When the Spirit Chases You With the Message You Need to Hear

Freedom - A sculpture by Zenos Frudakis

Freedom by Zenos Frudakis

Themes of slavery and freedom keep chasing me this Lenten season.

The message seems to come from random places, but I’m confident this isn’t random. I trust the Holy Spirit is working all of this together for my good. There’s something I need to know and I need to know it now.

First, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 came up in my Scripture Reading Plan
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

This got me thinking about shrouds and shackles and slavery. How am I bound? It also got me thinking about the Spirit’s promise of seeing clearly and freedom.

In my morning sacred reading, I’m making my way through Jesus, a Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ. It’s glorious and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A couple of days after the Corinthians passage, my book reading discusses the raising of Lazarus from John 11. More shrouds and shackles! Lazarus is wrapped up like a mummy. The first scripture talked about slavery to condemnation and the law. Now it’s expanded to include slavery to sin and death.

And again the Good News- New Life, Resurrection, and Freedom in Christ! Unbind him!

Selections from John 11:34-44
34 Jesus said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” … 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. … 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

soar by scott erickson

Soar by Scott Erickson

Then came the scriptures associated with Sunday’s sermon on God freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. We serve a God who saves, a God who delivers us from shackles and shame and sin and death. That is our God!

Check out this promise from Exodus 16:6-7. In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord. 

Then this picture came my way. Soar by Scott Erickson. Isn’t it fantastic! All of his work is fresh and powerful.

This piece says to me, “Freedom in the Spirit.” I love the color, the movement, the joy, the flow, the overshadowing companionship.

This reminds me of what my friend Jenny Gehman said the Spirit told her about her word for the year, SOAR. The Spirit said to her, “SOAR- Sweetheart, Open And Rise.”

grit and virtue kimberly mead freedomThen this quote from Kimberly Mead via the great folks at Grit and Virtue. In freedom there is rest. Slaves don’t rest. Sabbath rest, Soul rest, is the fruit of freedom.

So here I am, praying for eyes to see and ears to hear as the Spirit continues to reveal what this means for me. What might all this mean for you, dear one? – Lisa <><

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When the Spirit Chases You With a Message You Need to Hear
© 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, revlisad.com)
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- Stillness (Psalm 46)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 5 of 5: Stillness
Scriptures: Psalm 46
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/23/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message.

From Screens to Stillness: Challenge of the Screens, a selection from Becky Eldredge’s terrific blog
Our world drastically changed on January 9, 2007. What happened on this date? Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, stood at a press conference and announced that Apple had reinvented the phone. He said it had software for everything, the world’s best media player, the world’s best telephone, and the world’s best way to get on the web, and in addition to that, it had a camera.

Just a few months prior to this announcement in January 2007, Facebook opened its doors to all above the age of thirteen in September 2006. Later in 2007, Twitter began. Google launched the Android phone in 2007 as well. Amazon came out with the Kindle. Mobile traffic drastically increased- 100,000% from 2007 to 2014.

So much changed in a short amount of time about how we communicate, how we interact, and how we go about building relationships. An article I read once in Forbes magazine stated that on average we get 121 emails a day, and we check our phones every twelve minutes. That’s over 80 times a day! The article said that for every interruption it takes us fifteen minutes to refocus. Our brains are exhausted from continually pulling in and out of focus all day….

While there is a gift to technology, the advent of the handheld screen is impacting our bodies, our health, our creativity, our mental health, and so much more. As I follow business literature I am seeing more and more being written about the value of pausing, of silence, and of being still. Every time I read a new book or article about this, I chuckle. The “medicine” they are offering people is the tried and true contemplative prayer practices our Christian faith has lauded for hundreds of years. It’s the medicine people taught me these past two decades, and I passionately want to share with others. I believe people are longing to live a different way and to have tools to help them combat the busyness and embrace the gift of stillness and silence.

I believe this, too. In the midst of trouble, stress, need, and a big pile of work, my last instinct is to be still. God invites me to cultivate stillness as my first instinct.

I’m learning how to do this and I hope you are learning right along with me. Since we began this sermon series, I established a new morning rhythm of Sacred Reading, Scripture, and Stillness. Already it’s making a huge difference.

I am different on the days I practice my morning rhythm than when I don’t. It’s simple. It’s classically Christian. It is Biblical and available for all of us.

Psalm 46:10-11
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge

Definition of Contemplative Prayer by Becky Eldredge, From Screens to Stillness: Embracing Silence and Stillness in the Day-to-Day
Contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition is about being still and silent with someone-God. We do not enter silence, stillness, and solitude alone. We go to be with someone.

For me, stillness is about recognizing the presence of God who is already there. This is what makes our practice of stillness different than practices outside the Christian tradition. Other practices seek answers within a person’s own self or seek to connect to larger energies or “universe.”

We seek the person and presence of God. We become still enough to realize the Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is not angry or distant but is our refuge.

Jennifer Gehman’s Testimony. Find Jenny at www.jennygehman.com
I’m part of an online group of Christian authors know as Bookwifery. We meet for an hour on Fridays to encourage one another, resource one another and pray for one another.

Jenny and her family have been praying about a major life change for her family- moving to a new city and a new job. Her word for the year is SOAR, yet all she could visualize was an eagle protecting its young. The wings folded over, wrapped around.

It makes sense. She cares for an adult child with special needs. She also has a strong hospitality calling, so she’s constantly welcoming people into her home.

She kept going to God in stillness. The Holy Host as she describes God. This past week this is what she heard- SOAR, Sweetheart, open and rise.

Do you hear the invitation in that? The affirmation. Not condemnation or mocking. An invitation to a new adventure, a new perspective, a bigger picture. They have decided to move and take on the new job.

There are a zillion questions yet to be answered, yet as she told the story her face lit up. She was almost giggling giddy. We all felt the lift, the soar of it.

It all came from stillness. This is for all of us.

Psalm 46
God’s Defense of His City and People. To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

Selah-(See-lah), it’s like breath. We’re not sure exactly what it means, but we suspect it means “stop and listen.” Stop and listen to the instruments? Stop and listen in the silence? Whatever it was, it was “stop and listen to God and let this promise sink in.”

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Three times the Psalmist reminds us that God is our refuge and strength. (Psalm 46:1, 7, and 11) Our Deliverer. Our Savior.⁠

Three times the Psalmist reminds us God is near. A very present help- well proved.⁠

Knowing this we can be still and know God is God⁠
I AM, exalted among the nations⁠
I AM, exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10)⁠

Knowing this we can be still⁠
⁠There’s no need to self-medicate with busyness and distraction
There’s no need to hustle for our self-worth or salvation
⁠There’s no need to fear our dependence on God
⁠There’s no need to fear what might come up in the stillness

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Knowing this about God brings us to stillness and brings us stillness.

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Sermon- Stillness © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why I Listen to the Scriptures as I Read Them

adult beautiful blur casual

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I’m in a Bible study right now which asks me to read multiple chapters of the Bible per week. To help me finish the work, I began listening to a recording of the passages I was to read. It started as a practical solution but has become a favorite way to read the Scriptures.

The benefits I found:

1. Pacing
A great recording moves through the Scriptures at a steady pace. I better understand the grand sweep of the passages. It also keeps me from getting distracted or sleepy.

2. Pronunciation 
The reader knows how to pronounce every difficult name and location so I learn how to pronounce them as well.

3. Enjoyment
Listening to a gifted reader is delightful. It reminds me of being read to as a child. It makes reading the Scriptures feel communal rather than lonely.

My favorite Scripture recording is available free of charge through BibleGateway.com.

  • Go to their site or app
  • At the top of the page type in the Scripture you want to read
  • Next to the Scripture, change the translation to New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
  • Press search. It will take you to the Scripture.
  • Just above the Scripture, you’ll see several options including sharing or printing the Scripture. To listen to the Scripture, click the audio icon on the far right. It’s that simple.

This translation is read by celebrated actor Sir David Suchet. His reading style is simple, soulful, and engaging.

Blessed reading!

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Why I Listen to the Scriptures as I Read Them
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Four Tips for Hearing God Speak to You Through the Scriptures

speak lord listening

Do have trouble hearing God speak to you through the scriptures? Have you ever read the Bible and the words feel distant- like they were meant for another person in another time?

Hear this Good News-

  • You’re not alone. Many struggle with this.
  • You’re not slow. It takes time and practice.
  • You’re not getting the silent treatment from God for whatever reason you’ve invented. God is already reaching out to you. God already knows you, loves you, and yearns for a relationship with you. God wants to speak to you and with you through the scriptures.

On to the tips!

1. Use a modern translation
The King James Version is beloved and beautiful, but its like reading Shakespeare. It’s a challenge. Try using a modern translation like the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or my new modern favorite, The Voice.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
This may seem obvious, but its a gift often left unopened. God wants to be heard and is ready to help.

3. Eliminate distractions
Find a quiet place. Read the passage slowly, prayerfully, out loud, three times.

4. Insert your name into a scripture
Many passages are well suited for this. You simply replace some nouns with a blank for inserting a name.

Let’s try it with John 3:16-17. Read the passage. Now read it again inserting your name into the blanks. How did the experience change?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17, NRSV

For God so loved __________ that he gave his only Son, so that __________ who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn __________, but in order that __________ might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17, NRSV

Now let’s try inserting your name into a longer passage, Psalm 23, NKJV.

Psalm 23
The Lord is __________ shepherd
_________ shall not want
He makes __________ to lie down in green pastures
He leads __________ beside the still waters
He restores __________ soul
He leads __________ in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake

Yea, though __________ walks through the valley of the shadow of death,
__________will fear no evil
For You are with __________
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort __________

You prepare a table before __________ in the presence of __________ enemies
You anoint __________ head with oil
__________ cup runs over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow __________
All the days of __________ life
And __________ will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever

BONUS- You can also insert the names of other persons as a way of blessing them, encouraging them, or praying for them.

What other scriptures would be great for inserting a name?
What other tips do you have for hearing God speak to you?

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Four Tips for Hearing God Speak to You Through the Scriptures
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect Bible reading plan.

  1. Not too much reading per day, not too little
  2. Easy enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a seasoned saint
  3. Five days per week so you can catch up if you miss a day or two.

The search did not bear fruit; it only delayed me reading the Bible at all. (Excellence is a virtue. Perfectionism is its evil, twisted shadow-side.)

Here’s the truth- There is no perfect reading plan.

The important thing is to just read, to intentionally and regularly seek God through God’s Word.

It’s essential. This is how we learn what God’s voice sounds like, who God is, who we are, and what God desires for us. This is how we hear God speak into our lives day after day after day.

So, let’s get reading. 

If you have a favorite Bible Reading Plan great! Use it!

If not, consider using my favorite plan – the Five Day Bible Reading Plan by the good folks at Lower Lights Publications.

Here’s why I think it’s the best.
1. It’s free.

2. They update the reading schedule dates for each new year, but the reading plan itself stays the same.

3. It’s easy to print and slip it into your Bible or journal. (8.5 X 11, folded in half) You could even paste it into a planner or hole-punch it for your planner.

4. There are boxes to check next to each day’s reading assignment and each week’s assignment. (a built-in habit tracker)

5. You can start anytime during the year.

6. It’s designed with grace. There are weeks when I miss a reading day. If I use a 7-day a week plan I get behind and I get discouraged and I drop out. A 5-day reading plan leaves room to catch up and to rest.

7. It’s flexible. Do all the suggested readings and you’ll read through the entire Bible in a year. Or choose just the Old Testament readings or just the New Testament readings. Or choose the Old or New Testament plus the Psalms.

8. In this plan, you often read straight through an entire book of the Bible. There are some exceptions.

9. Big bonus- you read the Bible in chronological order rather than book order. This opens your eyes to the grand sweep of the Biblical narrative. It’s especially helpful to read the overlapping material in 1 2 Samuel, 1 2 Kings, and 1 2 Chronicles side by side. Plus, you will read one of the Gospels in each quarter of the year.

Well, there you have it, the best Bible reading plan I’ve found. I’d love to hear how it works for you.- Lisa <><

Bonus: Check out Steve Harper’s post entitled A Transforming Use of Scripture for insights on our motivation in approaching the Scriptures and the process God uses through Scripture to make us new.

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Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.