Build your Wall

Life man. Life has been getting to me the past few weeks. I know it has been pretty quiet over here, but I am going to try to get back at it.

Yesterday was the last day of my Bible study. I am both invigorated and sad. I am excited to keep making life changes based on what I learned, but I am also sad that I am not going to have the weekly focus on a particular part of God’s word and meeting with my group of women to share. I thought that this week on the blog I would share what I learned through this Bible study and maybe it will encourage you to make the same changes and even do the study yourself. So, here we go. I will try my best to do this study justice.

This Bible study is called Awaken. It is set up in a four topic cycle. There is a study in the fall and one in late winter/early spring. Once you go through the four sessions (so two years worth) you are encouraged to move on to another study because the cycle will start over again. This was my first Awaken session and I will definitely be returning for more. The study used for this session was Kelly Minter’s study Nehemiah. Each week we would meet as an entire group and our leader, Elizabeth, would have a lesson to present to us. Then throughout the week we would work through the book on our own. There were five days worth of readings for the week, so we could have two days free. Each day would be about 20-30 minutes worth of reading and reflecting.

nehemiah

The main thing I can say is that this study was life changing for me. There is no other way to put it. I grew up in the church, accepted Christ as my savior as a child, and was even baptized, but I don’t think I ever truly owned my faith. I never really sat down and examined it and said this is what I want. After going away to college I stopped attending church. I think it was due to several things. I am an introvert and putting myself out there to go to a new church all alone was very unappealing to me. I think my degree path also made me start to question my faith. My husband and I are high school sweethearts who are so intertwined that we usually do things together and follow the same path. So, we didn’t go to church together. However, over the years we both kept feeling like something was missing. The feeling grew stronger and stronger. My husband kept asking me when we were going to start going to church again and I kept putting it off.

Back in the early spring a very special friend invited me to come to her DC class and my husband and I hit the ground running. By going to church we have begun to fill that void in our lives. That feeling that something is missing; that something isn’t quite right no matter how “perfect” your life is. We have really immersed ourselves in God’s word both in church and in our everyday lives. This study has been one of the steps we have taken to get closer to God and it is a step I am so glad I took.

God has been pulling me to come walk closer to him. He has been pulling me to do a better job for my children. He wants me to make my family into a Godly family. To do a better job at teaching them about His will than my family did with me growing up. I want to impact others positively. I want to give myself to others. I was once a girl who wanted a job that helped people. I was once even the girl who had a dream of starting a non-profit one day. That girl got lost for quite awhile. Her voice was always there though, even if it was so quiet I couldn’t really hear it. The Nehemiah study has turned her quiet voice into a roar that will not be silenced.

The Nehemiah study will show you so many things. All of the things God wanted for me were revealed and intensified through this study. It always amuses me that when God wants me to think about something he keeps bringing it up over and over everywhere I look. The nudge by my friend to take this study was His gentle push that led to Him overwhelming me with His truth for me and the path my life needs to take from this point on.

I want to share my main takeaways from the study. I don’t want to reveal too much, because I want you to have the opportunity to do the study on your own and let God place His will for you on your heart without too much influence from me. Everyone will get something different from this study, but I don’t see how anyone would be able to walk away without being influenced to make some changes.

Takeaway #1: How can you secure your “walls?”

The first week  was mainly the background of Nehemiah. If you don’t know, Nehemiah is the one who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the Jews came back from exile. This week made me examine how I can secure the “walls” of my home to safeguard my family. I had to think about what I want to secure them against, is there any “rubble” that needs to be cleared away first, and how do I need to fight for my family. We also discussed what makes you weep. This whole study is focusing on what breaks your heart, so we really started looking at what breaks our heart enough that we want to do something about it. Everyone’s heart breaks for something different, so we had to start examining what we really care about. This lesson really showed me that I want to protect my family and give them the armor of God. Now, when I say protect my family, I don’t mean making sure my kids are never hurt or that nothing bad happens to them. That is not realistic and it also doesn’t help them grow in to capable, responsible, well balanced adults. I mean that I want to steer them in the way of Jesus and set them with a foundation in the Lord and his Will.

Takeaway #2: Prayer is truly the answer

Before this study I was a lightweight, an amateur, a rookie, any of those sports analogies you want to use when it came to prayer. The first thing Nehemiah did when he found out about the state of ruin in Jerusalem was to pray to God. And not only did he pray, but he prayed and wept for 4 months about it. In this day and age there aren’t too many people who would have that kind of patience. I learned just how important prayer is and why we need to pray to God. Here’s the thing, we aren’t always going to get our happy ending just because we pray. However, God will eventually lead us to where we need to be through prayer. Thinking about something, talking about something, and worrying about something is not the same as praying about what is on our heart. Our first stop should be prayer. Inspired by the study leader, I have been praying with and for my children every night by their bedside. I tell God why I am glad they are in my family, why He is great, we pray for someone else, I pray for my child for a current situation, and then I pray for their future. It has been very impactful and my children look forward to this prayer time. God commands us to pray (Matthew 6:6) and we should pray continually (1 Thes. 5:17). I am still developing as a prayer warrior, but I am excited by the changes I have already made.

Pray continually. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Takeaway #3: God’s moral will isn’t a dot

Most people probably sit around waiting for God to miraculously tell them what to do with their lives and how to fulfill His will. I know I was one of those people. I kept waiting to figure out what the “right” path was. Which way God wanted me to go. Here is the thing I learned through this study; God’s will is not a specific dot we must hit. Instead it is a big circle. Anything that is within his will is what we should be doing. God’s will is his commands and principals that he revealed through the Bible that teach us how to live out our lives. As long as we are doing something within those teachings we are living his will and that is such a freeing concept. We don’t have to sit around wondering if we are doing the right thing. A fantastic diagram was made to show this concept and all credit goes to our fabulous study leader, Elizabeth Poplin.

God's Moral Will

In the image above the grey square is anything thing we can do with our lives. It is all of the possible choices. The white circle is anything we can do that is in God’s moral will. Basically, anything the Bible says we should do. The dot is what we hope God will tell us to do. The one perfect thing we were made for and is our destiny. What she told us though is that as long as it is in the circle then do it. God’s will for us won’t be a dot, it will be a circle. We are called to do His will and anything that falls within it is therefore doing His will. Find God’s will in everything you do and don’t get stuck on the dot. The truth is that I may never find “my calling,” but I don’t need to get bogged down by that. As long as I live for others and do what God tells me to do that will be enough and will be powerful. “Pointless living is comfortable and miserable. We are not called to pointless living (I can’t remember if this quote was from Elizabeth or if she was quoting someone else).” I know all about being comfortable in my pointless living and also being miserable in it. The fact is that Jesus told us to help others, whether it is a simple gesture for a neighbor across the street or we save orphans in Africa. All kind acts are important and are serving God.

Takeaway #4: Love means sacrifice, always
In America we like to romanticize love. I am guilty of this myself. All those romantic comedies make us think that love is always wonderful and it will complete us. We think that our marriage should always be butterflies and passion. Before having kids we think we will surely be able to raise wonderful kids, spend our mornings making pancakes and playing in the mud. We envision how our love for our kids will overwhelm us and our life will be very nearly perfect. The problem, obviously, is that our optimism is rarely ever fulfilled. I am not saying love is not wonderful. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart for over 11 years now and I have two kids I love more than I could ever imagine. Love is one of the foundations for a life. We need to love others and have others love us. However, love means you must sacrifice. To truly love someone you have to sacrifice something in that love. Moms know all about this. We sacrifice our alone time, clean hair, and sometimes our sanity for brief periods.
Loving others is essential to the Christian faith. And I mean truly loving others. We are called by Jesus to love our neighbors and our neighbors aren’t just the people down the street. It is everyone. We shouldn’t focus more on what we will lose than what we will gain by loving others. What are you willing to give up in order to love and serve others?
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” This quote by Fredrick Buechner says it all. Find a way to help others, love your neighbor, don’t be afraid of failing, and trust in God. We are all able to do God’s will.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. – Fredrick Buechner
Takeaway #5: Be the right type of influencer to your children
There were so many good quotes about family thrown around during this study. One of my favorites was, “When we live with purpose and on purpose we teach our children to do the same.” The questions really is what kind of person/women/mom do you want to be? This study has really made me think about what kind of a person I am being to the world, what kind of woman I am being to other women, and what kind of mom I am being to my children.
At the last session a guest speaker, Jan Harrison, whose family started With Open Eyes, said that she came from a good family, but she wanted her family to be a Godly family. What a distinction. It isn’t enough to simply be a good family. She also shared Matthew 7:24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” She said to make sure you build your house, or your family, on a rock. Basically, make God the foundation of your family. The only thing that truly matters is do your kids know Jesus. Did you set them up with that firm foundation that can guide them through their life. We have no control over how our kids will feel about God after they grow up, but establishing their life around God in childhood and teaching them to live God’s will is essential and will set create a foundation they can build their life off of. We must teach our kids to be servants for the lord and for others. One life matters and if we can start our kids off right that one life will reach many others. Our reach will extend much farther than our child.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. – Matthew 7:24
In summary, turn to God and pray for everything and everyone in your life. Make sure you start your kids off in a Godly house and you exemplify following God’s will. To follow God’s will don’t get caught up on a specific thing you should be doing. As long as it is something God says you should do then do it. Finally, love others and love them well. Be willing to sacrifice and don’t be afraid to fail.
I am excited and nervous to continue making changes and growing not only in my faith, but growing in fulfilling God’s will. I know it is going to be hard, but I can’t NOT live this way now. After seeing and hearing everything that has been shared during this study (plus everything else God has shown me over the past few months in other settings) if I don’t change the way I am living then it would be a great tragedy. I want my life to be purposeful and I want my kids to have the best chance to also live purposeful lives and walk with God throughout their lives. And, as Jennie Allen says, “I want to get to heaven out of breath.”
So, what kind of a person do you want to be? Are you going to build your house upon the rock and build your wall for your family? Are you going to give yourself to others? What would all of this look like for you and your family? What are you going to do to fulfill God’s will?

I want to get to heaven out of breath. – Jennie Allen

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