Your Messy Bravery Makes This Mess Brave

You have gathered close and invited me across state lines and beyond our country’s borders for one simple, profound privilege: to huddle our hearts together around God’s Word. 

And I’ve seen you come from all over — bags packed, faith intact, and prayers offered with the desire to go deeper with God. You did it again just a few weeks ago as we gathered at my home church to tape a new DVD Bible study series in partnership with the LWML.

And I have to tell you:

You are brave. 

Every. 
Single. 
One. 
Of. 
You.

You have come regardless of insecurities and difficulties, not knowing if you would belong. Hoping to fit in somewhere. And it’s as if I’m looking in a mirror. 

We come with our stories searching to see how they fit into His bigger story — because that is what we have. Stories. God’s Word shining light on our lives to write stories that bleed, heal, and bless.

The lines of our stories become life-lines we share with each other when life’s storms blow hard.

Jesus often taught through stories called parables. Because people can relate to stories.

In the midst of our brave story-sharing, we discover there are a whole lot of other women out there who are a bit of a mess just like us. Messy because of those days we have to fight for joy when the enemy pulls out his arsenal. Messy because we long for eternity while living in a fallen world.

We are a mess — you and I — saved by grace. A brave mess. Brave because each day you get out of bed despite wanting to pull the covers over your head until the aches and disappointments subside.

We brave the harsh world to share our messy stories because other women need to know perfection this side of heaven is an illusion.

And as we gather around His Word, sharing our messy stories, the Spirit of God can bind our wounds. He can take away the sting of loneliness and restore joy despite the laundry heap, crying kids, bruised marriages, and frayed dreams.

Please keep getting out of bed.

We need your messy, real, authentic, unmasked stories trusting that in the hands of the Spirit, the stories become salve to the battered souls. Because as we gather in community around God’s story, the Word is made flesh in our own lives.

I need your messy story… and you need your messy story. We need people who will tell us their story, not their sermons — their thrashing, not their theology. Because we need to know that we aren’t the only messy ones. 

You are BRAVE.

Your bravery makes me brave.

And together we bravely face this world armed with the Sword of the Spirit that reveals the life-altering story of a Resurrection Easter love written for all. So we suit up.

Not because we, the messy, are perfect.

But because of the perfect One who wasn’t afraid of our messes and risked it ALL to write the perfect ending to our stories.

Thank you for being brave.

WWW.LWML.ORG/BIBLE-STUDIES

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For the Love of Bible Study {plus free downloads}

When it comes to Bible study, I admit that it used to scare my freckles white. As a new Christian 25 years ago, my Bible’s table of contents was a lifeline to find my way around Scripture.

How do you view Bible study? Frustrating, fulfilling or downright frightening?

Much like a car’s GPS, effective Bible study tools often spare us the discomfort of getting lost in Scripture.

Because who likes getting lost?

Study Bibles and other resources are helpful tools, but when it comes to studying God’s Word for personal growth (rather than preparing to speak or teach from it), I’d like to suggest a method from personal experience that works well:

(1) Shelve your study Bible.

Don’t discard it, just shelve it initially. Get a Bible that contains only Scripture cross-references. Look up the cross-references to help you interpret and navigate through Scripture. Comparing Scripture with Scripture lets the Bible explain itself, allowing God’s context to speak.

Treat study Bible notes as what they are: commentary, and a brief one at that. Remember they are man’s words, subject to bias and error. Read them respectfully but critically.

(2) Take your time.

Ask God for insight as you begin studying His Word. Humbly ask God to reveal truth to your heart and mind as you read for understanding on your own. Ask again as you compare your discoveries to those of trusted commentators.

Even if you discover that you may have drawn an inaccurate conclusion from a passage, your diligence to discover the correct interpretation will cause you to remember more readily.

This journey is vitally necessary for spiritual growth.

(3) Consult multiple sources.

Study notes serve as a starting point, not a terminus. Once you have read the passages for personal understanding in a note-free Bible, consult several study Bibles and commentaries from trusted sources. Look for consensus and disagreement among them.

And keep those prayer lines open with God as you go.

There are many resources, so where do we start? Here are some of my indispensable research mainstays:

The Lutheran Study Bible by Concordia Publishing House
Logos Bible Software
www.blueletterbible.com
ESV Bible Atlas
The New Strong’s Expanded and Exhaustive Concordance
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture

There are others, but I usually use the above resources each time regardless. Just remember, those study tools serve as a reference point for your conclusions, but not as a substitute for them.

And don’t be afraid to get a little lost in Scripture.

Allow yourself to feel the extent of what you don’t understand. It’s a humbling feeling.

If wisdom and understanding define your destination, humility makes an excellent starting point for the journey.

After all, God faithfully promises: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

How do you view and/or approach Bible study?

Comment below and let’s learn from each other’s tips and study methods. We’re on this journey together!

FREE DOWNLOADS:
Here are four different Bible Reading Checklists to choose from. Tuck one (or all) neatly in your Bible for marking your study journey. Please feel free to share them.

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Extinguishing the Flames of Anger

When Demi Lovato’s album Unbroken released six years ago, the album title intrigued me.

At the time, I was struggling with anger following my divorce.

I don’t know much about Demi’s history or music, other than her incredible vocal range. I listened to the songs carefully to find out how she developed the album’s theme.

She wrote one of the songs to her dad, pleading for him to put down the alcohol and keep his selfish hands off his daughter. It broke my heart. How awful.

Suddenly the stories that circulated on the Internet over the years about Demi entering rehab for cutting and bulimia made sense. The powerless trying to regain control.

So what does this have to do with anger?

In the music video for that particular song, Demi demonstrates that she is using the power of success to overcome her painful past.

Paraphrased, Demi’s lyrics basically say, “Go ahead and try to tear me down, but I will rise from the ground like a skyscraper.”

It’s a popular mind-set in our culture that says, “If you hurt me, I don’t get angry and take revenge; I become successful to prove that you can’t hurt me anymore.”

However, such a mind-set is commonly driven by unresolved anger. We resolve to become indestructible skyscrapers, but have we dealt with what happened at the foundation?

God set the example by being slow to anger (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 30:5). Anger is a volatile emotion that must be handled with kid gloves.

One day during my divorce process, I telephoned my television cable provider to switch the service from both of our names to mine only.

The customer service representative could not seem to understand that my husband was unavailable to approve my request, even after telling her that my husband no longer lived in our home and would not be returning.

I reached the breaking point.

I shouted something about her being too deaf to hear and too dense to understand, slammed down the phone’s receiver, yanked the whole thing out of the wall, and threw it across the bedroom with all my might. It left a perfect, telephone-shaped hole in the sheet rock.

That was not a proud moment on many levels.

My over-the-top anger vividly taught me that anger can cause damage—literally. That day I asked God to remove those sharp, angry edges and begin the process of mending my heart.

I prayed for that poor customer service rep whose hair I set aflame and asked God’s forgiveness.

If you struggle with anger, it takes intentional time in prayer and God’s Word to remove it.

At one point during her video, Demi looks defiantly into the camera as if to say, “You tried to rip me down, but my sweetest revenge will be in-your-face success.”

That mind-set likely resonates with us at some level because all of us have been hurt. Whether someone betrayed a trust, shared a secret, or physically hurt us, we get it.

Sometimes we feel the need to prove that we can rise like a skyscraper above painful adversity.

But we will not find resurrection apart from Jesus.

Anger is appropriate if we’ve been hurt, but many of us take it further. Sometimes, we add coals of bitterness and resentment and stoke our anger with dreams of vengeance.

But the truth is that we never master the flame.

Fire doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t just scorch those who hurt you—it scorches you. Eventually, it will consume your life (Psalm 37:8).

Anger itself is not a sin. However, it may become sinful when excessive or prolonged.

When we hold on to anger and bitterness, the conflagration eventually destroys us from the inside out. Evil wins.

So how do we properly respond to our wounds when we are surrounded by an outrage-obsession culture?

We don’t resolve to throw telephones across the room or build skyscrapers.

We choose to forgive.

And only God gives us the strength for that hard task.

Forgiveness is the only way to extinguish the flames of anger and once again put your feet on the path toward joy.

Surrender your anger to God.

Let Him build a skyscraper of grace in your life, built on the foundation of forgiveness.

 

*This post is an excerpt from my new book, Forgiveness: Received from God, Extended to Others, available now.

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