Posts from the ‘Women’s Bible Studies’ Category

The Secret of Discipline

Girlfriends in God

The Secret of Discipline

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit (Proverbs 25:28, NAS)

Friend to Friend

Discipline is obedience, a lifetime process that brings us to a state of order by training and controlling our behavior. Discipline is focusing and eliminating, zeroing in on what is important in every area of life. Discipline not only leads to right thinking, pleasing behavior and balanced emotions, but also produces a purpose driven life based on right goals and priorities.

And that brings us to the discipline of our time – a dreaded and often ignored spiritual discipline for many of us. We have either forgotten or failed to realize the truth that our minutes, hours and days are precious commodities – gifts from God that can be unwrapped only once. Time is wasted unless it is invested in goals and priorities that are rooted in God’s plan.

A busy life is not necessarily a productive life, girlfriends. Oh, I can hear it now! “Mary, it’s true that I am very busy, but I am busy doing good things.” Those words were the cry of my heart just before I crashed and burned and landed in a pit of clinical depression. The problem with my list of “good things” was that it was just that – my list – the wrong list for my life. The result was exhaustion, burnout and disobedience.

One of the most important lessons of my “pit experience” was that my perspective of time was skewed. I had poured years into making my plan successful only to discover that God resources and empowers His plan alone. Outlook determines outcome. It was painfully obvious I needed an outlook adjustment, an eternal perspective. I needed to understand the truth that my time is not really mine to do with as I please. It is a resource on loan to me from God. As a result, every plan, priority and goal should be held against the backdrop of eternity because it is from that backdrop that our priorities are validated, our calling confirmed and our time best invested.

Let’s face it. If we don’t set priorities – others will. Time thieves will steal our time as we allow them to impose their plans and standards on us. While it is true that different women have different priorities and different seasons of life, it is also true that one priority remains steadfast.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). Once that priority is firmly established and adhered to, the rest of life will surely fall into place.

Learning how to discipline time is a challenge for us all. I am, by no means, an expert in this area, but I do want to share some simple ideas that have worked for me.

Tithe your time. Just as we tithe our money, we should tithe our time. God blesses and multiplies the time we set aside to spend in Bible study, prayer and service.

Get organized.  In 1 Corinthians 14:40, we are challenged to “do all in a fitting and orderly way.” In other words, being organized is a spiritual discipline, freeing us from the tyranny of the urgent while making room for the eternal things that matter. Here are some organizational tips:

  • Buy and keep a calendar. Writing down things keeps me from wasting time and “bunching up” activities. It takes the pressure off of me to remember everything and allows me to see, at a glance, what is important. My weeks and months are more evenly scheduled and I am forced to prioritize, doing the important things first.
  • Choose one day a week to plan. Every Sunday afternoon, I plan the week ahead, recording the main tasks I need to complete and scheduling the appointments I need to make and keep.  Pray over your week, asking the Holy Spirit to make clear those things ordained for each day.
  • Simplify and eliminate. Experts advise us to approach spring cleaning by dealing with one closet at a time. Break jobs up into manageable steps so that the large tasks seem doable.
  • Tackle the dreaded task first. I have discovered that tackling the job I dread the most energizes me for the rest of the tasks.  I have also learned to use my best time, the time of the day when my energy is highest for the most important and the most difficult tasks. 
  • Stop activity when it becomes unproductive. Sometimes, a 10 minute break will boost energy, refocus attention and get those creative juices flowing.
  • Begin a task, even if you won’t have time to complete it. I hate doing laundry and frequently long for the day of disposable clothing. As a result, I do the laundry in pieces.  For example, I will start the wash and answer email.  I then toss the wet clothing into the dryer and work on a writing assignment.  You get the idea!
  • Delegate. When we delegate work to our children, we are teaching them godly discipline. The church is filled with people waiting to be pushed out of their comfort zones in service. Look for those potential leaders and delegate.
  • Leave margins in your schedule. I tend to fill every time slot during the day. Therefore, when the “unexpected” comes along, I am overwhelmed and unprepared. Building margins of time into our schedules is a step of faith, trusting God to fill them in any way He chooses.
  • Yield to the seasons of life. When my children were small, I did not travel and speak like I do now. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of any church or any ministry. Our greatest mission field is our home, our marriage and our children. It does not matter how much we do or how successful we are, if home and family get the leftovers of our time, energy, emotions and spiritual service we are walking in sin and disobedience.

Discipline builds upon discipline, each success encouraging another. Make the commitment to cultivate the disciplines of a godly woman, then pick a corner of your life and begin. Discipline does not come naturally or easily. We will fail. But we can always begin again. Join me today in a new commitment to godly discipline.

Let’s Pray

Father, I want to thank You for your unconditional love and forgiveness. Please help me focus on You and Your presence in my life each day. I pray that any stress in my heart will be swallowed up in the reality that You are faithful and that You are in control. I know You are not surprised by anything that comes my way and will transform the good into better, the unthinkable into the unstoppable and the unbelievable into fact. I praise You for the amazing way You guide me and lift me up when I fall.  Today, I choose to focus on You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Read and memorize Philippians 4:6-7 (ICB) “Do not worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. And God’s peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives is so great that we cannot understand it.”

There’s a lot of good stuff here… I have to admit, my life is very disorganized and not well prioritized at all. But I feel like a lot of this is stuff WE do… but what about God working in us to organize us and change us and discipline us? Maybe that happens when we start making time to spend with him and attempt to org anize a week and when we pray over it. Maybe I’m just making excuses. I think I’ll go figure out a schedule for this week and spend some time praying over it…

 

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Break the will but not the spirit

Girlfriends in God

Breaking the Will but Not the Spirit

Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

Submit yourselves, then, to God … (James 4:7, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Of all of the activities ten-year-old Miriam enjoyed, she loved riding her horse, Charlie, the best. He had a sleek chestnut mane, well-defined muscular legs, and a fierce strong will to match. Miriam felt powerful and self-assured when controlling this massive animal—except when he caught a glimpse of the barn. Whenever Miriam and Charlie returned from a jaunt in the woods, as soon as they got close enough for him to see the barn, he bolted homeward, forcing Miriam to hang on to the reins for dear life.

One day Miriam’s riding instructor witnessed this strong-willed animal taking control of his master.

“Miriam!” she called out. “You cannot let that animal control you in that manner! Bring that horse back out of the barn this instant.”

Dutifully, Miriam mounted Charlie and led him a distance away from the stalls.

“Now, when you turn around and Charlie sees the barn and begins to run toward it,” the wiser, older woman instructed, “pull the reins all the way to the right. Do not let him go forward.”

On cue, Miriam steered her horse toward the stalls. On cue, he bolted.

“Turn him! Turn him!” the instructor shouted.

Young Miriam pulled the reins to the right as hard as she could until the horse’s head was inches away from touching his right shoulder. Charlie fought her with the force of a war horse. Round and round the horse and rider circled.

“Don’t let go,” the instructor shouted. “You must break his will!”

After ten long minutes, Charlie stopped circling, and Miriam stopped pulling him to the right. Miriam gently tapped his flanks, and he slowly walked toward the stable. She had broken his will, and he now obeyed his master’s touch.

Have you ever felt that you are going in circles? Perhaps God is trying to break some old habit patterns in your life to help you become more adept at sensing His gentle nudges and tender tugging. Perhaps He is trying to steer you in the different direction other than bolting to the familiar. It’s an amazing ride when you yield your will to the Master and travel the path He leads.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, so many times I see myself in Miriam’s horse. I bolt to what is familiar rather than submit to You. Help me to follow Your lead, submit to Your guidance, and walk at the pace You set.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Additional Scripture Reading:James 4:1-12

Is there an old habit that God is trying to break in your life?  Are you running for the stalls out of habit or obeying your Master’s lead?

How will we keep going in circles if we do not heed the Master’s lead? (Think Israelites in the wilderness)

I’m not sure I can add much to this… or even spill the thoughts that are lurking in my mind. Reading this just makes me wonder–is this why the same things keep happening to me, it’s me turning in circles and seeing the same scenery? I have to wonder though, other then praying and asking God to show us what it is He wants us to do or be, how do we stop turning in circles? Do we just stop everything we are doing and be still?

Even more–what is it that we bolt to? books? cooking? tv shows? being as productive as we can be as long as we can avoid spending time with God?

what now?

Having a child will make me happy

NIV devotions for women

Myth: “Having a child will make me happy.”

Today’s reading: John 10:10

My other friends couldn’t believe I went for it. But why not? The professional single-mom-by-choice is hardly the pariah anymore. We live in an age of technological wonders that give women options they never had before. I have a successful business, a large home with room for a child, good friends and stability. I’m at a good place in my life for the “next” thing, and a baby just seemed to fit the need.

I’m the same as most any other woman. God gave me this nesting urge, so do I just ignore it until I find the right man? Set my sights on other goals? I deserve to be happy as much as the next person. Unfortunately, contentment seems to always be on the next horizon. When I bought my new home, I thought that would satisfy me. It did for a while, and then I resumed the search and focused on a baby. This nagging feeling of incompleteness is undeniable. I’m tired of waiting for all the circumstances to be “right.”

I was talking with some other moms at my birthing class last week, and they asked me why I decided to have a baby as a single mom. Sure, I think it would be ideal if I were married and decided to start a family. But I can’t see why experiencing the next best thing is a bad idea if it makes me happy. I told them I wanted to hear the sound of a baby’s laughter in the house at Christmas. I wanted some central pleasure to bring my family together and build our unity around. I wanted to give a baby all the things I never experienced when I was a child.

I’m bringing life into this world—a baby I can love and one who will love me back unconditionally. I’ll be there for him and build my life around him. He will never know what it’s like to be lonely. What could possibly be wrong with that?

—Leslie

The search for happiness and significance is central to what it means to be alive. As long as we’re breathing, we will deeply desire happiness and meaning in our lives. God created us to crave significance and to know with certainty that we matter, so that he could provide himself as our heart’s one, true fulfillment. However, we tend to fill in the blanks with any number of pursuits. “Having _________ will make me happy.” More money. Success. A relationship. A home.

So we try everything to bring closure to the idea that if we only had that one thing, then we would be ultimately and finally happy. And we’ll get that one thing any way we can. It’s why Sarah pushed for her maidservant, Hagar, to carry Abraham’s baby instead of waiting on God.

Mind you, it’s not that having a child won’t make a person happy. It certainly will! God’s pleasures and blessings, such as the precious gift of a baby, do bring our lives a measure of happiness—some extraordinarily so. However, only God’s love will satisfy us for a lifetime of joy, which surpasses mere happiness (see Nehemiah 8:10). Depending on him to satisfy the elusive search for happiness enables us to enjoy life’s pleasures and enhances our ability to be happy. Otherwise, we may expect a baby, a job or a relationship to meet a level of satisfaction that created things were never designed to bring to us. Then, we soon find we are disappointed with our unmet expectations, and the desire for a second child or a new job or a new relationship becomes the only feasible antidote. And the cycle begins again.

“The Bible talks plentifully about joy, but it nowhere talks about a ‘happy Christian.’ Happiness depends on what happens; joy does not. Remember, Jesus Christ had joy, and he prayed ‘that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.’”

—Oswald Chambers

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

I think most people struggle with contentment, and I’m certainly one that does. I often get that nagging sensation that I need to do more, I should change something, my husband and I should spend more time together or spend it together differently, that I don’t have enough friends, or that the friends I do have live too far away, that my job isn’t good enough because of hours or bosses or money or something… That life isn’t easy enough and yet it doesn’t challenge me how I want it too… Do you know what I mean?

Yet how often do we sit down to realize how good we do have it? How much God has blessed us with? When was the last time you had to sleep outside in the cold and rain because you didn’t have a place to stay? When was the last time you didn’t have any food and didn’t get to eat? When was the last time you had no one who would give you a hug if you asked? When was the last time you not only didn’t have money to put gas in the car, but you also didn’t have a car to put gas in? When was the last time you went without a job for weeks or months at a time and had absolutely no one who reached out to you?

Just because things might not be perfect, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be content. Just because things aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean we can’t thank God for what we do have. Even though my job situation isn’t ideal, doesn’t mean that God isn’t providing for all of my needs. Just because my boss doesn’t always treat me right, doesn’t mean that I can’t be thankful God is teaching me patience, respect, and contentment. Just because I don’t have lots of friends here in Ohio doesn’t mean I can’t be thankful for the ones I do have, and extra thankful that my awesome friends in other states still try to stay in touch with me and even visit when it’s possible. Just because my husband and I might do the same things when we hang out, doesn’t mean I can’t be thankful for him, and thankful I GET to spend time with him, and thankful for things that we enjoy doing together–no matter how many times we do them. Just because we might not have all the food in the fridge we wish we could have, doesn’t mean we can’t be thankful for a full belly. Just because God doesn’t do things our way, doesn’t mean we can’t thank Him for knowing what is best and doing it His way.

It’s not easy to be grateful for things we wish we different. And it’s not always easy to find our contentment in God. But, being grateful is definitely the first and biggest step.  Maybe the next time we are upset or worried over something or wishing things were different, we should stop and find some things to be thankful for… what do you think?

Image vs. Integrity

Image vs. Integrity

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

Friend to Friend

On a recent flight, I was thumbing through a magazine someone left behind when the title of an article caught my eye. “Image is everything” the author declared. For a few seconds, I found myself mentally agreeing with the author’s statement until I recognized the subtle lie hidden in the seemingly benign words.

As followers of Christ, we sometimes focus on developing and presenting the right image while neglecting the spiritual discipline of integrity. Our public lives are only as authentic as our private lives. Image is who and what people think we are while integrity is who and what we really are. Billy Graham once said, “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost.”

Bobby Jones was one of the greatest golfers to ever compete, having won all four major tournaments in the U.S. and Britain in a single year. Early in his career, Jones made it to the final playoff in the U.S. Open. While setting up a fairly difficult shot, his golf club accidentally touched the ball. Jones immediately became angry, turned to the marshals, and called a penalty on himself. Since the marshals had not seen the ball move, they left the decision to Jones. It was a two-stroke penalty – which Bobby immediately called on himself, not knowing he would later lose the tournament by a single stroke.

Bobby dismissed praise for his honesty by replying, “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank!” Jones may have lost the tournament, but his character was legendary and today the United States Golf Association’s award for sportsmanship is known as the “Bobby Jones Award.”

I have often heard it said that integrity is what you do when no one is watching or that character is best illustrated by how you treat people who can do absolutely nothing for you. Integrity is a heart issue and a spiritual habit that decides beforehand to do the right thing. Character counts. Integrity matters to God.

Matthew 5:8 (NIV) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

1 Chronicles 28:9b “For the Lord searches every heart, and understands every desire and every thought.”

The word for “pure” means “ready for sacrifice.” In other words, the decisions and choices we make should be living sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God as acts of worship. To have integrity means to live an integrated life. That integration occurs when what we believe, what we think, what we say and what we do are all consistent. In reality, image really is nothing without integrity and character to back it up.

Let’s Pray

Father, I come to You right now, asking You to examine my heart and show me every impurity hidden there. Search my desires and thoughts and show me the disobedience that breaks your heart and hinders my walk with You. I want to please You with every choice and decision I make, Lord. Forgive me for the hypocrisy in my life. I lay down my pride and my agenda and choose instead to seek and follow You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Memorize Psalm 51:10 that says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” As this verse becomes the consistent prayer of your heart, each choice and decision you make will begin to line up with God’s will. He will be honored, and you will experience a new power and purpose in your life. Continually ask yourself, “Will my choice make God smile?”

A lot of times I find myself much more concerned with how others view me, how they think of me, whether they approve of me, and what I can do to get their opinion of me to be higher, then with almost anything else. I mean, if we are going to get a job–our potential boss needs to see how good we can be, right? And if we have a job, we want our boss to be pleased with our performance and to see us at our best. We want our friends to enjoy being around us, and we want our families to approve of us and our decisions. But… even the best of us can’t keep a fake smile on all the time, even the best of us, won’t always go the extra mile at work if that isn’t our character, even the best of us, have to be real at some point.

If we practice being real, and letting our inner character show, even if it means we don’t get our dream job, at least we don’t have to worry about pretending or being anything we aren’t. If we’re being real, our boss might not appreciate our flaws, but they will appreciate our consistency and honesty. If we are being real, we might not become friends with everyone we want to, but our friends will love us for who we actually are. If we are being real, our families might criticize us for things we do, but at least we can take that as an opportunity to grow, and they know we won’t hide things from them. If we are being real, we never have to worry about being discovered. And if we are being real, God will approve. And He will work in us, to make our real integrified self become that beautiful image of Himself that He created us to be.

It’s Time to Do Something!

November 9, 2011

It’s Time to Do Something!

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I could not tear my eyes away from the television screen as the 33 miners began to emerge from the depths of what could have been their mass grave. The men had been trapped for more than two months in the collapsed Chilean copper mines nearly half a mile underground. Everything I have read or heard about the tragedy is extraordinary.

The miners survived the early days by rationing food and working together as a team. Each man was assigned a job, one of which was to maintain peace and harmony until they were rescued. The selfless mining supervisor who insisted on being the last to leave his underground prison showed the world what it really means to put others first. I was amazed at the selflessness of the rescue worker who became the initial guinea pig for the rescue capsule and then chose to stay behind – alone – while the world celebrated above.

I wonder how long it will take us to forget. How long will we remember that the world came together to save a group of strangers? Will the powerful lessons of their rescue make any difference in the way we treat each other?

We all know what it is like to be trapped in a pit of some kind. It is probably not a collapsed mine, but pits are all basically the same.

Our world has collapsed under the weight of fear and pain.

No one seems to care. In fact, a lot of people have written us off as a lost cause.

People are too busy to recognize or understand our hopelessness.

Darkness prevails and rescue seems impossible.

We are wounded, sick and tired.

Civil war rages in our souls as we struggle to obey God instead of giving in to sin.

I truly believe that every day is filled with divine appointments – opportunities to rescue people who are trapped in some kind of pit. We miss the emptiness reflected in the eyes of the sales clerk or simply choose to ignore the homeless man begging for money so he can buy food. After all, we are in a hurry and have more important things to do. The sales clerk would probably be embarrassed if I said anything and that homeless man would probably just use the money I give him for drugs or alcohol.

The ringing phone is someone in need but we don’t care enough to answer. Our neighbor does not know God but her life is a mess and we really don’t want to get involved. Instead of taking action and doing what we know God wants us to do, we decide it is enough to pray for that neighbor and leave the messy part of God’s work to someone else.

I am so guilty of walking away from someone in need instead of running to their rescue. I am in pain, too, and my pain is more important than theirs. I may not actually say those words, but I don’t have to. My actions are blatant illustrations of my own egotism and self-absorption.

I do not want to be like the priest who nonchalantly strolled by the wounded and bleeding man lying on the road. I want to be like the Good Samaritan who stopped and saved the wounded man’s life. I want to be “God with skin on.”

One day, just as rescue workers descended into that Chilean mine, Jesus Christ will descend into this broken world and rescue us from the pit of human frailty. Until then, let’s be His hands and feet. Let’s love Him so much that we just have to do something about it.

Let’s Pray

Father, I come to You today with a heart of praise for the way You meet every need in my life and how You constantly rescue me from the darkness. I want Your heart, Lord. I want to be Your hands and feet to the people You place in my path. Give me eyes to see their need and the courage to do something about it. Please guard my heart against pride and selfishness. I want to please and honor You alone.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

It is sometimes hard to love someone in need, but God calls us to look beyond their rough exterior and see the pain hidden there.

Read Ephesians 4:2. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Notice the action words. What would your daily life look like if you took action and lived out this verse?

Is there someone in your life who is hurting? How can you ease their pain?

Is there someone in your life who is wounded? How can you help them heal?

Is there someone in your life who has fallen into some kind of pit? How can you help rescue them?

Make a specific plan to meet a specific need in someone’s life today. Then do something about it!

More from the Girlfriends

We are living in tough times. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our own problems that we fail to see the needs of others. Today, I am issuing a challenge to all of us, girlfriends! Look around. Find someone in need and take action. We are never more like our Father than when we love and serve someone in His name.

I would love to hear your story! How did God use you to meet a need in the life of someone? How did someone meet your need?

As I read this, I realized that this was something I needed to hear. As much as I want to blame my selfishness on not having proper God time because I don’t have a good community, or blaming it on the fact that I’m going through a lot of changes, or blaming it on the fact that I don’t have good friends to ask questions like that of, or blaming it on the fact that I don’t know anyone around here, or that I have a lot of other important things to do or that I want to wait until I am right with God again first… As much as I want to… I can’t. They’re all excuses. All of them. I’m simply being selfish with the gift God has given me. He has given me the gift of listening, and I’ve been avoiding using it. I’ve been selfish, and self-focused, and self-centered. I barely want to do the things that I already said I would, much less volunteer my precious time to help someone else in need. I’d rather complain about my life then listen to the goodness of God in someone else’s. How lame is that? There have been so many people that have come to my rescue, so many people that are willing to reach out to me, to pray for me, to talk to me when I need someone to listen, these people probably need me too, they probably need my prayers–but I don’t even know because I haven’t stopped to listen. Well, it’s about time I did.

So, if you need prayer or someone to talk to, please help me to get the focus off of myself and help me by helping me remember that there are other hurting people out there, and I promise you I will listen and I will pray for you. May God bless you and encourage you today.