Tag Archives: God’s Word

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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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.”

When it Comes Back to You

Recently I was blessed to listen to a webinar with Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin, who wrote Hope for the Weary Mom and its companion devotional. They were sharing about strategies for busy moms to spend time with God in the Bible. I was really blessed by their practical suggestions and genuine reminders of how alive and powerful God’s word is.

Here’s one comment they made: even when we show up and read God’s word and feel like nothing sticks with us, God can and will bring back what we read when we need it most. It reminds me of a passage in the book of Isaiah:

As the rain and snow come down from heaven and stay upon the ground to water the earth, and cause the grain to grow and to produce seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry, so also is my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It shall accomplish all I want it to and prosper everywhere I send it. You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills, the trees of the field—all the world around you—will rejoice. Isaiah 55:10-12 TLB

God lives in his word. His Spirit takes the words we read and like water filling a creek bed, runs into all the cracks and crevices where we need it the most.

I realized just how true that was the very next day. I spent an evening studying Psalm 2, which is not the most devotional poem in the Bible. It’s a royal psalm, written by a king about God blessing on his people and defeating his enemies. It’s Messianic, which means it was ultimately written about Jesus, the Messiah. My study time was fairly educational but I didn’t leave with anything immediately encouraging or challenging me.

At the end of the psalm, David writes,
Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

A commentary I used made this comment: “It is better to bend than to be broken” (earlier David had written that God would break his enemies into pieces).

Well, fast forward twelve hours and I had a toddler-free morning and a plan to sit in a coffee shop with my sleeping baby and write for 3 hours. Unfortunately, the baby didn’t sleep but fussed in his car seat. So I drove home, fed him, tucked him in his bed and reluctantly started cleaning my house. I was deep in the throes of sorting toys and putting boxes in the attic while crying my heart out because I was sick of motherhood when like a bell I remembered, “Better to bend than to be broken.” Submission. When things are hard, God asks for my willing heart. clean house elizabeth cravillion submission bend broken god's word“Serve the Lord. Take refuge in him.” A hard, rebellious heart must be broken before God. I can choose the better way – to bow before my King and say, “Yes, Lord.” The night before I may not have felt particularly challenged by those words but because I sat down and read them, soaked in them and tucked them away, God brought them back just when I needed them. His word does its job, like rain on the parched earth. As I submitted to God, he brought me peace and joy and I definitely later appreciated how gave me time to clean my house top to bottom.

Don’t grow weary in spending time with God. He is alive in his word and he will use it in your life.

clean house elizabeth cravillion submission bend broken god's word

Love is Sacrifice

Why I say “I love you”
Something about little children causes you to stop and think about your words. It’s probably the way they ask “why” about everything. Or how they wonder “what do you mean?”

“I love you.” The words roll easily off my tongue. This year as I explained Valentine’s day to my almost 4-year-old boy I found myself comparing my words with my actions.

What is love?
Love isn’t just the nice feeling we have as we tuck our kids into bed with cuddles and kisses and the relief of knowing in just 5 minutes there will be peace and quiet. Love isn’t just connecting with my spouse on date night over Asian buffet food. Love isn’t giving my kids chocolate kisses to make them happy and like me more.

Love chooses to speak kindly when my kids argue at breakfast on Valentine’s Day. It prays for grace instead of losing it as we get ready to go to church – when I leave the baby to go wipe someone’s bottom and come back to find him without his blanket, socks and hat. It lets my husband show me his affection by buying me new frying pans instead of overpriced chocolate. It releases my need to be more right than my friend when we don’t agree. It sacrifices my comfort to care for others.

But love also speaks the truth boldly when needed. It corrects my kids so they learn obedience and kindness. It lets my husband know when something bothers me rather than sweeping it under the rug. It gently confronts when sin is the real issue. Love also sometimes says, “I need a break to get refreshed and get my needs met so I can love you better.” Love sacrifices what seems nice to do what is necessary.

God shows me love by forgiving my sin but not letting me continue walking in it. He gives me grace but he also changes me. When I say, “Here’s my heart, Lord,” he says, “Okay, we’re going to dig through the hard stuff to make you like Jesus.” Love is sacrifice. God sacrificed so much to love us. And he calls us to do the same.

i love you sacrifice god everyday life elizabeth cravillionSo, Charlie, love is sacrifice. It’s what Jesus did on the cross for us. It’s what we get to do for each other every day even when it’s not easy. When I say, “I love you,” I mean, “I’m here for you to nurture you and point you to God, no matter how hard that is.”

In today’s everyday life I’m working on living out the greatest commandment in God’s word:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” ~ Jesus, Matthew 22:37-40

God is Gracious {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 31 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god gracious

The Lord is merciful and gracious;
he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.
He does not always accuse,
and does not stay angry.
He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us. Psalm 103:8-12

Today I read in a parenting book, “If American boys lack anything of significance in their lives it is grace. Many are keenly aware of their inabilities and failures. They need reassurance that their errors can be put behind them. God can give them that.” (Meg Meekland, Boys Should be Boys)

I know deeply that this is true for women and girls, but hadn’t stopped much to consider it for my son and his friends, and by extension, other men. As I did, it’s like I visibly saw this heaviness on the shoulders of people who came to my mind. Too often Christians assume that people who don’t know God don’t care about their sin and guilt. But we all know keenly that we fail – we can’t even measure up to our own standards, let alone God’s.

Sin is a big problem, both in the world, and in our personal lives. But since when does God let problems win? He insists on taking care of them. He eradicates things that seem insurmountable to us. So no matter how bad our sin is, he steps right into the fray and deals with it himself.

His love led him to pay for our sin himself in a deeply personal way. So when we let guilt drive us to our corner where we huddle in shame and feel unforgiveable, we are refusing everything he has to offer us.

We think we can never measure up to what he wants. He says, “I never expected you to.” He calls us to come and receive his grace as a gift every day, to remember that at the cross he paid for everything we did or failed to do. He doesn’t condemn. He pours out blessing.

His loyal love reaches to the sky. So big we can never reach the end of it. He deliberately chooses to not deal with us like our sins deserve. He wants that to relieve the burden from our shoulders – man, woman, boy, girl. We aren’t supposed to carry the weight of our sins. Jesus did that for us already. This is grace.

Our God is gracious and he has taken our sins away from us. This is our deepest need and he has covered it. Our errors can be put behind us forever because of his grace and we can walk forward in freedom.

God is a Good Listener {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 30 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god bends his ear to listen

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me. Psalm 86:6-7

I love the Lord
because he heard my plea for mercy,
and listened to me.
As long as I live, I will call to him when I need help. Psalm 116:1-2

There’s something special about a friend who always listens to you. No matter what’s going on, if they can pick up the phone when you call, they will. They really get you.

But no matter how good of a friend any person is, they are still human. We can have the best intentions to be there for each other and still fail sometimes. We’re held back by limits of time, space and energy.

But not our limitless God. He sees everything. He knows every thought in every human heart. He understands every individual need because he created every person, inside and out. So when he bends down to listen to us, it’s something special. When he says, “I understand,” he means it more than we know.

We know God listens because he answers. Sometimes he provides a way out of our difficulty. In the early days of the church, Peter was thrown in jail for preaching in Jesus’ name and the believers spent the night pouring out their hearts to God. And God sent an angel who walked into the jail, freed Peter and brought him out into the dark street right under the guards’ watch.

Sometimes he provides inner peace and confidence in the middle of our prayers. In the Old Testament, a woman named Hannah struggled with infertility and would pray endlessly for a son. One day as she poured out her heart, God filled her with peace before he granted her request. Then, he answered her prayers and gave her the son she wanted.

It’s easy sometimes to feel as if our prayers don’t reach past the ceiling. It’s then that we can choose to remember when God has answered our other prayers. It’s then that we can choose to believe that he listens.

Regardless of our feelings, he has always listened to our prayers. We have never cried alone. Are we waiting in his presence? Listening for his words of comfort? Accepting the gift of peace and grace he gives when we beg for help? He’s listening – let’s keep sharing our hearts with him.

God is Eternal {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 29 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god everlasting

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2

As a little girl, I would lie awake in bed thinking about the concept of eternity. I’d let my mind reach back as far as it could go and then boomerang into a future that has no end and I would end up in the fetal position praying, “God, help me stop thinking about it. It’s too scary.”

I got older and smarter. I stopped trying to figure it out. It’s honestly too big for me.

We understand time because it’s all we’ve known. We can’t even fathom existing without it. But we don’t understand how it works. We shake our heads every season in disbelief that more of it has passed.

Do you like to control things, like I do? To plan everything perfectly and hope for the best possible outcomes? Then you probably hate not understanding the concept of eternity as much as I do.

But if I look up from my limited understanding, I can actually find comfort in feeling this small. Here’s why.

I know the Creator of time. He made the mountains – the world – me. He spoke into being this incredible concept of history and future. If he did that, he can control what lies outside of this reality, too.

I’m even more comforted to know that he himself is my home. So wherever he goes, in or out of time, he keeps me safe. Secure.

Time itself shifts, and changes everything around us. So why do I keep running to what feels familiar to find comfort? Only one person can be my real refuge. The one who exists outside, before and beyond everything I know.

He is God. He always has been and always will be. I can rest knowing he’s even bigger than eternity.

 

God is Compassionate {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 28 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god understanding compassionate

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
For he knows what we are made of;
he realizes we are made of clay.
Psalm 103:13-14

On months when I’ve been stuck inside city limits, I miss Kansas, with its giant open skies. I miss Colorado, where you could drive 30 minutes and be standing on the cliff of a mountain. I miss Peru where you could see for miles down the coastline of Pacific waves crashing against the deserted beach.

Something about creation dwarfs us sometimes, in a good way. It’s good to be reminded just who we are. Otherwise we get stuck looking at ourselves and see ourselves as the center in our worlds and that feels a little too attractive.

When I battle feeling inadequate, I read this verse from Psalms again. God remembers we are made of clay. He doesn’t expect some brand of perfect from us. He doesn’t stand waiting to smack our heads when we trip over ourselves.

I don’t have much natural compassion. Too often my first thought is, “Suck it up, people.” Great for a woman in full-time church ministry and a mom, I know. So sometimes I ask God to give me a heart of mercy for others. I don’t know why I do that, because that gives him permission to break my heart.

If we let him, God will open our eyes to see things as he sees them. He doesn’t just look on the outside – he sees straight to the heart. And our hearts are not pretty places, friends. Our hearts can be straight up ugly, broken battlefields where the unthinkable lives or has lived, leaving us shattered in its wake.

So when I pray, “God, give me compassion like you,” he says something like, “Ok, look over here and see this marathon bombing. Think about what kind of inner pain caused a teenage boy to become an assassin. And the horrors the people living through it are going to re-experience in their dreams as they recover. See how ugly hate can be – not just in its actions but also at its core. Something always causes that hate.”

God sees and understands all pain. All imperfection. All brokenness. Like a daddy comforting his crying child, he feels our hurts and humanness.

Christians are so human, by the way. We tend to look on the outside just like everyone else. Maybe more so, because we want to look good and get embarrassed when we or our organizations don’t. That attitude piles insult on injury on the people around us.

We of all people should understand the inadequacy of our humanity. If we have even slightly tasted the grace of God we talk about we should reflect his compassion.

Let’s dump this weight of being perfect and looking good on the side of the road. Then once we’re free of it, we can help others get leave it behind as well. God understands we are human. We don’t have to pretend that we’re not.

God is Forgiving {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 27 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god forgiving

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7

Believing that what we do affects God’s happiness with us often results in a struggle to believe his complete forgiveness. We can never be perfect, and we wonder how a perfect God could accept us with our laundry list of failures.

I’ve met countless people who just can’t get over this hump, myself included. “I’ve messed up again. How can God still love me? When is he going to throw in the towel?”

God is gracious. He doesn’t save us because we’ve cleaned up our act. He saves us because he wants to. His plan isn’t based on me and my character, but God and his. So because he is gracious, he forgives. Over and over again.

God chose to pay for our sins himself when he sent Jesus to die and rise again. As Jesus took the blame for our wrongdoing, in spite of his innocence, he made a way for us to be cleansed forever. When we believe in him and accept the gift of his sacrifice, God no longer sees our sin. He sees Christ’s righteousness. Jesus’ blood provides the forgiveness we need to walk with God.

So how do we shake the guilt that creeps in when we fail to obey God, when we sin, yet again, or even just remember our sin from the past?

By returning to the cross. We have to remember that we never saved ourselves in the first place. God chose to save us in spite of every sin we ever committed or would commit. This is God, and he isn’t going to change. He’ll never suddenly decide to quit forgiving. We have to tell ourselves, “God forgave me. It’s finished. I’m clean. Thank you, Jesus.”

Guilt and shame come from the enemy, not from God. Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ.” If we are following Christ, no condemnation hangs over our head. So if we’re feeling it, it’s from Satan. It can be ugly. And it can keep coming back. So we take it to the cross over and over again and lay it down.

Jesus paid for it all. God forgives us for everything. And he accepts us as fully as he accepts his own perfect son. Now that is forgiveness. Let’s walk in it!