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.

Online Bible Study: Week 2, Chapters 3 and 4

Welcome back Bible study friends!  I’m glad to see you here for week 2 of our time together reading Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  Some quick notes before we begin this week:

Thanks so much to all who shared in last week’s discussion. I learned so much from you!

Some of you were still getting the book as of the end of last week.  I want to reassure you that there is time for catching up and no need to feel overwhelmed. These posts of mine will fall at the beginning of each section.  That means you can start the week’s reading on Monday morning and post comments whenever you feel ready (or as you feel ready) all week long.  You can also easily go back to old posts by clicking here: Online Bible Study.

The comments can be short!  You don’t have to answer every question and certainly not all at once unless you want to.  If you only have time to write a sentence or two, that’s perfectly fine.

Here goes week two!

My Thoughts

My family used to have several Magic Eye books, each page filled with bright colors and wavy lines.  If you stared long enough and in just the right way (they say don’t cross your eyes, but I usually did), then a 3-D image would pop off the page for you to see.

I occasionally managed to manipulate my eyes and the book and see the hidden pictures.  What I’ve never been able to do, though, is stare at a close-up photograph of an object and decipher the whole image from just a tiny piece.  (Like the pictures along the side).

In the same way, most of us can see the amazing, gloriously evident work of God in our lives.  When He’s big, awesome, miraculous, life-changing and writing words on hearts in neon, we notice.  We see the “Magic Eye” pictures of God.

But it’s much harder when we look close-up at the images of life to determine the big picture view.  What exactly are we looking at?  A cornflake?  A spider web?  A temptation?  God’s will?  A trial?  A blessing?

We can’t tell because we can’t walk far enough away from our daily lives to scan the entirety of the picture—past, present, future—and see the true image that God sees.

Oh, how simple this faith-walk would be if the magic pictures always popped off the page for us, if the 3-D image of God’s plan was ever before us, magnificent, amazing and clear.  This is what we so often ask for.  We look for signs and wish for physical manifestations of our Mighty God.

Priscilla Shirer says:

We want God to show us His will in a tangible way–a sensational way . . . What we want is for God to speak today the same we He spoke in Old Testament times.  It seemed much easier to discern God’s voice back then (p. 45).

While God is ever-creative and able to speak to us in any way He chooses, since the time of Christ’s ascension:

the primary way God has spoken to His people has been through the person of the Holy Spirit, who confirms God’s written Word and applies it to our life.  The Holy Spirit and the Bible go hand in hand (p. 50).

We so often overlook the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit living in us!  Do we truly understand what it must have been like not to have God with us and in us all the time, whenever and wherever we went?

In the Old Testament, people traveled to a physical building where God’s Spirit dwelt and the Holy Spirit “only came to specific people at a specific time in order to achieve a specific task.  When that task was accomplished (or when those people sinned or rebelled), the Holy Spirit withdrew” (p.49).

We feel jealous of those who saw God intermittently.  Sure it was unmistakable and flashy, but it was not ever-present.  Wouldn’t those same people be jealous of us, having the very Spirit of God with us at all times, guiding and directing us in our moment-to-moment lives?

Even when we cannot see the big picture, we can trust that the Spirit within us does and He’s leading us in the way we need to go.  There’s power in the presence of God if only we learn to listen.

(I’ll post the answers to the pictures at the bottom of the page.)

Walking Through the Book:

Chapter 3: A Marvelous Voice

On pages 48-50, she walks us through primary ways God has spoken over time:

  • Old Testament: The person of a prophet confirmed usually through a visible sign.
  • The time of Christ: The person of His Son confirmed through miracles.
  • After Christ’s ascension: The person of the Holy Spirit confirmed through God’s written Word, the Bible.

That’s not to say God cannot or does not ever use miraculous means to speak to us today.  As she notes, though, “if God chooses to speak in miraculous ways today, these ways do not lay the foundation for us to hear from Him.  Rather they just provide confirmation of the messages we receive through the Holy Spirit’s leading and the guidelines of Scripture” (p.51).

We must always go back to God’s Word as our touchstone of truth.

Chapter 4: A Guiding Voice

Because we fellow-Bible study participants aren’t all from the same denomination, we might disagree about some issues, like how and when we experience the Holy Spirit.  Let’s not get distracted by that discussion because on the foundational, salvation-dependent doctrinal issues we have agreement.

Here’s what we do know: the Holy Spirit within us allows us to hear God’s voice and understand His truth more clearly (p. 57).

She also notes that “our human conscience is not the voice of God.  It isn’t infallible” (p. 59).  Our moral guidelines and consciences can be deceived and deformed.

Over time, though, as we transform into being more Christ-like, there is an agreement between our conscience and the Holy Spirit (p. 67).  Eventually our conscience becomes a method our “control tower” uses to direct our “pilot” as we make decisions.  “He is steering us into God’s will” (p. 61).

This transformation by the renewing of our minds is gradual.  “So, as you listen to your Spirit-led conscience, we must always confirm what we hear” and as she notes, He will graciously confirm it (p. 62-63).

The guidelines she gives us for discerning God’s voice (p. 63):

  • Look for the MESSAGE of the Spirit.
  • Search the MODEL of Scripture for guidance.
  • Live in the MODE of prayer.
  • Submit to the MINISTRY of Eli (counsel of a mature believer).
  • Expect the MERCY of confirmation.

Your Thoughts:

  • Can you give an example from your own life or in Scripture when God graciously confirmed His word?
  • Do you have “Eli’s” in your life—mature believers who give Godly counsel?  How did you choose them and in what ways have they helped you?
  • Have you ever been confused by what God is doing in the here and now only to have Him reveal the big picture much later on?
  • What are some of your favorite quotes/Scriptures/passages from chapters 3 and 4 that you’d like to talk about?

What were those close-up pictures above?  Some of you may be better at this than me and have been able to guess–a pinwheel and a flyswatter. 

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

Welcome to the Bible Study: Part One

For those of you signing on for the first day of our online Bible study, welcome!  For those who are regular blog subscribes but who are not doing the study with us, I hope there will still be some blessing for you in these weekly posts.  Be assured that I’ll still be doing the regular devotionals during the rest of the week.

Let me give you, in a way, a grand tour of this Bible Study of ours.

If you haven’t yet introduced yourself to the group, I hope you’ll take a moment to do so.  It will help us know who is in the group.  You can click here to visit the introduction page: Before Our Online Bible Study Begins.

I’ll begin each week with a brief thought/comment on the reading.  I’ll take you through a simple outline or walk-through of the chapters for that week.  Then I’ll pose some questions for you.

You can either read the book in advance and then read through my entire post in one sitting and answer all at the same time.

Or, you can start here in this space.  Read my intro.  Read some from the book.  Read some of my outline.  Read some more from the book, etc.  Then answer the questions, all at your own pace.

How you do it is up to you and your time and preferences.  This post today will be the longest I write because of these extra introductory instructions.

Every time I post for the Bible study, I will link the new post up on the Online Bible Study space on this web site.  You can easily access every old post from that page.  I hope that makes it easy for you to come back multiple times and do this study in pieces throughout each week or catch up if you get behind.

You can also find the schedule I plan to follow on the Online Bible Study page.

The only thing I ask is that as many of you share as possible your thoughts, comments, questions, and responses.  We want to hear from you.  I know some of you will be reading this book alongside us and you prefer not to chat in this space.  I understand and, again, there is no pressure here.  The more people who share, though, the more benefit we will get from this study.  It is your experiences, knowledge and testimony that we don’t want to miss.

Ready to get started?  I sure am!  Let’s go!

Discerning the Voice of God, Part I
(Intro and Chapters 1 and 2)

My Thoughts

If you called my family home during my teenage years and I answered the phone, you would have heard me say, “Hello, Mason residence.  This is Heather speaking.  May I help you?”

And you’d probably hang up the phone the first time you called for fear that you had mis-dialed an attorney’s office.

That’s how I answered the home phone for years.  It’s because we had a problem in my house—I sounded like my mom. There were a few accidents before my fancy phone answering ways.  People called and launched into a full conversation with my mom after my brief “hello,” while I scrambled to announce that they had the wrong person.

God doesn’t usually speak to us by first identifying Himself.  “Hello, this is heaven.  God speaking.  How may I help you?”

It just isn’t that simple, nor should it be because that would require very little intimacy or personal relationship.  Hearing, identifying and obeying the voice of God takes discernment, which Webster’s dictionary tells us is:  “Keenness of insight and judgment.”

As you read or have read the first part of this book, some of you may have books filled with underlines and highlights and you’re excited to learn more.  Others may be shrugging your shoulders thinking, “That’s all?  This is basic.”  And in some ways it is.  Discerning the voice of God is a basic foundational skill in our journey of faith.

But, do we ever get to the place where we stop growing in this area?  Isn’t there always more to learn?  Discernment is “keenness,” which says to me it is a sharpened skill developed over time.

That’s why I hope that you veterans of the faith will freely and honestly share about how you’ve grown to know God’s voice, so that we can learn from you.

We learn discernment through practice.  We talk with God so much, we listen so much, that His voice eventually becomes distinct from everything else we hear in our lives.  It is experience and sometimes mistakes that turn the basics written down in a book into a living, breathing reality of our faith.

Walking Through the Book:

The Intro:
I personally know a Bible-teaching, home-group leading Christian who does not believe that God speaks to us today.  He believes everything God has said and ever will say is written in the Bible.  More than that, he teaches it is pretentious and prideful of us to assume that God cares enough about our individual lives to have anything to say about them.

I loved that Priscilla Shirer answered this right from the beginning of her book.

On page 14, she reminds us that God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  So, His pattern of speaking to prophets in the past continues with us today.

She also says that it is God’s voice—the fact that He was an active, involved, listening and responding kind of God—that set Him apart from the myriad of fake gods surrounding Israel.

I think Tozer’s quote on p. 17 (before chapter one begins) sums it up:

Those who do not believe God speaks specifically will simply ignore or explain away all the times when God does communicate with them.  However, those who spend each day in a profound awareness that God does speak are in a wonderful position to receive His word.

Amen!

Chapter One:

Here are the basics of preparing to hear God’s voice:

Come Expecting:  That’s what Habakkuk did.  He dared to ask God such difficult, pain-filled questions and then he waited for God’s response, fully expecting to hear.

Come As You Are:  I love the quote beginning on page 23: “God is gracious, and when we want to speak to Him, He invites us to come as we are – questioning, complaining, and confused.”  He then takes those questions and uses them as a way to reveal more of Himself to us.

Come Determined to Wait: Habakkuk made his complaint to God and then said, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give for this complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).  He waited there patiently for God to answer and didn’t move until he heard God’s clear voice.

Come Believing: God didn’t foretell a fairy tale future for the prophet.  But, when Habakkuk heard God speak, he moved forward in belief—even in the difficult times.  He concluded with my favorite set of verses from the whole book:

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

It was the sacrifice of praise.

Chapter Two:

Her emphasis in this chapter is on taking time to listen.  Praying in such a way that we don’t just talk to God, but we take time to hear from Him.  She outlines the disciplines of praying Spirit-guided prayers, meditating on God’s Word, and worship as the foundation that allows us to hear God’s voice.

Your Thoughts:

You can share anything you like in this space on the topic of listening and hearing from God.  Here are some specific questions I’d like to ask you:

  • Can you tell us about a time that you  clearly heard God speak?  How did you know it was Him ?
  • Do you have a favorite quote, verse or passage from the book that you want to share with us?
  • What discipline of the faith do you most struggle with?  Do you have any tips you’ve found that help you in this area?
  • What do you most want to learn about discerning the voice of God from this study?

You can post multiple times throughout the week as you read more and read what others have to say.  Please reply to one another and encourage those who have shared with your responses and answers.

You should see a little tiny check box at the very bottom of this page that says: Notify me of follow-up comments via email.  If you click that box, you should receive a notice when someone replies to this post and you won’t miss what others have to say.

I’m praying for you this morning as we begin this study, that God will make His voice clear to you and that you will be able to hear Him and then radically and passionately obey what He’s calling you to do.

~heather~

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.

Start Your Engines: Before Our Online Bible Study Begins

Ladies, we are just a few days away (July 5th) from starting our online Bible study on Priscilla Shirer’s book, Discerning the Voice of God.  I don’t know about you, but I’m more than excited.  I get a fluttery stomach and goosebumps on my arms when I think about walking through this book with you.

So that everything jumps off to a smooth start, I thought I’d cover a few things now so we aren’t delayed or confused on the first day.

Your Mission; Hopefully You’ll Accept It

  • Get a copy of the book.
  • Introduce yourself by commenting on this post with your name and a quick bit of info about who you are.
  • Check back on Tuesday, July 5th for my post on Chapters 1 and 2 of the book.

Where are the Books?

I have a few copies of the books available in the Ladies’ Bible Study room at Newington Baptist Church.  You can also order a copy of the book from Christianbook.com or you can download it to your Kindle or nook.

Who is in the group?

Here’s the exciting part.  We aren’t all from the same church, denomination or state, so we’ll hopefully get to hear the thoughts and ideas from women with different experiences and backgrounds.

But, this will only work if we are all actually posting comments and participating in the discussion.  The worst thing that could happen as we do this is if I or only two or three of us actually say anything in this space.

That means we really need to hear from you To make sure we are all able to post and comfortable doing so, I’d like for us to introduce ourselves before the study starts.

Please take the time to post a comment below with your name and maybe one quick fact about yourself.  I’ll do it, too, to get us started.

You’ll need to click the tiny little check box that says, “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail” if you don’t want to miss what anyone says.  You can always just check back periodically to see the comments, but following by email notifies you when someone actually posts.

Keep the Discussion Going

Starting July 5th, I’m going to post a discussion starter for the assigned chapter and then it’s up to you—-yes, you!!!—to keep the conversation going.  No awkward pauses at the dinner party or voices trailing off because we don’t have anything to talk about.

Here are some ideas:

  • Tell a story about how this happened or is happening to you.
  • Share a verse that links up with the topic.
  • Post a quote from the book or other source that you find particularly relevant, challenging and/or inspirational.
  • Share a prayer request if you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Ask a question about something that just doesn’t make sense.

And then please answer one another.  The discussion doesn’t always have to come back to me.

Ready, Set, Go!!!

Reading Together

I posted a new announcement about the book for our online summer book discussion.  I hope you are planning on participating!  Please take the time to click on “Reading Together” to find out more.

The Giving of Courage

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various  kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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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