Bible study Tuesday ladies. I went to bed Sunday wishing I could wake up to Tuesday! This chapter really blessed me. At one point I got so excited I almost jumped off the sofa and started doing the happy dance. And I am not exaggerating. It felt like God was right there saying 'Go here, now read this." As many bible studies as I've completed, this one is affecting me differently than any of the others. And I'm loving every moment.
So onward to the crux of the matter.
In chapter 2, Lysa talks about leaving. Specifically she's speaking of leaving behind the old to follow God into something new. She says "looking behind you and ahead of you at the same time is impossible." Don't I know it. You really can't move forward if your head is twisted looking at what you left behind. And you know what? Many times what's behind you is garbage. Why are we so attached to it? Dump it and move on with the Lord.
Another thing I highlighted was this: "Time and time again the formula for starting something new begins with leaving the old. Leaving is usually an act of obedience and not a desire of the heart." One thing God asked me to leave behind this year was my role as a small group leader in my church's Women's ministry. That was extremely difficult to do. I enjoyed it immensely. However, I could not be disobedient. It truly was not the desire of my heart to step down. I even thought I'd go back this fall but He has clearly told me "no looking back." It is such a worthwhile ministry but He has something else for me so I have to keep my focus on what He shows me ahead. This goes along with another excellent quote from Lysa. "Experiencing life change is not a matter of chance, it's a matter of choice, choosing God's ways instead of your own." I had to choose to do it God's way. I had to draw my line in the sand, step over it and keep moving forward.
Lysa spoke about God renaming us. She told the story of God renaming Abraham (Genesis 17:1-6). This was after his attempt to "help God out"with His promise to Abraham to give him a son in his old age. God was now asking Abraham to move forward with Him in God's strength. "So God reestablished the promise, recast the vision, and breathed fresh life back in to Abraham's dream." Later Lysa writes "God renamed Abraham, and He has renamed you as well." I don't know what my new name is. It might be obvious to others but not yet to me. I do know that God is doing something new in me. He's taking me down a new road, in a new direction, with a new fire and love in my heart for God and His Word. And I am excited beyond words about that.
For homework, the first thing we did was read Hebrews 11. It's the chapter "known as "faith's hall of fame"." Lysa instructed us to reflect on the fact that none of the men and women listed in Hebrews 11 were perfect. So just as these imperfect people were mightily used by God, so too can we be used by God. Let's not forget that God's strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We don't need to be perfect. We don't even need to be strong. All we need is God's presence in our life and faith that He is able.
The question that most affected me (and almost had me doing the happy dance) was the one where she asked us to research our name. We were to find the meaning and then try to find a verse that correlates with the meaning. My full name is Marietta, which means "sea of bitterness". That is so not encouraging. I certainly did not want to go looking up verses about bitterness. But again, obedience is what is required. I know that I've been bitter. I've cried many seas of bitter tears. I've experienced bitterness over the circumstances in my marriage. The first 7 to 8 years of it were no picnic. I was mostly unhappy and at one point had resolved to divorce my husband. Yes, this is the same man I wrote about Sunday. But in obedience to God I did not divorce him and God rebirthed both of us and our marriage. I've cried bitter tears about our finances so often I've got no more tears left. But God is rebirthing in that area as well.
Well I started looking for verses and came across Isaiah 38:15. But as I generally do, I read a bit before that verse for context. As I could not get the full context I went to the beginning of the chapter. It was the chapter where King Hezekiah was sick and Isaiah brought him news that he would die. Hezekiah prayed this prayer (Isaiah 38:2-3) "Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. " I thought a sea of bitter tears. Wow! I know those well. Reading ahead Isaiah brings word that The Lord has heard Hezekiah's prayer and will heal him and give him 15 more years of life. So how does Hezekiah commemorate and remember this story? In verse 9 it says that Hezekiah wrote about it. What?! That's what I do after I've cried those bitter tears. So I kept reading. I found the two verses that spoke so intently to me. I'll provide both NKJV and NIV so it makes sense to you (not like you're stupid but I had to look up NIV to get the full effect). The first verse is 38:15 and the other is 38:17
“ What shall I say? He has both spoken to me, And He Himself has done it. I shall walk carefully all my years In the bitterness of my soul. " (v15, NKJV)
"But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. " (v15, NIV)
"Indeed it was for my own peace That I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back." (v17, NKJV)
"Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back." (v17, NIV)
So even though I have cried and will most likely again cry a sea of bitter tears, God had then, has now and will have in the future, plans for those tears. They keep me humble. You can't go around acting high, mighty and perfect with red puffy eyes don't you know. In the end, I benefit from them by learning to trust God. And as I share my deliverance, be it a change in circumstances or strength to bear it, others are helped and hopefully drawn to the Lord. And I know that God has delivered me from my past sins. They no longer have power over me. I am free. God has cast my sins behind Him. I need to not look back because God doesn't look back. He remembers my sins and lawless deeds no more (Hebrews 8:12). Amen!
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