Tag Archives: Elizabeth Cravillion

Never Unfriended {Book Review}

Have you ever wished for a friend who would show up on your doorstep with a steaming latte and a hug on a rough day? Or one you could call after your heart’s been broken by bad news from home?

Maybe you feel like friendship is too risky because you’ve been wounded one too many times or misunderstood in ways that have cut too deeply.

As an extrovert, I have dozens of relationships a mile wide but I don’t always go deep with people. I’ve found that there are hurt places deep inside and fearful, jealous thoughts that keep me from being truly open and vulnerable. I knew this year that God was calling me to deepen my friendships. That’s why I’m so thankful Lisa Jo Baker, an author and the community manager at www.incourage.me, wrote the book Never Unfriended this spring.

Never-Unfriended-Cover-500First of all, Lisa Jo writes in a magical style. She makes you feel like she’s literally going to reach through the pages and hug you or offer you a tissue while you’re wiping away tears because her words tell you that she gets you and your feelings. Her timely blogs and books have always met me right where I’m at.

“We smile at birthday parties and play dates and in our cubicles. We smile at church during worship and when the pastor shakes our hand. We nod and smile and say we’re fine, the kids are fine, work is fine, marriage is fine, just fine, thanks for asking. And all the while there’s this big, messy, gaping wound bleeding raw right through our perfectly fine outfit that we hope no one notices. All the while desperate for somebody to care enough to see.”

Secondly, Never Unfriended digs deep and makes us examine all our hurt places and apply the salve of God’s truth to heal us. Because we all have relationship wounds. Sin has broken us and broken people hurt others. Maybe it’s family patterns that taught us how to relate in an unhealthy way, or a harsh friend breakup in junior high, or our own feelings of inadequacy that have projected our fears onto the way others welcome us or not. The title “Never Unfriended” doesn’t mean the book guarantees we’ll find the perfect BFF – rather, it speaks of how we can know that we are safe and secure in Christ’s friendship with us.

“It’s such an insane relief. To stop waiting for her reply…to my tentative, humiliating need for validation. To, instead, let myself fall deeply, fully, wholly into the great, insanely unlimited, bottomless tank of God’s approval…Jesus is never tired of me always needing Him. Instead, He is delighted by how desperately I need His validation and He never, ever withholds it from me. Or from you.”

Never Unfriended is full of practical ideas, searching questions, and healing truth. It’s about friendship…and so much more. Order it here today. 

 

Never Going Back to Perfect

This is Part 4 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts. 

We all have times of wrestling with God. One of my most profound began when I sat in my first Bible study class in Bible college, trying to find out the meaning in an Old Testament book, desperately seeking the “right” answers to my questions about the words written there. A classmate looked at me across the library table and said, “You really think there’s a black and white, right and wrong answer to everything in life, don’t you? Well there’s not! You’d better get used to it!”

Those words shook my perfection-seeking soul down to its core. That day God began to wrestle perfectionism and legalism out of my heart.

As an oldest child who loves to make people happy, you’d better believe I love perfectionism. To prove my point, I was one college class grade away from a perfect 4.0 on my college graduation day. I should probably be proud of that but the memory also reminds me of how stressed I was as I pursued that almost-perfect status.

God did not create us to be enslaved to getting everything right in life. In fact, sometimes the very things that he calls one person to do he may lead another person away from. Why? Because we are all living, moving beings in individual relationships with him.

Paul wrote about this. Read these excerpts from Galatians 5 and breathe in the freedom:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision [following the letter of the law] counts for anything, but only faith working through love. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 

There are black and white commands from God. Those are in place to protect us and help us to live in harmony with others. They remind me of the black and whites I give my children: Don’t hit your brother. Don’t play in the street. Lay down and sleep. Eat your dinner. We need to know how life works best for us.

opening-toward-god4But in our daily lives we can try so hard to make everything black and white. To find some perfect balance or rhythm to our days so we feel like we have it all together. That feeling leads to a sense of control or security. Instead God brings us toward intimacy with himself, so that he can lead us with his voice, and grow his fruit in our hearts. Our souls are not an office or a gym where we accomplish great things, but a garden of rich soil where he can make beautiful things grow.

I only have two practical points today. To overcome the habit of perfectionism in my daily life, I have learned these practices.

Let go of the expectations 
Does the nagging inner voice of guilt make you feel like a failure? We can either let it keep eating at us, or we can evaluate it and shut it up. For instance, I’m not the housekeeper I wish I was. But I can either walk by the piles of stuff every day and let them scream at me, or I can make a list of what needs to be done and do it when I can. I can choose not to worry about what others think, or what my inner June Cleaver tells me. I have a perfect wife, mom, friend, employee, Christ-follower, etc, image in my head. But am I really letting others down when I fall short of my self-made ideals? What do people actually need from me? What am I realistically capable of? What does my calling really look like? We have such a load of expectations we can let roll off our backs.

Grow in relationship with God
“Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). “All your ways” is the Hebrew way of saying “everything in your life.” So in other words, know God, recognize him daily in everything you do and he will guide you. We are following Jesus, a person. We aren’t checking off a list of assignments for a grade from our heavenly Professor. That would seem simpler to me, but God wants more than a teacher-student relationship with us. He wants a dynamic, growing relationship that covers every aspect of our lives: friend, parent, lover, rescuer, teacher, protector, brother, leader, and more. Following and loving a person causes you to grow more than keeping the rules does. So God calls us to walk with him daily and as we get to know him more, the easier it becomes to hear his voice and understand where he’s leading us. This protects us from falling into legalistic perfectionism.

Our initial verse from Ephesians said
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Each day we get to choose to take off our old habits and make room for the Spirit to work in our lives. We take our hands off the wheel and say, “Here I am, Lord. What do you have for me today?” Then we can walk in that real life relationship with an amazing God who never stops working in us and for us.

Not Holding On Anymore

This is Part 3 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts.

I have an embarrassing confession. When I was in high school, I excelled at “running into” people I wanted to be around, most specifically, my crushes. At camp I’d wait just until that guy whose attention I wanted got into the food line and then I’d nonchalantly slip into line behind him with my friends and start being the life of the party, telling a great story, like about that amazing catch in ultimate football. If I got a look or a comment my mission was successful. Even better if we all ended up at the same table for lunch. Score.

I’ve always been pretty good at controlling things the way I want. It’s my personality and my firstborn status rolled into one. I used to feel pretty good about my skills. But when you say, “Lord, do whatever you want to in my life,” he says, “Okay. You can’t keep thinking you’re in control anymore. I am.” What follows is long and painful but so, so good.

We like to control life for so many reasons. Fear is a big one. Fear of being hurt, or let down. Fear of being triggered by past pain if things don’t go as we hope. Fear of the future not going the way we have planned. Pride is another. Believing that we know better than God or other people how things should go. Wanting to save face and not let other people see our vulnerability or brokenness.

Proverbs 16:20 says “The one who deals wisely in a matter will find success, [but] blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (NET). We can maneuver life with all our natural wisdom, but our success is more related to our trust than our actions.

Control has controlled much of my life. And often, when I think it’s something I’ve mastered, God takes me deeper to show me how I’m still hanging on and need to loosen my grip. So how do we recognize and let go of this deep-rooted way of living?

Evaluate your anxiety
Worry indicates lack of trust. Generally we try to control because we don’t fully trust. What are you anxious about? Make a list. (My recent list was so long I can’t even tell you.) What of those things are you personally responsible for? If you take care of your part, does the anxiety subside? Or do you do the thing, then worry about the outcome? Do you try to manipulate the results by arranging everything you can?

opening-toward-god3Check on your people-pleasing
Pride motivates us to go the extra mile to make people like us. For instance, maybe I email someone I don’t know well, and they don’t respond right away. I start second-guessing myself, and email them again to clarify what I said, or even apologize for something I’m worried may have offended them. The reality is that they are slow to respond to email. But I work myself up, afraid they didn’t like me or that I’ve offended them. We can really pay attention to what we do to get people’s approval. Those actions are often controlling.

Let people fail
Okay. This one still feels so “off” to me that it’s hard to write it. I’m a detailed, practical, responsible person. So I remember things most people forget. So of course, when people I love might be about to forget something, or not work hard enough to pass a test, or make some mistake, everything within me wants to fix them before they fail. Sometimes this is helpful. For real. But rescuing people is not my job. It’s God’s. And when I step in every time, I’m denying people the opportunity to learn from their mistakes or to take responsibility for their own lives. I’m being controlling. I was never entrusted with managing the lives of the people I love.

Exercise letting go
Make it a daily prayer, “God, today I let go of my control. I can’t make things happen according to my plan. Your plan is better. I choose to believe that today.” Choose not to text your spouse and remind them of that thing yet again. Choose to let people help you without monitoring their work. Choose to not replay that incident in your mind 350 times to see if there’s anything you should have done differently.

Once, in college, I took a walk with my camera and photographed my hands, open, stretched out, not hanging onto anything. Other times I’ve stood by a pond and thrown stones into the water as I named the things I want to control, figuratively letting go. We can open our hearts to the Lord’s leading us to release all that isn’t ours to hold.

This is a huge topic, really. Keep Your Love On, by Danny Silk, is a book I read recently that opened my eyes to even more truth on it. To give the Holy Spirit room to work in our lives we must let go of our need to feel in control and trust him, one small step at a time.

Show Me the Lies

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts. 

There are two things every Christian should remember every day:
Jesus loves me, no matter what.
Satan is shooting lies at me.

If we forget the first one, we forget our worth.

And if we forget the second one, we expose ourselves to the enemy’s attacks

Almost every time the Bible mentions Satan, he is either spouting off lies or being called a liar. Jesus said, “[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

When we follow Christ, we don’t fight a losing battle. Satan is a defeated enemy. God wins. Both now and in the end. So the key for us is to examine ourselves and expose the lies we are believing so we can speak truth over them. Where do we start?

Open the door for soul-searching
Carve out a block of uninterrupted silence where you can really think. Find something to write on. Start with prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Spit it out on paper
Whether you prefer to make lists or ramble in paragraphs, write out your recurring negative self-talk or inner feelings. Don’t analyze yet. Just empty them out. Keep going long after you think you have nothing else to vent. Don’t write like you’re going to post this on Facebook. These words are for God’s and your eyes only.

List the lies
Pick apart what you wrote. Do you initially recognize anything as contrary to God’s Word? For example, maybe you wrote “I feel like nobody loves me,” or “I feel completely alone.” Those feelings directly contradict what God says. He loves us. He is always with us. So you could write down “Lie: Nobody loves me. I’m completely alone.” But maybe you have to dig deeper. Maybe you wrote (like me), “I just can’t find or make the time to spend with Jesus. My kids wear me out too much.” So what is it you’re really saying? The lie I recognized in my situation was, “Sleep is more important than time with Jesus.”

Root out the root
Every lie begins somewhere: words spoken to us, how we see our circumstances, expectations placed on us. Dig deep for the root and pull it out. For the lie about sleep versus time with Jesus, I realized that I love sleep, I hate being tired, and that growing up I resented being expected to get up early. Maybe you feel like a failure because you’ve never been able to live up to your parents’ expectations. Maybe you feel ugly because of what someone told you in junior high.

elizabeth cravillion opening toward god letting spirit work lies truthFind the truth
Once you’ve identified the lie, search for the truth in God’s Word. Most importantly, ask God to show you truth in his word. He will speak his living Word into the deep needs of your heart. Then practically, look for verses that address your struggle. You might need to use a tool like the Bible Gateway concordance or an online topical Bible search. Or ask someone else who knows the Bible well. The truth I needed is that God is my rest (Matthew 11:28). He is my hiding place and my shield – more than sleep. I hope in his word (Psalm 119:114).

Claim the truth
Speak the truth over the lies. “I need God’s Word more than I need sleep. He is my hiding place. He will give me rest. I have all I need for life and godliness in HIM, not in getting enough sleep.” Then act on it. Let the Spirit of God change you as you believe his Word. As I committed to starting my morning every day in God’s word I began to believe the truth more. God proved to me that he really can be my resting place.

Fighting the good fight of faith takes strategy. It’s hard work, but God’s Spirit shows us what we need to know. He both reveals the lies and speaks the truth. We only need to give him space and permission to speak.

Off with the Old, On with the New

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would turn myself into a morning person who could function on about 5 1/2 hours of sleep. Helpful in this season of motherhood. Or I would erase my emotions’ ability to go from 0-60 in 0.5 seconds flat. Helpful in all of life.

A friend of mine, a fitness coach, uses her social media to challenge people to eat well and work out to care for their bodies. More than anything, as I scroll through her feed, she reminds me that everything we do comes from a choice. Our choice. We can stay where we are, or we can choose to grow stronger.

And not just physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, every day we get to choose our direction.

Will we continue to disappoint ourselves by staying stuck in mental habits we want to shake? Will we try to handle life on our own or let God have control? Will we let life happen to us or will we overcome? Are we going to believe the truth of God’s word over the lies in our head?

Lately I’ve felt prompted to share some of the practical side of my journey toward self-discipline in a 4-part series addressing mental habits that drag us down spiritually. This series is for you if you want to change but don’t know how to begin. It’s for you if you’re discouraged because you can’t see God working in your life. And it’s for you if you are wondering how following Christ makes a difference in a person’s everyday life.

elizabeth cravillion opening toward god letting spirit work
Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians:

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

The longer I walk with Christ, the more he peels back my inner layers. I think one issue is resolved, like my struggle with anxiety, then five years later, it rears its head again in a new way. So God pulls back that layer to show me new steps to following his design for me more closely.

I stumble when I think there is anything good within me. There isn’t. Deep in my core, the natural side of Elizabeth craves self-worship, self-satisfaction, self-pleasure. But that’s not the new me. I am created to be like God, truly righteous and holy. So the old woman has to go. My hands have to let go of their grip on what I want.

I can’t do this alone. I heard this recently spoken this way: Christ is the only one who can live the Christian life. It’s his life, and it’s our job to let him live it through us. As Paul stated it – “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” The Spirit does the work. We get to let him do it.

I can look at myself and be discouraged by how I continue to fail. I can look around and be defeated by the brokenness of the world around me. Or I can rest on the fact that God is working. It is his work: in me and in the world. And all he asks for is my willingness to let him work in and through me.

This series will include
Show me the Lies
No Longer a Victim
Not Holding on Anymore
Never Going Back to Perfect

Needing a Refill…of Jesus [Book Review]

 

“When was the last time you exhaled the craziness of life and sat before the Lord in silent adoration? Isn’t it unbelievable to think that, of all we could say to and do for the Lord, sometimes he just wants our silent presence with him?”
Fresh Out of Amazing, Stacey Thacker

Often I am more about getting something out of my time in the Word with God than I am about worshiping him for his own sake. I feel like a starving person just trying to get crumbs down my throat in the two minutes of snatched quiet time I get while the kids are watching Curious George than the person who can sit and relish a decadent dish of food and appreciate the chef who created it.

We talk so much in the church about spending time with God that it starts to feel cliché. But I find the only time it seems that way is actually when it’s not a constant part of my life. When I let my unsatiable hunger drive me to meet God in his word, I realize only the enemy wants me to think that precious time is a cliché.

fresh out of amazing stacey thacker elizabeth cravillion book review

There are two kinds of people. One who gives you advice, solicited or not, and one who lives and shares their story in a way that makes you say, “I want some of that.” I’ve read a lot of books and the ones that linger with me are the ones written by the second kind of person.

God used Fresh Out of Amazing to really work in my heart. The author, Stacey Thacker, gets real and raw about God’s work in her heart, peeling back the layers to show her how much she needed him. I knew before I read this book that I was tired and worn down, but I didn’t realize just how empty I truly was. My kids weren’t the only things wearing me down. Grief, disappointment, trials, comparison…so many things I’d been shoving under the rug were also affecting me. This book helped me peel back my layers, too.

What I realized most as I turned the pages was that Stacey let the struggles she faced drive her to God, and that made all the difference. That was how she could go so far as to write a book about being “fresh out of amazing”! Only meeting God in the stillness to pour out her heart, to listen, to worship, and to be silent could shape her.

This is what I want. And this book snapped the final barrier keeping me from pushing through all the interruptions to spend time with God. If you need encouragement, if you want to go deeper with God, if you are struggling to make it from your first cup of coffee to your pillow at night, pick up this book and be spurred on to depend on Christ. Find it on Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

God’s Word Speaking


she speaks 2016 elizabeth cravillion lindsey smith god's word
My cell phone vibrates on the table beside me. It’s 6:00 AM…my three little people will be getting up anywhere in the next 30-45 minutes but instead of letting their hands tugging on my blanket be what jolts me out of sleep, I’m choosing to get up and start my day before them. As a blogger who writes about the value of God’s Word, I feel like I shouldn’t type this next sentence. This is the first time in 5 years I’ve habitually started my day on purpose with Jesus.

I won’t rattle off excuses about struggling with this. I’ll just say that motherhood has been harder than I ever dreamed and I haven’t been finding my rest in Jesus like I know I can.

This isn’t about keeping rules. It’s not “to be a good Christian girl I’d better be reading my Bible every day!” Nope. It’s about knowing that only Jesus can fill me with joy and make me strong to face the challenges life throws at me.

A year ago, I retweeted something from Proverbs 31 Ministries for a chance to win a ticket to the annual She Speaks conference in Concord, NC for writers, speakers and leaders. And I won. Say, what?? At that time I was 6 months pregnant with my third child and had no idea how getting from Iowa to North Carolina would even be possible. But I was thrilled, and just waited to see what God would do.

God worked out every single detail of traveling and expenses and at the end of July I hopped on a plane, leaving my kids with my husband and mother-in-law and took off for a weekend of truth.

God has been quietly drawing me back to his word for a couple of years now. Books, podcasts, personal pain and frustration, this blog, whispers in the night… As my kids have been sleeping more at night, I’ve gotten stronger and I knew I was at a place where committing to daily time with God again was next.

she speaks 2016 elizabeth cravillion shaun a niequiest god's wordAnd from the moment I stepped into the conference rooms at Embassy Suites God’s Spirit invited me back to his Word. Woman after woman shared truth from the Bible reminding me that God’s Word has power and that I have all I need for life and godliness in Jesus Christ and his Word.

Can I confess something else? In many ways I stopped reading the Bible every morning because it stopped making sense. How could sacrificing sleep as a baby momma ever make sense? When I have no mental energy, how could picking up a book to study make more sense than mindlessly escaping to social media?

But God spoke so clearly to me at She Speaks: faith doesn’t always make sense. My brain screams, “Do this! Do that! Accomplish! Survive!” but God invites, “Come meet me in the silence and let me speak truth and peace into your soul.” That is the way of life. God designed me to live fully depending on him.

At She Speaks, Glynnis Whitwer said, “Study scripture for yourself, not primarily to teach it.” Yes. I need to pursue God for myself. Be filled with his truth and let it transform me before I can minister to anyone else in any way.

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Wendy Blight reminded me, “Teaching God’s Word is a high calling.” Every day I get to show up and say, “God, what do you have for me to do today?” If I’m not seeking him daily, I won’t be hearing his voice and won’t know what it is he’s calling me to obey.

God met a need I didn’t know I had through a conference I barely knew existed a year ago, in just the context that thrilled my soul. He is good.

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Salvation Before Jesus Died: the OT in Short

“How can I be saved?” A man asked Paul. His answer? “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). This is how we, in the age of the church, understand salvation. We follow Jesus.

So reading the Old Testament seems like jumping into a time machine. It’s like trying to imagine living without cell phones – how did our great-grandparents stay connected? We can’t fathom it. How did people know God before Jesus came? It feels just as foreign – or more so.

Old testament in short elizabeth cravillionThe answer actually begins with the names of the Old and New Testaments. The word “testament” means “covenant,” which is a historical term we’re not used to today. Covenants were legal agreements between allies. People would set up the stipulations of their agreement, and then each party would bring an animal from their herd and sacrifice them together as a visible sign of your agreement. Different variations of covenants existed but with similar patterns.

From the beginning of time, God chose to connect with mankind through various covenants. Most prominently, he made one with people before Christ, the “Old” Testament (covenant), defining how they would relate to him.

God gave Israel his law, recorded in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He gave them many specific instructions about life all summed up in two big ones: Love him and love others. In return he promised to be their God, provide for their needs and give them abundant life. Those were the stipulations of their salvation agreement.

To seal the agreement, Israel sacrificed animals yearly. Why death? Why animals? Because God’s law also states that when people break the law, they cannot be forgiven unless blood is shed. Sinning separates man from God. Only death can pay for a broken agreement between God and man. We could physically die immediately when we sin, but we’d be dead by the time we reached our toddler years. God never wanted people to be separated from him, so he set up a system of substitution to save us.

God planned for Jesus to be the ultimate substitute. But until the time was right for Jesus to step into history, God wanted his people to think of animals as the substitute for their sins. When people sacrificed animals in the Old Testament, it was like they were using a debit card. Jesus’ future sacrifice was the money in the bank, so to speak, and by sacrificing animals, people swiped their card in faith that God would send a Savior to once and for all save them from their sins.

Every story in the Old Testament in some way points to Jesus. Israel waited for centuries to see God’s promised Deliverer to arrive. In the meantime, they obeyed his laws as much as they could, but ultimately their faith in God’s promise saved them. Paul wrote in Romans that God gave us the law to show us how on our own we struggle to keep our end of the agreement and need a savior. Today our Savior has come and we look back to how he died and rose again and believe he saves us. Before he came, people waited eagerly for his coming to save them.

salvation before jesus died elizabeth cravillion old testament covenantJesus told his disciples at the last supper, before his death, that he was establishing a New Covenant with them. His blood was the sign of the new promise. Animals would no longer need to be sacrificed because Jesus was going to become the once and for all substitute for sin. Hebrews 8:13 says that the new covenant makes the old one obsolete.

Think about it: if the blood of bulls or of goats, or the sprinkling of ashes from a heifer, restores the defiled to bodily cleanliness and wholeness; then how much more powerful is the blood of the Anointed One, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice to God, purifying your conscience from the dead things of the world to the service of the living God?

This is why Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant: through His death, He delivered us from the sins that we had built up under the first covenant, and His death has made it possible for all who are called to receive God’s promised inheritance.
Hebrews 9:13-15 The Voice

From beginning to end, our salvation has always come by faith in God. God started it, God worked it out, and God finishes it. We simply believe and follow him.

Love your Enemies?

Old testament in short elizabeth cravillion love your enemies

Often when people read the Old Testament they are confused about the stories about enemies, wars Israel fought with God’s blessing, and phrases in books like Psalms such as “dash my enemies in pieces like a jar of clay.” How can the same God “destroy enemies” in one part of the Bible and tell us to love them in another part?

In Old Testament times, spiritual blessings were very closely tied to the physical world. This began when God called Abram’s family as his chosen people (Genesis 12). Their family would found a nation that would be a channel of blessing to all the other families on earth. Through them, God showed off who he is and how he works. In turn Israel demonstrated how to follow God.

God clearly stated, “I alone am God” (Deuteronomy 6:4). He called Israel to build their whole lives around worshiping him. Other people and nations who followed their example, worshiping God, and living in peace with the nation of Israel would be blessed, but those who didn’t would be judged. This was one of God’s covenants, or agreements, with Israel.

Because of this, Israel is unlike any other nation in the world. God has never promised to protect Americans just because we are part of this country. But God himself chose this people group to show the world what it looked like to be in relationship with him.

This covenant explains why Israel could call out for vengeance from God on their enemies. When they were attacked, the people would say to God, “I’m trying to follow you and my enemies are hindering me. God, judge them like you promised.”

David, who wrote many of the psalms, was king of Israel. During his reign, he had many personal enemies, as did the nation of Israel. He literally had people trying to kill him on a daily basis at times.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a rare occurrence in my life! So how can we relate to things David wrote like in Psalm 3:7?

Arise, O Lord!
 Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.

Since Christ’s death and resurrection, the spiritual world meets the physical world in a new way. Peter writes that those who believe in Christ are the spiritual nation of God (1 Peter 2:9). We are now the ones who demonstrate living in relationship with him. Unlike Israel, the church has not been promised the same blessing for blessing and cursing for cursing treatment on our flesh and blood enemies. Instead, Jesus actually calls us to love our enemies.

Here is our reality: our battle has never been against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Even when people attacked Israel, Satan was behind it. He is our enemy, and he attacks us with spiritual lies as well as physical danger.

So while reading passages in the Bible about war and enemies, we can recognize what the Old Testament writers were facing – literal enemies hindering their ability to serve God – and apply it to our own spiritual battles, where Satan tries to keep us from worshiping God. He may still use humans to persecute us, but that’s just one of his many tactics.

I can pray the same prayer David did, but not in reference to men. I can call out for God to save me from my spiritual enemies who attack me. I can run to God for mercy and protection from Satan’s attacks of lies and pain and fear. I can pray, like Jesus did, “Your kingdom come, Lord.” Even for Israel, God has always been ultimately focused on protecting his people from evil and the temptation to fall into evil rather than on only keeping us physically safe.

the Old Testament in short: Zion

The Bible is a big collection of books put together. It spans thousands of years and major shifts in culture. There’s a lot to piece together. I’m doing a study in Psalms with a friend right now and as I go along I plan to blog through some topics in the Old Testament that may help bridge the gap between ancient Israel and life today. Join me for a miniseries, the Old Testament in short. 

Old testament in short elizabeth cravillion

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress. Psalm 48:2

If you’re like me, you connect with the first few words of this verse, but skim over the rest. Why all the location talk? What is all this about Zion? Maybe you’ve heard it before? When Jesus was on earth, he taught that God is a spirit, and that we could worship him from any location (John 4:21-24). That’s normal for us now as his church. So when we read the Old Testament, verses like Psalm 48:4 may not mean much to us. Yet the word “Zion” is used almost 170 times in the Bible – defining it could help us understand the Bible itself a little better.

The word “zion” in Hebrew means “stronghold,” a safe place where people could defend themselves against their enemies. Geographically, the name “Zion” referred to a hill outside Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city, where its guard tower stood. Eventually, people began to call the whole city of Jerusalem Zion.

Differently from us today, the Israelites worshiped God through a system of animal sacrifices. They came yearly to the city of Jerusalem with an animal they would give to the priests at the temple, who would kill it and burn its body on an altar as a sacrifice to God. It was a very physical and visual reminder that unless something bled and died, sin couldn’t be paid for.

So to Israel Jerusalem was more than just a political capital city. It was their center for worship, the place where they connected with God. “The city with its towers, bulwarks, and palaces stood as proof of their eternal reconciliation with God” (Encyclopedia of the Bible). When the Jewish authors wrote about Zion in the Bible, they were linking it with their relationship with God.

God says in Isaiah 46, “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”

God always planned to save the world through Jesus, who was crucified in Jerusalem, in Zion. Christ’s act of sacrifice for our sins, opening the door for our own relationship with God, took place where so many animals were sacrificed for centuries.

When we read about “Zion” in the Bible, we can relate it to our own salvation. Look back at our original verse.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress. Psalm 48:2

God deserves praise “in the city of our God [Jerusalem]” because of how awesome our salvation is. Especially see the imagery in the last part: “within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.” God used Jerusalem and all it represents to show us that he himself is our safe place.

One more note about Zion – God isn’t done with Jerusalem. When Jesus returns to earth, he will rule from Mount Zion. Micah 4 describes this time and at the end says, “The Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.”