Get in the Game- Reading God’s Word for Yourself

football players in blue jersey lined under grey white cloudy sky during sunset

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

It’s time for the big game. How are you going to experience it? Are you going to…

  • Skip it and read about it the next day online?
  • Have someone tell you about it?
  • Watch it on TV?
  • Purchase tickets so you can watch it live from the stands?

What would it be like to actually suit up and get in the game?

How we engage the big game can be a metaphor for our life. Are we going to sit on the sidelines or watch it from afar or step out on the field and engage?

I’ll be honest. The idea of suiting up for a football game is absolutely terrifying to me. I am a wee little person and not in the best of shape.

Then it hits me. How many times have I said that about engaging life itself?

  • I’m not built to do that.
  • I’m not a professional.
  • I’m not trained. I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m too frail. I’m too busy…
  • I don’t want to risk embarrassing myself.
  • I don’t want to hurt the efforts of the team.

The one that usually pops into my mind is, “I don’t want to get hurt.” Engagement goes hand in hand with risk.

We can sit on the sidelines of life. We can also sit on the sidelines of engaging God.

It’s easy to pick a devotional and read it, listen to a podcast, or say “Amen,” at the end of someone’s prayer. It’s easy to watch the preacher preaching, the teacher teaching, the worship musicians singing and playing their instruments for the glory of God. Thanks to online streaming, we don’t even have to change out of our PJ’s.

At their best, these beloved Christian practices draw us into the presence of God. Yet, so often, we are merely observing someone else’s encounter with God. We’re on the sidelines.

There’s nothing which can replace our own encounter with God.

As the old saying goes, “God doesn’t have grandchildren.” Our faith, our engagement must be our own.

You know this. It’s one thing to watch a couple marry. It’s another to be the bride or the groom.

The beauty of this life is encountering God ourselves. The miracle of it all is the Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior, wanting us and wanting us in the game.

There are so many ways this can happen. One of the primary ways is through reading the Word of God for yourself.  

There were years and years and years in my own Christian walk where I faithfully read devotion books. Devotion books are great. You read an inspiring testimony. You learn something new. But, they’re someone else’s encounter with God and God’s Word. They’re the view from the sidelines.

My faith changed radically when I started engaging the Word of God for myself. When I suited up and stepped onto the field and sought an encounter with God.

What do you need to read God’s Word for Yourself?

1. You need a plan. Click here for my post on the best Bible reading plan.

2. You need a designated place and time to read. Set an appointment with yourself and God and keep it.

3. You need a Bible Buddy, someone who is also reading the Scriptures. There’s a reason why Weight Watchers and AA works. Never underestimate the power of support and accountability.

4. Discover which type of engagement best works for you- listening to the scripture via an audio Bible, highlighting passages as you read, memorizing scripture, doodling or creating art based on what you read, etc.

I’m a writer, so journaling helps me engage God through God’s Word. My favorite Bible Journaling pattern is SOAP. The SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal is practiced by thousands of Christians. It was developed by Wayne Cordeiro, pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii.

S = Scripture
Read the Bible passage for the day. Copy the verse which catches your attention word for word into your journal.

O = Observation

  • What does this passage tell us about God?
  • Our world?
  • Ourselves?

A = Application
How will your life be different today because of what you have read?

  • Lessons to be learned
  • Examples to be followed or avoided
  • Promises to be claimed and enjoyed
  • A character trait of God revealed
  • Deeds to start, continue, or stop

P = Prayer
Include themes from your reading in your prayer time. I like to pray a keyword or theme from the passage over my prayer list. I keep my prayer list in the back of my journal.

I’d love to hear how you’re getting in the game. Leave a comment to encourage and inspire others. – Lisa <><

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Get in the Game- Reading God’s Word for Yourself © 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.

 

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 5 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 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. 5 reading days per week. There are days when I miss. If I use a 7 day a week plan I get behind and I get discouraged and I drop out.

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.

Prayers for the Start of the School Year

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Would you join me in praying for educators and students as they start a new school year? Below you’ll find a few prayers for your quiet time. Pick a few to pray each day between now and the end of the month. The prayers are inspired by a resource called Keys to the Kingdom by Prayer Point Press. May you and your community be blessed and grow in the wonder of God’s good earth and the hope of Rabbi Jesus. Lisa <><

Covering our Community in Prayer
August Emphasis: Education

Comforting One, bring peace to all those who are feeling anxious about the first days of school. Fill them with confidence and encouragement. Amen.

Father, every good and perfect gift comes from you. Open the windows of heaven in each school in our community. Supply what they need. Help students, teachers, and administrators to use your gifts to bless others and bring you glory. Amen.

Mighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, reveal your wisdom in every teaching moment. Draw students to you as they study the wonders of your world. May your truth be evident and rise above false voices. Amen.

Gracious God, thank you for those who serve as administrative assistants, food preparers, and maintenance workers. Their example inspires us to serve others with love and humility just as Jesus did. Show us how to do all things, big or small, as unto you. Amen.

Holy Spirit, our Companion, and Counselor reveal yourself to school social workers and guidance counselors, especially when they are working with students. Give them supernatural wisdom and insight. Use them to enlighten, encourage, and confirm your purpose in young lives. Amen.

Jesus our Savior, raise up Godly role models in our schools. Give them the courage to live both humbly and boldly for you. Empower them to be wholesome examples in speech, life, faith, and purity. Let their light shine for you. Amen.

Creative One, thank you for those who sacrifice their time to help with extracurricular activities. Bless them with joy and enthusiasm. Help them see good and lasting fruit from their labor. Amen.

Loving God, your joy is our strength. Fill classrooms and administrative offices with delight and hope. Help educators, students and parents to see you at work and to give you glory. Replace fatigue, frustration, and fear with joy. Amen.

Welcoming One, help every student to feel that they belong- that they are precious and important to others and to you. Protect them from teasing, isolation, bullying, discrimination, and despair. Fill them with truth and hope. Amen.

Holy Spirit, our Guide, and Guardian thank you for bus drivers, crossing guards, and police officers who work so hard to keep students safe. Protect students as they travel to and from school, field trips, and other events. Place an extra hand of protection on student drivers. Amen.

Prince of Peace, cover every school campus with your shalom. Make them safe sanctuaries of learning and growth. Guard hearts, minds, and bodies against every type of evil. Bring an end to bullying, abuse, discrimination, prejudice, and violence. Build bridges across dividing lines. Amen.

Heavenly Father, give young people a healthy attitude toward competition and achievement. Keep them from unhealthy pride, perfectionism, and from making success an idol. Amen.

Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Show students the way out when they are tempted. Keep them far from pressures which tempt them to cheat in order to get ahead. Keep them far from compromising integrity or purity in order to fit in. Give them a strong No! to sin and a resounding Yes! to wholeness and holiness. Amen.

God of the nations, thank you for the great gift of education. Thank you for making us a thinking people and for the blessings of curiosity and discovery. Bless and help developing nations to provide education for their people. Help us never to take education for granted. Amen.

Loving God, bless every home in our community.
Bring peace where there is anxiety.
Provision where there is need
Wisdom where there is confusion
Understanding where there is anger
Freedom where there is addiction
Recovery where there is illness
Reconciliation where there is division
Shalom where there is brutality
Unity where there is prejudice
Hope where there is despair
Faith where there is none

Thank you for your help and healing power
Thank you for your presence and salvation
We need you Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Amen.

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit (Galatians 5)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 5 of 5: Pour Out Your Fruit
Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 13-14, 16-25 
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is the Fruit of the Spirit?

  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • 9 virtues (character traits) which the Holy Spirit grows in our lives
  • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Who wants more of this in their life? We all do. If you had to pick one to have more of in your life, which would you pick? (I want patience. Give me patience now!)

They are all good like a good piece of fruit. They are good gifts from God.

God expects fruit in our lives. They are the natural progression of being a follower of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in our life. Growth in grace. Being alive and multiplying. Being rooted and grounded in Christ.

This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. The Spirit abides with us and in us. This is the natural fruit from believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving.

It’s very simple: A follower of Christ should look and act differently than someone yet to believe.

Where’s the fruit? Do we look all that different?

  • Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?
  • Where are the bodies, families, and unjust systems healed for the Glory of God
  • Where are the leaders leading out of Godly wisdom and humility?
  • Where are the abused, angry, and addicted rejoicing in Christ’s freedom?

There is fruit my friends, but too often we don’t tell anyone about it. We hide it. We’re afraid of bragging, being weird, we’re shy.

Testimonies of Grace Stimson, Alida Noel Provence, and Pam Rader. 

The Holy Spirit is at work. There is fruit. It’s about having eyes to see it. It’s about wanting it. The Spirit is never forced upon us.

Galatians 5 is all about freedom.

Galatians 5:1
For freedom, Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

  • Freedom from a false understanding of the law which lays a heavy burden on us
  • Purpose of the Law was to show us our need of a Savior- we can’t fulfill the law in our own strength
  • Good gift of the law was twisted into a set of rules – follow the rules you’ll earn God’s love and salvation
  • How are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your own doing, not of works and rules (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Galatians 5:13-14
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • Wide swing to another end of the spectrum in understanding freedom in Christ
  • Christ has set me free so I can do whatever I want
  • No- our freedom is so we can love and serve one another

In true freedom, we live by the Spirit not the law, not rules
In true freedom, we are guided by the Spirit not our fleshy selfishness or achieving

Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV
16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:

  • a “sin list” of 15 actions
  • fornication, impurity, licentiousness (misuse of the good gift of sex)
  • idolatry, sorcery (playing God)
  • Enmities (hostility), strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy
    • Heart of peace sees people as people
    • heart of war sees people as objects, obstacles to be overcome or fixed, projects, problems, a means to an end. People not as people
  • drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (misuse of the good gift of celebration)

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

tug of war

Tug Of War Battle: Flesh vs. Spirit, Heart of War vs. Heart of Peace, Old Life without Christ vs. New Life with Christ. Just like in Tug of War, there will be a surrender. Will you surrender to the flesh or will you surrender to the Spirit? Do you want the Fruit of the Spirit or do you want the crazyville of the sin list?

The Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence we’ve surrendered to the Spirit, that we’re finding true freedom in Christ.

There is an awful, scary warning in the middle of this passage. (v. 21) If you act like the sin list you won’t inherit the Kingdom. But I still get angry… I still envy… I want patience NOW… I don’t have self-control over chocolate, or something else.

We’re awakening and becoming self-aware. The warning is serious, we take it seriously, so we get to work. I’ll work on my patience.

Did you hear the W word? I’ll work on being more patient and there we are trapped again. We turn the list of the Fruit of the Spirit into a new set of laws which will bind us. We work hard to achieve them in our own strength.

Truth: We can’t create the Fruit of the Spirit. All we do is surrender to it. 

We give ourselves grace because it takes a long time to bear fruit. If you were to plant a fruit tree, how long would it take before it bore fruit? If you were to plant seeds, how long would it take? The Holy Spirit is the seed.

John 15:4
Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

We abide. Every day we open ourselves to the Spirit. Grow fruit in me. It’s that simple.

An apple tree doesn’t have to focus and work really hard to produce apples. It’s the natural result of seed meeting soil, sun, water.

The Holy Spirit is the seed.  The Spirit meets the soil of our soul. It’s watered by our openness and trust, prayer, scripture, community, seeking, surrender.

Give yourself grace. Tell someone about the fruit.

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Recommended Resource- Pray As You Go

Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.

Here’s where it can be problematic:

  • We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
  • Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
  • Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
  • We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.

So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.

It’s no wonder we struggle.

For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go. 

pray as you goPray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered six days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.

  • Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
  • A Scripture is read
  • Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
  • The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing

The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s Word
  • grow in your relationship with God

How I find Pray as You Go helpful 

  • Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
  • The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
  • The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
  • I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
  • It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
  • I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
  • After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling

I’d love to hear from you! 

  • Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
  • What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
  • How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?

May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><

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Recommendation- Pray As You Go © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why I Use 4 Journals Instead of 1

My spiritual life grew richer and deeper thanks to the practice of spiritual journaling. When I first started, I used to put everything in one journal- some reflections on a scripture next to memories from a trip next to notes from a lecture next to a prayer next to a brain dump for an upcoming project. It was a mess and I had trouble finding the treasures when I needed them again.

This year, I made a change- dividing my writing needs into four journals. It’s been a huge improvement. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.

For most of my journaling, I use inexpensive, college-ruled composition books. I need a place to write and they serve that purpose. Three of my four journals are composition books. I leave a page or two at the beginning of each for a table of contents.

  1. A journal for general note taking, project planning, and brainstorming
  2. A journal for morning devotions, prayers, and evening reflection
  3. A journal to record memories from my travels

My fourth journal is a Clever Fox Planner. I wanted to try bullet journaling for scheduling appointments, to do lists, resource lists, etc. The Clever Fox Planner is a hybrid with predesigned spreads at the front (such as goal setting, monthly calendars, and weekly scheduling) and standard bullet journal pages at the back. I like the quality of this planner, especially the thick pages and that it lays flat when open. It’s working well for me in conjunction with my digital Google calendar. (not an affiliate link, not a sponsored review)

I’d love to hear from you!

  • What journals do you keep?
  • What topics do you writing about?
  • Do you have a favorite planner or journal? What do you like about it?

May the Lord bless you and reveal many things to you through your journaling.
– Lisa <><

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Why I Use 4 Journals Instead of 1 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Praying the Scriptures: Ephesians 3

bible hold handsMany years ago someone introduced me to the idea of using a scripture reading as a jumping off point for prayer. I wish I could remember who to thank!

This practice changed the way I engage with scripture. Reading scripture became more alive as I paid more attention to the images and word choices and feelings being expressed. I could hear it more clearly as I used the words to pray.

Praying the scripture also deepened my prayer life. It stretched the content of my prayers. It gave my prayers more variety and color. Most importantly, it gave me permission to speak more honestly about situations and feelings. The scriptures gave me words when I had none to offer.

The easiest way to start this practice is by inserting names into a prayer found in the scriptures. So let’s try it with Ephesians 3:16-21. We’ll be using The Voice Translation because the wording is both beautiful and approachable.

Praying Ephesians 3:16-21
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________.

Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart.

May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root.

May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced.

God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being.

Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

Try praying this prayer daily for several weeks. Each week include persons from a different group of people to bless. Here are some ideas.

  • those you love
  • your classmates or co-workers
  • those yet to believe
  • those with power, influence, or authority
  • those who feel desperate or hopeless
  • those who feel targeted or unfairly judged
  • those who are grieving or suffering

What group would you add? What would be another great scripture for inserting names?

I look forward to hearing from you! – Lisa <><

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Praying the Scripture: Ephesians 3 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.