Writing so that . . .

I’m currently participating in an online Bible study from Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are studying Scripture using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. She explains:

“. . . our lives should not be self-centered and static; rather, they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the kingdom of God.”

“The authors of Scripture . . . intentionally chose to use these two words to connect a truth of Scripture to a practical application of that truth. They used them to bring truth alive and make it relevant and applicable to our everyday lives.”

This month we’ve been encouraged to think about what we want our writing to make happen inside our readers. This is one of those questions where there is no right or wrong answer. Each of us as writers is unique with particular giftings from God.

  • Some are “prophets” – called to point out and correct error
  • Some are “teachers” – called to help others understand God’s truth
  • Some are “helpers” – called to come alongside others
  • Some are called to hospitality – called to make others feel comfortable

And the list goes on (See I Corinthians 12).

As I thought about my writing and how I want it to affect my readers, I realized that no matter what type of writing I’m doing, whether memoir, fiction, devotional, creative non-fiction, etc., I want my writing to evoke emotion. Readers become engaged when their emotions are involved.

I also want my writing to effect change in the reader. This change could be as simple as giving the reader a good chuckle or as complicated as shifting the reader’s world view. When I write, I want to be intentional, not haphazard. Mary DeMuth sums it up well:

“I’m on this world to write words that change people.”

I am writing, so that my readers are engaged and moved to change. These are lofty goals, but I remind myself that I’m employed by the King of Kings and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I dare not aim for anything less than the best.

What do you want your writing to do?

 

NOTE: This was first posted on the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship blog www.inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com


3 simple steps to combat the flesh and feed the spirit

Which one should I feed?
Which one should I feed?

In our Proverbs 31 online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That, we are learning many practical things about growing closer to God. For the blog hop this week, we could choose one of four topics. I’m choosing to share how we can combat the flesh and feed the spirit. If you haven’t heard the parable of the two dogs, I would encourage you to read it here.

We just finished celebrating Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection at Easter time. Why did Jesus endure betrayal, false accusations, excruciating physical pain, and unspeakable spiritual suffering? He did it so that you and I could accept His gift of salvation and be set free from the power of sin. If you’ve never taken this step of faith, and want more information, please read The Four Spiritual Laws.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Once we accept forgiveness for our sins and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we need to continually follow three steps. At first glance, they are simple. However, that doesn’t mean the steps happen without conscious effort on our part.

1. Choose to say yes to God. Wendy says:

“The more we say yes to spending time with God in His Word, the more we will recognize His voice. The more we recognize His voice, the more we will live in expectation of seeing Him at work. The more we see God at work, the more we will experience Him in our midst. And the more we experience Him, the more we will be able to trust Him in all things. It all starts with saying yes to God’s invitation to meet with Him.”

There are many things that can and will distract us from putting God first in our lives. We can be distracted by family responsibilities, our job, church activities, etc. Did you notice that these are all “good” things? Often we allow good things to crowd out the best. In Matthew 6, we are told we don’t need to worry about what we wear or what we’ll eat or anything else. Instead:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (vs. 33)

I find that I have to choose to spend time with God first thing in the morning or it doesn’t happen, because I get caught up in the daily activities of life. I would encourage you to find a consistent time when you’re alert to meet with God.

2. Saturate yourself in God’s Word

The Bible has been described as God’s love-letter to mankind. If we don’t read it, study it, and memorize it, we won’t be able to discover who God really is or what He wants us to do. Our memory verse for week two of the study was:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (NIV)

Wendy shares:

“The key to establishing our faith is spending time in God’s Word. We can’t accomplish it by attending worship once a week, by periodically participating in Bible studies, or by watching a televangelist on Sunday mornings. We must commit to reading and studying God’s word for ourselves.

“God’s Word is our contact with Him. It’s how we hear His voice, discover His direction, receive His correction, and obtain His hope.”

I have found all of these approaches helpful at different stages of my life:

  • Read a verse and study it in depth. Check out Heather Bleier’s suggestions on verse mapping.
  • Use a devotional such as Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest, or The Upper Room.
  • Study a book of the Bible, such as John, looking for key words or the names used for Jesus
  • Read through the Bible in a year. Our Daily Bread has a plan included with the daily devotional. There are many other plans people have put together. Find one that works for you.

3. Pray

Sylvia Gunter defines prayer as, “radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Wendy reminds us that:

“Prayer is a gift.

Prayer is a privilege.

Prayer is two-way communication with God.

Prayer is a love relationship with the God who created us.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can ‘approach (God’s) throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).”

Whole books have been written on the topic of prayer. At it’s simplest I would say that prayer is talking with God. I have found that if I start my day by focusing on God, it’s much easier to talk with Him throughout the day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. (Rick Warren says, “Everything you do can be ‘spending time with God’ if he is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of his presence.” In my last post I shared a call to prayer along with many quotes on prayer. Ask God to teach you how to pray more effectively and see what happens.

Three simple choices. Will you take the first step and choose to meet with God today?


A Call to Prayer for InScribe

Pen as ICWF Prayer Prompt
When you see a pen, pray for InScribe!

This morning I was planning to write a post sharing some practical tips on getting writing done. However, God redirected me.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through a Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. This week we are focusing on prayer. At the beginning of chapter three, Wendy quotes Sylvia Gunter:

“Prayer is radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Later on in the chapter, Wendy says:

Show Me God

Wendy also shares some tips from Lisa Allen on bringing watchfulness to our prayer lives:

“When you have a person for whom God calls you to pray, be creative. Think of something that reminds you of the person. Invite God to open your eyes to see that trigger and use it to remind you to pray . . . If you assign triggers to special people in your life, think of how many times throughout the day you will pray!”

In my last post I shared some thoughts from fellow executive members of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship regarding the need for prayer. I believe God is calling me to action. The prayer trigger I’ve chosen for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) is a pen. Every time I see a pen, I’m choosing to pray that God will work in and through members of our organization:

  • Wisdom and strength for executive members
  • His Imprint Conference April 26, 2014
  • Fall Conference September 26 & 27, 2014
  • God’s empowering for members as they write
  • Monthly word challenges
  • God will use our words to reach His target audience

Here are some quotes on prayer:

“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.”  John Wesley

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray.” S.D. Gordon

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” Sidlow Baxter

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …” E.M. Bounds

“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying. Paul E. Billheimer

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Corrie ten Boom

“0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper – and sleep too – than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber.” Andrew A. Bonar

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” E.M. Bounds

“The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'” J. Hudson Taylor

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.” William Cowper

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” Brother Lawrence

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”  Samuel Chadwick

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  Andrew Murray

Will you join me in praying for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship?


Pursuing Holiness, One choice at a time

pursuingThis morning I read Ephesians 4:14-24. Here are a few thoughts that “jumped out” at me as I read:

  • I am not to be like a child who is easily tricked and led astray (vs. 14)
  • I am to allow God’s truth to ground me (like an anchor) and help me mature in my faith (vs. 15)
  • I need to choose to reject “folly, vanity, emptiness of soul and futility” (vs. 17)
  • Going my own way will result in spiritual blindness, a hard heart, and indulging in “every form of impurity that (my) depraved desires may suggest and demand” (vs. 18,19)
  • I need to reject (die to) my old nature and renew my mind (vs. 20-23)
  • Choosing to follow God will enable me to be truly righteous and holy (vs. 24)

Lysa Terkeurst says, “Pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for; want greatly; desire eagerly. The only One worthy of worship.” She sums it up this way:

” . . . the very next choice I make is a crucial one. Literally, it will determine if I am walking the path of victory or compromise. One wise choice can lead to two, can lead to three, can lead to a thousand, can lead to the sweet place of utter dependence on God and lasting discipline . . . A place our souls were made to call home.”

Steve Green reminds me that I have to choose to die to my desires, will and plans in order order to enter into the holy life God has for me:

Enter In by Steve Green

Nothing chills the heart of man
Like passing through death’s gate
Yet to him who enters daily
Death’s a glorious fate
Dearly beloved we are gathered here
To be a holy bride
And daily cross death’s threshold
To the holy life inside

( Chorus: )
Enter in, enter in
Surrender to the Spirit’s call
To die and enter in
Enter in, find peace within
The holy life awaits you, enter in

The conflict still continues
Raging deep within my soul
My spirit wars against my flesh
In a struggle for control
My only hope is full surrender
So with each borrowed breath
I inhale the Spirit’s will for me
To die a deeper death

(Chorus)

If mourners should lament
Let them weep for those alive
For only when my will is killed
Can my soul survive

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Today I choose to pursue holiness, one choice at a time:

  • I choose to get up early to spend time reading God’s Word and praying; I choose NOT to sleep in.
  • I choose to eat food that nourishes my body and gives me energy; I choose NOT to eat junk food which only provides temporary enjoyment.
  • I choose to exercise and strengthen my body; I choose NOT to be a couch potato.
  • I choose to spend time with my children, talking with them, listening to them, teaching and training them; I choose NOT to spend my time escaping by reading a book.

What about you? Are you pursuing holiness one choice at a time? I’d love to hear about the choices are you making.


Delighting in Obedience: Redefining Success

How do you define success?

This is a question we need to answer for ourselves and revisit on a regular basis. Our definition of success will affect how we act and react to life and what it brings. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about “success”:

BiblePsalm 62:7 (Living Bible) “My protection and success come from God alone. He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me.”

Proverbs 3:6 (Living Bible) “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

Proverbs 12:3 (Living Bible) “Wickedness never brings real success; only the godly have that.”

Proverbs 28:13 (Living Bible) “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”

Ecclesiastes 4:4 (Living Bible) “Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind.”

Mark 4:19 (Living Bible) “but all too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God’s message from their hearts, so that no crop is produced.”

2 Corinthians 3:5 (Living Bible) “and not because we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success comes from God.”

At the beginning of January I picked a chapter of Scripture to memorize while I walk on my treadmill. I have been working my way through 1 Timothy 4. This morning as I walked, this is the verse I memorized and meditated on (verse 8):

“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

This fits perfectly with what Lysa Terkeurst discusses in chapter 8 of Made to Crave.

“We need to define ourselves by our obedience, not a number on the scale.” -Karen Ehman

I Timothy 4:8 is NOT an excuse to avoid exercise. However, it reminds me of where my priority should be – becoming more godly. My job is to be obedient by:

  • Thanking God for the body He gave me (Psalm 139: 13-17)
  • Eating nutritious foods that will provide energy to accomplish God’s will
  • Getting sufficient exercise to become or remain fit so that I can use my body for God’s glory
  • Measuring my worth by what God thinks of me, not by a number on the scale

And even more importantly:

  • Reading God’s Word regularly to nurture my spiritual growth
  • Replacing my negative “self-talk” with true, uplifting statements from Scripture
  • Listening to (and making) music that will feed and nourish my soul
  • Meeting regularly with other believers to learn more about God and encourage others
  • Praying every day, throughout each day, so that I’m conscious of God’s promptings and fellowshipping with Him
  • Walking in obedience to God and His Word

We are told success is winning a prize, becoming wealthy, having influential friends, being beautiful, and myriads of other things people expect. As Christians, I believe our definition of success should be:

“Consciously and persistently pursuing God and His will in our lives, no matter what the cost.”

Do you agree? If not, how would you define success?


3 Things I’m #Determined to Do

This week in our Proverbs 31 study of Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food, by Lysa Terkeurst, our key word was “Determined”. Our key verse was:

1 Peter 5:7-8a, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.”   NIV1984

There are three things I’m determined to do this year:

  1. IMG_00000206I am determined to follow God with all my heart and strength. Determination requires a choice. In Joshua 24:14-16, Joshua challenged the people of Israel to choose who they were going to serve. This choice resulted in actions – they had to throw away the gods their ancestors worshiped and serve the Lord. In Ephesians 4:22-25 we are given more details about how this choice to follow God should affect us (emphasis mine):22 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”   I will choose to follow God, to seek His will, and to do what He asks. I will choose not to pursue my own selfish interests, not to engage in activities which will draw me away from God, and not to do things I know are wrong.
  2. I am determined to make lifestyle changes which honor God. I was reminded lately that I was not taking care of my body the way God wanted me to take care of it. I was feeling sluggish and the number on my scale was the highest it has ever been. Although I ate mostly healthy food, I ate too much of it, and snacked instead of waiting. Exercise was also something missing from my schedule. One of my resolutions this year was to make lifestyle changes which will honor God. I Corinthians 6:19 reminds me that my body really doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to God. I am determined to make the following lifestyle changes: eating mindfully, no snacking after supper, taking smaller portions, and exercising regularly. Although I have set some weight loss goals for myself, they are secondary to honoring God with my choices. I started this journey on January 2nd and am blogging here on Fridays about my journey.
  3. presentI am determined to use my spiritual gifts to honor God. I believe God gives each of us spiritual gifts to serve Him and His people. (If you’re not sure what your spiritual gifts are, take this gifts test.) My spiritual gifts are administration and exhortation. Although I don’t always like to lead, people tell me I’m good at it. Last year I took on the challenge of leading InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. Writing is a gift I’ve enjoyed most of my life. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started taking this gift seriously. I’m thankful for a group of Canadian Christian writers who are determined to encourage, mentor, challenge, and equip one another. I will choose to use my writing to exhort others as God leads.

What about you? What are you determined to do?


#Empowered by trusting God

Made to Crave CoverI’ve started another Proverbs 31 online Bible study. Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa Terkeurst is the book we’re using. One of the questions Lysa asks early on in the book is:

“Is it possible we LOVE and RELY on food more than we love and rely on God?”

One of the things I appreciate about the Proverbs 31 studies is that these women are not afraid to ask tough questions and they expect honest answers – from themselves as well as study participants. It’s refreshing to be part of a community where we are able to be brutally honest and allow God to change us, while being supported and encouraged. I find this very empowering. Excuses don’t cut it. Only the truth.

This study deals with an age-old problem — relying on food; putting our trust in money, or position, or people RATHER THAN GOD. In Jeremiah 2:13, God states it this way:

“My people have sinned twice.
They have deserted me,
even though I am the spring of water that gives life.
And they have dug their own wells.
But those wells are broken.
They can’t hold any water.

Isn’t it ironic that we turn away from the almighty, loving, perfect God who created us and try to fill our emptiness with created things that don’t last, hurt us, and leave us in worse shape than we were before? How can we be so foolish? Thankfully, God understands that we are prone to sin and He waits for us to repent and come back to Him. He is the only one who can truly empower us.

As I begin this study, I choose to turn away from relying on food and people to relying on God. In and of themselves, these things are not bad. It’s my reliance on them that is wrong. I confess my sin of relying on “broken wells” and choose to rely on God today.

I know I face an uphill battle, but that’s okay because I’m empowered by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He stands with me and I can call out to Him. Lysa shares:

“When I started, I knew this battle would be hard — harder than I ever imagined. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot. . . It was my way of tearing down the tower of impossibility and building something new. My tower of impossibility was food. Brick by brick, I imagined myself dismantling the food tower and using those same bricks to build a walkway of prayer, paving the way to victory.”

What about you? Are you trusting food, people, money? Or are you choosing to be empowered by God?


5 Choices that help me in my walk with God

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Come, Thou Fount has been one of my favorite hymns for a long time. I guess I appreciate it because it describes my struggle to follow the Lord. Walking with God STARTS with one decision, but after that, I need to continuously choose, every day, even every moment of the day, to follow God. Otherwise I drift away. It’s like I have an automatic setting to do my own thing that overrides everything else, unless I choose.

In my walk with God, I continue to find ways to encourage or force myself to grow spiritually. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

  1. Setting aside a specific time for Bible reading and prayer. I’ve found that if I don’t make this a priority, it doesn’t happen.
  2. Getting up early. I’m a morning person, so it’s easier for me to focus when I get up. My alarm usually rings at 5:30 on weekday mornings. This allows me to have time by myself with God before anyone else in my family is awake.
  3. Keeping a planner beside my Bible. I find I’m easily distracted by my “to do” list. If I write things down in my planner, I can forget about them and give my full attention to God and His Word.
  4. Writing down lessons learned, prayer requests, etc. My mind wanders easily. Writing things down helps keep me focused. It’s also encouraging to go back and see how God led and taught me in the past.
  5. Using a devotional resource. Over the years I have done a variety of things including: reading through the Bible in a year (Google “Reading through the Bible in a Year” to check out different options), using Our Daily Bread (I now have the app on my iPad), working my way through a book of the Bible and studying verse by verse (using a concordance and doing word studies), participating in online Bible studies (Proverbs 31 Ministries is a great resource for women.)

What about you? What have you found helpful in your spiritual journey?