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How to Study the Bible

One of my favorite activities is prayer and studying the Bible, but this took about 13 years to develop

From my desk: My personal Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Of great use when referencing Biblical topics of interest.

From my desk: My personal Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Of great use when referencing Biblical topics of interest.

and cultivate! I want to share with you some of the joys I have found and the secret to keeping your relationship with GOD thriving, even in the mundane.

For many I have talked to prayer and reading the Word of GOD (the Bible) is very difficult, not because they cannot understand it alone but because they fall asleep, get bored and do not always know where to begin.

If you feel this way as well, it is not because you are not as spiritual as another or something is wrong with you; it is because prayer & the study of GOD’s Word is an art.

Allow me to show you how to become an amazing Bible scholar, find topics relating to your current situation and encounter GOD in a personal way.

First, you will need a few tools, but no worries at all- many of these tools you can find for free online or at a low cost on sale in a Christian bookstore (both Lifeway Christian Bookstores or Family Christian Bookstores are great chains).

From my desk: a few essentials in my Bible study repertoire. Found to be both tried and true!

From my desk: a few essentials in my Bible study repertoire. Found to be both tried and true!

Your Bible Study toolbox should include (but is not limited to):

  1. A Great Study Bible. I personally enjoy the Nelson’s Study Bible in the King James or New King James Version. If you are new to this, there are many versions of the Bible. Some are even written in modern language to help us understand terminology. I will write another post on these versions so stay tuned.
  2. A Strong’s Concordance. I absolutely LOVE studying the Bible using a concordance. It is a
    From my desk: My personal Strong's Concordance is an essential piece of my valued collection.  Needed in almost any thorough Bible study.

    From my desk: My personal Strong’s Concordance is an essential piece of my valued collection. Needed in almost any thorough Bible study.

    classic edition and essential to your studies in no small part because of it’s extensive list of words in the Bible. These words are provided in both the Hebrew/Aramaic (Old Testament) and the Greek (New Testament). It can be used similar to a dictionary- search a word and you will find many other instances the same original word appeared throughout the Bible. This will help you compare the ways GOD uses this word in various situations. I always encourage people to note the first occurrence of a word remembering the beginning of a mention is usually related to its root. Also, please remember to use this Bible Study help in avoiding reading a Scripture out of context (more on that later).

  3. A Bible Dictionary- Use this as you would an Encyclopedia. It is a reference tool to learn more about the historical context of topics, people, places and artifacts of the Bible. One can
    From my desk: My personal Tyndale Bible Dictionary.  Of great use when referencing Biblical topics of interest.

    From my desk: My personal Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Of great use when referencing Biblical topics of interest.

    commonly find marvelous informational jewels when delving into a Bible Dictionary. Allow me to provide an example of how to utilize this tool- You are studying the Book of Esther (one of my favorite books of the Bible) and you come across the mention of a man named King Ahaseurus.

In your study you open your Bible Dictionary to “Ahasueurus” finding incredible information about his kingdom and role.

 

You have now been enlightened on one of the personages in your historical backdrop.

A visual of King Ahasuerus' name within the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

A visual of King Ahasuerus’ name within the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

You then long to know more about his kingdom, which is provided for you using a search on the words “Persia” or “Media.”

A search of the location Persia in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

A search of the location Persia in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

Your search will yield information regarding Persia such as her geography, climate, history and other mentions in the Bible. This helps you understand who King Ahasuerus was on a worldwide scale, increasing your appreciation for Esther’s positioning. A Bible Dictionary can be used as a thread connecting people, locations and contemporaries throughout the Bible.

4. A Bible Handbook- In my personal study, I use the Ferdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, which has proven to be a wonderful resource for a quick cultural, historical and thematic backdrop of both the Old and New Testaments. Part One is dedicated to an overview of the Bible for basic Bible students. It even includes a Bible Bookshelf, which I will write about in a later post. It also relates the Bible to other types of religious books and provides a brief timeline of various versions. Part Two explores the books of the Bible separated into sections based on the types of books (I.e. Historical, poetic, prophetic, etc).

This is very helpful in understanding dates different books were written and which writers were alive in

From my desk: Ferdman's Handbook of the Bible is a reliable wealth of quick natured information for the rightly divided student.

From my desk: Ferdman’s Handbook of the Bible is a reliable wealth of quick natured information for the rightly divided student.

specific time periods. You may also use this to conduct a brief study on an entire book of the Bible by searching the book name.

5. The Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible- This resource is especially helpful in understand the original meaning of particular words in your text. It “combines in one handy volume condensed versions of W.E. Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament by Nerill Unger and William White, Jr.” (Introduction to Vines). I would highly encourage you to purchase one of these as a handy tool you will reference constantly. It will help you avoid misinterpretation of Scriptures by a hasty understanding based on modern English. The English language is by far less detailed than the Greek or Hebrew. For example, for our one word “love” in English, there are various forms of the word “love” in Greek. This source will aid you in discovering the original meaning of the word and how the Hebrews would have understood it contextually.
These tools should help you begin your studies, but there are many more. In fact, there are a few free internet sources you can utilize when unable to obtain the books above or in a hurry:

  1. The Online Jewish Encyclopedia– Another phenomenal way to understand the Bible is to study the people of the Bible, whom are primarily Jewish. This source will aid you in researching how they view different aspects of life and Biblical truth.
  2. BlueLetterBible.org– This resource will aid you in studying words in the Bible when using the KJV with Strong’s feature. It is much like the Strong’s Concordance aforementioned and the vines Concise Dictionary. It fact, it’s interactive features warrants one to engage the meaning of words simultaneously to reading passages.
  3. BibleGateway.com– This is an online hub of the Bible in various versions. Use to find a Scripture in many different versions. It also includes articles and other valuable Bible studies.
  4. Biblehub.com– I use this as a constant way to quickly cross reference (see other Scriptures that are relatable to the one I am studying) and see Scriptures in varying versions at a glance.

With these sources in your quiet time, you will soon find yourself running out of time due to the wealth of information and increased depth of your studies. The Bible will begin to come to life and you will no longer fall asleep so easily, in fact, you just may wake up early to do more searching!

Grab your new Study Bible, a valued journal and start with prayer. Then get ready for fascinating discoveries within the rich content of the Scriptures.

I look forward to sharing with you next week in Part 2: How to Develop a Strong Relationship with GOD through Prayer!

If you know of any other resources pertaining to studying the Bible, and I’m sure you do because there are Many, please share with others in the Comments section of this post. I know you will have marvelous tips and I’m thrilled to light a spark in the embers of your walk with GOD.

jlo office

A Quick Self Esteem Boost

By Paige Smith

 

According to Real Girls, Real Pressure: National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with family and friends.

According to this study, 70% of girls are dealing with low self-esteem. That means 70% of girls desire boldness and confidence.

There is an undeniable attack against the self-esteem of women in our society. The Dove Campaign also found that 92% of women want to change something about the way they look.

Most women want to be confident, want to love who they are and how they look, but believe they will only feel that unshakeable confidence once they change something about themselves.

But what if God wants us to feel that self-assurance and peace about ourselves right now, in the midst of our imperfections and shortcomings?

God is our Heavenly Father and He sees us as His beautiful daughters. When we only see our “darkness” and our frailties, like the Shulamite woman in Song of Solomon, God sees our beauty and declares it proudly:

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love! Behold, you are beautiful! You have dove’s eyes” (Song of Solomon 1:15).

You may feel like the Shulamite woman today, so conscious of your own darkness and how you daily make mistakes, yet there was hope for her and there is hope for you.

She begins her journey unsure of herself, doubtful of her own beauty, and desperate to be loved. By the last chapter of Song of Solomon, she is confident in her Beloved’s love for her:

“I am my beloved’s, And his desire is towards me” (Song of Solomon 7:10)

She has not changed, but her perspective of who she is has drastically been altered.

She boldly declares, “I am my beloved’s”

Not only does she know she belongs to her Beloved, but she knows He returns her affections,

“And his desire is towards me.”

Today know that you are deeply and irrevocably loved by your Heavenly Father. You are His daughter and He adores you!

He sings over you, He rejoices over you, and His banner over you is LOVE!

Its clear that women all over are longing to feel confident, to walk in boldness, and to love who they are! It doesn’t begin with a pair of stiletto heels or the perfect profile picture. It begins with a fresh revelation of how much you are loved.

Allow the truth of your Father’s love to penetrate your heart in a new way today and speak those truths back to Him. It will produce a true confidence and boldness rooted in the only unchanging variable that exists, His love.

7 Biblical truths on the Father’s love for us:

  1. We are valuable to God. (Matthew 6:26)
  2. We are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)
  3. God has prepared a place for us. (John 14:1-2)
  4. Our Father in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask Him. (Matthew 7:9-11)
  5. God doesn’t want to lose any of His children, and will seek out any that are lost. (Matthew 18:12-14)
  6. God is kind and merciful towards us. (Luke 6:36-37)
  7. God lavishes His love on us! (1 John 3:1)

We pray this article has been empowered you with a boldness that comes from knowing you are a Beloved Daughter of The King!

Are there any Scriptures you have used to help yourself or others gain a stronger self esteem?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section so we can encourage one another!

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You Don’t Deserve My Time of the Day: How to Honor when there’s been Deep Hurt

Father’s Day has just passed and with it a myriad of varied emotions for many of us. For some the day brought joy and excitement as we reflected on tender moments from childhood with our dads from being twirled around in their arms to seeing them in the audience cheering us on in little league games or recitals.

For others the day was a painful reminder of the absence of shortcomings of our fathers in the past or present, we instead reflected on phone calls not sent and birthdays missed. Still for others it could have been a bittersweet mingling of the two extremes.

The call to “honor our mother and father” might have either been a welcome reminder, or a seemingly overwhelming demand.

This post is for those of us who may have struggled with honoring their father or mother not just on the recent holiday, but in general. It is our prayer that we would receive healing from the pain that can come from negative experiences with our parents, and be empowered through God’s love to honor them.

Many of us know the scripture that instructs us to “Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  It’s a beautiful concept.

It speaks of a unique promise our Heavenly Father makes to us to give us a long life in a land He’s given us when we honor our parents. Yet it can also seem daunting for those who may have a strained or complicated relationship with their parents.

Honor is defined as “respect given to someone who is admired” (merriam-webster.com) and “to hold in high respect” (dictionary.com).

But where do we begin when we don’t carry that esteem and respect in our hearts due to painful situations instead harboring disappointment, anger, and possibly even unforgiveness?

I submit to you John 15. Jesus tells his followers to “remain in Him” so that they can bear fruit in their lives:

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

We cannot manufacture honor within ourselves, we need the grace and empowering of the Holy Spirit. God wants to pour out His love and honor on you today. He knows that we are frail, we are from dust, and cannot do anything unless we remain in Him.

Here are 7 key things to remember in beginning to honor our parents:

1. Begin with receiving God’s honor for YOU! God esteems and honors you so highly he has seated you in heavenly places and adorns you in “robes of righteousness” and “garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10)

2. Know that only God mourns with you for every disappointment or trial you’ve experienced including those your parents may have brought upon you knowingly or unknowingly. He validates your emotions and wants to heal every wound and give you “beauty for your ashes” and “joy for your mourning” (Isaiah 61).

3. God is the only perfect Father, our parents can be used to reflect God’s love for us, but even the most good intentioned parents miss the mark at times because they are only human and are bound to make mistakes sometimes.

4. Our parents need grace just as much as we do. God showers His love on us and even died for us while we were still in our trespasses. His love covers a multitude of sin. Lets extend the same grace to our parents and loved ones. Grace is favor that is undeserved and unmerited. Just as we’ve been given grace beyond our imperfections, let’s show that same favor to our parents through honor.

5. It’s not easy to be a parent. This doesn’t excuse any negative or abusive behavior from any parent, only to help us as children and possible future parents to have more compassion on our parents. Almost no parent purposes to hurt their children. The day their child is born they are ecstatic and filled with love for their child. As the difficulties of life come, demonstrating that love can become harder and harder, but the love is often always still there.

6. Ask for God’s heart for your parents. While we might only be able to see our parents through a lens of hurt, God sees our parents as His children. With the same love He has for us, He has for our parents. Ask Him to give Him His heart for your parents and to show you aspects you can honor in them. Honor begins in the heart, and only God can change our hearts. Ask him to begin a work in yours.

7. It will be a process. Every small step counts. It takes time to build and rebuild relationship but stay encouraged. The call just to say hello or ask for advice, the simple prayer for their life, the card on their birthday, the loving post on their Facebook wall…Every moment of honor is filling a cup of love in their hearts until it will be overflowing. And as you give honor it will be given back to you, “running over.”

We pray this article has inspired you to begin to honor your loved ones, even in difficult situations. Remember God wants to pour into you and doesn’t expect you to be able to honor without first remaining in Him.

He is pouring out His love, His forgiveness, and His grace on you today!

I encourage you to say this prayer with us:

“God thank You for Your unconditional love toward me.Your mercies are new every morning and Your grace is always abounding toward me. I receive Your love and honor and ask You to help me to honor my parents and loved ones today. You know how difficult this is for me, and I know you care about everything I feel and have gone through. I can only do this with Your strength, help me to remain in You. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Please feel free to share your stories of how you have been able to honor those who may have hurt you or how this post has encouraged you. We love hearing from you!

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Healing a Hardened Heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

It is very hard to honor our fathers, God, or anyone else when our hearts have been hardened.  But if you are reading this, allow me to encourage you- you must have a desire to forgive and be healed.

This topic reminds me of a Biblical character named Pharaoh.  The Bible says Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against God (the Father).  The missing element in Pharaoh’s life was honor.  

He failed to yield, to give respect, or to honor the God of the Israelites.  Pharaoh eventually gave honor tot he Lord, but it was at his own expense.

When our hearts become hardened due to life’s difficulty or pain, we must remember that honor is a choice.  We don’t have to remain forever calloused.

Multiple times in my own relationship with my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love.  He has asked my hardened heart to express love as I forgive, confess, and restore.

I’ve had to forgive my father, confess that I was wrong for holding anger and resentment against my dad, and then make a commitment to restoring him back to his rightful place in my life.  This process has not always been easy, but in return for my obedience, I’ve seen my father travel for hours just to kneel at my feet, weeping words of godly sorrow.

It was through my place of humility that God brought healing, restoration, and the healthy relationship I desired.  He wants to do the same for each of us as we listen to His leading.

Multiple times in my own relationships ith my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love: Forgiveness, Confession and Restoration. I know God can restore any one of our hearts to sweet gentleness and healing.

Multiple times in my own relationships ith my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love: Forgiveness, Confession and Restoration. I know God can restore any one of our hearts to sweet gentleness and healing.

In fact, He promises to give us a softened, loving heart if we receive by faith, saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

So go and be bold; don’t be afraid to exemplify love, because you will be glad you took a step of faith.  Even if your father (or others) do not respond the way you desire, you will be able to say you have obeyed a very important part of God’s Word, and your heavenly Father will always be there to carry you.

Let’s Practice This Truth Together:

That it may go well with you in the land the LORD your GOD is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 5:16)

Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you with any needed areas of change in your life.  Ask Him:

  • Is my heart hardened?  Do I need more humility or a new heart from You?  Ezekiel 36:26
  • Is there any forgiveness that You want me to show to my father?
  • Is there anything that I need to confess to You or to my earthly father?  Search me, Lord, and know my heart…(Psalm 139:23)
  • Is there any restoration needed in my relationship with my father?

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the answers, and then make plans to live out anything He reveals.

Talk to others who don’t know Jesus about the transformational power of our heavenly Father.

I hope you had a Happy Father’s Day!

Here’s a pic of me and the hubby on daddy’s day this year.  This was a fun look I achieved through basics in my wardrobe and thrift store finds!

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Get the Look:

Sleeveless Tank- JCPenney ($9.99), Old Navy, Cato ($7.99, many colors), The Limited ($24.90, classic colors, satin- great for dressy outfits).  The key to a dressier look is to buy “seamless” not “ribbed”

Red Flats- Nine West ($69.00)| Forever 21 ($9.99)| JCrew ($135)|Born ($44.51) I found these Talbot shoes for $7.99 at a thrift store!

A Line Midi Skirt- Macys ($24.99)| Zulily ($11.99)| Honor ($240)|Chicwish ($39.02)|ASOS ($40.00)

Purse- Kate Spade ($29.00)|Nordstrom ($33.98)| Humble Chic ($38.00) Really this is a Kate Spade eyeglass case that I used as a purse my dears

Pearl Necklace- JCrew ($26.00)|Banana Republic ($198)

Let’s be beautiful both inside and out with hearts ready to love from the deep place we have been embraced!  Have a sweet blessed week…

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Saying Yes to God’s Forgiveness

By Paige Smith

It can be so difficult at times to shake off the heavy weight of condemnation and guilt after we’ve done something wrong.

Have you ever found yourself like the little child hiding from their parent after eating the forbidden cookies knowing there’s no way to cover up what they’ve done?

But imagine that parent finally finding the child, covered in crumbs and chocolate stains, so grateful to have found them and wrapping them in a warm hug, continuing on never once mentioning or even thinking about that missing cookie that had originally brought so much guilt and possibly even a stomach ache to the child.

As comical and endearing as that small example is, it also serves as a beautiful parallel to our relationship with our Heavenly Father when we mess up.

We make a mistake, sometimes smaller or larger in our minds than eating a cookie before dinner, and before we know it we find ourselves convinced God is angry with us and we separate ourselves from Him, anticipating His disappointment and even rejection.

Thankfully this perception couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Like the parent in the example above, God is always longing to be with us, to wrap us in His arms and His forgiveness is always available to us, no matter how deep or dark we feel the mistake we made is.

Psalm 103:12 says that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed out transgressions from us”.

God never wants to condemn us, but rather redeem us and forgive us.

We have a God that delights in showing us mercy and who throws our sins into the depths of the sea of forgetfulness! He keeps no record of our wrongs and instead showers us with grace and blessings.

God knows all and sees all we do but He chooses to forget our sins when we simply confess them to Him.

Many times the hardest person to extend forgiveness to can be ourselves but when we begin to truly encounter the loving and gracious character of God we begin to feel that weight of condemnation lift.

God’s word is an amazing place to start finding out more about Him and how He truly feels about you.

Here are 7 Incredible Scriptures on Gods Forgiveness that you can experience TODAY:

  1. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25)
  2. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
  3. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18)
  4. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  5. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7)
  6. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
  7. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18-19)

Forgiveness can be difficult to receive when we try to rationalize it, because it doesn’t make sense. There is no payment or penalty we need to undergo because Jesus has already taken on the full penalty of our sins.

So rather than punishing ourselves for what God is longing to redeem us from, let’s receive God’s open embrace and forgiveness today.

Let’s say yes to Forgiveness!

We hope this article has encouraged you to say yes to God’s forgiveness and break free from the weight of condemnation! Please share any comments or questions you have on receiving forgiveness or overcoming condemnation. We love hearing from you!

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A Father Who Is Always There for You

Father…when you hear that word what do you think, what image comes to mind?  Perhaps you instantly see a heroic figure, a strong loving protective man, or a kind, gentle compassionate presence.  Others of us may see nothing but an empty, loss presence.  Nothing is there but space and neglect.

Oftentimes the image we see of our earthly father is the same image we imagine when we see our heavenly Father.

And this can be problematic for obvious reasons.

I have a mixture of the two images.  I can remember as a little girl waiting to hear the sound of my father’s keys opening the front door of our miniature, three bedroom two bathroom starter home.  We lived in the ‘hood but I did not have a clue that’s where we lived because I always had a sense of shelter, of sweet protection.

It was home.

Walking outside, playing with my dog, with toys, with nature, running through the wooded lots surrounding us…there was not a care in the world.

And I was in private school with middle to upper class children, mostly very different from me, so there was a sense of safety, even at school.

My father would come home, at least in my mind, every day around the same time.  And when he would open the door I remember running up to him waiting for his embrace.  There was a sense of needing approval and attention.  Then he would swing me up in the air.

It was the moment of delight I longed for daily.

And I’m sure it filled his heart with joy just as much as mine.

This is a beautiful image of father.  Protector.  Friend.  Presence.  Supporter.  Guide.

But we probably all have at least one or two difficult memories of “father.”

Maybe there are days when he does not come home as expected, his countenance is disturbed, he is not the gentle friendly guy you need him to be and you are disappointed.

This is all so real in the heart of a small child.  In fact, it can be magnified.

Both experiences are valid and both are valuable schoolmasters when relating to our Heavenly Father.

What Can We Learn About “Father”?

That dad I described, fun, friendly, kind, playful is a mirror image of our Heavenly Daddy.

He is there, present when we need him, ready to give us sweet gifts.  He wants to give us the gift of His Presence, of joy, peace, patience, happiness, and forgiveness.

Believing in the fact that He will be consistent.  He will never come home in a disappointed manner, He is a safe, secure place to land our hearts.

We can Trust Him because of this unchanging stability.

And we can sit on His lap.  We can talk to Him about anything, our greatest joys, victories, anticipations…our strongest failures, needs and frustrations.

When we see that our Heavenly Father is not a mixture of good and bad, like we humans are…He is All Good, we are finally able to settle our hearts with His good leadership.

He is much like the Prodigal Son’s Father who is there for us no matter what, ready to pour out blessings on our lives.

When we expect him to be the most disappointed, He is not.  Instead, he gives us what we least expect, a huge celebration of the fact that we are Home!

He honors our presence.

We can encounter Jesus around this truth.

GOD Honors my presence.

We have to wonder how others will respond when we show up, but we do not ever have to wonder if our mistakes push GOD away from us, if they cause Him to reject, look down on, or judge us.  He is simply excited that you and I showed up for the party.

A New Way to Encounter Jesus

Have you every went into your prayer time only to feel a heap of guilt like a ton of bricks crashing down on your shoulders?  Then you want to just hide?  And it seems to come out of nowhere.

Am I right with God?  Is He angry with me?  Am I praying right?  I missed my prayer time yesterday.  I am not on my schedule.  I wonder if I’m under His judgment because I haven’t forgiven so and so.  I need to find the right Scripture to focus on.  I need to focus.  I need to spend more time in the Word and put on my Spiritual weapons.  Why am I not consistent?

Ugg…by this point prayer is exhausting.  Because pleasing Him is beyond me.  It is impossible.

I used to think this way all the time and my guess is, so have you.  It is human to base God’s satisfaction with us on who we are, our faulty mentalities about who He is and all the ways we think our prayer life should be.

Yet the reality is that we are way off in thinking God wants all that!  Sometimes he wants a few minutes of us simply accepting that it is okay to vent, to talk to him, to get it off our chest just as we would a friend.  And then to be ourselves, to not feel guilty for the way we prayer.

To stop comparing our prayer lives to others and to know that every little bit counts, is enough and is heard.

When we put down the show and just choose to be, we are starting to go in the right direction.

Let’s encounter Jesus around the Prodigal Son story.

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story.  Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father. 

Notice the father’s response.  While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming.  Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.

You have a Father like that.  He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.

Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running out to meet you.  He is filled with love and compassion.  He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.

What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you?  Tell the Father about your gratitude:

Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me, I feel…

When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…

My father would come home and I was in so much anticipation to see him walk through the door, squealing with Joy!  But I hadn’t imagined that he was feeling the same about you.

Could the same be true of our Heavenly Father?  Filled with delight over the thought of seeing your face as He opens the door to meet you!

How has your perspective about your father changed over time?  Maybe you have a God Encounter you want to share to encourage others.  We would love to hear your story in the comments below!

 

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Honoring the Real GOD to Honor your father

JESUS, RESET MY FAMILY LEGACY

Jesus, remind me often of the love You have for me as my heavenly Father.  Let my gratitude for how You love me empower me to strengthen and restore my relationship with my earthly father.

We each have personal images intricately tied to the tender yet powerful word father.  For some, the visualization of father is an always-smiling, ready-to-embrace-you, tender man who instantly promotes feelings of joy and acceptance.  Others remember the massive, outstretched hand that seemed to pull a never-ending supply of candy from his trouser pockets. 

There are also those who hear the word father and conjure up images of a scowling, rumpled brow and disappointed from that seemed to cut the heart of a child desperately longing for expressions of his approval.

And finally, there are others who may simply draw a blank when they try to visualize a father.  As empty as a fresh pack of computer paper, no matter how many pages they turn, the landscape is full of empty memories.  No calls, no visits, no talks with dad.

No matter what impression the word father has left upon our heart, we are reminded of its significant presence in the pages of Scripture.  We are lovingly exhorted to honor our Father in heaven and fathers on this earth (Deuteronomy 5:16).  But how do we honor our father?  This question is inevitable when one out of every three American children live in a home where their biological father is not present.

HOW DO WE HONOR OUR FATHER?

Some Ways Include:

~Take him out to dinner

~Thank him verbally for who is he, acknowledging his value

~Giving him a thoughtful Father’s Day gift

~Listening thoughtfully to his advice

~Speaking highly of him publicly

~Conversing in a respectful tone of voice

~Visit him often, give the gift of time

~Say “I love you” frequently

How to honor our father is a loaded question.  Therefore, we must venture back to ask, “Why should we honor our father?” before we can answer the first.  As Christians, we desire to live our life based on the truth of GOD’S Word.  The Bible is our standard and foundation.  When we wonder why we should honor our earthly fathers, we must first return to the Word of GOD and how it describes the perfect, admirable love of our heavenly Father.

Honoring the real God is the first step toward honoring our earthly fathers.  And honoring God is easy when we are freed from any vision of a harsh, “finger-pointing” God and begin to see a gentle, loving, Father. 

Our hearts are enamored by His unconditional love the more our knowledge of who He is increases.  The more we come to know the true character of our heavenly Father, the more freedom we have as we look at our earthly fathers.

LEARN to Encounter Jesus

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NLT)

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story.  Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father.  Notice the father’s response.  While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming.  Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.  You have a Father like that.  He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.  Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running our to meet you.  He is filled with love and compassion.  He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.

What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you?  Tell the Father about your gratitude:

Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me I feel…

When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…

Today’s Key Takeaway: No Matter What Your Background, you can receive a Fresh Perspective of GOD as a Loving Father.  This will help you embrace His desire for you to honor your father by honoring the Real GOD.

What other ways have you been able to honor your father?  Do you have a testimony or story to share that may bless someone else in the healing process? We can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

From the book, Honor Your Father Reset My Family Legacy.  Order Your Copy as a Father’s Gift today!

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Why Black Women are Silently Suffering with Depression

By Paige Smith

Depression has become the silent assassin on the black community. Like any mental or physical illness, depression doesn’t discriminate against anyone. Yet in the black community depression has long been stigmatized as a condition African Americans, in particular African American women, don’t deal with.

Terrie M. Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting opened up in a CNN interview with Soledad O’ Brien on how for years she silently suffered with depression. She admits that she felt so much darkness and pain but never opened up because she had to wear “the mask”.

Although on the outside she seemed to have it all together, having a successful publicist career with high profile clientele, for her even the small task of getting out of the bed in the morning and taking a shower was “the hardest thing”.

So many black women are like Williams, feeling engulfed by the weight of depression but for the sake of their careers, their marriages, their ministries, their reputations, they pull it together, put on “the mask”, and continue on, seemingly conquering the world.

Yet this “Black superwoman syndrome”, as JLO and Ebony have coined it, is crippling Black women who feel the need to be strong for everyone else, often at the expense of their own mental health. (Read more “The Danger of Being a Superwoman” on JadeLee.org and “Depression and The Black Superwoman Syndrome” on Ebony.com).

As a young black woman I’ve seen it in my life and so many others. Black women who are pillars for so many others, carrying the weight of the world to the point of mental and emotional breakdowns.

Some would say that “black women are the back bone of society”, yet depression is what can be a result when that back bone begins to bend under the strain of mounting pressures, with no support to lean on (Soledad O’Brian).

I know for myself and many other Black women, we can find ourselves in the throes of anxiety and depression yet find it so difficult to reach out of our internal darkness for help.

This “darkness” can look different for many, and some women like Terrie Williams may seem to be doing perfectly fine, but be suffering from depression.

According to www.mentalhealthamerica.com some symptoms are:

1. A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying
2. Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain

3. Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain

4. Irritability, restlessness

5. Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
 Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism

6. Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking

7. Loss of interest on pleasure in activities, including sex

8. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

8. Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

If you or a loved one have experienced any of these symptoms, I encourage you to reach out. Nothing is more important than your well being and your mental health.

You don’t have to be strong for everyone. In fact, opening up to someone who accepts your vulnerability can bring immense healing. Consider talking to a therapist and allowing yourself a safe place to discuss how you’ve been feeling beyond “the mask” you may feel the need to wear.

You deserve happiness. You deserve joy. You deserve beauty for your ashes. You deserve the ability to be an authentic woman, without the pressure to be a “super” version of yourself.

Open up today, your physical, emotional, and mental life could be saved because of it.

Here are some encouraging scriptures to read for meditation:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“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 the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:1-3)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Do you have any tips for someone struggling with depression?  We want to hear from you as our readers.  Please share in the comments below.

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Healthy Body Image in African American Women

Did you know that every one in two African American women are obese? But we have the highest self-esteem of women in our nation? Education is one of the most powerful mediums to overcoming this foe in our community of high self-esteem but sometimes unbalanced views. Our goal is obtaining a healthy body image for ourselves, daughters, friends and families. As we gain more understanding regarding the significant empowerment that comes from healthy living, we can learn how to creatively change our diets and lifestyles, all while continuing to be the glue of our communities.

Sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/curvy-hurts-black-womans-severe-struggle-body-image/story?id=24777077

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4696065

http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2009/AfricanAmericanBodyImage.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/black-women-and-body-image/2012/02/24/gIQAuvkIeR_gallery.html

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Allowing GOD to fight my battles?

imageBy Jade Lee

Suffering and saying nothing back, this was a day I would have to allow GOD to fight my battles.  I pull up to the gas station. I pull out my card to begin pumping gas.  I swipe my card and enter my zip code.

It does not work I do it a couple more times thinking, “What’s wrong with my card?” Then I realize I’m typing in the wrong code. As soon as I finally get it right a youthful sports car zips up right in front of me. I’m standing between my vehicle and the gas pump about to pull the pump out. It’s not long before I realize there’s a young white man whose face has turned bright red in fiery anger. He’s yelling at me, at the top of his voice.

He’s railing angry words declaring that, “There’s lanes…you’re not going total my car!” And I respond with an even tone saying, “I apologize.”

But I know at this point he does not hear a word I am saying. And I know at this point it is a very act of GOD that I am being so kind or calm.

In my head, there’s a quiet storm, not a calm.  I’m preparing myself for the worst.  Is this the day when for the very first time I am about to be called the “n” word?

Is he about to get out of his car?

Is he thinking he can do this because I’m a caramel young lady in the Deep South or because I’m a woman?

Maybe he grew up seeing his parents do the same, specifically his father.

But it was probably just because his car was almost totaled and he loved his baby.

But it’s sad I have to wonder…could it have been rooted in racism?  If anything happens to me will there even be true justice served?

He then storms away angry. He storms away driving speedily out of the gas station

He drives just as quickly as he did a moment before when I was turning into an establishment and suddenly a vehicle appears out of nowhere driving right towards me.

I’m shocked by his cars appearance and almost hit him. He swerves away from me just in the nick of time.

But I never expected him to turn around, follow me to the gas station, drive up to me and yell at the top of his voice with verbal assaults.

Me, a young black woman alone in the south, in a really uncomfortable situation, feeling danger.

06 Sep 1957, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA --- Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school.  She was one of the nine negro students whose integration into Little Rock's Central High School was ordered by a Federal Court following legal action by NAACP. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

06 Sep 1957, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA — Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school. She was one of the nine negro students whose integration into Little Rock’s Central High School was ordered by a Federal Court following legal action by NAACP. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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I didn’t know what he was about to do next. Yes, he was that angry. Irrational angry. I’ll get out of the car in your face angry. I may hit you with my car angry.

It was at that point the wisdom to say nothing that would escalate the situation kicked in, which is not necessarily in my “first hand nature.”

Of course afterwards a slew of great responses rolled throughout my mind. I could have said this and this and this.

But none of that foolishness would have placed me in a safe position or him in a place where he would not take it to an even more dangerous place.

Thousands of years ago, Jesus was railed upon with more than words. People were driving nails into his body, he was trust upon a cross and a crown of thorns was driven into his head.

Yet, He said nothing. He was quiet as a sheep going to the slaughter. And He did nothing wrong.

He paid the ultimate price and it wasn’t His fault.

There is a time when we need to speak up, to report an incident, to declare it from the mountaintop until justice is served.

Then there are moments we need to be silent, allowing the LORD to bring justice. We see leaders in the Civil Rights Movement act in this way, motivated by the teaching of Jesus.

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And we can all learn a lesson of holding our peace as He did on Calvary, for just a while longer.

To pray for our enemies as I was challenged to do, knowing this was his issue, not mine.

And to give it over to the King like a bird flying out of once so tightly gripped hands.

Then our souls are free to forgive, to let go, to move on into peaceful quietness.

Is there someone who has violated you, abused you or mistreated you? Perhaps it is time to lose yourself from the grip of their words and actions knowing their behavior is not your burden to carry.

And to quietly allow the LORD to bring justice in a way you could never while praying for their healing and letting them go; you will then experience a sort of revival-resurrection that you’ve probably been waiting for due to pain.

Meditation: 1 Peter 2:21-25 MSG

“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:21-25‬ ‭MSG‬‬

My Prayer for you: Father I pray for those who like me were in a situation they felt violated or mistreated. Maybe it’s because they were discounted, lied to, talked about, verbally or physically assaulted. Maybe they have wrestled with areas of self blame for their current situation and wondered why it happened, what could they have done to have hindered such a situation? But today I pray for the freedom from self blame or condemnation that comes with release, with truth. And I pray for the Liberty that propels us into peace when we let go, we forgive and we loose the burden of others at their worse. And we give it all to you, trust you to fight our battles while wishing for their deliverance or salvation. In our quietness, make us more like You, setting appropriate boundaries on all our relationship while loving harder. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.