Tag Archives: Truth

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.

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 6

Prayer
I’m coming to you today with a quiet heart. I’m sipping this coffee and listening to the silence and the faint voices from the TV downstairs. It’s a privilege to spend time with you, God. Thank you. As I read today, please show me more wonderful things about who you are and what you’re doing. Amen.

Scripture
James 1:19-21 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls.

Reactions
What first comes into your mind as you read this?

Digging below the surface
Make a list of the commands/challenges in this passage.

Define some things. What do you think the following terms are talking about – “God’s righteousness,” “evil excess,” “message implanted within you”? Use a different translation or two and compare what they’re saying.

How does the message of salvation impact how we listen, speak, and keep our temper?

Making it stick
What are you going to do about these challenges from James?

Pray about it and seek God’s help with any area you feel weak in.

bathroom mirror bible verse study deeper life james elizabeth cravillion

Notes
The Phillips version says this: “Man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness.” Bam! I don’t know about you, but I have a fierce temper. It kind of strikes like lightning and then blows away in the smoke.

There are times when anger is healthy. It’s a God-given emotion. But like every other emotion, we can abuse it. It is not healthy for me to snap harshly at people who interrupt my nicely controlled plans. So for example, my son disobeys one too many times and I lose it. My temper tantrum definitely isn’t going to help him obey – it isn’t accomplishing God’s purpose.

So convicting, right?

But here’s the blessing. The message of salvation – that God loves me and poured out his grace and forgiveness on me – didn’t only save me the moment I first believed it. No, it continues to save me and make me new every day. I can’t change myself. But God and his word can.

This verse is on my bathroom mirror. I see it every day and God reminds me that I can’t accomplish his goodness through my own efforts.

Lord, my temper is wrong. It will never accomplish anything I want it to. It will never give me the control I want. Will you use your word as I read it to cleanse my heart and soften me? I’m sick of losing control and giving in to my flesh. You alone save me from my sin.

You’re Not Alone

I’m standing in my sweatpants and sock feet scrubbing piles of dishes, feeling incredibly alone and wondering, “Why?”

I’ve been texting several close friends and my sister today. I’ve had a good visit with a friend this morning. A couple of things have gotten canceled or postponed because of illness lately, but still.

I blame it on the cold. I blame it on being a pastor’s wife. I blame it on being a work from home mom. I blame it on living 12 hours from my family.

Then I stop short.

No. It’s a straight-up, all-out lie from hell and I’m choosing to believe it.

God loves community. He loves when we connect with him and with each other. In fact, that’s why he created us. Read Psalm 133 with me.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.

Two notes. The oil used to anoint God’s chosen priests (Aaron and family) was rich and luxurious – think of a mixture of fragrant essential oils in olive oil. Very precious. And so fragrant to everyone around.

Also, being in the Middle East, the crops of Israel were dependent not only on the rain, but also the dew. That refreshing dew coming down from the mountains watered their grapes and figs before the rainy season came. So necessary. And so restoring in the hot climate.

God loves harmony between his children.

So of course, Satan hates it. From the moment Satan first defied God in heaven, he’s been the prince of division, seeking to divide and destroy the people God loves.not alone working together love community elizabeth cravillion

I find it fascinating that all he has to say to me is, “You’re so alone. No one cares about you,” and I believe him. It doesn’t matter that someone reached out to me this very morning and asked how I am doing, and what things are challenging to me in ministry, and prayed for me.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I turned off the sink, picked up my phone, texted a thank you to my friend for reaching out to me this morning, and thanked God for the people in my life.

I’m not alone. God himself is always with me, always on my side. And he has surrounded me with people who love me. People I walk with in harmony. People I treasure like rich anointing oil and refreshing morning dew.

Believe it with me today. Even if you feel alone, God is there. And most likely, you have people close to you who love you, too. Reject that lie and thank God for the community he’s given you.

Looking for the Deeper Life

So maybe you don’t know God, but you’re curious about him.

Or maybe you know him a little, but don’t know how to take the relationship farther.

Maybe you’ve just fallen in love with him and feel like the sky’s the limit.

Or maybe you’ve known him for ages but the excitement has died down and you don’t know where to go next.

Welcome to real life relationships. Have you had a dating relationship or a friendship that falls into one of the above categories? I have. Our human relationships mirror our relationship with God, because he made us like himself. He loves relationships, and he wants us to know him like we know other people.

Yet unlike that person you liked in high school who wouldn’t give you the time of day, or the friendship you really worked at that never got off the ground, God will never refuse a relationship with you. In fact, he’s done everything on his end to make himself available to us.

He created us to have a relationship with him. Yet as our Creator, he is also our authority. We rebel against that authority daily. All mankind has since the beginning of time. And the only fitting payment for our rebellion is separation from God – death. So God himself came down – Jesus – as a man, who never rebelled, yet died for us, taking the blame for our sins, then rose again to prove that he had defeated sin and death. All so that the barrier caused by our rebellion could be removed and we could be friends with God in spite of it all.

God breathed his words into the ears of human authors who wrote the Bible. He said, “Here I am. This is what I’m doing. Tell my story to the world.” And they did.

And anyone who picks up a Bible can read those things straight from God’s heart.

But it’s a big book. Really big.

Where do you start? Let’s have a go together. Dig in a few sentences at a time. Maybe you don’t like to read. Maybe it’s hard for your heart to be quiet. Like any relationship, this one takes practice.

deeper_life_cover
If you’re up for it, walk with me in the next few months through one book of the Bible, written by Jesus’ brother, James. We’ll read a few sentences, ask a few questions, think through what God might be saying to us, and share our thoughts back with him in prayer.

No matter if you don’t know God, have known him a few months, or have walked with him for years, there is always more to discover about him in his word. He’s there. He’s waiting. Let’s seek him out together.

So, Why Read it?

No joke. I’m sitting in the public library typing away about Bible study and an older gentleman walks by, stops and says incredulously, “I just saw this book title, ‘How to Read the Bible.’ Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? You open it up and you start at Genesis!” We laughed together, and talked for a minute, then he went and found it for me. I asked him if he’d ever read the Bible, and he said, “I started it. But it’s a big book.” I told him if he ever wanted to read it again he should start in the New Testament and read stories about Jesus. Then he left and I checked the book out and laughed all the way home.

There’s no way that gentleman knew I was sitting here BLOGGING about How to Read the Bible, although not in those exact words. How ironic. How amazing.IMG_2130

It’s exactly what I’ve been wrestling with over the past month. Why dedicate a whole blog to God’s word in everyday life? Why talk about Bible study tools, or applying the Bible’s message to our lives? Why even read it in the first place, let alone write about reading it?

There is so much written about Christian living today. Some wonderful books. Some not so wonderful. But none of it can substitute for The Book – God’s truth.

Our world today says truth is relative.

That is shaky ground.

If truth is relative, everything is relative. There is no standard for morals, no certainty of anything, no hope in the darkness.

God’s word is truth. He is truth. Knowing his word provides answers to all of life’s challenges. Yes, all.

It’s a light in the darkness. A weapon against the enemy. A promise to hold onto through difficulties. A comfort when no one else is near. Delicious food to nourish our hungry hearts.

Ultimately, it is the open doorway to knowing God. Read its pages – see God’s working, his character, and his promises. Hear him speak directly to you.

I’m blogging about God’s word in everyday life because I believe that God walks with us in our daily lives and that as he speaks to me through his word I can grow closer to his heart.

I’m writing about How to Read God’s Word because it IS a big book, and there’s a lot there that I don’t know yet but want so much to learn. By understanding more and more about the Bible, we can see deeper into the heart of God and be more grounded in his truth when the stress of life hits us over and over again.

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. Philippians 3:8, 10

Will you journey with me on this path to knowing God through his Word?

Context. Context. Context.

Why Bible Study – Part V

Ever had an awkward moment where someone overheard you say something and mistook your meaning because they only heard part of what you said? They took it out of context, making you look bad.

Because the Bible contains so much, we can easily bend what it actually says to what we want to hear. If you want more rules, you can find them. If you want endorsement for your sinful lifestyle, you can pull out words to support you.

This happens when you don’t look at the Bible as a whole and compare sections with each other. For instance, have you heard this verse before?

“Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Luke 6:37

People use it often to say, “Don’t judge me. Jesus doesn’t. I can do whatever I want.”

But look at the whole section around that verse.

Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.

Jesus said those words while talking about doing good to others. Yes, we are not to look down on people. But Jesus wasn’t saying, “Do whatever you want!”

By understanding Jesus’ teaching more comprehensively, we learn that there is judgment for breaking God’s law. God the Father is our judge and Jesus agrees with his judgment. God the Holy Spirit convicts people of the judgment coming for their sin. And Jesus died on the cross to take away our judgment.

So there is more to the topic of judging in the Bible than people like to think. But you might not know that if you didn’t look at the bigger picture.

IMG_5549This Christmas season we’re talking at church about understanding all sides of Jesus and not just “the Christmas Jesus.” As we study God’s word, we gain a richer understanding of all the ways he works. He is so amazing that to see only a part of who he is means we miss out on so much. We may dangerously misinterpret important truths in his word.

So when reading the Bible, our first mission should be to figure out what God was saying to the people who first received his words. What is the occasion and purpose of each book or even each story? What’s going on in this passage, and why is the author saying this to his readers? This is context.

We have to answer these questions before asking “What’s the point for me?” This helps protect us from assuming meaning in the words that isn’t there and twisting the Bible to say what we want it to say.

The Depth of the Bible

Why Bible Study? Part II

One nippy October night on a hayride, I shared the story of Jesus’ love with a curly-headed first-grader. Her eyes lit up with understanding. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has every done for me!” The message of the Bible is simple enough for someone hearing it the first time to understand and believe it.

On the other hand, as a student in Bible college, I’d visit my professors in their studies surrounded by volumes written about the Bible. Books by men studying the Bible their whole lives without exhausting its depths.

IMG_1359On a scale from basic knowledge to rich understanding, people have been reading and enjoying the Bible for thousands of years, yet we’ll never “get” all of it in this life.

So can a child understand the Bible? Yes. Can I read it without any other books to help me? Yes. Could a person spend their whole life studying it and never get bored? Also yes. So is it helpful to go deeper than surface level?

I married a man who excelled at full time customer service by making people feel at home, like they’d known him their whole lives although they just met. As his wife, though, I know him much better. I see all the facets of his personality and know what makes him tick. The longer we are married, the more I’ll know him, too.

The Bible says it is alive. God speaks through its pages. So anyone who reads it can grasp some of its message and see its Author in the pages. But the more you read, the more you study, the more time you devote to God’s word, the deeper you’ll understand God himself.

But not automatically.

My husband loves the Green Bay Packers. One of their wide receivers, Jordy Nelson, happens to know my sister’s husband. Nate could read every article ever written about Nelson, follow him on Twitter and watch his every move on television, still missing that personal connection that Bill has. On the flip side, although Bill knows Nelson, since he’s not into football, there’s a lot he doesn’t know about him, either.

Understanding about God and walking with him go hand in hand. No matter how much I know about God with my head, if I don’t love and follow him, that knowledge means nothing. But nor do I want to stick with just a surface level relationship. I want to go deeper, so I’m digging into his word to discover more about him.

God’s Story in my Life {31 Days}

I have a confession to make. Several actually. I got to about Day 10 of this 31 Day Challenge  and started worrying. My life sounded so idyllic. Was I talking too much about the good parts in my story? Should I conjure up all the negative things I can remember about growing up and start writing about them? How on earth will people be able to relate to my story if theirs doesn’t look the same?

I call it a grown up version of the “Christian Kid Syndrome.” If you’ve ever been to Christian summer camp you know what I mean. Kids get scared to share their story of how Christ saved them because they don’t have anything “interesting” to tell. They weren’t dealing drugs or something before they started following Jesus so their story feels insignificant.

Once at the campfire story sharing time (confession #2), I included my dad’s disability in my story just to be more relatable. Dad has a rare arthritis called Ankylosing Spondilitis and suffers chronic pain. I greatly admire his endurance in the spite of suffering, but I know I wanted to connect and told his story to do that. (Sorry, Dad. I was only 12 so I hope you’ll pardon me.) I know that’s a fairly innocent offense, but that shows the unrest going on in my heart.

IMG_1365Now as an adult, I get that my personal story means something between me and God, but I’m such a people-pleaser that I worry about what others will think when they hear it.

I worry you might be thinking…

“I’ve experienced more pain in the past year than she has in her whole life. Who does she think she is, telling me God is good in hard times?”

Or, “Her life looks perfect. Guess she can’t relate to me.”

Et cetera.

Guess what? (Confession #3) I’m over that. My life isn’t perfect. But it’s a story of God’s faithfulness regardless. God has worked in real, amazing ways in my life because he’s an awesome God – not because I’m a wonderful person.

My story is really God’s story. Just like yours. What we’ve been through (or haven’t) is not the focus.

God’s truth applies to us regardless of our individual walks of life. God can put words in my mouth to use in your life, and God can use you to speak into my life.

So embrace your story. Forgive yourself for the mistakes and sins of the past. Praise God for his work in your heart. Live this moment to glorify him. It’s his story, after all.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23 NLT

A Lamp to my Children’s Feet {31 Days}

My Charlie is a Wild Man in the making. Someday he’ll be skydiving and hang gliding and I’ll see the Instagram pictures after the fact and be thanking his guardian angel even more. So when we had our sweet Lou this summer I worried about her safety with such a rambunctious brother in the house.

We were getting back from a walk one summer afternoon when Lou was about 3 months old. I was scolding Charles for climbing on the stroller, afraid he would step on his sister, when I looked down and saw her little face grinning up at him.

My instant thought was, “Good heavens, they’re already conspiring against me!

IMG_1250My kids aren’t old enough to fight yet so as of now they adore each other. When Lou jabbers, Charlie shrieks, “Talking!” and runs over to babble with her. He takes away her nice little baby toys and replaces them with his Matchbox cars or play tools. She lies on her Boppy pillow watching him play with admiring eyes and a silly grin. I know they’ll go through plenty of sibling growing pains, but I think they’ll be good friends, too.

If there is one thing I want my children to know, it’s that they don’t have to go at this life alone. The God of the universe who seeks to guide their lives daily treasures them beyond worth.

How are they going to know this truth? Know this God who pursues them so passionately? Through his word.

God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect. Psalm 18:30-32 NLT

My children won’t have perfect lives. I won’t parent them perfectly. They will fail many times in this life. But God’s way for them is perfect and they can experience abundant life by knowing him and following his heart.

IMG_1238It is too easy for me to parent them from my own wisdom, head knowledge and habits. But a huge part of why I’m writing is because I want to passionately pursue God in his word and help kindle the same fire in them and in more children of their generation.

What does our relationship with God look like? Can the children in our lives see God and understand that the truth of his word can guide their lives, too? This is what we should be all about.