Puzzled By the Bible? Look at the Big Picture to Make Sense of the Little Pieces!

This post and the highlighted resources will serve as your "picture on the puzzle box"!

If you’ve ever sat staring hundreds of little puzzle pieces and felt overwhelmed, I bet looking at the picture on top of the puzzle box helped you get your bearings and figure out how to assemble the many pieces into a coherent whole. Well, if the Bible feels like a jumble of stories, people, places, and ideas that you know are somehow suppose to fit together into a meaningful story but you just don’t see it, today’s post will help!

Puzzled by the Bible

Understanding how a portion of Scripture fits into the overall story of the Bible is important to understanding the text correctly. While the Bible tells one continuous story, this story is conveyed in multiple books by multiple authors. Think of it as a library dedicated to the story of God’s self-revelation and His relationship, plans, and purposes with and for His Creation.

Context is Crucial

What is included in the library is known as the “canon.” Thus, knowing where a particular passage fits in the overall canon of the Bible is known as its “canonical context” and is just as important to properly interpreting the meaning of the passage as is understanding the historical and cultural contexts.

I’ve created a couple of graphics to give you a way of visualizing how the various books of the Bible fit within the overall canon. Also, these two graphics highlight some key info for each book such as its type of literature, author, how it was used by God’s people in Biblical times and other helpful bits of context.

Plus, at the end of this post, I’ve listed three of my favorite resources for helping you understand the big story of the Bible. There is even a special discount offered!

Tools plus Discount

Send me the graphics!

The Big Story is Key to Understanding the Little Stories

When we are aware of the overall plot line and key themes of the story of God and His Creation, we are equipped to see the unchanging gracious and just nature of God, the certainty of His bringing His plans to fulfillment, and our need for Him despite our repeated insistence we do just fine on our own.

Scholars refer to the “big story” as the “metanarrative” of the Bible. There are four critical turning points within this overall plot:

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Redemption
  4. Restoration

Familiarity with these four themes allow us to recognize the appearance of those same themes within particular smaller stories and segments of Scripture.

So let’s take a brief look at each one of these themes so you can recognize it when you see it.

CREATION

Creation Icon-Green 5763Elements of this theme reveal God is the sovereign creator and sustainer of all things. By his plan, chaos becomes order.

Everything is created by God for His glory and pleasure.

Humans are created in God’s image, are given stewardship over the rest of Creation, and are created to worship and fellowship with God.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”Colossians 1:15-17, NASB

FALL

Fall Icon - 227When humans rebelled against God, demonstrating a lack of trust in Him and a desire to usurp His authority, the relationship between God and humanity was broken.

All of Creation was impacted by the chaotic consequence of humanity’s rebellion against God. The fallout was the introduction of death, disorder, and alienation.

Our holy God is unable to overlook wrong-doing. Sin can not remain in His presence, and apart from God there is no life, only death.

…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
Romans 5:15, NASB

REDEMPTION

Redemption IconFor true relationship to exist between the Creator and those He created, humanity had to choose to love and obey God.

However, God knew we would choose self over God. Therefore, He planned our rescue and redemption before He set the foundation of the world.

Ultimately, God’s plan for our redemption was to save us through Christ’s atoning death on the cross. And if you pay close attention as you read the Scriptures leading up to the fulfillment of that plan, you will notice God’s redemptive actions which foreshadow and prepare for Christ’s once and for all sacrifice for our sin.

Our redemption cost God greatly. He endured the judgment for our sin and bestowed on us His righteousness. He redeemed us because of who He is and because of His love for us.

I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.
Isaiah 44:22, NASB

RESTORATION

Restoration Icon - blue yellowWe live in the “already but not yet” of the end times. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit and are being conformed to the image of Christ. And at the appropriate time, Christ will return and restore order to creation with a new heaven and a new earth.

Those who have placed their trust in Christ’s redeeming work on the cross will be resurrected and fellowship with God for all eternity. Those who rejected God’s plan for redemption will be resurrected and live eternally separated from Him.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.”
Ephesians 1:9–10, HCSB

Big Story Themes in the Little Story of David & Goliath

Let’s consider each theme and how it shapes our understanding of what is going on in this particular story found in 1 Samuel 17.

Creation: From Chaos to Order

At the beginning of this story, we see the Philistines and the Israelite armies faced off in battle. Israel is the nation of God’s people, created and called out of the chaos of all the nations (See Genesis 11 and 12). Israel has only to trust and obey God and He promises to take care of them.

Fall: Failure to Trust and Obey

In the big story, the fall happens when Adam and Eve believe the lies of the serpent rather than trusting and obeying God (See Genesis 2-3). In 1 Samuel, we see echos of this when Saul and his army fail to trust in God and instead believe the taunts of Goliath.

Redemption: One Man of Faith Defeats Death

David, in the eyes of the worldly men around him, seems inadequate to face off against such a powerful enemy. Yet, his faith in God, rather than in his own abilities, empowers him to stand in the place of all the men of Israel and carry out God’s will. He uses the enemy’s own weapon to deliver the death blow and bring victory to God’s people.

Hear the echos of the cross from the big story? Jesus, one humble man with faith in God, faces off against those who defy God. The very instrument by which his enemies planned to use to destroy him (the cross), He used to defeat sin and win the victory for those who place their faith in the One True God.

Restoration: An Already But Not Yet King

As the story of David and Goliath ends, David is the victor. Even Saul, the current king, recognizes there is something different about David. “Find out whose son this young man is!” Saul demands.

I can’t help but recall a similar reaction at this same plot point in the big story. When Jesus accomplished the victory on the cross and the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

David had already been anointed king before this battle with Goliath, but the world didn’t recognize him as king yet. In fact, it would be many years before David’s rule would be recognized and established. In the interim, David experienced the “already, but not yet” aspect we see in the big story. The victory was won, his place secure, yet the full realization of the kingdom awaited fulfillment.

And just as surely as God fulfilled his promise to seat David upon the throne and establish his kingdom, Christ will return and establish his everlasting kingdom in the new heaven and new earth.

Some Tools To Help You See the Big Picture of the Bible

If you want to become more familiar with the big picture and the metanarrative themes, here are a few great resources to help you:

Clarifying the Bible

Clarifying the Bible

Clarifying The Bible is a DVD presentation with an accompanying workbook. In less time than it takes to watch the average movie you will be introduced to the Bible like never before. The DVD presentation takes viewers on an exciting journey from Genesis all the way to Revelation.

I recently watched this fantastic program at a training for my church’s adult teachers. AWESOME! I highly recommend you grab either the DVD and workbook or get the digital downloads.

In fact, over the next three weeks, ending on May 17, Mitch is offering readers of my blog a 10% discount on their purchases. Use the coupon code lauranaiser to receive the discount. Note: When you hover your cursor over your cart you’ll see the button Proceed to Checkout. Click that button, then the request for the coupon code shows up in the blue box.

If this resource had been available back when I was serving as the Adult Ministries staff person at a large congregation, it would have been a huge help in equipping my teachers and congregation members. So if you’re a pastor or church staff person, take advantage of this special discount offer and order Clarifying the Bible for your next training.

Get 10% Off Clarifying the Bible!

The 10 Day Bible Companion

The 10 Day Bible Companion

 

Dr. Pamela Harrison has guest posted on my blog in the past and has a wonderful book which connects the individual stories and pieces of the Bible into one amazing story.

Pam and her husband, Keith, are the co-founders of High Seas Ministries, a ministry dedicated to serving guests and crew members of the cruise ship industry. She teaches the complete Bible as presented in The 10-Day Bible Companion on ships and for groups on land. (I’ve attended one of her weekend intensives and it was fabulous!)

She presents God’s Word in a way that anyone can understand. And when you sit down with her book and your Bible, you can walk through the big story in ten very interesting sessions. Work through the book on your own or with a group of friends or a Sunday School class. You’ll have a new appreciation for the creation-fall-redemption-restoration themes as you read your Bible.

Order The 10-Day Bible Companion!

Seamless

Seamless-teenI wrote an entire blog post about this Bible study after I participated in it at my home church.

We did the regular version, which is great for a ladies Bible study whether at church or hosted in your home.

Angie Smith also created a version specifically for teen girls. I can’t imagine a better way to introduce your teen daughter and her friends to the beautiful and seamless thread connecting the people, places, and promises of the Bible in a whole new way.

Order Seamless!

Free Biblical Library and Periodic Table Graphics

Free Bible Study Infographics

Also, don’t forget to get the free printable I made you. This full-color handout illustrates how each book fits into the library of 66 books comprising the Protestant Bible. And the Periodic Table of the Bible provides you with some context for how these same books were grouped and used in Biblical times.

Send me the graphics!

Register Now for My New Bible Study

Philippians Begins April 18 (Free child care deadline is April 11)

Would you like to learn the apostle Paul’s secret to being content in any circumstance? Would you like to better understand the mindset of Jesus Christ (and discover how to have it yourself)? That’d be pretty awesome, right? Well then you need to register for my new Bible study on Philippians which begins April 18. Paul will inspire you to press on toward the goal, for the ultimate prize of full knowledge of and communion with Christ. Instead of living with a sense of inadequacy or defeat, discover why Paul is confident God will bring the good work He has begun in you to its full completion.

Philippians Feature lmage CLICK

If you regularly struggle with fear, worry, suffering, or negative thinking, this study will help you walk in joy, confidence, and the strength of Christ. You’ll have a new perspective on your challenges.

You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in these encouraging and inspiring words from Paul—and the fun, fellowship, and insights of some really amazing classmates!

So Here’s a Summary of What You’ll Get

    • WorkbookCover 300 pxA printed workbook designed to encourage and guide you through Philippians no matter what learning style you prefer. (I’ll hand these out at our first session).

 

    • Extra resources, tips, and strategies to help you anytime you study any portion of your Bible.

 

    • Six weekly group sessions (conveniently located in the heart of downtown Georgetown at Main Street Baptist Church). Morning classes meet 9:30 am and are out by 11 am. Evening classes will meet at 6:30 pm and be out by 8 pm.

 

    • Recordings of class discussions so you won’t miss out even if you have to miss a class.

 

    • Free child care if you register and submit your child care request by April 11! I’m partnering with my home church and thus we can offer a limited number of child care spots for free!

 

    • But that’s not all… I’ve created a couple of amazing bonuses for you.

Get All the Scoop & Register Now!

To learn all the details about the class and these bonuses, click the button below to jump over to my Philippians information and registration page.

The books go to the printer April 7 so if you want to be sure your workbook is ready for you at the first session, you need to register by April 7. Also, the deadline to request child care is April 11. So while you could register later, you may not get a printed workbook until the second class. So, if you live within driving distance of Georgetown, Texas, click the button below and get signed up!

Register Now!

Overpower Your What Ifs With These Whatevers

The pilot announced it would be a rough flight. So unstable, in fact, he was asking the flight attendants to remain in their seats for most of the two and a half hour trip.  I am a really fearful flyer. So, you can imagine my knee-jerk reaction to the news our captain relayed as we prepared for take-off. Thankfully, Paul’s words in Philippians brought godly wisdom to my worried mind. I had a choice about what I would focus on.

Silence the negative voice-airplane

I could allow my focus to be on the things I had no control over (for example, the turbulence). Or, I could place my attention on God and keep my thoughts within the scope of stewardship He had given me.

While the Holy Spirit can equip us to know things we couldn’t possibly know on our own, we sure make things easier when we do our part to prepare our minds and hearts to hear from Him.

All the time I’ve been investing in studying and meditating on Philippians in preparation for my upcoming class, meant the words of Scripture were primed and prepared for the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind.

Philippians4_8

 

Long-time readers know I struggle with fear even on the smoothest of flights. I’ve written before about this issue.

My mind tends to fill with images of every story of airline catastrophes I’ve ever heard, read, or seen. I race through the “what ifs” and let my imagination spin terrifying scenarios.

  • “What if the mechanics missed tightening some bolt and a critical piece of the aircraft fails?”
  • “What if the pilot is tired or distracted or incompetent.”
  • “What if…”

Stress increases whenever I try to control anything beyond the realm of stewardship God has apportioned to me. Paul’s admonition from Philippians 4:8 reminded me of this.

So, I quickly went through my checklist of what my Creator had placed within my control:

Realm of Stewardship

Mental Realm

I have been given dominion over my thoughts, attitudes, desires.

Emotional Realm

I can determine how I respond to circumstances and the behavior of other people. I control my emotional response in terms of my feelings and whether and how I will choose to give and receive love.

Physical Realm

I have authority over my body and to a certain extent my material possessions.

Spiritual Realm

I may decide what I believe, value, and think about God. God allows me the free will to decide if I will accept the truth He reveals of Himself.

Practical Application of My Stewardship

As the plane taxied to the runway, there were many variables over which I had absolutely no control and which were screaming for my anxious attention.

As the jet bumped along the final few yards of contact with the solid ground, I prayed that God would show me how to apply Philippians 4:8 to each of these areas in which he gives me responsibility.

Being that I was presently engaged in prayer, I naturally started with the spiritual realm.

What do I know to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy about God? As rubber separated from asphalt and we began our ascent, I mutely sang out to God (with the help of my carefully chosen playlist of praise songs blasting through my earphones) all the reasons I could think of that he was completely trustworthy; whatever the circumstance.

Then, as I noticed my hands clenching and my body tensing, I applied the truth that even soaring through the clouds, I had stewardship of my own body. While I couldn’t control the weather, the plane, or anyone else on the plane, I could determine my own physical response to my setting.

I focused on taking deep breaths, relaxing into the seat, and resting in the knowledge that the One I had just praised and acknowledged as good, sovereign, loving, and for me was in control of all the variables over which I wasn’t.

While that didn’t mean the outcome would be what I wanted, I realized I could trust God to be with me in whatever we would face during the flight. Just like I can trust Him to be present in whatever circumstances I face each day when my feet are firmly on the ground.

God is Lord of heaven and earth. What is true about Him, me, and creation when I’m at sea level remains true at 35,000 feet. I focused on that and headed off any thoughts about the unlovely what ifs. I exercised dominion over the thoughts I let hang out in my brain.

I chose an attitude of surrender and trust. And I chose to love God because of who He is rather than whether or not He was giving me the smooth, fear-free ride I wanted.

I focused on naming God’s attributes, His noble, pure, admirable, lovely, and praiseworthy characteristics and acts.

As I silently praised Him and recalled all the ways He has demonstrated his love for me in the past, I felt His peace settle in on me.

The entire flight (with the exception of about 15 minutes) was turbulent. However, because I focused on God and not my circumstances, I never had a panic attack. I actually was able to focus on studying and make a little progress in preparing for class. But most importantly, I had two and a half hours of worship rather than worry.

How can you apply this in your life?

I don’t know what challenges you face today, but whatever you come up against, confront it with God and in His strength.

Whatever your need, surrender it to Him.

Take your “whatevers” and “what ifs” and apply Paul’s “whatever” exhortations of Philippians 4:8 to them. Exercise your God-given authority within your realm of stewardship and leave everything else to God.

For it is God who is effectively at work in you, to strengthen, energize, and create in you the longing and the ability to work out in your realm of stewardship the transformation He has worked in you. Therefore, let your fear and trembling be because you acknowledge how holy, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy your Savior is. (See Philippians 2:13)

Want to study Philippians with me?

If you would like to dig in to the Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi and mine it for the truth and grace applicable to all believers across time and in whatever circumstances we face, I would be so excited to have you join me.

Class will be held on Tuesdays (chose either 9:30 am or 6:30 pm) beginning April 18, 2017. I’m partnering with my home church, Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown, Texas. Classes will be held there and free childcare (with pre-registration) will be offered.

At this time, I’m not offering an online version, but I may, in the future, create an online video series to accompany the workbook for my out-of-towners!

I’m not quite ready to open registration as I’m still finishing up my lesson plans and the workbook. But if you want more info check out my “coming soon page”.

Learn More!

 

Got pain? I know a pain-taker!

Got chains? I know a chain-breaker!

Whatever you’re struggling with, Jesus can set you free! Grammy-nominated artist, Zach Williams, distills the truth of this in his song Chain Breaker.

I love this song and what it says. But I also love they way Zach sings it. His voice, the lyrics, and the music all come together to glorify our God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or even imagine. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

So if…

  • you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
  • you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
  • you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside

There’s a better life, there’s a better life.

Walk with Jesus and let him show you what is possible in Him.

I pray that you are blessed by this lyric video of Zach’s song:

How can I pray for you?

I would love to pray for you and/or with you. Just email me and let me know how I can pray for you. If you want me to pray with you over the phone, be sure and include your phone number and a couple options for when I should reach out to you.

5 Secrets You Need to Know About Saying No

Plus FREE Boundary Basics Cheat Sheet and Coaching Session

I’ve heard from several readers lately who want some help saying no—without guilt! In this post, I share five secrets that helped transform me from a chronic people-pleaser to a more healthy person who knows when and how to say no. So if you cringe when you’re asked to do something you know you need to pass on, you need to learn these secrets!

Secrets to Saying No

Saying No…

…Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Christian (Secret #1)

For believers, Jesus is our model. Previously, I wrote a post reflecting on the apostle Paul’s call for us to have the same mindset as Christ. So, one of the best guilt-relieving strategies is to read the Scriptures and notice how often God says no.

God is good all the time. And He says no frequently. Thus, we must conclude that it is not ungodly to say no when appropriate.

And that’s the catch for most of who struggle with this skill. How do we know when it is appropriate and godly to say no? And that leads us to the second and third secrets.

…Can Be the Most Loving Response (Secret #2)

God created each of us to be responsible for certain aspects of our life. If someone is capable of handling their responsibilities, but not willing to do so, God calls that irresponsibility. It is not loving to enable irresponsibility in others.

This is totally different from someone being in a crisis situation that they are unable to cope on their own. Life in this fallen world can overwhelm our God-given ability to shoulder some burdens. In those instances when our load becomes a legitimate burden, it is appropriate to ask for help. And as believers, when we are in a position to help carry someone’s burden, we want to respond lovingly and graciously.

Check your motive for saying yes. If it is fear-based (fear of guilt, looking bad, rejection, etc.) you’re probably well-within the bounds of love to say no. You need to deal with your fear and let the one asking for help deal with their responsibilities.

However, if your motive is to help someone do something because you have the capacity and resources and want to freely share those, then your yes is probably the godly response. Are you capable of helping them get their head above water without drowning yourself?

Jesus was capable of overcoming death and we were not. He left his position of glory to dive down into our swirling shipwreck and save us. He did for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. And he had the capacity and resources to do so. Living cruciform is not the same thing as living as a doormat for irresponsible people to use and abuse.

…Without Guilt IS Possible! (Secret #3)

Once you ground your thinking on this topic in God’s character as revealed in the Scriptures and you understand how to determine if your yes will enable irresponsibility versus help shoulder another’s legitimate burden, you’ll begin to feel the guilt dissipate.

You’ll also be better prepared to counter manipulative responses to an appropriate no.

If you are gripped by fear or guilt, you probably need to brush up on your boundary-setting basics. Learning the biblical principles of healthy boundary setting will equip you to give voice to guilt-free nos when appropriate.

…Gets Easier with Practice. (Secret #4)

Boundary setting and saying no is a skill. And as with any skill it takes time to hone your knowledge and capability. Planning and practicing your new skills will make it easier for you to get that no out in real life circumstances.

Also, it can be extremely helpful to have a more experienced boundary-setter mentor you and model the skill. As you see someone else put the strategies into practice in day-to-day situations, you’ll realize you can do it as well. And they can role-play situations you regularly struggle with so you’re prepared with the words (and will) to follow through without beating yourself up.

You’ll learn how to give a no with grace. Saying no doesn’t have to be callous. A good no is given while communicating respect and concern for the one requesting something. Practicing with a mentor will help you polish your wording so as to graciously decline.

…Leads to More Peace, Less Stress (Secret #5)

When you are empowered and equipped to extend a godly no, you’ll begin to get your head above the waves of overwhelm.

You’ll be exercising better stewardship over your resources and God-given realm of responsibilities. This will mean you have the margin and capacity to be a strong bearer of burdens for people who really need your help; instead of being loaded down with the castoffs of the shiftless sluggards.

Free Resource to Help You Brush up on your Boundary Basics

If you’re boundary-setting muscles are a bit atrophied, grab this Boundary Basics cheat sheet and begin gaining the skills you need to strengthen your ability to grant some gracious nos.

Get your FREE Boundaries cheat sheet!

Claim your FREE Coaching Session Now!

In keeping with Secret #4, I want to provide you with a free coaching session to show you how helpful it can be to have a more experienced boundary-setter backing you up and role-playing your difficult no-saying scenarios. To book your free session, just click on button below and pick a date and time that fits your schedule.

Book Your Free Session Now!

Do you have the same mindset as Christ?

A meditation on Philippians 2:5-11

We are called to have the same mindset as Christ. What does that even mean and how in the world do we do that? I’ve been meditating on Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. In chapter two, verses five through eleven, Paul calls believers to have the same mindset as Christ. Then he goes on to illustrate what that mindset entails. Listen…

When we have an ethos which conforms to the attitude and disposition of Christ, we consider how we can serve others. How can we use who we are and our circumstances to make a difference in the lives of others?

Consider the words Paul penned just prior to the beautiful hymn about Christ.

Philippians 2_2-4 NIV

 

Verses 2 through 5 illustrate how Christ exhibited his mindset. Verses 2 through 4 illustrate what it looks like when we express the mindset of Christ.

Humble and Other-Focused

The mindset is one of humility about self and valuing others highly. So highly, in fact, we will put their needs above our comfort and rights.

Jesus is divine. All honor and glory are his by rights. Yet, because of how much he values you, me and all humans, he set aside the glory, power, and worship due him as God and humbled himself to meet our need for salvation.

God became human for us.

The creator and Lord of all creation entered the world as a tiny, helpless, impoverished infant.

Philippians 2_7 NIV

Because of our sin we could not be present with our holy God. But because of his love for us, he became human to be with us and to die the death due us. He bore the penalty of our sin by allowing himself to be put to death on a cross, the most humiliating and awful means of execution.

He wore our cross so we can wear his righteousness.

When we contemplate how much our Savior was willing to give up and take on for us, our hearts and minds are transformed.

We Work Out What He Works In

So we have a little bit of an understanding of what we will exhibit in our actions when we have in our mind the attitude and disposition of Jesus. But how do we get that mindset in our self-centered selves?

Our mindset becomes conformed to our Savior’s as the Holy Spirit works in us to make us more and more who God made us to become. He is the one at work changing us. As he changes us we will naturally express his character more and our sin-marred character less. He is how.

Philippians 2_12-13 NIV

Paul reminds us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) We don’t work for our salvation, we display it through our attitude and actions. We don’t bring about the change, God does.

The fear and trembling is the awe and overwhelming humility one feels as one reflects on what Christ has done for us. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

He accomplishes our transformation. He changes us from the inside out.

Our outside exhibition of character changes as a result of what God does in our heart, minds, and will as we submit to him and recognize his authority in our lives. 

This week marks the beginning of Lent. This season invites believers to prepare our hearts and minds for the wonder of the Cross. It is a season in which we spend time meditating on the cross so as to more fully comprehend why and what we celebrate on Easter morning.

As I’ve written before, it is a way of standing at the cross before we rush to the empty tomb. As we contemplate our profound need of the saving work Christ did for us on the cross, we will again be awestruck and tremble at just how good the good news of the gospel is.

So I invite you to spend some time this week reflecting on what God did for you in Christ.

How has he worked in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose? How can you display the mindset of Jesus Christ to those you encounter each day? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

How to pray without ceasing (or seizing).

It’s difficult to focus on something continually without either becoming distracted by something else or neglecting other areas of importance. So how in the world are we to pray constantly?

Pray without ceasing

As believers, we are commanded by the Scriptures to pray continually. Here are a few passages to consider:

  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
  • Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

A Kaleidoscope Moment

When we have been in the Word a long time, we can get locked into seeing the words from a set perspective. The fresh eyes of a new believer can function like a kaleidoscope and help us see the old familiar passages in new and surprising ways.

“What does pray without seizing mean?” Not seeing the Scripture, just hearing someone else use the phrase, “pray without ceasing” caused this young lady some confusion. It was a sweet misunderstanding easily cleared up by clarifying the words.

Yet, her question stuck with me. I’ve been turning the phrases over and over like a kid peering through one of those magical toys filled with colored bits of glass and mirrors.

My mom has a collection of beautiful kaleidoscopes. These fascinate adults and kids alike. As you peer into the eyepiece a beautiful scene is beheld. Then turn it ever so slightly and a new scene arranges itself before your eyes.

Pray with out ceasing; pray without seizing. I just kept turning those phrases over and over in my mind.

kaleidiscope cross

Pray Without Ceasing

Clearly this was an important concept in the early church. The apostle Paul included this instruction in one way or another in most of his letters to the churches of the first century.

So first, let’s allow the meaning of his words to come into focus.

To cease an action is to stop it; to discontinue our endeavor; to allow it to come to an end.

Paul admonishes believers to not stop when it comes to praying. No matter the circumstances, regardless of the odds, keep bringing everything to God.

He also repeatedly connects the concept of gratitude and thanksgiving with this adventure of continually lifting our prayers to God.

As I rolled these ideas around in my noggin, I realized when I am grounded in gratitude for what God has done in Christ, I have a holy perspective on the people, problems, and petitions I bring to God.

By that, I mean I think differently about them than I do when I am looking at them through my human, worldly eyes.

In the Spirit, all occasions become opportunities for God to be revealed and glorified. Whereas from my human position and capabilities, the situation may very well be impossible. However, with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) And that is why Paul insists we are to never give up, never decide something or someone is beyond God’s ability to redeem. 

Our job is to pray without ceasing, with gratitude and expectation. God’s job is to bring about the outcome.

Praying continually can also mean living our lives in an attitude of prayer. A friend of mine has modeled this so well. I hear her praising and petitioning Jesus for everything: “Thank you Jesus for this beautiful day.” “Jesus help me know what to pray.” No matter is too small or too big. And she doesn’t stop what she’s doing, she just overlays it with prayer. I’m trying to follow her example.

And as I read Paul’s letters, I’m paying more attention to how he infuses prayer into his every circumstance. There are any number of ways we can pray steadfastly.

Pray Without Seizing

Now let’s turn the cylinder and allow those the bits and pieces to glide over the mirrors and show us something new.

Seize has several possible meanings*:

  • to take hold of suddenly or forcibly
  • to grasp mentally; understand clearly and completely
  • to take possession or control of
  • to resort to a method, plan, etc., in desperation
  • to have moving parts bind and stop moving as a result of excessive pressure, temperature, or friction

Have you ever had something that weighed so heavily on you that it seemed to choke the life out of you?

Know what I mean? It grabs your attention and blocks out everything else, including God’s Word and wisdom.

It seizes you and you seize it.

I’ve done that. I think I’m praying about it but upon closer examination, I’m actually just worrying about it.

I’m wrestling with it in my own power, trying to come up with my solutions for it, and just dressing it up as prayer by sandwiching it in between holy sounding phrases like: Dear Heavenly Father and In Jesus name, amen.

That’s not praying with out ceasing. And, Paul would probably tell us to knock it off and pray without seizing, instead.

We don’t have to understand something or someone to pray for them. 

This is a little different from allowing worry to seize our prayers. I sometimes struggle with knowing what to pray for. So, I just don’t. I seize up.

Again, I have a feeling Paul would remind me to cut it out and get on with my praying.

I don’t have to know the details of a situation. I don’t have to know someone’s name. I don’t have to have a plan for solving the conflict or problem.

I need only lift it to the One who knows all and is sovereign.

When I follow Paul’s counsel to continue steadfastly in prayer, I also remind myself to be watchful and thankful for God’s hand in the situation.

I may or may not get to see how God works the details out. That’s not why I’m called to pray.

If I’m praying with an understanding the outcome is squarely in His hands, not mine, the pressure is released and my prayers are freed up to flow. I can be watchful for an outcome, but whether I see it or not, I can be thankful. I can be confident He is at work to bring it about.

What do you think? What do you find helpful in praying without ceasing (or seizing)? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

*Source:  dictionary.com

Happy Valentine’s Day Beloved Child of God!

Special days can be great, but they can also be stressful. Especially if we don’t fit into the world’s expectations related to that day. If Valentine’s Day is one of fun celebrations, chocolate, and flowers, great. But if your situation is such that all the world’s focus on the lovey-dovey stuff makes you want to scream, cry, or just hide out until it all blows over, I get it! And I want to remind you that you ARE loved! You are a dearly beloved child of God!

Happy Valentines Day

It is my hope that you will see what great love the Father has lavished on YOU through Jesus.

Listen to these words from Philippians 2: 6-8 that describe the mindset of your Lord for you:

[Christ Jesus ] Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

THAT my dear is the length and depth your God was willing to go to reconcile you to himself.

That is a love that you can count on and celebrate.

That is a love that will never forsake you, never fail, and always be sufficient to carry you through whatever you face.

So, meditate on God’s love for you, His beloved child!

Happy Valentine’s Day,

LauraSignatureBlog

 

 

Be Encouraged! God’s Not Done With You Yet!

Consider this encouraging word from Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1_6

In case you can’t read the Scripture verse in the graphic above here is the text from the New American Standard Bible translation:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

We have been made right with God through our faith in Christ.

He has made us new and is making us new. In the “already but not yet” paradox of salvation and God’s Kingdom, we can be confident that God has begun conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ and that HE will complete that perfection process in us.

We have a part to play in that process. It is called submission and obedience. We work out what He works in us.

In other words, we are not working to save ourselves or to make ourselves like Christ; our role is to let the work He has done and is doing inside us be made visible outwardly in our lives.

So rest in the confidence that the accomplishing of the process is in the best of hands and let His good work in you shine out to those around you.

Philippians Study Coming in April

I’m so excited about what I’m learning as I study and prepare to teach Philippians after Easter. I’ll have more info coming soon, but if you think you might be interested in studying with me on either Tuesday mornings or Tuesday evenings, save those dates in your calendar from April 18 through May 23.

Blessings of truth and grace,

I’m so excited to be joining Evelyn Davison and Kerri Brinkoeter on their show Love Talk this Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 2 pm on KTXW The Bridge!

Lovetalk Faith Pantry

What staples do you need to sustain your soul and nourish your walk with Christ?

Join us as we share 3 simple steps to decluttering and restocking your faith pantry.

If you’re feeling like your schedule has become over-crowded or your spiritual practices have become a little stale, you’ll want to tune in to 1120 AM at 2 pm this Saturday and learn how to make sure your faith pantry provides you with the sustenance you need in this particular season of your life!

Not in the Austin area? No problem. Listen live from anywhere in the world via http://www.ktxw.net/.

If you miss the broadcast, visit www.lovetalknetwork.com to listen to the re-broadcast. Give them a few days to get the recording posted to their site. In the meantime, check out some of their recent episodes.

Need A Coach?

Want some help and further guidance on getting your faith pantry well stocked to meet your current needs? I’d love to coach you through this simple process! Check out my coaching page to book a free consultation!

Date: February 11, 2017
Time: 2:00-03:00 p.m.
Appearance: Join Me on LoveTalk with Evelyn Davison & Kerri Brinkoeter!
Outlet: KTXW 1120 AM The Bridge
Location: Austin Texas (Broadcasting worldwide at http://www.ktxw.net/)
Format: Radio

Need A Coach? Want some help and further guidance on getting your faith pantry well stocked to meet your current needs? I'd love to coach you through this simple process! Check out my coaching page to book a free consultation!