- Back then did I have a hard, unbelieving heart?
- Was there a lack of spiritual maturity?
- Or do I have a hunger and thirst for God’s word today that was missing a few years ago?
- If so…how did it develop?
- More importantly…how do I continue to grow and not grow cold in my love for God and His word?
This summer I’m finding that my life is going at a different pace in many respects. Make no mistake, following our recent move to our first home, Chris and I are finding out we could be busy every moment of the day and still have things left undone. But thankfully we are a little less busy during the summer months than during the school year.
We are both involved in an in depth Bible studies during the year. Chris attends Community Bible Study and I go to a Bible Study Fellowship class in Santa Ana. The studies go from September through May. Both studies are in depth and require an investment of time.
I’m so grateful for Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I’ve learned so much over the years. BSF tends to spoil me for other Bible studies, because in comparison they are not as disciplined.
Each summer I find it hard to stay focused when left to my own devises. Sometimes I’ll start a study and before you know it…it’s September and I realize I didn’t complete what I started. There is something about the group dynamic and sharing with other students that holds me accountable and energizes me to study and share what I’ve learned. When studying on my own…I find I greatly miss studying God’s word with a group of women who love the Lord and desire to know Him more.
This summer I felt God leading me to study the Psalms of Ascent through Beth Moore’s study, “Stepping Up”. I already had the audio CD’s but decided to download the video sessions through Lifeway Christian Stores. I thought perhaps if I watch the video…it will fill in the gap that’s missing when I’m studying on my own. So far, so good.
Beth’s studies are much different than BSF. BSF requires me to dig deep and answer more questions about the text we are studying. However though Beth’s studies…I find it helps me to see God in a more personal way. To see the people of the Bible as real people, just like you and me and apply the lessons from their lives to my own.
At church this summer, the normal Wednesday night Bible study has taken a break. As a result…my husband Chris and I are going to hear Bible study teacher David Hocking as he goes through the book of Numbers. Being that I just finished studying it in BSF I’m familiar with the passages…but find that David plumbs the depths of the passage because he can go at a slower pace…going verse by verse, chapter by chapter. He’s not up against the schedule of the school year. Going through the study again helps reinforce the lessons from God’s word.
At the beginning of summer I was perturbed that BSF had concluded for the school year and that our church Bible study was taking a break. I thought…Satan doesn’t take a break and neither should we since we are in the middle of a spiritual battle. But then God convicted my heart. He helped me to see that I wanted something handed to me. I wanted to take the easy and familiar road. But instead…it’s important that I take the time to pursue God and continue to study His word…even when my regular studies break. It gives me a chance to see God and His word through different teachers.
So while Beth’s study is different than BSF…I’m learning to look closer at God and how He cares about each of us and is involved in our circumstances. It’s a different pace…but a good one. One that allows me to sit on the glider in our backyard and study while the sun goes down. I do believe that it’s a setting even Beth would enjoy and feel at home while studying God’s word.
Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), which I participate in during the school year, breaks during the summer. At church this year, our Wednesday night Bible study is also taking a break for summer.
My natural tendency is to be lazy or let everything that is urgent push out the important and necessary things of life. Things like studying God’s word so that I may know Him better. Thus…I need something so that I can be disciplined and study God’s word regularly. If left to my own devises I wouldn’t study passages in depth. But with the abundant resources that are available these days I can stay in God’s word…even when my regular studies break.
I’ve grown to really appreciate Beth Moore’s Bible studies because I see the people in the passages as real people not characters in some fictional story. The lessons God is teaching through their lives I’m able to apply to me. Through Beth’s studies…I’m learning to look deeper into God’s word.
In going through the introductory session there were a number of thoughts that resonated with me.
- What I’m going through here and now is just a flash compared to eternity.
- Wherever I’m at now is not where I’m staying…I’m passing through.
- This is not where it ends…I’m on a pilgrimage to Mt Zion…my heavenly Jerusalem.
- Time is short…and the finish line is in sight. I need to keep moving and run the race to win.
- Blessed (happy) is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
These thoughts touched me because of challenging circumstances in my life. You know the ones that leave you longing for the glorious and soon appearing of Jesus Christ.
I find even in challenging and difficult times…if I keep my eye on Jesus Christ and try to walk with an eternal perspective…it makes the daily load bearable. There is a purpose in what God allows in our lives.
That’s easier said than and done. But it’s made easier as I know God more and more through His word. Through daily study and prayer. Then when the bad times hit…I’ve developed a habit that will help me keep my bearings.
It comes down to a matter of trust. Am I going to trust Jesus Christ and who He is? Believe what He’s revealed about Himself in His word? Remember His faithfulness and merciful and gracious hand towards me in the past? Or am I going to look at my circumstances and doubt God? When I trust and believe God…I can trust my circumstances in the hand of the Master who loves me.
When Beth uttered the words
Without elaboration I knew exactly what she meant
Her words brought uncomfortable laughter
From the audience of women
Who discretely examined their own attire
Immediately came to mind
The names and faces of those women
Who display their wares freely for all to see
A mean girl has been blessed
With a beautiful, attractive body
And she believes that’s where her self-worth lies
A mean girl thinks “it’s all about me”
She allows you to be her friend
So long as you both agree
Tempting men to look or even stray
To contemplate what it would be like to be with the “other woman”
Her speech is flirtatious
Prompting a man to think
That it’s him that she truly desires
When in fact
Nothing could be further from the truth
But he has willingly fallen into the snare of the deceiver
What about that teenage mean girl
Where are her parents
When she’s walking out the door
What kind of dad let’s his daughter dress that way
Knowing full well
Boys aren’t just thinking that she looks pretty
Where a mom’s natural desire
To protect her daughter
Teach her modesty and that true beauty is found in the inward spirit
Mean girls can be found anywhere
With cleavage prominently displayed
Short skirts revealing their shapely form
Lest you think
The mean girl is unaware
Of her effect on men
Don’t be naïve
Her dress is done with purpose
Her intent is to attract attention
Her power and drive
Her self esteem
Is rooted in her ability to make a man look
By Susan Bunts Wachtel
February 24, 2009
The above poem was inspired by Beth Moore’s study in Esther. In Session 3 Beth talks about how it’s hard to be a women in a mean world. Sometimes that mean world includes “mean girls” who are lurking and tempting our husbands, sons, brothers and friends with their provocative revealing dress. While I’d like to believe that there are no mean girls in church…at times it seems there isn’t a lot of difference between those in the church and those in the world. The other day I heard a quote that rang true. They said “where there is a low view of God…there is a low view of sin”. What was once viewed as sinful is no longer seen in the light of God’s holiness.
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. – 1 Peter 3:3-4
At times the topic of faith seems like the subject du jour. If I’m not in the middle of a crisis…I’m analyzing the last one I went through…examining my successes and failures. Sometimes it feels like for every time I get it right…trust God and believe Him in faith…I falter and fail twice as much.
At times I feel that my faith walk with God should in reality be called my faith wrestle with God. I feel like such a faith failure and wonder why God ever bothered to choose me. A Christian having failure of faith…probably isn’t the best witness to an unbelieving world. But I found reassurance when I heard Beth Moore say that when you wrestle with someone…it’s up close and personal. You are right there with them.
So while my wrestling may not be pretty….it’s real and honest. Maybe the best thing to take away from it…I’m still there wrestling…I’m hanging in and hanging on. Hanging on to Jesus.
In the past couple of days…I recorded some random thoughts about faith…and trusting God. Believing that He is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.
When I pray and God is not answering my prayers…I know God can act and in the past has acted. But for whatever reason…He chooses not to do so now. At those times…I just don’t understand. I don’t know why He chooses not to answer some prayers. Sometimes getting over that faith barrier seems insurmountable when I’m not able to do anything to move the hand of God.
I won’t know for sure this side of heaven why God permits some things. But if I might suggest this…God wants me to praise Him and trust Him even when the answer is no. Look at Job and how much affliction he suffered unabated for so long. I think part of it is surrendering to His will and continuing to know that He is good…even when it doesn’t feel like it. Will I continue to trust Him…will I continue to reach out and pray anyway? Will I praise Him when the answer is not forthcoming or the answer is no?
Sometimes it’s harder to trust God when my prayer is unanswered than when His answer is no.
With a human being…if they have the ability to do something good and help…but refuse to help it reflects poorly on their character and heart. But the same does not hold true with God. His purposes are not only our immediate present here and now. He is looking at a greater good…and heavenly eternal lasting rewards. I want relief right now. Sometimes that will not achieve His greater plan. Thus His ways are higher than our ways…His thoughts are not our thoughts.
I think perhaps it’s about surrendering at a heart level. Knowing and believing that God is good and that He does love me…even when He allows pain and hurt and loneliness to continue…even when I don’t understand it.
I remember one of Pastor Philip De Courcy’s messages at Kindred Community Church….it was called Back from the Dead? He said that Jesus said to Mary and Mary…”For your sake I’m glad he’s dead…” Philip paused there and expanded on why Jesus…and God the Father may be glad in our pain and sorrow. Because He is in the process of working out a greater good.
His eyes are focused…far beyond…He can see the good in our immediate pain and difficulty. He knows how He’s changing us and using our circumstances to grow us…or to reach others. So…yes…in some respects God does want us to experience pain. But not for ill or bad purposed…but for good…and greater glory.
Doesn’t feel too good now does it. To know that there is One who is able to help…but He doesn’t. It hurts. My friend Mike Paddison recently observed that unanswered pray feels like rejection. Never thought of it like that…but yes it’s an apt description.
As I’m going back through and listening to Pastor Chuck Obremski’s Luke study…I’m relearning a lot about faith. Pastor Chuck reminded us that faith isn’t real until it’s tested. It can’t be depended upon until it’s tested. There are days I don’t like buying that notion…but honestly Chuck’s faith was among the most real that I’ve seen.
Faith that is purified and refined…goes through the fire. Will mine come out as pure gold?
With the busyness of the holidays and a brief break from the usual Bible studies and church related activities…I have felt a silence from God. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been distracted…this servant has not had ears to hear.
This week…I’m starting to get back into my normal schedule…which includes a prayer meeting and a couple of Bible studies during the week.
In recent months…I was listening to Beth Moore’s Bible studies…and oh how God speaks to me through her personal and powerful teaching. But a few weeks ago…as I was about to pop in one of Beth’s CDs…and I thought “No…I want to hear the study of Luke”.
Shortly after Kindred Community Church became a church, our Pastor Chuck Obremski started a study in the book of Luke. That study lasted 87 weeks…and it is a phenomenal study. During the course of the study…Pastor Chuck was diagnosed with cancer…thus began his “cancer coaster”…and as a church we were on the cancer coaster with Chuck and his family. While I had attended the study live…I had forgotten how awesome that study was.
Going back and hearing it again…takes my breath away. Each week the Gospel was preached…and no one could sit in class and not hear of their need for a Savior and that the Savior is Jesus Christ. The word of God is so powerful and it transforms lives. It is with delight and awe I am listening the Luke study again.
Today…God in His sometimes not so subtle way…had a few messages for me.
As Chuck taught about the parable of the sowers in Luke 8…he brought it home by reminding us that we have to use what God has given us or it will be taken away.
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. – Luke 19:26
When I heard that verse…I didn’t have to think how that applied to me. I knew immediately that the Holy Spirit was reminding me that God has given me a measure of faith. The question is…am I believing God? Am I exercising my faith? Or am I like the fool who buries his treasure? Make no mistake…faith is more valuable than all the treasures on earth…but only when it exercised.
When I fail to exercise my faith…when I choose to believe the lies of the enemy…then my measure of faith that God has given me will be taken away. Actually I will have surrendered it. Do you know any men or women of great faith? Do you find yourself admiring their faith…and wishing you had a powerful deep abiding faith like they do? Well God wants to make each of us great men and women of faith.
There is an issue in my life that has been one of the biggest areas where I struggle with faith. That’s with regards to being single. This is where I allow my hurt and loneliness to cause me to believe the lies of the enemy. That God doesn’t love me or care for me…and that He will never change my circumstances.
I see what’s going on around me in the lives of unbelievers and believers alike…and I hear Satan reminding me that God has provided them with a spouse…or has allowed them to live together outside of marriage seemingly no consequence to something that God has clearly stated is wrong.
It’s so easy to turn my inability to understand what God is doing…and His plan and timing into doubt and unbelief. But when I do that…I’m falling right into the hands of the enemy. I’m handing over the measure of faith that God has given me. Instead of shoring up my mind with scripture that reminds me of God’s faithfulness…I give in to defeat.
God continued His message to me tonight through our study in Revelation 12. Elder Dave Dunn reminded us that those who believe Satan’s lie that God is a liar…have abdicated their faith over to the enemy. It’s what he’s been doing since the beginning. He did it with Eve when he questioned, “Did God really say…?” And he continues to use that which has been very successful to this day.
There are times I’m a little slow on the uptake…so God made sure that He reinforced the message as I drove home from Bible study. I was listening to Chuck teach on four meaty verses.
“Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” – Luke 8:22-25
Now this is a story I’m very familiar with…I’ve heard so many times before. But I never heard this before, “Where is your faith?”.
Indeed…where is my faith God? I have surrendered it too many times to the enemy. I’ve believed his lies…that You don’t love me, or care for me and won’t act in my situation.
The other thing that struck me…is that the storm was stilled immediately. The disciples fretted and worried needlessly before they awoke Jesus. In nothing flat He attended to their needs.
It will take no effort for God to change my life and my situation. With just a word…He can rebuke the enemy and answer my prayers. The question is…where is my faith? In Whom is my faith? Will I choose to exercise my faith?
As Dave taught us tonight he said one thing in particular grabbed me. He said that God had used Paul so much because he had yielded, obeyed and submitted himself to God. Dave challenged us to do the same. God desires to use each of us greatly if we will but yield, obey and submit ourselves to Him. For me part of that is having faith and believing God even the storm wails about me…when the dark clouds obstruct the sun…and waves threaten to sink my boat.
Right now that stormy sea is an apt description of my struggle with faith. I’m like the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.”
I never wanted to do therapy…because I figure I’ve already lived the bad stuff…I don’t want to waste even one more moment of my life dwelling on it. But I’m starting to see the importance of examining the outworking of my faith compared to what God says it should be…and what pleases Him.
Boy oh boy…am I coming up short! And folks…it ain’t pretty. As the days and weeks go by in this study…I hope to better understand why my faith is so weak. But right now all I’m seeing is my failure of faith.
God makes it very clear in His word…that He desires for us to have faith and to believe Him. He even rewards our faith. Reading Hebrews 11….the Hall of Faith…I am in awe of what these people endured and how they maintained their focus on God and His promises. They didn’t waver with doubt and unbelief…nor were they concerned on how God would accomplish what He had promised. Instead they stood steadfast and resolute in believing their God.
Faith, trust and believing God is a way to glorify and honor Him…it pleases Him. Can you imagine a child who is fearful and concerned about how her parent will provide and take care of her? That surely wouldn’t speak too well of that parent now would it? But in this instance…my lack of faith and trust…doesn’t speak well of me.
I find it kind of amazing that God delights and rewards those who believe and trust Him in faith. But when I look at a parent…don’t they delight in doing good things for their child? Don’t they take great pleasure in bringing happiness and joy to their child? How much more so God?
When I look at Abraham…I marvel at his great faith. I ask myself…if God called me to sacrifice my only child….would I obey? If I obeyed…would I be quick to do so and not question God?
Am I going to believe God…and who He says He is? Trust what He says He will do? Or am I going to believe my circumstances…and only what I can see? I’m quite adept at sight walking faith. But God wants me to walk by faith…and I’ve failed that test miserably.
It’s easy to believe what’s in front of me and what I can see. It requires effort, faith and work to know God’s word…and His character as revealed in the Bible. In a different context the Bible tells me that I am to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Jesus. Since doubt and unbelief is so ingrained in me…wouldn’t I be denying myself and following Jesus when I choose to believe Him by faith? So often…I think of denying myself in terms of denying certain pleasures…but perhaps that command encompasses even more than that.
As I look at my faith…and my poor track record…I realize that I’m not able to achieve this on my own…that God will have to give me the faith to believe Him. The Holy Spirit is going to be doing double duty…bringing to mind the scriptures I’ve studied…to help keep me walking by faith.
Sight walking faith has bigger consequences than just loosing out on blessings in this world. It also affects my prayer life. When I doubt my God…do I bring everything to Him by prayer and petition…and present my request to Him? Am I faithful to bring unbelieving friends and family before the throne of God and beseech Him for mercy and for their salvation? How many people are praying for them…for their hurts and needs? How many cry out to God for their salvation? Shouldn’t my voice be lifted up to God in heaven…that He would save their souls? What will I be feeling in heaven when the books are closed and people that I could have prayed for aren’t there?
Am I willing to deny myself…my doubt and unbelief…and trust God in faith? Am I willing to turn away from sight walking faith…and walk by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit within me?
Oh Lord…please help me. You know how I have failed, time and time again. You are going to have to give me the faith…because I am frail and weak in my faith…and unable to believe on my own. Help me to believe You and trust You. Help me to walk by faith. Thank you Jesus…that I am a new creation in You.
To quote Clarence Thomas’ grandfather Meyer Anderson, “Old Man Can’t is dead, I know, I buried him myself.”
Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is dead…I know because she was crucified with Christ. She was born again…and is now called Walking by Faith.
God…would you consider adding a verse Hebrews 11? Something like this, “By faith Susan…”