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But I Don’t Wanna!

May 13, 2013 — 3 Comments

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I’m a Christian Women’s Speaker.  God called me to this profession 17 years ago but I argued with Him for 14 years before agreeing.  I tried to appease Him by teaching Sunday school, bible study, kid’s clubs, and emceeing events but it wasn’t exactly what God had in mind.  So I finally threw up my hands and said, “Fine!”

Desiring to be “real” I share much that makes me extremely vulnerable.  Opening up and sharing personal stories can be scary and sometimes gets the best of my emotions, making me nervous.

So was the case when I spoke recently.  After speaking the first night of a retreat, I became so nervous about speaking again the next day, I made myself sick.  So I did what I always do when I’m scared.  I called my husband, Craig.

I informed Craig that I had no idea why I was doing this speaking thing and I must have heard God wrong.  After all, He wouldn’t call me to do something I hated so much.  And I just wasn’t going to do it anymore after this weekend.  My emotions were obviously in overdrive.  Although I felt the need to share my feelings with Craig, I think he got the idea from the shaky inflections, short and breathless words, and just general panic in my voice.  Continuing on, I filled him in on my plan of calling and cancelling all speaking engagements on my calendar and removing my speaking information from my blog.

Craig’s response?  A very flat, “Uh huh.  Whatever you think God is telling you.”  He’s obviously heard this many times before and doesn’t realize just how serious I am.  This time!

After saying goodbye to Craig, I picked up my bible hoping God would calm my heart enough to be able to sleep.  I just opened my bible and it fell to Psalm 40:8-10;

“I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart.’  I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, you yourself know.  I have not hidden your righteousness within my heart; I have declared your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and your truth from the great assembly.”

105643580Seriously???  This bible roulette thing wasn’t working out too well.  I was tempted to let it fall open again.  However, I knew God had already said what I was supposed to hear.  He really knows how to rain on my parade and my plans.

I texted Craig the verses I read.  He wrote back, “So I guess you won’t be cancelling any speaking engagements then?”   My response?  A very succinct, “Well, duh!”

By the end of the weekend retreat, I left extremely blessed meeting so many wonderful women, hearing their stories and what phrases touched them, and filling my car with the gifts of chocolate (there are definitely some benefits to this speaking thing).

So I continue to speak.  Unfortunately, I’m sure I will quit many more times in the future but these verses are ingrained in my brain now.  God is in the business of stretching us.  And although I may threaten my husband with quitting, he will not listen, God will continue to speak, and I will continue to obey.

Am I alone?  Are you scared to do something because it will stretch you out of your comfort zone?  I would love to hear about it if you’re willing to share in the comments below.

Blessings always follow obedience.  Be sure to visit on Thursday when I share the unmistakable blessing that followed this particular time of obedience.

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I Can’t Change the World but I Can Change Me

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

While traveling on the interstate to visit family in the midst of a blizzard, through complete whiteout, we suddenly saw brake lights.  My husband slammed on the brakes and we began fishtailing on the icy road.  Although we barely missed hitting the cars in front of us, we found ourselves sandwiched between two other cars at an angle.  We then watched in terror as cars slid toward us as they came out of the whiteout and slammed on their own brakes.  They slid helplessly on the ice.  Many ended up at angles nearby, some slid into the ditches on both sides of the road.  Miraculously, all of them missed us.  Cars were all over the road and in the ditches.  Traffic was backed up for miles.  Or so we assumed as we sat in the midst of this traffic jam at a complete halt in our journey.  To preserve fuel, we turned the car off, only turning it on every half hour to add a little heat to the car.   An hour went by without explanation as to why we were stopped.  Then hour 2 slipped by.  Not knowing the reason for sitting there was beginning to really test my patience.  After hour 3 of sitting in the exact same spot, I could stand it no longer.  I had to know why were stopped.  I got out and was immediately slapped with the cold wind and wet snow.  Undeterred, I began walking past car after car.

after snowfallAfter passing only 2 cars, I could no longer see our own vehicle through the thick, falling snow.  My hair was plastered to my face from the wet snow.  I was freezing and the wind was so strong I had to walk at an angle to move further up the road.  After walking past about 10 cars, my hands were completely numb, my eyes burned, the cold was sucking away each breath, and I was shivering uncontrollably.  I turned back.  Each car possessed other impatient people who rolled down their windows asking what I had seen.  “Snow!” was my pithy answer.  When I finally made it back to the refuge of our own car, I ripped open the door and fell inside.  My husband took 1 look at me and dissolved in laughter.  My face was splotchy red, my hair was saturated and stuck to my face, and snot was running out of my nose.  I did not share in his amusement.  Now I was wet, cold, miserable, angry, ugly and I still didn’t know why we were sitting there!  Yes, it is safe to say patience is not a virtue of mine.

Yet when I read Sarai’s story in Genesis 16, I want to scream at her for being so impatient.  God had promised Sarai’s husband, Abraham, a son.  But after years and years of waiting to become pregnant, Sarai becomes so impatient she actually tells her husband to sleep with her servant girl, Hagar.

What???  I would never tell my husband to sleep with the maid!

Maybe not, but there are obviously many mistakes I make when I feel God is moving too slow.  I may pray about a decision but don’t wait for an answer.  I begin my “to-do” list and start working.  I think, “Surely He will appreciate my help and all the hard work I’m putting into this.”  I pat myself on the back just before the crash and burn.

153516435Sarai knows all too well the disaster of running ahead of God.  Hagar becomes pregnant and despises Sarai.  Sarai blames Abraham and then mistreats Hagar so severely that Hagar finally runs away.

Sarai’s story forces me to ask hard questions of myself.  How many times have I taken matters into my own hands thinking God needed my help?  How many times have I, too, cast blame when the guilt is too much for me to bear alone?  How often have I taken my guilt and shame out on others?

There are 2 key ways we can avoid the trap of running ahead of God right off the cliff of despair?

  1. Pray about every decision and wait on His answer.
  • Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
  • Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
  1. After hearing His answer, trust.  No matter how long it takes.  Many people in the bible had to wait years before God’s promises were fulfilled.  I believe the word for this is patience (Yikes!  I would like to vote to move that word to the cuss word list, please).
  • Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

The good news is God can redeem our mistakes.  Sarai finally becomes pregnant with the son promised to Abraham.  She was way past the point of being able to have children but God, being God, can overcome any challenge.

Speaking of challenges, returning to the traffic jam, after waiting 4 hours in the same spot, cars began to move slowly up the road.  Although we were in whiteout conditions, I was never so happy to be moving along in a car.  At the next exit, we turned around and drove home rather than going on to visit our relatives.  We later learned a semi carrying 6 brand new cars had overturned in the road.  Not only did the semi block the road but all the cars scattered, also blocking traffic.  Each car had to be towed along with the semi.  No wonder we had to wait 4 hours.

God can overcome any challenge including giving us what we are lacking.  Even giving us the patience to wait.  Since that virtue is slow in coming for me, I continue to receive lessons in order to learn.  Meanwhile, I may just lose my patience and go look for it up the road.  Just kidding.

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

 

 

Burned!

October 29, 2012 — 11 Comments

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I tried camping.  My husband loves camping.  I love hotels.

In the middle of nowhere, enjoying the fire, I suddenly smelled pizza.  I asked my husband if he thought someone nearby ordered delivery.  As he laughed and explained the ridiculousness of that question, I felt a searing pain on my leg.  I looked down and a spark from the fire had burned through my pants and had reached my flesh.  We found the source of the aroma.  Who knew I smelled like pizza when set on fire?!

Although I was burned, I treated it with balm and gave it time to heal.  Mistakes sometimes feel like a burn.  But many times I don’t treat the burn properly:

• I pick at the burn – Reliving and beating myself up over my mistakes.  Making it fester by not forgiving myself.

Living with the burn – Not dealing with the mistake.  Ignoring and learning to live with the pain, inadvertently magnifying the scar.

• I put butter on the burn – Attempting to fix my mistakes in the wrong way.  Making excuses and placing blame on others, prolonging the burn.

Recently, I visited Colorado, staying in a house with a beautiful view of Pikes Peak.  On the last day as I admired the view, I began to realize the burn zone from the 2012 Colorado fires was just in front of Pikes Peak.  An amazing sight I had not noticed until now!

The view of the burn zone against the majestic Pikes Peak provided a lesson in dealing with my burns (mistakes) correctly:

• Deal with burns swiftly – Taking responsibility and not making excuses brings a swift end to what otherwise can turn into an out-of-control fire.  Asking forgiveness from God and others is vital to stopping the burn.  Forgiving self is integral to healing!

• The majestic softens the look of the burn – Mistakes are ugly but against the majesty of God, they become part of the beautiful landscape of His grace.

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despairThey will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  Isaiah 61:3a

• Burns stimulate growth – Mistakes provide learning opportunities.  If we learn, we grow.  We can also help others by allowing them to see our burns and share how we healed.  This spreads growth.

“ We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts…”  Romans 5:3-5

Being human, nobody gets through life without getting burned by their mistakes.  But there is hope and healing for those burns.  The ash clouds will clear and the sun will shine again.

“…He rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, restoring dignity and respect to their lives—
a place in the sun!”
1 Samuel 2:8 (MSG)

@2012 Connie Davis Johnson

Finishing Last

October 22, 2012 — 11 Comments

Don’t you love inspirational sports stories about people overcoming challenges and winning?  I especially love stories from the world of long distance racing.  Probably because I hate running and admire those that love it.  Unfortunately, I need a reason to run.  Such as from a murderer or to get chocolate.  So people who run in long distance races have my utmost respect.

We recently attended a High School Cross Country meet.  As the race wore on, my attention was drawn to the back where something special began to surface.  I saw the runners encouraging each other without regard for team division and rivalry.  The competition disappeared.  The fans who patiently waited for those in the back, cheered on each and every runner.  A camaraderie developed as the unified goal became to just finish the race.

After the first mile of the race, one runner in the back began to struggle more than the rest and fell back.  With each step, the lone runner fell further and further behind.

When the runners disappeared behind a cornfield waiting to be harvested, everyone waited with bated breath hoping their guy would emerge first.  The runners rounded the corner, ran by the cheering fans, and began their last mile.  As each runner went by, fans slowly moved to the finish line.  A few of us waited for the lone runner.

Minute after minute ticked by and still no lone runner.  We began hearing cheers as runners finished their third mile, crossing the finish line.  We waited on the lone runner to emerge from the cornfield but only saw the brown corn leaves blowing in the wind.

The few people waiting on the lone runner, thinking he gave up, made their way to the finish line.  My son and I didn’t move.  Was it just too discouraging for the lone runner?  Did he quit?  After all, most of the runners were finished and he was still on the second mile.  I looked down at my son and said, “I’m so sorry, but he must have quit.”  Just as we turned for the finish line, my son excitedly announced, “There he is!”

Emerging from the corn was the lone runner trudging slowly along.  As he neared us, he could hear the cheers at the finish line as the last of the boys finished mile three.  How hard it must be to keep running when everyone else has finished their race.

Yet, he raced on.  What character!  What an inspiration!  What a life lesson.  How many times have I been tempted to give up on life?  When the road seemed too long and I just wanted to stop.  When I felt I wasn’t getting the support I needed and became so discouraged I wanted to quit.  The times the pain was so intense, I just wanted to lay down and surrender to the agony.

The lone runner became a metaphor for life.  He disappeared behind the corn for the last half mile.  His coach yelled encouraging words through the corn.  His team lined the final stretch.  And again, we waited.

Finally, the lone runner emerged.  Panting, limping, crying out in pain.  My son and I cheered wildly as the lone runner passed.  Determined, nothing was going to stop him from finishing.

I was sad only a few of us saw the lone runner cross the finish line.  He was just an ordinary runner, very few cared to see run but who taught an important life lesson.

– Never give up.

– Fight through pain.

– Don’t lose sight of the finish line, even when it’s not visible.

– Look for fans on the sidelines.  They are there.

– Your race is encouraging others even when you don’t realize it.

– And never forget to look for inspiration among the ordinary.  You’ll always find it!

I’m so inspired, I just may join a real life long distance race.  In the Krispy Kreme Challenge, runners race to eat a dozen doughnuts.  That sounds right up my alley.  On second thought, maybe I’ll just run to my kitchen and eat a Snickers.

.….Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:13-14)

@2012 Connie Johnson

“Yesterday’s failure can become tomorrow’s hero of faith.”  ~ Beth Moore

 

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