Tag Archives: Promises

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 is Well-Proven {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 23 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god well-proven

Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it. Psalm 119:40

The word of the Lord proves true. Psalm 18:30

I like the old standard methods of doing things. I confess I’m boring that way. I like knowing something is going to work “because it’s always worked.” I think I find comfort in knowing God is faithful because I know his ways are well-proven.

However, God isn’t a method. He’s a living, spiritual being. He never changes in his character. Never wavers in who he is. But he isn’t confined to working the same way with every person or through every century.

Just when I think I know how he will act or respond in a certain situation, he chooses something different. We can’t predict life. It throws us curveballs and we’re left speechless on the floor. And we can’t predict God, as much as we’d like to.

Suppose two siblings lose a parent they loved of an unexpected heart attack. Grief will rock both of them, but in totally different ways, because they are completely different people. God will respond to them in different ways as well. With both he will be true to his well-proven, faithful character. He will be good, and merciful, and present, and caring. But he will meet each person where they are.

Sometimes we need to be careful drawing from our own experience to comfort other people in their trials, because we expect them to respond like we did, and we project our experience with God onto their lives.

But our true comfort shouldn’t come in trying to predict what he’s doing or how he’s going to work things out, but instead in who he is. God’s promises are well-proven. His character is dependable. We can find solace in God himself – not merely in the solutions he provides.

See, he promises things like peace, joy and strength. Peace isn’t the absence of trouble but the calm we have in the middle of the storm. Joy isn’t feeling happy because everything is okay but the ability to give thanks in hard times. And we only need extra strength if we are weak and struggling. These promises don’t guarantee happy solutions but they tell us that God will be with us no matter what.

He has proven himself over and over again to those he loves. So no matter if we love or hate change, if we are conventional or not, or if life is steady or throws us for a loop, we can always come back to God and know that just as he has always kept every promise he’s made, he will be true to his word for us today.

God is Near

As I wrote last month, I was laid up all of April, to the point where I wasn’t even cleaning my own house or doing my own dishes. My energy extended to changing diapers, feeding my children and lying on the floor while they played next to me. Things as simple as going outside and sitting in the sunshine exhausted me. As far as I knew, I could be like this for months. It overwhelmed me.

During that time, more friends than I can count came to our home. They washed our dishes, swept our floors, cared for our laundry, brought us meals, shopped for our groceries, played with our kids. So much kindness. Our families live far away but the family of God in our city embraced us.

clouds elizabeth cravillion deeper life james bible studyI have a memo board in my kitchen where I write Scripture verses and at some point, someone who cleaned my kitchen (no idea who) erased the faded verse on there and wrote a new one.

“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all he has made.”

Somehow, just that little gesture touched me. Not only were people caring for us physically, but they were speaking words of life and hope into our hearts as well.

In the beginning of May my health switch flipped and I began to feel surges of strength and energy. By the end of the month I’d even felt well enough to start working on establishing some family routine again..

Today, I’m back to myself. The kids and I picked strawberries outside in the perfect summer sunshine and I just couldn’t help thinking about God’s goodness. His mercy. He says kindly in his word, “I’m never going to leave you. I’m always with you. I know what you need. I love you.”

IMG_0335.jpgDo you have trouble believing this for yourself? Start naming his gifts to you. Speak them out loud. Jot them in your phone or a journal or on the back of an envelope. Open your eyes and see. Breathe the air in. Is it storming? Feel the cool sweetness. Is the sun beating down? Soak in its warmth. Can you taste the crunch of your bagel or the crispness of your green beans? Let it nourish you. Did the driver at the stop sign wave you to go first? Appreciate that. Are your kids screaming and banging and spilling things? Just listen to their voices and remember being that young and enjoy being a witness their youth.

God’s mercy is real. It’s not just about the gifts he gives us, either. It’s about his daily presence in our lives. It’s how he decisively stepped into time and space to experience life as a human himself and pay the penalty for our sin and then said, “If you just believe in me, I will cover you and all your shortcomings with my perfection and holiness and draw you close to me. I will do it all. Come after me and find peace to quiet your soul no matter what happens in your life.”

Life in this world is hard. Sin has touched everything. Sickness, pain, death, sorrow – it can threaten to engulf us. It paints black clouds and we may not find the silver linings.

But God is good and he surrounds us on the darkest days when we can’t feel it and the days of laughter and sunshine. Every moment he is near.

The Law Gives Freedom – Deeper Life: James – Day 9

Prayer
Today before praying, take 5 minutes to write a list of things you are thankful for. Specific things. Like this:
Melting snow this morning
My boy’s kind heart
My girl’s happy attitude lately
Good times with God this week
Phone conversation with my friend
Clarity about that sticky job situation

Recognize God’s gifts. It’s an amazing way to tune in your heart to what he’s doing around you.

Then ask him to meet with you today.

Scripture
James 2:8-13 But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.

Reactions
Now we’re digging in to the word of God in the Old Testament law, which the Jews were super familiar with. What commands does James list?

Have you heard them before?

Digging below the surface
Start thinking through this section by looking at verse 12 first (starting with “Speak…”). How does this idea of a “law that gives freedom” change the tone of the passage?

Is James making a list of dos and don’ts in this book so we feel guilty?

Go back to the Old Testament book of law, Deuteronomy. Read 6:4-9. Now compare Matthew 22:35-40 and Galatians 5:14. What is the most important law?

Making it stick
Do God’s commands make you feel guilty?

Should they?

deeper life freedom james 2 bible study elizabeth cravillionNotes
For years I’ve lived under God’s law as if I had to keep working harder to be a better Christian. All the commands in the Bible seemed to yell at me, “You failure! You can never be a good person. You can never make God happy!”

Reality check: I don’t have to work to make God happy! James writes that if I fail to keep just one of God’s commands, I’m guilty. But I don’t have to stay guilty. Jesus paid for my guilt when he died on the cross. He loves me just the way I am. He makes me a new person, free from past guilt! I could never be perfect, and I don’t have to be, because Jesus was.

“Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom.” God gives us his law so we understand that by obeying him life goes better for us. We are blessed (James 1:25) when we obey, but we shouldn’t walk around looking for God’s pat on our back for doing a good job.

I get to choose to love others (in this passage, particularly, without partiality) because it is God’s way of freedom. If I’m honest, when I choose not to love others, I’m letting a chain of selfishness hang around my heart. God doesn’t want that for me. His law sets me free.

God, I’m just going to write this verse on my heart. I get to speak and act like a person judged by a law that gives freedom, not condemnation. Jesus, thank you for taking my condemnation on the cross so that I can be free.

Deeper Life: James – Day 4

Prayer
I don’t have many words today, God. Please just open my eyes to see you here in James’ letter. What do you want to say to me today? I’m listening.

Scripture
James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.100_3121

Reactions
Now what is James talking about?

What is your first reaction to this paragraph?

Digging below the surface
Sketch a timeline of the sin’s progression here from temptation to death.

Where does temptation come from?

What do you learn about God and about sin from this passage?

Making it stick
Now armed with this knowledge about temptation and sin, do any of your thinking patterns need to change?

Notes
What a comfort that God absolutely cannot be touched by sin. It has no effect on him. He is all-powerful and will never be corrupted by that power. He knows everything yet will never use that knowledge to hurt others. Sin leads to death – spiritual death that hurts your soul. God will never hurt my soul.

Yet at the same time, reading this heightens my awareness of sin’s deceitfulness. The potential to sin and to be led into harm lies within me, in my desires.

For instance, I desire control and order in my life. When it feels like that’s slipping away from me, I lose my temper, and I quit trusting God – sinning. That sin leads to death – division between me and my toddler I just yelled at, as well as inner turmoil when I don’t trust God. I desire comfort, so I feed that idol with food or shopping and my relationship with God suffers because I’ve replaced him with something else to satisfy me.

Lord, they say that if you understand your enemy, the battle is half won. I see better how temptation and sin works in my life. These desires slip in and out of my heart and they aren’t bad. But so often I don’t ask you to meet my needs. Instead I let my wishes lead me to sin, and that sin causes some kind of death in my life. God, I want to say no to sin, and yes to you. You lead me on the good path – to peace and joy. Teach me to follow you!

A Closer Walk on a Dreary Monday

It’s a cold and gray February Monday. There are piles of clean and dirty laundry, in the bedroom and basement. I’m on my third cup of coffee. My baby girl is waking up after far too short of a nap.

To be brutally honest, I’d like to transport myself somewhere. Maybe to a cozy little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a crackling fireplace, under a patchwork quilt with a box of chocolates and hot tea, reading a book. Nowhere to go, no one to cook for, no piles of laundry and no planner asking me why I’m ignoring it.

(Wow, that makes me sound rather introverted, which I’m truly not in the least.)

But I’m learning something. Slowly.

Escaping, on its own, can’t satisfy my soul weariness. Sometimes I get these wonderful moments of “me time” where I treat myself and savor the away time, but when I walk back in the door, reality hits again with brutal force. My toddler runs screaming to the door in a panic to greet me, my husband asks, “What’s for lunch?” and the baby blows out her diaper.

My fresh wind is snatched away before I can even say “hello” to my family.draw me nearer february icicle dreary monday

This weekend I got to run errands and stop for coffee by myself. God brought this thought to my heart: “If you think this time away will satisfy you, you’re going to be disappointed. No…I’m the one who satisfies. Enjoy being alone, but with me.”

There is only one source that satisfies deeply. Only one person whose presence trumps the drudgery of everyday life.

He said to a woman who was broken and thirsty for acceptance and peace, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” (John 4:10 MSG)

Our gracious, generous God gives us rich, life-giving gifts of inner peace, certainty, and strength. He himself is living water to refresh my thirsty heart.

So instead of curling on the recliner scrolling on my phone while the kids nap, I come spend time with God to remind myself that I can keep going. He’s with me even on the Mondays. Even from under piles of laundry, lingering Valentine party decorations and oppressive winter clouds.

I’m not alone. And I can be fully satisfied in him.

deeper life study james bible This Wednesday I’m launching a study in James here on the blog. I’d love to have you join me walking through this practical, truth-filled book about following Christ in everyday life.

Sign up with your email (above right corner) and check your inboxes Wednesday morning for our first day of study.

Blessings on your week, friends!

Here’s a song to bless your hearts today.

The Strength in God’s Truth

Lately I’ve felt like I’m facing mountains. In my job. In motherhood. In ministry. In college we had this saying, “The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” But what about the days that you take one step forward, two steps back? Stuff keeps building and becomes overwhelming.

Recently in church God reminded me of a huge project in the Old Testament that seemed impossible to the people working on it.

After years of watching them worship false gods, God allowed his people to be conquered and exiled to Babylon. Eventually, their captors allowed them to return to their land, but when they got there, they found destruction and desolation. Most importantly, the city walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the temple of God was completely destroyed.

Zerubbabel (Zer-oob-baw-BEL) was one of the main leaders in charge of rebuilding the temple. It was a huge pile of rubble that needed to be rebuilt, brick by brick. You can read the story in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

temple ruins jerusalem zerubbabel god's wordThe job overwhelmed the people. Rebuilding the once-beautiful temple wasn’t an easy task. Then on top of that challenge, some of their enemies started demoralizing them. They wrecked havoc and the Jews eventually gave up the work.

With a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building. So the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia. Ezra 4:23-24

Then, Ezra records,

“At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.”

So check out how God’s word fits together. If we take a break from the historical book of Ezra and head over to the books of prophecy, Haggai and Zechariah, we can read behind the scenes. What did these prophets have to say?

Among other things, Zechariah said this:

“This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”
Zechariah 4:6-7

Immediately after the prophets relayed God’s message to Zerubbabel, the people began building again. God’s truth empowered them to keep going even when their job seemed impossible.

The truth is that God gives us the strength to do what he calls us to do. There’s a popular religious saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Catchy, but unfortunately not Biblical.

Over and over again in the Bible we read about people who couldn’t face their enemies on their own. The job was too big. The enemy too strong. God lets us get into these places to give us the chance to turn to him for help.

We often face more than we can handle. So we cry out to God. And God says,

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:27

Like Zechariah told Zerubbabel, it’s not by our force or strength, but by the power of God’s Spirit that the work gets done. Even those mountains that seem impossible to climb. God blesses us when we depend on him.

Waiting and Praying {31 Days}

God called me to spend my summer in Colorado praying for Nate, specifically for an open door for us to pursue a deeper relationship. I learned some valuable lessons on prayer through that

coloradoSometimes Christians believe that the Bible says God will unconditionally give us whatever we pray for. As I learned more about prayer, one thing that stood out to me was how Jesus said,

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

Another verse Christians love is Psalm 37:4,

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

We like to think that “better” Christians have more prayers answered because of how good they are. In reality, the more we know God, through focused time in his word and prayer, the more we understand his will for us and want what he wants, so the more we ask for those things, and receive them.

That summer I studied the book “With Christ in the School of Prayer” by Andrew Murray. He wrote,

In His words His will is revealed…In the exercise of obedience and faith, my will becomes stronger and is brought into deeper inner harmony with Him. Because He can fully trust it to will nothing but what He wills, He is not afraid to give the promise, “If my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

colorado_liz1The Bible constantly talks about prayer, because following Christ means a relationship with him and prayer is simply our conversations with him in that relationship.

When we know more of God’s heart, our hearts align with his will for us, so when we make requests, he will do them. I’ve seen this in my own life at the times I have been the closest to God.

By the end of summer 2010, I knew in my heart that Nate and I would eventually be married. I was prepared to wait on God however long Nate took to come around. Little did I know that God had been doing an intense work in his heart all summer, too, and he was waiting in Dubuque for me to come back and be his girlfriend.

Colorado Adventures {31 Days}

It took me two years to become certified to teach English as a second language. I tutored while at Emmaus but my biggest opportunity came the summer after my junior year. I traveled to Littleton, CO, where I spent the summer volunteer teaching an ESL class at a church there. I lived with a family from the church and worked at a landscaping company on the side.liz_colorado

I’m a Kansas girl for sure but living in the mountains for a summer was pure heaven. I’m not as adventurous as I’d like to be, but Colorado brought out the adventurous spirit I do have. I even attempted hiking a fourteener with a friend. Didn’t make it all the way up but what I did was worth it.

At first, with everything unfamiliar, I struggled with contentment. Then my friend Naomi challenged me. “You never feel at home wherever you go. Why can’t you be settled?” I asked God that and his response was, “You need to see that I am your home. You never need to feel alone.” Realizing that changed my life. God brought me to Colorado and away from everyone and everything I’d ever known, my relationship with him went deeper than it ever had before.

Hiking with some of my best friends of the summer, the Thompson family

Hiking with some of my best friends of the summer, the Thompson family

I could fill a month’s blog with stories about that summer alone. Hiking every weekend. Discovering a Christian coffee shop where I spent hours journaling. Teaching myself to grill and eating on a deck looking out at the mountains. Tutoring a wealthy Venezuelan woman and a lonely Korean woman. Teaching an intermediate English class with students from 4 different continents. Waterskiing for the first time. Being told by a Mexican-American guy I shoveled mulch with for 8 hours in the Denver sun that I worked harder than most Mexicans he knew.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Someone once said that God doesn’t have favorites, but he does have intimates. And it’s up to us how intimate we want to be with God. That summer was my “last hurrah” if you will as a single woman and I spent it drawing near to God. As much as I love being a wife and mom, it will be a long time before I have the time like that to spend alone with God. And I miss it. As a mom living my faith in the trenches of everyday life I look back thankfully at the time I spent as a single woman getting to know God’s heart before the busyness of motherhood took over my days.

Truth in the Dark {31 Days}

Shortly before leaving for college I took a Myers-Briggs personality test. I tested as a 100% extroverted ESFJ. One hundred percent. Looking back, it indicated my unhealthy dependence on people.

Because I’d spent years wishing I lived closer to friends, I loved being surrounded by Christians at college. I made friendships left and right. Some were deep and meaningful. Some more superficial. All of them fed my hunger for relationships and need for people’s approval and acceptance.

Sophomore year when I decorated my dorm room, I plastered it with photos. Of course knowing my life was filled with people who cared about me wasn’t a bad thing. But in my case it showed the state of my heart. Relationships with people mattered far more to me than closeness to God. Often before praying about things I would talk to dozens of people first. My social life definitely took first place.

That year, I experienced a deep rejection from someone I thought cared about me more than they did. I was convinced a guy finally wanted me to be his girlfriend while he never wanted more than friendship.

My three best friends at Emmaus. Thank God for these women!

My three best friends at Emmaus. Thank God for these women!

It devastated me. My idol of people’s acceptance crumbled and I fell on my face. God was rooting this out of my life and it hurt to let go. But during this period I learned the power of God’s truth. I had never experienced depression until that year. It’s a dark place when you feel like you can’t even leave your room. My closest friends poured truth into me and prayed me through it.

So I fought the fight. I surrounded myself with Bible verses and read them, choosing to believe God even when I felt numb inside. I listened to songs about how God loved and accepted me over and over again. God asked me if I would take down the photos on my walls. I did and surrendered my relationships to him. I would beg God for help from my knees, then pull myself up and go to class.

Eventually, the rooting out was over and the healing could begin. For probably the first time in my life I really understood that I was completely accepted by God and that was enough, no matter who else loved or wanted me. I saw myself as God sees me and knew that I was beautiful and treasured.

God gave me this to cling to:

The truth is that God loves me and is for me and I am his own.

God’s truth prevails. He will not be defeated. Things I learned in that season changed my whole life and I thank him for drawing me near.