plant our feet. We’ve been talking through the question of why it sometimes seems that those who don’t follow the Lord sail through life and “prosper” while we follow Christ and still suffer. Here’s a recap of what we’ve come up with:

“My first thought was that the wicked seem to prosper because we think of prospering in selfish terms. “The wicked” are about the world, their world without Christ.” – Kari

“As followers of Christ, we are IN the world but are called to be set apart. We don't get to take the "easy" road, but our road is much more eternally rewarding.” – Lauren

“Maybe there’s a connection to free will… God wants us to choose Him through faith, not convenience.” – Amy

“I think suffering helps us depend on God and go to our knees in prayer.”

“I think God uses suffering to shape the character of His children”

“…God's character in regards to suffering -- we are often quick to think of things not being "fair," but when we do so we only focus on the "unfair" things that are to our disadvantage. The "unfair" things that are to our GREAT ADVANTAGE far outweigh the ones that are to our disadvantage. These include GRACE, MERCY, and SALVATION. Yep, by definition they aren't "fair" - they are totally undeserved.” - Amy

Another thought: Satan already has the ungodly where he wants them. He doesn’t need to make them fall. Their “great reward” is all that they are getting now… while we get the constant reward of seeing our God as we offer our “comfort” like 5 loaves and 2 fish… and as a result get to watch the God of all make it multiply!

This weekend I want to leave you with two very important questions for discussion. Look back at Psalm 73:21-18. Where does the Psalmist stand in the midst of His suffering? He hasn’t seen the “conclusion of the matter” as pertaining to His circumstances, but He has brought his “know, live, and share” to conclusion. What does the Psalmist KNOW… and how does it impact His words, actions, and outcome?

Yesterday Amy posed an awesome question and I wanted to leave it up for discussion and research this weekend. Amy, I’m so glad that you did. We can, and must find ways to dig our feet into our “knowledge” and press forward toward our God and the abundant life that He offers. I KNOW… that He loves it when we seek Him!

Ok, Ready? Here’s Amy’s question:

“Lori, you mentioned acting on what you KNOW rather than what you FEEL. I agree that this is essential. So ... I'm gonna pose an embarrasingly simplistic question here -- in addition to prayer and self-discipline, any suggestions on how to fight off the FEEL? Waaaaay too many times when there's a battle between the two in my life (which is all the time), FEEL wins out over KNOW by a longshot, and I'm struggling to find ways to try to change that (although I know it will always be a battle) ... thanks for your input, guys!” – Amy

Any thoughts? Any experiences? Fire away!
For help in research: Look back through Psalm 1 and dig a little deeper into some of our discussion notes. Also see: Psalm 37:4-7,23-24 Philippians 3:1-16 Hebrews 13:7-8 James 1. Another one to reference is 1 Chronicles 16:7-43. This was a Psalm that David committed to Asaph (The author of Psalm 73)! He provides a lot of direction and guidance that Asaph shows through his writings to have learned to apply. Stop and dig into the words here, let yourself think through how they would work out in your own life. There’s a few to get you started :)

I hope that you each have a great weekend!!! Discussions on the above topics are open all weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts! Please continue to lift one another up in prayer and feel free to send in prayer requests and updates. *I’d love to hear your evaluation of this study so far. Do you have any questions concerns, or comments? Is there anything I can do for you? Please let me know! I’m totally…completely… and absolutely enjoying studying with you :)

THIS WEEKEND'S DISCUSSION BELOW IN BLUE:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It looks like we all came to the same conclusion - its all about fixing your eyes on Jesus. Perspective seems to be something we keep reiterating in this study and its definitely so true. When we are walking on the water... and we look down at the crashing, angry waves, its so easy to get caught up in that and fall. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, STANDING is a whole lot easier. I'll be the first to admit that I struggle with this a lot. We have to take the hard times moment by moment and remember the basics... I KNOW who my God is... and I'll live and share accordingly. So simple. So challenging. So revolutionary! Hope you all had a good weekend! Can't wait to dig in more tomorrow!

Love,
Lauren
wow. I just finished reading through the lists of passages Mary and Donna listed. There's SO much good stuff in there I really need to read over them several times this week to soak more of it in! I especially love 1 Chron. 16:11, Ps. 25:15, Romans 8:6, Phil 3:13b, and Psalm 37:4-7. It all comes down to focus and reliance on God, plain and simple. I think focus is a big challenge in our society. There's so many distractions that can absorb all of our time & we're so busy we barely notice it. Thanks for all the good references!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Amy’s question about feeling vs. knowing is something I know is a struggle for most Christians. One of the lessons I learned (and still learning) is that feelings are of the flesh, and many times come from the past, from unpleasant experiences or unmet expectations in our lives, which leads to viewing God on a feelings level. Satan wants us to believe and view God differently from what God has taught us. Satan want us to have a mindset of deceit based on our feelings.God is our loving Father, our Protector, he is the parent we never had, the spouse we so desired, he relieves the pains and burdens we carry, and fills the hole in our heart. BUT, satan wants us to think and FEEL the lie. The way we KNOW God is to set our mind on the things above. What satan wants is for us to set our minds on earthly matters and what was, so here come the feelings. With me, when the feelings start creeping in (and they do) I remind myself that the feeling is from satan. Satan is the great deceiver, the father of LIES and I am being deceived and lied to by my feelings. What I do KNOW is God is Love, pure, unconditional LOVE. No matter what I feel at the moment, I KNOW God loves me no matter what others may expect from me, did to me, said about me, condemned me for, etc…. God is tender-hearted and forgiving and His heart and arms are always open to me. That is not a lie...this is truth and I KNOW it. He tells me so! I carry it in my heart! I also find helpful when I start having these deceitful feelings, keeping certain scriptures placed around my house (like the bathroom mirror, or on the frig or the car) and marked in the bible helps remind me who God IS and who satan IS NOT. A few are referenced below.
Gen 15.1; Ps. 25:3 and Is. 49:23; Ps.86:5; Col 1:19; Ps 91; John 10:14-15;Jer 32:17; I John 3:1; Rom 8:38-39; John 17:23;
Ps 103For the mind set of the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6Be transformed by renewing your mind and put on truth. Eph 4:23,24You will then begin to reflect what is good, acceptable and perfect. Rom 12:2
Let’s pray for one another to have the mindset of Christ
Resting, Donna
The psalmist knows that God is always there with Him, guiding Him through those hard times, protecting him, providing the strength when his body and mind are weak. I think the impact of these things on the psalmist is best seen in verse 28. It seems to indicate that, BECAUSE of his suffering, the psalmist sought refuge in God and as a direct result drew nearer to Him. So suffering = needed refuge = became near to God. That suffering was the means to a very important end! (But the psalmist didn't stop there. The knowing and living were followed by the other main component of 5.2 -- sharing! - "I will tell of all your deeds"). -Amy