Why Choosing New Glasses is Hard When You’re a People-Pleaser (Like Me)

She tells me, “Those look cute on you.”

I wrinkle up my nose and squint my eyes at the mirror.

She’s the sweetest, kindest lady ever, handing me pairs of glasses at the eye doctor’s office.

But I’m a pushover.  One slight hint of someone else’s opinion and I tend to fold up like a pup-tent in a windstorm.

I explain to her that I really like my glasses, the ones I’ve worn for 4-1/2 years that are now cracked, scratched, bent, and about to disintegrate in the palm of my hand.  Can’t I just have something pretty much the same?

She says, ‘They are kind of small’ and points to a few pairs she likes on the shelf.

The pair she hands me aren’t really ‘me.’  They are cool and trendy, big dark frames in that funky retro style that looks great on everyone, but just don’t suit me or who I am.

In that moment, though, I question myself.

She says they look cute.  She says she likes them.

So maybe she’s right?  Maybe all those things I think and feel about myself are wrong?  Maybe I just need to try something different….get wild and crazy for a second.  Maybe I should be more stylish?  Maybe I could grow to like them?

I feel slightly trapped.

Thankfully, I’m rescued from my decision-making paralysis by a friend who works at the office.  She shakes her head, ‘no’ and I feel truly, truly saved as I slip those frames right back onto the display shelf.

I needed someone to back me up.  Given just one more nudge by the sweet and gentle lady trying to help me pick out glasses, I’d have walked right out of there having purchased frames I hated.

And I would have worn them for years.

And I would have hated them every time I put them on my face.

And I would have hated myself for buying them in the first place, for just taking someone else’s opinion as truth without weighing it against the truth I know about myself.

That’s me.  People-pleasing me.  Indecisive me.  Swayed by the slightest push from others and then growing all resentful at the pressure.

The trouble is that this is an opinion-sharing world.  Random people in Wal-Mart like to comment on the groceries you buy and the amount of kids you have crowded around your shopping cart.

God does use people to speak truth to us at times.  They can be a confirmation sent by the Holy Spirit or a loving word of encouragement or challenge just when we need it.

Sometimes, though, they are just people—friends, loved ones, random shoppers with opinions.galatians1

In Scripture, Job endured and ignored the counsel of his friends and his overwhelmed wife’s advice to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9 NIV).

For all their professed spirituality and theological ‘expertise,’ Job’s friends were wrong.

His wife was wrong.

But me, if I had sat there in the sackloth and ashes, would I have discerned the truth?  Would I have held on stubbornly to that challenged faith like Job did or would I have begrudgingly given in?

I’m learning that I must:

  1. Consider the source:  Is this someone whose input has value?
  2. Consider the message: Does what they are saying match up with Scripture?  Does it match up with what the Holy Spirit has been telling me or is this noticeably out of place?
  3. Consider the intent: Are they sharing something prayerfully and in love?  Or are they condemning and hurtful?
  4. Consider the authority: Is this simply an opinion or a way that God is speaking to me?  (Remember that sometimes people even say things are ‘words from the Lord,’ yet they don’t mesh with Scripture or what God has been doing in your life).

In the end, I can’t be both—an obedient servant of Christ or a people-pleaser.  Paul lays it down as an either/or choice:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10 NIV).

“People-pleaser,” after all, is just a polite way of excusing the truth about me:  I’m an idolater,  worshiping the approval of others just as much as any man-carved image of stone or wood.

It takes discernment and courage to decide that “God’s judgment is the only one that counts” (Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living, Todd Wilson) .

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Just This and No More

My older girls picked up their knitting needles this week.

They have big plans of what they can make with one ball of yarn and two thick needles: Hats with pom poms to match stripey scarves for every family member and friend.

For now, I tell them: Keep it simple.  Practice the steps, row after row.  No need for fancy patterns or agendas.  Just stitch after stitch until they are even and right.026

We’ve corrected our fair share of lost stitches, tangled yarn and strangely elaborate knots.  Mostly, though, we’re fighting against extra.

I started my oldest girl out with 15 little loops and within 3 rows, she’d nearly doubled the length of her project.  I counted them out—27 stitches now. We counted out 5 stitches for my next daughter and she immediately increased that to 10.

How do they do this?

It’s not purposeful, of course.  Just an inadvertent grabbing of yarn in the wrong place, slipping on two loops where there should be only one, until finally their project has doubled in size.  And if I let them continue unhindered, it’d triple and more.

So I pull out the row and  start them again.

This is how you grab just one loop at a time.  This is how you count your stitches after each row.

But it’s just so easy with momentary distractions and the way we pick up speed to do this, too.

God starts me out with 15 simple loops of yarn.  He establishes the rhythm and the pattern, and He measures out the resources so I’ll have enough for all I need.

I focus at first and watch each stitch carefully.

Then I begin to rush and think about other things.  People ask me questions.  I look away instead of on my project.

Somehow I’ve slipped on extra stitches.  God asked me to do 15.  Just 15.  So simple.  He gave me enough.

But now I have 30 and I’m frantically working, trying to keep up with it all.  I’m running out of resources and fretting over how I’ll ever be sufficient for all this need.

When I finally hand over the tangled mess to this patient and gracious God, He takes me back, eliminates the excess and starts me over again.  Just 15 stitches, Heather.  I only asked You to do these.  No more.  Nothing extra.  And I’ve given You all You need, more than enough, for this alone.

It’s busyness, of course, that rushes us into grabbing more.  We say “Yes” when He wants us to say “No.”  We feel pressured into volunteering and there’s the pride that convinces us that we can save the day and make it successful.

Usually, it’s all good things: Bible studies, meetings, committees, volunteering and relationships.  Then we find ourselves doubling up those stitches again, and when we read those words of Jesus, they don’t even make sense.  How could He promise us this when we feel so worn?

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

There’s another way, though, that those stitches slip right on and we don’t even know it. It’s not busyness; it’s expectations.  We tell ourselves what a Good Mom, a Good Wife, a Godly Woman and a True Friend does.

We’ve condemned ourselves right there, always trying to measure up to some perfect standard, tossing on stitches until we just collapse in failure and then we feel it: I’m a failure and a mess. I can’t keep up with it all, even these 15 stitches.  Not like “her,” so perfect and together.

But God didn’t ask us to be perfect.  He doesn’t impose impossible standards or withhold grace.

In the Message, the same verses in Matthew say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

It takes purposeful determination to protect the few stitches God’s entrusted to us, to fall into those unforced rhythms of grace rather than frantic rushing and condemnation.  No slipping on extra loops of string, not with busyness and commitments or expectations and burdensome requirements.

Protect what He’s asked You to do and do it well, with all Your heart and mind, knowing that He’s given you all you need for just this much and no more.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Back-to-School lessons and a verse

I have a chatty daughter and a not-so-chatty daughter.

The first year my oldest attended preschool, she would climb into the car at the end of the day and I would ask, “How was your day?”

She would then jabber on for fifteen minutes or so about she-said’s, he-said’s, activities, games, and lessons.

When my next daughter attended preschool, she hopped into the car at the end of the day and I asked her the tried-and-true question, “How was your day?” expecting a full report.

She answered, “Fine.”

I paused and waited.  Silence.

“What did you learn?”

“I don’t remember.”

It took time for me to learn to ask better questions:

“What did Sam bring for show-and-tell?”
“What did you eat for snack?”
“What book did you read at Story Time?”
“What craft or project did you make?”

Better questions merited better answers from her. That is, until this introvert daughter of mine finally announced, “Mom, I don’t want to talk anymore.  Please stop asking me questions!”

At the start of the new school year, I’m thinking about asking God better questions: prayers not so much of need-fulfillment and wishlists, but requests for closeness with Him.

Will You impress on my heart each day where to go, what to do, what words to speak?

How may I abide in You more fully? 

How can my self be so entwined with Yourself that our hearts are united with the same purposes and desires?

Our back-to-school verse for the week is:

He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed
Isaiah 50:4b

Let’s enter this season of fall, of changes, new beginnings and fresh starts, with the daily prayer to wake morning by morning as a better student of God and His Word with a softened heart, an engaged mind, and a teachable spirit.

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I’ve been sharing prayers for our schools this past week on my Facebook page.  You can join me there by liking the page in order to pray along with me.  Or, you can visit this link to see the prayers and even print a version to keep in your Bible, prayer journal or on your fridge.  Let’s cover our kids, our teachers, our schools in prayer.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Whatever You Do, Part II

Don’t forget the giveaway going on to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this blog!  You can read all about it here and posting a comment anywhere on the blog this week will enter you to win!!

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Just over a year ago, I sat at the kitchen table with my husband.  I told him that I had this insane, totally crazy idea that I couldn’t shake.

And I was trying to shake it.

“I don’t want to blog,” I said.  “I’m not a blogger.  I don’t have time to blog.  I don’t want to talk about me.  What in the world could I say day after day?  I’d probably write for a month and then have to stop.”

I tried to convince him that it was a stupid idea.

He looked at me and said, “If God wants you to do this, you need to do it.  None of that really matters.”

I don’t know what’s next, how long it’ll take, what it will look like.  All I can do is obey here and now, writing these devotionals as God directs.

In Whatever You Do, Part I, I wrote that we need to be faithful in the everyday tasks God has given us, giving Him glory in the smallest, most basic areas of our lives.

Life rolls along in its repetitious way—commuting to work, picking up kids, going to church, supervising the brushing of hair and teeth, making lunches and cooking dinners.

Then one day God asks us to do something crazy—like write a blog that you don’t want to write when you don’t have time to write it.

Or:

Start a new ministry.  Visit the nursing home regularly.  Take a missions trip across the globe.  Feed the hungry.  Foster or adopt children in need.  Make blankets for children in the hospital.  Volunteer at the local school.  Send shoes overseas.

This is the way ordinary people like you and me can have impact in this massive world.  We move when and where God tells us to move and we serve faithfully where He has placed us to serve.

Paul lived this kind of radically obedient life.  He was a tentmaker by trade and he had no qualms about setting up shop in a city and sewing tents during the moments he wasn’t teaching in the synagogue, writing the bulk of the New Testament, or preaching Christ to the Gentiles.

This is what he did in Corinth when he stayed and worked with Aquila and Priscilla—tentmakers and teachers in their own New Testament house church (Acts 18:1-3).

Paul easily could have lived out a tentmaking life with a small-town ministry to the local synagogue.  He could have made himself comfortable, happy and content there.

God, however, told him to pack his bags and get going.  So he did.  In all things, he submitted to God’s direction and timing.

During his second missionary journey, Paul wanted to travel to the Asian church of Ephesus, but “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Then, they “tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:7).

After all those “no’s”, you’d think Paul would be discouraged.

Instead, God sent him to Macedonia, where Paul became the first Christian missionary in Europe.  He baptized Lydia there and she started the first European church in her home.

God reached a continent because Paul was willing to do the crazy and unexpected in obedience to God’s call.

Even then, Paul could have settled into life as a missionary to Europe.  But now that the time was right, God released him to preach in Asia and off Paul went to Ephesus (Acts 18).

This world needs us to live obedient lives, just as Paul did, yielding to God and going where and when He tells us to go.

The people in our homes, our neighborhoods, our churches, our jobs need us to engage fully in the ministry God has given us in those places.  When God tells us to settle in and care for our families, we do.  When he tells us to minister in our community, we roll up our sleeves and serve.

But we refuse to slip into complacency, snuggling down into our comfortable nests and spending all our time tending our own chicks and redecorating our own spaces with sticks and straw.

So, if he tells us to pack our bags for a journey in radical obedience, we yank out the suitcase.

How do we discern this?  How do we know what to do when there is so much need in the homes in our neighborhood and in the countries we can’t even locate on the globe?

How can a small-town mom minister to the poorest of the poor?  How can a working woman in a local school save orphans?  How can an average girl serve widows?

How can any of us reach the world with Christ?

Elisabeth Elliott’s advice is just to “do the next thing.”

We don’t need to have a map for our entire mission on this earth.  Paul didn’t even know from one moment to the next whether he was headed to Asia or Europe or just setting up a tent business in town for a while.

But he did the next thing.  And then God gave him the next thing.  Then there was the thing after that.

In every instance, he obeyed, whether it was simple or difficult, logical or totally insane.

Has God given you a next thing?  Have you sat at the kitchen table telling someone how insane it is and how you don’t want to do it?  Has God asked you to do something that sounds impossible?  Has He opened your eyes and heart to need that you never noticed before?

Do the next thing.  Don’t worry about meeting every need or making the project a success.  Just take this step of obedience.  That’s how we change the world, one submissive bowing of the head and bending of the knee at a time.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Shout! A Little Bit Louder Now, Part II

It seems like such a simple test, but it’s more complicated than you might expect.

My daughter sat up in the bed in the doctor’s office for her annual checkup.  She had already stepped on the scale, stood up straight and tall, and read the eye chart.  Now it was time for the hearing test.

The nurse held the contraption into her ear and gave instructions.  “Raise your hand when you hear the beeps.”

I know, however, from years of experience that it isn’t so easy. We’ve been through this before.

There was the time she thought that meant raise your hand when the beeps begin and keep holding it up for the whole test.

So, I say, “Now, raise your hand when you hear a beep and then put it back down again so you can raise it up when you hear the next beep. You need to raise up and down, up and down.”

There was the time that she raised her hand just two or three times for the whole test and the nurse said, “Did you hear all those beeps?”

“Yes,” my daughter answered, “but some of them were quiet.”

So, I say, “Raise your hand every single time you hear a beep, even if some are loud and some are quiet.”

Unfortunately, the whole time my oldest daughter is listening intently to beeps, my youngest two girls are trying to tell stories, sing songs, fight with each other, play peekaboo, and any other number of extremely noisy and distracting past-times.

How’s a girl to hear a quiet beep in the middle of all that noise?

Yes, the hearing test sounds so simple and always ends up so very complicated.

In Part I, I talked about how we feel sometimes like we need a microphone to broadcast our cries to heaven so God can hear us.

But, today I’m thinking about our own spiritual hearing tests and how hard it is at times to hear what God is saying.

Sometimes it’s the noisy roar of circumstances that makes God’s voice so difficult to distinguish.

That’s what had the Israelites failing their spiritual hearing exam.

Initially, when Moses appeared back in Egypt with God’s promises of hope and deliverance, “the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31, ESV).

Then Pharaoh hardened his heart again and again.  Life got harder before deliverance came.

So when Moses reassured them of God’s promise, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9).

They weren’t even listening to God’s messenger any more.  They were listening to bricks and mortar, to an earthly king, to slavemasters and work orders.

God spoke hope and all they heard was hopelessness.  God spoke peace and all they heard was dread and fear.

Then there are the times that we hear voices, many voices—on the radio, from our friends, in our devotions, in sermons, in books and in conversation.  Which is God’s?  How can we discern the sound of His beep among the confusing mess of beeping in our ears?

How do we know what God is saying?

Paul wrote, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Whether it’s the message of salvation to a lost world or a message of peace to a hurting believer, we hear God when we are in His Word.

We always go back to the Bible.  We always rely on Scripture to discern truth.

That’s what happened when Paul arrived in the city of Berea to teach the Gospel: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Notice they “examined the Scriptures every day.”  The ability to discern truth doesn’t come from a random romp through the Bible every few months.

Discernment develops when we spend consistent time in God’s Word.  Discernment happens when we know His character and the sound of His voice from what He has done and said over thousands of years.  Discernment comes when we can lay every message beside the pages of Scripture and tell when they align and when they don’t.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote:

The Bible is God’s message to everybody.  We deceive ourselves if we claim to want to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes.  We must read His Word.  We must obey it.  We must live it, which means rereading it throughout our lives.

We live noisy lives in a noisy world.  It’s a confusing mess at times and an overwhelming cacophony in other moments.

But we know that God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17) and that “The word of the Lord holds true, and everything He does is worthy of our trust” (Psalm 33:4).

Whether we’re sifting through the sounds of circumstances or sorting through information overload, we can always trust Scripture to speak to the truth of God’s character and will.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Online Bible Study: Week Eight (Chapter 15)

Ladies, we have made it to the end of our study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God and I’m so thankful for the chance to walk with you for this summer.  I urge you to take the time to comment to this post some time this week and talk about your overarching thoughts of this book or study and what God has been doing in your heart and mind these last few weeks.

For those of you catching up, these pages will remain open and available for you to go back and comment as you read each section.  We don’t want to miss what you have to say.

My small group will be starting a new book in September called Stumbling Into Grace: Confessions of a Spiritually Clumsy Woman by Lisa Harper.  In it, she discusses topics like fear, forgiveness, the importance of community, resting, being less critical and yet more honest, contentment and dependence on God.

I won’t be formalizing that into an official Online Bible Study format, but I will be following along the topics of the book with posts of my own here in this space.  So, I hope if you can’t join in my small group, you can grab a copy of the book wherever you are and read along with us.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

And, for those of you going to Women of Faith this coming weekend, you’ll get to see Lisa Harper on stage at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC!  I can’t wait!

My Thoughts

We have a well problem at my house.

Also a but problem.  And yes, I spelled that right.

I say, “Girls, it’s time to clean up.  Victoria, you put away the dolls.  Lauren, you put away the books.”

And I hear:

Well . . . she was the last one playing with them so she has to clean it up.

But playing with that wasn’t my idea; it was hers.”
Well . . . this is too much for me to clean up all by myself!”

But I’m not ready to stop playing.  I want to play some more later.”

It’s a well and but problem if ever I’ve heard one.

I’ll admit it.  God could likely say the same about me.  Maybe about you also?  God speaks to my heart through His Word, through others, through the heavy urging and impression of the Holy Spirit and I say:

But, I don’t want to stop doing this.  I’ve been doing it for years.  I enjoy it.  I’m good at it.  I’m used to it.  I’m comfortable and (this is the ringer), who else is going to do it if I stop?”

or

Well . . . you may want me to do that, but I’m scared and I don’t know how it’s all going to work out.  I’m not experienced enough.  I don’t see how doing this is going to matter in the long run.  What if I fail and mess it up?  What if I heard You wrong and I wasn’t supposed to do it after all?”

We say we want to hear the voice of God.  We long to know what He sounds like and desire spiritual discernment.

That’s what we say.  Yet sometimes we’re desperately pleading from God to hear His voice and then when He speaks, we argue with Him.  So, perhaps this waiting time, this sitting silent before a currently silent God, is more about our willingness to obey than our ability to hear.

Maybe He’s not speaking because He knows we’re not ready to obeyMaybe He’s waiting for our hearts to stop “well-ing” and “but-ing” and instead say to Him, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:60).

Like Abraham, we should obey “immediately,” “the very same day,” and “early the next morning”  (Genesis 15:10, 17:23, 22:3).

Are you an early riser when it comes to obeying God’s voice?  Or are you more of a lingerer, a wait until it’s comfortable and makes sense, wait until the provision comes, wait until You can’t bear the heaviness of the Spirit any longer kind of child?

Choose to obey in advance of the command.  Set your heart on obedience.  It is the most precious worship to our God, more precious than any sacrifice you could lay at His feet.  “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Chapter Outline:

Chapter Fifteen: The Obedient Response

  • On p. 174, she notes that “God does not speak simply to be heard.  He speaks to be obeyed.”  She goes on to say that if we’re not willing to commit to obedience, He may very well choose not to speak to us.
  • She notes that people who always have an “escape plan” are called “double-minded” in James 4:8.  On p. 177, she encourages you to check your heart for double-mindedness if you aren’t hearing from God.

Your Thoughts:

  • Do you have an example of a time you obeyed God even when it didn’t make sense or seemed silly or confusing, and He rewarded your obedience?
  • How quickly do you tend to obey God’s voice?  Has a delay in obedience ever been costly for you?
  • Do you have any quotes, verses or passages that were your favorite in the conclusion of the book?
  • Have you changed anything in your spiritual walk as a result of this study?
  • What’s the most important concept or thought that you’ll take away from this book?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Online Bible Study: Week Seven (Chapters 13 & 14)

Welcome to week seven in the study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  I applaud you all for sticking with us this summer as we read through her book together.  I know you’re busy; I know you have a million other things vying for attention.  And yet, you have set aside time for this book and I am praying for God’s blessings for you as a result.

If I can give one piece of encouragement, it’s don’t give up!  Don’t leave the book half-read or this study partly done.  If you’ve fallen behind, please jump back in as you are able because I don’t want you to miss some of these great chapters at the end.  You can comment on any older post as you catch up on the reading.

My Thoughts:

“Hello. Thank you for calling heaven, where your eternal destiny is secure.  Our menu options have recently changed . Please listen closely to all of the options before making a selection.

Para Espanol, por favor pulse dos.

Please speak or press your 10-digit salvation account number.

Thank you!  Did you know that you can access God’s perspective on many things at any time from the comfort of your own home?  Your heavenly user guide or Bible is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To check your good deeds account, please press one.
To request forgiveness, please press two.
For automated guidance about your account questions, please press three.
For doctrinal information, please press four.
For help with health, finances, and relationships, please press five.
For all other prayer requests, please press six.

If this is an emergency, please hang up and call your pastor.

To repeat this menu, please press zero.  If you would like to speak to a customer representative, please press nine now.

All of our customer representatives are currently busy.  Due to abnormally large call volume, your wait may be delayed.  Please hang on the line and we’ll be with you shortly.

Elevator music.  Cheerful ads.  More music to which you drum your fingers.  The doodles on your paper have now progressed from swirls and cubes to intricate designs and flowers.

We’re sorry.  All of our customer representatives are currently busy.  Please hang on the line and we’ll be with you shortly.”

I’ve been on hold with companies a lot lately and the routine is the same with each call.  Press buttons.  Answer questions.  Listen to annoying music and assurances that they will be with you as quickly as possible.

Priscilla Shirer writes this week that God’s “entire goal, since the beginning of time, is to have a personal, intimate, loving fellowship between the two of you.”  That means that He longs for us to commune with Him all the time about everything we’re facing and He responds to us both by listening and answering with love and grace.

He isn’t putting us on hold.  He isn’t creating go-betweens to filter out calls until we really prove we need to talk to the Supervisor on Duty.  He wants to spend time in relationship with us both in the times that we experience joy and the moments we feel pain and He’s always listening as we cry out to Him.

All that we experience is subject for prayer.  In her study on Daniel, Beth Moore notes that Paul encourages us to pray and give thanks “in every situation” (Philippians 4:6).  We’re compartmentalizers some times.  We think, this I can handle, but this I can’t so I’ll pray about it  This I can think through, but this I’m lost on so I’ll pray about it.  This is too small to pray about, but this is big enough to mention in the Sunday School prayer time. This the doctor will answer, but this I’m going to have to leave to God.

There’s not some stuff that fits into a God category and other stuff that doesn’t.  In the sorting bins of our needs, emotions, and thoughts, there’s just one basket and it’s got a big fat label on it marked “God’s.”  Praise God that He is responsive, loving, gracious, and accessible.

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 13: A Fatherly Voice

  • God has a personal message for us and we cannot assume that He has the same plan for others that He has for us.  Obviously, on basic doctrinal issues, on the matters of sin that His Word clearly addresses, the standard is consistent.  But, on questions of personal choices–who to marry, where to work, whether to work or stay home, and more, we must remember that we “run the risk of becoming legalistic and placing other believers in bondage” if we believe what God has told us applies to everyone (p. 153).
  • God’s voice may be convicting, but it is not condemning.  He doesn’t harp on your sins of the past.  “He desires to bring healing and restoration by forgiving my sin and throwing it into the sea of forgetfulness” (p. 155).

Chapter 14: A Challenging Voice

  • God isn’t always talking about how to make us feel comfortable.  In fact, He’s pretty frequently asking us to step out of comfort and into faith.
  • The quote from Oswald Chambers on p. 163 is pretty challenging: “Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult for you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all.”
  • We may feel ill-equipped for the task God has called us to, but “it is through your inability that He reveals His power” (p. 164).

Your Thoughts:

  • What were your favorite, quotes, passages or Scriptures from these two chapters?
  • Have you ever made a choice that you knew was God’s will for you, but also knew it wasn’t God’s will for everyone?
  • Do you ever struggle with feelings of condemnation versus conviction?  Is it easy for you to accept Christ’s forgiveness and move on or are you sometimes trapped by guilt?
  • When has God called you out of comfortable and into faith?  What has God taught you in those situations where He asked you to do something that was beyond your natural ability, experience, training, gifting, etc.?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Online Bible Study: Week Six, Chapters 11 & 12

Welcome to Week six in this eight-week study on Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  Ladies, we are just about to enter the home stretch and these two chapters this week are well-underlined in my book, so let’s get to the good stuff!

My Thoughts:

The enemy has a voice, too.

We talk, study, meditate, read and brainstorm about discerning God’s voice, but the enemy isn’t silent. He’s busy spewing lies and stirring up storms of cacophonous noise to block out what our Shepherd is saying to us. Knowing the sound of Satan’s slimy lies is just as necessary in this walk of faith as recognizing the Holy Spirit’s tug on our soul.

Sometimes Satan’s voice can sound so reasonable compared to the faith God asks us to have. This I know personally. Earlier this year, I began writing in my journal the verses and prayers that clearly directed me to quit my job. With confirmation after confirmation, I obeyed and moved in the direction I saw God working.

And then came this summer.  Our air conditioner broke in our home.  Our car experienced catastrophic demise.  The keys on my piano were sticking and then the pedals broke. The air conditioner in my minivan stopped working and my tire collected a nail.

Those are just some of the battle highlights.

For some reason, most of my emotional breakdowns occur while vacuuming and this time was no different.  While sucking up dirt from my carpet, I was spraying dirt back God’s way:  “I’m done.  I’m done, done, done.  I’m over the attacks and to be honest I’m looking for the easy way out now.”

So, I started planning out a workable schedule and plotting out job options.  I took my eyes off what God told me to do and contemplated the Enemy’s offer for a while.

God’s voice cut through the roar of the vacuum and my sobbing, “Is that what I told you to do?”

In the book of Nehemiah, the returning exiles faced great opposition from enemies of their own as they worked on rebuilding the Jerusalem walls.  Sanballat and his cronies ridiculed the Jews and launched attacks on the work crews.  This enemy was consistent in his attacks and crafty in his distractions.

Finally, Sanballat sent a message to Nehemiah, “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

It sounded so reasonable, maybe even hinting at peace.

But Nehemiah immediately identified the voice of the enemy. He sent a messenger to say, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Despite repeated messages from the enemy, Nehemiah didn’t even alter the rhythm of his hammer to answer the enemy’s barbs.

Undaunted, Sanballat charged Nehemiah with false reports.  It’s something that would have kept me up nights in a row, worrying about my reputation and lies and how it wasn’t fair.  Nehemiah didn’t react in the slightest: “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.'”  (Nehemiah 6:8).

Satan’s a liar.  He’s making stuff up and throwing obstacles in our path.  He’s launching attacks and spreading doubt.  He’s laying traps and giving us “reasonable solutions” to our problems that don’t include God’s will.

We need to be like Nehemiah, so certain of and focused on what God wants us to do that we don’t waste hours or days or life seasons defeated and confused.  Instead, we tell Satan, “I can’t waste time in order to step down to your level and worry about what you’re doing.  I’m busy and you’re just making up stuff in your head anyway.”

Nehemiah’s focus and unwavering obedience to God didn’t just mean the walls were built successfully.  It meant they were built in record time.

In just 52 days, his work crews closed the last gap and laid down their hammers.  “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).

When we overcome the attacks of the enemy, ignore his lies, shut down his schemes and avoid his traps, we will receive the blessing that comes with obedience.  More than that, our lives will give testimony to God’s mighty strength.  No one could look our way and see our own accomplishments; it’s clear that the work will have “been done with the help of our God.”

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 11, An Invitational Voice

On pages 132-133, she notes that “the beauty of Jesus’ life on earth is not that He did His Father’s will but that He did His Father’s will and nothing else.”  I conjure up lots of seemingly great ideas, but in essence I’m doing what God told me to do PLUS some other good stuff.  Do we really want to see what God is doing and only that?

On page 135, she begins a discussion on why God’s plan for us includes the church.  I love how she described living life as a solo Christian with Christian media as our only food is a problem because “it allows you to act like an only child.”

The church needs all of us with the spiritual gifts Christ has given us in order to function.  But, that doesn’t mean every need we see means we need to fill it (p. 137).  Sometimes it means we’re to pray and wait on God for the answer.

And if God calls us to something in the church, “believe that He has already equipped you to do it” (p. 138).  Our weaknesses will just give Him more opportunity to show off His strengths.

Chapter 12, A Timely Voice

Waiting.  Who likes waiting?  What Christian in history has ever found waiting easy?  And yet God asks us to do it and most of us hate it and often rush ahead of God’s will.

On page 143, she notes that John 16:13 “paints the picture of the Holy Spirit as our ‘guide.’  The term used actually means to guide while one is on one’s way.” So, God gives us “continuous direction on a need-to-know basis.”  Now, God and I don’t always agree on when I “need to know,” but the bottom line is His timing is perfect and I’m simply impatient.

My other favorites from this chapter (oh so many to choose from!!):

  • “”Don’t try to make your time constraints God’s” (p. 144)
  • “Until you know plainly what to do next, keep obediently doing what you are sure of” (p. 144)
  • “Habakkuk had to climb above the ground level of his life in order to focus his eyes on God and tune his ears to hear His voice” (p. 147).
  • “Is God only God when we hear Him speaking or see Him moving?  Or will we still trust that He is still our Father, even if we hear no voice from heaven and see nothing happening?”  . . . We must believe that He is working on our behalf even when He chooses not to say a single word.  In His silence, He speaks volumes to us.  He commands us to wait on Him and focus our attention on His holiness” (p. 148-149).

Your Thoughts:

  • What passages, verses and quotes in these chapters were your favorites?
  • How good are you at doing the Father’s will and nothing else?
  • How have you seen God equip you for ministry when you, in your own strength, were not up to the task?
  • How would you answer her question: “Is God only God when we hear Him speaking or see Him moving?  Or will we still trust that He is still our Father, even if we hear no voice from heaven and see nothing happening?”

  • Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
    Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Online Bible Study: Week Five, Chapters 9 & 10

We’re starting week 5, which means we’re over halfway into the Bible Study!  This is about the point where with busyness and stress it’s easy to miss a chapter or lag behind.  Please be encouraged and don’t give up!  Just read where you are and post when you can so that you don’t miss out on the lessons God wants to share with you and so that we don’t miss out on what you have to add to the discussion.

Chapters 9 & 10:  My Thoughts

It was loud in here this morning.

My youngest had discovered the volume button on the television and was sharing the sounds of Max and Ruby with all our neighbors.  My middle girl pulled out an entire town worth of toys and was neighing for the horses and vrooming for the cars.  My oldest was playing the piano and, in order to compensate for the rising residual noise, she played each note louder and louder.

Sometimes life is noisy.  Sometimes we can do something about it.  We can simplify our schedule, eliminate activities we shouldn’t be doing, take it slow, turn off the electronics for a bit and sit on the back porch on a summer evening and enjoy the silent night sky.

Sometimes, though, the volume of life is outside our control.  There are seasons where no matter how many activities we trim off the calendar, we’re just busy.  We have kids.  We have jobs.  We have carpools and doctor’s appointments, meetings and ministry, caregiving to perform or we’re trading in sleep for 3 a.m. feedings.

There are also seasons of storms, like the hurricane season we’re approaching.  One violent tempest after another shakes our simple fishing boat.  The winds are screaming.  The waves are roaring.  And it’s loud on the sea and no matter what we do, hearing the voice of God is difficult.

The disciples on the boat in the middle of the storm must have been shouting instructions to one another over the wind and waves.  It was loud, frightening and chaotic and there was little they could do about it.

For Elijah, God spoke in a still small voice at the Mountain of God.  But, for Job and for the disciples, God’s powerful voice cut through the din of wind and rain.  Job 38:1 says, “Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm.”  And Mark 4:37-39 tells us:

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Jesus, Jehovah-Elohim, the All-Powerful God, spoke through the storm and the terrified ones in the middle of the tempest heard Him clearly and they witnessed His power over their circumstances. His is indeed a powerful voice.

And the point of it all, when His voice commands calm in the loudest of our life’s hurricanes, is that He be glorified.  The disciples were “terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'”  (Mark 4:41).  On page 125, Priscilla Shirer wrote: “Jesus often chose the option that gave Him the greatest opportunity to demonstrate God’s power.”

He’ll be glorified in your storm.  Let that be what we seek—not rescue for our own sake and safety, but miraculous salvation for the glory of His name and so that we can “focus our attention on Him, learn more about Him,and praise Him” (p. 124).

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 9: A Truthful Voice

On page 111, she notes that Jesus consistently told His disciples, “I am telling you the truth” and that after His ascension, He sent to them the Holy Spirit who would “guide you into all truth.”  What the Holy Spirit says to us will always be borne out in the unquestionable truth of God’s Word.

That truth should shake us up at times because we should allow it to challenge our traditions, feelings, and actions (pp. 112-113).

She also talks about the power of God’s Word to demolish strongholds in our lives, noting on p. 116: “The lies were quieting and His truth was ringing loudly.”

Chapter 10: A Powerful Voice

Please see “My Thoughts” above this week, as I covered much of what she wrote in this chapter.

Your Thoughts:

  • As always, what were some of your favorite quotes, passages, or verses from this week’s reading?
  • Do you have a Scripture that God has used to break down a stronghold in your life?  Maybe a verse that you go to time and again to fight against the attacks of Satan.
  • Tell about a time that you heard God’s voice clearly in a life storm.
  • On p. 126, she asked, “Do you truly believe there is enough power in God’s voice to do these kinds of things in your life today?”  Would you share with us your answer to that question?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Online Bible Study, Week Four: Chapters 7 & 8

It’s Week 4 in our 8-week study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God!  Can you believe we’re about half-way through?

Even last week we had ladies introducing themselves to the group and continuing to post in previous weeks.  Please read back through their comments so you don’t miss anything.

My Thoughts

Life is like . . .”A box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Well, maybe, but for many of us life seems more like standing in the woods with 20 paths to choose and only one way is the will of God.  You eeny, meeny, miney moe, cross your fingers, travel down a road and hope it’s the one God wanted you to choose.

Someone said to me this week, “I just want to make sure this is God’s will.”

Have you heard that?  Have you said that? About a job, who to marry, where to go to college and what to study, what car to buy, where to live, about a million choices you’ve had to make over time?

A few weeks ago, I wrote: “Sometimes we envision God’s will for our lives as a hit or miss discovery.  We occasionally stumble into God’s will and then other times trip right out of it.

When we worry and fret over God’s will in that way, we are saying that God is fickle and demanding, that He removes His love and favor at whim if we fail to choose the right answer in the multiple choice test of life.

As long as our hearts are set on obedience and the desire of our heart is to be in God’s will, we can trust the God who created communication to communicate His desires to us.”

Should we desire to do God’s will?  Most definitely.  Walking with Him is always the best place to be.  Are there things we can do to help us discern God’s will?  Sure.  Know the Word.  Seek Godly counsel.  Pray. And then trust Him.

On page 97, Priscilla Shirer writes:

David concluded Psalm 119:10 (NASB) with these words: “Do not let me wander from Your commandments.”  Notice that he puts the responsibility for staying in the will of God on God Himself.  He says, “You, God—please don’t let me wander from Your will!”  Our responsibility is to get to know God.  His is to keep us from wandering from His will for our lives.

That’s incredible freeing for me, to know that my job is to know Him; His job is to direct me.  We won’t just fall out of God’s will one day.  We actually have to climb out in purposeful disobedience.

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter Seven

On page 92, she writes, “He moves your relationship with Him from a mental one to an experiential one that reveals even more about Him.  As you move from knowing about God, to experiencing God, to knowing God, the more clearly you will discern His voice.”

She highlights over the course of both chapters several of God’s attributes revealed in His names:

  • Jehovah-Jireh, God our Provider, p. 92
  • Jehovah-Rohi, God our Shepherd, p. 93
  • El-Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God, p. 94
  • Jehovah-Shalom, God of Peace, p. 102

She notes on p. 95 that, “As hard as he (Satan) tries to imitate the voice of God, he will never sound exactly like the real thing; and the more intimate we are with God, the more quickly we’ll be able to tell who is really speaking.”

On p. 95, she challenges us to make sure we are not “voice hunting more than God hunting.”

Chapter Eight:

On p. 103, she notes that peace shouldn’t just “be a part of our lives; it is to rule in our lives.”  Having peace in a situation is a powerful way to discern God’s direction.

Not only that, but she reminds us that relational peace should help us decide what to do.  “Peaceable relationships are important to God.  Therefore, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit will not lead us to do anything that in any way hinders peace and unity in the body of Christ” (p. 105).

Your Thoughts:

  • What name of God is most precious to you right now and why?  (She gives some examples, but you don’t need to confine yourself to the names she chooses).
  • What do you think about the idea that “it is God’s responsibility to cause you to hear and recognize His voice”? (p. 98).
  • How does peace factor into how you make decisions?

    Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.