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Thursday, June 18, 2015

God Calm My Anxious Heart: Blog Series with Mandy & Friends- LOOKING FOR WRITERS!


How does God bring peace to you in moments of anxiety? What truths do you hold on to when you feel worried or fearful?
“I’m an anxious Mom who is overcoming worry and fear.  I’m clinging to God to calm my anxious heart.  I turn into a Momma Bear when I fret over my children and my roar is not a pretty sight.  I’m dedicated to change and become a Momma Bear that stands in confidence for myself and my children.  In the next several weeks I will be sharing more about this with you all.”  Lisa
But for now I would like to invite you to write with us.
We would love to hear your story.
We all struggle with feeling anxious. Some have panic attacks. For many, anxiety requires professional help. There is social anxiety, phobia, obsessive and compulsive behaviors that are all related to anxiety.
Anxiety can keep us from living in the freedom of peace and joy. It can hold us back from being all God calls us to be. It can isolate and lead to loneliness.
Starting In August of 2015 three bloggers will come together to host stories from writers who are willing to share their battle with anxiety.
We are looking for stories where writers focus on the goodness of God.
We need writers who are willing to be honest about their struggle and desire to encourage others to find hope in God.
If you have a story to share please email lisadesign@comcast.net for more information. Please let us know if you are planning to join us by June 25th.
We are asking all writers to submit their final posts to be published by July 20th.
After I receive your email Lisa will send you detailed information in regards to our series.
We ask that all submissions be less than 800 words on attached Word Document. Please don’t send us older blogs. Include bio with a picture and links to connect with you. Share something about your website and blog. Include any publish work you have done.
Please Note
This is a volunteer writing opportunity. Writing must be about YOU, YOUR STORY, Testimony, and relationship with God. Our Focus is to Glorify God and Jesus Christ.
Please don’t preach, leave advice, or lecture.
We will post one story a week on three Blogs. And we ask that every writer provide a preview on their blog sending their readers to us.
After July the 20th we will send you a schedule with the day your post will be published.
Tentatively the plan is to Post either on Mondays or Tuesdays.
End of July through the beginning of August we will be announcing series to our readers. Please consider helping us make announcements.
Blog Series Hosts
Angel from Vision 61 – http://www.vision61.com/
Angel has provided a safe place on her Website for people to share their testimonies. You will find stories about Overcoming Addictions, Depression, Brokenness and God’s amazing Grace.
Lisa Brown at Me Too Moments For Moms Moms living together in communityhttps://communitymoms.wordpress.com/
Lisa talks about everything on her blog.
And then there's me:
Mandy from Suburban Stereotype – http://www.suburbanstereotype.com
You probably know I have an eBook – called The Anxious Mom and it’s my journey through scripture to learn how to deal with the fear and anxiety about my kids. It’s a FREE download. http://bit.ly/1CJeWa1
We will be sharing this eBook with our readers throughout the series and your contributions to help promote would be appreciated.
We look forward to your email with contact information – remember we need to know by June 25th if you are writing something for our series. And mark on your calendars July 20th for submission. Email Lisalisadesign@comcast.net
~Mandy

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Destroy the Idols and Fortify The Walls: Taking stock of our lives

I have been following a reading plan for reading through the Bible in a year in chronological order. It's been awesome and tedious and challenging. 

Today, a passage of scripture hit me so hard, I interrupted myself to write about it. 

Read in 2 Chronicles 14 about King Asa. Solomon is dead, his son Jeroboam had been defeated in battle for not heeding the wise advice of the elders, Judah was victorious as the Lord delivered them from King Jeroboam and thusly, Abijah was placed on the throne, and then his son Asa succeeded Abijah. 

Here's where it gets really good... 

Asa set to work destroying the foreign altars that had been built by the kings preceding him. He tore down the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles. These were all altars dedicated to false gods and where sacrifices were offered to them. 

Asa didn't stop there, however...

He then built up the fortified cities of Judah. He built large walls and added towers and gates. These verses spoke volumes to my heart:

"'Let us build up these towns,' he said to Judah, 'and put walls around them, with towers, gates, and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.' So they built and prospered."
And I thought...this could be applied to our minds as well. What if...

What if we tore down our idols and removed anything that isn't glorifying to God?

What if we destroyed all things in our life that didn't honor the Lord?

This could be music we listen to, movies and television shows we watch, books we read, friends we keep, relationships we invest in, philosophies we adhere to, schools of thought we entertain, people we allow to speak into our lives, clothing we wear, things we buy, pursuits we chase after...anything that we put above God and anything that is not glorifying to Him.

And then...after we've torn down our "high places" and destroyed our idols, what if we intentionally fortified what we still have and add to it with what is of God?

What if we built walls (or drew boundaries) around what is Holy? What if we protected with everything we have, the landscape that is from God?

What if we immersed ourselves in His Word and paid honor to Him through our words, thoughts, and actions? What if we focused our energy and talents onto Him and His pursuits? What if we protected ourselves and held sacred that which is of Him? And that which He places before us?

I believe that like in Asa's time in 2 Chronicles 14, we will build and prosper.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." Psalm 127:1
This doesn't mean to start hacking away at everything. But it does mean to take careful inventory of what we are allowing inside our minds and into our lives. It means weighing it against the Scripture to see what is glorifying and pleasing  to God.

And the hard part is cutting out and destroying what shouldn't be there.

When we invite the Lord in on this task, He will reveal to us what needs to go and what should stay. Judah was victorious in the battle because they sought the Lord and did what was good and right in His eyes (verse 2). It wasn't until after the idols were destroyed that they were able to build up the walls that protected them and gave them peace.

I'm asking myself what idols need to go in my life. Some are more obvious than others. Some sneakily hide behind things that are deemed as "good" but may not be of God.

This will look different for everyone. It's a private conversation that needs to take place between yourself and the Lord. And it may not be a one-time thing. This may be a process that we have to keep repeating throughout our lives as we seek Him and get to know Him better.

The Lord is faithful. If we are earnestly seeking Him,we will find Him.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)


Monday, June 8, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 4



So, this is it, friends! We've arrived at the last week of this study of Jonah! Let's dive right in...

{Find Chapter 1's Discussion HERE.
Find Chapter 2's Discussion HERE.
Find Chapter 3's Discussion HERE.}

Chapter 3 ended with the people of Nineveh repenting and mourning for their wrong-doing and violence. And Jonah leaped for joy because all his hard work paid off, right?

Uh....no 

In fact, Jonah was TICKED.

Chapter 4 opens like this:
"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry." (Verse 1)
His prayer that follows in verses 2-3 is raw and angry. I can see the spit flying as each word tears from his mouth. I feel the hot, angry tears on my own cheeks as they stream down his face. I feel the rage, the bitterness that he must have felt.
"He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? This is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'"
And there it is: The REAL reason Jonah fled in the beginning. Was he afraid? Maybe. But the center of his disobedience lie in God's grace! At first glance, it makes me shake my head. I mean, really?

But then...when I sit back and really think about it...it doesn't seem so strange.

In place of the Ninevites, we have already discussed ISIS and how the two groups parallel one another closely. We discussed how it would be understandable for anyone to be hesitant to go toe-to-toe with them. And we can probably even understand how Jonah would be angry with the Lord for forgiving them--for giving them a second chance.

The following is a section taken from www.muumc.org and it offers a grisly account of exactly who the Ninevites were:

The Assyrian Empire, at its greatest under Ashurbanipal, reached from Egypt to southeastern Turkey to Iran, including all the fertile river valleys of the Nile, the Jordan, and the Tigris and Euphrates. This was the largest empire yet seen in the world; and it got there using a new military weapon: terror. The Assyrian army was notorious for its brutality, and the Assyrians themselves made sure their enemies knew about their reputation. Their powerful bows, battering rams, and archers on horseback were also effective; but mutilation of prisoners, resettlement of whole populations, and a general rejoicing in butchery were what their victims told others about. Assyrian kings bragged in stone about their atrocities.
The Lachish murals from Sennacherib’s throne room are as detailed as the evening news. We see the huge ramp the Assyrians built against the walls, and we see the battering rams on it pounding at the wooden gates. The defenders on the wall above sling stones and throw burning torches at the rams to try to burn them. Captured Judeans are brought to the king on his throne nearby. Other prisoners are being skinned alive, stabbed, beheaded, impaled on poles, their hands or feet or tongues chopped off, and their eyes put out. The barefoot and malnourished survivors leave the city with all they still own slung over their shoulders. They will probably be marched to Nineveh on foot. Some may be drafted into the Assyrian army to conquer other lands. 
But let's go a little deeper, kay?

Instead of ISIS or Al Qaeda--groups it's understandable to be angry and abhorrent about--let's put a less militant, yet perhaps in some ways,  harder-to-forgive face on these Ninevites.

What if God sent you to preach to the friend who betrayed you...

The spouse who cheated...

The parent who abandoned you...

The murderer....

The liar...

The pedophile...

All the sudden, it isn't so easy.

When you read the above examples, did your knee-jerk response kick in? Did you want to slam your fist down and call me ridiculous? Did anger rise up in you at the thought of God forgiving the man who cheated on you and broke your heart? The friend who lied to you and slanders you behind your back? The person who took advantage of your innocence as a child?

Then you know exactly how Jonah felt.

He moved past angry and landed solidly at indignant.

God asked Jonah:
"'Have you any right to be angry?'"
Jonah did again what had become his knee-jerk response: He ran away from the Lord. He "went out and sat down at a place east of the city" (verse 5).

Jonah made a shelter and sat in its shade. Verse 5 says that he waited to see what would happen to the city.

I never want to place in the Scriptures anything that isn't there, but I wonder if while Jonah sat there, he hoped to see it explode in a huge plume of smoke. Did his thoughts dance with visions of  horrible fates for the Ninevites? Was he counting on the Lord to come to His senses and finally smite the Ninevites once and for all? Was he recounting all the ways the Ninevites had failed and all the reasons they didn't deserve grace and mercy?

The Lord sent a vine to grow up over Jonah and ease his discomfort. Verse 6 tells us that Jonah was very happy about the vine.

At dawn, the Lord provided a worm to eat the vine so that it withered. Then the Lord sent a scorching east wind and the sun blazed. Jonah said that it would be better for him to die.

God asked Jonah if he had a right to be angry about the vine.

Jonah stuck to his guns. He replied that he did have a right and he was so angry he could just die. And the Lord responded with:

"'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'"
It's at this point that we turn the page of our Bible, awaiting the rest of the conversation and Jonah's reaction. But turning the page leads us into the book of Micah.

Say what??

THAT'S HOW IT ENDS???

One might think the rest of this book are lost somewhere and that the story is unfinished, but if we take a minute to let it all sink in, I think we will understand the purpose of the Lord including this book in His Holy Word.

Is there someone in your life who has wronged you? Who has committed such atrocities that you can't fathom how you can forgive them, let alone how God could forgive them?

Are you so angry and eaten with bitterness that you would rather die than forgive...or know that God has forgiven?

The Lord showed Jonah--and us, by extension--that no one is beyond the Lord's abounding grace and mercy. No one.

We easily place caveats on His grace and forgiveness, but His love knows no bounds. His grace covers any and all sins. His forgiveness is offered freely to all.

Because He created us all. He tends to us all.

He cares about us all.

And our limited, convoluted, human thinking and logic often dictates to our wounded and bruised hearts just who is worthy of forgiveness and who isn't.

But God says it all in verse 11.
"'Should I not be concerned about...'"
Jonah is a book much deeper than I originally understood it to be. Long gone are the sweet nursery rhyme, Sunday school thoughts I once had about Jonah and the "big whale."

Instead, I have a mirror held to my face and I'm asking myself if I really believe God will and wants to forgive anyone. Everyone.

When the Lord calls (and He will!) will I be obedient to step forward and tell others about Him? Will I pre-qualify those He calls me to based on my own scale of justice? Or will I step forward and simply obey?

As we close out this study, please take some time to journal on the last page of your FREE Downloadable PDF Study Guide. Really think about--and pray about--any emotions you noticed while doing this study, reading the book of Jonah, and particularly during this last chapter when we're called to recognize God's sovereignty.

Ask yourselves these questions:


  1. Have you ever been angry with God for sparing someone(s) you feel should be punished? If so, why?
  2. Do you struggle with feeling God's mercy for your enemies is unfair? If yes, why do you think that is?
  3. Has the Lord ever provided a "vine" for you? If so, describe it.

I can't thank you enough for going along on this study with me. There is nothing that will grow us better than being in the Word and actively studying it, pondering it, and praying for the Holy Spirit's wisdom to help us understand it. 

As we finish, I'd like to pray for us all:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you for Your Word, We praise You for Your sovereignty. We also thank you for Your grace. We are so undeserving. Please gently remind us of that as we hold out forgiveness from others or hope that You will do so. Please give us hearts of love and not condemnation. Please give us feet that are obedient to go wherever You call us, without fear or reservation. We thank you for Jesus, who provided us with the payment for our sins, that we could never pay. It's in His precious name that we pray, amen. 


Monday, June 1, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 3


Suburban Stereotype, Jonah, Bible Study, Obedience
Do you believe we're more than half-way done with this study?!
If you're just joining us, please start at Week 1 by clicking HERE.

Then move on to Week 2 by clicking HERE.

And then come back and join us here!

So far, we've read about Jonah running away from the Lord's call on his life to go preach to the Ninevites. He was afraid, so he hopped a ship to Tarshish. Once a storm kicked up and scared everyone on board the ship, the crew threw Jonah overboard and the storm stopped. 

Jonah thought he was a goner, but God sent a large fish to swallow him. While inside the fish, Jonah prayed a gut-wrenching prayer asking the Lord to forgive him and committed to fulfill what God called him to do. 

The fish spit Jonah up on the shore of Nineveh and that's where we pick up today...

Verse 1:

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.'"
I love the way chapter three describes Nineveh:

"Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days." 

Jonah wasted no time in getting to work:

"On the first day, Jonah started into the city."

The chapter goes on to tell us that Jonah was bold as he proclaimed "'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.'"

A striking statement, slipped ever-so-nonchalantly in at verse 5 is short and sweet, but packs quite a punch! The first part of that verse reads:

"The Ninevites believed God."

Just like that! Lickety Split!

At first reading, we might ask ourselves, "What was all the fuss? Why was Jonah so worried to preach in Nineveh? That was cake!"

In fact, as we read, we see the king himself  "rose from his throne, took off his royal clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in dust."

He then went on to issue a proclamation that every man and beast would also be covered in sackcloth and would fast from food and drink. He told everyone to urgently call on God in the hopes that the Lord would have mercy on them.

"'Do not let any man or beast, herd, or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.'" Jonah 3:7b-9
It would be easy to skip over the end of verse 8, the part about giving up their "evil ways and violence."

The commentary in my Quest Study Bible explains that the Ninevites were "international terrorists  who fueled the Assyrian war machine." It doesn't take much for our thoughts to jump to a similar group of people in our current-day culture: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc.

Given everything happening in our current generation (beheadings of Christians, massacre of children, the systematic slaughter of entire villages, and the ongoing bold assertion that they will not stop until they have full dominance), it doesn't take much to understand why Jonah may have been terrified to go into that environment to preach about God.

But then...we see them (seemingly) quickly repent and call on the name of the Lord.

Wha???

My Bible adds this to say about why the Ninevites listened so easily:

"Jonah may have looked peculiar, perhaps bearing the acidic effects of three days inside the digestive system of a large fish. Whatever captured their attention, Jonah's news of coming judgment was more important to them than who he was or where he came from."
Also? I think Jonah was worried so much about his own skin and angry that God would even consider forgiving such egregious acts of violence and blasphemy that that's why he refused to go at first.

But...mostly...I think he neglected to consider that when God calls us to something, God provides a way and paves the path. He softens the hearts of those He's sending us to and has His ultimate goal in the end: Repentance, not destruction.

Verse 10 rounds out this short chpater like this:
"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."
This was an entire city...and a large one, at that.

Does it surprise you that God would forgive them, these people who were so terrible? People who were violent and murderous?

Does it give you hope that if God could forgive them, surely He can forgive you?

Does it inspire you to pray urgently for these groups: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the like?

Have you ever felt God call you into the crosshairs?

Ask yourself these questions as we close out Chapter 3:

(Download your FREE PDF Study Guide HERE.)


  1. Have you ever found yourself with a second chance to listen to God's calling on your life? Are you in that place now? Write about it.
  2. When seeing how the Ninevites responded to what Jonah was preaching, were you surprised? If so, why?

 
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