NEXT WEEK : THE STONECUTTER
BUT THIS WEEK
WE’RE GOING TO PAUSE
AND TAKE A BREATH
AS WE SAY GOOD-BYE TO SWEET SUMMER
AND PREPARE TO FACE, WITH JOY
THE BRISKER PACE OF FALL
Labor Day itself was designed to honor the Labor movement that brought relief to so many workers who were abused and over-worked by those in power. Many have come to think of it as a day where you have a break from labor, pause, and relax, and, perhaps, reflect.
It’s a good time to slow down and think about what life is really about — a pause, a “selah,” before we turn to the many responsibilities that come with the fall. The homework this week is lighter — I want you to slow down and experience God!
Last week there was such a sweetness when Meg came on an apologized for going too fast after I had told her to slow down and chew on the questions. When I told her that it was more important to experience God than to finish the task, several of you jumped in and said, “Me too! I go too fast!” Honestly, we all need to remind ourselves to slow down and experience God. Though it is a secular song, I love the heart of the Simon and Garfunkle song that begins”Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last…” We can be so busy in our Christian lives that we miss God — how wild is that?
Can you identify with being so busy, moving so fast, that you miss God? If so, what are you learning about ways to “slow down” and experience Him?
This week I’m having you meet one of our faithful bloggers — Joyce Keim Peterson. (See below) After you read what she has written, take the time to affirm her!
PART I. BIBLE STUDY
We can also miss God when we aren’t looking for Him. This week’s lesson is one of my favorite stories and a GREAT one to act out if you have children.
1. Read Acts 12:1-5 and describe the background for this story.
2. Read Acts 12:6-11 and name some of the ways Peter experienced God.
3. Read Acts 12:12-14 and describe what happened and how and why Rhoda responded as she did.
4. If possible, tell about one time when God answered a prayer and you could hardly believe, because of joy!
5. Read Acts 12:15-17 and describe what happened.
This week I have been with two of my dearest friends. For the six summers since Steve died, we have gotten together for five days at my cabin. We discuss books (this year Bonhoeffer and One Thousand Gifts), we pray, and we read over our journals from the year before so we can be alert to how God has answered prayer. We are always amazed. I’m thankful for our journals, for without those reminders, we truly may have missed “Peter at the door.” We’ve seen God answer prayers for our own spiritual growth, for removing besetting sins, for stronger marriages, for the gift of babies, for quickening in our ministries… Peter has been at the door so many times!
One of the most fruitful devotional habits Steve and I practiced with our five children was one we learned from Karen and David Mains. It’s called The God Hunt. Our kids loved it and we did too. It was a way to be alert to God in your life. So we are going on a God Hunt this week! What I’d like you to do, is see if you can spy God at least once every day and come on and tell us about it.
FOUR WAYS TO SPY GOD
1. I SPY GOD BECAUSE OF AN ANSWER TO PRAYER
A. So often we pray for His help in trouble, or His gifts. He is gracious and gives us abundantly. What is a way He met you in trouble or gave you what you requested this summer?
B. Sometimes we pray for our own character or the characters of those we love. If you do that, what is a way you have seen Him meet you?
2. I SPY GOD BECAUSE OF UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES OR TIMING
In my family this one was hard to miss. My three daughters and daughter-in-law did not plan this nor did they plan to all have daughters. But how can we ever forget or stop rejoicing at the obvious hand of God. These are the four babies last April. This summer they all turned one. Joy, joy, joy, joy!
If you think about the story in Esther, for example, the hero is neither Mordecai nor Esther, but God, who orchestrated everything so that the Jews could be rescued. That is the way the story of Esther must be read — and we would be wise to look at the story of our own lives in the same way.
Just this week I ran into a distant young cousin at the airport. Surprised us both. But I knew it was God, for she has always been one who has seemed open to God. And now we are in contact again. He is on the move.
A. As you look back, what unusual circumstances or timing made you think, in a particular situation, that God was involved?
B. Be alert — watch for unusual circumstances or timing this week and be ready to report.
3. I spy God because of unexpected and undeserved grace.
We fear we are going to fail an exam, and we get an A! We are sure the policeman is going to give us the ticket we deserve, and we get a warning. We have a near miss with an accident, kindness from a stranger, or a rainbow on a stormy day. My dad used to tell me, “Be alert to be amazed.”
When a person gives us grace and we don’t deserve it, we should recognize that ultimately that unexpected grace is a gift from God. For a person cannot extend grace unless she has received it. One of my favorite stories from you was one from Elizabeth. Her young daughter had pushed the boundaries all day and then Elizabeth, who is very much into health food, took her out for ice cream. Her daughter was mystified and asked why, “since she had been bad all day.” Elizabeth told her that her love was unconditional. Grace. God’s unexpected grace.
Last month when I came back to the cabin after a speaking engagement on my birthday, there was my oldest son, surprising me. This was unexpected grace in many ways. He and his fiance did so many things to surprise me. It was particularly sweet because my relationship with them has had lots of rough spots — because I have hurt them often through my perpetual attempts to change them. (If you are new to this blog, you will learn that one of the idols God is working on in my heart is control.) They both love the Lord deeply, however, and have given me grace. This homecoming was certainly evidence of that — and a surprise!
A. Can you think of a way in the last year when you received unexpected and undeserved grace?
B. Be alert for the same during the week.
4. I spy God because of His help to do His work in the world.
He gives each of us gifts and calls us to use them, but we cannot do anything without Him. Often the world, the flesh, and the devil stop us — but He is the Overcomer. How beautifully we saw this lived out in Rebecca’s life. He has given her the gift of a beautiful voice, but she was so overcome by the fear of man that is stopped her from being what He called her to be. She even posted pictures of the big stage at her church so we could empathize with her fear! But then, God did a work in her, helping her bask in His approval instead of looking for man’s. She then posted a wonderful video of that Sunday — singing her heart our to the Lord and living evidence of His help to do His work in the world. If you missed it, here it is: http://vimeo.com/27992059
Here I must say that you, my sweet sisters on this blog, have been such a gift to me, and truly, His help to do His work in the world. It was not my intent when I began this blog, but it has been so sweet for you have given me friendship, encouragement, prayer, and stories that I am often using — I repeat them at times on this blog, and I may ask you if I may use them in my writing. I didn’t expect any of this — but I thank you for your hearts, for your perseverance, and for your pressing into God. We do need one another, and you have certainly been a wonderful gift to me, making a three-fold cord. (You, me, and the Lord.)
B. What is one (I know there are many) way a woman on this blog helped you to fulfil His calling on your life?
C. Be His work in the world?Be on the alert and be ready to report how you spy Him this week.
PART III. FREE TIM KELLER SERMON: A REASON FOR LIVING
This is a wonderful free sermon — will help you slow down and think about what life is really all about: Link
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE-A-WAY FOR THE WEEK?
PLEASE PRAY FOR NEXT WEEK AS WE RETURN TO THE STONECUTTER — INVITE YOUR FRIENDS!
MEET OUR BLOGGERS: JOYCE!
During the last Stonecutter study we met many of you, and I didn’t get to post Joyce, who has been with us for a long time. So this week I’d like you to meet her — and I will do this again sometime. I know Joyce personally for I used to live in her town in Nebraska. I have always been impressed with her spirit despite many trials that would flatten most people. She is one of our greatest encouragers and prayer warriors. How thankful we are for you, Joyce!
My passion is to become more like Jesus. I feel, I’ve wasted so much of my life before really living for God. I wasn’t raised in a christian home, but I gave my heart to Jesus in my 20’s, during a very abusive first marriage. My second marriage , we had three children and after Kendra was born with CP and epilepsy and mentally challenged, he left me for someone else. My husband now, Maurice (pronounced like Morris) and I have been married 21 years now, and Kendra is the only one at home and she is 24 years old. His wife left him also with two kids and I had three and he was the most worried about taking on a disabled child! Well the older kids fought and there was so much jealousy between them (but are close now) , and Kendra and Daddy became inseparable! Maurice is the Daddy God wanted for Kendra. Maurice calls us “his girls”, even our doggy, Penny! And he is a wonderful Husband and Daddy. Everything does work out for the best! I feel so blessed. Trial’s do make you grow closer to the Lord.
I’ll be 62 this summer and caring for Kendra is my ministry I believe. She is our Love and Joy here on earth, as is our older kids, but God is number one and we are trusting him each day.
The study on Idolatry has truly opened my eye’s to all the many idols I have. If I had to choose the one I’ve been praying for the most would be my idol of food…..running to it instead of Jesus for comfort. I’ve learnt so much from all of you and am aware of how I am only harming myself, my body, “The Temple of the Holy Spirit”.
When I was in the hospital for 4 days recently, I was praying much of the time when alone. During one of those prayers, I felt a hand on my shoulder and opened my eye’s to find no one in the room. I know it was the hand of Jesus and I felt like he was saying to me, “Trust me”.
I worry so much about who will take care of Kendra when we can’t anymore.
I pray so much for all my sister’s in Christ, here , and Dee, on this wonderful study. I’m not very well versed or wise, as most, but I am a prayer warrior for everyone that needs me to pray, and love being an mentor to anyone I can help. And I do have great empathy for anyone hurting or going through hard times.