Week One ~
~ Happy first day of Spring! And welcome to The WIN Bible Study Blog! Pour yourself a cup of coffee--or sweet tea--and relax awhile. With your busy schedule, you deserve a break. Whether you read this week's blog in one sitting--Week One is a long one--or break it up into days, I guarantee this study will assist you in making the right decisions in the days ahead.
~ Today's women are facing challenges daily. These challenges sometimes call for change. Speaking from my own experience, I can tell you that change can be scary, but as we learn to trust the Lord, we realize that God allows change for our benefit. However, when we're going through these challenges and changes, we oftentimes can't see this. That's where Jane Boston's book, The Longer You Wait, the Bigger the Miracle...knowing when to wait and when to act in His perfect timing, comes in. I've read Jane's book and I'm excited for what God is going to do in our lives through this study. You'll want to purchase her book on the WIN website, and who knows, perhaps one day you'll be leading a Bible study. When we allow God to direct our path, anything can happen!
~ Let's begin by talking about God's perfect timing. I have to admit that sometimes I get impatient for His perfect timing, and off I go. Before long, I throw my hands up and come running back to square one, which for me is, "Okay, Lord, I'm back...sorry I messed up. I'll do it Your way next time." God smiles, and before long, we're off, this time hand-in-hand.
~ My latest hand-in-hand experience was when I found Women's Initiative Network. Actually, WIN found me. Question: Do you get lots of e-mails? I do, so I usually delete the ones I don't recognize. A week before Christmas I received an unfamiliar e-mail from someone named Brenda Marshall, asking for devotions for a future project. I had never heard of WIN, or Brenda Marshall, and I had never written a devotion, but a voice inside told me, write one. I submitted my very first devotion, and then headed to the mall to finish my Christmas shopping. The next day I received a reply from Brenda asking for more. It was a week before Christmas--when would I find the time to write? But there was that voice again, so I submitted another. After the holidays, Brenda and I met for coffee, and the next thing I knew, I accepted the honor of writing for WIN's blog. Hand-in-hand, God has led me to some wonderful WINning women! I'm sure you have had such an experience, so your comments are welcome.
~ Understanding His Master Plan...Timing is Everything~ Knowing when to act, or when to wait is the toughest part for those who are seeking to abide in God's perfect plan. Whether it's making a business decision, or sharing Christ with a friend, we want God's perfect timing. If you're like me, I'm not satisfied with hiding God's gift of salvation under the bed. At the same time, I don't want to come off as religious and preachy--that only turns people off.
~ Our desire is to know God's will, and then to obey. Our heart's cry should be, Oh, Lord, to hear your voice and know what You would have me do. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~ His plans for you are according to your personality and the giftings He has given you. I love to write. I love to encourage women. I'm a good listener. It's that simple. What are some of your personality traits and giftings? Hey! No negative here--just the positive. Surely you can find one or two positive personality traits. Okay, one? (lol--laughing-out-loud, a phrase I learned on FaceBook).
~ God has a divine plan for each of us. Psalm 139:13 says, For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. As we travel on our journey, we discover God's plan. So what are we waiting for? Let's jump in!
~ The Bible is full of scriptures that tell us to wait upon the Lord. Sometimes that's challenging when the world around us is telling us to be productive, be fruitful, and take action! Our family, our staff, our friends can't seem to understand the waiting concept, and might see us as lazy or irresponsible--God forbid that we would appear lazy! But we learn to wait. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. And when our success comes, the amazing result will speak for itself.
~ Stop - Go - Hurry - Wait. That has been my life. There are times when I've gone ahead of God's timing and the results have been acceptable, but I wonder what the results would have been if I had waited a bit longer. But at my age--I'm 64 and proud of it--I don't sit and ponder too often. Life is too short. Have you jumped ahead of God lately? What were your results? What did you learn from the experience? We can learn, and even benefit, from our mistakes.
~ There are times when I have taken matters into my own hands and made a royal disaster. Are you having flashbacks? My first big mess-up occurred when I was nineteen. Raised in a Christian home, I prayed for God's direction, especially in the area of marrying a fine Christian man. My Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Tree, preached to us hormonal teen-age girls, "Save your kisses for the man you marry." That sounded easy enough, until one night at Disneyland, I fell head over heels for a handsome guy that was standing behind me in the Matterhorn line. There were one too many fireworks between us, and four months later we married, five months later I had a baby, and a year later, my handsome guy left. But God smiled. Out of my self-made mess-up came a miracle, my precious daughter, Jacquie. He helped me regroup, and I was on the right path again. God is so faithful, even when we're not. (footnote: Jacquie's father became a Christian later in life). Have you had any mess-ups in your life? How can you avoid another one?
I'm an average planner. I'm organized and I can multi-task. I'll get the job done. But as the years go by, I realize more and more what an amazing planner God is. As I wait and listen to Him, wonderful plans begin to break forth. Take some time to listen. What is God getting ready to do in your life?
~ I've sang the song, I Surrender All, since I was eight years old, but I had no idea of the full concept of that old hymn. The higher the level of surrender in which we operate, the greater the results and satisfaction we find in our journey. God is our Father and he wants the best for us. In I John 4:4 we read, Ye are of God. little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, the he that is in the world. As we operate less under our direction, and more under His direction, our journey will be filled with joy and peace. What area do you need to surrender to Him today?
~ Understanding God's Mission ~ In order for us to participate and support a plan, whether at work or with our family, we must understand the mission. God was clear on His mission. he intended to bring man to eternal life and communion with Him while we are here on earth. God's plan for communion with us is challenged by the spiritual forces at work. The spiritual world baffles us so we find it easier to ignore than to comprehend, but listen: Working with the opposition of Satan makes it much harder for a plan to work, but we know that God will overcome. We are on the winning team. God gave us important tools to help us fight the battle against Satan.
As we look at Jesus' walk on earth, we can see the power of God working in His life. We have this same power through the Holy Spirit operating in us. The Holy Spirit gives us continual resources to support God's Master Plan. Everything we are asked to do from our Master relates to His mission. But it's the communication that seems to baffle us. I've often said, I'll do whatever He tells me if I just know what that is. God wants to reveal Himself to us more than we can imagine, but there are several reasons why we find it hard.
~ Negative influences make it hard for us to hear God's voice. Simplicity has been my theme throughout my life, and I truly believe that God wants to come to us in a simple fashion. When we begin to realize that we can bring the Lord into our thought life without a lot of formality, we'll find it much easier to communicate with Him.
Our lack of faith sometimes hinders us from thinking that God can actually speak to us. We must accept--by faith--that He will direct us. We must let go of our own plans, and let God show us His plan for our life. There are days when I've walked right past moments that I could have responded to a request from above. Too busy--must hurry to get home. Sound familiar? Life can become so much more abundant when we surrender to His voice. We are on a journey with God so understanding His will and our will is an important concept in knowing when to wait, and when to act.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
God places in us a desire for what He intends for us to do. We are incredibly preprogrammed to become what fits into His master plan. Nursing, engineering, writing, painting--all are professions that bring rewards. God not only cares about our destination, but He cares about our steps along the journey. If I felt called to go to California from Fort Mill, South Carolina, there are many ways I could travel. God wants to have the right to direct my travel. Why? He has planned miracles--big and small--along the way that ties into His master plan for my life. The more I seek His plan, the better the journey goes. Whether it's a day trip, or a move from the west coast to the east coast--that's what we did four years ago when we moved from California to South Carolina--He wants to direct our path.
It took Rob and I two years after our first visit to the Carolinas for God to say, Okay, now is the time to move. We toured houses for three days, but we ended up buying the first house we looked at. Why? Because we felt that God had chosen the brick home on the pond before we ever made the plane reservations. Question: Are you planning a trip? A move? Do you want miracles along the way? Don't take that trip, or make that move, until you've bounced it off God first. He has some strategic ideas for you.
~ God is a Problem Solver. I don't know anyone who at some time doesn't have a problem that needs solving. In the Psalms, David described God as Sovereign, which means to solve. What is so beautiful about waiting on the Lord is you find yourself reacting more than acting. As i wait, He brings the solution into my hands. Three months after Rob and I moved to Fort Mill, I still hadn't started the process of looking for a part-time job (we moved to the south to be part of the semi-retired population). As I was having coffee at Books-A-Million in Rock Hill, I looked around and thought, I love books. I'm writing a book. I've always wanted to work in a book store. So I submitted my resume online, and didn't think anything else about it until I received a phone call a few days later, asking me to interview with the area manager. She wanted me to consider working as her extended arm in the opening of their new book store at the River Gate Shopping Center in west Charlotte. She had just received approval for the position that day! I would be working thirty-two hours, I could choose my days, and I was ten minutes from home! Why was getting that job so easy? I beleive that God had that job waiting for me, in His timing. Question: What are you becoming impatient for? If you want to see God's hand in the matter, continue to rest in Him, and He will bring it to you.
~ Day planners anyone? Who doesn't have one? Our lives are busy with family, friends, careers, and errands galore--and we must fit that hair appointment in somewhere!
God loves to deliver! He loves to please His children. He loves to see His plan come together in the lives of His children. It's part of His master plan for us. Have you ever placed your calendar aside for God's calendar? He only wants to know if you're available. That's when the divine appointments come along, when we go with the flow. What flow? The flow of events around us that aren't crafted by our hands. God is the scheduler, searching us daily to know how available we are. If God only cared about us accepting His Son, Jesus, as our Savior, He would not have promised to direct our path. Proverbs 3:5 says, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Are you willing to give Him control of your schedule, a little, a lot, or completely?
One thing you can be sure of in this crazy, mixed-up world of following God is that He never moves from His mission. He plans to save the world, one person at a time by using those who will cooperate with Him to share His plan of eternal life. When I was eight, I remember walking down the aisle of a little southern Baptist church, to give my heart to Jesus. That night I inherited eternal life, but I didn't have a clue about the rest of the package. That came in time, as I grew older, made some mistakes, and then realized that God truly wanted me to be happy. But lets get back to the basics, to where it all began. At the cross.
When trying to explain to people why God sent His son to die on a cross, I keep it simple. Simplicity is hard for the human brain, especially the intelligent one. That's where faith comes in.
God created man with a free will. He could have created robots that would go around praising Him twenty-four-seven, but He already has that with millions of angels in heaven. He wanted man to have the choice to worship Him. No robots for the Almighty God.
In this world, we are taught to reward good behavior, and to punish bad behavior. I found it hard to punish my children when they did wrong, but I knew it was for their own good. We have judges and juries to decide the punishment of those who have disobeyed the law. If each criminal, no matter what they did, were sentenced to die for their crime, we would claim the judge ruthless and uncaring.
God, who created the world, had a dilemma. He would ultimately solve this through Jesus. Before Jesus, the sacrificial act of atonement for sin was the slaying of an animal. This was only a temporary measure until Jesus came to prepare a way of our salvation.
The wages of our sin is death without Christ. He paid the price so we might avoid our own criminal charges. God showed mercy on us. He could not ignore the sins of the world, nor could He be merciless and sentence us to die for our sins. Without Jesus stepping in to take our place, we would live a life that ends in death. Jesus is the Lamb who died and set us free from our obligation to die. Blood is one of the few parts of man for which medical science has not found a true substitute. The function for blood in our veins is to carry oxygen, the breath of our life. Jesus' blood was royal; it came from God, the Father, through the Virgin Mary.
Jesus' blood is rich. His blood is rich enough to suffice for the debt of trillions. Man's blood is a cleansing system which is symbolic of how Jesus' blood cleanses us. The blood runs through every inch of our body, through miles of veins, capillaries and arteries.
Jesus' unselfish agony brought us eternal freedom. He was a man, so He had a choice to accept the assignment, which He did. It was so great a choice that He sweat drops of blood, symbolic of the substance that would set us free from the penalty of sin, which is death. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
There was nothing greater for God to sacrifice than His Son. Jesus' blood was the only thing in the entire universe valuable enough to clear the record for all sinners. God, who rules with truth and grace, has to respond to sin, rather than ignore it. It is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we are spared. While almost all religions evolve around the concept of a godhead, it is the belief in Jesus that promises life after death. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13
At the end of times Jesus will become the ruler of the earth. Until then, Satan will continue to be the prince of the earth. God's plan for us is companionship with Him now, and throughout eternity.
~ With Easter coming up, what a perfect time to ask, What must you do to be saved? It's simple. I'll write it out in a three-step process;
1. Repent: Do you believe you have sinned? Are you sorry? Do you truly desire to strive for less sin in your life? For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
2. Believe in Jesus: Do you believe He died on the cross and was resurrected to give you life after death? Are you willing to give yourself completely to Jesus? For by grace are ye saved through faith, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
3. Confirm your decision by accepting Him in your heart. Do you accept yourself as now saved? Will you confess Jesus to those around you, be baptized and serve within a church? Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 10:32
~ Minimum versus Maximum ~ The minimum plan of salvation is to accept Jesus as the Savior of the world. The maximum plan is to work with Him to take others to heaven with us. Our growth in the Lord depends on our level of commitment to serve Him in our daily lives. As we read His word, the Bible, the fruits of the Holy Spirit will begin to flow in our lives. Galatians 5:22-26 tells us these fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. When we allow the Holy Spirit to team up with us, these traits become more obvious in our lives. The Holy Spirit uses our conscience as the means to talk to us, advise us, and guide us onto the right paths.
To receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit we must commit to the maximum plan. These gifts, stated in I Corinthians 12:8-11, are the gift of knowledge, wisdom, discernment of others, prophesy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, faith, healing, and miracles.
The more we allow the fruits of the Spirit to shape our personality, the better equipped we are to allow these gifts to grow. These are power-working, action-oriented, vehicles of our Christian walk.
~ As always, the choice is ours to accept the minimum service role, or the maximum service role. In my years of walking with the Lord, I have wandered in and out of minimum-maximum, and I'm a witness to say that there is no better, happier, joyful way than to be in the Maximum Plan. Where are you today? The choice is yours.
Spend the rest of the week meditating over this first study. I'll meet you here next week for Week Two. Oceans of blessings to all of you WINning women!