Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dig. Plant. Water. (Part 2)

They say (I am not sure who “they” are, but anyway…) that when you have done something 21 times, it becomes a habit.
I, therefore, have concluded that I, Julie McNeely, have a lot of habits!
Some good, some…..not.
For instance…(and this is by no means an exhaustive list)
1. I pick my fingernails with my teeth when I am stressed. I used to bite them, so at least this habit has scaled back to intermittent “picking”.
2. I put my clothes at the end of the bed when taking them off rather than putting them where they need to go.
3. I squish my bottom lip or chin between my thumb and fingers when I am in deep thought.
4. I buckle my seatbelt every time I sit down in the seat of my car, even if I am only moving a foot.
5. When my sunglasses come off my face, they go on top of my head.
6. When I sit, I cross my legs in some shape, form or fashion.
7. When I put my knee braces on to go workout, I put on my left, then my right.
8. I go workout at least 4-5 times a week.
9. I take vitamins every morning before I go workout.
10. I say “like” , “or whatever” , and “ya know” in coversation waaaaaaaay too much.

Bad habits seem to form SO quickly, but good ones….well-those 21 times often feel like 21 YEARS! Right?
So of course, we should expect that when it comes to getting in God’s Word, our enemy is not going to make this seem easy.
As a matter of fact, a slew of excuses and eye rolls probably just bombarded your well intended spirit.
But hang on. Because while many habits you pursue may not produce the results or rewards that you had hoped for, choosing to create the habit of personally and consistently getting into God’s Word and storing it up in your heart, mind and spirit will ALWAYS give you a phenomenal return!

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Do I feel like I have it all together and know what I am doing when it comes to searching God’s Word?
Does it stop me from rolling up my sleeves and getting in there?
Listen, if you were starving, would you not eat simply because you had not been given the title “Iron Chef”?
Would you just sit around and wait for someone to throw the food you need on your plate or even stick it in your mouth?
The last time I checked, the only people that wait for someone to stick food in their mouths are BABIES.
Ouch, I know.
It’s time to get fed by going to the spiritual kitchen and saying, “Daddy, my spirit needs food. I am hungry! Show me what to eat, how to eat it.” And guess what? He will provide!

So it is time to put on your big kid britches and allow the Holy Spirit to have a one on one conversation with you through the His Word.

Hebrews 6:1 (The Message)

"So come on, let's leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ..."

You, yes YOU CAN do this!
It's not about getting it perfect or doing it just like someone else.
If something about your effort didn't tickle your fancy, then change things up.
The Holy Spirit will lead you along the way

Let’s cover some basics that will be sure to help as you endeavor to DIG, PLANT, WATER:
1. DIG: In order to DIG, get a Bible you love. If aesthetics are a big thing for you, then get a pretty or handsome Bible that appeals to you! If you like a certain version, then make sure you have that one to open each time you sit down. The point is…get or get rid of anything that you could use as an excuse to NOT open the Word.
2. PLANT: If you want to plant, get a journal. Ok for all of you- especially men- who just went, “Ugh!” …hear me out. This is not for you to win the Pulitzer Prize, this is simply for you to focus on the Lord. When you write down what He is showing you, you are planting that truth in your life, in your heart, in your mind. When you write a prayer to Him, it will focus your heart and mind in a new way. Don’t we all write down things we want to remember or that are important to us? Then why in the world wouldn’t we write down what God is doing in our life? Journal, computer, notebook, etc…just WRITE. Before long, it will be the unquestionable companion to your Bible.
3. WATER: To nourish that planting, get note cards/index cards. Blank, lined, white, color, spiral bound, binder….the choice is yours.

Now this next part may sound crazy, so stay with me…….open your Bible.
Yep, somewhere between the covers, find a page.
Is there a certain book of the Bible that is coming to mind? Go there and search through various chapters. Something will stick out to you.
Have something that is on your heart? Think of a keyword and then go to the back of the Bible to the part marked “concordance” and find that word. Look through some of the verses listed under that word.
Have a daily devotional that you read? Open to the scripture found there and explore from there.
The key is to not dismiss it when something seems to be highlighted in your spirit as you read. Even if you are not sure why at first, stop and pay attention to what is in front of you.
Read it again and again.
Look at the scripture notes on that verse at the bottom of the page.
Read any verses that are cross referenced with that verse.
Read the surrounding passages.

Next, write down the verse in your journal. I always write the date as well, so I can look back at when the Lord led me to that verse.
Then, simply write what that verse means to you or how it applies to your life and/or situation.
You may even want to write any prayer that you have in regard to how you desire to see this verse come alive in your life! Share your heart with the Lord and willingly deepen your intimacy with Him!

(I will go into my personal Bible study method/appraoch in more detail in another blog post. Right now we are just focusing on how to dig in and find verses to apply and memorize. Eventually, as the habit grows, the two will become one.)

Now, don’t just close everything and walk away!
You want to claim this truth that the Lord has given to replace the lie in your life; claim the life that He has given to replace the death!
But obviously, you can’t walk around all day with your Bible and journal open before you.
So how can you WATER?
Write the verse down on an index card and place it anywhere your eyes will be during the day!
Put it on your dash, on your bathroom mirror, inside your briefcase, on your doorframes, on your door, inside your purse/wallet, in your pocket, on your cubicle/desk, above the baby’s changing table, the refrigerator door…and the list goes on.
Even write it on your hand!
If you choose to write them on spiral bound index cards or ones in a binder, keep it with you and flip through it during the day so you can claim them every chance you get!

In more detail, this is how the WATERing looks in my life…
About 8 years ago, my Big Sissy blessed me with what she called a “Watering Can”(thank you Shay!).
It is a binder for index cards that had sections for me, my children, marriage, etc. where I could write and place verses to claim/believe for those particular areas of my life.
Since that time, I have added many index cards!
For me, I use my Watering Can more for the long range, where I write promises I continually want to claim over these areas.
For the needs that arise and change week to week, day to day, I also keep spiral bound index cards or individual cards on which I write verses that apply to those specific things I am currently dealing with in my life.
For example, if I am feeling inadequate at what the Lord is asking me to do, I might write out
1 Thessalonians 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

We all go through different seasons of our lives, where we deal with some things more intensely than others and we need God’s truth in our face to guide us as often as possible. Or there may be certain things that we know are always weak areas /areas the enemy tries to attack.
For the different seasons and areas of weakness, I sit down and DIG for verses in the Word. Then I place them in strategic places in my home.
If I am having trouble with self esteem, I will be sure to place a Truth right on my mirror where I know the paralyzing lies will pop into my head.
If I am having trouble sleeping soundly, I will place a verse about God assuring my rest right beside my bed.
If I am snapping at my kids while we are having school, I will place a verse about guarding my tongue in the school room in plain view!
And I could go on and on…
I have verses all over my house in what might seem like crazy places, but it works!

Another thing I do is to put useless time to work.
Let me explain…
Put verses you want to memorize in front of the toilet!(No further explanation on that one…)
If you wash dishes, keep small plastic frame behind the sink where you can change out verses.
When I work out, I choose a verse before I go-sometimes new, sometimes a more familiar one- to recite during my workout. I yell it, close my eyes and say it over and over, whatever I need to do to help me get through that last rep!
I put verses on the dash of my car to read at a red light or other such moments.
The verses on my bathroom mirror I read while I brush my teeth, dry my hair, etc. Just think how much time that ends up being in a week!

I am sure you can think of “dead” time in your day that you can turn into “life” by placing God’s word in it!
Don't feel hopeless and heap on condemnation because you do nothing.
Just do something.

So if you ever wonder why I carry that big ole Bible bag, why I write so feverishly in my journal, or why I keep pulling out index cards, it’s all because I am choosing to DIG, PLANT, and WATER.
I am hungry.
I am thirsty.
I am nowhere near the place I could be with Jesus and I just can’t get enough of Him.
My walk with Him is never perfect, so THANK YOU LORD FOR YOUR GRACE! :)
This is simply a glimpse at some of the things I do in an attempt to get more of Him and less of me.

What will YOU do?

Deuteronomy 6: 5-9
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dig. Plant. Water. (Part 1)

The Holy Bible. God's Word. The Word. Scripture.
It is more than what our human blabbering could ever accurately describe or emphasize to the appropriate degree.

Water for our thirst.
Food for our soul.
Rest for our labor.
Wisdom for our ignorance.
No fail GPS for our directionally deprived selves.
Spirit for our flesh.
Life for our death.

And yet, we all too easily dismiss the very source from which we can glean the answers to all the many questions we wade, swim, flail and even drown in.

I remember the time when I became so overwhelmed with the desire to know God more, yet just couldn't seem to figure out how to get there. I read more books, listened to more sermons, volunteered for more Kingdom driven activities, listened to Christian music, even wrote in my journal and prayed more.
All the while the answer I needed lie in the then silvery lined pages of navy bonded leather that I picked up every Sunday and intermittently during the week.

I never took time to HIDE His Word in my heart.
I never pondered on the truths that He revealed within His Word.

But the time came when I realized that nobody else could have my relationship with Jesus for me.

A quote I read recently expressed it this way:
"There are no second-hand meaningful relationships."

Sadly, so many have settled for being acquaintances with Jesus, rather than entering into the passionate love relationship that He died to have with you.

Once I let this truth penetrate my heart, the breath that I took in my spirit was deeper than any I had ever taken before...the air was pure, refreshing, invigorating...and I had to have more!

And I knew the place I had to go to know Him more, to read His words, to hear His voice, to see His way, to learn His character, to discover His promises for find TRUTH.....


But just like with any deep, meaningful relationship, it is not something you slap at and skim over. You have to intentionally get into the Bible and read and study and ponder on what He places before you there!

I believe one of the greatest strongholds that enemy has on Believers is convincing them that God's Word is intimidating and not understandable for them personally.
As a result, they conclude they shouldn't even bother because they won't get anything out of it anyway.

We get stuck on the HOW and never get to the DO: a powerless purgatory!

Satan knows the power of Scripture...Jesus used it to defeat him in the wilderness! Just look in Matthew 4 and Luke 4!
No wonder the enemy wants to keep it out of our hands!

But more critically, the enemy wants to keep it out of our hearts, minds and spirits and ultimately, our mouths.

So when was the last time the Truths that lie in that Bible in your hand/on your shelf/in your Bible bag/on your ipod/etc. made its way into your heart, mind, spirit-and as a result found its way back out your mouth?

We must be resolved as Believers to store up His Word in our hearts!
But in order to do that you have to get in His Word and take hold of what He gives you there!

A dear friend of mine recently began an effort to increase the awareness for what I believe is a great need we have as Believers to do just that: hide God's Word in our hearts- in particular focusing on memorizing scripture.
So many of us know in our head we need to do it and we may even want to do it...but I realized, that so many ask me for detail about how to memorize scripture yet never embrace it.
So, maybe we need to ask this question first: Why memorize scripture?

If you aren't convinced of WHY then you will never carry out the HOW.

Matthew 12:34 says, "For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."

If we say we are children of the One True God, shouldn't we know our Father's heart?
Shouldn't we sound like, speak like, think like, act like, react like our Father?
Shouldn't HE be what flows out of our mouths?

Why guess what He would say? Just get in His Word and actually SAY exactly what He has said, what he is saying, and what He will say!
That is the power and confidence we have in the Word.

His Word is POWER.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
We have to know His Word before we can speak it, think it and live it.
There is so much more to memorizing scripture than simply reciting a verse, because to store it up it in your heart, you have to experience it, you have to dwell on it, soak in it, put it before you!!! Having the verse memorized simply happens as an added benefit!
It cannot be about checking off another thing on your"good Christian" list. That will never affect change in your spirit...and seeing more of Jesus and less of self should be the ultimate goal.
"He must increase. I must decrease." John 3:30
So what do you do?
Dig in the Word and find what the Lord says about the longings, desperations, issues in your heart and life. Do this by reading various through places/books in the Bible, letting a devotional or other Godly topical resource guide you there, or even just looking up a key word in the concordance in the back of most Bibles.
Getting your hands dirty is the first step to getting your spirit clean!
Plant His promises and truths in your heart, mind, soul, spirit! Read the scripture over and over. Write it in your journal. Write about what the Lord is showing your in regard to that verse, Himself, His ways and its application in your life. Study the verse in the context of the surrounding scriptures.
Place it carefully and intentionally...that seed has LIFE!
Water His promises and truths by consistently and constantly placing them before your mind, your eyes, your spirit! Write them out on note cards, place them in spot you look at every day. Write them in your journal repeatedly. Go back and read what you wrote previously about that scripture in your journal. Speak it over and over as you do some monotonous task like brushing your teeth. Say it in your head in place of that negative self talk or thought the enemy throws at you! Whatever keeps it at the fore front of your mind: DO IT!
The seed you nourish is ultimately the fruit you will reap!
This is just a piece of my heart, a glimpse at my passion when it comes to embracing the Word of God.
It CHANGES my life every single day.
The way God will lead you into His Word is different from the next person, but I do believe it helps to share tips, ideas, methods of how we seek to keep His Word before us. I have had a good many of you ask me to share that in detail and that is what I will do in my next post.
Who knows...I may even share some photos!
The BEST advice I have is this: Open your Bible. Read. Listen. Do.
Psalm 119:9-16
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.