March 5, 2019

You're Invited: Resources for Lent

(This is reposted from February 2015)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  Depending on your Christian tradition, you may have left a solemn service with a cross of ashes on you head or the day slipped by without a thought about it.  Many denominations join the church from throughout the ages to observe this holy day and kick-start forty days of self-examination and repentance in preparation for joyous celebration on Easter morning.

I don't remember attending services in my youth or hearing many folks talk about Lent, except for my Catholic friends who mostly gave up chocolate for the duration.  I was glad I didn't have to do that!

As I have learned more about Lent in my grown-er-up years, the more I love when the season arrives.  Such an invitation is offered to us!  We are beckoned in to be brave, look at our characteristic sins, take seriously the depth of the damage they cause, confess them, and move toward God through His healing and transformation.  His healing and transformation!



Last night at our service, there was an insert in the bulletin that began with these words:

Ash Wednesday and Lent offer us an opportunity to 'go subterranean.'  That is, these times in the Church Calendar bring to our attention the monstrous things that often lurk in the dark basements of our lives -- things we'd rather bury than confess.
Ash Wednesday and Lent help us to excavate these crippling sources of harm and then bring them into the light of God's mercy and healing.  I invite you to accept the rather heavy Lenten invitation to 'go subterranean' with us. ... (emphasis mine)

I want to pass on to you the invitation to 'go subterranean,' too!  Scriptures says that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If you are in Christ, already your place is secure before the throne of God.  You are His kid!  (John 1:12-13)  But Lent offers us the opportunity to GROW!  As our pastor outlined in his sermon last night, we remember, we return, we obey, and we draw near to God.

Strange, isn't it, that examining the darkest places of our hearts can strengthen our relationship with the God we offend?  And yet, only doing so in His presence and with His Spirit at work in us, can we find any freedom or hope!

Here are some resources you might find helpful in this season:

  • Your Bible  I think this is your first and best option for drawing near to God! Each of the Gospels is around 20 chapters.  You can read a chapter every two days during lent, or read through the Gospel twice during lent.  The Word of God is living and active, it is one huge way we get to know God.  Perhaps rather than giving up, you can add daily Scripture reading to your days this Lent.
  • On Keeping a Holy Lent  This is a pamphlet by a fellow named Craig R. Higgins.  You can find it here, and you will not be disappointed.  Learn more about the history of Lent and a series of questions to challenge you in the exercise of repentance in this season.  I also wrote about the pamphlet once, and you can read that here.
  • Respectable Sins  That is the title of a book by Jerry Bridges that will rock your world.  If you like books and you feel like you're not that big a sinner, this is a book for you!  (And me!!)  I might dust it off and give it a re-read this Lent.  The subtitle is Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.  Perfect for Lent, right?  I think so to.   You can pick it up from amazon.  Looks like there's also a small group companion for it.  Hey, you could start a small group during Lent, too!  Just sayin'.

I know some of you probably have other Lenten resources to suggest; many local churches offer daily devotions.  Feel free to suggest your favorites them in the comments.

Lent is not a season to become a "better Christian," to give up a vice for its own sake or to prove the strength of your will power, or to completely ignore because it's just some old ritual.  Lent, as Higgins says, "isn't about giving up chocolate, it's about giving up sin!"  And it "is the spiritual equivalent of an annual physical exam; it's a time to take stock of our lives, our hearts."

I pray that these days leading up to Easter, that glorious day, will be a time of God's blessing you in new and wonderful ways as you draw away from sin and near to Him!  He is the one who heals and transforms!!


PS  Sundays in Lent are days of feasting, not of fasting; they are not included in the 40 count.  So if you are fasting from something for Lent, remember that Sundays are not included.  Sundays are always the Lord's day, for celebration and feasting!


February 17, 2019

Why Having a Relationship with God is so Hard, and What You Can Do about It.

My guess is that you, my dear reader, like many - if not most - Christians, find having a relationship with God really challenging.  You were brought from death to life when God filled your heart with faith to believe and receive the Good News of Jesus' work on your behalf; it was an incredible moment!  Or you grew up in the church and never know a time you didn't believe Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life; you know you're saved.  But beyond that, you feel like you have no idea what you're doing when it comes to relating to God.  You know you should be goin' to church, reading your Bible, praying, and trying not to do bad things.  But you're painfully aware that there's not much passion, so you believe that you must be really doing something wrong.

May I suggest that the reason it's so hard to have a relationship with God is because you're trying to relate to Him based on the way other people do, and not the way He created you to have a relationship with Him?  Think about all your relationships.  Each one is unique because each one is between you and another soul, both of you bringing your individual personalities into the connection.  My daughter's relationship with me is different from the relationship that she has with, say, one of her friends.  Neither relationship is better than the other, each one is built on some mutual history and affection, but they look quite different because though she is the same person, the one to whom she's relating is different.

Let's think about this when it comes to having a relationship with Almighty God.  Each one of us was knit together in our mother's womb and is known by GodNo two of us are alike.  As such, the way we relate to God and interact with Him will be influenced by who we are.  And since the way we are is the way God made us, I can confidently say that is good.  So when it comes to trying to figure out how to have a relationship with God after He has brought you from unbelief to faith, begin where you are and always pursue Him sincerely as YOU.


Here's what I'm getting at.  We can get distracted and stymied when we look around at how so-and-so church member or Jane Doe super-blogger has a relationship with the Lord.  In our attempt to have the "right" kind of relationship with Him, we copy what others are doing rather than asking the Lord to direct us by His Spirit, within the bounds of our personality and circumstances. Whatever those other folks are doing is wonderful, for them, but may not be what will help you best feel connected to your loving Heavenly Father.

Of course, there are Biblical guidelines for how to deepen our relationship with God.  You know these basics: the Word, prayer, hearing the Word preached, Christian fellowship, etc.  But never, ever, ever let yourself get caught in the lie of the enemy that you have to have the same kind of relationship with God as anyone else.  How you and God talk, is between Him and you.  And it is, to borrow form Goldilocks, just right!

  • You get more out of devotional Bible studies than reading commentaries and studying the minutia of theology?  Grab those devotionals and ask the Lord to keep directing your path by His Word!
  • You LOVE all that theological minutia? Go nuts with the Hebrew and Greek and the commentaries!
  • You can't focus to pray without being on your knees?  Get on your knees and don't be embarrassed!
  • You can't focus to pray with out a pen and journal on your lap?  Collect what you need, and write out those prayers!
  • You love apologetics and discussions about such things?  Read up, study, and take advantage of opportunities God gives you to talk with the skeptical!
  • You love to laugh and have fun?  Feel free to delight in your relationship with God!
  • You really adore God and His holiness?  Meditate on it, go deep, and invite others along!
  • You're a fiery one, full of passion and emotion? Have you read the Psalms? Let God have it!  He can take it and He wants to use you for His purposes!

All I'm trying to say is this.  The only thing about your relationship with God that needs to be exactly the same as everyone else's is that you call on the name of Jesus to be saved from your sins and depend on Him alone for Salvation and New LifeBeyond that, enjoy growing in relationship with God by taking advantage of getting to know Him in the Word, prayer, and worship as He leads you within the context of who YOU are.

Guys, Jesus talked about setting His people free!  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  If you feel bound, it's time to break those chains.  Don't give the enemy the satisfaction of keeping you stuck.  God loves you, chose you, knows you, and wants you to enjoy being in relationship with Him: child to Father.  Let Him bless you with the freedom to be who you are in your relationship with Him!

Grace and peace,
Heather 💛

January 1, 2019

New Year, New You? Resource Suggestions

Happy New Year!  Last time I wrote I encouraged you to consider how you'll get into the Word this year, first and foremost, above all other resolutions or commitments you might make for the next twelve months.  Please read that post; it is my new-years gift to you, my readers.  (And, also, seriously guys, thanks for reading; you bless me!)

At the end of that post I promised I'd offer some suggestions for where to start.  I have a page on this here blog called Deepen Your Roots (see it there at the top?) with some suggestions of how to grow in your faith.  There I offer several ideas: Bible studies, books, and general tips.  But it has been a while since I've updated that, so I can add some things here.

  • Love God Greatly has become a favorite of mine.  They offer mostly 8-week studies throughout the year on various devotional topics, books of the Bible, or people in the Bible.  Starting Monday they will begin a series called "Choose Brave" or you can use one of their previous studies which you can find on the site.  Their resources are free, BUT if you order a journal all the proceeds go to help with translation costs for their international ministry - super cool!  With each study they include M-W-F blog posts and you can join an online group or start one of your own, to have accountability for your Bible study.  Read more on their website, or let me know if you have any questions.


  • Read through the Bible!  This is an ambitious undertaking, but certainly not impossible.  I have done it several times and it is amazing what you learn about God and how He interacts with His people.  This year I'm going to give a chronological Bible my husband bought a few years ago a read-through. It's only $8 on Kindle if you wanted to join me.  But there are lots of different read through the bible options out there.  Do some exploring!  There's a link to another option in the Deepen Your Roots above, too.  I enjoy the schedules that have you read Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs; helps a lot when you're in OT law books which can be a little dry!  Do some poking around to find something that would work for you.  And feel FREE to read through the bible in 3 or 5 years instead of 1!


  • She Reads Truth has come highly recommended by several people, though I have never followed any of their studies.  Here's what it says on their home page:  We create beautiful, accessible Bible reading plans and resources, using old and new technology, for women and men worldwide to grow in biblical literacy and affection for God and His Word.  Sounds like a perfect place to poke around for a plan and get started!



  • Daily devotional readers are a perfect place to get started with the habit of feasting on God's Word.  I can recommend three.  Click on the photo of each to learn more.

  



Alrighty, I think that is enough to get you started.  While you are eating healthy today to recover from the last month of 2018, pull out your Bible and let the crunch of your celery serenade your first Bible reading of 2019!

May 2019 be the year you fall in love with God and His Word, to His glory, honor, and praise!

Heather