Archive for January 15th, 2011

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:6

Okay, so I suck (but in a joyful way).  I realized that the timing of my invitation for you to join me in daily Bible reading is not quite fair to you.  I began reading January 1st, so I’m already 2 weeks into the reading schedule.  (I’ll address the reading schedule at the end of this post.)  I’ve been enjoying meditating on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount the last few weeks.  If you have a chance to read it over the weekend – found in Matthew, chapters 3-7 – I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well.

The passage I quoted above, from the Sermon on the Mount, has been a central part of my journey of faith over the last 10 years.  Those who knew me before then would probably acknowledge that I lived a very public life – singing, organizing events, and in front of people a lot.  These things fulfilled me for a long time, but ceased to satisfy as my hunger for God began to grow.  While reading a book that described how each time God had an encounter with man in the Old Testament he gave him a new name (i.e. Abraham, Jacob), I cried out to God that I wanted a new name.  There, on the page, God drew my eyes to two words: ability and availability.  He said that my former name was “ability.”  People knew me as “the singer,” or “the event planner,” or “the good student” – my abilities.  My new name was to be “availability.”  Instead of focusing on outward activities, God began calling me to a life of devotion in secret, dedicated to seeking only His reward and being available for His use, whether in public or private.  Now here is how I know God has a cheesy sense of humor: the difference between “ability” and “availability” is “a vail” – my literal new last name.  Not only did God give me a new name to symbolize my new beginning, he customized it for me!

As I began to focus on my inward walk with Christ, spending less time in outward ministry and more time in God’s Word and prayer, I faced a crisis.  You see, when I was at the tender age of 8, the demon of insecurity became my BFF.  When you have a voice in your head that has been at home there for most of your life, it’s hard to recognize it without the help of the Holy Spirit.  My activities and involvement at church had always helped to prop up my self-esteem, but I relied on the affirmation of others to keep the monster at bay.  If you suffer from insecurity, nothing you do is ever enough, so you add more and more to your schedule to prove to the demon that you’re good enough, smart enough, and doggonit, people like you.  But you never believe it.  How could you, if your worth is based on a warped perception of yourself as seen through the broken mirror of other people’s evaluations?

But in this secret life of prayer and devotion, the only reward is from the Father.  He began to gently ask me, “Is my reward enough for you?  Can you trust me enough to find your worth and value in simply being my child?”  Oh, how my heart aches as I write this, imagining how it must have hurt my Heavenly Father every time my life’s choices answered that question, “You know I love you, Lord, but I love the praise of people more.”  I was a slave to insecurity, and allowed it to be my master for 25 years, but as I spent less time doing things for God and more time reading the truth in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit began to break through.  In John chapter 10, Jesus talks about being the “good shepherd” whose sheep follow him because they know his voice.

I read the Bible daily because it is how I know the Good Shepherd’s voice. The more I read and learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, the more I’m aware when a voice is counterfeit.  When I finally realized that the voice in my head from childhood that told me, “You’ll never be good enough,” was counter to God’s Word, I began to pray for God to deliver me from slavery to it.  I believe God can instantly deliver us from bondage.  However, God chose to deliver me by teaching me how to wield the “sword of the Spirit,” which is the Word of God, in spiritual battle.  The Holy Spirit was faithful to remind me of the scriptures I had learned in secret, and helped me to say, “No!” to the lies.  The enemy, however, did not want to lose his grip over my life, and took one last stand that nearly destroyed me.  But there is power in God’s Word, and the enemy is powerless to stand up under it.  When we declare that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), we silence the accuser by reminding him that he is not the judge – God is.  The penalty for our sin has already been paid through the blood of Christ, and “at the name of Jesus, EVERY knee shall bow in heaven and on earth AND UNDER THE EARTH” (Phil. 2:10).  “Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 15:57).  And by the grace of God, I am free!

So much of my life was wasted in fear, but God’s perfect love casts out all fear and replaces it with – you guessed it – joy!  I am already praying for those who chose to join me this year in daily Bible reading, that “out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).  I pray that he will fill you with joy!

If you want to read along with me, here is the reading schedule.  If you don’t mind beginning a few chapters into Matthew and Romans, feel free to jump in on Sunday.  However, if you want to start at the beginning of these books and do a little weekend reading to catch up (perhaps, by bringing your Bible to church and skimming the passages during the choir song?), here is what I will have read by Sunday:

  • Matthew, chapters 1-7 (chapters 1-2 are about the birth of Jesus, which you’ve probably already read recently)
  • Romans, chapters 1-5
  • Proverbs 1-3:18

Starting Sunday, January 16, here is the daily reading schedule for next week:

  • Sunday – Matthew 8:1-17; Romans 6:1-14; Proverbs 3:19-20
  • Monday – Matthew 8:18-22; Romans 6:15-23; Proverbs 3:21-26
  • Tuesday – Matthew 8:23-34; Romans 7:1-6; Proverbs 3:27-32
  • Wednesday – Matthew 9:1-8; Romans 7:7-13; Proverbs 3:33-35
  • Thursday – Matthew 9:9-13; Romans 7:14-25; Proverbs 4:1-6
  • Friday – Matthew 9:14-17; Romans 8:1-8; Proverbs 4:7-10
  • Saturday – Matthew 9:18-26; Romans 8:9-17; Proverbs 4:11-13

I hope you’ll join me on this joyful journey through God’s Word.  I can’t wait to hear what God is teaching you!

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